The New York Sun‘s Eli Lake, who is perhaps the best foreign-affairs reporter in American journalism, has a fascinating story today about Barack Obama’s effort to shift his position on Iran:
Senator Obama’s campaign, in advance of the candidate’s speech to America’s largest pro-Israel lobby, is highlighting the candidate’s support for designating Iran’s Revolutionary Guard forces as a foreign terrorist organization. Senator McCain…criticized Mr. Obama for opposing a nonbinding resolution designating Iran’s primary military organization as terrorists. The Obama campaign responded that their problem with that resolution, sponsored by senators Kyl and Lieberman, had not been the designation of the Iranian guard as a terrorist group, but the idea that it committed American troops in Iraq to countering Iranian influence.
One should not look a gift horse in the mouth, so if Barack Obama has come onboard with the need to designate Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps a terrorist organization — a critical matter in interdicting and freezing the money the elite, 125,000-member Corps has to spend on training and equipping Hamas, Hezbollah, and Iraqi insurgents — he should be welcomed into the fold, however late. Nonetheless, what his campaign says about the Lieberman-Kyl resolution — that it, in the words of Obama foreign policy director Denis McDonough, gave “the soldiers an additional mission in Iraq” is preposterous on its face.
The relevant section of the Kyl-Lieberman “resolution reads:
[I]t 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; [and] 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…with respect to the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran and its proxies.
Nowhere in this language do we find that it gives U.S. troops “an additional mission.” The mission being described here is properly understood as part and parcel of the mission the military already has, which is to win in Iraq. If anything, the additional mission being assigned is to the “diplomatic, economic, and intelligence” branches of the government.
As spin goes, it’s good. As truth and fact go, it’s bad.