On Fox News Sunday, two of the Senate’s leading Iran hawks pressed the administration to do more on Iran and issued thinly-veiled threats to the Islamic Republic.
Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT), who has advocated for “retir(ing) our ambiguous mantra about all options remaining on the table” for Iran and made sure then-Defense Secretary nominee Leon Panetta has a plan for attacking, warned the Islamic Republic that a “day of reckoning” was ahead:
I would say that a day of reckoning is coming for this extremist regime in Iran, when a majority of Iranians who really yearn for freedom can see this dream come true. And I hope we do everything we can to make this happen as soon as possible.
The platitudes about helping freedom-seeking Iranians would mean a lot more if actual Iranian human rights and democracy advocates agreed with Lieberman. Instead, they say that an attack would be disastrous for them and that, indeed, the U.S.’s shifting away from belligerent rhetoric helped open up a political space in Iran.
Lieberman’s close ally Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) also didn’t seem to get some regional dynamics in the Iran-Iraq relationship. When asked about Iran’s alleged support for the Taliban, Graham said:
I think people need to understand why Iran is doing this. The biggest nightmare for the Ayaltollahs in Iran is democracies on their borders in Iraq and Afghanistan. …Their biggest nightmare is that the Arab spring is successful. I hope the president will condemn this and put Iran on warning that you’re not going to get away with this.
Watch the video of Graham and Lieberman on Fox News Sunday:
Graham’s characterization of Iran’s involvement in Iraq only captures a small bit of the picture: There may be involvement with Shia militas, but most of Iran’s political clout in Iraq comes from its contacts with the Shia majority that was empowered with the fall of Saddam Hussein. Take, for example, Ahmad Chalabi, the exiled politician who, after cozying up to Washington hawks like Lieberman and Graham, was paid millions of dollars by the State Department and the C.I.A. to provide the faulty intelligence that was used to sell the war in America. Chalabi was later accused by U.S. forces of spying for Iran.
Again in Graham’s case, turning to actual Iranian human rights advocates is instructive. Late last year, Iranian human rights lawyer and now-exiled dissident Shirin Ebadi told CAP’s Matt Duss that the Iraq War was a great example of why not to attack Iran. Noting that Iran’s “Green movement is the Iranian peoples’ movement” and that change “must come from inside Iran,” Ebadi added:
You paid money, Iraqis died, and Iran has benefited. Saddam was Iran’s enemy that was removed by the U.S., (and Iran’s power and influence has been increased as a result).
Are Chalabi-backers like Lieberman and people with shaky understandings of regional dynamics like Graham really the ones whose advice the president ought to take on what to do about Iran?