Will Obama Opt for War on Iran?
Sunday, February 7, 2010 10:45 AM
From: “Stephen Sniegoski”
To: “Stephen Sniegoski”
Two articles, one by anti-war conservative commentator Patrick Buchanan and the other by neoconservative Daniel Pipes, deal with the issue of Obama moving toward war on Iran for political reasons. In “Will Obama Play the War Card?,” Patrick Buchanan points out that this option is certainly a political temptation for Obama especially since Congress is pushing him in that direction. Buchanan cites Congress’ effort to impose very stiff sanctions on refined petroleum exports to Iran as a move toward war.
[On January 28, 2010, the U.S. Senate passed by voice vote the “Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability and Divestment Act of 2009” (S. 2799). The bill now goes to conference committee to be reconciled with a similar bill from the House of Representatives, the “Iran Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act” (H.R. 2194), which passed the House in December 2009. Because of the similarity of the two bills and the strong bipartisan support in both Houses of Congress, a final bill incorporating the essence of the Senate bill is almost guaranteed to be passed by both houses of Congress. The Obama administration has expressed objections, but there is no indication that Obama would dare to veto the final bill—and given the overwhelming congressional support, any presidential veto could be easily over-ridden.]
“Senate bill 2799,” Buchanan writes, “would punish any company exporting gasoline to Iran. Though swimming in oil, Iran has a limited refining capacity and must import 40 percent of the gas to operate its cars and trucks and heat its homes.” He argues that “cutting off a country’s oil or gas is a proven path to war.” And he cites the examples of Japan attacking the US in 1941 after the US embargo on oil supplies and Israel attacking Egypt in 1967 after Nasser threatened to close the Straits of Tiran through which Israel received 95 percent of its oil. While the implementation of the current sanctions would not cause Iran to attack the United States, it certainly would increase tensions and help to lead to war. Iran will certainly try to get around the sanctions and any American naval efforts to prevent gasoline from entering Iran could precipitate war.
“The Senate,” Buchanan writes, “is trying to force Obama’s hand, box him in, restrict his freedom of action, by making him impose sanctions that would cut off the negotiating track and put us on a track to war.”
Buchanan also hits the mark by pointing out that “U.S. interests would seem to dictate supporting those elements in Iran who wish to be rid of the regime and re-engage the West. But if that is our goal, the Senate bill, and a House version that passed 412 to 12, seem almost diabolically perverse.” The sanctions obviously will tend to unify the country behind the regime. Of course, the neocon/Israel goal is not to bring in the reformers—who also tend to support the Palestine resistance and seek to develop nuclear power—but to destabilize the country by war. This can best be achieved by keeping the demonized Ahmadinejad in power.
In the second article, “How to Save the Obama Presidency: Bomb Iran,” neocon Daniel Pipes naturally encourages Obama to opt for war. “He [Obama] needs a dramatic gesture to change the public perception of him as a light-weight, bumbling ideologue, preferably in an arena where the stakes are high, where he can take charge, and where he can trump expectations.
“Such an opportunity does exist: Obama can give orders for the U.S. military to destroy Iran’s nuclear-weapon capacity.”
Pipes candidly admits that the imposition of “crippling” sanctions on Iran would not contribute to a peaceful settlement but would help to put the United States “on an escalator to confrontation that could lead straight to war.”
Pipes correctly observes that “Obama’s attempts to ‘reset’ his presidency will likely fail if he focuses on economics.” There are no simply no easy answers for the economic problems that beset America.
Now Pipes is obviously not out to help Obama, but what he says about the political benefits of war are certainly true. If Republican Party leaders were half-way intelligent, they would realize that pushing the country to war is not in their political interest. But the Republican Party is not called the “stupid party” for nothing, and it is in the thrall of the neoconservatives—at least indirectly, since the neocons control Murdoch’s Fox News and strongly influence the popular right-wing radio broadcasters such as Rush Limbaugh. Republicans already did irreparable damage to their party by giving whole-hearted support for the war on Iraq, so the Republicans are quite likely to snatch defeat from the hands of victory.
Pipes presents something on the order of the spurious claim of Saddam’s super dangerous WMD to justify the need for a US bombing attack on Iran. “Eventually, they [Iran] could launch an electromagnetic pulse attack on the United States, utterly devastating the country. By eliminating the Iranian nuclear threat, Obama protects the homeland and sends a message to American’s friends and enemies.” Of course, an Iranian electromagnetic pulse attack is highly theoretical. A high altitude explosion would cause damage to electronic communication devices (a nuclear atmospheric test explosion 800 miles from Hawaii in 1962 knocked out a small percentage of the island’s civilian electronic devices) but that it would disrupt all communications devices to the point of preventing a devastating counter strike is highly questionable. Perhaps China, Russia, and the US possess the capability of developing a weapon that could deliver a knockout blow that would prevent nuclear retaliation (though tests to determine this with certitude would seem almost impossible to conduct), but the likelihood that Iran could do this or would dare to take such a risk would seem very remote compared to threats from other countries against the US that would increase every time the US made an unprovoked attack on another country—the more the US engages in allegedly preventive wars, the more likely it is for a fearful nuclear power to launch a preventive war against the US.
