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:

– News: U.S. War Game Sees Perils of Israeli Strike Against Iran
– News: P5+1 political directors to meet in Europe this week on Iran
– News: Hawks Steering Debate on How to Take On Iran
– News: Nuclear watchdog chief accused of pro-western bias over Iran
– News: Rafsanjani’s Reappointment Provokes Speculation in Iran
– News: U.S. Exempts Japan and 10 Other Countries From Sanctions Over Iran Oil
– News: Special Report: Intel shows Iran nuclear threat not imminent
– Opinion: Israel’s Gift to Iran
– Opinion: Heeding the Experts on Iran
– Opinion: The False Iran Debate
– Opinion: The Only Option on Iran
– Opinion: Pivoting from the Military ‘Option’ Back to Diplomacy
– Research Publication: CFR: Iran Talks: What Should Be on the Table?
– Research Publication: Iran’s Internal Politics: The Supreme Leader Grows Ever Lonelier at the Top

Mark Dubowitz, New York Times: After providing a long explanation for why Republicans should stop criticizing President Obama for high gas prices that have resulted from the U.S.’s Iran sanctions policy (which Dubowitz’s think tank career seems based on), the executive director of the hawkish Foundation for Defense of Democracies says working together now can result in more unity among Republicans and Democrats when “pursuing” war:

Republican candidates have boxed Obama in. Their dual line of attack might be smart politics, but it’s not smart policy. Either gas prices go down or Obama imposes suffocating sanctions on Iranian oil exports. They can’t have it both ways.

We are fast approaching a point when sanctions will no longer be able to stop Iran’s nuclear weapons program. As tempting as it may be, Republican candidates should set aside the opportunity to score quick political points and support the president in taking a bold step on sanctions that could destroy Iran’s oil wealth. And if Ayatollah Khamenei still refuses to compromise, Republicans and Democrats may find themselves more united in moving beyond sanctions and pursuing a military option.

Bret Stephens, Wall Street Journal: Not a week goes by without Lobe Log being forced to feature some alarmist, hawkish article about Iran in the WSJ. So here is Bret Stephens, the former Jerusalem Post editor believed to be one of the main writers of the Journal’s unsigned editorial board pieces, declaring that U.S. intelligence about Iran should be ignored and people should just go with their (his?) gut feelings instead. Writes Stephens (brace yourself now):

It should come as no surprise that an intelligence community meant to provide decision makers with disinterested analysis has, in practice, policy goals and ideological axes of its own. But that doesn’t mean it is any less dangerous. The real lesson of the Iraq WMD debacle wasn’t that the intelligence was “overhyped,” since the CIA is equally notorious for erring in the opposite direction. It was that intelligence products were treated as authoritative guides to decision making. Spooks, like English children, should be seen, not heard. The problem is that the spooks (like the children) want it the other way around.

How, then, should people think about the Iran state of play? By avoiding the misdirections of “intelligence.” For real intelligence, merely consider that a regime that can take a rock in its right hand to stone a woman to death should not have a nuclear bomb within reach of its left. Even a spook can grasp that.

Michael Singh, Washington Institute: Founded in 1985 by the former research director of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), Martin Indyk, the Washington Institute or WINEP is an influential think tank that makes confrontational policy recommendations about Iran. In a 15-page publication titled “To Keep the Peace with Iran, Threaten to Strike”, WINEP’s managing director accordingly argues that the “threat of force” against Iran should be emphasized and regarded as a “complement” to the U.S.’s Iran strategy:

The strenuous American efforts to ease the tensions and reassure Iran, whileunderstandable, were counterproductive. If Iran’s intention in issuing its threatswas to gauge the U.S. appetite for conflict, it can only have been comforted by theresponse. It revealed a superpower not girding itself, even reluctantly, for a militaryconflict, but scrambling to avoid one, seemingly bent on convincing itself andothers that a war would be futile. This episode likely only underscored what Iranmay see as the United States’ diminishing appetite or capacity for conflict, aperception fueled by the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq, its impending withdrawal fromAfghanistan, large planned cuts to the U.S. defense budget as well as the size of U.S.forces, and the backseat approach the United States took (and celebrated) in Libya.Ironically, downplaying the threat of force may increase the odds that theUnited States will be left with little choice buteither to employ force or accept an Iraniannuclear weapons capability. While Washingtonand its allies clearly and appropriately see militaryaction as a last resort, this should not imply thatestablishing the credibility of the threat of forcebe left to a later, final phase of their approach toIran. Indeed, the threat of force is not analternative to sanctions or negotiations, but acomplement to them in forming a coherent Iran strategy.

Richard Cohen, Washington Post: In February the Post’s weekly columnist argued for “regime change” in Iran and for the U.S. to establish at minimum the perception that U.S. and Israel policy are aligned. This month he downplays the cons of an Israeli strike while emphasizing the pros:

Sanctions may cause Iran to abandon its nuclear weapons program, if indeed that’s where it is now heading. But critics of Israel’s approach have to understand that Iran’s program looks different from Tel Aviv than it does from Washington. In the long run, an Israeli attack on Iran will accomplish nothing. In the short run, it could accomplish quite a lot.

Jasmin Ramsey

Jasmin Ramsey is a journalist based in Washington, DC.