Hawks on Iran

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.

William Kristol & Jamie Fly, Weekly Standard: Neoconservative pundit William Kristol who cofounded such jewels as the Project for a New American Century (PNAC), the Foreign Policy Initiative (FPI) and who serves on the board of the hyperbolic Israel advocacy group, the Emergency Committee for Israel (ECI), tries to pressure the President into bringing the U.S. closer to war with Iran with ideologue in arms, Jamie Fly: (Jim Lobe has the story.)

President Obama says a nuclear Iran is unacceptable. The real and credible threat of force is probably the last hope of persuading the Iranian regime to back down. So: Isn’t it time for the president to ask Congress for an Authorization for Use of Military Force against Iran’s nuclear program?

Instead of running away from it, administration officials could be putting the military option front and center and ensuring it is seen as viable. And if the administration flinches, Congress could consider passing such an authorization anyway.

Here is Mitt Romney’s response to the article on CBS’s “Face the Nation“:

…I can assure you if I’m President, the Iranians will have no question but that I would be willing to take military action, if necessary, to prevent them from becoming a nuclear threat to the world. I don’t believe at this stage, therefore, if I’m President, that we need to have war powers approval or a special authorization for military force. The President has that capacity now.

Former Senator Charles Robb (D-Va): Testifying at this week’s Armed Services Committee hearing titled “Addressing the Iranian Nuclear Challenge: Understanding the Military Options” was former Senator Charles Robb who now co-chairs the Bipartisan Policy Center’s (BPC) Task Force on Iran. Robb mainly reiterated recommendations from a BPC report released in February. According to the BPC, “only the credible threat of force, combined with sanctions” affords “any realistic hope of an acceptable diplomatic resolution” and:

There are three primary components of a credible military threat: an effective information and messaging strategy, economic preparations and credible military readiness activities. Undertaking these steps would boost the credibility of the military option, thereby strengthening the chance for sanctions and diplomacy to succeed in bringing about a peaceful resolution to the standoff over Iran’s nuclear program.

What exactly is the BPC? Jim Lobe has the scoop:

We’ve been covering BPC’s work on Iran pretty intensively both on IPS and Lobelog since the fall of 2008 when it issued its first Iran report whose primary author, as I understand it, was Michael Rubin (and Dennis Ross was on the task force that produced it).

The staff director for their Iran reports is Michael Makovsky whose RightWeb profile was updated just two months ago.

Makovsky, brother of David at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), not only served at one time in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), but also was a West Bank settler, according to reports. When I asked him directly about a month ago whether those reports were accurate, he abruptly terminated an otherwise relatively cordial conversation about his service in the Feith’s Office of Special Plans in the run-up to the Iraq invasion. If those reports are indeed true, and, to my knowledge, he’s never denied them, one has to ask how someone who presumably supports Israeli settlements in occupied territory could become Foreign Policy Director of something called the “Bipartisan Policy Center”.

When they unveiled their last report in February (you can read my synopsis here) Robb and Sen. Coates presided. I wrote about their first report in 2008.

Interestingly, several of the key players on the Iran task force at the BPC were invited to a Foundation for the Defense of Democracy (FDD) retreat in the Bahamas back in May 2007, titled “Confronting the Iranian Threat: The Way Forward”. In addition to Makovsky, Stephen Rademaker was invited, as were Michael Rubin and Air Force Lt. Gen. Chuck Wald (ret.), who has been a major contributor to the Iran task force and co-written op-eds about its work with Robb and Coates. Precisely who turned up there, I don’t know, but Wald told me at the time that he wasn’t able to attend. I wrote about the invitation on Lobelog at the time. You can find it here. It was kind of a who’s who among the neo-con hawks: Bret Stephens, Reuel Marc Gerecht, Michael Ledeen, etc. etc.

Congress, Foreign Policy: Josh Rogin reports on a bipartisan letter spearheaded by Sens. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Roy Blunt (R-MO) that was sent out last Friday by 44 senators calling on the President to cease diplomatic efforts if the Iranians don’t submit to 3 U.S. demands, as well as to continue the relentless sanctions regime and ramp up the military option:

“On the other hand, if the sessions in Moscow produce no substantive agreement, we urge you to reevaluate the utility of further talks at this time and instead focus on significantly increasing the pressure on the Iranian government through sanctions and making clear that a credible military option exists,” they wrote.  “As you have rightly noted, ‘the window for diplomacy is closing.’  Iran’s leaders must realize that you mean precisely that.”

