The United States is deeply mired in a preventive war of its own making in Iraq with no clear way out. Now the Bush administration is making accusations against Iran and bolstering US forces in the Persian Gulf with two additional naval battle groups.

Why would the Bush administration contemplate a new war against Iran? How would a war against Iran in any conceivable way benefit the United States? There are no clear answers that explain the Bush administration’s increased threats toward Iran. Yet, despite the president’s statements that he will pursue “robust diplomacy,” the possibility that the United States will launch an attack against Iran cannot be dismissed.

The Bush administration has continued trumpeting the fear that Iran may develop nuclear weapons, a technological possibility because of the uranium enrichment program it is pursuing. This charge, however, is not credible, at least in the near-term. International Atomic Energy Agency chief Mohamed ElBaradei reports there is no evidence that Iran is developing nuclear weapons. The CIA indicates that it would take Iran a decade to develop nuclear weapons, if that were its intention. Thus, the charge that Iran is on the brink of becoming a nuclear weapons state appears farfetched. The charge, and the lack of evidence to support it, is ominously similar to the spurious claims the Bush administration leveled against Iraq as a cause for initiating that war.

More recently, the Bush administration has floated a new charge that Iran has provided Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) to insurgents in Iraq, even suggesting that the devices were responsible for the deaths of some 170 Americans. The administration has put forward little supporting information to substantiate its claim, and the government of Iran denies the allegation. It may be possible that Iranians are giving some support to Iraqi Shiites, but is this adequate cause to attack Iran and initiate a war with a country of some 70 million people? This is highly doubtful, unless the US is prepared to pay an even heavier price in blood and treasure than it is already paying in Iraq.

Perhaps Mr. Bush thinks that he can bring democracy to another country in the Middle East, but this hasn’t worked out in Iraq and it is even less likely to happen in Iran. This is particularly true since US military forces are already stretched so thin that there would be little possibility for the US to put “boots on the ground” in Iran. A war against Iran would likely be an air war, a prolonged demonstration of “shock and awe.”

What else could be motivating the Bush administration to pursue a war against Iran? Is it that the administration wishes to support Israel, which views Iran as a significant threat? Is it that Iran, like Iraq before it, is talking about changing its currency for oil revenues to Euros? Could it be that Mr. Bush likes being a “war president,” and, rather than accept defeat in Iraq, is seeking to widen the war by extending it to Iran?

It is possible that the administration’s threatening behavior toward Iran is merely muscle flexing to strengthen the US hand in negotiations, but this possibility cannot be relied upon, particularly in light of the manner in which the Bush administration initiated the Iraq War.

There have been reports by respected journalist Seymour Hersh that the US has contingency plans for the use of nuclear weapons against Iran. Even rumors of the US planning to use nuclear weapons preemptively against Iran should raise serious concerns in the halls of Congress and throughout the country. Nuclear weapons concentrate power in the hands of a single individual, undermining democracy and the future of global security.

Congress opened the door for Mr. Bush’s attack against Iraq. Whatever the administration’s motives may be for its threatening behavior regarding Iran, Congress should now be responsible for closing the door to a US attack on another country. Speaker of the House Pelosi has said, “…Congress should assert itself…and make it very clear that there is no previous authority for the president, any president, to go into Iran.”

Congress should act proactively and go on record before it is too late, foreclosing the president from attacking Iran without specific Congressional authorization, as well as appropriate authorization by the United Nations Security Council. The hour is late, but not too late, for Congress to assert its Constitutional responsibility.

Senator Robert Byrd, among other Senators and members of Congress, has already put forward a resolution that requires Congressional approval of any offensive US military action taken against another country. In introducing Senate Resolution 39 on January 24, 2007, Senator Byrd stated, “I am introducing a resolution that clearly states that it is Congress…not the President – that is vested with the ultimate decision on whether to take this country to war against another country.” He called his resolution “a rejection of the bankrupt, dangerous and unconstitutional doctrine of preemption, which proposes that the President – any President – may strike another country before that country threatens us….”

As bad as things are in Iraq – and there is no doubt that they are bad – for Mr. Bush to initiate a new war by attacking Iran would only make matters worse for the United States. The US needs to pursue an exit strategy from Iraq, not a preemptive war against yet another country that has not attacked the United States. The Congress of the United States needs to go on record now to assure that Mr. Bush understands this and the limits of his authority under the Constitution.


David Krieger is president of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation (