The National Security Network (NSN), an organization dedicated to promoting “pragmatic and principled” U.S. foreign policy, reports on the comments made Tuesday by 2008 Republican vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin in an interview with the conservative website NewsMax.
Her comments, says NSN, are part of an attempt to treat Iran as a “political football to scare voters and intimidate policy makers into taking military action against Iran.” The report counters her statements with those of former civilian and military Pentagon officials and former Foreign Service officers who all think such an attack would be a disaster. (We referred to NSN’s list here).
From the NSN report (with my emphasis):
Today, on a Newsmax broadcast, Sarah Palin proclaimed that allowing Iran to acquire nuclear weapons would result in a battle between good and evil, leading to “Armageddon.” Palin’s remarks are the most recent in a litany of bellicose rhetoric made by extreme conservatives about how to deal with Iran. Yet despite the attempts to use Iran as a political football to scare voters and intimidate policy makers into taking military action against Iran, national security experts and military leaders disagree with such an approach. In addition, the voters aren’t buying this argument, as a recent poll showed that only two in ten Americans would go to war with Iran if that country tested a nuclear bomb. […] Nonetheless, despite the fact that the Obama administration’s dual-track approach towards Iran of sanctions and diplomacy is beginning to bear fruit, the loudest conservative voices continue to be the most militant ones. However, policymakers should be wary of these arguments during this election season, as we have seen them before in the context of Iraq, where the most militant rhetoric won out during the midterm congressional campaign season of 2002. A skeptical eye needs to be drawn towards those who would use military action against Iran as a political tool rather than treating it as the serious national security issue that it is.
[…] “We have to realize that at the end of the day that a nuclear weapon in [Iran’s] hands is not just Israel’s problem or America’s problem – it is the world’s problem,” [Palin] said. “It could lead to Armageddon. It would lead to World War III that could decimate so much of this planet.”
At last week’s “War With Iran?” conference at Columbia University, I asked if either side in the nuclear stand-off — the Iranian leadership or the U.S. administration — was capable of cutting a nuclear deal while facing domestic political constraints. John Limbert, a former Iranian hostage who went on to serve as a Foreign Service officer and an Obama administration State Department official, responded that Iran is not an election issue. He cited the attempts of both Hillary Clinton (in the primaries) and Sen. John McCain (in the general election) to score points against Obama on the issue, noting that both failed and Obama won.
Limbert might be right. But it looks like Iran hawks won’t stop trying to make war with Iran a politically polarizing issue.