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Domestic politics leave President virtually impotent to respond to Iranian acts of war

The rug has been pulled out from under the President’s ability to respond to an aggressive Iran – by his own countrymen.

On Friday, March 23, around 10:30 am Baghdad Time, while conducting a routine merchant ship inspection in the Persian Gulf, fifteen British sailors and Royal Marines – including women – were abducted, at gunpoint, by Iranian Revolutionary Guardsmen, who proceeded to take them and their rubber raiding craft back to Iran, where they are currently being held hostage.

This is nowhere near the first example of Iranian interference – or hostile action – in the four-year history of the Iraq war; on the contrary, it is simply the most recent, and most overt, of those acts – any of which could be considered an Act of War against the US or her allies.

The hope that this situation – though clearly more than a simple “misunderstanding” – could be quickly or efficiently resolved, like a similar one in 2004 was, promptly dissipated Friday night when the Iranian government claimed that the British servicemen had “strayed into Iranian territorial waters illegally.” Iran’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs released a statement which said in part, “This makes a number of times that British sailors have illegally entered Iranian territorial waters…. They were arrested by border guards for investigation and questioning.”

The following day, a British newspaper quoted an Iranian military official as saying that “a plan to capture American or British coalition troops was formulated by the Islamic Republic’s Supreme Security Council” at the beginning of the week “in response to the arrest of Iranian officers by US forces in Iraq.

According to the report:
The decision was reached after a report submitted to Iran’s ground forces commander warned that information on the activities of the Revolutionary Guards and the “Al-Quds Force” in Iraq was being leaked to British and American intelligence agencies following the arrest of senior “Al-Quds Force” officers by US troops in northern Iraq.
Besides seeking retaliation for the mounting number of Iranian officers and personnel going missing in Iraq – where they are illegally directing elements of the insurgency, and where between three and four hundred personnel related to the Quds force of the IRG are now in custody – another possible motivation for this action could be an attempt by Iran to secure greater leverage in the increasingly tense nuclear situation – the next measure on which was to be decided in the Security Council the day after these abductions, with a vote on a resolution co-authored by Britain which would impose sanctions on the Persian state for its refusal to cease attempts to acquire nuclear capabilities. A “source close to the [Revolutionary] Guard” acknowledged that such tactics “had been approved by Ayatollah Khameni, Iran’s supreme leader, who warned last week that Tehran would take illegal actions if necessary to maintain its right to develop a nuclear program.”

The Security Council moved on the nuclear situation in spite of the sailors’ kidnap, though, unanimously voting to tighten sanctions on Tehran – a move which, as AP writer Alexandra Olson put it, was “intended to show Tehran that defiance will leave it increasingly isolated.”

The abduction of sailors in international waters alone is a clear casus belli, although, like they did in 2004, Iranian military officials claim that their captives “have admitted to violating [Iran’s] territorial waters.”

This situation appears poised to get worse before it improves, as, according to London’s Sunday Times, a “website run by associates of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad” is reporting that the sailors (whom it referred to as “insurgents”) will be charged with espionage – an offense punishable in Iran by death.

If this stated course of action is carried out, then any question Iran’s having committed an overt act of war will be dissolved. American troops are no less at risk of illegal action by the rogue state; the Revolutionary Guard’s weekly newspaper recently spoke of the abduction of American soldiers, saying, “We’ve got the ability to capture a nice bunch of blue-eyed, blond-haired officers and feed them to our fighting cocks. Iran has enough people who can reach the heart of Europe and kidnap Americans and Israelis.”

Sadly, were the worst to happen to these British soldiers – or were American soldiers to be similarly kidnapped and held hostage – any form of retaliation would be nearly impossible, politically, for the US administration. For months, Congressional Democrats and anti-war Leftists have been laying the groundwork for a response to any action against Iran, regardless of how real or how vicious the provocation - and have been chomping at the bit to employ such a response, which would entail the blaming of – and almost certain introduction of articles of impeachment against – President Bush for an attack on Iran which the Left has been claiming for months was being “secretly planned” by an administration which would use any excuse – true or not – to provoke another war.

Still bitter about the Iraq War, these Congressional Democrats would not only go after the administration for any action in response to an unquestionable declaration of war against us and our allies, but would likely attack any means of response at the source, by denying funding to an Iranian war effort, by passing resolution after resolution denouncing the President (with ever-increasingly hyperbolic rhetoric, including, one can have little doubt, the phrase “War Crimes”), by taking up the time of elected and appointed officials and military leaders by holding hearings (or “show trials”), and, doubtless, by attempting to impeach the President.

For a hint of the level of opposition the President would face in his attempt to respond to an Iranian act of war, one need only look at the bombshell rhetoric still being cast about regarding the Iraq war – or at the example set by Congressional Democrats like Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), who in a Thursday appearance on Fox News Channel declared his intent “to sponsor a House Resolution seeking Articles of Impeachment against the President for threatening Iran with military action – an act prohibited by the United Nations.” This impeachable “threat” to Iran, as Kucinich sees it, is the President’s repeated statement that “no options are off the table” in the quest to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons.

Given the hysteria over what has largely been nothing to this point, is there any question how far the Left would go to destroy President Bush, and to prevent any type of US retaliation to an act – and an overt declaration – of war against us?

Make no mistake: whether they had any real suspicion that Iran would actually provoke war in the near future or not, the Left has been laying the groundwork for such a development – and for their “BushLied!™,” “I-told-you-so” response – for months, despite mind-numbingly repetitive assertions from the President, from Press Secretary Snow, from Vice President Cheney, from Secretary of State Rice, from Secretary of Defense Gates, and from many, many others that not only are we not plotting to attack Iran, but that such a war was an unimaginably improbable notion, virtually irregardless of Iran’s present or future actions.