Salon’s Glenn Greenwald responds:

This implication is clear: a military attack by the U.S. on Iran is at least justified, if not compelled, if a satisfactory agreement is not quickly reached regarding Iran’s nuclear program. At the same time, the letter itself virtually ensures no such agreement is possible because the conditions it imposes as the “absolute minimum” are ones everyone knows Iran will never agree to (closing the Fordow facility and giving up its right to enrich uranium above 5 percent). It also declares that it is not only Iran’s possession of a nuclear weapon that is “unacceptable” — diplomatic code for “we’ll go to war to stop it” — but its mere “capability” to build one.

As does the Washington Post’s hawk-in-chief Jennifer Rubin while applauding the increasingly militaristic trend in Congress and the fact that it’s “unlikely the Iranians will agree to any of those conditions” in the letter while yet again agitating for the U.S. to wage war on Iran (emphasis mine):

But those crippling sanctions have come very late as Iran compiles a sufficient stockpile of enriched uranium to make multiple bombs. We are drawing close to the point when Obama will face the choice he has tried to avoid: Act militarily, support the Israelis’ military action or accept the “unacceptable,” a nuclear-armed revolutionary state sponsor of terror? And as we arrive at that point it becomes clear that the only reason for Israel (with fewer military capabilities than the United States) to act militarily rather than the United States would be that the president, even on the most critical national security threat of our time, won’t lead.

Yet despite all the huffing and puffing that Rubin does on a weekly basis about the “threat” that the U.S. faces from Iran, just this February Lt. Gen. Ronald Burgess, the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, testified that “Iran is unlikely to initiate or intentionally provoke a conflict.” Add to that the top U.S. intelligence official James Clapper’s reiteration that Iran has not made a decision to build a nuclear bomb and that diplomacy and sanctions–as opposed to the militaristic measures that Rubin advocates–remain the most effective means of dissuading the Iranians from going nuclear.

Jennifer Rubin, Washington Post: What sanctions are good for according to Rubin:

We should, of course, move forward on sanctions insofar as they may undermine the current regime and push segments of the population in the country to align themselves with the Green Movement.

And here is her lament for what has so far been a U.S. refusal to militarily strike Iran:

Given Obama’s refusal to act forcefully against Iran’s weaker, non-nuclear armed ally Syria, I strongly suspect it will be up to Israel. That would be a pitiful result of a lackadaisical American approach to our primary security threat and the ignominious end to “leading from behind.” Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that, but at this point that certainly seems like the most likely outcome.

Washington Post: The Post’s hawkish editorial board calls for a U.S. rejection of Iran’s right to peacefully enrich uranium (putting them in line with the Israeli position) and increasing pressure on Iran:

The Obama administration must nevertheless be prepared to take an Iranian “no” for an answer. It should resist any effort by Russia or other members of the international coalition to weaken the steps that Iran must take, or to grant Tehran major sanctions relief for partial concessions. It should continue to reject recognition of an Iranian “right” to enrich uranium.

The United States and its allies also should have a strategy for quickly and significantly increasing the pressure on the Khamenei regime if the negotiations break down. Israel may press for military action; if that option is to be resisted, there must be a credible and robust alternative.

Mark Kirk (R-Ill.): Following the Moscow talks Senate hawk Mark Kirk calls for a “final” (what happens after?) round of more sanctions on Iran:

After three rounds of meetings, Iran remains in violation of multiple U.N. Security Council resolutions ordering it to halt all its uranium enrichment activities.  The House and Senate should immediately negotiate a final Iran sanctions bill that can be sent to the President’s desk in July. This legislation should include new and tougher sanctions proposals put forward by lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, including sanctions targeting Iran’s energy and financial sectors, shipping and insurance.

Jed Babbin, American Spectator: The Deputy Undersecretary of Defense under George H.W. Bush who stated in 2006 that he was “willing to kill as many people as it requires to take out Hezbollah” declares that “[d]iplomacy won’t work” with Iran so for now covert operations–particularly in the cyber realm–should be vigorously deployed through all available means including the U.S.’s vast arsenal:

Expanding our cyberwar operations against Iran is one of the best options. Offensive cyberwar is far cheaper, and easier, than the defensive. We can, and should, disrupt Iranian government and military functions as often as we can. Iran is reportedly developing a new computer language to make such attacks more difficult. Our cyber warriors should be tasked to infiltrate that project and plant malicious software — “malware” in cyber jargon — to gather information from and at our command disrupt or destroy the computer networks the new system runs on.

A future president — let’s hope one will take office next year — should consider the “bad luck” option. Covert operations need not be conducted only by special operations forces, CIA agents, or computer warriors. We have a significant variety of stealthy weapons and weapon platforms. That president would have the option of making an equally large variety of Presidential Determinations authorizing the use of those weapons against Iran’s nuclear facilities and its intelligence and military centers.

Jasmin Ramsey

Jasmin Ramsey is a journalist based in Washington, DC.