Misinformation Campaign Backfires on Obama

For some time I have heard repeated misstatements, even down to using the exact words, concerning Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's (D-N.Y.) support for the Senate resolution, S. Amendment 3017, enacted Sept. 26, 2007 by a 76-22 vote (called the "Kyl-Lieberman Amendment”). The resolution designated the Iranian Revolutionary Guard a "foreign terrorist organization." Weeks ago I heard supporters of Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and former Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.) charging — again using almost identical words — that Sen. Clinton had supported a resolution that "would allow President Bush to go to war with Iran."

Then I discovered three facts that could not be disputed:

— The resolution did not in any way allow such military intervention as a result of such designation;

— Many anti-Iraq war Democrats, including Sen. Obama's senior colleague, Dick Durbin of Illinois (D), also supported the resolution; and

— Sen. Obama had co-sponsored a similar resolution — S. 970 — along with 67 other senators just six months ago, in March 2007. I also determined that many anti-Iraq war Democrats who opposed any possible authorization for President Bush to intervene militarily in Iran also supported the resolution.

Yet The New York Times, in what is usually its thoughtful and balanced Sunday "News and Review" section on Sunday, Oct. 14, published a front-page, left-hand lead article with the headline, "Clinton's Iran Vote: The Fallout." The author, Helene Cooper, quoted several on-record critical comments about "Senator Clinton and other legislators who voted for this bill" from a Mr. Karim Sadjapour, described as "an Iran expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace."

The article referred to a recent column by Obama in New Hampshire's Manchester Union Leader criticizing Mrs. Clinton's "support" of this "reckless amendment."

The following is my letter to the editor The New York Times published Saturday, Oct. 20, 2007:

Senator Clinton and Iran: The Story of a Vote

To the Editor:

"Clinton’s Iran Vote: The Fallout” (Week in Review, Oct. 14) reports that Senator Barack Obama “would have voted against” the Senate resolution supported by Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton that asked for the United States government to designate the Iranian Revolutionary Guard a foreign terrorist organization.

It also reports that Senator Obama called that resolution “reckless.”

But it doesn’t report that just last March, Mr. Obama and 67 other senators co-sponsored Senate Resolution 970, which included the same language as the Senate resolution that Mrs. Clinton recently supported: to “designate the Iranian Revolutionary Guards as a foreign terrorist organization.”

Many other anti-Iraq war Senate Democrats including Senator Obama’s senior colleague from Illinois, Richard J. Durbin - supported this resolution. Senator Durbin said, “I don’t think this resolution” gives the Bush administration “a green light to do anything.”

The article might also have noted that Senator Clinton is a co-sponsor of the Senate resolution recently introduced by Senator Jim Webb of Virginia that explicitly prohibits the use of funds for military operations against Iran without explicit Congressional authorization.

Lanny J. Davis
Washington, Oct. 16, 2007

(The writer, special counsel to President Clinton from 1996 to 1998, is a fund-raiser for Senator Clinton’s presidential campaign.)


It is a complete mystery why Sen. Obama or his campaign managers thought he could get away with criticizing Sen. Clinton on the Kyl-Lieberman resolution and calling it reckless while knowing about his own co-sponsorship of S. 970, which had the same designation language. How could this be?

I decided to do additional research on both Kyl-Lieberman and S. 970, just to be certain I was right that Sen. Obama had been for this same designation language of the Revolutionary Guard as a foreign terrorist organization just six months before, in March 2007.

So here are more facts for anyone who wants to be certain that (1) the characterization of the Kyl-Lieberman resolution as a basis for military intervention in Iran is utterly false and (2) the inconsistency of Sen. Obama in calling that resolution "reckless" while supporting identical designation language six months before is an indisputable fact.

1) Statement by Sen. Clinton on the recent resolution


— Nothing about this resolution in any way grants the president the authority to wage war against Iran. Nothing at all.

— In fact, Sen. Clinton spoke on the Senate floor earlier this year and clearly stated that the president MUST seek an explicit authorization from Congress for any military action against Iran.

— What she voted for in September was to designate the Iranian Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist organization, and to treat it accordingly, in order to apply greater diplomatic pressure on Iran, which this administration has failed to do. Nothing more.

2) Sen. Clinton co-sponsors Sen. Jim Webb's (D-Va.) legislation prohibiting Bush administration military intervention in Iran without explicit congressional authorization:

3) Other Senate Democrats who voted for the resolution:

Many leading anti-Bush and anti-Iraq war Democrats supported the Iran Revolutionary Guard resolution, including Sens. Ben Cardin (Md.), Tom Carper (Del.), Durbin, Jack Reed (R.I.), Carl Levin (Mich.), Reid, Barbara Mikulski (Md.), Frank Lautenberg (N.J.), Charles Schumer (N.Y.), Jay Rockefeller (W.Va.) and Debbie Stabenow (Mich.), as well as Sen. Clinton.

