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Legislative Round-Up - December 14, 2007

I. Bills and Resolutions; II. New Pro-Peace Senate Letter; III. Renewed Focus (and Attacks) on Palestinian Aid; IV. APN on Iran; V. House Dear Colleague on Iran; VI. Hagel on the Record on Iran

...for the week ending December 14, 2007

I. Bills and Resolutions
II. New Pro-Peace Senate Letter
III. Renewed Focus (and Attacks) on Palestinian Aid
IV. APN on Iran
V. House Dear Colleague on Iran
VI. Hagel on the Record on Iran



(Saudi Arabia) H. Res. 857: Introduced 12/11/07 by Rep. Shea-Porter (D-NH) and 3 cosponsors, "Calling on the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to take immediate actions to drop all charges against the Saudi rape victim known as the 'Qatif Girl'." Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.


Defense Authorization Bill, HR 1585
This week House and Senate conferees agreed on a joint conference version of HR 1585, the FY08 Defense Authorization bill. The House passed the conference version of the bill on 12/12/07 by a vote of 370-49; a vote on the conference version is pending in the Senate as of this writing. The conference report includes several provisions related to Israel and Iran, as follows:

-- Sec. 226, "Limitation on availability of funds for procurement, construction, and deployment of missile defenses in Europe." This section requires an "Independent Assessment for Ballistic Missile Defense in Europe" that shall examine, among other things, "The threat to Europe and the United States of ballistic missiles (including short-range, medium-range, intermediate-range, and long-range ballistic missiles) from Iran, including the likelihood and timing of such threats."

-- Sec. 227, "Sense of Congress on missile defense cooperation with Israel." This section states that it is the Sense of Congress that: "the United States should have an active program of ballistic missile defense cooperation with Israel, and should take steps to improve the coordination, interoperability, and integration of United States and Israeli missile defense capabilities, and to enhance the capability of both nations to defend against ballistic missile threats present in the Middle East region." The section also mandates a detailed report to Congress by the Secretary of Defense "on the status of missile defense cooperation between the United States and Israel." In comments accompanying the conference report, conferees noted: "the United States and Israel have a long-standing program of cooperation on ballistic missile defense, including joint development of technology like the Arrow interceptor missile, and joint missile defense testing and exercises. This cooperation continues to serve the security interests of both nations. The conferees are aware that Israel is considering a follow-on system for the Arrow Weapon System that would provide better defensive capability against faster, higher, and more challenging missiles than Arrow can currently provide. The conferees encourage Israel and the Missile Defense Agency to evaluate the possibility of using the U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system, or a land-based version of the Standard Missile-3, as a successor to Arrow. If either or both of these systems could provide the desired level of defensive protection, it would be much more cost-effective and less expensive than developing a new Arrow system."

-- Sec. 229, "Policy of the United States on protection of the United States and its allies against Iranian ballistic missiles." This far-reaching section begins with a Congressional "finding" that, "Iran maintains a nuclear program in continued defiance of the international community while developing ballistic missiles of increasing sophistication and range." The finding states that these missiles pose a threat to the forward-deployed forces of the United States, NATO allies in Europe, other allies and friendly foreign countries in the region, and "eventually could pose a threat to the United States homeland." The section then stipulates that it is the policy of the U.S. to "develop, test, and deploy, as soon as technologically feasible, in conjunction with allies and friendly foreign countries whenever possible, an effective defense against the [ballistic missile] threat from Iran."

-- Sec. 1225, "Report on support from Iran for attacks against coalition forces in Iraq." This section requires a quarterly report to Congress by the Secretary of Defense describing and assessing in detail: "(1) any support or direction provided to anti-coalition forces in Iraq by the Government of Iran or its agents; (2) the strategy and ambitions in Iraq of the Government of Iran; and (3) any strategy or efforts by the United States Government to counter the activities of agents of the Government of Iran in Iraq." The section also states that "Nothing in this section shall be construed to authorize or otherwise speak to the use of the Armed Forces against Iran."

