Remember that letter John Thune, Mike Rounds, and 45 other Senators sent to Iran’s mullahs last March to undermine President Barack Obama’s effort to negotiate a deal to stifle Iran’s drive for nuclear weapons? The author of that letter, Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas, continues to make clear that he (and thus, those who supported his letter to undermine diplomacy) wants war:
As opposed to the Iraq war, whose objective was to topple Saddam Hussein and required 150,000 troops on the ground, a military campaign against Iran would aim solely to thwart the regime’s nuclear program, Cotton said. A potential military confrontation with Iran would be similar to the US’s 1998 Operation Desert Fox — a four-day bombing campaign — or the Kosovo War, he said.
“You can destroy facilities. I don’t think any military expert in the United States or elsewhere would say the US military is not capable to setting Iran’s nuclear facilities back to day zero,” Cotton said. “Can we eliminate it forever? No, because any advanced industrialized country can develop nuclear weapons in four to seven years, from zero. But we can set them back to day zero.”
Israel destroyed the nuclear reactors in Iraq and Syria, Cotton said, and these acts succeeded in deterring these countries from trying to become nuclear powers. “Syria hasn’t been building nuclear reactors lately, in part because that use of force demonstrated the political will not to allow that country to proceed with nuclear facilities. Once it’s done once, a country gets the picture and they know that their adversary has the political will to stop them from developing those facilities” [Raphael Ahren, “US Senator: A Military Strike Could Send Iran ‘Back to Day Zero’,” Times of Israel, 2015.08.05].
Thune, Rounds, and other Cotton-picking Senators who want to undermine the Iran deal are tacitly supporting a political stance predicated on the belief that getting into a shooting war with Iran is a good idea.
Greg Sargent of the Washington Post helpfully quotes Senator Chris Murphy from Connecticut, who is a bit more realistic about Cotton’s buckaroo foreign policy:
Senator Cotton said this week that we could bomb Iran back to day zero if we took a military route to divorcing Iran from a nuclear weapon. Let’s get back to reality for a second about what a military strike would mean. You can set back Iran’s nuclear program for a series of years, but you cannot bomb Iran back to day zero unless you are also prepared to assassinate everyone in Iran who has worked on the nuclear program. Why? Because you can’t destruct knowledge. You can’t remove entirely from that country the set of facts that got them within two to three months of a nuclear weapon.
And so I know that members bristle at this notion that the president is suggesting it’s a choice between an agreement or war. But there are members of this body who are openly cheerleading for military engagement with Iran, who are oversimplifying the effect of military action, who are blind to the reality of U.S. military activity in that region over the course of the last 10 to 15 years. This belief in the omnipotent, unfailing power of the U.S. military is simply not based in reality. We could set back the nuclear program for a series of years, but the consequences to the region would be catastrophic [Senator Chris Murphy, quoted in Greg Sargent, “Tom Cotton: We Can Bomb Iran’s Nuke Program Back to ‘Day Zero’,” Washington Post: Plum Line, 2015.08.05].
We can follow President Obama’s negotiated deal, which checks Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons for ten to fifteen years while engaging Iran with science and trade, or we can play Cowboy Cotton, blow up Iranian nuclear facilities, make Iran more determined than ever to build nuclear weapons, and put ourselves and Israel at risk of a hot war with Iran with little to no backing from our allies, who would be miffed that we broke the deal they worked hard to help us achieve and hesitant to jump into a war on behalf of an America that fired first.
The future is always uncertain. Any Iran scenario could someday lead to dead South Dakotans in the desert. But Senators Thune and Rounds, with their backing of Senator Cotton’s belligerence, are angling to send South Dakotans to die in the desert much sooner and more surely.