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 Ledeen, Foreign Affairs: The neoconservative pundit has been arguing for years that the US should foment regime change in Iran byway of direct or indirect US support to Iranian dissident groups. This month he reiterates that argument while evaluating the Green Movement as a potential carrier for his proposal. The following are some of Ledeen’s key points (notice how he begins by stating that sanctions have been ineffective and will likely remain so and ends by arguing that the US’s “sanction regime” should continue anyway):

– Yet history suggests, and even many sanctions advocates agree, that sanctions will not compel Iran’s leaders to scrap their nuclear program.

– And, although war might bring down the regime, it is neither necessary nor desirable. Supporting a domestic revolution is a wiser strategy.

– Given the potential for a successful democratic revolution in Iran — and the potential for a democratic government to end Iran’s war against us — the question is how the United States and its allies can best support the Green Movement.

– …the time has come for the United States and other Western nations to actively support Iran’s democratic dissidents.

– Meanwhile, the West should continue nuclear negotiations and stick to the sanctions regime, which shows the Iranian people resistance to their oppressive leaders.

– Iran’s democratic revolutionaries themselves must decide what kind of Western help they most need, and how to use it. But they will be greatly encouraged to see the United States and its allies behind them. There are many good reasons to believe that this strategy can succeed. Not least, the Iranian people have already demonstrated their willingness to confront the regime; the regime’s behavior shows its fear of the people. The missing link is a Western decision to embrace and support democratic revolution in Iran — the country that, after all, initiated the challenge to the region’s tyrants three summers ago.

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 herehere and here. Then they stopped, perhaps due to the heating up of the presidential campaign and the crisis in Syria. But in July the board returned to reminding readers about its hawkish position on Iran, first by arguing that current sanctions are not strong enough and filled with “loopholes” while advocating for more “pain”, and then by claiming that Congress should propose the “toughest” sanctions bill possible to the President, considering how he may be a “pretender on sanctioning the mullahs”. (The “Iran Threat Reduction and Syria Human Rights Act” was passed this week and is expected to be signed into law by Obama shortly. As noted by the Jewish Telegraph Association, “for the first time in actionable legislation, the measure defines the capability of building a nuclear weapon as posing a threat to the United States”, which of course brings the US closer to the Israeli “red line” on Iran):

The Administration will resist these stiffer penalties, as it has consistently resisted previous Congressional attempts to impose the harshest possible sanctions. But that’s all the more reason for the conferees to present the President with the toughest bill possible, and see where he really stands.

If Mr. Obama is a pretender on sanctioning the mullahs, then you can be sure he isn’t inclined to stop their nuclear program by other means. The Israelis will draw their own conclusions, if they haven’t already.

Foundation for Defense of Democracies: The neoconservative-dominated Washington think tank that has been working hard to shape the Obama administration’s Iran sanctions policy (through executive director Mark Dubowitz) congratulates Congress for passing the “compromise bill” mentioned above because it brings the US closer to implementing Dubowitz’s recipe for “economic warfare” against the Iranian regime:

“But Iranian nuclear physics is beating Western economic pressure and diplomacy, as the centrifuges keep spinning, and the Iranian regime continues its campaign of murder abroad and at home. While this bill is an important step towards economic warfare against the Iranian regime, much more needs to be done. Iran’s leaders need to be persuaded that the U.S. is committed to using every instrument of state power to counter the Iranian threat.”

Dan Senor, New York Times: The former Iraq war hawk turned Mitt Romney foreign policy adviser (see two recent profiles here and here) drew media attention last week for alleging that Romney respected Israel’s right to pre-emptively strike Iran’s nuclear facilities. According to the NYT’s politics blog:

“If Israel has to take action on its own, in order to stop Iran from developing that capability, the governor would respect that decision,” Mr. Senor said.

Previewing Mr. Romney’s remarks, Mr. Senor explained: “It is not enough just to stop Iran from developing a nuclear program. The capability, even if that capability is short of weaponization, is a pathway to weaponization, and the capability gives Iran the power it needs to wreak havoc in the region and around the world.”

As the Times notes, the Romney campaign tried to walk back those comments somewhat, but Robert Wright at the Atlantic didn’t buy the damage control effort.

Jasmin Ramsey

Jasmin Ramsey is a journalist based in Washington, DC.