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.
Michael Eisenstadt & Michael Knights, WINEP: Contradicting ongoing warnings from former and current high-level U.S. national security officials, experts and several Israeli counterparts about the potentially catastrophic effects of an Israeli strike on Iran, two analysts from the hawkish, pro-Israel Washington Institute (aka WINEP) paint a relatively rosy picture about an Iranian response to Israeli-waged “preemptive” war. Eisenstadt and Knights’ report title begins with “Beyond Worst-Case Analysis” and they certainly delve into best-case scenarios like Matthew Kroenig infamously did in December. Interesting, even Kroenig argued against an Israeli strike because he believes the U.S. is much better equipped for the job. In any case, qualified critiques of Kroenig’s argument (here, here, here and here) also apply in many ways to this WINEP production.
It is in the last paragraph of the paper that the authors mention one of the most important and alarming effects of any strike on Iran’s nuclear program–that it could (or rather most likely would) result in immediate Iranian withdrawal from the Non-Proliferation Treaty and the halting of all International Atomic Energy Association monitoring mechanisms, as well as propel Iran to quickly build a nuclear weapon. As former Pentagon Mideast advisor to the Obama administration Colin Kahl and other experts have stated, you can’t bomb knowledge and the Iranians already have nuclear weapon know-how. For this reason Daryl Kimball of the Arms Control Association adds that the key to stopping an Iranian nuclear weapon requires the power of persuasion rather than brute force. Eisenstadt and Knights also ignore the fact that U.S. support for a preemptive strike would violate both U.S. and international law according to Yale Professor Bruce Ackerman. Then there’s that pesky issue of costs to human life. Never mind all that though. Write Eisenstadt and Knights:
In short, although an Israeli preventive strike would be a high-risk endeavor carrying a potential for escalation in the Levant or the Gulf, it would not be the apocalyptic event some foresee. And the United States could take several steps to mitigate these risks without appearing complicit in Israel’s decision to attack. The very act of taking precautionary measures to lessen the impact of a strike, moreover, would enhance the credibility of Israeli military threats and bolster the P5+1’s ongoing nuclear diplomacy. Less clear, however, is whether a strike would prompt Tehran to expel inspectors, withdraw from the NPT, and pursue a crash program—overt or clandestine. And whether enhanced international efforts to disrupt Iran’s procurement of special materials and technologies would succeed in preventing the rebuilding of its nuclear infrastructure remains an unknown.
Clifford D. May, National Review: The president of the hawkish and neoconservative-dominated Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) makes clear his obsession with Iran, which he calls “the single most important strategic threat facing the U.S. — hands down” (eat your heart out China!) in an article overwhelmingly implying that the U.S. should arm and aid Syria’s opposition forces mainly because doing so would weaken Iran:
Those facing Assad’s guns are not asking us to put boots on the ground. What they do want are the means to defend themselves, secure communications technology, and a limited number of other assets that will give them a fighting chance — though no guarantees. Providing such assistance will give us a fighting chance to influence the opposition now and the post-Assad environment later — though no guarantees.
The alternative is to stay on the sidelines, leaving the opposition to the tender mercies of Assad and his patrons in Tehran who are supplying weapons, advisers, and more. They grasp that the Battle of Syria is hugely consequential. They know that the fall of Assad would be a major blow to them. By the same token, it will be a major blow to the West if, despite Washington’s pronouncements and posturing, Khamenei, with assistance from the Kremlin, rescues and restores his most valued Arab bridgehead. And should Khamenei move from that victory to the production of nuclear weapons, we’re in for a very rough 21st century.
Henry Kissinger meanwhile argues that U.S. intervention in Syria could harm U.S. interests.
President Barak Obama (New York Times report): David Sanger writes that while Obama was allegedly fervently pursuing diplomacy with Iran, he was secretly accelerating a cyberwar that began with the George W. Bush administration:
Mr. Obama decided to accelerate the attacks — begun in the Bush administration and code-named Olympic Games — even after an element of the program accidentally became public in the summer of 2010 because of a programming error that allowed it to escape Iran’s Natanz plant and sent it around the world on the Internet. Computer security experts who began studying the worm, which had been developed by the United States and Israel, gave it a name: Stuxnet.
Eugene Kaspersky, whose Moscow-based firm discovered the Flame virus that has attacked computers in Middle East countries, including Iran, said on the sidelines of the Tel Aviv conference that only an international effort could prevent a potentially disastrous cyberattack.
“It’s not cyberwar, it’s cyberterrorism and I am afraid it’s just the beginning of the game?.?.?.?I am afraid that it will be the end of the world as we know it,” Mr Kaspersky, whose company is one of the world’s biggest makers of antivirus software, was quoted by Reuters as saying: “I am scared, believe me.”
Misha Glenny concurs.
John Bolton, Washington Times: The former Bush administration official with close ties to neoconservatives has no qualms about agitating for war on Iran. Bolton has a history of hawkishness and “insanity” about the country and how it should be dealt with. In January he told Fox News that sanctions and covert attacks won’t prevent a nuclear-armed Iran, but attacking “its nuclear weapons program directly” will. This week he breathed a sigh of relief over the fact that no agreement was reached between Iran and the West during recent talks:
Fortunately, however, the recently concluded Baghdad talks between Iran and the U.N. Security Council’s five permanent members and Germany (P-5+1) produced no substantive agreement.
Find Ali’s in-depth report here.