December 8, 2016

Nuclear Deal Opponents Urge Military Confrontation with Iran

uani-hearingThe U.S. should sink Iranian ships, consider targeted killings of Iranian fighters in Syria, and ratchet up new non-nuclear sanctions on Iran under the Trump Administration, according to a panel of lawmakers and policymakers organized on Capitol Hill yesterday by the hawkish United Against Nuclear Iran organization.

Outlining Trump’s options going forward, Mark Dubowitz of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies said the U.S. must “restore coercion” and recommended direct military confrontation, saying that sanctions alone are not a silver bullet. “The next time a Revolutionary Guard attack boat harasses the U.S. Navy, we should sink it, put it in the bottom of the Gulf,” Dubowitz said. “That would be a good start.” He also noted the possibility of directly targeting Iran’s Revolutionary Guard and Hezbollah proxies that are operating in the Syrian civil war. “Remember, right now Syria is a target-rich environment if you want to go after the Revolutionary Guard and Hezbollah, and that’s not just a hypothetical possibility, the Israelis are doing it today…The Israelis are enforcing their red lines, they’re using military force against the Iranians. I think the United States of America could do the same.”

Former Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman, echoed Dubowitz’s calls for military action, advising Trump to “make it explicit with the power he has as Commander-in-Chief that if they challenge some of our naval assets, we will fire on them. We’ve got to be that explicit.” Lieberman is chairman of UANI and formerly an advisory board member of an AIPAC organization explicitly established to kill the nuclear deal. In addition to the UANI panel, he appeared at a Capitol Hill event this week organized by the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK), a shadowy group formerly designated as a terrorist organization by the State Department. They have a long history of using violence and terror both against their own members as well as when they were serving as a military force for Saddam Hussein in Iraq. At the UANI event, Lieberman said the goal of increased “pressure” on Iran would be to elicit concessions from Iran by causing them to “begin to wonder about the survival of the regime.”

Military confrontation was only part of the strategy put forward at the UANI briefing. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) joined others in calling for an escalation of sanctions under the Trump administration. She advocated for expanding non-nuclear related sanctions on Iran – including those targeting entire sectors of the Iranian economy – “and perhaps even rolling back or tightening provisions of the JCPOA.” Dubowitz, meanwhile, called to “use our ability under the deal, particularly in non-nuclear sanctions, which the administration itself has admitted are not inconsistent with the JCPOA, to begin to address Iran’s malign activities outside the deal and inside the deal.” Contrary to his assertions, however, the JCPOA prohibits the U.S. from re-imposing sanctions lifted under the nuclear deal under a separate pretext, and the Obama administration has threatened to veto legislation that does so in order to protect the deal.

Ros-Lehtinen, whose former Chief-of-Staff is leading the Trump Transition Team’s approach to Iran, forecasted “a flurry of Iran-related activities early in the New Year” and looked forward to the “opportunity to undo a lot of the problematic concessions that we have seen over the last few years,” adding an enthusiastic “I can’t wait!”

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