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.

Meghan L. O’Sullivan, Los Angeles Times: The former deputy national security advisor to the George W. Bush administration for Iraq and Afghanistan calls for increasing sanctions and “other forms of pressure” on Iran:

It is perhaps inevitable that as negotiations faltered last month, focus returned to sanctions and the new July 1 strictures. But a closer look at how sanctions work, and how the Iranians have reacted to economic pressure thus far, suggests caution, and should be a prompt to the international community to intensify its efforts to combine existing economic duress with other forms of pressure, if it hopes to see a shift in Tehran’s behavior.

Editorial Board, Wall Street Journal: For months the Journal’s editorial board published hawkish articles about Iran on a weekly basis. We highlighted some of them here, here and here. Then they stopped, perhaps due to the heating up of the presidential campaign and the crisis in Syria. But this week the editors returned to reminding readers about their hardline position on Iran by arguing that current sanctions are not strong enough and filled with “loopholes”. Interestingly, they criticize the measures for being inadequately painful and advocate more “pain” while simultaneously claiming that they are unlikely to be effective:

But enough pain to stop the 30-year nuclear drive of a revolutionary regime built around a messianic cult of martyrdom? A regime with foreign currency reserves between $60 billion and $100 billion, and which would net more than $40 billion in oil revenue even with a 40% drop in sales?

We’ve never considered sanctions likely to persuade Iran to drop its nuclear program, but it’s dangerous to pursue them half-heartedly while claiming progress and keeping the international temperature down as Iran’s centrifuges spin. That’s been the Obama Administration’s consistent approach, and it’ll probably continue at least through Election Day in November. It’s a good way to comfort adversaries in Tehran and Beijing while undermining friends in Jerusalem and beyond.

Benjamin Weinthal, Jerusalem Post: A fellow from the hawkish Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) and frequent JPost contributor praises his superior’s call for “economic warfare” on Iran. (Find a response to “Battle Rial” here.):

Writing in late June on the website of Foreign Policymagazine, Mark Dubowitz, a leading US sanctions expert, urged greater “economic warfare” targeting Iran’s entire energy apparatus and branches of its non-gas-and-oil sectors.

Dubowitz,the executive director of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, advocates a creative piece of US legislation from Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Florida), Rep. Robert Dold (R-Illinois) and Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Illinois) that designates Iran’s entire energy sector as a “zone of primary proliferation concern.”

Benjamin Weinthal, National Review Online: In a piece titled “Economic Suffocation for Iran’s Rulers” Weinthal says the Obama administration should begin rounding up a coalition of the willing for an attack on Iran:

The Obama administration could begin preparing a blueprint for a coalition of governments that would support a military option within a defined timetable. In addition to Israel, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands have also maintained that a military option should remain on the table.

Mark Dubowitz, NPR: The executive director of the FDD is arguably the most enthusiastic advocate of crippling sanctions against Iran from the world of Washington think tanks, and yet, he regularly admits that sanctions won’t impede Iran’s alleged nuclear ambitions:

So, are sanctions working to make Iran less of a nuclear threat?

Some experts are skeptical.

“The regime has been bracing for this,” says Mark Dubowitz, executive director of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. “It has large foreign exchange reserves, and it is still earning $40 [billion] or $45 billion a year from oil sales.

“The supreme leader’s economic expiration date — when his cash hoard falls low enough to set off a massive economic panic — may still be far off,” Dubowitz argues. “If the [Obama] administration wants to bring that date closer, it needs to make clear that the United States and our allies will do everything in their power to destroy Iran’s energy wealth unless the regime compromises.”

Amotz Asa-El, Market Watch: The Israeli pundit and former Jerusalem Post executive editor praises crippling sanctions against Iran because he believes they will lead to political upheaval:

Watching their money evaporate between their fingers, a growing number of Iranians increasingly ask why they need a leadership whose adventurism’s main cheerleaders are Hugo Chavez and Bashar Assad. Moreover, the millions in Iran who believe the ayatollahs stole their votes three years ago have since seen people power drive other inept Middle East leaders from office.

Between the increasingly restless masses and the economically dilettante ayatollahs, change from within is on its way to Iran, either in the wake of next year’s election or before it, whether peacefully or not.

Jasmin Ramsey

Jasmin Ramsey is a journalist based in Washington, DC.