-- Sec. 1258, "Sense of Congress on Iran." This section states, among other things, that it is the Sense of Congress that the U.S. "should designate Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps as a foreign terrorist organization under section 219 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1189) and place the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps on the list of Specially Designated Global Terrorists, as established under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (50 U.S.C. 1701 et seq.) and initiated under Executive Order 13224 (September 23, 2001)" and that the U.S. "should act with all possible expediency to complete the listing of those entities targeted under United Nations Security Council Resolutions 1737 and 1747, adopted unanimously on December 23, 2006, and March 24, 2007, respectively."

FY08 Intelligence Authorization Act - HR 2082
Last week House and Senate conferees agreed to a compromise version of HR 2082, the FY08 Intelligence Authorization Act. The House passed the conference report 12/13/07 by a vote of 222-199; a vote is pending on the measure in the Senate as of this writing. Per normal practice, most details of the bill are classified. However, an unclassified provision was added to the bill by conferees, Section 328, stating that "Not more than 30 percent of the funds authorized to be appropriated for the Expenditure Center referred to on page 157 of Volume VI, Book 1 of the Fiscal Year 2008 - Fiscal Year 2009 Congressional Budget Justification, National Intelligence Program, may be obligated or expended until each member of the congressional intelligence committees has been fully and currently informed with respect to intelligence regarding a facility in Syria subject to reported military action by the State of Israel on September 6, 2007, including intelligence relating to any agent or citizen of North Korea, Iran, or any other foreign country present at the facility, and any intelligence provided to the Federal Government by a foreign country regarding the facility (as available)." In comments accompanying the conference report, conferees noted that "In agreeing to Section 328, the conferees concluded that it is essential that the full membership of the House and Senate intelligence committees be fully informed, in a manner consistent with the National Security Act, about intelligence that would indicate, among other matters, any presence at a Syrian facility of agents or citizens of states--particularly, North Korea and Iran--which have had nuclear or other weapons of mass destruction programs."

Energy Independence Act (HR 6)
This week the House passed HR 6, as amended by the Senate, with further amendments. The bill is now pending another vote in the Senate (on the additional House amendments). The bill includes Sec. 917, entitled, "United States-Israel Energy Cooperation" (an identical section is contained in at least two other pieces of legislation pending in Congress). Sec. 917 finds, among other things, that "the State of Israel is a steadfast ally of the United States," and, "enhanced cooperation between the United States and Israel for the purpose of research and development of renewable energy sources would be in the national interests of both countries." To promote such cooperation, the section requires the establishment of a new U.S.-Israel grant program to "support research, development, and commercialization of renewable energy or energy efficiency."

====================================================== II. NEW PRO-ISRAEL, PRO-MIDDLE EAST PEACE SENATE LETTER ======================================================

This week, Senator Dodd (D-CT) began circulating a Dear Colleague seeking co-signers on a timely and constructive, pro-Israel, pro-Middle East Peace letter to Secretary Rice. Americans for Peace Now strongly supports the letter and is urging all Senators to sign on. The text of the letter is as follows:

Dear Madam Secretary:

We write to applaud your work at the recent Annapolis Conference which has led to a pledge by Israeli and Palestinian leaders to achieve a permanent peace settlement by the end of 2008. The memorandum of understanding issued ahead of the Annapolis Conference by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas illustrates not only the leaders' commitment to peace, but also the value of proactive U.S. engagement in the peace process.

While the outcome of the Annapolis Conference was encouraging, the road to a final agreement will require serious concessions from both parties involved. It is therefore imperative that the United States continues to play a vigorous and proactive role in helping Prime Minister Olmert and President Abbas remain committed to a final status agreement.

Throughout history, American leadership has played an integral role in the quest for peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors, and it is of paramount importance that the United States continues to work with all parties involved to bring about a comprehensive final status agreement between Israel and the Palestinian people. With this in mind, we respectfully request that you remain actively engaged in the negotiation and implementation process as Israel and the Palestinian Authority work toward a final status agreement. We ask that you call upon President Abbas to continue to denounce all terror attacks on Israeli targets both in Israel and the West Bank. We further ask that you press President Abbas to unconditionally recognize the Jewish state of Israel's right to exist. We also ask that you continue to assist and strengthen the Abbas government as it confronts Hamas and other extremists by providing humanitarian and financial aid to the Palestinian Authority. President Abbas has recognized the road ahead is a challenging one, and that the Palestinian people will be forced to make concessions in the name of peace, but he has courageously accepted this challenge; it is our view that the United States must continue to support the Abbas government, politically as well as financially, as it works toward a final status agreement with Israel.

