Right Web

Tracking militarists’ efforts to influence U.S. foreign policy

U.S. Hawks Behind Iraq War Rally for Strikes Against Iran

Familiar Iraq war boosters have seized on the alleged Iranian plot against the Saudi ambassador to the United States to push for war with Iran.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Inter Press Service

Key neo-conservatives and other right-wing hawks who championed the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq are calling for military strikes against Iran in retaliation for its purported murder-for-hire plot against the Saudi ambassador here.

Leading the charge is the Foreign Policy Initiative (FPI), the ideological successor to the Project for the New American Century (PNAC), which played a critical role in mobilising support for "regime change" in Iraq in the late 1990s and subsequently spearheaded the public campaign to invade the country after the 9/11 attacks. The group sent reporters appeals by two of its leaders for military action on its letterhead Monday.

In a column headlined "Speak Softly …And Fight Back" in this week's Weekly Standard, chief editor William Kristol, co-founder of both PNAC and FPI, said the alleged plot amounted to "an engraved invitation" by Tehran to use force against it.

"We can strike at the Iranian Revolution Guard Corps (IRGC), and weaken them. And we can hit the regime's nuclear weapons program, and set it back," he wrote, adding that Congress should approve a resolution authorising the use of force against Iranian entities deemed responsible for attacks on U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, acts of terrorism, or "the regime's nuclear weapons program".

Kristol's advice was seconded by Jamie Fly, FPI's executive director, who called for President Barack Obama to emulate former presidents Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton when they ordered targeted strikes against Libya in 1986 and Iraq in 1993, respectively, in retaliation for alleged terrorist plots against U.S. targets.

"It is time for President Obama to follow in the footsteps of his predecessors and stand up to tyrants who kill Americans and threaten our interests," wrote Fly, who served on the National Security Council staff and the Pentagon under George W. Bush, in the on-line edition of The National Review.

"It is time to take military action against the Iranian government elements that support terrorism and its nuclear program. More diplomacy is not an adequate response," he wrote.

The FPI appeals, which have been echoed by other former Iraq war hawks, such as Bush's former U.N. ambassador, John Bolton, and Reuel Marc Gerecht at the neo-conservative Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), came as analysts here continue to debate the credibility of the alleged plot against Saudi Amb. Adel al-Jubeir and how to react to it if, as the administration contends, it was authorised at a high level in Tehran.

The likelihood that the plot was indeed real – and, if so, whether it gained high-level authorisation – has been widely questioned, mainly by two sets of experts here.

Reaction among virtually all Iran specialists, including former government and intelligence personnel, has ranged from outright scepticism to bewilderment over what, if the alleged plot was actually consummated, Tehran would have hoped to gain from assassinating the Saudi ambassador on U.S. soil.

"(N)othing short of mind-boggling," wrote Vali Nasr, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institute, in reaction to the alleged plot. "If true, this plot shows a monumental lapse in judgment on Tehran's part, an audacious and reckless adventurism that will go down as the clerical regime's colossal mistake that will weaken its hand internationally and even unravel its grip on power…"

Counter-terrorist experts knowledgeable about Iran's Quds Force, the elite unit of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) accused of sponsoring the scheme, have been even more sceptical that it would rely on an untested Iranian-American used-car salesman to make contact with a purported member of the Zetas drug cartel in Mexico to arrange the assassination.

The supposed Zeta contact turned out to be an informant for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), according to the complaint released with great fanfare last week by the attorney general.

"Fishy, fishy, fishy," said Bruce Riedel, a Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) veteran who was formerly in charge of the Near East and South Asia on the National Security Council, when asked to characterise his assessment, while Robert Baer, a former Middle East CIA field officer, compared the plot as outlined by the complaint to a "truly awful Hollywood script".

"None of it measures up to Iran's unsurpassed skill in conducting assassinations," he wrote on Time magazine's website.

"Why on earth would they create a situation in which they had to rely on this untested, untrained, unguided, and uncontrolled asset rather than their own people?" wrote Col. Pat Lang (ret.), the Defense Intelligence Agency's former top Middle East and South Asia analyst on his Sic Semper Tyrannis blog.

Calling the government's case "trash", Lang added that, "The overwhelming likelihood is that this is someone's 'information operation' intended to condition public attitudes for some purpose."

Such scepticism, however, has not deterred the administration, key lawmakers, or former Iraq hawks from calling for a stern response.

Indeed, Obama himself said Thursday that he will push for "the toughest sanctions" against Iran on the part of the U.S. allies and the U.N. Security Council, while senior Treasury officials testified that they were considering blacklisting Iran's central bank, a move that enjoyed strong bipartisan support in Congress, notably from lawmakers most closely associated with the Israel lobby, even before the alleged plot was disclosed.

But a number of former Iraq hawks, few of whom appear to entertain much doubt about the plot's seriousness or provenance, are calling for military action.

