Hawks Who Want War with Iran Work Overtime

Opponents of the nuclear deal are trying to maintain draconian Trump-era sanctions, write Ariel Gold and Medea Benjamin. 

 (Ted Eytan, Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0)

By Ariel Gold and Medea Benjamin

Just as talks between the United States and Iran were taking place last week in Vienna, a cyberattack was carried out on Iran’s Natanz nuclear facility. Reports are that the Mossad, Israel’s intelligence agency, was behind the attack that blacked out the facility just one day after Tehran launched new advanced uranium enrichment centrifuges, and as U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin was in Israel speaking about the United States’ “enduring and ironclad” commitment to the Jewish state.

This is the latest in a series of Israeli attacks on Iran designed to scuttle negotiations. Last summer, a number of explosions attributed to Israel broke out across Iran, including a fire at the Natanz site. These took place while U.S. elections were in full swing and Biden was promising that if elected, he would return the United States to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal (formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or JCPOA) that Trump withdrew from in 2018. In November 2020, Israeli operatives assassinated Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, Iran’s top nuclear scientist in the city of Absard outside Tehran. Had Iran responded, the United States might have been dragged into an all-out war.

Israeli officials have also directly lobbied the U.S. Congress to quash the deal. In 2015, Netanyahu traveled to Washington, D.C., in 2015 to address a joint session of Congress in an attempt to uncut Obama’s original negotiations.

Nov. 11, 2015: U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, center left, with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Washington. Flanking them on left is U.S. Special Envoy for Israeli–Palestinian Negotiations Frank Lowenstein and on right, Yossi Cohen, then Israeli national security adviser. (U.S. State Department)

This time, Mossad chief Yossi Cohen will be traveling to Washington to meet with top White House and U.S. intelligence officials, and he hopes with Biden directly, to convince the administration that Iran has been concealing details about its nuclear program and therefore can’t be trusted. This is indeed ironic coming from a country that, unlike Iran, actually has nuclear weapons and refuses to disclose any information about its program.

Efforts to Quash Talks  

Like Israel, the powerful U.S. lobby American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) is trying to convince Biden not to go back into the JCPOA. Last month, they organized bipartisan letters in the House and Senate, urging the Biden administration to insist on an expanded deal that included missiles, human rights and Iran’s activities in the region. Since Tehran has been clear that an expanded or amended deal is a nonstarter, such “advice” was an attempt to quash talks.

The neoconservative think tank Foundation for the Defense of Democracies (FDD), which worked inside the Trump administration during and after Trump pulled out of the JCPOA, has been relentlessly pushing for war with Iran.

After the United States recklessly assassinated Iran’s top general, Qassem Soleimani, FDD CEO Mark Dubowitz gloatedtweeting that the death of Soleimani was “more consequential than the killing of [Osama] #BinLaden”; and on April 11, the same day as the Natanz blackout, former CIA officer and FDD fellow Reuel Marc Gerecht, speaking on CNN, voiced disappointment that Trump hadn’t taken the United States and Iran into an all-out war.

Anti-aircraft guns guarding Iran’s Natanz nuclear facility in 2006. (Hamed Saber, CC BY 2.0, Wikimedia Commons)

Another group against a deal with Iran is Christians United for Israel (CUFI), one of the most powerful pro-Israel voices in the United States. In March 2021, CUFI urged the Senate not to confirm Colin Kahl for a top policy position at the Pentagon, claiming, “Kahl is a serial Iran appeaser” who “helped advance the disastrous Iran nuclear accord.” In response to the blackout at Natanz, they cheered Netanyahu, tweeting “‘Battling Iran is a colossal mission,’ Netanyahu says following blackout at Iranian nuclear plant.”

The People’s Mujahedin of Iran, or MEK, which the United States had previously designated as a terrorist organization and is known for assassinations and bombings it has carried out, is virulently opposed to U.S.-Iran diplomacy. In March 2021, a number of U.S. Senators attended a virtual event organized by the MEK-aligned Organization of Iranian American Communities (OIAC) calling for continued U.S. sanctions and “bringing down the regime.” Senator Bob Menendez, the powerful chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, was among several Democrats in attendance.

The opponents of the Iran deal are trying to keep in place the draconian wall of sanctions that the Trump administration imposed precisely to make it more difficult for a future U.S. administration to rejoin the JCPOA. But these sanctions are causing immense suffering for ordinary Iranians, including runaway inflation and skyrocketing food and medicine prices. According to the UN, they contributed to the government’s “inadequate and opaque” response to the COVID-19 pandemic that has hit Iran particularly hard.