Prime Minister Olmert has also recognized the obstacles that lie ahead, and has boldly warned the Israeli people to prepare to make difficult compromises in the name of a lasting and permanent peace. As the only democracy in the Middle East, the United States must remain a steadfast supporter of Israel and its right to defend itself from terrorist threats. However, as the negotiations toward a final status agreement begin, we also feel it is crucial that Israel take steps to ease the living conditions of the Palestinian people as a symbol of its commitment to a final settlement.

We urge you to call upon the government of Prime Minister Olmert to abide by Israel's commitments to the 2002 Roadmap to Peace, including a freeze on the construction of new settlements beyond Israel's 1967 borders, the dismantling of illegal West Bank settlements and "outposts," and a reduction of roadblocks and checkpoints in the Palestinian territories to allow increased movement for the Palestinian people.

We recognize the many challenges the lie ahead, and that, ultimately, it is the Israeli and Palestinian people themselves who must find the strength to commit to peace; but we also recognize that U.S. leadership and mediation have lead to some of the greatest breakthroughs in Israeli-Arab relations. We encourage you to remain actively involved in the peace process and press both Israeli and Palestinian leaders to honor their commitments to finding an acceptable compromise and agreeing on a final status accord.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.


On the heels of the Annapolis peace conference and in the countdown to the upcoming Paris donors' meeting (to mobilize support for President Abbas and Prime Minister Fayyad's efforts), there is a renewed focus on Palestinian aid in the House.

Kirk/Knollenberg/Tauscher letter
On December 11th, Rep. Kirk (R-IL), a longtime and outspoken foe of UNRWA, accompanied by Reps. Knollenberg (R-MI) and Tauscher (D-CA), launched yet another in a series of attacks on UNRWA. This time, the attack comes in the form of a Dear Colleague seeking cosigners on a letter to Secretary Rice, and taking aim at $35 million for UNRWA requested by the Administration in the FY07 Supplemental. The letter reiterates Kirk's longstanding allegations of UNRWA supposed misuse of funds, alleged tolerance for terrorism, and alleged unwillingness to come clean about its misdeeds. The letter also reiterates Kirk's oft-repeated demand for an "outside, independent audit" of UNRWA, apparently based on the argument that the existing UN audit mechanisms, while acceptable for every other UN agency, are insufficient and untrustworthy when it comes to UNRWA (and ignoring the fact that UN rules, as endorsed by the United States, prohibit such an audit). The letter in effect opposes U.S. funding for UNRWA operations until his concerns are addressed, including in Lebanon (where Palestinian refugees are in acute crisis following the outbreak of extremist-led violence earlier this year in some refugees camps), and in Gaza (where the international siege against Hamas is creating a massive humanitarian crisis - one which Israel is relying on UNRWA to a great extent to address). It is worth noting that Rep. Kirk and other members of the Committee have received assurances and clarifications in writing from the Department of State to the effect that no U.S. monies provided to UNRWA through its emergency appeals (which is what the $35 million is for) was used in 2007 for cash assistance in the West Bank or Gaza.

HCFA/MESA Hearing on aid to the Palestinian Authority

On December 12th the House Committee on Foreign Affairs' Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia convened a hearing to examine U.S. aid to the Palestinian Authority (keeping in mind that by law, no U.S. aid may be granted to the Palestinian Authority unless the President expressly waives Congressional restrictions and abides by far-reaching Congressionally-mandated reporting and oversight requirements).

