The left side of the blogosphere is buzzing about Senator Jim Webb’s letter to the Secretary of State on the issue of the Iranian mullahcracy (RK). Personally, I can understand why the Secretary would be skittish to provide a direct answer, although I do think some answer was appropriate. More to the point, any attempt by Rice to respond is hampered by one critical fact: my junior Senator did not ask the right question.
This was the query around which Webb’s letter was centered: “Is it the position of this administration that it possesses the authority to take unilateral action against Iran, in the absence of a direct threat, without congressional approval?” It sounds simple and straightforward, but Webb seems to have forgotten something – the Administration already has congressional approval.
Webb’s mistake is that he focused on the 2002 Congressional resolution that authorized force against Saddam Hussein; he should have paid more attention to the initial authorization passed by Congress in the aftermath of 9/11/01 (emphasis added):
(T)he President is authorized to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons.
It is now beyond doubt that the Iranian mullahcracy “harbored such organizations or persons.” As noted by the 9/11 Commission (cited my Michael Ledeen in National Review Online), not only did the mullahcracy allow several 9/11 hijackers to travel through Iran – without any way for outsiders to trace it – but even sheltered 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and his family for a time. If that’s not harboring, I don’t know what is (see also Kenneth R. Timmerman’s Countdown to Crisis: The Coming Nuclear Showdown with Iran excerpt as reprinted by the Washington Times).
The arguments regarding the liberation of Iran (which I would support) have been going back and forth for quite a while, but the question of the President’s power to do so is relatively new. However, for those who believe Congressional authorization is required (as I do), the fact is – whether Senator Webb likes it or not – it has already been granted.