Here is the full list of Democrats who supported the resolution:

Daniel Akaka (Hawaii)
Max Baucus (Mont.)
Evan Bayh (Ind.)
Bob Casey Jr. (Pa.)
Kent Conrad (N.D.)
Byron Dorgan (N.D.)
Dianne Feinstein (Calif.)
Tim Johnson (S.D.)
Herb Kohl (Wis.)
Mary Landrieu (La.)
Robert Menendez (N.J.)
Patty Murray (Wash.)
Bill Nelson (Fla.)
Ben Nelson (Neb.)
Mark Pryor (Ark.)
Ken Salazar (Colo.)

S.R. 970 vs. the Kyl-Lieberman Resolution: Same Language on Designation of Revolutionary Guard as "Foreign Terrorist Organization"

Full details on S. 970 can be found through THOMAS here.

S. 970 has yet to come up for a vote. It is currently being held in the Committee on Finance. Presumably, if it did make it to the full Senate floor, it would pass easily, given that it already has 68 co-sponsors, including Sen. Obama.

In comparing the wording of S. 970 and the Kyl-Lieberman amendment, which passed on Sept. 26, 2007, by a 76-22 vote, one notes that the former mandates a range of economic and diplomatic measures intended to increase pressure on the Iranian regime for its nuclear activities. The latter is more modest: It is focused solely on Iran’s destabilizing activities inside Iraq. Both, however, urge the Bush administration to designate Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) as a terrorist organization. In this regard, they are substantively identical.

Specifically, Section 3, Subsection 8, of S. 970 reads that it is the sense of Congress that: “The Secretary of State should designate the Iranian Revolutionary Guards as a Foreign Terrorist Organization under section 219 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1189) and the Secretary of the Treasury should place the Iranian Revolutionary Guards on the list of Specially Designated Global Terrorists under Executive Order 13224 (66 Fed. Reg. 186; relating to blocking property and prohibiting transactions with persons who commit, threaten to commit, or support terrorism).”

The Kyl-Lieberman amendment urges the same designation. Section b (5) of the amendment reads that it is the sense of the Senate 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 Presidential Executive Order 13224.”

There can be no doubt that both resolutions have the same language regarding designation of the "Revolutionary Guards Corp as a foreign terrorist organization."

Sen. Durbin's Support and Role in Precluding Use of Kyl-Lieberman Resolution Being Used As Basis for Military Intervention in Iran S. 970 had a specific provision that precluded interpreting the resolution as a basis for military intervention in Iraq, and the Kyl-Lieberman resolution did not.

S. 970 stated in Section 2(8):
"(8) Nothing in this Act should be construed as giving the President the authority to use military force against Iran."

But Sen. Durbin expressed concern about this very issue during the floor debate on the Kyl-Lieberman resolution. Thanks to Durbin, language was specifically stricken (deleting sections (b)(3) and (4) in the original draft) that referred to using "military instrumentalities" to prevent the Iranian government from "violent activities and destabilizing influence" inside Iraq.

Durbin was later asked in an interview with Bloomberg News about his support for Kyl-Lieberman, to which he replied:

“It's rare that Barack and I disagree on an issue of this magnitude. I have the same concerns that Barack Obama does about this administration and what they might do with the power that they have. But I don't think this resolution gives them a green light to do anything …”

Durbin also stated in this interview: “If I thought there was any way it could be used as a pretense to launch an invasion of Iran I would have voted no.”

See here:
Obama is a co-sponsor of S. 970. He claims that he would have voted against Kyl-Lieberman, although he missed the actual vote. But Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) was not present for Kyl-Lieberman, either. Could Sen. Obama have "paired" an announced opposed vote with Sen. McCain's presumably "pro" vote? If so, why didn't he?

Documented Facts That the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Should Be Designated As Terrorist Organization:

Also omitted from the Times's News and Review piece were any specific facts of documented incidents of terrorism financed or sponsored by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, although Ms. Cooper does make reference to the "elite Quds Force" and quotes Mrs. Clinton — though doesn't report it as an established fact in her own reporting — that the Revolutionary Guard has "substantial links to Hezbollah."

Here are just a few of some documented facts not reported by Ms. Cooper that the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and its Elite Quds unit have been directly involved and financed in terrorist incidents that intentionally killed innocent civilians:

— According to The Washington Post, in a September 2003 article by Dana Priest and Douglas Farah: “The Jerusalem Force, also known as the Quds Force, is highly trained and well-funded. It has provided instruction to more than three dozen Shiite and Sunni ‘foreign Islamic militant groups in paramilitary, guerrilla and terrorism’ tactics, according to a recent U.S. intelligence analysis. Groups including Hezbollah, or Party of God; the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas); and Palestinian Islamic Jihad have received arms and training at one of several specialized sites in Iran, according to that document. The Jerusalem Force's former commander, Ahmad Vahidi, allegedly helped plan the 1994 bombing of the Amia Jewish Center in Buenos Aires, in which 85 civilians were killed and 230 injured, according to Argentine intelligence officials and others.”

