WASHINGTON - The persistent criticism that Senator Hillary Clinton of New York faced at Tuesday night's debate highlighted the differing interpretations among the Democratic presidential candidates of the Senate resolution that called on the Bush administration to designate Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps a terrorist organization.
Clinton supported the resolution, but detractors, including Senator Barack Obama of Illinois and former senator John Edwards of North Carolina, contend that the measure paves the way for future US military action against Iran. They have likened the bill to the October 2002 resolution that gave President Bush authorization to use force in Iraq.
Clinton argues that the final version did not authorize any action by President Bush against Iran, but simply called for greater diplomatic pressure and tougher economic sanctions against the Revolutionary Guard to discourage it from intervening in Iraq.
The final text of the nonbinding Iran measure, adopted Sept. 26 by the Senate, was toned down considerably from the initial version. The amended text eliminated clauses that had said the United States should "combat, contain, and roll back the violent activities and destabilizing influence" of Iran in Iraq with "all instruments of US national power [in Iraq], including diplomatic, economic, intelligence and military."
Instead, the final version noted that US military actions in Iraq will be critical for the Mideast given the capability of neighboring Iran to threaten security in the region. It also said the United States should prevent Iran from turning Shi'ite militias in Iraq into terrorist surrogates.
The amendment called for the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps to be declared a terrorist organization, and for the US Treasury to expedite sanctions against Iranian entities identified in UN Security Council resolutions.
The October 2002 congressional resolution on Iraq was far more direct, stating: "The president is authorized to use the Armed Forces of the United States as he determines to be necessary and appropriate in order to: 1) defend the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq; and 2) enforce all relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions regarding Iraq."