Thursday, October 25, 2007

29 Days Later

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 452

The Bush administration today announced a broad package of sanctions against Iran. This development, coming as it does just 29 days after Senate passage of the Kyl-Lieberman resolution designating Iran's Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist organization, strikes me as a significant, and worrying, acceleration in the on-going confrontation with Iran over its nuclear program.

As of this writing, Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton, Chris Dodd, John Edwards and Barack Obama have issued statements responding to the imposition of sanctions. Of all of them, Chris Dodd's is of particular merit:

"I recognize the obvious threat a nuclear Iran poses to the region and beyond, and that we must stop Iran's continued support for international terrorism.

"Unfortunately, the action taken by the Administration today comes in the context of escalating rhetoric and drumbeat to military action against Iran.

"I am deeply concerned that once again the President is opting for military action as a first resort.

"The glaring omission of any new diplomatic measures by the President today is the reason I voted, and urged my colleagues to vote, against the Kyl -Lieberman resolution on September 26.

"The aggressive actions taken today by the Administration absent any corresponding diplomatic action is exactly what we all should have known was coming when we considered our vote on the Kyl-Lieberman Amendment, and smacks, frankly, of a dangerous step toward armed confrontation with Iran."

Chris Dodd is absolutely right about this. Sanctions, and their effects, do not operate in a vacuum. Sanctions are used to reinforce diplomacy, or military preparations, and sometimes both at once. The sanctions against Iran announced today are being introduced in an atmosphere devoid of diplomatic initiatives, which strongly suggests they are intended in aid of preparation for military action. Worse still, since no other nations joined the United States in imposing sanctions today, that would mean unilateral military action.

Chris Dodd's statement shows that he knows how to keep his eye on the ball. While Dodd's references to Kyl-Lieberman are clearly aimed at Hillary Clinton, who has faced, and largely deserved, heavy criticism for her vote in favor of that resolution, he reserves his main points for the larger issue of the sanctions themselves and what they might indicate about future U.S. actions regarding Iran. John Edwards spent his statement in a direct frontal assault at Clinton for voting in favor of Kyl-Lieberman, making it seem as though he thinks these sanctions are little more than a nifty opportunity to score some political points against a rival. Barack Obama also issued a statement referring to Kyl-Lieberman, which, frankly, would carry a lot more weight but for the fact that Obama didn't even show up to vote on the resolution.

Chris Dodd is showing honest-to-goodness leadership on this issue. In doing so, he distinguishes himself as being one of the few candidates in this race who knows exactly where the line between politics and statesmanship is, and is wise and experienced enough not to cross it.

The Kyl-Lieberman resolution passed the Senate 29 days ago; 29 days from now, when the Bush administration's Iran policy may well take us who-knows-where, we may look back at what Chris Dodd said today and ask ourselves why more of us didn't listen.

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