Subcommittee Chairman Ackerman clearly sought to establish a constructive tone for the hearing, speaking out in support of direct assistance to the PA, but cautioning that such assistance needs to be leveraged to deliver improved governance and better results on the ground. In his opening statement, he noted "To its credit, the Bush administration has proposed $400 million to boost U.S. assistance, including $150 million in direct cash assistance. To its detriment, the administration's proposal lacks any kind of performance-based conditionality. American money has to start leveraging change, not just buying more of the same. Personally, I believe the administration request has merit, not least because if America doesn't pony up, we'll have no credibility discussing how others should spend their own money. And we need desperately to start talking to others in Europe, Asia and especially in the Middle East about a dramatic reorientation of both direct and project-based assistance programs for the Palestinians. The president's proposal supports the leadership of President Abbas and Prime Minister Salaam Fayyad, which is absolutely worth doing, the only alternative being Hamas. But it tragically doesn't even contemplate changing the paradigm for our assistance."

Ranking member Pence (R-IN), however, took a much different approach, apparently lumping together direct aid to the PA, USAID programs that bypass the PA entirely (as required by law), and UNRWA funding, and expressing skepticism for all of them. He opened his remarks with a lengthy attack on UNRWA, accusing it of complicity in Palestinian terrorism and complaining that the U.S. provides a disproportionate amount of UNRWA's funding compared to rich Arab states. Turning to U.S. assistance, programs, he focused on his concern "about reports that U.S. taxpayer money is going to the Islamic University in Gaza. This matter requires further and thorough investigation." Using this single case to illustrate his apparent view that the most important issue is U.S. aid falling into the hands of terrorists, he highlighted an amendment he had offered earlier this year to the FY08 ForOps bill which, in his words, would have ensured that "we do not even indirectly fund a murderous band of terrorists." Pence said that "the Pence amendment would have prohibited the disbursement of some $63.5 million for the Palestinian territories unless the administration certified that the Palestinian Authority recognizes Israel, renounces violence, accepts previous agreements with Israel. These conditions are completely reasonable, and yet the simple step has proven too difficult for most of the Islamic world and specifically for the Palestinians..." For background on the farcical Pence amendment - which in its original form demanded, bravely, that the PA be obligated to meet requirements that both Israel and the U.S. recognize it has already met, and in its revised form, which was adopted by the House, essentially affirmed, courageously, that current law should still be the law with regard to aid to the PA - see the June 22, 2007 edition of the Round-Up.

USAID West Bank/Gaza Program and the 12/13/07 State Department Press briefing
At the 12/13/07 State Department press briefing a journalist pressed State Department spokesman Sean McCormack about alleged U.S. funding for a Hamas-controlled university in Gaza (the same case mentioned by Pence in his testimony the day before). Their exchange is copied below. The case in question, reported on in detail in this week's Chicago Tribune (,1,3755289.story).

QUESTION: I want to ask about the latest report by the Inspector General of USAID. MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: And this concerns taxpayer assistance to a number of institutions in West Bank and Gaza, among them Islamic University in Gaza, controlled by Hamas. MR. MCCORMACK: Right. There are two different Islamic universities there. There's the open one and there's another one. But yeah, go ahead.

QUESTION: But the one in question that received taxpayer dollars. MR. MCCORMACK: Right

QUESTION: And Congressman Mark Kirk, whose inquiries about this prompted these reports -- MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: -- has written to the Inspector General now of the State Department, who I understand has other things on his mind at the time, but requesting that there be an overall audit of anti-terrorism vetting procedures in the West Bank and Gaza and around the world. First off, is this something the Secretary supports, an audit along these lines? MR. MCCORMACK: Well, first of all, Inspector Generals operate in a separate channel, if you will, and we never comment on any investigations they may be considering or have underway. To the extent they talk about their investigations, they do that themselves and they do their own press releases on that. In terms of this issue, I did look into it a bit. It's a complicated issue, but I do understand that over the past year and a half or so there have been three separate audits on the activities of USAID in West Bank and Gaza in terms of to whom they provide funds and what the safeguarding procedures are and what the vetting procedures are. And my understanding is that the bottom line takeaway from all of the three audits is that the USAID in West Bank and Gaza has been given essentially a clean bill of health. Now, I would advise you to talk further with the folks over at USAID to walk you through the specifics of these reports. I haven't read them myself, so frankly I'm not comfortable in talking about them.