Despite the fantasy aspect of an Iranian electromagnetic pulse threat, it is reasonable to believe that such a claim, if publicized widely, could resonate with a substantial proportion of the American public and help to cause the US to launch a preventive war. In fact, this would seem to be the element that is currently lacking in the existing war propaganda —the American people have not yet been made to believe that Iran really threatens the US homeland.
A previous essay of mine provides similar arguments:
“Strengthening US Defenses in the Gulf as a Step Toward War”
Transparent Cabal Website:
Amazon listing of The Transparent Cabal:
Will Obama Play the War Card?
by Patrick J. Buchanan Posted 02/05/2010 ET
Updated 02/05/2010 ET
Republicans already counting the seats they will pick up this fall should keep in mind Obama has a big card yet to play.
Should the president declare he has gone the last mile for a negotiated end to Iran’s nuclear program and impose the “crippling” sanctions he promised in 2008, America would be on an escalator to confrontation that could lead straight to war.
And should war come, that would be the end of GOP dreams of adding three-dozen seats in the House and half a dozen in the Senate.
Harry Reid is surely aware a U.S. clash with Iran, with him at the president’s side, could assure his re-election. Last week, Reid whistled through the Senate, by voice vote, a bill to put us on that escalator.
Senate bill 2799 would punish any company exporting gasoline to Iran. Though swimming in oil, Iran has a limited refining capacity and must import 40 percent of the gas to operate its cars and trucks and heat its homes.
And cutting off a country’s oil or gas is a proven path to war.
In 1941, the United States froze Japan’s assets, denying her the funds to pay for the U.S. oil on which she relied, forcing Tokyo either to retreat from her empire or seize the only oil in reach, in the Dutch East Indies.
The only force able to interfere with a Japanese drive into the East Indies? The U.S. Pacific fleet at Pearl Harbor.
Egypt’s Gamel Abdel Nasser in 1967 threatened to close the Straits of Tiran between the Red Sea and Gulf of Aqaba to ships going to the Israeli port of Elath. That would have cut off 95 percent of Israel’s oil.
Israel response: a pre-emptive war that destroyed Egypt’s air force and put Israeli troops at Sharm el-Sheikh on the Straits of Tiran.
Were Reid and colleagues seeking to strengthen Obama’s negotiating hand?
The opposite is true. The Senate is trying to force Obama’s hand, box him in, restrict his freedom of action, by making him impose sanctions that would cut off the negotiating track and put us on a track to war — a war to deny Iran weapons that the U.S. Intelligence community said in December 2007 Iran gave up trying to acquire in 2003.
Republican leader Mitch McConnell has made clear the Senate is seizing control of the Iran portfolio. “If the Obama administration will not take action against this regime, then Congress must.”
U.S. interests would seem to dictate supporting those elements in Iran who wish to be rid of the regime and re-engage the West. But if that is our goal, the Senate bill, and a House version that passed 412 to 12, seem almost diabolically perverse.
For a cutoff in gas would hammer Iran’s middle class. The Revolutionary Guard and Basij militia on their motorbikes would get all they need. Thus the leaders of the Green Movement who have stood up to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the Ayatollah oppose sanctions that inflict suffering on their own people.
Cutting off gas to Iran would cause many deaths. And the families of the sick, the old, the weak, the women and the children who die are unlikely to feel gratitude toward those who killed them.
And despite the hysteria about Iran’s imminent testing of a bomb, the U.S. intelligence community still has not changed its finding that Tehran is not seeking a bomb.
The low-enriched uranium at Natanz, enough for one test, has neither been moved nor enriched to weapons grade. Ahmadinejad this week offered to take the West’s deal and trade it for fuel for its reactor. Iran’s known nuclear facilities are under U.N. watch. The number of centrifuges operating at Natanz has fallen below 4,000. There is speculation they are breaking down or have been sabotaged.
And if Iran is hell-bent on a bomb, why has Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair not revised the 2007 finding and given us the hard evidence?
U.S. anti-missile ships are moving into the Gulf. Anti-missile batteries are being deployed on the Arab shore. Yet, Gen. David Petraeus warned yesterday that a strike on Iran could stir nationalist sentiment behind the regime.
Nevertheless, the war drums have again begun to beat.
