Published September 26, 2007
WASHINGTON – The Senate on Wednesday overwhelmingly approved a measure sending another rebuke to Tehran, this one aimed at sending a message to the Islamic regime to end military tactics targeting U.S. forces in Iraq.
The vote came one day after Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told international leaders gathered at the U.N. General Assembly that Iran only seeks a peaceful nuclear program, and said that the conversation on the Iranian nuclear program "is now closed."
The Senate, showing it was not convinced by Ahmadinejad's proclamations, approved the nonbinding measure on a 76-22 vote. It was sponsored by Sens. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., and Joe Lieberman, D-Conn.
The measure — an amendment to the Defense Authorization bill under consideration in the Senate — is in response to growing concerns over Iranian support for insurgent activity in Iraq. Military officials say Iranian weapons have been discovered in insurgent hands, and U.S. officials have captured agents with alleged Iranian ties.
The amendment calls on the State Department to designate Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps as "a foreign terrorist organization." The designation would allowed for more economic sanctions to be set against the country.
The measure's opponents, which include Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va., said the language is too open-ended, and could be construed as Senate authorization to use force against Iran.
One portion of the amendment reads: "It is the Sense of the Senate ... that it 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."
"This proposal ... is Dick Cheney's fondest pipe dream. It's not a prescription for success. At best, it's a deliberate attempt to divert attention from a failed diplomatic policy. At worst, it could be read as a back-door method of ... gaining congressional validation for action without one hearing or without serious debate," Webb said Tuesday.
At the urging of Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, Lieberman and Kyl took steps Tuesday to remove the most controversial parts of their measure.
Lieberman said Webb was off-base on his interpretation of his proposal.
"Our colleague (Webb) has given the darkest possible interpretation ... There is no intention of declaring war," Lieberman said.
The House on Tuesday also passed a measure calling for greater economic sanctions against Iran. That bill, passed on a 397-16 vote, would block foreign investment in Iran, especially its energy sector, and would bar the president from waiving U.S. sanctions.
The motions out of Congress come on a highly anticipated week in which President Bush and international foe Ahmadinejad appeared at the same podium, only hours apart at the U.N.'s annual meeting on Tuesday. The drama also followed a contentious appearance by Ahmadinejad at Columbia University in New York.
On Tuesday, Bush announced new sanctions against the government of Myanmar and called on world leaders to fight oppression from contries like those of Iran. Ahmadinejad spoke at length about "arrogant powers" illegally imposing sanctions on his nation.
FOX News' Trish Turner and The Associated Press contributed to this report.