Also published at my website, The Public Record.
In 2002, Scott Ritter, the former Chief United Nations Weapons Inspector In Iraq, publicly accused the Bush administration of lying to Congress and the public about assertions that Iraq was hiding a chemical and biological weapons arsenal.
Ritter’s criticisms about the Bush administration’s flawed prewar Iraq intelligence have been borne out by numerous investigations and reports, including one recently published by the Senate Armed Services Committee that found President George W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, and other senior administration officials knowingly lied about the threat Iraq posed to the United States.
Now Ritter, who was a Marine Corps intelligence officer for 12 years, is speaking out about what he sees as history repeating itself regarding U.S. policy toward Iran and the inevitability of a U.S.-led attack on the country, which he believes will happen prior to a new president being sworn into office in January 2009.
“We’re going to see some military activity before the new administration is sworn in.” Ritter said. But he added that “Iran is not a threat to the United States and Iran is not pursuing a nuclear weapons program. That’s documented.” Ritter teamed up with the Los Angeles-based U.S. Tour of Duty’s Real Intelligence, a nonprofit organization that represents former intelligence officials who openly discuss domestic and foreign policy issues. Ritter went on the road nearly a year ago to promote his recently published book, Waging Peace: The Art of War for the Antiwar Movement. But over the past several months, issues related to Iran have dominated his discussions.
He said one of the reasons he believes Democratic lawmakers have been reluctant to address the issue is the powerful Israeli lobby, such as the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). AIPAC has been pressuring the Bush administration to be even tougher on Iran. The lobby is largely responsible for drafting a resolution calling for stricter inspections and harsher economic sanctions against the country, which is expected to be voted on by the House next week.
Resolution 362 introduced by Congressman Gary Ackerman, a New York Democrat, has 170 Democratic and Republican co-sponsors.
The bill "demands that the president initiate an international effort to immediately and dramatically increase the economic, political, and diplomatic pressure on Iran to verifiably suspend its nuclear enrichment activities by, inter alia, prohibiting the export to Iran of all refined petroleum products; imposing stringent inspection requirements on all persons, vehicles, ships, planes, trains, and cargo entering or departing Iran; and prohibiting the international movement of all Iranian officials not involved in negotiating the suspension of Iran’s nuclear program.”
The resolution calls on President Bush to impose "stringent inspection requirements on all persons, vehicles, ships, planes, trains, and cargo entering or departing Iran”
Ritter says AIPAC's involvement in Iran policy is partially the reason Democrats have not been been willing to take a stand against the Bush administration's hard-line tactics toward Iran.
“Congress has linked Iran policy to Israel. In this day and age of presidential politics no one wants to take on the Israeli lobby. That’s just the facts,” Ritter said. “You have to find a way to address this issue that sidesteps Israel. Some people may object to that. On the other hand, if you couch this thing in economic terms I think you now empower Congress to address this issue in a manner that sidesteps Israel.”
Last week, a Senate committee approved legislation to strengthen sanctions against Iran by restricting the import of Iranian carpets, caviar, and nuts to the United States.
"The strong sanctions we've approved today will work to deter the Iranian government from producing a nuclear weapon," said Sen. Max Baucus, D-Montana, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.