A House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee hearing on Israel’s security last week quickly devolved into partisan attacks over the Obama administration’s handling of Israeli relations and calls for a more confrontational U.S. approach towards Iran. For some Committee members, the question was not whether the U.S. should strike Iran’s nuclear facilities, but rather when the U.S. should to it.
Representative Michael Turner (R-NY), joined his colleagues in dismissing the very real possibilities for diplomacy that still exist, stating, “Many of our diplomatic and economic options are pretty much exhausted.” Turner asked the witnesses, “At what point should our conversations begin with the strategic and tactical?”
The Heritage Foundation’s James Phillips testified that the Obama Administration has “frequently gone out of their way to publicly devalue prospects for success of a US military strike.” His critique did not acknowledge the consensus among military leaders and national security officials in both the U.S. and Israeli, including former Bush Administration officials, who have publicly warned against military strikes on Iran.
Phillips laid out a plan for dealing with Iran that called for President Obama to hold more meetings with Israeli Prime Minster Netanyahu, increase war rhetoric, and set strict conditions limiting on any further diplomatic efforts with Iran.
Elliot Abrams, a top advisor in the Bush White House who played an important role in the push for war with Iraq, similarly criticized President Obama and called for a more public campaign by the White House to demonstrate willingness to use military force. Abrams asserted that Obama was intentionally distancing itself from Israel to appease Arab allies, a claim that was rejected as “fundamentally mistaken” by the dissenting witness, Martin Indyk.
Indyk argued that the robust U.S. military presence throughout the Persian Gulf and Afghanistan was sending a clear message to Iran. He defended President Obama by highlighting Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s declaration last year that U.S.-Israel strategic cooperation is “better now than he can ever remember”.
Representative Gary Ackerman (D-NY), who will retire at the end of this Congress, cautioned that Americans must consider what a military conflict with Iran “would cost in lives, chaos and cash.” He warned, “Anyone who supposes that a strike on Iran would be surgical, or a brief episode without severe consequences, is delusional.”
Ackerman criticized both witnesses and Congressmen for spending too much time discrediting and attacking the current administration rather than discussing and solving critical issues in the Middle East. Blaming Obama for instability in the Middle East, he said “is like blaming Bush for throwing Pluto out of the list of planets”.