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Israel, Iran and the new neocons

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Iran and the New Neocons

by Davin Hutchins

VOICEOVER: For more than a year, DC has been abuzz about Iran and its nukes, and lots of familiar words are being thrown around—imminent threat, weapons of mass destruction, preemptive war. On cable TV and in closed public forums, hawks like Bush’s former UN ambassador are floating and at times advocating this idea: Israel needs to launch a preemptive air strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities before the next US president comes into office. If you read his recent Wall Street Journal op-ed piece, Bolton’s logic goes something like this: Iran intends to enrich weapons-grade uranium as part of its domestic nuclear program; Iran successfully launched long-range ballistic missiles earlier this year; therefore a nuclear attack on Israel is imminent; so Israel must strike first. Never mind the fact American intelligence agencies released a sweeping report this year stating Iran has no active nuclear weapons program, despite the desire for nuclear power.

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SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST, HANNITY AND COLMES: Ahmadinejad continues to threaten Israel and their very existence, and threatens to wipe them off the map. Do they have any alternative but to strike before they get nuclear weapons?

JOHN BOLTON, FORMER US AMBASSADOR TO THE UN: Either Israel strikes before the capability reaches fruition, or they are at the leadership of Iran’s mercy.

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VOICEOVER: Rest assured, the new neocon movement is alive and well, just with a new cast of characters. It’s easy to agree on Iran’s intentions. What’s harder for these new neocons is building consensus on what to do about it. So mostly they gravitate to what they know—regime change, preemptive war. And like with the planning of Iraq, or lack thereof, it’s hard to find evidence of serious thinking about the long-term consequences of a preemptive war on Iran. So we thought it was important to find out how far ahead these guys are thinking. You see, when neocons talk about an Israeli attack on Iran publicly, it goes something like this: Around Christmas, President Bush tacitly allows an Israeli air strike on uranium enrichment facilities near Esfahan; the site is obliterated; Iran submits; end of story. But here’s another possible scenario: President Bush tacitly allows an Israeli air strike on the uranium enrichment facilities near Esfahan, which is a city of two million people. The site is obliterated, causing uranium groundwater contamination and nuclear fallout. In response, Iran launches three of its Shahab-3 rockets at Tel Aviv, then blockades the Strait of Hormuz. Oil speculators panic; crude prices soar to $200 a barrel; world stock markets buckle. Mujahideen worldwide are reinvigorated by Israeli aggression. Sound far-fetched? Well, the Pentagon has run war games outlining very similar scenarios. But the second scenario, which ends badly for Israel and the US, is seldom discussed, especially not publicly. Bolton paints a relatively rosy picture.

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REPORTER: And if Iran made good on the threat of launching missiles into Tel Aviv, what kind of effect do you think that might have? And do you think the US should support military troops [inaudible]?

BOLTON: I think the Iranians have to think long and hard before they retaliate like that, because that would risk an escalation from Israel.

REPORTER: Should we think long and hard? I mean—.

BOLTON: It’s a very difficult calculation, and that’s why nobody can advocate a military strike casually.

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VOICEOVER: The American Enterprise Institute, where Bolton is a fellow, was the main ideological force behind the Iraq War. They’re now advising John McCain’s campaign. Lesser known think tanks include the Center for Security Policy, headed by Frank Gaffney. Gaffney is more nuanced in his approach, stressing sanctions and regime change, but never rules an attack out.

FRANK GAFFNEY, CENTER FOR SECURITY POLICY: So an attack, even one aimed simply at disrupting those capabilities, is likely to cause quite considerable damage to [inaudible], who are no more responsible for this craziness than we are.