QUESTION: How can you say that you understand the agency to have been given a clean bill of health on this score when, in fact, the audits show that U.S. taxpayer funds were provided to an entity that is controlled by a Foreign Terrorist Organization? MR. MCCORMACK: Well, James, like I said, these are reports that I have not read myself and that this is one of those cases, if I haven't read it myself and gone through the material myself and read it and understand it and have been able to analyze it myself and talk to people about it, I'm not going to walk you through it. The folks over at USAID are perfectly prepared to talk to you

QUESTION: How did you arrive at the notion that the agency was given a clean bill of health? MCCORMACK: This is -- again, this is the summary material that's been given to me, and I give it to you with the caveats that this is the information that's been provided to me. I have no reason to doubt it. But if I'm faced with the circumstance that I haven't been able to glance at the original source material in this kind of thing, I'm not -- I'm just not going to walk through it when there are people who are perfectly prepared to talk to you about it on the record.

QUESTION: One last attempt, if I might, without regard to the specifics of the report itself, Representative Kirk writes, that either this -- and I think we can agree that it is an indisputable fact that this taxpayer funding did go to this institution and that that institution is, in fact, controlled by Hamas and known to have been controlled by Hamas. In view of that fact, Representative Kirk writes, and I quote, "Either the Department of State willfully violated U.S. law and cleared the Islamic University in Gaza for taxpayer assistance or the Department's antiterrorism vetting procedures are woefully inadequate." And can you address that assertion? MR. MCCORMACK: Again, James. Look, you can talk to USAID about the specific reports, but of course, there's not willful defiance of the law. And in terms of the cooperation with those people who have information that could be useful in vetting procedures, the summary material that I was given said that this was done repeatedly and that there was an open channel of communication and full transparency in that regard. But again, for the details -- for a detailed response, you can talk to the folks over at USAID.

QUESTION: One last pursuit here. Is Secretary of State Rice satisfied that the antiterrorism vetting procedures of USAID and other agencies of the State Department are adequate? MR. MCCORMACK: I haven't talked to her about it, James, but she expects that people would not only follow the letter of the law, but go beyond that and make sure that anything that we do is in compliance with the spirit of the law.

QUESTION: Sean, the summary material that you're talking about was provided to you by AID? MR. MCCORMACK: Yes.

QUESTION: And that the three audits were conducted by AID or by the inspector general? MR. MCCORMACK: By the -- one of them was conducted by their regional inspector general.

QUESTION: Okay, who operates under their IG? MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah.

QUESTION: So in other words, this wasn't AID auditing itself. It was the IG's office auditor. MR. MCCORMACK: There was an inspector general element involved in this, yeah.


On 12/11/07, APN sent a letter to President Bush urging him to embark on a course of serious, determined, and unconditional diplomacy with Iran. Copies of the letter were sent to all members of Congress and major presidential campaigns. The letter reflects APN's longstanding position that a U.S. policy toward Iran consisting almost solely of sanctions and saber-rattling is insufficient and potentially harmful to the interests of both the U.S. and Israel.

Following is the full text of the letter:

Dear President Bush:

On behalf of Americans for Peace Now (APN), we are writing to urge you to embark on a course of serious, determined, and unconditional diplomacy with Iran. APN is a Jewish, Zionist organization committed to peace and security for Israel.

We have long argued that an Iran armed with nuclear weapons represents a dangerous and alarming scenario - one that neither the U.S. nor Israel can afford to ignore, and one that the international community must exert all efforts to avoid. We have also believed that your administration's longstanding policy toward Iran - consisting almost exclusively of sanctions and saber-rattling - is insufficient to the task and potentially harmful to the interests of both the U.S. and Israel.

The recent publication of the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iran only reinforces this view, and only bolsters our conviction that the best interests of both the U.S. and Israel require direct, sustained, and unconditional U.S.-led diplomacy and engagement with Iran to resolve issues surrounding Iran's nuclear program. Clearly, the NIE does not exonerate Iran. Serious concerns remain about Iran's intentions and behavior with respect to the development of a nuclear weapons program in the past, present, and future. However, the NIE underscores the fact that there has long been an opening to engage directly and seriously with Iran to potentially resolve this and other issues of concern to both sides.

