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.

Michael Singh (WINEP), Washington Post: The managing director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (aka the Washington Institute or WINEP), a think tank that was created by the American Public Israel Affairs Committee (AIPAC), calls for imposing more pressure on Iran while bolstering the military option:

Like any good pugilist, Washington should follow the heavy blow of oil sanctions with further unrelenting pressure.

Finally, Washington should bolster the credibility of its military threat. Recent steps to strengthen its force posture in the Persian Gulf are a good start. They should be accompanied by more serious statements about U.S. willingness to employ force and an end to statements exaggerating the downsides of military action.

Former top CIA middle east analyst Paul Pillar responds in the National Interest:

If the oil sanctions aren’t enough, what other pressure does Singh say should be used? One is “bolder” efforts, whatever that means, to oust the Assad regime in Syria, and regardless of whatever implications that may have for escalation of that conflict. Another is an ill-defined reference to “cultivating Iranians outside the narrow circle around” the supreme leader or “providing support to dissidents” in Iran. No mention is made of how to get around the inherently counterproductive aspect of outside efforts to manipulate internal Iranian politics, or how one more indication that regime change is the ultimate Western objective is supposed to make the current regime more interested in making concessions. Finally, Singh calls for more military saber rattling—as if the threat of a military attack is supposed to make the Iranians less, rather than more, interested in a nuclear deterrent to protect themselves from such attacks. That makes as much sense as pushing yet again on the “pull” door.

We probably should not take the purveyors of such advice at their word. Surely at least some of them, including probably Singh, are smart enough to understand the basics of Sanctions 101. Their objective evidently is not success at the negotiating table but instead the indefinite perpetuation of the Iranian nuclear issue for other reasons or the checking off of a box on a pre-war checklist.

Lee Smith (FDD), Tablet Magazine: Hawks on Iran regular Lee Smith of the neoconservative-dominated Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) quotes retired Army Gen. John Keane (see biographical note below) before undermining repeated warnings from high-level defense and administration officials that a military strike would only set back Iran’s alleged nuclear aspirations by a few years:

In contrast, the Obama Administration has pulled out of Iraq and will soon pull out of Afghanistan. Yet the White House continues to repeat the trope that the program can, at best, be delayed a few years. Just as politics informed the Bush White House’s insistence on the delay-not-destroy mantra, politics of a different sort are informing this White House: This administration is conducting a public diplomacy campaign with the purpose of undermining the capability of a U.S. attack because the administration has no intention of striking.

Note: Keane has close ties with U.S. neoconservatives and was one of the main architects of George W. Bush’s surge in Iraq. In 2006, Gen. George Casey and the chief of the U.S. Central Command, Gen. John Abizaid  recommended reducing troop levels in Iraq, but Keane and his neoconservative allies started looking for someone that would support escalation instead–ultimately General David Petraeus. As documented by Bob Woodward in the War Within, Keane ignored the chain of command while heavily promoting Petraeus. He also helped persuade Bush to reject the Iraq Study Group’s findings and recommendations by aggressively pushing an alternative strategy he wrote with Frederick Kagan at the American Enterprise Institute called “Choosing Victory: A Plan for Success in Iraq.” That report led to the military buildup that followed.

Lee also uses Keane’s words to repeat his call for a ramped up military option:

…long before the United States decides to attack Iran, we need to communicate our seriousness to the regime. “There is only one guy you need to convince here to voluntarily give up the nuclear program and that is the Supreme Leader Khameini,” Jack Keane argues. “He must know we are dead serious about a military strike, as a last resort, and this is not just about the nuclear facilities—their military will be decapitated. This is the U.S. military. Believe me, we will destroy you.”

United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI): The neoconservative-aligned Iran sanctions-enforcement organization ramps up its pressure campaign against the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT), the financial messaging system used to arrange international money transfers, aimed at further crippling Iran’s economy:

Said UANI CEO, Ambassador Mark D. Wallace:

Now is the time for a full banking blockade against the Iranian regime, and SWIFT needs to play its part. SWIFT made the right decision in February to deny access to Iran’s Central Bank and some other institutions, but it has thus far failed to cut off all Iranian banks and entities. SWIFT should immediately sever its ties with all Iranian banks, particularly the ten that have been sanctioned by the U.S. government but still maintain SWIFT access.

Every day that SWIFT permits these illegitimate banks to have continued access to its network is a day the Iranian regime will continue to circumvent international sanctions. As the world weans itself off of Iranian crude, there is not a need to maintain conduits for energy related payments, but a need for an international banking embargo against Iran.

Clifford D. May (FDD), Scripps Howard: The president of the FDD repeats colleague Mark Dubowitz’s recommendation of blacklisting the entire Iranian energy sector as a “zone of primary proliferation concern” and reiterates his own call for U.S.-assisted/backed regime change:

[President Obama] should announce his support for legislation introduced by Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Fla.), Rep. Robert Dold (R-Ill.) and Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) that would blacklist the entire Iranian energy sector as a “zone of primary proliferation concern.”

Such a speech should be followed by other measures in support of Iranians willing to take the risks necessary to replace a regime that has failed domestically, a regime that has been at war with the U.S. since it seized our embassy in 1979; a regime that four years later instructed Hezbollah to suicide-bomb the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut; a regime that has facilitated the killings of hundreds of Americans in Iraq and Afghanistan; a regime that plotted to blow up a restaurant in Washington, D.C., just last year.

Alan Dershowitz, Times of Israel: The pro-Israel Harvard Law Professor who “met for 45 minutes one-on-one with US President Barack Obama to discuss Iran” criticizes the J-Street lobbying group for “undercutting American policy toward Iran” by not pushing the military option on Iran:

Dershowitz said that by “explicitly undercutting Obama on Iran,” it actually “makes it more likely that Israel will have to go alone. As George Washington said a long time ago, the best way to preserve peace is to be ready for war, and that’s been the Obama policy.” For J Street to undercut it and misrepresent prominent Israelis’ positions on it, he said, “takes it out of the pro-Israel camp. I don’t think it’s debatable that J Street is pro-Israel. It is not.”

Jasmin Ramsey

Jasmin Ramsey is a journalist based in Washington, DC.



  1. “Like any good pugilist, Washington should follow the heavy blow of oil sanctions with further unrelenting pressure.”

    LOL..there is a cure for people who love pugilism. You put them in the hospital for a long,long time —when they are able to finally wheel themselves out they will have a whole different outlook.

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