Matthew Kroenig and Trita Parsi Debate: Should the US Strike Iran?

Back in January, academic Matthew Kroenig claimed the United States could militarily strike Iran without causing havoc and catastrophe in the region. His arguments were widely criticized and supported by the usual suspects. Jamie Fly, the neoconservative executive director of the Foreign Policy Initiative, disagreed with Kroenig, but only because Kroenig did not go far enough. Then in May the two penned an op-ed arguing that President Obama had offered Iran too many carrots. This was just days before the talks almost collapsed after the only “relief” the Western-led negotiating team offered Iran was spare parts for aircraft that have suffered tremendously under sanctions. What would assist the negotiation process, according to Fly and Kroenig? More threats of military force, of course.

Although using the military option on Iran hasn’t exactly taken off as a preferred choice here in Washington, Kroenig and like-minded folks working at prominent platforms like the Wall Street Journal continue to beat their drums. That’s likely one reason why the Council on Foreign Relations hosted a debate moderated by Foreign Affairs editor Gideon Rose between Kroenig and Trita Parsi, a prominent US-Iran relations analyst and president of the National Iranian American Council. The entire debate is worth listening to, but in a nutshell, Kroenig reiterates the arguments from his article: out of the 3 potential outcomes with Iran — successful diplomacy, nuclear containment and military conflict, the third is most likely and planning should begin even while the US continues its diplomatic track with Iran. Israel isn’t equipped to do the job, so the US should carry out “limited” strikes and only respond devastatingly if Iran retaliates with more than wimper by, for example, closing the Strait of Hormuz.

Parsi accordingly points out several flaws in Kroenig’s argument: an Iranian nuclear weapon is neither inevitable nor imminent, diplomacy has neither failed nor been whole-heartedly utilized and the experience of the Iraq War, which took the lives of 5,000 Americans and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, shows that a war with Iran is hardly going to be quick and relatively painless as Kroenig suggests. Parsi adds that as with the lead-up to the Iraq War, proponents of the military option with Iran are not from the military or intelligence communities. In fact, neoconservative hawks regularly contest the validity of intelligence and military assessments, which is ironic to say the least. Parsi also notes that as former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has repeatedly emphasized, bombing a country is the best way to convince it that it needs a nuclear deterrent to ward of future attacks…

Jasmin Ramsey

Jasmin Ramsey is a journalist based in Washington, DC.