The interests of both the U.S. and Israel demand that the utmost effort be invested in the success of direct engagement and diplomacy. In this regard, it should be emphasized that while sanctions are a potentially powerful tool for putting pressure on Iran, sanctions alone cannot replace diplomacy as a means of resolving differences between nations. An effective policy would combine sanctions with diplomacy.

In this regard, mere half-hearted or ephemeral efforts at engagement and diplomacy will at best be ineffective, and at worst will disclose a transparently cynical approach, one that is designed to fail. Such an approach must be rejected. The goal of U.S. engagement and diplomacy should not be to make a show of exhausting all non-military options in order to build a case for war; rather, the goal must be to capitalize on non-military options in order to resolve the differences and avoid war.

Finally, we urge you to discard casual rhetoric about U.S. first-strike options, and to discard the notion that the guiding policy of the U.S. must be that "all options are on the table." Clearly, the option for military action is always available, but it must be reserved as the option of truly last resort, and no military action should be threatened or contemplated, let alone taken, which violates the Constitution of the United States or international law. For the sake of both Israeli and American national interests, we urge you to view this new NIE as an opportunity to shift course, and to demonstrate the kind of real leadership and diplomacy necessary to deal effectively and responsibly with the challenge posed today by Iran.

Sincerely, Franklin Fisher Debra DeLee Chairman President & CEO

V. House Dear Colleague on Iran =========================

This week Rep. DeFazio (D-OR) and Welch (D-VT) circulated a Dear colleague seeking cosigners on a letter to President Bush. The letter, which as of Tuesday had 13 cosigners, states:

Dear Mr. President:

The release of the National Intelligence Estimate and the success of negotiations over arms shipments into Iraq clearly demonstrate that our nation's differences with Iran can and must be resolved diplomatically. We write to urge your Administration to engage in direct, unconditional, and comprehensive dialogue with the Government of Iran.

As you know, on December 3, 2007, the Director of National Intelligence released a National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) declaring that Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003. According to the NIE, "the program probably was halted primarily in response to international pressure." It further concludes that "Iran may be more vulnerable to influence on the [nuclear] issue than we judged previously."

Meanwhile, our Generals in Iraq report that discussions between Ambassador Ryan Crocker and his Iranian counterparts were successful in demonstrably reducing the flow of arms across the Iran-Iraq border. On November 15, 2007, Major General James Simmons stated, "We have not seen any recent evidence that weapons continue to come across the border into Iraq. We believe that the initiatives and the commitments that the Iranians have made appear to be holding up."

These developments indicate that diplomacy has produced concrete changes in the Iranian government's behavior.

Furthermore, the progress made with Libya and North Korea under your Administration proves that "rogue" states can be convinced to abandon nuclear weapons programs as a result of sustained, direct diplomacy with the United States. This model can and must be applied toward Iran.

We urge you to build upon the progress made by Ambassador Crocker and upon our own intelligence agencies' positive assessment of Iran's responsiveness to diplomacy. It is time to begin direct, unconditional, and comprehensive negotiations with Iran.



On 12/4/07 Senator Hagel (R-NE) spoke on the Senate floor regarding Iran and the new National Intelligence Estimate. His remarks are included here, in full.


Mr. HAGEL. Mr. President, yesterday the Director of National Intelligence, Admiral Mike McConnell, released the National Intelligence Estimate on Iran's nuclear weapons program. This NIE, which represents the best collective judgment of all 16 U.S. intelligence agencies, told us:

Our intelligence community has concluded with high confidence that Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003.

This is a major reversal of the intelligence community's previous intelligence assessment in 2005 that Iran was determined to develop nuclear weapons. The NIE states that the nuclear weapons program was halted primarily in response to international pressure, which suggests that Iran may be more vulnerable to influence.

Perhaps most significant is the DNI's conclusion that some combination of threats of intensified scrutiny and pressures, along with opportunities for Iran to achieve its security, prestige, and goals might prompt Tehran to extend the current halt to its nuclear weapons program.

