Rubio — considered to be a top contender for the Republican nomination for president in 2016 — “has worked to establish his credentials in foreign affairs,” the Times notes, “espousing a hawkish view as he sits on foreign relations and the intelligence committee.” Indeed, Fly’s addition to Rubio’s team would boost the Florida Republican’s hawkish credentials, as Fly is an ardent supporter of war with Iran.
In October, 2011, Fly declared that diplomacy with Iran had “failed” and three months later, writing in Foreign Affairs, Fly and AEI’s Gary Schmitt called for an extended bombing campaign to damage Iran’s nuclear program and set the scene for regime change, a result Fly and Schmitt themselves acknowledged only “might” happen:
Thanks to internal political developments and sanctions, the regime is at its weakest point in decades. But the international community is slowly exhausting the universe of palatable sanctions, and even the pressure brought to bear on Iran thus far has not caused it to halt its program. A limited strike against nuclear facilities would not lead to regime change. But a broader operation might. It would not even need to be a ground invasion aimed specifically at toppling the government.
The United States would basically need to expand its list of targets beyond the nuclear program to key command and control elements of the Republican Guard and the intelligence ministry, and facilities associated with other key government officials. The goal would be to compromise severely the government’s ability to control the Iranian population. This would require an extended campaign, but since even a limited strike would take days and Iran would strike back, it would be far better to design a military operation that has a greater chance of producing a satisfactory outcome.
A bipartisan expert report released last September concluded that in order to achieve regime change, “the occupation of Iran would require a commitment of resources and personnel greater than what the U.S. has expended over the past 10 years in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars combined.”
Moreover, Fly and Schmitt didn’t provide any specific evidence to support their theory that Iranians would both perceive an American attack favorably and use it as a pretext to overthrow the regime. In fact, experts and even Iranian activists have said that a U.S.-led attack would have the opposite effect and solidify the regime’s hold on power. And when asked about these potential flaws, Fly acknowledged that if ordinary Iranians perceived a U.S. strike as an attack on them, “it would be incredibly problematic in terms of what any follow on government and what their posture would be toward the United States or anyone else involved in this military operation.”
The Obama administration, on the other hand, is pursuing a duel approach of tough sanctions — which are having real impact — and diplomacy with Iran to end the nuclear standoff. “I think that at this point in time, you know, all of us need to — to make clear that the first priority is to sit and negotiate,” Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said in an interview on Thursday. “The last option ought to be military action.”
But for Rubio’s new top foreign policy adviser, military action appears to be the first option. If Rubio does indeed decide to run for president in 2016, his choice of Fly to be his top adviser is further indication that the Republicans just can’t quit the neocons. (HT: Michael Cohen)