On October 26, two house subcommittees held a hearing dominated by hawks and neoconservatives on the alleged “Iranian plot” to assassinate Saudi Arabia’s ambassador in Washington. Several witnesses criticized the media for questioning the alleged plot’s plausibility and the evidence presented, but no evidence related to the plot was offered or discussed in detail. The “Joint Subcommittee Hearing: Iranian Terror Operations on American Soil” did, however, feature a display of major hawkishness, notably by retired Army Gen. John Keane. “We’ve got to put our hand around their throat now,” he said at one point, and “Why don’t we kill them? We kill other people who kill others,” at another.
Keane repeated his claim that Iran is “our number one strategic enemy in the world” and called the alleged plot a “stunning rebuke to the Obama administration’s policy of negotiation and isolation with the Iranians.” His recommendations included conducting “covert operations led by the CIA” and providing “money, information and encouragement to the dissident leaders inside Iran to use their population to put pressure on the regime.”
In response to a question directed at the entire panel about what should be done to counter the “threat” posed to the U.S. by Iran, Gerecht pushed the standard neo-con argument that the Islamic Republic is led by irrational actors who “do not respond in the same rational economic ways that we do.” He also echoed the preemptive war rhetoric that the Bush administration used in the run-up to the Iraq invasion.
I don’t think that you’re really going to really intimidate these people, get their attention, unless you shoot someone…I think you have to send a pretty powerful message to those who have undertaken this or I think down the road you’re asking for it.
Matthew Levitt of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy added that sanctions against Iran have been “tremendously effective,” but they have to be used in tandem with other options “aggressively enough to make Iran care.” His list of other options included “military options,” “covert actions” and “diplomatic options.”
The hearing did include a few brief moments of reason. At one point Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) said that while
Iran’s leaders must be held accountable for their action…we cannot take any reckless actions which may lead to opening another front in the ‘War on Terror,’ which the American people do not want and cannot afford.
Note on Keane: Keane has close ties with U.S. neoconservatives and was one of the main architects of George W. Bush’s surge in Iraq. In 2006, Gen. George Casey and the chief of the U.S. Central Command, Gen. John Abizaid recommended reducing troop levels in Iraq, but Keane and his neoconservative allies started looking for someone that would support escalation instead–ultimately General David Petraeus. As documented by Bob Woodward in the War Within (though not in the fashion I write here), Keane ignored the chain of command while heavily promoting Petraeus. He also helped persuade Bush to reject the Iraq Study Group’s findings and recommendations by aggressively pushing an alternative strategy he wrote with Frederick Kagan at the American Enterprise Institute called “Choosing Victory: A Plan for Success in Iraq.” That report led to the military buildup that followed. He’s also criticizing Obama’s announcement last week that the U.S. will withdraw all its troops from Iraq by Christmas. “I think it’s an absolute disaster,” he told the Washington Times last weekend. “We won the war in Iraq, and we’re now losing the peace.”