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A War With Iran Would Be A Disaster

The war drums have started again in the Middle East. The Trump Administration is claiming that the Iranians have attacked oil tankers with mines. However, the owner of one of the tankers that was attacked has since denied the Administration’s allegations.

These are dangerous times in the Middle East because the Trump Administration has steadily increased tensions with Iran since it took office. Trump repudiated the Obama era nuclear deal even though both former Defense Secretary James Mattis and the IAEA said that Iran was complying with the agreement. Moreover, the Administration has levied new, punishing economic sanctions on Iran.

What makes the current situation even more dangerous is that Trump’s two key foreign policy advisers are Iran war hawks. They work for Trump and have his ear. On December 3, 2014: then U.S. House Representative and current Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said: “The United States and its allies should consider striking Iran’s nuclear capabilities. In an unclassified setting, it is under 2,000 sorties to destroy the Iranian nuclear capacity. This is not an insurmountable task for the coalition forces.”

On March 26, 2015, current National Security Adviser John Bolton wrote an op/ed in the NY Times titled: “To Stop Iran’s Bomb, Bomb Iran.” In this piece, Bolton called for airstrikes on Iran and regime change in Tehran. (Regime in the Middle East? What could possibly go wrong?)

The Trump Administration would like us to focus solely on the justification for war with Iran. That’s what the Republicans did with Iraq. The focus in 2002–03 was on Saddam’s evil doing and alleged fearsome arsenal of WMDs. That was a mistake. There never was a serious debate over the wisdom of invading and occupying Iraq. As it turned out, the Bush Administration completely botched the occupation of Iraq after the overthrow of the Saddam Hussein regime. Before the invasion, there was virtually no discussion of what was going to happen after the U.S. became an occupying power.

If the Administration begins to push for a war with Iran, the wisdom of the war (or lack thereof) needs to be front and center in the debate. If we get a discussion largely focused on the justification for war, the Administration will trot out so-called evidence from the military and the intelligence community. They will then impugn the patriotism of anybody who challenges that evidence. Trump will cowardly hide behind the generals to market a war.

Focusing on the justification for the war — and not the foolishness of the conflict — plays into the hands of the radical right. That’s why the focus needs to be on why a new war in the Middle East is a terrible idea. A war with Iran would be a lot tougher than the Iraq War. As a matter of fact, it would be a sanguinary disaster. Focusing the debate on the wisdom (or lack thereof) of a new war in the Middle East would put the Trump Administration on the defensive — not us.

The notion of going to war with Iran isn’t exactly a new idea from the radical right. During Bush’s second term, Dick Cheney advocated for airstrikes aimed at taking out Iran’s nuclear program. Fortunately, Condoleeza Rice and Robert Gates talked Bush out of it.

Perhaps Rice and Gates were influenced by a 2002 war game conducted by the Pentagon to simulate a potential war between the U.S. and Iran. The Iran team launched a series of cruise missile attacks that overwhelmed the U.S. missile defenses and sunk a significant portion of what was the equivalent to a carrier strike group.

Iran also has the capability to shut down (at least temporarily) the Straits of Hormuz through which flows 33% of the world’s seaborne oil shipments. The Iranians have their own navy, speed boats, mines and anti-ship missiles with which to attack both military and civilian seaborne traffic in the vital Straits of Hormuz. Even a temporary shutdown of the Straits of Hormuz would drive up the price of fuel and cause a world wide recession.

What makes the Trump Administration’s potential war plans even more dangerous is that Secretary of State Pompeo is claiming that the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) passed by the Congress on September 14, 2001, provides a legal basis to take the country to war with Iran without Congressional approval. Obviously, the 2001 AUMF authorized U.S. military action in Afghanistan to take out those parties who were responsible for the terrorist attacks of 9/11/01 — it has nothing do with anything happening eighteen years later.

Senator Elizabeth Warren flatly rejected Pompeo’s claim of virtually unlimited executive power to wage war in the Middle East: “If the administration wants to go to war against Iran, then the Constitution requires them to come to Congress to ask for an authorization for the use of military force. This is Constitutional Law 101, that it is Congress, not the president, that declares war. We would have to have a debate on the floor of the Senate. And if the administration doesn’t believe that they can withstand a debate, then they shouldn’t be aiming themselves toward war.”

I’m getting a feeling of deja vu since Trump has been blaming Iran for these tanker attacks with scant evidence. This period of time is reminiscent of the Bush Administration’s push for war with Iran in 2002–03. We need to call our members of Congress and demand that there be no war with Iran without Congressional approval. Thank you for all that you do!

I’m a trial lawyer, a Democratic activist and a sports fan.

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