- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 1, 2007

Now that she has won House passage of legislation that would micromanage the way to defeat in Iraq, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi finds herself struggling to come up with a coherent policy toward Iran. Unfortunately, in a desperate effort to appease the hard left of the blogosphere (which worries that Pelosi and the Democratic leadership are insufficiently capitulationist) she has behaved contemptuously toward one of America’s closest allies: Great Britain, and in particular, Prime Minister Tony Blair. Before the House adjourned on Thursday, Mrs. Pelosi refused to permit a vote on House Resolution 267, which condemns Iran for the illegal seizure of British marines and sailors in Iraqi waters March 23.

The resolution was introduced exactly one week ago by Rep. Mark Kirk, Illinois Republican, and was reported out the following day by the House Foreign Affairs Committee. (The panel is chaired by Mrs. Pelosi’s fellow California Democrat, Rep. Tom Lantos, who presently is accompanying her on a trip to the Middle East.)

Here is the full text of Mr. Kirk’s resolution: “Resolved, That the House of Representatives — (1) condemns the Islamic Republic of Iran for the seizure of 15 British marines and sailors and demands their unconditional release; and 2) calls on the United Nations Security Council to condemn this seizure and explore new sanctions against the Islamic Republic of Iran, including the restriction of the supply of gasoline, to prevent further Iranian hostile action, deny Iran’s ability to militarize the Persian Gulf, and enforce Iran’s nonproliferation commitments.”

The wording was noncontroversial enough to win the support of liberals such as Democratic Reps. Linda Sanchez of California, Jan Schakowsky of Illinois, Deborah Wasserman Schultz of Florida, Alcee Hastings of Florida and Patrick Murphy of Pennsylvania. (Before leaving, the Senate passed a resolution of its own condemning the abductions “in the strongest possible terms” and calling for “immediate, safe and unconditional release” of the Brits.)

When Mrs. Pelosi stalled on allowing the resolution to the floor for a vote, House Republican Chief Deputy Whip Eric Cantor wrote a letter to the speaker imploring her to allow the House to consider H. Res. 267 before it adjourned on Thursday and began a recess that will last until April 16. In his letter, Mr. Cantor noted that the kidnapped British marines and sailors are “the latest victims of a systematic Iranian campaign of terror and and international defiance. The illegal seizure of the British forces is a signal that Iran views us as powerless to prevent it from realizing its aggressive ambitions.” A spokesman for Mrs. Pelosi said the speaker was reluctant to weigh in on the situation without knowing for sure that such a message would do more good than harm. (Why it would be harmful to make a statement supporting an ally who has had members of its armed forces kidnapped by a rogue regime was not explained.)

On the issue of Iran, Mrs. Pelosi is walking a political tightrope, trying to be anti-Bush and mullah-enabling enough for the left-wing base, without completely alienating supporters of Israel who are understandably worried about a a Holocaust-denying regime in Tehran obtaining nuclear weapons. Last month, the House Appropriations Committee, pushed by the left-wing blogosphere, included in an Iraq war-funding bill language requiring that President Bush get congressional approval in advance of military action against Iran — a proposal aimed at effectively making military action impossible. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) vigorously protested, as did liberal Democratic stalwarts like Rep. Gary Ackerman, New York Democrat. Mr. Ackerman explained why the Iran language — whose leading advocate has been Sen. James Webb, Virginia Democrat — would damage the president’s ability to react to a future crisis triggered by Iranian aggression. “I don’t think it was a very wise idea to take things off the table if you’re trying to get people to modify their behavior and normalize in a civilized way,” Mr. Ackerman said.

As a result of these protests, Mrs. Pelosi was forced to remove the Iran language from the appropriations bill. But in doing so, she infuriated the left-wing, anti-war base, which depicted her as a dupe of AIPAC and the Bush administration. So just a few days after House Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey had the Iran language taken out, Congressional Quarterly reported that the speaker had promised committee Democrats that she would bring up the Iran provision as a stand-alone measure. Likewise, Mrs. Pelosi’s refusal to allow a vote on a resolution condemning Iran’s abduction of the sailors shows how far she is prepared to go in pandering to the radical fringe.

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