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The Washington Post Editorial board has called out US Defense Secretary Robert Gates for “undercutting the message” that the US may attack Iran. The Post criticizes the Defense Secretary for defending the Administration’s Iran policy against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s pressure for the US to publicly threaten Iran with military force.
Netanyahu advised that “If the international community, led by the U.S., wants to stop Iran without resorting to military action, it will have to convince Iran that it is prepared to take such action.” This Orwellian “war is peace” calculation would only endanger US national security and drive the US closer to war with Iran. The Defense Secretary who is responsible for the lives of American troops was right to stand firm in the face of Netanyahu’s callous, pernicious war rhetoric.
The Washington Post calls Secretary Gate’s assessment that military strikes would bring together a divided Iranian nation “speculative”. But the Post asserts that “what we do know for sure” is that Iran curbed its nuclear program in 2003 as a result of the US invasion of Iraq. We absolutely do not know this for sure. The Washington Post Editorial board that helped champion the Iraq war on the basis of false intelligence should be more careful when passing off its own speculation as certainty, particularly when it comes to advancing another case for war.
The Post pits its own speculation against the assessments of not just the Defense Secretary, but also those of military leaders like General David Petraeus – who warned that an attack on Iran could be used by hardliners to galvanize support – and Iranian human rights and democracy advocates, such as Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Shirin Ebadi, who said an attack “would give the government an excuse to kill all of its political opponents,” and that the Iranian people would resist any military action.
But if the judgment of US civilian and military leadership and Iranian activists is not enough for the Washington Post, there are plenty more reasons why saber rattling is disastrous idea. Threats of war only help validate arguments that Iran requires a nuclear weapon as a suitable deterrent against US force. As the US Institute of Peace and the Stimson Center recently stated in its report on engagement with Iran, “Even veiled allusions to the ‘military option’ reinforce those Iranian hardliners who argue that Iran requires nuclear weapons to deter the US, and protect Tehran’s security and freedom of action.” The report also finds that “Official references to ‘military options’ only undermine those in Tehran who might otherwise argue for negotiated solutions to the nuclear issue.”
Furthermore, threats of military force will help unravel all of the work President Obama has invested in successfully undoing the damage of the Bush Administration and uniting the world in its Iran approach. Our close allies have expressed serious concern about potential US saber rattling, and pursuing such a track will also alienate Russia and China, who are integral in multilateral efforts regarding Iran.
The call for saber rattling against Iran harkens back to the failed George W. Bush era in which the US looked on defiantly as Iran mastered the nuclear fuel cycle, while the US talked tough, spewed war rhetoric, and emboldened those in Iran who thrive on confrontation. These threats undercut opportunities for peaceful, diplomatic resolutions to the US-Iran dispute by injecting significant uncertainty about US intentions on the Iranian side. Preventing successful engagement may very well be the intended goal of those who advise that the US threaten war, as this is likewise the probable motivation of hardliners in Iran who offer similar rhetoric. The Washington Post should not be in the business of empowering those on either side who seek to undermine engagement and eliminate options for the US to resolve its concerns with Iran through peaceful means. With the prospect of yet third disastrous US war in the Middle East, the stakes could not be higher.
Washington Post Blasts Defense Secretary Gates, Endorses Netanyahu’s War Rhetoric
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