Hawks on Iran

In response to a worrying trend in U.S. politics, 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.


*This week’s must-reads/watch:

– T. X. Hammes: On Bombing Iran, A False Choice
– Bruce Ackerman, Los Angeles Time: The legal case against attacking Iran
– Gary Sick: Are we headed for a Bay of Pigs in Iran?
– Gary Sick in CFR: Crisis-Managing U.S.-Iran Relations
– Paul Pillar: We Can Live with a Nuclear Iran
– Colin Kahl: Before attacking Iran, Israel should learn from its 1981 strike on Iraq
– Joel Rubin: No Iran Bomb, No Iran War in 2012
– Jordan Michael Smith, Salon: Washington’s new antiwar movement
– Robert Wright, The Atlantic: Chances of War with Iran Have Dropped for 2012, Risen for 2013
– Inside Story, Al Jazeera English: What role does AIPAC play in US elections?
– Fareed Zakaria and John King on CNN: Iran diplomacy needed (also see: Another War in the Middle East?)

Mitch McConnell: The Senate Minority Leader recommended this week that lawmakers draft a resolution “authorizing the use of force” against Iran. Said McConnell:

I made a recommendation last night for something that I think might convince the Iranians that we’re serious about it, and that would be to debate and vote on a resolution authorizing the use of force. That doesn’t guarantee that force would be used, but it certainly would be a credible step in the direction saying we view this as a very serious matter.

Casey, Graham and Lieberman, Wall Street Journal: While promoting their recently proposed resolution which Robert Wright says makes war with Iran more likely because it severely limits U.S. options, the senators argue for harsher punitive measures against the Islamic Republic:

First, it is imperative that the U.S. and its partners accelerate and expand economic pressure on Tehran. The only thing Iran’s leaders value more than their nuclear ambitions is the survival of their regime. Consequently, sanctions must threaten the very existence of that regime in order to have a chance of stopping its illicit nuclear activities.

They also advocate the threat of military force:

As importantly, however, we must put to rest any suspicion that in the end the United States will acquiesce to Iran’s acquisition of a nuclear-weapons capability and adopt a strategy of containment.

Analysts explain that one of the reasons why Iran is resistant to Western demands is because it believes the U.S. is seeking regime change through any and all means. Don’t policy recommendations like this directly feed into that paranoia?

Foreign Policy Initiative “Time to Attack Iran” Event: This week Matthew Kroenig, Jame M. Fly and Elbridge A. Colby debated attacking Iran this week at the militaristic Washington think tank. Kroenig and Fly advocated military strikes on Iran and Fly went even further by arguing that “limited strikes” weren’t enough and that the main goal of U.S. policy on Iran should be regime change. Kroenig’s “Time to Attack Iran” article resulted in serious push-back from respected analysts like Paul Pillar and Stephen Walt. Fly’s recommendations have received less attention despite their extremism.

Wall Street Journal Editorial Board: The Journal rarely has anything but vehement criticism for President Obama, but this week they praised his display of hawkishness at this year’s American Israel Public Affairs Committee conference. At the same time, the board also absurdly argued that Obama is protecting Iran over Israel, while challenging the administration to become more militaristic:

As for military strikes, senior Administration officials have repeatedly sounded as if their top priority is deterring Israel, rather than stopping Iran from getting a bomb.

If the President’s contention is that an Israeli strike would be less effective and have more unpredictable consequences than an American strike, he’s right—and few Israelis would disagree. Israelis don’t have the same military resources as the U.S.

The question Mr. Netanyahu and Israeli leaders have to ponder is whether Mr. Obama now means what he says.

Mitt Romney, Washington Post: The Republican presidential frontrunner expresses his commitment to Israel while declaring how militaristic he would be with Iran as President:

As for Iran in particular, I will take every measure necessary to check the evil regime of the ayatollahs. Until Iran ceases its nuclear-bomb program, I will press for ever-tightening sanctions, acting with other countries if we can but alone if we must. I will speak out on behalf of the cause of democracy in Iran and support Iranian dissidents who are fighting for their freedom. I will make clear that America’s commitment to Israel’s security and survival is absolute. I will demonstrate our commitment to the world by making Jerusalem the destination of my first foreign trip.

Most important, I will buttress my diplomacy with a military option that will persuade the ayatollahs to abandon their nuclear ambitions. Only when they understand that at the end of that road lies not nuclear weapons but ruin will there be a real chance for a peaceful resolution.

Emanuele Ottolenghi, New York Times: The Foundation for Defense of Democracies’s senior fellow recommends that the U.S. threaten Iran with war and implement more extreme punitive measures:

As tough as the current sanctions against Iran are, they will work only if Iran is brought to its knees once again. The pain inflicted must be far greater for the country to see backtracking as preferable. Iran is a rational actor; and it cannot be dissuaded at this point, barring extreme measures.

