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Here is the Democratic message on Iran

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[BUMP: I posted this late last night, but didn't want anyone to miss it since we post so often. If you've already read it, then scroll on down. Otherwise, I think this is important. Thanks, JOHN]

George Bush has decided to use Iran as a foil to help his sagging poll numbers and to help Republicans in the fall congressional elections. I'm going to discuss why this is true, and what the Dems should do about it.

Iran is ten years away from developing nukes.

I'll say it again, TEN YEARS away. That would be TEN YEARS at the earliest, according to the best estimate we have. And that's not according to some peacenik liberal, it's according to the best estimate of US intelligence.

From the US State Department's own Web site:

Iran is likely years away from producing weapons-grade plutonium or highly enriched uranium. Vice Adm. Jacoby, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, told the Senate Armed Services Committee in March 2005 that Iran is expected to be able to produce a weapon early next decade. According to one report, the new National Intelligence Estimate on Iran assesses that it will be ten years before Iran has a bomb.
What the report didn't bother mentioning is that the five year "sometime early next decade" estimate has now been overruled by this ten year estimate. Yes, the "according to one report" reference would be THE definitive federal government report on this issue, not just "one" report.

From the Washington Post's coverage of the new NIE estimate:
Until recently, Iran was judged, according to February testimony by Vice Adm. Lowell E. Jacoby, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, to be within five years of the capability to make a nuclear weapon. Since 1995, U.S. officials have continually estimated Iran to be "within five years" from reaching that same capability. So far, it has not.

The new estimate extends the timeline, judging that Iran will be unlikely to produce a sufficient quantity of highly enriched uranium, the key ingredient for an atomic weapon, before "early to mid-next decade," according to four sources familiar with that finding. The sources said the shift, based on a better understanding of Iran's technical limitations, puts the timeline closer to 2015 and in line with recently revised British and Israeli figures.
Got a give a lying, corrupt and incompetent administration points for trying. And one more thing, that ten year estimate, that's the QUICKEST Iran could get nukes, not the estimate of when we EXPECT them to get nukes ("The timeline is portrayed as a minimum designed to reflect a program moving full speed ahead without major technical obstacles.")

So why, suddenly, in the second week of April, 2006, have we found ourselves in a media feeding frenzy of speculation over whether the US will be soon be launching a massive (possibly nuclear) attack on Iran to eliminate an "impending" nuclear threat that won't appear until 2015?

Iran is a convenient way to change the subject

The answer is that Iran is a convenient way for the Bush administration to get America's attention off of the Iraq debacle, rising gas prices, Valerie Plame, New Orleans lost, Republican corruption, the massive budget deficit, and a growing number of revelations of how Bush lied to the American people in trying to sell them on the Iraq war.

Start saber-rattling about how Iran is going to nuke America's babies, and people may very well forget all the other problems on their plate.

Bringing up Iran now is a convenient way to help Republicans in the fall congressional elections

There's a second benefit to this strategy as well. Bush can again look presidential - the strong leader taking on more evil dark-skinned false-god worshippers. Bush's hope is that all of this will help the Republicans sagging poll numbers, and thus help them retain the House and Senate in the fall.

Bush is also hoping that going to war in Iran, like the war in Iraq, will divide Democrats. Some Dems will have the courage to say publicly that the Bush administration can't be trusted with a war in Iran, while other Dems will fear looking too dove-ish if they take on Bush. All Bush and the congressional Republicans need to do is bring up the Iran war resolution in September, right before the elections, and hope the Democrats fall apart.

So how should Democrats respond to the issue of Iran's nuclear threat?

Let me suggestion a number of possible talking points and positions.

1. George Bush is the wrong man to be launching yet another war.

The same president who made a disaster out of the Iraq war now wants to launch another war with Iraq's neighbor, Iran. Bush has already proven he is incompetent at running an effective war. America simply cannot afford another rash Bush misadventure.

2) Slow down, we've got ten years.

