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Pandering and triangulating

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While U.S. forces continue the difficult task of helping Iraqis stabilize their country, Democratic leaders continue to undermine the war effort at home. Last week, for example, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid staged an all-night Iraq defeatathon in an effort to press wavering Republicans into supporting an early withdrawal of troops. When he came up eight votes short, Mr. Reid yanked the bill from the floor, virtually ensuring a delay in funding for critical items such as Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles for soldiers fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan and money for wounded veterans.

To be sure, this is a continuation of the way Democrats have behaved since the November election. At every turn, they have talked about instituting timetables for the withdrawal of troops from Iraq regardless of the military realities; setting standards for "troop rotation" that would make impossible any sustained military operation against the jihadist enemy; and as Sen. Jim Webb has proposed, about limiting President Bush's flexibility to take military action against Iran — which is smuggling explosively formed penetrators into Iraq which are killing and maiming U.S. troops.

Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton and John Kerry have introduced legislation requiring that the Pentagon brief Congress on contingency plans for withdrawing from Iraq — in other words, advertising American weakness and raising the specter that the United States will abandon Iraq as it did Somalia in 1993-1994, Lebanon in 1983-1984 and South Vietnam in 1975. With public-opinion polls showing that the American public has become frustrated over the situation in Iraq, many politicians see political advantage in poor-mouthing the war.

It should come as no surprise that such behavior has real-world consequences — one of which has been the emboldening of our adversaries in Tehran. On Tuesday, U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker held a second round of talks with Iranian diplomats in the Green Zone in Baghdad. The meeting didn't go well. Mr. Crocker said that since the two sides held their first meeting on May 28, the situation has actually worsened. "The fact is, as we made very clear in today's talks, that over the roughly two months since our last meeting we've actually seem militia-related activity that could be attributed to Iranian support go up and not down," he said, adding that U.S. and Iranian officials had "several heated exchanges" on the issue of Iranian support for terrorism: "We are not here to prove something in a court of law. We are here to let them know we know what they are doing and it needs to stop."

Beyond its support for the Hezbollah and Palestinian terrorist groups such as Hamas, Iran is playing an extraordinarily malevolent role in Iraq. At a press conference earlier this month, Brig. Gen. Kevin Bergner pointed to Tehran's direct role in a Jan. 20 attack on the Karbala Provincial Joint Coordination Center in which five American soldiers were killed, and he noted that Hezbollah is involved in organizing and training Iraqi jihadists to kill Americans. Moreover, the Quds Force, a special unit of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps that specializes in financing and arming terrorist movements, is bringing groups of up to 60 Iraqi insurgents at a time to training facilities near Tehran. There, they are taught how to carry out kidnappings and use rockets and improvised explosive devices to kill and maim American troops. (The U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan said July 17 that Iranian weapons are also reaching Taliban forces.) But Mr. Crocker's Iranian interlocutor, Hassan Kazemi-Qumi, responded dismissively, saying that U.S. concerns about Iran were unfounded, and he suggested that the U.S. military presence in Iraq was to blame for the violence there.

Tehran's behavior has become so brazen, however, that even some antiwar Democrats like Mrs. Clinton are reluctant to be seen as kowtowing to the mullahs. That's why Mrs. Clinton attacked Sen. Barack Obama as "irresponsible and frankly naive" for saying that he would be willing to meet with the leaders of rogue nations like Iran and North Korea. "I don't want to be used for propaganda purposes," she said yesterday. Her campaign issued a memo criticizing Mr. Obama for having "committed to presidential meetings with some of the world's worst dictators without precondition during his first year in office."

Mrs. Clinton is right on the merits of her criticism of Mr. Obama, but we suspect the change has less to do with substance than it does with her realization that getting too close to Cindy Sheehan wing of the Democratic Party would be political suicide in the general election. Do not be surprised if more Democrats follow Mrs. Clinton's example of triangulation: pandering to the left on Iraq, while talking tough about Iran.

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