"More sanctions aren't a bad idea…," wrote Gerecht, a major proponent of invading Iraq when he was at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), in a column published Friday by the Wall Street Journal's staunchly neo-conservative editorial page. "But they will not scare (the regime). The White House needs to respond militarily to this outrage. If we don't we are asking for it."

Another Iraq war booster, Andrew McCarthy, also of FDD, joined the chorus in the National Review Online: "There is a range of possible political responses, of course, but given its three-decade campaign of aggression, the response to Iran must be military – and decisive. The regime must be destroyed."

Monday's appeal by FPI for military action was perhaps more remarkable, if only because three of the group's four directors – Eric Edelman, Robert Kagan, and Dan Senor – were recently named as key advisers to Mitt Romney, the frontrunner for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination.

Like Kristol, Kagan was a co-founder of both PNAC and FPI and a critical advocate of invading Iraq, while Senor served in Iraq after the invasion as a top official in the Coalition Provisional Authority. Edelman, who, as ambassador to Turkey at the time, lobbied its military to support the 2003 invasion, went on to serve as undersecretary of defence for policy under former Pentagon chief Donald Rumsfeld.

Although Romney has remained silent to date on how Washington should respond to the alleged plot, a number of his other advisers who championed the Iraq invasion have long called for the U.S. to make the threat of military action against Iran more credible.

In his first major policy address two weeks ago, Romney himself called for two aircraft carrier task forces to be permanently deployed in the region as a deterrent to Tehran.

Jim Lobe is the Washington bureau chief of the Inter Press Service and a contributor to Right Web (https://rightweb.irc-online.org). His blog on U.S. foreign policy can be read at http://www.lobelog.com.

Share RightWeb

Featured Profiles

Jon Lerner is a conservative political strategist and top adviser to US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley. He was a key figure in the “Never Trump” Campaign, which appears to have led to his being ousted as Vice President Mike Pence’s national security adviser.


Pamela Geller is a controversial anti-Islam activist who has founded several “hate groups” and likes to repeat debunked myths, including about the alleged existence of “no-go” Muslim zones in Europe.


Max Boot, neoconservative military historian at the Council on Foreign Relations, on Trump and Russia: “At every turn Trump is undercutting the ‘get tough on Russia’ message because he just can’t help himself, he just loves Putin too much.”


Although overlooked by President Trump for cabinet post, Gingrich has tried to shape affairs in the administration, including by conspiring with government officials to “purge the State Department of staffers they viewed as insufficiently loyal” to the president.


Former Sen Mark Kirk (R-IL) is an advisor for United Against Nuclear Iran. He is an outspoken advocate for aggressive action against Iran and a fierce defender of right-wing Israeli policies.


A military historian, Kimberly Kagan heads the Institute for the Study of War, where she has promoted the continuation of U.S. war in Afghanistan.


A “non-partisan” policy institute that purports to defend democracies from “militant Islamism,” the neoconservative Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) is an influential base of hawkish advocacy on Middle East policy.


For media inquiries,
email rightwebproject@gmail.com

From the Wires

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Other than the cynical political interests in Moscow and Tehran, there is no conceivable rationale for wanting Bashar al-Assad to stay in power. But the simple fact is, he has won the war. And while Donald Trump has reveled in positive press coverage of the recent attacks on the country, it is clear that they were little more than a symbolic act.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

The reality is that the Assad regime is winning the Syrian civil war, and this matters far less to U.S. interests than it does to that regime or its allies in Russia and Iran, who see Syria as their strongest and most consistent entrée into the Arab world. Those incontrovertible facts undermine any notion of using U.S. military force as leverage to gain a better deal for the Syrian people.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

An effective rhetorical tool to normalize military build-ups is to characterize spending increases “modernization.”


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

The Pentagon has officially announced that that “long war” against terrorism is drawing to a close — even as many counterinsurgency conflicts  rage across the Greater Middle East — and a new long war has begun, a permanent campaign to contain China and Russia in Eurasia.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Revelations that data-consulting firm Cambridge Analytica used ill-gotten personal information from Facebook for the Trump campaign masks the more scandalous reality that the company is firmly ensconced in the U.S. military-industrial complex. It should come as no surprise then that the scandal has been linked to Erik Prince, co-founder of Blackwater.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

As the United States enters the second spring of the Trump era, it’s creeping ever closer to more war. McMaster and Mattis may have written the National Defense Strategy that over-hyped the threats on this planet, but Bolton and Pompeo will have the opportunity to address these inflated threats in the worst way possible: by force of arms.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

We meet Donald Trump in the media every hour of every day, which blots out much of the rest of the world and much of what’s meaningful in it.  Such largely unexamined, never-ending coverage of his doings represents a triumph of the first order both for him and for an American cult of personality.


RightWeb
share