Republican presidential hopeful Jon Huntsman flirted with the notion of preventative war against Iran last month in his foreign policy speech. But in an interview with CNN’s Pierce Morgan last night, Huntsman argued that sanctions “aren’t going to have much of an impact” and suggested that military action might be the only way to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.
Huntsman’s comment, which comes as the U.S. faces difficulty in gaining U.N. Security Council support for another round of even more punitive sanctions, is perhaps the most hawkish position taken by a GOP presidential candidate. His position removes the crucial caveat, which most Iran-hawks embrace, that military action should only be taken if sanctions fail.
His dismissal of sanctions as an effective tool for deterring or slowing Iran’s alleged nuclear weapon’s program disregards a May U.N. report confirming that sanctions have slowed Iran’s nuclear program. More importantly, his statements would seem to suggest that a Huntsman Presidency would commit itself to preemptive military action against Iran.
Read the transcript:
MORGAN: What is the right way to deal with Iran if they are going to flagrantly ignore any form of international community opinion on this?
HUNTSMAN: Well I think that’s exactly what’s going on. You can layer sanction upon sanction and I think in the end the sanctions aren’t going to have much of an impact. Sanctions have already been taken to the U.N. Security Council. You can go for another round of sanctions and that probably should be tried. You can go after their state bank. You can sanction the elite. You can sanction those travelling in and out. You can tighten the noose in ways that will make life a lot more difficult from an economic standpoint. But my sense is that their ultimate aspiration is to become a nuclear power, in which case sanctions probably aren’t going to get you there. And that means [it's] likely we’re going to have a conversation with Israel at some point. As we approach that point it’s important for the United States to remind the world what it means to be a friend and ally of the United States. [...]
The conclusion that a “conversation with Israel” is inevitable, would appear to be a reference to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s recent saber-rattling against Iran and the belief held by many Iran-hawks that if the U.S. doesn’t act militarily against Iran, Israel will attack unilaterally.
Huntsman came under fire this summer when Politico reported on his family’s business dealings in Iran and his brother’s opposition to sanctions. Peter Huntsman said, “By not doing trade with Iran, are we hurting people that are reaching out for western business?” Having all but declared the failure of sanctions and described war with Iran as a virtual inevitability, Huntsman may have successfully beaten back the accusations that he is too moderate on Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons program.