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Congress Hears Recommendations for Escalating Covert and Military Action on Iran

Panelists at a House Homeland Security hearing recommended a dramatic escalation of U.S. actions against Iran.

Keane Hearing

Washington, DC – “This was an act of war,” said Rep. Peter King (R-NY), Chairman of the Homeland Security Committee at a hearing on how the U.S. should respond to the alleged Iranian plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador in Washington.

Panelists recommended a dramatic escalation of U.S. actions against Iran.

“You don't want to run away from that war, you want to run towards it," said Reul Marc Gerecht of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.  Gerecht, a former CIA agent who has been an long-time supporter of war with Iran, advised that the U.S. tell the world, “we are more willing to have another front on the war on terror.”

“Let’s not wring our hands,” said General Jack Keane (Ret.).  “If the international community doesn’t want to step up to it, we go without ‘em.”

Keane, a chief architect of the Bush Administration's Iraq "surge" in 2007, told the Congressional panel, “We’ve got to put our hand around their throat right now.”

He called for the U.S. to begin killing or capturing members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and Quds Force, including its leader Qasem Sulemani. 

“Why don’t we kill them?” he asked.

Keane also urged for cyber attacks.  “We have a significant offensive cyber capability in this country that no one else in the world has, some are close,” Keane said.  “We can do limited cyber attacks.  That would take a Presidential finding, but why aren’t we doing that?”

Gerecht agreed.  “I don’t think that you’re going to really intimidate these people, get their attention, unless you shoot somebody.” 

The panelists implied that their recommendations, however, would not escalate into war with Iran. 

“I am not suggesting a military action,” Keane said, “I’m suggesting covert action that has a degree of deniability to it.”

However, Keane explained that military plans were already in place, which he said is standard.  “We plan for all out war with them, we deal with very limited action, with violations in the Strait of Hormuz, and we deal with limited action against their nuclear capabilities.”

Also testifying was Dr. Matthew Levitt of the Washington Institute for Near East Peace, who called for U.S. military pressure on Iran through Iraq.  He said that, in lieu of military action, the U.S. should escalate its sanctions regime and target Iran's central bank.  “For all those pressing for a non-kinetic measure that would truly affect Iran’s bottom line, this is it,” said Levitt.  

The final witness, Dr. Lawrence Korb, a senior fellow at Center For American Progress—linked closely to the Obama Administration—also endorsed sanctions against Iran’s central bank.

Korb said sanctions against Iran were having an impact and signaled that punishing Iran’s central bank—which could have draconian humanitarian effects for ordinary Iranians and could impact the global economy by roiling energy markets—should go forward. 

But Korb also said the U.S. must be prepared to negotiate with Iran, saying this posture had strengthened sanctions.  “Time is on our side,” he stated, warning against war with Iran.  “If we overreact with military forces, this will unite them.”

He noted that the predictions about Iran’s nuclear progress had been consistently exaggerated.  “You can go back and I can show you statements from people going back to 2004 saying ‘in 6 months, they’re gonna have a nuclear weapon’ and then ‘6 months' and '6 months,'” he said.  “What this shows is that the international community acting together has made it difficult for them.”

Korb highlighted the recommendations of Admiral Mike Mullen, who as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff called for the U.S. to establish a direct diplomatic channel—or “hotline”—with Iran to prevent war and protect U.S. troops in the field. 

But Levitt dismissed Mullen’s recommendations.  “It is too early to tell what the consequences of Iran's assassination plot may be, but there should be no doubt the plot lays bare the myth that sufficient carrots -- from offers of dialogue to requests for an emergency hotline to reduce naval tensions in the Gulf -- can induce the regime in Tehran to abandon its support for terrorism, part with its nuclear weapons program, or respect human rights.”

 

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