Thursday, March 01, 2007

Jane Harman on CNN Sunday Morning Show re: Iraq & Iran

Jane appeared on Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer on Sunday (Feb 25th), in a segment with Republican Duncan Hunter. Watch it for yourself here.

I'll disect this soon. A couple comments for now though:

A lot of forthright talk about the lies put out as "intelligence" by the administration on Iran. There were a number of times when Harman pushed back against the Republican talking points. That was great to see.

On the down side was Jane's way of discussing Iraq. She again demonstrates that she intends to keep us there for many a year. With her it's the competency of the war effort that's the problem, or that it's not on budget, or that Congress hasn't had a chance to criticize the requests sufficiently -- but the problem with the war is not the war itself. Her criticisms will be ignored by Bush though, and when it comes down to it, is Jane Harman ever going to bring herself to vote against whatever Bush asks for? Nothing she's said suggests she's willing to do that.

Appropos of that, I'd love to know what she means by saying President Bush has Commander in Chief authorities. Yes, Bush is Commander in Chief of the armed forces, so what? He's not Commander in Chief over civilians, and certainly not of congress. Why does she mean to suggest when she repeatedly brings up "Bush is Commander in Chief" in response to questions about congressional spending controls of the Iraq War?

The transcript is available from CNN for this one, although it won't give you the full flavor of the discussion (e.g. Harman was shaking her head on camera during some of Hunter's responses). I don't know how long CNN will preserve the transcript on their site -- so here is the Harman/Hunter segment:

BLITZER: ....Let me get your reaction quickly, Duncan Hunter, to what we just heard from Sy Hersh, writing in The New Yorker magazine, saying here on "Late Edition" that the Bush administration, despite the denials, is at an advanced stage in preparing war plans to go to war against Iran.

REP. DUNCAN HUNTER (R), CALIFORNIA: Well, first, Wolf, when you listen to Sy Hersh, you have to listen to the whole thing, because I heard him say, he said the administration has been studying this forever. Well, of course, every administration has been studying Iran forever, especially with respect to their development of the centrifuge systems, which at some point, if built upon, may produce enough material to build a nuclear system. So, we have contingency plans around the world. We had contingency plans with the Soviet Union, and we had specific targets. That didn't mean that we were planning to strike the Soviet Union.

So Sy has used some general background which has always existed -- that is that we have intelligence focused on Iran -- and he interprets that, he translate that, into an intent to attack Iran in the near future. That's not the case.

But, nonetheless, the IAEA, the international arms control observers and inspectors, have come back from Iran and stated that Iran is moving forward with its centrifuge systems. They are moving down the path that will allow them to develop a nuclear device, and I think certainly, at some point, that military option is always on the table. At some point, it may have to be exercised.

BLITZER: What about that, Congresswoman Harman? You're just back from the Middle East.

REP. JANE HARMAN (D), CALIFORNIA: Right, well, first of all, I think if we are ever to initiate military action in Iran, Congress needs to approve it. I support legislation that would make that crystal clear.

But I am just back from a trip. I heard a lot of things about Iran, first of all, that it is an existential threat to Israel, which we have known for a long time. Second, that its centrifuge technology may not be as far advanced as some claim. But, third, what I heard both in Israel and Turkey is that economic sanctions are working against Iran.

That hasn't come up yet in the segments you've had today, Wolf. Undersecretary of State Nick Burns will be in Europe next week to try to persuade European capitals to disinvest in Iran. Congress is increasing the authority under the Iran Sanctions Act to impose sanctions against subsidiaries who do business with firms that are doing business in Iran.

And I think we have a real shot here of changing the policy in Iran in a way that would be very constructive and much more effective than this notion of initiating military action where we don't have a day after scenario that makes any sense whatsoever.

BLITZER: Congressman Hunter, have you seen any evidence that the Iranians have stopped supplying military equipment or funding or training to various Shiite militia groups in Iraq as the Iraqi national security advisor, Mowaffak al-Rubaie, said here on "Late Edition" in the last hour, that the Iranians all of a sudden have decided they want to see the U.S. succeed in Iraq?

HUNTER: You know, I saw that statement and I think that's a premature statement. The supply and the evidence of supply, especially of deadly systems from Iran, goes up and down and, certainly, they have been supplying capability to elements inside Iraq. And I think at this point for them to say they've stopped, there's no conclusive evidence that they've stopped. It ebbs and flows, Wolf, and at this point you can't say they stopped.

