Yesterday, in her appearance before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. Lincoln Chafee wanted to clarify a simple issue — did the Iraq war resolution passed by Congress restrict military action only to Iraq? Chafee asked, “So would you agree that if anything were to occur on Syrian or Iranian soil, you would have to return to Congress to get that authorization?” Rice responded:
RICE: Senator, I don’t want to try and circumscribe presidential war powers. And I think you’ll understand fully that the president retains those powers in the war on terrorism and in the war on Iraq. “¦
CHAFEE: So that’s a no.
RICE: Senator, I am not going to be in the position of circumscribing the president’s powers.
The first line of the Iraq war resolution signed by the President on October 16, 2002 clearly states its purpose: To authorize the use of United States Armed Forces against Iraq.
So how could the administration possibly justify any military action against Syria without getting another congressional resolution? Tie it to Iraq, of course. Rice, in a response to a question about Syria from Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT), said yesterday:
Senator, our policy toward Syria is on the table. And that is, we want a change in Syrian behavior. We want a change in Syrian behavior on the Iraqi border”¦
But before Rice gets too far down the track of equating the conflict in Iraq with Syria, perhaps she should recall this previous statement in June 2005:
[E]very situation is different. Syria is not Iraq, and Iraq is not Syria. And I need to emphasize that Iraq was, in many ways, a very special circumstance given all of the problems with Iraq”¦ So Iraq is not Syria, and Syria is not Iraq.
Why is Rice so intent on keeping her options open on Syria? Perhaps because a “shadow struggle” is already under way.