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: U.S. Neo-Conservatives Assail Possible Compromise on Iran Talks
– News: Nuclear talks with Iran set to resume next month
– News: Hopes fade for progress at Iran nuclear talks in Baghdad
– News: Iran nuclear talks a ‘complete failure,’ says Iranian diplomat
– News: U.S. Hard Line in Failed Iran Talks Driven by Israel
– Opinion: The Iranian view on how to strike a deal
– Opinion: Undercutting negotiations hurts the U.S.
– Opinion: The Baghdad Talks and the Politics of Inflexibility
– Opinion: Iran Nuclear Talks Post-Mortem: Time to Cash in Some Sanctions
– Opinion: The Politics of Dignity: Why Nuclear Negotiations With Iran Keep Failing
– Opinion: The Nixon Option for Iran?
– Opinion: Are We Focusing on the Wrong Nuclear Threat?
– Watch: Iranian Nuclear Talks: Are Expectations Seriously Mismatched?
– Watch: Iranian insider: ‘Don’t ask for diamonds in return for peanuts’

Jamie Fly and Matthew Kroenig, Washington Post: In January academic Matthew Kroenig, who served for one year as a strategic analyst in the office of the secretary of defense, claimed that the U.S. could militarily strike Iran without causing havoc and catastrophe in the region. His arguments were widely criticized and supported by the usual suspects. Jamie Fly, the executive director of the Foreign Policy Initiative, was one neoconservative who disagreed with Kroenig, but only because Kroenig did not go far enough. This week the two penned an op-ed where they claimed that President Obama has offered Iran too many carrots. This was just days before the talks almost collapsed after the only “relief” the P5+1 offered were spare parts for Iranian aircraft that have suffered tremendously from sanctions. What do Fly and Kroenig claim will assist the negotiation process? More military threats:

Success in the Baghdad talks would mean starting a process that would halt Iran’s program rather than just buy more time for Tehran. To do so, the United States must not only lay out the curbs on Iran’s nuclear program that Washington would be willing to reward, but also clearly outline what advances in Iran’s nuclear program it would be compelled to punish with military force. This is the only way to prove to the Iranians that, as Obama has said, the window is indeed closing.

Foreign policy analyst and president of the National Iranian American Council Trita Parsi responds:

The op-ed represents neo-conservatism 2.0. There are no longer open calls for invasion or military action a la Iraq. Kroenig and Fly even write that “No one wants military action.” Instead, they try to eliminate all other options by complaining that diplomacy has enabled Iran to buy time (as if Iran only has managed to advance its program amid talks, but been forced to halt it under sanctions and military threats), by bemoaning the UN Security Council’s slowness in handling Iran (as if the unilateral approach of the Bush administration was more effective), and by setting the bar for diplomacy at an impossible level in order to ensure its failure.

Yet, it is exactly this brinkmanship that has enabled the Iranian nuclear advances that the authors lament. In this game of pressure and counter pressure, the West has amassed economic sanctions on Iran (ostensibly to change Iran’s nuclear calculus) and Tehran has pressured back by expanding its nuclear program (ostensibly to present the West with a fait accompli). Diplomacy, in its most classic sense, has been tried very infrequently, and, consequently, no exit from this self-reinforcing cycle of escalation has been found.

Graham, Lieberman and McCain, Wall Street Journal: The prominent senate hawks recommend that the Obama administration pursue a path that practically guarantees the failure of diplomacy and could result in military confrontation with Iran and recommend that the President thump his chest in the meanwhile because that will somehow make war less likely:

Our best hope for avoiding conflict is to leave no doubt that the window for diplomacy is closing. In the absence of a negotiated solution that addresses the totality of Iran’s nuclear program, and soon, we must take the steps that President Obama laid out in February, when he said: “America is determined to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, and I will take no options off the table to achieve that goal.” The U.S. must be prepared, if necessary, to use military force to stop Iran from getting a nuclear-weapons capability.

Jennifer Rubin, Washington Post: The Post’s blogger who thinks the U.S. should go to war with Iran on Israel’s behalf asks when the U.S. is going to bomb Iran already!

Isn’t it time to stop the charade, call the administration’s approach what it is — a failure — and put the question squarely to the administration: Is it prepared now to use all options to stop Iran’s nuclear program or are we imply slow-walking toward acceptance and “containment” of a nuclear-armed Iran?

Jennifer Rubin/Mark Dubowitz, Washington Post: Rubin almost always seeks the advice of Mark Dubowitz, the executive director of the ultra-hawkish Foundation for Defense of Democracies who says the goal of the U.S. with Iran should be regime change, when discussing Iran. Here’s why:

Between now and the next meeting, he recommends some spine stiffeners: “Now is the time to get the new Iran sanctions legislation into conference committee, strengthen it in some fundamental ways and get it passed. That’s the right message to the Iranians and those whose negotiating strategy is to cave at the first sign of Iranian brinksmanship.” Dubowitz urges the administration to support sanctions “that blacklist the entire energy industry as a zone of proliferation concern, shut down the use of energy companies like Naftiran Intertrade and all other Iranian energy entities used as Central Bank of Iran workarounds to settle oil trades, impose a comprehensive insurance embargo on the underwriting of any sanctionable activity, designate the National Iranian Oil Company, its scores of subsidiaries, and NITC (Iran’s tanker fleet), enforce a comprehensive embargo on the imports of all goods and services for Iran’s broader commercial sector except for food and medicine, and enforce the establishment of both Europe and the United States as Iranian oil-free zones.”

But given what we have seen so far, it is quite possible, even if sanctions pass, that the Iranians are unmoved. (Given how silly the U.S. negotiators sound, you’d understand if the Iranians were not quaking in their boots.) What then? Dubowitz is blunt: “Congress should then declare on a bipartisan basis that, despite the best efforts of the administration, all sanctions and diplomatic measures are exhausted. It then should require President Obama to follow through on his commitment to use other, more coercive instruments of American power to stop Iran’s nuclear weapons program.”

Charles Krauthammer, Fox News: Neoconservative hawk Charles Krauthammer declares on national television that the Obama administration should have armed the Green Movement and conducted covert operations in Iran in 2009:

O’REILLY: But what else could he have done except rhetoric?

KRAUTHAMMER: Weaponry — he could have done a lot of things. Rhetoric is one thing and not to support the legitimacy of the regime. Clandestine operations. Why do we have $50 billion in secret operations in the CIA if not for an opportunity like this? He was hands off. He did nothing and we lost one of the great opportunities in history.

Jasmin Ramsey

Jasmin Ramsey is a journalist based in Washington, DC.