Friday, December 21, 2007

Administration Policy Objectives on Iran

I noted in a blog post last week that in reviewing the conference report of the Fiscal Year 2008 Defense Authorization bill, I discovered that House and Senate conferees agreed to drop a provision in the Senate version of the bill that would have prohibited not more than 75 percent of the amount authorized from being obligated until the President submitted a report on policy objectives and United States Strategy regarding Iran. According to the Conference Report, the President submitted the report to Congress. I also noted that I have not seen a public version, so I decided to inquire about it with a senior congressional aide.

According to my source, the Bush administration did submit the report over the summer after they had seen the provision in the Senate version of the Defense Authorization bill. The senior congressional aide also said that the report, presumably drafted by the State Department, had an early 2007 date on it but seemed to have been sitting collecting dust until they decided to send it to Congress this summer. The senior congressional aide said it was possible that after the State Department drafted the report, the Office of the Vice President or perhaps someone else refused to clear it because of language about a commitment to diplomacy.

I was also told there is only a classified version and Congress has not pursued insisting on an unclassified version because the whole exercise was "frustrating and the report was not particularly long or substantive, and we got pulled on to other things."

I personally believe that Congressional oversight of the Bush administration's policy on Iran is vitally important to keep the Administration accountable. Members of Congress should absolutely be pushing for an unclassified version of the Administration's policy objectives on Iran. The more people can weigh in with Congressional offices on this one, the better.

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