Hawks on Iran

In response to a worrying trend in U.S. politics, Lobe Log publishes “Hawks on Iran” (formerly “Iran Hawk Watch”) 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-read is Envisioning a Deal With Iran by William H. Luers and Thomas R. Pickering, two Cold War diplomatic veterans writing in the New York Times.


Mainstream Media and Pundits:


Clifford D. May in the National Review: Former journalist and spokesman for the Republican National Committee Clifford May is now president of the hawkish Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. This week he applauded the imposition of more crippling sanctions on Iran, which he calls a “weapon” for bringing about regime change. Despite praising the recent waves of strangling measures against the isolated Islamic Republic, May also implied that the U.S. should keep the military option wide open:


But sanctions are no panacea. They should be just one weapon in an arsenal of policies aimed at weakening Iran’s fanatical rulers immediately and dislodging them eventually.

Finally, there must be no ambiguity about the fact that, if all else fails, sharper arrows remain in our quiver; no ambiguity about our determination to prevent this regime — which, the evidence clearly shows, works hand in glove with al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups — from acquiring nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them.

There are conflicts, and then there are conflicts. Iran’s rulers need to understand that if they continue to escalate this conflict, sooner or later they will come to the end of the road. And there they will find not just a hive of bumblebees but the jaws of a very angry junkyard dog.


Michael Ledeen in Pajamas Media: Veteran hawk and pundit Michael Ledeen (who was far more prominent during the runup to the Iraq war) continues to push for U.S. sponsored regime change in Iran. This week he downplayed concern about a military conflict by saying that the U.S. and Iran are already at war. He went on to argue that more sanctions against Iran are welcomed but won’t bring about his goal of regime change:

But I don’t know anyone this side of the White House who believes that sanctions, by themselves, will produce what we should want above all:  the fall of the Tehran regime that is the core of the war against us.  To accomplish that, we need more than sanctions;  we need a strategy for regime change.

Ledeen also accused President Obama of being inadequately militaristic about Iran:

But even if all these are guided from Washington and/or Jerusalem, it still does not add up to a war-winning strategy, which requires a clearly stated mission from our maximum leaders.  We need a president who will say “Khamenei and Ahmadinejad must go.”  He must say it publicly, and he must say it privately to our military, to our diplomats, and to the intelligence community.

Without that commitment, without that mission — and it’s hard to imagine it, isn’t it? — we’ll continue to spin our wheels, mostly playing defense, sometimes enacting new sanctions, sometimes wrecking the mullahs’ centrifuges, forever hoping that the mullahs will make a deal.  Until the day when one of those Iranian schemes to kill even more Americans works out, and we actually catch them in the act.  Then our leaders will say “we must go to war.”

Think Tanks:


Bipartisan Policy Center: A report from a Washington think tank advises President Obama to make threats of a U.S. or Israeli attack against Iran more credible and launch an “effective surgical strike against Iran’s nuclear program” if punitive measures and aggressive posturing is not successful. The “Bipartisan Policy Center” houses several George W. Bush administration officials who supported the Iraq War and the report’s task force is dominated by Iran hawks, including the report’s staff director, Michael Makovsky.

Past and Present U.S. Officials and Politicians:


James Woolsey in the Jerusalem Post: During an interview at the Herzliya Conference in Israel, former CIA director James Woolsey (now with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies) argues for U.S. airstrikes on Iran. From the Jerusalem Post:


“At some point someone is going to have to decide to use force to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon. I’d argue that those who say we can deal adequately with Iran through deterrence are quite naive.”

Woolsey suggested sending approximately five carrier battle groups – each comprising an aircraft carrier and its escort vessels – to the Indian Ocean, accompanied by bomber support, if possible.

Jasmin Ramsey

Jasmin Ramsey is a journalist based in Washington, DC.