But one point on what Jane said. She said that she thinks there's evidence that sanctions may be working. You know, we watched the North Koreans labor under very difficult economic conditions to the point where their people were starving to death and literally eating bark off of trees, but that didn't keep the central government of North Korea from developing nuclear weapons.

So I agree with Jane that we should do everything we can with respect to sanctions, although I think that China and Russia will always try to blunt any effective sanctions. But at some point, if the central government of Iran wants to continue down this path to develop nuclear systems, then they will do that.

And this last report from the inspectors is that they have added centrifuges and that they still intend to build the 3000 plus centrifuges that will develop enough material to build at least several nuclear devices.

HARMAN: Yes, Wolf?

BLITZER: Yes, go ahead Jane Harman.

HARMAN: I am now the chair of the Intelligence Subcommittee of the Homeland Security Committee, and intelligence, as you know, is something I have watched closely for many years. And I will tell you that the intelligence on Iran is quite inconclusive.

First of all, on these exclusive projectiles, I think it was great that people pushed back last week when those reports came out. There is no direct link to the top levels of the Iranian government. We have known about those projectiles for years. Why they were rolled out right now is a mystery to me.

But, also, there's a big front page report in the Los Angeles Times today. I am in L.A. so I read it, and it's all about some other intelligence having to do with Iran's capability, which some feel might be disinformation.

And I will tell you that I was one of the people who pushed back about a year ago to our intelligence community when I received some briefings, which I can't describe because they were classified, but I felt that, again, that might be disinformation as much as information.

And let's not make the mistake in Iran that we made in Iraq, which is to believe this tautology that the failure to prove something does not exist is proof that it does exist. We have to be very, very careful and we need to be sure that our decisions, if they're based on intelligence, are based on accurate and actionable intelligence.

BLITZER: Let me just let Congressman Hunter respond to that.

HUNTER: And, Jane, at the same time, let's say at the same time we shouldn't then accept carte blanche a statement that all activity has seized because that also is not proved.

HARMAN: I agree with that, Duncan. I agree. I do agree with you.

BLITZER: All right. Guys, stand by, we're going to take a quick break. A lot more to talk about with Congresswoman Jane Harman, Congressman Duncan Hunter. Please stay with us. We're going to talk about what's going on with the U.S. troop build-up in Iraq and what's happening with the British forces, some of whom are about to leave.

But also, coming up next, we'll get a quick check of what's in the news, including the latest on today's very deadly day in Baghdad. Stay with us. We'll be right back.



RICE: When it comes to the execution of policy in the field, that has to be a clean relationship between the commander in chief and the commanders in the field. The commander in chief has to be able to rely on the best military advice, the best advice of people like General Petraeus as to what he needs, when he needs it and how he needs to use it.


BLITZER: The secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, speaking on ABC earlier today. Welcome back to "Late Edition." I'm Wolf Blitzer reporting from Washington. We're continuing our conversation with Democratic Congresswoman Jane Harman and Republican Congressman Duncan Hunter. What about that, Congresswoman Harman, give the secretary of state and the commander in chief a chance to let this new U.S. policy, the troop buildup in Iraq, give it a chance to work.

HARMAN: Duncan and I have had long conversations over the years of the president's commander in chief authorities. He does have them. Congress, however, has the authority to declare war and the power of the purse.

And I think, finally, Congress is stepping up as we should and reviewing carefully the supplemental proposal for Iraq, insisting that future supplemental requests or requests for war funds in Iraq be on budget. At least that's a proposal of the blue dogs, which I support, et cetera.

And with respect to this comment, I would say that the surge won't work. I voted for the non-binding resolution that disapproved the surge. There was a bipartisan majority for that. And I will be working with our leadership and the Senate leadership on additional plans that are binding to change the direction in Iraq so that we get to a strategy that will work. No one wants to abandon the Iraqi people or our interests there, but this strategy is a flawed strategy, and it will fail.

