An amendment written by Jon Kyl of Arizona and Joe Lieberman of Connecticut to a military spending bill was passed today in the Senate in a 76-22 vote. Interestingly, this bill split the Democratic presidential field, with Biden and Dodd voting against the bill, Clinton voting against it, and Obama not present, allegedly because Reid said there wouldn’t be a vote today.
This amendment is consequential because it brings up the subject of Iran and it was controversial enough to be mentioned in tonight’s Democratic presidential debate at Dartmouth College. The text of the bill’s Sense of Senate section, which is the substantive part of the bill as well as Obama’s stance on it can be found after the jump
(b) Sense of Senate.–It is the sense of the Senate–
(1) that the manner in which the United States transitions and structures its military presence in Iraq will have critical long-term consequences for the future of the Persian Gulf and the Middle East, in particular with regard to the capability of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran to pose a threat to the security of the region, the prospects for democracy for the people of the region, and the health of the global economy;
(2) that it is a vital national interest of the United States to prevent the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran from turning Shi’a militia extremists in Iraq into a Hezbollah-like force that could serve its interests inside Iraq, including by overwhelming, subverting, or co-opting institutions of the legitimate Government of Iraq;
(3) that it should be the policy of the United States to combat, contain, and roll back the violent activities and destabilizing influence inside Iraq of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran, its foreign facilitators such as Lebanese Hezbollah, and its indigenous Iraqi proxies;
(4) to support the prudent and calibrated use of all instruments of United States national power in Iraq, including diplomatic, economic, intelligence, and military instruments, in support of the policy described in paragraph (3) with respect to the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran and its proxies;
(5) that the United States should designate the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps as a foreign terrorist organization under section 219 of the Immigration and Nationality Act and place the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps on the list of Specially Designated Global Terrorists, as established under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act and initiated under Executive Order 13224; and
(6) that the Department of the Treasury should act with all possible expediency to complete the listing of those entities targeted under United Nations Security Council Resolutions 1737 and 1747 adopted unanimously on December 23, 2006 and March 24, 2007, respectively.
Mr. KYL. Mr. President, as I said, the chairman of the committee is correct, the intention was to simply lay this amendment down tonight on behalf of Senators LIEBERMAN, COLEMAN, and myself. We will debate it after we have concluded further business.
Interestingly enough, according (via Politico’s Ben Smith) to the Obama campaign press secretary Bill Burton:
Senator Obama clearly recognizes the serious threat posed by Iran. However, he does not agree with the President that the best way to counter that threat is to keep large numbers of troops in Iraq, and he does not think that now is the time for saber-rattling towards Iran. In fact, he thinks that our large troop presence in Iraq has served to strengthen Iran – not weaken it. He believes that diplomacy and economic pressure, such as the divestment bill that he has proposed, is the right way to pressure the Iranian regime. Accordingly, he would have opposed the Kyl-Lieberman amendment had he been able to vote today.
If you want to know what this means, it means that Obama supports statement (5) of the Sense of the Senate section but rejects statement (1) and thus would not have voted for it.
The issue during the debate was that this vote could be used as a pretense to authorize force against Iran, which would be, in my opinion, a huge mistake. So, I am a bit disappointed that my candidate did not make it to the vote to vote no, though this may not have been his fault and though the bill would have passed anyway.