Daniel Pipes in a National Review Online piece featured by the Jerusalem Post — “How to Save the Obama Presidency: Bomb Iran” — urges Obama to make a “dramatic gesture to change the public perception of him as a lightweight, bumbling ideologue” by ordering the U.S. military to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities.
Citing six polls, Pipes says Americans support an attack today and will “presumably rally around the flag” when the bombs fall.
Will Obama cynically yield to temptation, play the war card and make “conservatives swoon,” in Pipes’ phrase, to save himself and his party? We shall see.
Mr. Buchanan is a nationally syndicated columnist and author of Churchill, Hitler, and “The Unnecessary War”: How Britain Lost Its Empire and the West Lost the World, “The Death of the West,”, “The Great Betrayal,” “A Republic, Not an Empire” and “Where the Right Went Wrong.”
NATIONAL REVIEW ONLINE www.nationalreview.
February 2, 2010 12:00 A.M.
How to Save the Obama Presidency: Bomb Iran
Circumstances are propitious, and the American people would support it.
I do not customarily offer advice to a president whose election I opposed, whose goals I fear, and whose policies I work against. But here is an idea for Barack Obama to salvage his tottering administration by taking a step that protects the United States and its allies.
If Obama’s personality, identity, and celebrity captivated a majority of the American electorate in 2008, those qualities proved ruefully deficient for governing in 2009. He failed to deliver on employment and health care, he failed in foreign-policy forays small (e.g., landing the 2016 Olympics) and large (relations with China and Japan). His counterterrorism record barely passes the laugh test.
This poor performance has caused an unprecedented collapse in the polls and the loss of three major by-elections, culminating two weeks ago in an astonishing senatorial defeat in Massachusetts. Obama’s attempts to “reset” his presidency will likely fail if he focuses on economics, where he is just one of many players.
He needs a dramatic gesture to change the public perception of him as a light-weight, bumbling ideologue, preferably in an arena where the stakes are high, where he can take charge, and where he can trump expectations.
Such an opportunity does exist: Obama can give orders for the U.S. military to destroy Iran’s nuclear-weapon capacity.
Circumstances are propitious. First, U.S. intelligence agencies have reversed their preposterous 2007 National Intelligence Estimate, the one that claimed with “high confidence” that Tehran had “halted its nuclear weapons program.” No one other than the Iranian rulers and their agents denies that the regime is rushing headlong to build a large nuclear arsenal.
Second, if the apocalyptic-minded leaders in Tehran get the Bomb, they render the Middle East yet more volatile and dangerous. They might deploy these weapons in the region, leading to massive death and destruction. Eventually, they could launch an electromagnetic pulse attack on the United States, utterly devastating the country. By eliminating the Iranian nuclear threat, Obama protects the homeland and sends a message to American’s friends and enemies.
Third, polling shows longstanding American support for an attack on the Iranian nuclear infrastructure:
Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg, January 2006: 57 percent of Americans favor military intervention if Tehran pursues a program that could enable it to build nuclear arms.
Zogby International, October 2007: 52 percent of likely voters support a U.S. military strike to prevent Iran from building a nuclear weapon; 29 percent oppose such a step.
McLaughlin & Associates, May 2009: When asked whether they would support “using the [U.S.] military to attack and destroy the facilities in Iran which are necessary to produce a nuclear weapon,” 58 percent of 600 likely voters supported the use of force and 30 percent opposed it.
Fox News, September 2009: When asked “Do you support or oppose the United States taking military action to keep Iran from getting nuclear weapons?” 61 percent of 900 registered voters supported military action and 28 opposed it.
Pew Research Center, October 2009: When asked which is more important, “to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, even if it means taking military action,” or “to avoid a military conflict with Iran, even if it means they may develop nuclear weapons,” 61 percent of 1,500 respondents favored the first reply and 24 percent the second.
Not only does a strong majority — 57, 52, 58, 61, and 61 percent in these five polls — already favor using force, but after a strike Americans will presumably rally around the flag, sending that number much higher.
Fourth, if the U.S.limited its strike to taking out Iran’s nuclear facilities and did not attempt any regime change, it would require few “boots on the ground” and entail relatively few casualties, making an attack more politically palatable.
Just as 9/11 caused voters to forget George W. Bush’s meandering early months, a strike on Iranian facilities would dispatch Obama’s feckless first year down the memory hole and transform the domestic political scene. It would sideline health care, prompt Republicans to work with Democrats, and make the netroots squeal, independents reconsider, and conservatives swoon.
But the chance to do good and do well is fleeting. As the Iranians improve their defenses and approach weaponization, the window of opportunity is closing. The time to act is now, or, on Obama’s watch, the world will soon become a much more dangerous place.
— Daniel Pipes is director of the Middle East Forum and Taube distinguished visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution of Stanford University