Last year at the Halifax International Security Forum in Canada, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) made headlines when he called on President Obama to support an attack on Iran to prevent it from acquiring nuclear weapons. Today at this year’s forum in Halifax, Sen. John McCain (R-SC) noted Graham’s comments, and claimed that since then, talk of striking Iran has become more acceptable. It’s “generally accepted opinion,” McCain said citing former Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Adm. Mike Mullen, that “the only thing worse than attack on Iran is Iran with nuclear weapons.” (Mullen has actually warned against attacking Iran).
Also during the Halifax forum discussion today, McCain criticized Obama for not speaking out more forcefully for the Green Movement in 2009, saying that it amounted to one of the greatest foreign policy missteps of the 21st century. In a press conference after the Halifax forum discussion, ThinkProgress asked McCain what he thought an attack on Iran would do to the opposition movement there. McCain paused, saying, “That’s a good question.” Then after diverting a bit by talking about general sanctions on Iran, McCain came back to the question and suggested that the Green Movement might welcome an attack:
TP: I just wanted to go back to Iran for a second. There was talk of attacking Iran in the discussion earlier over its nuclear program and I’m wondering what you think that would do to the Green Movement.
MCCAIN: That’s a good question and I’d like for Senator Udall to talk about that. First of all on the attack, the issue of an attack on Iran. I do believe that we should pursue sanctions. [...]
The Green Movement in all candor is already very disillusioned with the United States of America because of our failure to support them in 2009 when they rose up and died in the streets of Tehran and other cities in Iran. So I think that it — I can’t speak for them but if they thought it was a way that would eventually unseat the government then they might be supportive but they are understandably in my view very skeptical about whatever the United States does now.
While it’s unclear what information the Arizona senator is basing that assessment on, Iranian civil society, human rights activists and those close to the Green Movement have said that military action against Iran would be a huge set back for the opposition there. Last June, a spokesperson for the Green Coordinating Council said, “The regime would really like for someone to come drop two bombs” on Iran’s nuclear facilites because it “would then increase nationalism and the regime would gather everyone and all the political parties around itself.”
RAND Corp. Iran expert Alireza Nader agrees. “What a military strike could do is unite all Iran’s various factions and personalities around the supreme leader,” Nader said in June.