Led by a familiar clutch of neoconservative hawks,
major right-wing publications are calling on the administration of President
George W. Bush to urgently plan for military strikes and possibly a wider
war against Iran in the wake of its announcement this week that it has
successfully enriched uranium to a purity necessary to fuel nuclear reactors.
In a veritable blitz of editorials and opinion pieces published Wednesday and
Thursday, the Wall Street Journal, the Weekly Standard, and National
Review warned that Tehran had passed a significant benchmark in what they
declared was its quest for nuclear weapons and that the administration must
now plan in earnest to destroy Iran's known nuclear facilities, as well as possible
military targets, to prevent it from retaliating.
Comparing Iran's alleged push to gain a nuclear weapon to Adolf Hitler's 1936
march on the Rhineland, Weekly Standard editor William
Kristol called for undertaking "serious preparation for possible military
action including real and urgent operational planning for bombing strikes
and for the consequences of such strikes."
"[A] great nation has to be serious about its responsibilities,"
according to Kristol, a leading neoconservative champion of the Iraq war and
co-founder of the Project for the New American Century, "even if executing
other responsibilities has been more difficult than one would have hoped."
National Review, another prominent right-wing weekly, echoed the call.
"Any air campaign should
be coupled with aggressive and persistent
efforts to topple the regime from within," advised its lead editorial,
Now," and almost certainly written by Michael Ledeen of the neoconservative
American Enterprise Institute (AEI).
"Accordingly, it should hit not just the nuclear facilities, but also
the symbols of state oppression: the intelligence ministry, the headquarters
of the Revolutionary Guard, the guard towers of the notorious Evin Prison."
The hawks' latest campaign appeared timed not only to exploit the alarm created
by Iran's nuclear achievement and by a spate of reports last weekend regarding
the advanced state of U.S. war plans, but also to counter new appeals by a number
of prominent and more mainstream former policymakers for Washington to engage
Iran in direct negotiations.
The Financial Times Wednesday published a column
by Richard Haass, president of the New York-based Council on Foreign Relations
and a top adviser to Secretary of State Colin Powell during Bush's first term,
in which he called for Washington to make "a fair and generous diplomatic
offer" to Iran that would permit it to retain a small uranium enrichment
program, if for no other reason than to rally international opinion behind the
U.S. in the event rejects it.
Arguing that the "likely costs of carrying out such an attack substantially
outweigh probable benefits," Haass noted that "the most dangerous
delusion [among those who support military action] is that a conflict would
be either small or quick."
On Thursday, he was joined by Powell's deputy secretary of state, Richard Armitage,
who, in an
interview with the Financial Times, also called for direct talks.
"It merits talking to the Iranians about the full range of our relationship
everything from energy to terrorism to weapons to Iraq," said Armitage,
who is considered a strong candidate to take over the Pentagon if Donald Rumsfeld
resigns or is forced out.
"We can be diplomatically astute enough to do it without giving anything
away," he added, noting that Washington could be patient "for a while"
given the estimated five to 10 years the U.S. intelligence community believes
it will take before Tehran can obtain a nuclear weapon.
Such statements are anathema to the hawks, who have long depicted any move
to engage Iran as equivalent to the appeasement policies toward Hitler of France
and Britain in the run-up to World War II.
"Is the America of 2006 more willing to thwart the unacceptable than the
France of 1936?" asked the title of Kristol's editorial, which, despite
the reports of advanced Pentagon planning that included even the possibility
of using tactical nuclear weapons against hardened Iranian targets, asserted
that the administration's policy had been "all carrots and no sticks."
His view echoed that of the neoconservative editorial writers at the Wall
Street Journal, who said the administration's "alleged war fever
is hard to credit, given that for three years the Bush Administration has deferred
to Europe in pursuing a diplomatic track on Iran." The Journal said the
government must give priority to developing "bunker buster" nuclear
While Kristol insisted that the "credible threat of force" should
initially be used in support of diplomacy with Washington's European allies,
he also called for "stepping up intelligence activities, covert operations,
special operations, and the like," as well as "operational planning
for possible military strikes."
What he had in mind was laid out in a companion article by ret. Air Force Lt.
Gen. Thomas McInerney, a member of the ultra-hawkish Iran Policy Committee (IPC),
If Iran resists diplomatic pressure, according to McInerney, Washington should
be prepared to carry out a "powerful air campaign" led by 60 stealth
aircraft, and more than 400 non-stealth strike aircraft with roughly 150 refueling
tankers and other support aircraft, 100 unmanned aerial vehicles, and 500 cruise
missiles to take out some 1,500 nuclear-related and military targets.
Before or during such an attack, he wrote, "a major covert operation could
be launched, utilizing Iranian exiles and dissident forces trained during the
period of diplomacy." The IPC has long advocated support for the Mujahedin-e-Khalq
(MeK), an Iraq-based paramilitary group listed as a terrorist organization by
the State Department.
In yet another op-ed published in Thursday's Washington Post, Mark
Helprin, a novelist and Israeli military veteran, called for anticipating
the possibility that U.S. forces in Iraq and its broader interests in the region
could be imperiled by Iranian retaliation and popular outrage in the Arab Middle
To prepare for such an eventuality, "we would do well to strengthen
in numbers and mass as well as quality the means with which we fight, to
reinforce the fleet train with which to supply fighting lines, and to plan for
a land route from the Mediterranean across Israel and Jordan to the Tigris and
Such concerns, counseled Reuel Marc Gerecht, a Gulf specialist at AEI, are
overblown. In a lengthy analysis of the possible costs of a military attack
that was also published in the Standard, he argued that Washington should
"not be intimidated by threats of terrorism, oil-price spikes, or hostile
"What we are dealing with is a politer, more refined, more cautious, vastly
more mendacious version of bin Ladenism," according to the article, entitled
Bomb, or Not to Bomb: That Is the Iran Question." "It is best
that such men not have nukes, and that we do everything in our power, including
preventive military strikes, to stop this from happening."
(Inter Press Service)