— This analysis was subsequently echoed by Newsweek in a story on the IRGC and the Quds Force from February 2007: “Over the past 25 years, the Quds Force has proved ferociously effective at organizing, training and equipping guerrillas to confront the world's most vaunted armies. Quds played a vital role in creating Hezbollah to fight the Israelis in Lebanon.”

— Likewise, in an analysis published in McClatchy in February 2007: “The Quds Force, a secretive overseas arm of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, has operatives in Iraq and Afghanistan; runs Shiite extremist networks in Asia, the Middle East, Africa, Latin America and Europe; trains and arms Hezbollah and other Shiite radicals in Iran and Lebanon; and funds the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorist group. Now it's arming Iraqi Shiite Muslims with armor-piercing bombs, according to U.S. officials … ‘They are the brains behind those who are pulling the trigger,’ said one official … Although many intelligence services, including those of the United States, Israel and European and Arab nations, have been trying to keep tabs on its operatives for more than 20 years, the unit has been publicly accused of complicity in a terrorist attack only once. That was in the July 18, 1994, suicide bombing of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, which killed 85 people and injured 151. Experts say the force is a highly compartmentalized and disciplined contingent of several thousand men who are trained in espionage, military operations and political analysis, and it reports directly to supreme leader Ali Khomeini. ‘It's like taking the CIA, special forces and the State Department and rolling them all into one,’ said the U.S. official. Its mission of exporting the Islamic Revolution has meant confronting Iran's main enemies, the United States and Israel, beginning in Lebanon 25 years ago. Current and former U.S. officials said Revolutionary Guard members helped plan and organize the Hezbollah suicide bombings of the U.S. Embassy and Marine barracks in Beirut in 1983 and 1984, which killed more than 300 people, including 241 U.S. service personnel. Reconnaissance photographs of the Iranian headquarters near the town of Baalbek revealed a mockup of the unfinished defenses around the embassy annex and tire tracks where the bomber had rehearsed his mission. The force also is believed to have been involved in recruiting and training the Shiite radicals who carried out the 1996 truck-bombing of the Khobar Towers housing complex in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, which killed 19 U.S. servicemen and a Saudi.”

ABC News, February 2007:

“The Quds force, meaning Jerusalem force, is, in effect, a group of secret agents and hit men who answer only to the religious authority of the Iranian government … ‘The cream of the fundamentalist crop are the people who really get recruited into the Quds Force,’ Royal Hawaiian of the Whitney Humanities Center at Yale University explained.”

The ABC News report continued: “U.S. officials say there's no doubt that the Quds force has long had American blood on its hands, linking them to the 1983 attacks in Beirut on the U.S. embassy and marine barracks, as well as the bombing of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, and a series of assassinations of Iranian dissidents in Europe.”

— In August 2005, journalist Michael Ware — arguably one of the toughest critics of the war in Iraq, wrote in Time magazine about “a network of insurgents created by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps with the express purpose of committing violence against U.S. and coalition forces in Iraq. Over the past eight months, [this] group has introduced a new breed of roadside bomb more lethal than any seen before; based on a design from the Iranian-backed Lebanese militia Hezbollah, the weapon employs 'shaped' explosive charges that can punch through a battle tank's armor like a fist through the wall … [T]he U.S. believes al-Sheibani's team consists of 280 members, divided into 17 bomb making teams and death squads. The U.S. believes they train in Lebanon, in Baghdad's predominantly Shiite Sadr City district and ‘in another country’ and have detonated at least 37 bombs against U.S. forces this year in Baghdad alone.”

The Ware article continues: “Iran’s security services had supported the armed wings of several Iraqi groups they had sheltered in Iran from Saddam. Iranian intelligence sources say that the various groups were organized under the command of Brigadier General Qassim Sullaimani, an adviser to Khomeini on both Afghanistan and Iraq and a top officer in the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps. ”

* * * * * *

There are thoughtful people who believe that the designation of the Iranian Guard as a terrorist organization — without disputing that it is — is not the best method of engaging in diplomatic pressure on Iran to cease its move towards nuclear weapons capability or its continued encouragement of instability in Iraq. And there are those who believe, as did Sen. Obama in March and 29 other Democratic senators in September, that there is value in identifying the Guards as the terrorist organization that they are — to take a stand against any organization that uses the cold-blooded murder of innocent civilians in the name of any political or religious cause.

That is the kind of honest debate that The New York Times's "News and Review" section has been known to present to viewers over the years. It wasn't done in this particular article.

It is also the kind of honest debate that Sen. Obama has been imploring his fellow presidential candidates and Democratic voters to prefer as a "new politics" to "turn the page" from the politics of misinformation and half-truths that he has rightfully condemned.

It is disappointing, mystifying, that Sen. Obama wrote that piece for the Union Leader criticizing Sen. Clinton and calling the Kyl–Lieberman resolution "reckless" while knowing that he had supported S. 970 with the same designation language.

Totally mystifying, even to those of us who support Sen. Clinton but have admired Sen. Obama for avoiding and deploring just this type of misleading negative campaigning.

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