Joe Lieberman Defends “Military Option;” Says Iranian Leaders are “Incapable of Compromise”

Joe Lieberman (I-CT) delivered remarks at an AIPAC event today that primarily addressed the departure of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. However, his speech included a significant portion that discussed the Obama administration’s Iran policy. As he has in the past, Lieberman pushed the thesis that Iran’s leaders have an ingrained hatred of the U.S., and that diplomacy is a futile endeavor. He also takes contentious positions—including ones which significantly overstep the Obama administration’s statements to date—like “[U]nder no circumstances can we trust the current rulers of Iran to keep any enrichment or reprocessing activity on their territory.”

Lieberman doesn’t appear too concerned about testing U.S.-China relations and calls for the U.S. to sanction Chinese companies that do business in Iran.

[Aggressive enforcement of sanctions] means American penalties against companies that continue to invest in Iran’s energy sector or sell refined petroleum to Iran—including Chinese companies.

Lieberman effectively shelves any hope for diplomatic outreach with Tehran– a contradiction of his stated support for the Obama administration’s Iran-policy.

Finally, we must also acknowledge the possibility that the current leaders of Iran are incapable of compromise on the nuclear program, no matter how much pressure is put on them, because opposition to America and the West is so integral to their very identity. If this is the case, our best hope to resolve this confrontation is not for the regime to change its behavior, but for the regime itself to be changed. In this respect, let us hope and pray that what has happened in Egypt will provide renewed inspiration and direction to the millions of Iranians who yearn for freedom.

And he is adament about keeping the “military option” on the table.

I also agree with President Obama that the use of military force is not the “ideal way” to stop the Iranian nuclear program. But if a nuclear Iran is as unacceptable as we all say it is, we must be prepared to do whatever is necessary to prevent the unacceptable.

Lieberman concludes his remarks by managing to work a “reverse-linkage” argument into a reference to one of Theodor Herzl’s most famous Zionist slogans. He suggests that the path to peace for Israel and its neighbors is for Islamist and authoritarian leaders to be overthrown in favor of democratic and peaceful governments.

On the other hand, we must acknowledge that freedom’s range has spread remarkably in our time and we must have the vision to see the world as it can be. This is the alternative future we must also summon the imagination to envision for the Middle East, and the political will to help bring into being:

A Middle East in which a democratic Egypt and a democratic Iran assume their central positions as peaceful, prosperous regional powers and the modern heirs to two of the world’s great civilizations.

A Middle East in which Islamist extremism no longer inspires violence or loyalty, but joins other failed and inhumane ideologies among history’s losers.

And a Middle East in which Israel and its Arab and Persian neighbors live in peace with each other as fellow democracies that respect the human rights of their citizens—in a region where the notion of going to war against each other becomes as unthinkable and absurd as it is today in Europe among nations who fought each other for centuries.

I know this vision may seem like a naïve dream. But I also know, as a great man once said, if we will it, it is no dream!

Establishing a Palestinian state, an Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank, or ending the siege on Gaza don’t play prominently in Lieberman’s peace plan.

Eli Clifton

Eli Clifton reports on money in politics and US foreign policy. He is a co-founder of the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft. Eli previously reported for the American Independent News Network, ThinkProgress, and Inter Press Service.



  1. Let’s see – Lieberman…isn’t that an Italian name, so it must be for Italy, right?

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