VOICEOVER: But Gaffney’s one of Richard Perle’s protégés, strongly linked to AEI. Yes, that’s the same Perle who is now profiting from the Iraq War after securing new oil contracts in northern Iraq. Gaffney also hangs out with influential people like Bolton or Senator Joe Lieberman, who is also advising McCain’s campaign. Another guy to watch is Patrick Clawson, the go-to man on Iran for the Washington Institute on Near East Policy. He recently wrote a manifesto of sorts, arguing this: since Iran is likely to respond to an Israeli attack against Iran’s nukes, sooner is better than later. WINEP, as it’s sometimes called, is less well known than AEI or CSP, but just as influential. Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz remain on WINEP’s board of advisors. But when it comes down to what happens next, it’s hard to get a straight answer. And the doomsday scenario, where Israel and America suffer because of an Israeli strike, seldom comes up.

Christians United For Israel Annual Conference

VOICEOVER: It didn’t at a panel Gaffney and Clawson were speaking at recently, provocatively titled "Iran: Eye of the Storm," for an audience of Christian zionists.

VIDEO PRESENTATION: Iran’s nuclear program is thought to be spread at over at least 50 sites. They could, at least in theory, enrich uranium to 90 percent.

PATRICK CLAWSON, WASHINGTON INSTITUTE ON NEAR EAST POLICY: So a nuclear Iran is something that we ought to be taking very seriously. We ought to be taking it seriously because it threatens Israel, but we also ought to be taking it seriously because it threatens the Middle East and, indeed, it threatens the world.

VOICEOVER: Like many journalists, ANP reporters tried to cover this panel. We were denied access, as was all press. Luckily, one of the conference-goers attended and sent us this video footage. The following day, we tried again. ANP was allowed to film a panel exploring Middle Eastern threats to Israel.

PANEL SPEAKER: [inaudible] assessment of the threat from Iran, where it’s heading—.

REP. ELLIOT ENGEL (D-NY): There is no way that the world can sit idly by and allow Iran to develop a nuclear bomb.

VOICEOVER: The star panelist was veteran neocon Bill Kristol.

BILL KRISTOL, FOUNDER AND EDITOR, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: —making sure Iran does not get nuclear weapons, defeating terrorists elsewhere.

VOICEOVER: Although we were allowed to film, the event’s PR agents stonewalled us when it came to questions.

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REPORTER: Why am I wearing this badge allowing you press access if I can’t ask press questions?

PR AGENT: Well, without access, you can’t even get what’s going [inaudible].

REPORTER: My question is to both Mr. Bauer and to Mr. Kristol: what do you think should be the Israelis’ policy towards Iran before the new president comes in? I am going to approach that microphone. If you want to call security to prevent me from asking this one question, you may do that.

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VOICEOVER: We chased down Kristol to see what he thought about what might follow an attack on Iran. He seemed at a loss for words.

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REPORTER: Can I ask one follow-up about Iran?

KRISTOL: [inaudible] Nice to meet you. Good luck.

REPORTER: Just a question about: do you think, if Israel made the decision to attack Natanz, what should the US response be?

KRISTOL: Why do we have to have any response?

REPORTER: Israel has nuclear weapons, and Iran has threatened to bomb Tel Aviv. So we wouldn’t abandon Israel, right? So do we have the resources right now to fully protect Israel should it escalate? That’s my question.

KRISTOL: [inaudible] protect. I think we have the resources to deter Iran from doing anything.

REPORTER: Well, how much do you think we would need to—. Hmm?

KRISTOL: I don’t know.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: Thank you for coming. Thank you for your time. Thanks.

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VOICEOVER: We hoped to get more clarity from Bolton or Gaffney for this report; both declined to be interviewed. Instead, for such clarity we must look to those who understand the challenges and cost of war more intimately. This month, Admiral William Fallon, formerly a high-ranking Pentagon official for President Bush, shared his views. His advice to those weighing an Israeli attack on Iran? Don’t do it, especially if you can’t anticipate what all the possible outcomes might be.

TEXT ON SCREEN: A new report released this week by the Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security asserts an attack on Iran will likely backfire, strengthen Iran’s ruling clerics, and shut the International Atomic Agency out of further inspections in Iran.

DISCLAIMER:

Please note that TRNN transcripts are typed from a recording of the program; The Real News Network cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.