WASHINGTON, DC – When he was running for an open House seat in 2008, Colorado Democrat Jared Polis suggested he opposed a U.S. military strike against Iran, saying that an attack “would only serve to consolidate support for their President.” Today U.S. Rep. Polis supports President Obama’s statement recently that “all options,” including a U.S.-backed military strike, should be considered to thwart Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.
Polis denies his position has changed. “I’ve always supported the president’s approach,” he said Thursday, speaking off the House floor. “I have supported targeted, tactical strikes. And I’ve opposed indefinite, nation-building wars.”
During his successful 2008 campaign, Polis emphasized that diplomacy and sanctions were the best means to dissuade Iran from developing a nuclear bomb. Last year, he co-sponsored legislation, the Iran Threat Reduction Act, to tighten sanctions against the Middle East nation.
Yet Obama’s speech Sunday at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a pro-Israel lobby group, contained no warning that a military strike might serve to consolidate public support for Iran President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Obama said that “(a)ll elements of American power … are on the table” to stop Iran from becoming a nuclear power, including “a military effort to be prepared for any contingency.”
Polis’ shift toward a more hawkish policy toward Iran was met with dismissal from one Colorado House Republican. “The Democratic Party is going to give this President more cover than they did to President Bush,” U.S. Rep. Cory Gardner said Thursday.
Like his fellow Democrat Polis, U.S. Senator Mark Udall has criticized the Bush administration’s policy of military intervention in the Middle East. “The last decade was characterized by overreach,” he wrote on his website. “We spent too much, we overcommitted our military, and we weakened our constitutional protections in the name of security. Moving forward … we must recognize that our strength as a nation extends far beyond the barrel of a gun.” A Udall spokesperson did not provide comment about Obama’s speech Monday.
The flurry of recent statements about U.S. policy toward Iran reflects a growing belief in Washington that Israel will attack the Persian nation’s budding nuclear facilities. The United States’ role in facilitating any Israeli strike is uncertain.
Like Polis, Colorado House Republicans support Obama’s more hawkish statements about Iran. “I absolutely support all options being on the table,” U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman said. “I wish the president had presented this position much earlier.”
U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton said he agrees that striking Iran’s nuclear facilities should be a possibility. Tipton cautioned that “our first option should be diplomatic … and I hope the Iranian leader will listen to us.”
If Israel attacked Iran and the United States assisted its Middle Eastern ally, Obama would be obliged to confer with Congress about the U.S.’s role. Most lawmakers criticized the Obama administration for not conferring with Congress more directly during last year’s intervention in Libya.
In an informal survey of the members of the Colorado delegation, Coffman was the lone member who insisted that Obama should seek a declaration of war or an authorization of a use of force against Iran. “He should come back to Congress for a declaration of war and an authorization at a minimum,” Coffman said.