Stirrings of a New Push for Military Option on Iran

WASHINGTON - "From a marketing
point of view, you don't introduce new products in August," explained
then-White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card back in September 2002, in
answer to queries about why the administration of George W. Bush had
not launched its campaign to rally public opinion behind invading Iraq
earlier in the summer.

And while it's only
July - and less than a month after the U.N., the European Union (EU)
and the U.S. Congress approved new economic sanctions against Iran - a
familiar clutch of Iraq war hawks appear to be preparing the ground for
a major new campaign to rally public opinion behind military action
against the Islamic Republic.

an unexpected breakthrough on the diplomatic front, that campaign, like
the one eight years ago, is likely to move into high gear this autumn,
beginning shortly after the Labor Day holiday, Sept. 6, that marks the
end of summer vacation.

By the following week, the November
mid-term election campaign will be in full swing, and Republican
candidates are expected to make the charge that Democrats and President
Barack Obama are "soft on Iran" their top foreign policy issue.

any event, veterans of the Bush administration's pre-Iraq invasion
propaganda offensive are clearly mobilizing their arguments for a
similar effort on Iran, even suggesting that the timetable between
campaign launch and possible military action - a mere six months in
Iraq's case - could be appropriate.

"By the first quarter of
2011, we will know whether sanctions are proving effective," wrote
Bush's former national security adviser, Stephen Hadley, and Israeli
Brig. Gen. Michael Herzog in a paper published last week by the
Washington Institute for Near Policy (WINEP), a think tank closely tied
to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).

administration should begin to plan now for a course of action should
sanctions be deemed ineffective by the first or second quarter of next
year. The military option must be kept on the table both as a means of
strengthening diplomacy and as a worst-case scenario," they asserted.

Hadley and Herzog argued that the administration should begin planning
military options now - presumably to be ready for possible action as
early as next spring - others are calling for more urgent and
demonstrative preparations.

''We cannot afford to wait
indefinitely to determine the effectiveness of diplomacy and
sanctions," wrote former Democratic Sen. Charles Robb and Air Force
Gen. Charles Wald (ret.) in a column published in Friday's Washington
Post in which they warned that Tehran "could achieve nuclear weapons
capability before the end of this year, posing a strategically
untenable threat to the United States".

"If diplomatic and
economic pressures do not compel Iran to terminate its nuclear program,
the U.S. military has the capability and is prepared to launch an
effective, targeted strike on Tehran's nuclear and military
facilities," they wrote.

Their column was based on the latest
of three reports promoting the use of military pressure on Iran
released by the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) since 2008 and overseen
by BPC's neo-conservative foreign policy director, Michael Makovsky.

whose brother is a senior official at WINEP, served as a consultant to
the controversial Pentagon office set up in the run-up to the Iraq War
to find evidence of operational ties between al Qaeda and Saddam
Hussein as a justification for the invasion.

The BPC report,
"Meeting the Challenge: When Time Runs Out", urged the Obama
administration, among other immediate steps, to "augment the Fifth
Fleet presence in the Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman, including the
deployment of an additional (aircraft) carrier battle group and
minesweepers to the waters off Iran; conduct broad exercises with its
allies in the Persian Gulf; ...initiate a 'strategic partnership' with
Azerbaijan to enhance regional access..." as a way of demonstrating
Washington's readiness to go to war.

"If such pressure fails to
persuade Iran's leadership, the United States and its allies would have
no choice but to consider blockading refined petroleum imports into
Iran," it went on, noting that such a step would "effectively be an act
of war and the U.S. and its allies would have to prepare for its

Of course, some Iraq hawks, most aggressively
Bush's former U.N. ambassador John Bolton, have insisted that neither
diplomacy nor sanctions, no matter how tough, would be sufficient to
dissuade Tehran from acquiring a nuclear weapons and that military
action - preferably by the U.S., but, if not, by Israel - would be
necessary, and sooner rather than later.

Since the Jun. 12, 2009
disputed elections and the emergence of the opposition Green Movement
in Iran, a few neo- conservatives, notably Michael Rubin of the
American Enterprise Institute (AEI) and Michael Ledeen of the
Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), have argued that a
military attack could prove counter-productive by rallying an otherwise
discontented - and possibly rebellious - population behind the regime.

with the Green Movement seemingly unable to challenge the government in
the streets that argument has been losing ground among the hawks who,
in any event, blame the opposition's alleged weakness on Obama's
failure to provide it with more support.

President Obama waffled while innocent Iranians were killed by their
own government," wrote William Kristol and Jamie Fly, in Kristol's
Weekly Standard last month.

"It's now increasingly clear that
the credible threat of a military strike against Iran's nuclear program
is the only action that could convince the regime to curtail its
ambition," wrote the two men, who direct the Foreign Policy Initiative
(FPI), the successor organization of the neo- conservative-led Project
for the New American Century (PNAC) that played a key role in preparing
the ground for the Iraq invasion.

Neo-conservative and other
hawks have also pounced on reported remarks by United Arab Emirates
(UAE) Amb. Yousef al-Otaiba, at a retreat sponsored by The Atlantic
magazine in Colorado this week to nullify another obstacle to military
action - the widespread belief that Washington's Arab allies oppose a
military attack on Iran by the U.S. or Israel as too risky for their
own security and regional stability.

"We cannot live with a
nuclear Iran," Otaiba was quoted as saying in a Washington Times
article by Eli Lake, a prominent neo-conservative journalist.

Otaiba's ...comments leave no doubt what he and most Arab officials
think about the prospect of a nuclear revolutionary Shiite state," the
Wall Street Journal's editorial board, a major media champion of the
Iraq War, opined. "They desperately want someone, and that means the
U.S. or Israel, to stop it, using force if need be."

was interviewed at the conference by The Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg,
an influential U.S.-Israeli writer who in a widely noted essay
published by The New Yorker magazine in 2002 claimed that Hussein was
supporting an al Qaeda group in Kurdistan and that the Iraqi leader
would soon possess nuclear weapons.

Goldberg, who asserted in
his blog this week that "the idea of a group of Persian Shi'ites having
possession of a nuclear bomb ...certainly scares [Arab leaders] more
than the reality of the Jewish bomb," is reportedly working on an essay
on the necessity of attacking Iran's nuclear facilities for publication
by The Atlantic in September.

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