These denials have clearly meant far more to Iran, which now feels more emboldened than ever to act against us and our allies, than they have to the Left, at whose deaf ears they have been directed. Left-wing “news” websites have been speaking nearly nonstop of “Bush’s war on Iran,” with almost-daily headlines making such sensationalistic, and fatalistic, statements as “US planning for war with Iran,” “There's time to reconsider Iran attack,” “Iran Attack Could Speed Development of Nuclear Weapons,” “Pentagon Whistle-Blower on the Coming War With Iran,” “Bush has secret plan to wage war with Iran,” “Bush’s War Heating Up - Attack on Iran Imminent,” and “Woman Colonel Urges Troops to Refuse Orders If US Attacks Iran.” As far back as July 2005, The Nation featured an article accusing the administration of conducting an “Iran war buildup,” and in January of this year published a Scott Ritter screed entitled “Stop the Iran war before it starts,” in which he asserted that “President Bush's State of the Union address proved he is hell-bent on going to war with Iran.”

A recent Rolling Stone article entitled “Iran: The Next War” began: “Even before the bombs fell on Baghdad, a group of senior Pentagon officials were plotting to invade another country. Their covert campaign once again relied on false intelligence and shady allies. But this time, the target was Iran.”

Liberal blogs, as is their wont, have advanced the level of rhetoric several steps further, denouncing the “many lies about Iran by the White House,” propagating the KnownFact™ that “the Bush Administration has been itching to find an excuse to go to war with Iran,” and calling on Congress to “de-fund the Iraq war immediately,” lest “Bush have extra funds with which he can attack Iran.”

With Friday’s incident, the denouncements – absent any action – of President Bush have been ratcheted even higher. One lefty blog called the authenticity of the British sailor abduction into question, calling it a “repeat of the Gulf of Tonkin incident” carried out by “neocons” who want “to lie their way into another war.”

It looks like we may have the provocation in the Persian Gulf that Bush has been looking for,” said another.

These are, of course, only the blog posts tame enough to be repeated – there have been far more, and far worse, than these examples.

The words and actions of Congressional Democrats have not been much better. Despite the fact that only Congress is authorized to declare war, the outcry from that deliberative body, whose members still claim to have been lied into approving the Iraq war (despite having access to no less intelligence on the matter than the White House), has continued without a letup, with Congressmen falling all over themselves to tell the President that they matter in the war making process.

Speaker of the House Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has repeatedly said that “Congress should assert itself and make it very clear that there is no previous authority for the president, any president, to go into Iran.” Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA) recently introduced legislation to force President Bush to seek congressional authorization before using force against Iran. “This presidency has shot from the hip too many times for us to be able to trust it to act on its own,” he said. “We need the Congress to be involved in any decision to commence military activities.”

“I’d like to be clear,” said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV). “The president does not have the authority to launch military action in Iran without first seeking Congressional authorization.” Said Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY): “It would be a mistake of historical proportion if the Administration thought that the 2002 resolution authorizing force against Iraq was a blank check for the use of force against Iran without further Congressional authorization.”

Jack Murtha (D-PA) jumped on board, as well, stating that “we don't have the capability of sustaining a war in Iran” – and Dennis Kucinich, as mentioned above, declared his desire to impeach the President for apparently not saying loudly and often enough that we won’t attack, or retaliate against, Iran, regardless of any provocation whatsoever.

These statements do little but encourage Iran as, combined with the administration’s own repeated words promises not to act regardless of provocation, a clear and unified message is being sent, for the first time since September of 2001, from the shores of America to those who might harm us. However, unlike the aftermath of 9/11, which saw a (very temporarily) unified American front against al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan, the message being sent in this case is the opposite – it is a loud and clear signal to Iran, a nation which has said over and over and over again that America and Israel are the root of the world’s problems and will soon be destroyed, that they have free rein to do whatever they wish, both against Iraq and against the US, with no fear whatsoever of reprisal.

The administration has repeated its desire for peace with Iran ad nauseam. What has been, and is being, done by the anti-war Left and the anti-Bush Democrats in Congress, though, has greatly increased the danger to this country and to its national defense. The hands of our leadership are being bound tighter and tighter, with threats of political and legal retaliation being made against the administration not for possibly acting sine casus, but for even considering taking action in defense of ourselves and our allies, in response to direct affronts and overt acts of war by a nation which has increasingly shown itself in recent months not only to be no friend to America, but to be a dangerous enemy.

The Left has painstakingly crafted the current circumstance in which the administration finds itself, forcing it to ignore any and all provocations which might come from Iran, including troop kidnappings and possibly worse, or be called on the carpet for supposedly “lying America into war once again.” Changing circumstances mean nothing to those in Congress and on the Left whose overarching goal now is political revenge for the Iraq war – and the statement that we are not going to war with Iran, followed by a response to an Iranian declaration of war on us, will be treated as a purposeful misleading of America on the part of the President, and will not be tolerated.

The anti-War Left, and their allies in Congress, have now placed the nation in an untenable position: if America’s President acts to defend his country against an attack by a blatantly hostile nation, he will not only be interfered with (and likely prevented from effectively acting), but will be mercilessly, publicly castigated for acting against a nation he had previously been forced to promise that he would leave alone – and he will have to answer to a Congress which, in the wake of their Iraq embarrassment (and due to their lingering resentment at the impeachment of their last Democratic President), has long been itching to prosecute him to the fullest degree possible – proudly issuing “we told you so’s” to the nation all the while.

This is the state of affairs we currently face – and, while it appears to be one of advantage for the Democrats, the only real winners in this situation are a hostile Iran, and any other nations who wish to harm us.

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