Flynn Has It In For Iran

by Jim Lobe

On the news that Donald Trump has asked Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn to be his national security adviser, I decided to look up Flynn’s testimony on Iran before the House Foreign Affairs and Armed Services subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa on June 10, 2015. That was just a month beforethe P5+1 and Iran concluded the the Iran nuclear deal, otherwise known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). What I found was pretty shocking and deserves wide dissemination. I knew that Flynn was pretty much of an Islamophobe, but I didn’t know to what extent he appears also to be an Iranophobe as well. The testimony is 16 pages long, so I will confine this post to selected excerpts. But one really has to read the whole thing to get the full flavor of this man’s state of mind on the subject.

  • After listing five developments in the region, beginning with the “negative behavior and expanding influence of the Islamic Republic of Iran,” he wrote:

Not only do these impact our security at home, but they also impact our allies and friends in the region, most important, the State of Israel—Israel lives under the threat of total annihilation from Iran and other Islamic radical elements in the region—something the United States must never allow, nor should we deal equally with those who spew this type of hatred and bigotry (we would not stand for it here in this country and we should not stand for it elsewhere in the world where our closest friends are at risk).

  • “Ideas about other ways of waging war are ignored because they do not fit the closed Second Generation paradigm. Meanwhile, Washington cannot consider alternatives to our current foreign policy or grand strategy because anyone who proposes one is immediately exiled from the establishment.”
  • “2. Iran has every intention to build a nuclear weapon. They have stated it many times, they have attempted well over a decade to move rapidly to nuclearizing its capability, and their enrichment to twenty percent and their rapid move to develop a ballistic missile program, are examples of their continued preparedness to weaponize a missile for nuclear delivery.”
  • “Iran’s stated desire to destroy Israel is very real. Iran has not once (not once) contributed to the greater good of the security of the region. Nor has Iran contributed to the protection of security for the people of the region. Instead, and for decades, they have contributed to the severe insecurity and instability of the region, especially the sub-region of the Levant surrounding Israel (i.e, Southern Lebanon, Gaza, and the Border region along the Golan Heights on the Syrian side of the border).”
  • ”9. It is clear that the nuclear deal is not a permanent fix but merely a placeholder. The ten year timeframe only makes sense if the Administration truly believes that it is possible for a wider reconciliation with Iran that is likely to occur, which will make the Iranian regime change its’ strategic course. That’s wishful thinking.”
  • “12. I believe that Iran represents a clear and present danger to the region, and eventually to the world—they are still a U.S. State Department designated Islamic state sponsor of terrorism, they have and they continue to violate international sanctions, and they continue to spew hatred in their rhetoric coming from senior members of their government—to include their top Mullahs.”
  • “15. What we don’t know is the full scope of Iran’s nuclear effort itself. The intelligence community does not have complete “eyes on” the totality of the Iranian nuclear program, nor can it guarantee that we have identified all of Iran’s nuclear facilities and processes. Moreover, given the history of the nuclear age, it is prudent to conclude that there are elements of Iran’s nuclear program that still remain hidden from view (Iran has demonstrated in their own actions, they cannot be trusted).”
  • “17. I believe that Iran’s overarching strategic goals of enhancing its security, prestige, and regional influence have led it to pursue capabilities to meet its civilian goals and give it the ability to build missile-deliverable nuclear weapons, if it chooses to do so. We do not know whether Iran will eventually decide to build nuclear weapons.” [Editor’s note: Contrast this last sentence with the opening sentence in 2. above.]
  • “As the Washington Post editorialists have said, regime change in Tehran is the best way to stop the Iranian nuclear weapons program. The same applies to their missile arsenal, which is of high quality and growing.”
  • “Just look at the cooperation with North Korea, China and Russia. Connect those dots, and you get the outline of a global alliance aimed at the U.S., our friends, and our allies.”
  • “The North Korean cooperation is also very significant, as the two countries (North Korea and Iran) have long traded expertise, not least regarding nuclear and possibly EMP weapons.”\
  • “There are a number of things that the international community can do however, to level the playing field with Iran and further reduce the chances of its violating its Nuclear Non-Proliferation treaty obligations.
  • “Immediately direct Iran to open up all of its facilities, scientific, military, and current nuclear facilities, for international inspections.”
  • “The U.S. must take a more active role in the region for what will be a race for “nuclearization” preferring energy development over weaponization.”
  • “Provide greater authorities to all elements of U.S. National power to defeat the Islamic radicals we now call the Islamic State—put them out of business.”
  • “Immediately recognize, fully support, help organize, and assist those regional partners create an “Arab NATO-like” structure and framework. Build an Arab Army that is able to secure their regional responsibilities.”
  • “Clearly define and recognize that we face a very radicalized enemy in the likes of Islamic extremism. The administration’s refusal to state what we can plainly see is beyond being irresponsible and ranges on being dangerous for the long-term security of the United States. Seek and appoint leaders (regionally, internationally or right here at home), give them the right and appropriate authorities that can actually accomplish the strategic objectives we seek.”
  • “We should expect a far more aggressive Iran as it relates to the Gulf (both overtly and covertly) and one that will remain militarily engaged in the Levant for the foreseeable future even if Assad is overthrown. To the extent that Iranian support to the Huthis is regarded as successful we should expect to see it emulated in Bahrain [!-Editor’s note] and possibly eastern Saudi Arabia.”
  • “What does a more proliferated region mean for US security? Pretty much, what Prime Minister Netanyahu predicted to Congress, which was we would see the end of the Non Proliferation Treaty for all intents and purposes. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the nations of Egypt, Kuwait, the UAE, Jordan, Qatar, and Turkey will all attempt their own missile and nuclear programs with varying degrees of success and competence, and the best-case scenario is that we have our current relationship with Pakistan duplicated five fold in a region where we have seen a significant government turnover from at least 2011 to present.”
  • “And as I stated above, we, the United States of America must comprehend that evil doesn’t recognize diplomacy and nations such as Iran will still maintain the intent of achieving nuclear weapon status.”
  • “What does this mean for Israel? The worst-case scenario is a reversion to a pre-Yom Kippur War security environment, except with less restraint. While the sectarian angle may limit impact against Israel in the near-term, they are likely to be targeted by jihadists of either flavor (Sunni or Shia) and any Egyptian WMD efforts have to be of serious concern because the government has changed three times since 2011 and it won’t be clear who is going to be on top the next time it occurs (my strongest recommendation is for the U.S. to pick President Al-Sisi as a partner and get on with assisting him fight the Islamic radicals trying to take over Egypt).”
  • “It’s difficult to overestimate the risks manifest in an Iran armed with ballistic and / or nuclear weapons. Certainly the ambitions of those who have advocated for this capability for 30 years would be vindicated. That many of the same harbor genuine beliefs which include the responsibility of the faithful to prepare for a return of the Imamate and the end of times, often seen as concurrent with “exporting the revolution” (or the reason for being of the IRGC-QF), all of which should provide us little comfort.”
  • “The most dramatic impact would be the virtual elimination of coercion and persuasion; in nuclear deterrence there remains only warfare by proxy and Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD).”
  • “Beyond the unbridled use of a full spectrum of surrogate forces, they would have an inordinate and immediate ability to incur deep and sustained economic costs that would alter global alliances with China as penultimate consumer, and Europe as fractured addict. The ripple effects of such control would be felt well before they were exercised, and reshape the balance of power. Confident without repercussions and satisfied behind a nuclear inventory, Iran would flex its newly acquired regional hegemony to extend the buffer well beyond its Arab neighbors and in the process neutralize internal opposition (i.e., Kurds, Ahvazis, Azeris, Baluchs) without regard to international opinion.”
  • “Sunni Arab opposition would be reflexive and likely result in an increased reliance on Russia for assistance (perhaps the real winner in the global shift in power as ally to both Iran and the only port for a listing Arab world desperately seeking military assistance). The conflict would expand, but it’s worth noting that we can expect a host of pernicious and unintended consequences as Arab states fund and support any and all opposition to Iran including but not limited to, ISIS and AQ and its Associated Movements (AQAM—yes, these latter groups still exist).”

