Hawks on Iran

In response to a worrying trend in U.S. politics, Lobe Log publishes “Hawks on Iran” every Friday. Our posts highlight militaristic commentary and confrontational policy recommendations about Iran from a variety of sources including news articles, think tanks and pundits.

Weekly Reads/Watch:

News: Iran nuclear talks: Are sanctions on the table?
News: Iran Talks ‘Will Fail’; Oil Risk Prevails: Roubini Analyst
News: U.S. Treasury Claim of Iran-Al-Qaeda “Secret Deal” Is Discredited
News: Biden: Israel still has time to strike Iran
News: Ayatollah Khamenei gives Iran nuclear talks unprecedented legitimacy
News: Pinched Aspirations of Iran’s Young Multitudes
Opinion: Roundtable on Iran Crisis, Part 2: On Attacking Iran
Opinion: Critical Threshold in the Iran Crisis
Opinion: What an Israeli attack on Iran will mean for the Muslims
Opinion: Zakaria: Under Netanyahu, Israel is stronger than ever
Opinion: Deconstructing Krauthammer’s Misinformation On Iran And Israel
Opinion: Israeli generals balk at PM’s Iran policy
Watch: “Deja Vu All Over Again?: Iraq, Iran and the Israel Lobby”

Jennifer Rubin, Washington Post: The Post’s militantly pro-Israel blogger gleefully opines that the Israeli Prime Minister’s new coalition government increases Benjamin Netanyahu’s ability to strike Iran and defy President Obama:

A more broad-based, secularized government with latitude to strike Iran and to move cautiously on the “peace process”? J Street’s worst nightmare — an emboldened Netanyahu without the baggage of the religious right. Good luck stirring up opposition to that here or in Israel.

The irony is rich. Netanyahu is riding high while his nemesis, President Obama, is struggling for his political life. The latter will be in a weakened position to challenge the former on Iran or much else for the balance of the year.

Elliott Abrams, World Affairs: George W. Bush’s neoconservative Deputy National Security Advisor Elliott Abrams argues in favor of an Israeli attack on Iran if the U.S. fails to wage war first:

President Obama, like many world leaders, has called an Iranian nuclear weapon “unacceptable.” He is right, and that should remain the US position—not just that it would be a bad outcome, not just that we would be angered by it, but that we refuse to accept it and, as the president also once said, will prevent it. If we are unwilling to act, or to act soon enough, it should be our position that Israeli action is justifiable.

It’s telling, by the way, that Abrams uses belligerent Iranian anti-Israel rhetoric to justify his call to war while failing to mention that almost every day we read something about how Israel, nuclear-armed and in possession of the world’s top militaries, might strike Iran. He also fails to mention that a figure who actually matters recently stated that Iran does not seek military confrontation with Israel. You can argue that the Supreme Leader’s adviser Mohammad Javad Larijani was lying, but then again, when has Iran militarily invaded another country? Remember, the Iran-Iraq war was initiated by Saddam Hussein who actually used chemical weapons against Iranians and his own people. And how many times has Israel militarily and covertly attacked other countries in the last 60 years? When has Iran militarily occupied territory? In the case of Israel, the question would not be when, but for how long. You can argue that all Israeli aggression has been self-defense, but you’d have to apply the same standard to Iran too, no? And then where would we be?

Robert Wexler, Foreign Affairs: The former house Democrat who now heads a pro-Israel organization called the S. Daniel Center for Middle East Peace makes a long-winded argument for a U.S. war on Iran after the other options he outlines have been exhausted according to his terms:

Moreover, it is clear that should a military option ultimately prove necessary, an American-led strike would best serve Israel and the Middle East generally.

A strike led by the United States would allow for the creation of a large international coalition of nations, similar to the coalition built by President George H. W. Bush in the lead-up to the Gulf War. The US, unlike Israel acting unilaterally, would be able to gain the support of its European allies, NATO assistance, and a degree of official and unofficial support from the Arab world. Just as the Gulf states shouldered the vast bulk of the financial burden for the first Gulf War, a coordinated effort could allow for them to play a comparable role in this case.

Top Israeli military officials have also stressed their deep preference for an American-led strike. Israel’s former head of military intelligence, Major General (ret.) Amos Yadlin, wrote in a recent New York Times op-ed: “America could carry out an extensive air campaign using stealth technology and huge amounts of ammunition, dropping enormous payloads that are capable of hitting targets and penetrating to depths far beyond what Israel’s arsenal can achieve.”

Yadlin went on to aptly suggest that “Mr. Obama will therefore have to shift the Israeli defense establishment’s thinking from a focus on the ‘zone of immunity’ to a ‘zone of trust.’ What is needed is an ironclad American assurance that if Israel refrains from acting in its own window of opportunity—and all other options have failed to halt Tehran’s nuclear quest—Washington will act to prevent a nuclear Iran while it is still within its power to do so.”

Patrick Clawson, Foreign Affairs: In January the Washington Institute’s (WINEP) director of research endorsed covert deadly attacks on Iran. Clawson’s line of reasoning implied that only military options were available:

Mr. Clawson said the covert campaign was far preferable to overt airstrikes by Israel or the United States on suspected Iranian nuclear sites. “Sabotage and assassination is the way to go, if you can do it,” he said. “It doesn’t provoke a nationalist reaction in Iran, which could strengthen the regime. And it allows Iran to climb down if it decides the cost of pursuing a nuclear weapon is too high.”

This week he said that the goal of U.S. sanctions should be regime change. That’s the essence of his argument, regardless of all the other wonderful things he also talks about:

Whether or not diplomacy results in an agreement, the sanctions have already fulfilled the core objective of the Obama administration — namely, kick-starting negotiations. But that is not the right goal. Given Iran’s poor track record of honoring agreements, negotiations remain a gamble because they may never lead to an agreement, let alone one that can be sustained. Rather than focus on talks that may not produce a deal, then, the United States should place far more emphasis on supporting democracy and human rights in Iran. A democratic Iran would likely drop state support for terrorism and end its interference in the internal affairs of Arab countries such as Iraq and Lebanon, improving stability in the Middle East. And although Iran’s strongly nationalist democrats are proud of the country’s nuclear progress, their priority is to rejoin the community of nations, so they will likely agree to peaceful nuclearization in exchange for an end to their country’s isolation.

The United States could assist democratic forces in Iran by providing money and moral support. It could fund people-to-people exchanges and student scholarships; support civil society groups providing assistance to Iranian activists; work closely with technology companies such as Google on how to transmit information to the Iranian people; and overhaul Voice of America’s Persian News Network, where journalistic standards have suffered under uneven management. It could also raise human rights abuses in every official meeting with Iranian officials, such as the ongoing nuclear negotiations, and bring Iranian rights violations to the United Nations and the International Court of Justice. Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, understands the danger of a popular revolution in his country and has done everything in his power to prevent it. If the United States is going to take a risk, it should aim not for a partial, insecure nuclear arrangement but the best return possible — a democratic Iran.


Jasmin Ramsey

Jasmin Ramsey is a journalist based in Washington, DC.