In response to a worrying trend in U.S. politics, Lobe Log publishes “Hawks on Iran” every Friday. Our posts highlight militaristic commentary and confrontational policy recommendations about Iran from a variety of sources including news articles, think tanks and pundits.
*Perhaps we spend too much time on hawkish commentary about Iran in the media and not enough on information that can be used to end the U.S.-Iran political impasse without the use of force. With that in mind, here’s a longer round-up of this week’s must-reads:
- Ken Dilanian: U.S. intelligence chief sees limited benefit in an attack on Iran
Fareed Zakaria: How history lessons could deter Iranian aggression
Scott Peterson: What would happen if Iran had the bomb? (+video)
Seyed Hossein Mousavian: How the Standoff Looks From Iran
Paul Pillar: Talks and Triumphalism
Matt Duss: The neocons’ big Iran lie
Mainstream Media and Pundits:
Wall Street Journal: Rarely does a week go by without the Journal’s editorial board publishing rabid, unsigned articles against Iran (rumored to be authored by former Jerusalem Post editor, Bret Stephens) while dismissing diplomacy and predicting military conflict. From “Iran Versus Everyone: The Islamic Republic’s belligerence threatens more than Israel”:
The larger story is that Iran is coming close to openly making war on the country it wants to wipe off the map. That’s an escalation from the more veiled (and often more deadly) warfare the Islamic Republic has waged against Israeli and Jewish targets for decades. It’s also an indication that the mullahs, far from seeking to de-escalate tensions with the West, are scrapping for a fight. They might get one.
It is in nobody’s interest, least of all America’s, to see a regional war erupt in the Middle East. It is even less in America’s interests to back our allies in Jerusalem into a corner where they feel they have no choice other than to fight, as they did in 1967. An Iran that seeks to murder diplomats across the globe is a threat to global security. The U.S. has an even larger interest than Israel in stopping it.
Alan Dershowitz in the WSJ: The pro-Israel Harvard Law Professor discusses how the U.S. can go to war with Iran:
U.S. retaliation could take the form of military action against Iran’s nuclear facilities. Though such action might be pre-emptive in its intention, it would be reactive as a matter of international law, since it would be in response to an armed attack by Iran. It wouldn’t require Security Council approval, since Article 51 of the U.N. Charter explicitly preserves the right of member nations to respond to any armed attack.
This is not to argue against such an attack if Iran decides not to go after soft American targets. It may become necessary for our military to target Iranian nuclear facilities if economic sanctions and diplomatic efforts do not succeed and if the Iranian government decides to cross red lines by militarizing its nuclear program and placing it in deep underground bunkers. But the legal justification for such an attack would be somewhat different. It would be predominantly pre-emptive or preventive, though it would have reactive elements as well, since Iran has armed our enemies in Iraq and caused the death of many American soldiers.
Daniel Schwammenthal in the WSJ: Director of the “AJC Transatlantic Institute in Brussels”, Daniel Schwammenthal, claims that containing Iran isn’t an option. His argument is published during the same month that an Iran anti-containment bill which would further restrict diplomacy options is being floated in Congress. Schwammenthal criticizes former President Jimmy Carter, journalist Fareed Zakaria and German diplomat Wolfgang Ischinger, for allegedly “downplaying the significance of the country’s weapons program”, even though U.S. and I.A.E.A. intelligence reports show there is no proof that Iran has a “weapons program”. Schwammenthal doesn’t call for war directly. Instead he rules out non-confrontational options while offering no solutions, but he does end his argument with a heavy dose of alarmism:
Following an atomic attack against a Western city, it would take investigators weeks if not months to determine the culprits, who may never be identified beyond reasonable doubt. It is hard to imagine any Western leader ordering a retaliatory nuclear strike, and thus the deaths of untold numbers of Iranian civilians, on the basis of inconclusive evidence months after the initial attack. Tehran would be quite rational to count on Western scruples in such a case.
The day after Iran’s first nuclear test would not be a normal day. Nor could the danger be contained.
(Check out another frightening article about Iran that was published in the WSJ’s opinion section this week: The Iranian Threat to New York City)
Jennifer Rubin in the Washington Post: While quoting well-known hawks, the staunchly pro-Israel blogger seems worried by the prospect of talks between U.S. and Iranian officials:
Meanwhile, critics of the administration are increasingly worried that, in downplaying talk of a military option and dangling the hope for a “diplomatic” solution, the president is headed for a diplomatic morass — either because he naively thinks there is a deal to be made or because he doesn’t want conflict in an election year. Jamie Fly of the Foreign Policy Initiative tells me, “To accept this regime as a serious negotiating partner at this point is ludicrous and will only give them more time to enrich uranium and take the final steps towards a nuclear weapons capability. Just as serious sanctions are finally being implemented is the worst time to ease the pressure.”
Mike Singh of the Washington Institute also cautions: “I think that the real risk is that Iran will once again use talks simply to delay and distract, rather than for a serious discussion of international concerns regarding its nuclear activities. The Iranian regime has a strong incentive to dissipate the considerable momentum of the sanctions campaign.”
James Kirchick in Haaretz: The Foundation for Defense of Democracies fellow and New Republic contributing editor, James Kirchick, urges the U.S. to pursue regime change in Iran:
…the long-term goal of the United States and the entire free world should be the downfall of the mullahs. Washington ought to pursue nonviolent ways of preventing Iran from attaining nuclear weapons, and work to limit its destabilizing behavior. But it must never adopt a policy that would consign the Iranian people to indefinite tyranny.
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