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.

John Bolton, Washington Times: The former UN Ambassador and outspoken proponent of military action against Iran rebukes President Obama for creating “the most antagonistic relationship ever between Israel and the White House” by not preemptively striking Iran for Israel due to his “ideological inclination”:

There is, however, a serious problem. Israel’s assessment and its ultimate decision are complicated precisely because of the superiority of American military strength. If Jerusalem defers to Washington and does not strike early enough, Iran’s program could well pass the point where Israel has the necessary capabilities to break Iran’s control over the nuclear fuel cycle. Or, even worse, Iran could fabricate nuclear weapons before being detected by either U.S. or Israeli intelligence, risking that a strike by either country could bring a nuclear response from Iran.

There are three principal reasons not to credit Mr. Obama’s assurances. First, the president’s every ideological inclination is not to use U.S. military force pre-emptively. By contrast, two months before Pearl Harbor, Franklin Roosevelt defended American attacks against Nazi submarines in the North Atlantic, saying, “When you see a rattlesnake poised to strike, you do not wait until he has struck before you crush him.” Plainly, Mr. Obama is no Franklin Roosevelt.

Elliott Abrams, Weekly Standard: The former Deputy National Security Adviser to George W. Bush considers Israeli general Amos Yaldin’s call for the US to commit to striking Iran in 2013 if the Iranian “problem” is not solved reasonable but unrealistic, so he proposes a Congressional authorization for the use of force against Iran instead:

More persuasive than the Ross or Yadlin proposals would be an effort by the president to seek a formal authorization for the use of force from Congress. This is the way for him to show seriousness of purpose, and for Congress to support it—and send an unmistakable message to the ayatollahs. This path was suggested here in THE WEEKLY STANDARD early July, by Jamie Fly and Bill Kristol, and this is the moment to move forward with it. Like the joint resolutions for the Gulf Wars in 1991 and in2002 and the joint resolution passed after 9/11 regarding terrorism, a new resolution would not declare war; it would say “The President is authorized to use the Armed Forces of the United States as he determines to be necessary and appropriate” to achieve the goal. In this case, that goal would not be to counter “the continuing threat posed by Iraq” or “against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001…in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States.” It would be to prevent Iran—the world’s foremost state sponsor of terrorism, in violation of countless U.N. Security Council and IAEA board of governors resolutions, and under international sanctions—from obtaining nuclear weapons.

Jennifer Rubin, Washington Post: The “Tiger Mom of the neocon movement” alleges that President Obama’s “Iran dilemma” boils down to being blamed for Israeli losses if he does not strike Iran on Israel’s behalf or being unprepared in the event of being “forced” into another mideast war:

An Israeli strike would be a blatant signal of distrust in Obama by the Jewish state. If the action is less than successful, or if large casualties in Israel result, fingers will point at Obama for having failed to deploy superior U.S. force. And if he believes an Israeli strike will set off a Middle East war, the president, who is in the business of diminishing U.S. military presence, could well be forced into a conflagration.

Rubin also describes going to war with Iran as a form of carpe diem:

Obama, as he has done so frequently, can wait and hope the Israelis don’t act. That might “work,” insofar as Israeli leaders might want to stretch out the timeline just a little bit longer. But passivity has its price, both geopolitically and electorally. It will be interesting to see whether Obama or Romney seizes the moment. It would certainly be an act of political leadership if one does.

Charles Krauthammer, Washington Post: Like Rubin, the neoconservative Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer references Elliott Abrams’ call for congressional authorization for the potential use of force against Iran (without naming Abrams) in an article that criticizes the President’s approach to Iran. In this instance, Krauthammer argues that Anthony Cordesman’s suggested approach to Iran, which includes hardening the US’s stance and upping the threat of force, needs to be seriously considered before the military option is exercised. Also like Rubin, Krauthammer agitates for action under the pretext of the time-is-running out claim:

Would Iran believe a Cordesman-like ultimatum? Given the record of the Obama administration, maybe not. Some (though not Cordesman) have therefore suggested the further step of requesting congressional authorization for the use of force if Iran does not negotiate denuclearization.

First, that’s the right way to do it. No serious military action should be taken without congressional approval (contra Libya). Second, Iran might actually respond to a threat backed by a strong bipartisan majority of the American people — thus avoiding both war and the other nightmare scenario, a nuclear Iran.

If we simply continue to drift through kabuki negotiations, however, one thing is certain. Either America, Europe, the Gulf Arabs and the Israelis will forever be condemned to live under the threat of nuclear blackmail (even nuclear war) from a regime the State Department identifies as the world’s greatest exporter of terror. Or an imperiled Israel, with its more limited capabilities, will strike Iran — with correspondingly greater probability of failure and of triggering a regional war.

All options are bad. Doing nothing is worse. “The status quo may not prevent some form of war,” concludes Cordesman, “and may even be making it more likely.”

Jasmin Ramsey

Jasmin Ramsey is a journalist based in Washington, DC.