Just as the House is preparing to pass extremely counterproductive legislation on sanctions, neoconservative outlets, while supporting these measures, are now vocal in saying that if enacted they won’t work. In a rash of action in the op-ed pages today, neoconservatives were busy deploring the Iranian regime arguing that they can’t be deterred and calling on Obama to do something – and while none of these writers explicitly stated what that something is, we have a pretty good idea.
Danielle Pletka in the Washington Post argues the Iranian regime is not like the Soviet Union – it can’t be deterred:
It is wrong to think a nuclear Iran can be contained. … The Obama administration should be pressed to find a new way forward. At the very least, we must hope the president’s new policy will not find footing in the false notion that a nuclear Iran can be contained.
Bret Stephens Wall Street Journal floats a conspiracy theory that Iran is helping Venezuela go nuclear which will lead to Cuban Missile Crisis 2.0:
Forty-seven years ago, Americans woke up to the fact that a distant power could threaten us much closer to home. Perhaps it’s time Camelot 2.0 take note that we are now on course for a replay.
The Washington Times editorial page says that Iran is just two weeks away from having a bomb!
The Mullahs could have a bomb any day now… The greatest national security challenge that will face the Obama administration is coming, and Mr. Obama will either shape events or be shaped by them. He said in Oslo that “those who seek peace cannot stand idly by as nations arm themselves for nuclear war.” However, the United States has been standing idle for years, and time is running out. … According to our calendar, that window opens about two weeks from now.
These three pieces should be seen for what they really are: an attempt to beat the war drums loud enough to put the US on the path toward war with Iran.
Since even the most effective and coordinated of international sanctions regimes (such as those that the Obama administration is trying to gather support for) will take time to have an effect, neoconservatives – by preemptively arguing that sanctions are not enough or will fail – will argue from now until forever that Iran is on the verge of attacking someone (Israel or the US), that those suicidal Mullahs can’t be deterred, and that military action is needed right now. Hence, the Washington Times laughable claim that Iran will have a weapon in two weeks.
You would not be remiss for thinking this sounds an awful lot like 2002, when neoconservatives were claiming that the sanctions regime levied against Iraq had failed and began inserting frightening talk of mushroom clouds and yellow cake into a highly charged debate. However in this case, Iran actually has a nuclear program and there is considerable evidence that Iran is developing a nuclear weapons capacity – in other words right-wing fear mongering is not as completely baseless as it was in 2002. Yet the notion that time has run out on diplomatic engagement with Iran and the only way to deal with a threat is to bomb them is totally bogus.
A coordinated and targeted international sanctions regime, not the counterproductive IRPSA legislation in the House, could potentially put real intense targeted pressure on the Iranian regime, squeezing it financially, isolating it internationally, and further undercutting its legitimacy inside Iran. Sanctions that seek to contain Iran, combined with deterrence will likely be just as effective vis-a-vis Iran as it was during the Cold War. And the notion that Iran can’t be deterred or contained is exactly what we have heard about every nuclear-armed adversary of the United States since the end of the World War II. Fareed Zakaria made this point succinctly in 2007, while debating bomb-Iran enthusiast Norman Podhoretz. Watch it:
ZAKARIA: In the early ’80s, Podhoretz and the neo-conservatives believed the Soviet Union was going to take over the world and Finlandise Europe. When Ronald Reagan started talking to the Soviets, Podhoretz excoriated him. It was the “Reagan road to detente”. It turned out the neo-conservatives were wrong. It turned out that the Soviets were not that powerful, and that history was on our side, and that things were going to work out as long as we kept our cool. Just as we have deterred the Soviet Union, Mao’s China and North Korea’s Kim, history will prove that we can use deterrence to contain the problem of Iran. We do not need to launch a third unilateral invasion just to do that.