America's intelligence community estimates that Iran is still ten years away from building a nuclear weapon. There is no reason we need to prepare for war in the next few months, or even before Bush's term runs out in 2008. Give diplomacy and the international community a chance. We've got years, not months.

3) Since we have ten years, we can at the very least wait seven months until the congressional elections this fall.

America needs a Congress that is going to look into Bush's claims about Iran's nuclear program and determine if those claims are even credible. The Republican-controled Congress has already shown that it is unwilling to provide any oversight on any matters involving the Bush administration. We need someone who isn't on George Bush's team to use their subpoena power to get administration officials under oath, review the evidence, and see if Bush is right this time around. That someone is a Democratically-controled Congress.

4) It is ridiculous to consider any congressional resolution on Iran until after the fall elections.

George Bush proved with Iraq that he has no intention of using diplomacy to avoid war. His first option is always to declare war, then ask questions later. It would be foolhardy and naive not to think that Bush would take any congressional Iran resolution and immediately use it to declare war prematurely. The resolution comes ONLY after we know the intelligence is right, that Bush is telling the truth, that we have exhausted ALL other options to avoid war.

And finally, NO resolution is considered until Congress has verified that our military has been given a real plan for victory and sufficien resources to achieve it. Such a verification will NEVER happen under a Republican Congress - they simply cannot politically oversee their own president. It can only happen with a Congress run by the other political party - and that means a Democratic Congress.

5) There is no reason we need to even go to war until Bush has left office.

George Bush has proven that he is unable to wage war effectively. We will have new presidential elections in 2008, a good eight years before Iran will have nukes according to our best estimates. We should wait until Bush leaves office before considering any possible military action against Iran. There is simply no reason to rush things and permit this administration to prove its incompetence in foreign and military policy once again.

6) Bush is the not the president we want exercising the nuclear option.

There are credible news reports that President Bush isn't just considering using nuclear weapons against Iran, but that he is strongly leaning towards that option. Regardless of one's opinion on such an option, George Bush has already proven that he is not competent to run a conventional war. It would be insane to trust him to run a nuclear war.

7) Bush either lied to us, or was unable to determine the truth, about Iraq's WMD program (which we now know didn't exist). Why should we believe claims from the same president and same intelligence agencies about Iran's WMD program? We need more than President Bush's assurances.

8) What military and what money are we going to use to launch a war against Iran?

Our troops are stuck in Iraq, and Bush says he refuses to withdraw them. So what troops are we going to use to invade Iran? And is America truly prepared to fight 3 wars at the same time? That has never been US military policy, at least not in the past several decades, to be able to fight a three-front war. Our military simply is not made to fight three wars simultaneously.

Just as importantly, Iraq has cost us over $300 billion, and the estimates of the total cost of the Iraq war is in the trillions. George Bush inherited a budget surplus when he came to office, he has now put the budget into a massive deficit. We simply no longer have the money, so how is Bush going to finance a massive invasion of Iran?

Incompetence comes at a cost. George Bush has run our military into the ground our and bankrupted our government, and now wants us to give him permission to do it all over again?

9) Why is it always us?

If Iran is such a threat, then why not let the Europeans and the Russians and the Chinese take care of it? Clearly none of those countries wants a nuclear Iran on their back porch. So why is it always America that has to give our money, our soldiers' lives, and our goodwill?


Having explained all of that, I think the Democrats' message and policy needs to be distilled into one single point. The Democrats always have ten pages of talking points, while the Republicans have a one-liner. We need a one-line, clear answer to the question: "Congressman, will you vote for or against the congressional resolution to authorize all necessary force against Iran?"

Here's a perhaps not short enough attempt:
Iran is ten years away from developing nuclear weapons. There is no discussion of America rushing into another premature war until either Bush leaves office, or Congress is able to provide effective oversight of, and can serve as a counter-balance to, the Bush administration's incompetence.
Your suggestions?

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