While “successful” in inflicting harm on the Iranian people, the sanctions have failed to broaden the terms of the talks, led the nation to increase its uranium enrichment, negatively impacted the human rights situation, and put the United States and Iran on the brink of an all-out war on multiple occasions.

That’s why so many people in Iran, and those who care about them, have been encouraged by this new round of diplomatic engagement. But Israel, AIPAC, CUFI, FDD, MEK, Menendez, and the like are probably instead hoping that Iran carries out the revenge that Iranian officials have called for in response to the Natanz blackout. But as the saboteurs of diplomacy hope for a violent escalation, let’s keep in mind — and hope Iran agrees — that the best revenge would be a revived JCPOA.

Medea Benjamin is cofounder of CODEPINK for Peace, and author of several books, including Inside Iran: The Real History of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Ariel Gold is the national co-director and senior Middle East policy analyst with CODEPINK for Peace.

This article is from Jacobin.

The views expressed are solely those of the authors and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.

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7 comments for “Hawks Who Want War with Iran Work Overtime

  1. michael888
    April 18, 2021 at 11:44

    US sanctions (almost always attached to National “Emergencies” — ongoing with Iran since 1979) are aimed at the civilian population. If they suffer, the idea is they will overthrow the leaders (who are never to be touched personally by sanctions). You can just look at the psychopaths involved– Madeleine Albright, John Bolton, Hillary Clinton, Mike Pompeo, Antony Blinken, etc,– to realize they take great delight in the suffering of the civilians in these “enemy” nations.

    As to the JCPOA, which foreign government would trust any treaty to which America is a party? Trump made a treaty with the Taliban to get America out of Afghanistan in May. Biden says not gonna happen, maybe by 9/11/21? Why would the Taliban “behave” for yet another four months of occupation? Betrayal after betrayal does not lend itself to credibility. (The biggest was agreeing that NATO would not move any closer to Russia when the Soviet Union was disbanded. Russia seethes, and will pick their moments to respond).

  2. Tony
    April 18, 2021 at 11:15

    I certainly hope that the deal does get back on again.

    If people were genuinely worried about Iran, why not support a nuclear-free zone in the Middle East?

  3. Zhu
    April 17, 2021 at 19:38

    It’s an interesting article. Too bad the authors didn’t talk about Christian Zionists, Dispensationalists eager for the End of the world. Christian Zionists provide Netanyahu with most of his clout inside the US.

  4. Jonny James
    April 17, 2021 at 11:25

    Cowardly warmongers (so-called hawks) are willing to fight to the last drop of other people’s blood, while they sip Champagne and hide behind a wall of wealth and security. The typical and predictable lies and war propaganda are repeated in the corporate media echo-chamber. The “enemy” is whoever you are told they are: Iran, Russia, China, Cuba,, Venezuela – the countries that dare resist the diktats of the Empire.

    However, the situations may spiral out of control very easily. Unilateral sanctions (based on lies) are not only illegal, they are ACTS OF WAR. The term “sanction” is a dangerous euphemism. The dangers of escalation and the possibility of a nuclear war are the highest it has been in a generation (or even worse). The US has only one card left to play: threat of nuclear destruction – the world is held hostage.

  5. peter mcloughlin
    April 17, 2021 at 09:09

    The JCPOA has to be viewed as part of a increasingly dangerous world, where global (nuclear) war threatens. Washington is on collision course with Moscow and Beijing. The Middle East will be a major theater of that conflict. One protagonists (nuclear power or not) could trigger the sequence of event leading to WWIII. Capitals are ignoring the pattern of history at everyone’s peril.

  6. Sky
    April 16, 2021 at 19:12

    Ms. Benjamin, grateful for your tremendous work for peace and fairness. Can you confirm that Iran originally went to nuclear as a clean energy alternative only?Their beautiful country was being badly carbon polluted; Israelis, perhaps wanting to get control of this rich country misinterpreted.

    • James Simpson
      April 18, 2021 at 02:38

      There is no reason I can see for Iran not to have nuclear weapons if it wants to. After all, Israel has a large number of these internationally-illegal weapons of mass death. As do the USA and the UK who are also making Iran their enemy. Until those governments get rid of their own arsenals in their entirety, Iran has the moral right to make its own.

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