BLITZER: Some Republicans, including some influential Republicans, Congressman Hunter, agree with Jane Harman on this issue. Senator John Warner, the former chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, now the ranking member, said this on Thursday: "What I'm worried about is that the American public will be quite perplexed by the president adding forces while our principal ally is subtracting forces. That is the burden we are being left with here," referring to the British decision to start pulling out troops from Iraq. Go ahead and make your case.

HUNTER: Well, I don't agree with John on this one or with Jane. I think that that vote last week was -- will be interpreted by our enemies as the first signal of retreat in this war against terror, and I've looked carefully at this strategy, the nine-sector strategy in Baghdad, the two or three Iraqi battalions up front, the American battalion in a back-up role.

And the so-called surge really just takes us up to about 157,000 troops, which is less than we had, wolf, a year ago in December. Now, you know, we have, we're following the basic plan that we followed for 60 years in extending freedom around the world.

Number one, you stand up a free government. We've done that. It's a clumsy government, an inept government, but it was elected by its people.

Number two, we stand up a military that's capable of protecting that free government. Right now, you have 129 Iraqi battalions that Americans have trained and equipped. The American interest is to rotate every one of those Iraqi battalions through a combat operation for three or four months, make them saddle up, come to Baghdad and come to the Anbar Province and come to the Sunni Triangle and stand up the Iraqi military through military operations. I think that that will work.

BLITZER: Congresswoman Harman, I want you to respond, but also in the context of what the vice president, Dick Cheney, said in blasting the speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, and Congressman John Murtha.

He said this to ABC: "If we were to do what Speaker Pelosi and Congressman Murtha are suggesting, all it will do is validate the al Qaida strategy. That al Qaida strategy is to break the will of the American people. In fact, knowing that they can't win in a stand-up fight, try to persuade us to throw in the towel and come home." Go ahead.

HUNTER: Well, Wolf, surely...

BLITZER: No, let's let Jane Harman respond.

HARMAN: Al Qaida is in Iraq after our military action there because of the mistakes we made in our postwar strategy. Al Qaida was not there before. What we should be doing is focusing on al Qaida. That is why -- and I think Duncan and I agree on this -- we should surge our military force through NATO in Afghanistan. And we also should be very critical of some of the decisions that President Musharraf has made with tribal leadership in Pakistan, which has enabled al Qaida to regroup and become stronger there.

In addition to that, with respect to Iraq, I still think we should stay focused on al Qaida activities. But this military surge to try to hold Baghdad is not working. You just had reports of increased, sadly, deaths of Iraqis today, and there's no signs that the 129 Iraqi battalions, whom we have supposedly trained, are showing any military capability or that the Maliki government is stepping up to do things that are necessary, such as revoking the policy of debaathification.

BLITZER: All right, Congressman Hunter, I'm going to let you respond, but listen to Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House, in her response to the vice president.


PELOSI: The vice president's statements are beneath the dignity of the debate that we are engaged in. They're a disservice for men and women in uniform, whom we all support. And you know what I'm going to do? I'm going to call the president and tell him I disapprove of what the vice president said. That has no place in our debate.


BLITZER: All right, you want to respond?

HUNTER: I think we've got to move beyond the back and forth, the give and take of last week's debate. And what we have to do is follow the American interest. Clearly, it's in the American interest to have a government in Iraq that will not be, number one, a state sponsor of terrorism, that will be a friend and not an enemy of the United States and will have a modicum of freedom.

We stand up the Iraqi forces and we move them, we make the ministry of defense give us a schedule whereby all of the Iraqi forces that we've trained and equipped, and some of those battalions have fought very well. The problem is, we've got lots of battalions in places where there's no attacks going on. We need to saddle them up, get them into the fight, rotate them into combat operations.

And that's how you leave Iraq the right way. You rotate in Iraqi battalions, rotate out American battalions. They can redeploy to other strategic locations as determined by military leaders.

With respect to Iran, our number one role here, our number one goal is, we must stand firm. We must protect Israel. And right now, this is a military challenge that we have. One, to protect against the developing missile capability of Iran. Number two, to watch very closely this emergence of an incipient nuclear capability.

And this could well, Wolf, at some point, require American military forces in Iran. We should never take that card off the table.

BLITZER: Well, we'll leave it there the way we started it, the discussion about potential U.S. war with Iran. Jane Harman, Duncan Hunter, thanks to both of you for joining us.

HUNTER: Great to be with you.

HARMAN: Thank you.


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