Again, these are just excerpts and relatively coherent ones at that (at least compared to other parts of the testimony). To get the full sense of his thinking—if one can call it that—one really has to read the whole thing.

Now, it’s possible that he has since changed his views. After more than a full year of the JCPOA’s actual implementation, he sees that the agreement has effectively constrained what he thought was Iran’s nuclear weapons program so that the horrible scenarios he saw in 2015 may not be appear so realistic to him. But I wouldn’t count on it.

Photo of Michael T. Flynn by Gage Skidmore via Flickr

Jim Lobe

Jim Lobe served for some 30 years as the Washington DC bureau chief for Inter Press Service and is best known for his coverage of U.S. foreign policy and the influence of the neoconservative movement.



  1. Flynn’s approach to Iran seems crudely & recklessly geopolitical: knock out Israel’s rival claimant to regional leadership — Iran — as a means of presumably advancing America’s national security interests. He is already doing his bit to escalate tensions (reminiscent of the worst cops on the beat as caught on cell phones around the country), thereby increasing the chance of a much-desired violent confrontation. I would suggest, however, that the most effective way to neutralize his dangerous candidacy is to point to his repeated trash-talking of US foreign policy on Russian TV and his foreign lobbying for the likes of Turkish strong-man Erdogan. Trouble is, there are more loonies waiting in the wings, and if anything, uber-neocon Bolton’s bellicose stance on Iran seems to be even more recklessly unhinged than Flynn’s is.

    I would hope for a two-pronged approach to keep these dangerous hotheads in check: first, a thorough US intelligence investigation of possible illicit collusion between Trump’s new inner circle and the Russian government and second, a grass-roots network of protestors to push back hard against any gratuitous escalation of tension with Iran by the incoming Trump administration.

  2. Mr Trump appears to be in possession of a heretofore secret list of lunatics from which he is drawing in constructing his administration. Gawd help Amerika.

  3. The paper tigers always talk tough because of their own inner weaknesses! When the reality of a situation hits them in the face they will bargain their standings and then claim a false victory!

  4. Flynn’s assertion that Iran “has stated many times its intent to build nuclear weapons” is simply false. I tend to think Flynn is intentionally attempting to deceive the US Congress and the American public.

  5. How such a person could even be listened to at any time is indicative of the terrible ignorance and perverted thought processes of so many of our leaders and their slavish enablers in the media. How can he fly in the face of all evidence (Iran has attacked no other country for centuries) and insist on its danger for Israel (obviously far more important than USA’s real interests in the rest of the world) when Iran has scrupulously conformed to all the requirements of the agreement? I note today that the US Congress has now imposed even more sanctions (419 votes to 1 in the House) despite the hampering effect on US business and jobs eg now a Boeing trade with Iran.

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