If You Want Peace, Stop Clamoring for War
Posted by Kelsey Hartigan
Mitt Romney has taken to the opinion pages once again. “I Won’t Let Iran Get Nukes,” Romney proclaims in today’s Wall Street Journal. With one chest-banging paragraph after another, Governor Romney completely mischaracterizes the administration’s diplomatic overtures and asserts that the U.S. should instead adopt a new policy toward Iran. His plan? “If you want peace, prepare for war.”
“Only when the ayatollahs no longer have doubts about America's resolve will they abandon their nuclear ambitions,” he writes. Apparently convinced that a few not so thinly veiled threats will set the Iranians straight, Romney displays a stunningly naïve understanding of what it actually means to be the commander-in-chief. U.S.-Iran relations have been strained for more than three decades. If Romney believes that he can waltz into the Oval Office, give a few rough and tough speeches and suddenly Iran will open its doors to IAEA inspectors, well, he’s in for a rude awakening.
Belligerent rhetoric won’t solve the situation with Iran. In fact, most experts will tell you that it will make it worse. Threats of military action, or worse, actual military action, will only play into the hands of Iran’s hardliners. Even CSIS’s Anthony Cordesmen, who has written extensively on what at attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities would require, concludes:
Although Iran’s quest for a nuclear deterrent makes a preemptive attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities attractive to some policy makers, such action would likely be a temporary solution at best. The maturity of Iran’s program nearly guarantees that the country could rebuild its program. Moreover, a massive strike on Iran’s nuclear infrastructure would likely provide the Iranian regime with a justification to pursue nuclear weapons, and drive the program deeper underground. Hence, the only lasting solution to Iran’s nuclear program would likely come in the form of a political solution, driven by compromise and a ―carrot and stick‖ approach on behalf of the US and the international community. Such an approach would consist of offering Iran economic and other incentives to shelve its nuclear program, and penalizing it for continuing efforts at weaponization and refusing to comply with the IAEA.
President Obama went to the United Nations in September 2009 and announced that the U.S. had discovered a secret enrichment facility near the city of Qom; he sent negotiators to Geneva to discuss a possible fuel swap; he pressured the IAEA to publicly release the very details that have concerned the U.S. for year; he reached out to the Iranian people on Nowruz; he pursued options that delayed and disrupted Iran’s technical programs; he lobbied for sanctions at the United Nations Security Council and elsewhere—he did all of these things to first and foremost try and find a solution. But the administration also understood that if the Iranians refused to play ball, it would need as much international backing as possible. And so today, Iran finds itself more isolated and under more pressure than ever before. Brookings’ Suzanne Maloney explains how this unfolded: "An extensive early effort by the Obama administration to engage Tehran in negotiations helped persuade reluctant European allies to adopt unprecedented sanctions on trade and investment in Iran's energy sector when these negotiations failed. Washington has also managed to transform the U.S. relationship with Moscow through an ambitious diplomatic reset, which notably incorporated a tacit acceptance of the Russian commitment to finishing Bushehr. In exchange, Moscow has proven newly accommodating on Iran, showing greater cooperation on sanctions, including its decision to withhold anti-missile systems sales to Tehran."
But after being sharply rebuked by basically the entire foreign policy establishment for his disastrous critique of the New START treaty, Governor Romney couldn’t quite bring himself to acknowledge the support the administration had garnered from Russia. Instead, he writes: “In his ‘reset’ of relations with Russia, President Obama caved in to Moscow's demands by reneging on a missile-defense agreement with Eastern European allies and agreeing to a New Start Treaty to reduce strategic nuclear weapons while getting virtually nothing in return. If there ever was a possibility of gaining the Kremlin's support for tougher action against Tehran, that unilateral giveaway was the moment. President Obama foreclosed it.”
Yet thanks to the reset, Russia (and China) went along with UN Security Council sanctions against Iran. Russia also cancelled its long-planned sale of its S-300 air defense system to Iran, a move for which Iran is now attempting to “sue” Russia. And for what it’s worth, the U.S. has signed agreements with Turkey, Romania and Poland to host portions of a missile defense system in Europe. This system is more robust and more effective than the system put forward by President Obama’s predecessor. That’s why the Pentagon’s top brass cancelled it in 2009. Upgrading and fast-tracking a missile defense system hardly constitutes “reneging on a missile-defense agreement with Eastern European allies,” as Romney claims. What’s more, NATO is currently exploring opportunities for missile defense cooperation with Russia – a move that would provide additional radar coverage and early-warning capabilities which happen to be systems that would be particularly helpful in detecting an Iranian missile launch.
Finally, Romney claims that he “will restore the regular presence of aircraft carrier groups in the Mediterranean and the Persian Gulf region simultaneously” and “increase military assistance to Israel and coordination with all of our allies in the region.” As has been the case in previous speeches, the governor seems to forget about the U.S. Fifth Fleet - the 40,000 U.S. troops in the wider Middle East, the 100,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan and the 40,000 U.S. troops in Iraq. If a U.S. military presence was going to convince Iran to cooperate, I would have thought it would have happened by now. It’s also worth noting that this administration has already taken unprecedented steps to increase security assistance to Israel. The U.S. has boosted its security consultations and vastly expanded programs like the Iron Dome Defensive System, among others.
There are no easy solutions for dealing with Iran. It will take a serious, multi-pronged approach. Outlandish declarations in the Wall Street Journal will not suffice.