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November 12, 2011

GOP Candidates Spar Over Iran, Think Military Action is a Panacea
Posted by Kelsey Hartigan

Not surprisingly, the debate kicked off with a question on Iran and its nuclear ambitions. Mitt Romney declared that if Barack Obama is re-elected, Iran will get a nuclear weapon. But, he said, in a Mitt Romney administration Iran will not get a nuclear weapon. This isn’t the first time he’s made such a sweeping proclamation, but he has yet to explain how exactly he’ll ensure this. Everything the candidates said was either a reiteration of the administration’s current Iran policy or a poor attempt to find a quick fix. Military action would have disastrous consequences for the U.S. and is far from a guaranteed way to stop Iran’s nuclear program, yet almost every candidate seemed to think it was a panacea for dealing with Iran. Here’s a break-down of what they got right (by which I mean what the U.S. is already doing) and what they got wrong:

Green Movement: First and foremost, not a single candidate actually referenced the Green Movement. Mitt Romney said he would work with the “insurgents” in the country to bring abour "regime change" while Rick Santorum said he would support the “rebel forces.” The Green Movement is a peaceful movement that is focused on political and economic issues inside Iran and supporting the movement will not be a quick fix for the situation with Iran as the candidates seem to believe.

Covert Action: Covert action, by its very definition, is covert – meaning no one is going to talk about, except maybe the Republican candidates for president. The administration cannot and will not discuss it, for obvious reasons. The Stuxnet malware caused some of Iran’s centrifuges to spin out of control, disrupting and delaying its nuclear program and several nuclear scientists have also been the targets of assassination attacks. As the New York Times noted earlier this month: “The assassination and the sabotage have taken a psychological toll, making scientists wonder if every trip to work may be their last, every line of code the beginning of a new round of destruction. Stuxnet was devilishly ingenious: it infected millions of computers, but did damage only when the code was transferred to special controllers that run centrifuges, which spin at supersonic speed when enriching uranium. When operators looked at their screens, everything looked normal. But downstairs in the plant, the centrifuges suddenly spun out of control and exploded, like small bombs. It took months for the Iranians to figure out what had happened.”

Sanctions: The U.S. is arleady sanctioing Iran and it has rallied our international partners to do the same. Smart, targeted sanctions can be effective, but they're not a silver bullet. Perry admonished the administration and his Republican colleagues for not supporting sanctions against Iran’s central bank. Sanctioning Iran’s central bank would disrupt oil prices and hurt the U.S. economy. It would also devastate Iranian civil society and the “dissidents” each GOP candidate said they supported. Eli Clifton reported last week: “Central bank sanctions may disrupt oil markets and damage U.S. and global economic recoveries; weaken multilateral sanctions efforts if U.S. allies are unwilling to sign on; and extract a shocking humanitarian toll on ordinary Iranian civilians. In fact, central bank sanctions may run counter to U.S. interests and actually strengthen the Iranian regime. Mehdi Karroubi, an influential reformist politician in Iran, warns that “sanctions have given an excuse to the government to suppress the opposition by blaming them for the unstable situation in the country,” and CNN’s Fareed Zakaria writes, “[Sanctions'] basic effect has been to weaken civil society and strengthen the state — the opposite of what we should be trying to do in that country.”

Missile Defense: Herman Cain appeared to be unaware that both the U.S. and Israel already have extensive missile defense systems in place. The administration has worked closely with Israel on the Israel-U.S. Arrow Weapon System the Iron-Dome and the administration’s European missile defense system, the Phased Adaptive Approach is also tailored to help defend against a potential Iranian missile launch.

Military Action: Each candidate characterized military action against Iran as a sure-fire way to stop its nuclear program. Any serious expert will tell you that military action carries with it serious risks and will only delay, at best, Iran’s program. As former CIA Intelligence officer Paul Pillar has explained, “If the saber rattling were ever to lead to the use of military force, among the disastrous consequences for U.S. interests would be to ensure the enmity of future generations of Iranians and to provide the strongest possible incentive for those Iranians to build, or rebuild, a nuclear weapons capability."  And finally, for all of the talk about oil prices, no candidate mentioned what would happen to oil prices should a war break out. It’s also worth noting that The Financial Times reported last week: “In the first hours of the attack prices would surge, on average, by $23 a barrel, according to the survey. Under the worst case scenario, including the closure of the Strait of Hormuz, prices could increase, on average, by $61 a barrel, lifting Brent crude to an all-time high of $175 a barrel. Some traders warned that the increase could be much bigger, pushing oil prices up by $175 a barrel to a dizzying $290 a barrel.”

In the words of Rick Perry: "Oops."

Note: This post has been updated to include Mitt Romney's pledge to pursue "support of insurgents within the country." Video here.


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Please retract the Military Action segment that says 'Each candidate'. Ron Paul does not support nor ever has aggressive military action against Iran, or any foreign country whatsoever.

Also, in your first post you said 'Everything the candidates said was either a reiteration of the administration’s current Iran policy or a poor attempt to find a quick fix. Military action would have disastrous consequences for the U.S. and is far from a guaranteed way to stop Iran’s nuclear program, yet each candidate seemed to think it was a panacea for dealing with Iran'.

Please retract the above as Ron Paul does not support the current administrations actions towards Iran or their Foreign Policy, similarly, Ron Paul vehemently opposes military action against Iran.

Paul is the pro-Peace candidate and I do not like the smear attempt to throw him in with the war-mongers of either Party (which is the vast majority of Politicians).


Ron Paul does not support nor ever has aggressive military action against Iran, or any foreign country whatsoever.

yet each candidate seemed to think it was a panacea for dealing with Iran

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