I commend Admiral McConnell and his colleagues for their decision to release unclassified conclusions based on this current intelligence. I do not believe we can overstate the importance of this new information.

The effects of this NIE will be felt here, at the United Nations, throughout Europe, across the entire Middle East, the world, and in Iran.

The NIE closely parallels many of the conclusions of the Internal Atomic Energy Agency, the IAEA, the international organization, with the most direct on-the-ground access to Iran's nuclear facilities. Once again, the facts appear to be bearing out the conclusions of the IAEA. This NIE, as well as the IAEA's analysis, should help inform and shape U.S. strategy on Iran.

President Bush has a responsibility to carefully consider the policy implications concerning Iran with this new information, and I know he will. He said in his news conference this morning that this new information which he has confidence in would be factored into our policy regarding Iran. The United States must pursue a clear and strategic policy toward Iran based on this new intelligence and fact-based assessment to avoid the disastrous mistakes of Iraq. Yesterday's NIE does not invalidate the effectiveness of previous efforts to use an international consensus of pressure on Iran. We must be careful not to run from one end of the pendulum all the way to the other.

As President Bush noted again this morning, the United States must continue to work with our friends and our allies to sustain an international consensus on Iran. I believe the President is correct: alliances, common purpose, common interests, focus, discipline.

Iran's objectionable words and actions are real, and they must continue to be addressed. That means a very clear-eyed and realistic sense of Iran and its motives. As I said in my November 8 CSIS speech regarding U.S.-Iran policy, the United States must employ a comprehensive strategy regarding Iran: Iraq, the Israeli-Palestinian issue, the Middle East, a regional comprehensive strategy.

Yesterday's NIE reinforces the need for directed, unconditional, and comprehensive engagement with Iran. The United States and the international community must use all--all--elements of our foreign policy arsenal in offering direct, unconditional, and comprehensive talks with Iran. The United States should be clear that all issues, our issues and Iran's issues, are on the table, including offering Iran a credible way back from the fringes of the international community, security guarantees, and other incentives.

We urgently need to adopt a comprehensive strategy on Iran that is focused on direct engagement and diplomacy backed, as diplomacy must always be backed, by the leverage of international pressure, isolation, containment, and military options.

The United States must employ wise statecraft to redirect deepening tensions with Iran toward a higher ground of resolution. That is what Annapolis was about last week. America is the great power here. Iran is not the great power. We must be the more mature country in testing the proposition that the United States and Iran can overcome decades of mutual mistrust, suspicion, and hostility.

That is diplomacy. Diplomacy is not talking to your friends; diplomacy is not giving another country bonus points for us talking to them. There is a reason for diplomacy. We should not squander this opportunity as we did in the spring of 2003 when we had an opportunity for an opening to explore talks with Iran.

This initiative, by the way, in 2003, came from Iran. We are witnessing a confluence of events in the Middle East and around the world that presents the United States with new opportunities. There are hopeful and positive recent developments: Progress on North Korea's nuclear weapons program; the recent regional meeting in Istanbul on Iraq; the momentum generated by last week's Annapolis Middle East meeting where all Arab countries, including Syria, sat at the same table with Israel; and yesterday's NIE assessment.

Now is the time for America to act and to lead, and to lead boldly, with confidence, with our allies, focusing on a common purpose.

One dimensional optics, policies, and blunt black-or-white rhetoric, such as ``you are either with us or you are against us'' will not work, haven't worked, and will fall short of what is expected from American leadership in the eyes of the world.

The world faces challenges and opportunities today that carry with it implications well beyond this moment in time. American leadership is once again being called on at yet another transformational time in history to help set a new course, a new framework for a rudderless world drifting in a sea of combustible dangers.

In engaging Iran, the Middle East, and the world, we must be wide in our scope, clear in our purpose, measured in our words, and strong in our actions. Yesterday's NIE should not be overstated, but it also must not be undervalued in shaping future policy with Iran and in the Middle East.

Make no mistake, the NIE sets in motion a series of ripple effects that will have serious consequences. This should be welcome news for the United States and the world.

For more information, contact APN's Director of Policy and Government Relations, Lara Friedman, at 202/728-1893, or at