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.

Weekly Reads/Watch:

– News: Challenges From Iran to North Korea Spotlight Old Threats
– News: Iran nuclear talks: Why the trust gap is so great
– News: Iran, 6 powers may make progress at nuclear talks
– News: U.S.-Iran Trade Still Thrives
– News: Iran’s nuclear programme: legal debate stirs over basis for US or Israeli attack
– Opinion: Iran: We do not want nuclear weapons
– Opinion: How Hawks on the Hill Plan to Kill Talks With Iran
– Opinion: Has US Forgotten Lessons Of its First War With Iran?
– Opinion: Will Khamenei Compromise?
– Opinion: How to Tell if the Iran Talks Are Working
– Opinion: The shape of a deal with Iran
– Opinion: Iran nuclear negotiations remain the best path forward
– Video: Agenda with George Friedman on Iranian Ambitions

Foreign Policy Initiative Iran Fact Sheet: The Washington-based advocacy group was founded in 2009 by several neoconservatives known for their hawkish views and support for the Iraq War. The FPI has since been attempting to make its mark on US foreign policy with Iran. In the same week that the P5+1 is meeting with Tehran in Istanbul for renewed talks, the FPI released a Fact Sheet titled “The False Promise of Negotiations over Iran’s Nuclear Program”. While being extremely critical of the Obama administration, the essential argument is that Iran should not be trusted and that the U.S. should project an aggressive and dominant position while imposing further punitive measures on the Islamic Republic:

As Iran’s controversial nuclear program approaches the “zone of immunity,” the United States should work, individually and with like-minded nations, to dramatically increase the pressure on Iran by implementing all possible sanctions.  Attempts by either President Obama or Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) to water down sanctions will not adequately increase pressure against the Iranian regime.  An effective strategy towards Tehran will also require the United States to make clear that a nuclear Iran is truly unacceptable and that if necessary, military action will be used to prevent that nightmare scenario.

Certainly, when one recognizes that the United States and international community have repeatedly offered Iran substantive and beneficial economic assistance over the past decade, only to be rebuffed, then one can only conclude that the Iranian leadership is simply uninterested in negotiating away their ability to produce a nuclear weapon.

Jennifer Rubin, Washington Post: The Post’s unabashedly hawkish blogger says the Obama administration is trying to con Americans into believing that its intelligence on Iran is authoritative and trustworthy. The argument that the U.S. is being overly careful with Iran because of its catastrophic mistakes with Iraq is regularly touted by hawks and neoconservatives, many of whom Rubin quotes regularly. This week the American Enterprise Institute‘s Danielle Pletka and Elliott Abrams of the Council on Foreign Relations did just that. Rubin accordingly combined their arguments into a blog post about how the President is trying to pull the wool over American eyes because it wants to prevent an Israeli strike on Iran–something which she has never expressed opposition to (in fact she criticizes those who argue against it). She also states that the Obama administration’s spinning of its Iran intelligence is more evidence of its failure to seriously pursue the war option:

In any event he finds the disclosures, if not cleared for release, would be the sort of “revelations of ‘sources and methods’ of intelligence that might, if unauthorized, be criminal.” So assuming then that this was fully authorized, is there anything more to this than a ham-handed effort to discourage Israel from launching a military strike? Abrams suggest that is precisely what is going on: “The Obama administration appears to regard intelligence leaks and briefings more or less like briefings by the Democratic National Committee or White House flack Jay Carney. You use any information at hand, classified or not, and you spin it any way you like, fairly or not. Information that is unhelpful to your case is denied, dismissed, or denigrated.”

Considering that two informed conservatives without current security clearances can figure this out, won’t the Israelis recognize this is in large part spin? You’d think so. That suggests the leaks are really designed to justify to the American people, who may buy this stuff, why the Obama administration is refusing to consider seriously a military option at this time. More and more foreign policy — like tax or budget policy — is simply an adjunct to the political campaign.

John Podhoretz, Commentary: The son of Norman Podhoretz, one of the Godfathers of the neoconservative movement, has no qualms about being hawkish on Iran. In this month’s April issue of the right-wing Commentary Magazine, Podhoretz advocates militarily striking Iran:

But how could it be prevented? Trying to answer that question was what led to the initial discussions of the need to bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities in their adolescence. Doing so would have required using the tools and weapons of war, of course, but no one—no one—was actually proposing an Iraq-style war. As Norman Podhoretz put it in his 2007 article, “Since a ground invasion of Iran must be ruled out for many different reasons, the job would have to be done, if it is to be done at all, by a campaign of air strikes.”

No one takes this lightly. Nearly every scenario you can imagine that involves a direct engagement with the Iranian threat is a bad one. But it remains as true today as it was when John McCain said it, without music, in 2007: “There’s only one thing worse than the United States exercising a military option. That is a nuclear-armed Iran.”

Jasmin Ramsey

Jasmin Ramsey is a journalist based in Washington, DC.