If Western nations wish to avoid a military confrontation in the Persian Gulf and prevent a nuclear Iran, they must adopt crippling sanctions that will bring Iran’s economy to the brink of collapse. That means a complete United Nations-imposed oil embargo enforced by a naval blockade, as well as total diplomatic isolation. And they must warn Iran that if it tries to jump the last wall, the West is willing and capable of inflicting devastating harm.

Howard Kohr at AIPAC 2012: During the first part of his speech the executive director of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee says there’s “still time” before the U.S. needs to use “force” and then recommends threatening military action and subjecting Iran to “disruptive measures”:

Four tracks are critical. Tough, disciplined, principled diplomacy. Truly crippling sanctions. Disruptive measures and establishing a credible threat to use force.


Mike Huckabee, Washington Times: The former Republican presidential candidate turned Fox News television host explains his hawkish vision for U.S. policy on “evil” Iran and ally Israel (emphasis mine):

The Obama administration should strictly enforce sanctions against Iran’s Central Bank, accelerate the timetable of the European Union’s oil boycott of Iran and increase covert action within Iran to destabilize the regime and its nuclear program. The State Department should provide long-overdue assistance to Iranian dissidents with satellite phone and Internet technology to enable them to organize and communicate free from the regime’s authoritarian boot.

When Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu comes to the White House next week, Mr. Obama should issue an unequivocal statement that Israel is fully within its rights to protect itself against the existential threat of Iran, and if it does so, it will enjoy U.S. support. He should further state that the United States is actively considering military action.

Amos Yadlin, New York Times: The former Israeli military intelligence chief turned expert at the Washington Institute for Near Easy Policy recommends that the U.S. commit to going to war with Iran if its current policies fail to prevent Israel from attacking first:

Mr. Obama will therefore have to shift the Israeli defense establishment’s thinking from a focus on the “zone of immunity” to a “zone of trust.” What is needed is an ironclad American assurance that if Israel refrains from acting in its own window of opportunity — and all other options have failed to halt Tehran’s nuclear quest — Washington will act to prevent a nuclear Iran while it is still within its power to do so.

Peter Brookes, National Review: The Heritage Foundation senior fellow recommends that “any Iranian hostility” should be met with U.S. military might:

Iran understands strength, especially the military kind – and it only benefits from the bickering that we’ve seen again and again in recent years between Israel and the United States on a number of matters.

The president should also lean forward on the military option, beyond the tired old phrase that “it’s still on the table.” While Obama must be careful not to make threats he isn’t willing to keep, he should define red lines that are not to be crossed.

Iran will surely blame us for any Israeli strike, whether we’re involved from the get-go or not. As such, the president should ready U.S. forces for a possible Persian punch directed at us in the aftermath of an Israeli attack on Iran.

Assuming Israel doesn’t give us advanced warning, any Iranian hostility toward us or our interests should feel the searing heat of U.S. air and naval assets, not only targeting Iran’s nuclear program, but its conventional and paramilitary forces, too.

William Kristol, Weekly Standard: The publication’s founder and editor was one of the most enthusiastic proponents of the Iraq War. Here he implies that Israel’s “American friends” should pressure President Obama into adopting Israel’s hawkish Iran policy and at minimum ensure that Obama supports Israel’s actions against Iran:

It would of course be better if President Obama were not wedded to a timeline that fails to recognize the imperatives of Israel’s security. The task of American friends of Israel is first to try to persuade President Obama to act sooner than he now appears willing to do, to persuade him that the United States should stand arm in arm and side by side with Israel. But if President Obama continues to insist that it is Israel who takes the lead, the task of American friends of Israel will be to ensure that President Obama at least lives up to his promise Sunday that “when the chips are down, I have Israel’s back.”

Jasmin Ramsey

Jasmin Ramsey is a journalist based in Washington, DC.


One Comment

  1. Dear Jasmin Ramsey – You certainly provide a frightening survey of recent threats against Iran here; what I’m confused about, and what I wish more people were confused about is why doesn’t President Obama use his “bully pulpit” to forcefully dispel the misinformation that enables such irresponsible warmongering? If he is truly opposed to war, why is he silent in the face of these provocations?

    In your article in today’s AlterNet.org, “10 Myths About Iran — and Why They’re Dead Wrong,” you point out that all intelligence agencies agree that Iran does not have a nuclear weapon, nor is it building one. If anything, Iran wants nuclear “capability”, the technical know-how possessed by at least fifty other nations… So what are the increasingly severe (“crippling”) sanctions imposed by the Obama administration supposed to achieve? This needs to be explained by Obama, if peace is to have a chance, but I see no explanation forthcoming.

    The “pre-emptive” or “preventive” military strikes proposed by those you quote in your articles are criminal, according to the Nuremberg Principles encoded in the U.N. Charter. And yet where is the outcry? Why won’t Nobel Peace Prize winner Obama speak out against the warmongering?

    I fear that the answer to so many of my questions here is that the Obama administration wants war — and is planning on military action against Iran — but in due time, after the November elections.

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