U.S. foreign policy hawks, with decades of disaster behind them, call for a threat to attack Iran

The headline should read: “Arsonists Call for Setting Controlled Fires in Iran.” Seven U.S. foreign policy hawks, with decades of disaster in the Mideast behind them, just published a statement urging the Biden administration to threaten a military attack on Iran. They said:

We believe it is vital to restore to restore Iran’s fear that its current nuclear path will trigger the use of force against it by the United States.

The statement is arrogant and irresponsible. General David Petraeus, one of the signatories, must have learned nothing from his experience in the invasion and occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan. Other warmongers include Leon Panetta, the former Secretary of Defense and CIA head, and Michele Flournoy, who Biden fortunately did not pick to head the Defense Department. Two former members of Congress and pro-Israel lobby stalwarts, Howard Berman and Jane Harman, also signed, along with the Professional Peace Processor, Dennis Ross. The statement appeared on the website of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a front for Israel, but the signatories somehow forgot to mention Israel by name. 

Meanwhile, the New York Times finally raised doubts about the wisdom of an Israeli attack on Iran. Long after the Israeli newspaper Haaretz and others ran skeptical reports, the Times finally found Israeli military officials and experts who warned that, “Israel lacks the ability to pull off an assault that could destroy, or even significantly delay, Iran’s nuclear program, at least not anytime soon.” The paper, possibly shamed by its media counterparts into catching up to their reporting, also pointed out that an Israeli raid, “would also likely set off retaliatory attacks from Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza, allies of Iran that would try to force Israel to fight a war on several fronts simultaneously.” 

Even the right-wing Times of Israel beat the New York Times to the truth. The Israeli Times just published a very long, valuable interview with Danny Citrinowicz, the former head of research at Israel’s Military Intelligence, who argued that Israel should not have vigorously tried to stop the 2015 Iran deal. Citrinowicz also “was dismissive of previous attacks attributed to Israel on Iran’s nuclear program, arguing that they at best delayed Tehran’s efforts and at worst led the regime to double down in its effort, craftily evading inspections in the process.” 

Sina Toossi, an expert on Iran’s internal politics, has a thoughtful article analyzing the current negotiations to revive the Iran deal. Toossi recognizes that the new, even more hardline Iranian government did put forward “aggressive proposals,” at the latest round of talks in Vienna, but points out that the Biden administration is similarly inflexible, a losing strategy because Iran knows the U.S. already left an agreement that it was faithfully observing. Toossi says: “Biden has pursued a continuation of the Trump administration’s ‘maximum pressure’ campaign, and the only carrots he is offering provide Iran the prospect — but not any certainty — of long-term benefits in exchange for rejoining a deal the U.S. already reneged on once.”

Even a hard-core neoconservative like Max Boot recognizes the failure of the U.S. policy toward Iran. Boot writes:

President Donald Trump’s 2018 decision to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal might have been the most disastrous foreign policy miscalculation since the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

The Biden administration is showing some caution. To attack Iran’s nuclear sites by air, Israel would need KC-46 refueling tanker aircraft, manufactured in the U.S. Tel Aviv asked the U.S. to speed up delivery of the planes, but the U.S. privately said no

Once again, though, the dangerous parallel with the summer of 1914 comes to mind. On June 28 that year, an Austrian archduke was assassinated in the Balkans. No one expected that a local conflict would expand beyond an obscure corner of southeastern Europe. But the Great Powers got involved, and within weeks Austria, Germany, Russia, France and later Britain were at war with each other. Similarly, there’s no guarantee that an Israeli (or an American) attack on Iran will end there.

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