by Ben Armbruster
Just a few months ago, Mark Dubowitz, CEO of the hawkish think tank Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, was trying to argue that he had nothing to do with Donald Trump’s decision to kill the Iran nuclear deal, and that instead, he actually wanted to save it.
Of course, anyone who’s been paying the least bit of attention to this issue over the years knows that’s complete nonsense. Check out this piece on LobeLog that explains in great detail that Dubowitz has, in reality, been gunning for the Joint Comprehensive Plan Of Action (JCPOA) since well before it was even agreed to, that he worked hard to dismantle it after implementation, and that his real goal is regime change in Tehran (or “coerced democratization,” as he put it in a memo to Trump last year). Dubowitz’s claim that he actually wanted to save the Iran deal—seemingly an attempt to absolve himself of any negative fallout from Trump’s decision to withdraw—was so egregious that even The New York Times took notice.
But now that Trump this week officially reimposed the first series of sanctions that were lifted as part of the agreement, Dubowitz, his FDD colleagues, and other Iran hawks could hardly contain their glee at the renewed opportunity for regime change and/or war.
FDD’s Reuel Marc Gerecht and Ray Takeyh of the Council on Foreign Relations climbed to the top of the heap with a 5,000+ word missive in Bill Kristol’s Weekly Standard calling for a CIA-assisted regime change effort in Iran. “Depending on what the mullahs do,” they write, “war may once more be on the horizon.”
Aside from the enormous complexities of pulling off such a regime change—and the extremely dangerous consequences that would result (none of which the authors address)—suggesting that the CIA launch another coup in Iran takes some real gall. After all, the CIA’s past involvement in fomenting a coup in Iran (or anywhere else for that matter) didn’t turn out so well for anyone.
Gerecht and Takeyh try to weasel their way out of this quandary by claiming that the CIA didn’t really have all that much to do with the coup in Iran in the 1950s. So, they argue, Americans should just get over their “coup allergy” because “it inhibits creativity.” (The CIA itself has admitted that it was behind the 1953 coup that overthrew Iran’s democratically elected prime minister. Gerecht and Takeyh acknowledge that the CIA launched the coup but claim that the agency called it off. That is also false.)
Dubowitz tweeted a link to Gerecht and Takeyh’s piece seeming to promote its call to arms. FDD’s twitter account piled on too and also promoted a quote (in a tweet which has since been deleted) from a staffer calling for occasional “kinetic action” (i.e. military strikes) in the Middle East to confront Iran.
Dubowitz himself appears to be working to punish any Europeans who want to uphold the JCPOA and continue to do business in Iran, an effort that experts say will further drive a wedge between the United States and Europe with potentially destructive consequences for the Atlantic alliance and the U.S.-led international banking system.
This renewed push toward war and regime change isn’t coming from obscure or unnoticed voices in Washington. However ill-advised and illogical its policy positions, FDD is well-funded and its staffers regularly appear in mainstream media and have influence on Capitol Hill and in the White House.
Meanwhile, Iran hawks in Congress appear energized too. On Monday, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said on TV that he’s openly advocating for the overthrow of Iran’s government. And a handful of GOP senators just issued a stark warning to Europe against moves to preserve the JCPOA.
Combine all this with the fact that many of Donald Trump’s most senior aides, including his national security advisor and secretary of state, have for years been itching to confront Tehran, and it’s not just that war “may be” on the horizon, as Gerecht and Takeyh write, but that the United States is perhaps closer to a military conflict with Iran than ever before.
Ben Armbruster is the communications director for Win Without War and previously served as National Security Editor at ThinkProgress.