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:

– Video: Jim Morin “Bomb Iran” animated cartoon
– News: Impact of military strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities ‘unclear,’ says U.S. report
– News: Obama to Clear Way to Tighten Iranian Oil Sanctions
– News: Israel’s Secret Staging Ground
– News: Senate condemns Iran’s human rights record
– News: Intel shows Iran nuclear threat not imminent
– News: Ahead of Revived Talks, US Wavers: Diplomacy or Sanctions for Iran?
– News: New Iran talks may focus on higher-grade atom work
– Opinion: What if Israel bombs Iran?
– Opinion: Sanctions Make War More Likely
– Opinion: It Takes Two to Tango (Interview with Iran expert, Gary Sick)
– Opinion: Reacting to War Drums in the Gulf: A Conversation with James Russell
– Opinion: The False Debate About Attacking Iran
– Research Publication: Israel: Possible Military Strike Against Iran’s Nuclear Facilities

Emanuele Ottolenghi, The Age: The Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) Senior Fellow declares that Iran is more of a “threat” than Iraq was and that “[t]alk of war is neither irresponsible then, nor unfounded”. Ottolenghi makes curious claims to back up what appears to be his justification for an Israeli military strike and contradicts U.S. intelligence and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) assessments in the process. He implies, for example, that Iran is pursuing a nuclear weapon even though both institutions have not presented any evidence to suggest that it has made the decision to do so (the prevalent suspicion is that Iran is seeking nuclear weapons capability). Ottolenghi also uses U.S. military and intelligence assessments concluding that Iran is a rational actor to argue that if that’s true, Iran wouldn’t excessively respond to an Israeli attack (therefore implying that Israel should attack even though experts acknowledge this could actually speed up any Iranian nuclear weapon drive?) Ottolenghi meanwhile ignores other ways that Iran could defend itself in the short and long term and the possibly devastating regional and economic ramifications of striking the oil-rich country:

The fact is, if Iran is rational enough that it can be dissuaded, Iran will be rational enough to understand that an excessive response to a military strike will carry devastating consequences for its regime.

Iran must know that a limited response to an Israeli strike, which focuses on Israeli targets alone, is less likely to draw the US into the fight. Iran knows, for example, that efforts to block the Strait of Hormuz would be met with devastating military response by US forces.

In short, if critics of war offer the case for a rational Iran as a reason not to attack, they surely must agree that Iran’s rational response will be discerning – it should retaliate against Israel, but not beyond.

Rudy Giuliani at MEK Paris Conference: The former Republican presidential nominee and New York Mayor declares that the widely discredited U.S.-designated foreign terrorist organization, the Mujahideen-e-khalq (MEK), is the “only way to stop Iran”:

I have a feeling that the only thing that will stop [Ayatollah Ali Khamenei] and the only thing that will stop [President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad is if they see strength, if they see power, if they see determination, if they see an America that is willing to support the people that want to overthrow the regime of Iran.

Clifford D. May, National Review: The President of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) argued in February that sanctions are a “weapon” that can be used against Iran to bring about regime change. This month he explains why crippling sanctions are useful while recommending that prior to renewed nuclear talks, Iran needs to believe that the U.S. and Israel are prepared to go to war with it (so much for Iran’s desire to be an “equal partner” at the bargaining table). :

So what’s the point? For one, sanctions, and the continuing debate they provoke, serve to remind the “international community” of the threat Iran’s theocrats pose. Second, it’s always useful to weaken one’s enemies, and sanctions — in particular the new sanctions targeting Iran’s central bank and expelling Iran from the SWIFT international electronic banking system — have been enfeebling Iran’s oil-based economy. Finally, should more kinetic measures be used to stop Iran’s nuclear-weapons program, it will be vital for sanctions to be in place — and remain in place — during whatever diplomatic palaver may follow.

A new round of diplomacy is scheduled to begin next month in Geneva. For there to be any small chance of success, Iran’s rulers will need to feel pressured and vulnerable — they will need to take seriously the possibility that Americans and Israelis have rocks and are prepared to use them.

H. Con. Res. 115: Lara Friedman of Americans for Peace Now has a summary of a recently proposed resolution by Rep. Buerkle (R-NY) and 67 cosponsors that she playfully refers to as “HAPPY B-DAY ISRAEL/FEEL FREE TO ATTACK IRAN”:

Most notably, the fourth “resolved” clause is an unambiguous Congressional green line – if not explicit encouragement – for an Israeli military attack on Iran, stating that Congress: “…expresses support for Israel’s right to confront and eliminate nuclear threats posed by Iran, defend Israeli sovereignty, and protect the lives and safety of the Israeli people, including the use of military force if no other peaceful solution can be found within a reasonable time…” [emphasis added].

Jasmin Ramsey

Jasmin Ramsey is a journalist based in Washington, DC.