Iran Hawk Watch

In response to a worrying trend in U.S. politics Lobe Log has launched Iran Hawk Watch. Each Friday we will post on notable militaristic commentary about Iran from a variety of sources including news articles, think tanks and pundits.

*This week’s must-read is “Obama’s Counterproductive New Iran Sanctions: How Washington is Sliding Toward Regime Change”. Suzanne Maloney of the Brookings Institution writes:

The Obama administration’s new sanctions signal the demise of the paradigm that had guided U.S. Iran policymaking since the 1979 revolution: the combination of pressure and persuasion. Moreover, the decision to outlaw contact with Iran’s central bank puts the United States’ tactics and its long-standing objective — a negotiated end to Iran’s nuclear ambitions — fundamentally at odds. Indeed, the United States cannot hope to bargain with a country whose economy it is trying to disrupt and destroy. As severe sanctions devastate Iran’s economy, Tehran will surely be encouraged to double down on its quest for the ultimate deterrent. So, the White House’s embrace of open-ended pressure means that it has backed itself into a policy of regime change, something Washington has little ability to influence.

Also check out “Forgetting Iraq, Republicans Thirst For War Against Iran”, by John Tirman.

Mainstream Media and Pundits:

Washington Post: Using the “military option” against Iran and Mitt Romney get a plug from the WaPo’s hawk-in-chief, Jennifer Rubin. Perhaps more zealously than any other prominent media figure, Rubin has been agitating for war with Iran. Even before the most crippling Iran sanctions that have ever been implemented are in full swing, she is recommending that congress prepare for war while the administration educates the public about why it’s necessary. The more Obama gives to the Iran hawks, the more they demand:

The administration and the president specifically also need to begin a period of public education to explain why it is imperative that Iran not get nuclear weapons and why it is both advantageous (because of our military resources) and essential (because of our position as leader of the free world and guarantor of the West’s security) to do the job, if it becomes necessary, rather than let Israel do the heavy lifting. The duty to educate and prepare the American people is critical and in and of itself will enhance the credibility of a military option.

Wall Street Journal: Even while acknowledging that Iran’s threats to close the Strait of Hormuz are desperate “bluster”, the hawkish WSJ editorial board urges the U.S. to act in ways which would likely be interpreted as provocation by the Iranians:

Meantime, the best response to Iran’s threats would be to send an American aircraft carrier back through the Strait of Hormuz as soon as possible, with flags waving and guns at the ready.

Past and Present U.S. Officials and Politicians:

Victoria Nuland: Yesterday, during the daily press briefing, State Department spokesperson Nuland (the wife of neoconservative Iraq war hawk Robert Kagan) said getting multilateral support for the U.S.’s latest sanctions against Iran “will be an important next step in the global effort to tighten the noose on their regime.” From the beginning the Obama administration has rejected adopting regime change as its official Iran policy, opting for sanctions and some limited diplomacy instead, so was this comment a Freudian slip from Nuland or does it signal something bigger? Nuland’s curious comments bring Maloney’s argument to mind.

Mark Kirk: The AIPAC-favorite senator who coauthored the amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act imposing sanctions against Iran’s Central Bank wants the President to implement them no matter what. Obama said he would treat the provisions as “non-binding” if they interfered with his “constitutional authority to conduct foreign relations”, but Kirk said that wasn’t as important as crippling Iran’s economy. The push to sanction Iran’s Central Bank has been ongoing since 2008, but it reached its climax in the summer with heavy lobbying from AIPAC and hawkish members of congress. In October Kirk told a radio show that he had no problem with “taking food out of the mouths” of ordinary Iranians to take down their government, which sounds a lot like collective punishment. Kirk’s pressure on Obama is backed by the likes of prominent neoconservative analyst, Michael Rubin, and Commentary’s editor, Jonathan Tobin, both of whom opined about Obama’s non-binding comment this week.

Mitt Romney: According to former AIPAC-staffer M. J. Rosenberg, Romney’s hawkish stance on Iran (echoed this week at his Iowa Caucus speech) is the result of his many neoconservative advisers:

Fifteen of the 22 worked on foreign policy for the George W. Bush administration and six were members of the original neoconservative group, Project for the New American Century, that famously called on President Clinton in 1998 to begin “implementing a strategy for removing Saddam’s regime from power.” Its rationale: Saddam was producing weapons of mass destruction.

A detailed examination of another Romney-adviser, Walid Phares, can be found here.

Rick Santorum: The Republican presidential hopeful said this week that if he was elected, he would go to war with Iran over its disputed nuclear program:

And finally, I would be working openly with the state of Israel and I would be saying to the Iranians, you either open up those facilities, you begin to dismantle them and make them available to inspectors or we will degrade those facilities through air strikes – and make it very public that we are doing that.

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Jasmin Ramsey

Jasmin Ramsey is a journalist based in Washington, DC.


One Comment

  1. I really cannot figure this out — i.e., why Obama thinks he can prevent this from sliding into yet another Middle East war. There’s a report over at Conflicts Forum that seems to come from another planet in that it expresses an Iranian view that — whether it’s crazy or reasonable (I’m no judge) — is never ever gonna get a hearing by anyone on our insane planet. Here’s an excerpt:

    From an Iranian perspective, this provides at least a partial explanation why the United States and the EU are now so explicit in their (so far unsuccessful) attempts to inflict severe pain on ordinary Iranians through “crippling” sanctions.[6] While, in the past, it was clear that the objective of sanctions was to make average Iranians suffer—as the Wikileaks cables confirm[7]—there was at least a hypocritical attempt to portray these actions as humane and directed at the government. Now, the incessant and shrill calls to assassinate and murder Iranian scientists, military officials, and politicians and to launch military strikes on the country reveals the existence of a disturbed mentality among many of the political elite in the West and in the United States in particular. The recent flurry of absurd accusations made against Iran by the US, such as the so-called plot against the Saudi Ambassador to Washington,[8] the rehashed IAEA report presented by a deeply biased director general,[9] cyber attacks, and the attempts to impose sanctions on the Iranian central bank which politicians like Ron Paul consider to be an act of war,[10] is also leading many in Iran to conclude that the United States is currently too irrational for any form of meaningful dialogue.

    Seyed Mohammad Marandi, University of Tehran.

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