Get ready for Operation Iranian Freedom; because Iran is the next nation on the American war-hawks’ list of places to deliver some fake democracy. But, hey, at least this time we ought to have an easier go of locating those weapons of mass destruction.
President Donald Trump’s move to “decertify” the Iran nuclear agreement this month has opened the door for congressional hawks on both sides of the aisle to push the U.S. closer to armed conflict with Iran. And the wheels are already in motion, as congressional Republicans place the finishing touches on legislation that would impose harsh new sanctions on the country and a growing list of Democrats signal support for the bill.
Trump’s “decertify” move didn’t scrap the Iran nuclear agreement inked under the Obama administration altogether. Rather, it created a situation where lawmakers have the opportunity to make demands of the Iranian government backed by the threat of economically ruinous sanctions– the sort of sanctions that many non-interventionists point out may as well be consider acts of war.
The GOP’s current Iran sanctions draft bill includes all the sort of prohibitions lawmakers dying to initiate conflict would want. Under the proposal, Iran would be barred from “any work to clandestinely acquire nuclear material, or equipment intended to produce nuclear material, from outside of Iran.” In addition, U.S. agency would keep a close watch on the country for any activity that might suggest Iran was working to manufacture or test intercontinental missiles with nuclear capabilities or to convert space vehicles into missiles.
From a non-interventionist perspective, this creates the major problem of giving anyone within the U.S. military industrial apparatus with an incentive to initiate conflict with Iran a very low bar for justification.
And, given that the legislation is being put together by Sens. Bob Corker and Tom Cotton, it makes sense that the sanctions bill would create such a hair trigger for U.S. meddling in the country.
Earlier this month, Trump blamed Corker for weaknesses in the Iran deal signed by President Obama. But Trump’s criticisms that Corker was responsible for weakness in the Iran deal wasn’t exactly correct. It’s true that Corker didn’t block the Obama administration’s deal altogether– but in helping to usher its passage the Tennessee lawmaker was actually responsible for some of the deal’s toughest provisions. For example, under the agreement brokered by Corker the president was forced to prove to members of Congress every 90 days that Iran was in compliance with the accord.
Corker, who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, essentially created a situation where Congress could declare the Obama deal void at any time the president failed to prove Iran was holding up its end of the bargain. The result of such a failure would have meant opening the door to new sanctions and potential military action against Iran– and after years of failures to deliver on promises to successfully draw down U.S. military involvement in the Middle East, it’s a provision that the Obama administration would rather have left out of the agreement.
Cotton, meanwhile, was working to scrap the Iran deal created under Obama before it was finished.
Back in March 2015, Cotton and handful of congressional hawks wrote a letter to Tehran declaring that the deal would amount to “nothing more than an executive agreement between President Obama and Ayatollah Khamenei” in an effort to derail the nuclear treaty.
Why? Because Cotton and Congress’s most hawkish members want regime change in Iran, not coexistence. And it’s been a goal for a long time. Recall Sen. John McCain’s “bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb Iran” speech.
Cotton is emerging as something of a superhawk in Congress, poised to outdo his predecessors in calling for military action as a first option.
Glen Greenwald’s The Intercept did a pretty good job summing up the Cotton mindset in a piece declaring him “America’s most dangerous senator” last week.
From the piece:
Cotton may now be the most hawkish senator in the United States — step aside John McCain and Lindsey Graham — we should perhaps thank him for his bluntness. Remember: Every time former President Barack Obama or a member of his administration framed the argument over the nuclear deal as a choice between diplomacy or war, Republicans would cry foul. This, they would say, was a false choice; critics of the deal merely wanted a better deal.
But Cotton is clear about regime change. He is clear about airstrikes. He is clear about wanting to crush Iran. Consider his recent remarks at the Council on Foreign Relations where, referring to the impact of sanctions on Iran’s economy, Cotton said: “One thing I learned in the Army is that when your opponent is on his knees, you drive him to the ground and choke him out,” later adding, “If they’re on their knees in surrender, then you accept their surrender.”
This is the kind of language you might expect from a tinpot African dictator trying to suppress a domestic revolt — or maybe from a teenager obsessed with playing “Call of Duty” on his Playstation — and not from a leading member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
The idea that Iran is about to “surrender” to the United States anytime soon is laughable. Equally absurd is Cotton’s claim that “calibrated strikes” against the Islamic Republic, modeled on Bill Clinton’s Operation Desert Fox four-day bombing of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq in 1998, would put a halt to the Iranian nuclear program. “If we are forced to take action,” the senator told his audience at the CFR, “the United States has the ability to totally destroy Iran’s nuclear infrastructure.”
In other words, Cotton is the hype-guy for action in Iran mirroring all of the U.S.’s biggest foreign policy mistakes over the past two decades. In Iran, he wants a redux of every “axis of evil,” spreading democracy, mission accomplished moment the U.S. has endured in its recent history of perpetual war.
And for some reason, he has the Trump administration’s ear. In fact, Cotton is reportedly being considered to be the next director of the CIA.
Remember why we created the CIA? To spread propaganda and set the stage for regime change in countries the U.S.’s military-industrial string pullers are ready to invade.