Once Quiet, Obama Now Charges Iran Bill 'Opened Door' To War

05/25/2011 12:15 pm ET
  • Sam Stein Senior Politics Editor, The Huffington Post

2007-10-11-obama.jpgSen. Barack Obama, D-IL, went on the attack today in a sharply worded editorial on the Lieberman-Kyl Iran Amendment that graced the pages of the New Hampshire Union-Leader. There were two targets of the Senator's ire: the first was the amendment itself, which accuses Iran of fighting "a proxy war against the Iraqi state and coalition forces in Iraq" and designates the Iranian Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization. The second was Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-NY, for her vote in favor of the measure.

Obama charges that the amendment has "opened the door" to military action with Iran, and calls out Clinton as "the only Democratic presidential candidate to support this reckless amendment." He continues: "We do need to tighten sanctions on the Iranian regime... But this must be done separately from any unnecessary saber-rattling... Above all, it must be done through tough and direct diplomacy with Iran, which I have supported, and which Sen. Clinton has called 'naive and irresponsible.'"

Despite his condemnation for Lieberman-Kyl, Obama didn't vote against it. He didn't vote at all. Both he and Sen. John McCain, R-AZ, were on the campaign trail when Majority Leader Harry Reid allowed the amendment to hit the Senate floor (on relatively short notice).

But even prior to the amendment's passage, the Huffington Post has learned, Obama didn't weigh in. According to a high-ranking Hill staffer, "he wasn't there at all," neither during debate over the measure nor when the Democratic caucus purged two provisions that, among other things, would have declared prudent the "use of all instruments of United States national power in Iraq... with respect to the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran."

Obama also didn't mention the amendment during the most recent Democratic presidential debate despite being asked two questions specifically about Iran. The debate was on Sept 26, the day the measure was approved.

Obama's camp dismissed the significance of this "late-to-the-party" critique.

"[The Senator] strongly differs with Senator Clinton and others supporting the amendment on Iran and he will continue to speak out because he believes the way to achieve diplomacy is to actually pursue it--which is what he would do as president," his spokesperson Jen Psaki, told the Huffington Post.

But at least one critic of the Lieberman-Kyl amendment said that the Senator's silence during the lead up to the vote and when the vote took place hurts his credibility on the issue.

"In theory I would agree with what Obama says [in the Union Leader]," John Isaacs, Executive Director of Council for a Livable World, told the Huffington Post. "But he has the same problem with this vote as with his criticism of his 2002 vote authorizing Bush to use force in Iraq: it would have been easier for him to lob this criticism if he had been there to vote against the amendment."

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