If you haven’t seen it already, check out the op-ed by former Sens. Daniel Coats and Charles Robb in the Washington Post today, entitled “Stopping a Nuclear Tehran.” It is the summary of a report issued last month by an organization called The Bipartisan Policy Center (at whose website you can find the full report), and it amounts to a roadmap to war with Iran to which a senior Middle East adviser in the Obama campaign — namely, Dennis Ross — has apparently signed on.
[UPDATE: Make sure you also read in this connection today’s New York Times article by David Sanger, particularly the part about the purported e-mail from Obama that was routed through an unidentified “aide,” who I presume to be Ross. The coincidence of the appearance of this article with the Coats-Robb op-ed suggests an effort to box Obama into a pre-election position. The Iran part of the story by Sanger, who considers himself a foreign-policy player, as well as a reporter, tracks the report’s narrative quite nicely.]
While Coats and Robb were the co-chairs of the task force that produced the report, “Meeting the Challenge: U.S. Policy Toward Iranian Nuclear Development,” the main authors appear to have been the Center’s project director, Michael Makovsky, and Michael Rubin of the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), who listed the report as his work on the AEI website earlier this month. Makovsky, of course, is the younger brother of David Makovsky, the former head and currently senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), which has acted more or less as a “think tank” for the so-called “Israel Lobby” over the 20-some years since it was created as a spin-off of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). Michael, who reportedly emigrated to Israel in 1989, served under Doug Feith at the Pentagon where he was part of the team that helped manipulate the intelligence to facilitate the path to war in Iraq. Rubin, of course, also worked in Rumsfeld’s office at the same time.
Now, you would expect a report like this, which is clearly aimed at the transition team of an incoming president, from hard-line neo-cons with a distinctly Likudist bent like Makovsky and Rubin, or, for that matter, task force member Steve Rademaker, the spouse of AEI’s Danielle Pletka, who also worked under John Bolton in the State Department. But what really drew my attention to the report when I first heard about it two or three weeks ago, was the fact that Dennis Ross, who is a senior foreign-policy to Barack Obama, also signed on to the report as a task-force member. Ross, who previously served as the chief Israel-Palestinian negotiator for Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, has been associated with WINEP in various positions since he left public service, although, unlike Makovsky or Rubin, his sympathies have leaned more to Labour than to Likud, at least in the Israeli context.
According to a variety of sources, Ross was the main drafter of Obama’s pander (except on the settlers) to AIPAC’s annual convention here in May and has since raised his hopes for a top post in an Obama administration, possibly even secretary of state. Frankly, I doubt that the latter prospect is realistic, but — and here’s the main point — I have it from several sources close to the campaign that he is more eager to gain control over the Iran portfolio (possibly special envoy) than to work on the problem that he knows best from his long experience, the Israel-Palestinian conflict. If he succeeds in his quest and if this report is any reflection of his views, then the U.S. could very well find itself at war with Iran within a remarkably short period of time.
I leave it to you to read the column or, better, the executive summary of the report. But I would highlight just a few of its major points on which Ross should be closely questioned if Obama should win the election and considers Ross for any post that would have anything to do with Iran policy:
— A strategy of deterrence, if Iran became a “nuclear-capable” state, would not necessarily work because of the “Islamic Republic’s extremist ideology.”
— No agreement can be reached that would permit Iran to enrich uranium on its own territory under any circumstances, including even under the strictest international inspections regime.
— A “grand bargain” with Iran cannot be worked out in the time that remains before Iran builds a stockpile of 20 kgs of highly enriched uranium 6 kgs of plutonium which would make it technically “nuclear weapons-capable” and which thus must be unacceptable to the U.S.
— The U.S. should be willing to suspend all bilateral nuclear co-operation with Russia in order to pressure it to cooperate on Iran; that is, lending Washington full diplomatic support and refusing to provide additional assistance to Tehran’s nuclear and missile programs or to sell it advanced conventional-weapons systems.
— The U.S. should maintain a constant dialogue with Israel because “…(o)nly if Israeli policymakers believe that U.S. and European policymakers will ensure that the Islamic Republic does not gain nuclear weapons will the Israelis be unlikely to strike Iran independently.” In other words, unless the U.S. is prepared to take out Iran’s nuclear facilities, Israel will likely do so without seeking a green light from Washington.
— If the next administration agrees to enter into direct talks with Iran without insisting on its suspension of enrichment, it must set a pre-determined deadline for compliance with its demands, after which it should be prepared to enforce a blockade of Iranian gasoline imports, followed, if Iran still does not agree, by a blockade of its oil exports. If that does not have the desired effect or if Iran retaliated in some way, the U.S. should be prepared to launch a military strike that would “have to target not only Iran’s nuclear infrastructure, but also its conventional military infrastructure in order to suppress an Iranian response.” Such an attack would be followed immediately by “providing food and medical assistance within Iran…” [!!!]
— To convey his seriousness both to Iran and to the international community, the new president should begin building up the U.S. military presence in the region “the first day (he) enters office…” Specifically this would involve “pre-positioning additional U.S. and allied forces, deploying additional aircraft carrier battle groups and minesweepers, emplacing other war material in the region, including additional missile defense batteries, upgrading both regional facilities and allied militaries, and expanding strategic partnerships with countries such as Azerbaijan and Georgia [!!!] in order to maintain operational pressure from all directions.” The report goes on to note that “the presence of U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan offers distinct advantages in any possible confrontation with Iran. The United States can bring in troops and material to the region under the cover of the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts, thus maintaining a degree of strategic and tactical surprise.” [Emphasis added in light of recent concerns raised in Iraq about the Status of Forces Agreement.]
In other words, if Tehran is not eventually prepared to permanently abandon its enrichment of uranium on its own soil — a position that is certain to be rejected by Iran ab initio — then war becomes inevitable, and all intermediate steps, even including direct talks if the new president chooses to pursue them, will amount to going through the motions (presumably to gather international support for when push comes to shove). While I would certainly not be surprised if such an approach were adopted by a McCain administration, what is a top Obama adviser doing signing on to it?