Kerry and the Iran Surrender Caucus need to get their stories straight

One hundred and fifty members of Congress signed a letter supporting President Obama’s diplomatic efforts vis-à-vis the Iranian nuclear weapons program.

May 14, 2015 23:02
4 minute read.
US Secretary of State John Kerry waits for the start of a trilateral meeting in Lausanne

US Secretary of State John Kerry waits for the start of a trilateral meeting at the Beau Rivage Palace Hotel in Lausanne. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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One hundred and fifty members of Congress – all Democrats and, among them, most of the small group of bitterly anti-Israel lawmakers – signed a letter supporting President Obama’s diplomatic efforts vis-à-vis the Iranian nuclear weapons program.

Authored by Reps. Jan Schakowsky (Illinois), Lloyd Doggett (Texas), and David Price (North Carolina), the letter exemplifies the hyper-partisanship that has driven the left wing of the Democrat party on this issue even as that wing has cried “partisan extremism” at the responses from Republicans.

As if trying to prove Churchill right, this Iran Surrender Caucus, whenever presented with a choice between dishonor and war, has chosen dishonor while increasing the likelihood of war.

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Whether those choices come from obeisance to the knee-jerk anti-war Left or legitimate agreement with it is immaterial as the results are the same.

It’s worth noting that pro-Israel stalwart Democrats like New York Reps. Eliot Engel and Nita Lowey and House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (Maryland) did not sign this letter. It’s also worth noting that House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (California), fresh off being “near tears” at the insulting condescension of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s March speech to Congress, did.

Among its many problems, the letter claims, “war itself will not make us safe. A US or Israeli military strike may set back Iranian nuclear development by two or three years at best.”

And yet, last week, Secretary of State John Kerry told Israel’s Channel 10: “I say to every Israeli that today we have the ability to stop them if they decided to move quickly to a bomb, and I absolutely guarantee that in the future we will have the ability to know what they are doing so that we can still stop them if they decided to move to a bomb.”

“Today we have the ability to stop them.”

What does that mean? Not set them back a few years. “Stop them.” Is it possible that the Iran Surrender Caucus’ declaration of the impossibility of military success is based on something other than the actual possibility of military success? Iran’s air-based defenses are composed of a few dozen F-14, F-4 and MiG fighters of various ages. In 2009, Iran’s sole AWAC aircraft, an airborne, long-range, early warning command and control system, crashed during a military air show (which tells you pretty much everything you need to know about Iranian air defense).

Since that time, Iran has sought to upgrade its land-based air defense systems to relatively little avail. The recent Russian decision to sell the S-300 missile system to Iran – which would constitute a significant upgrade – has been delayed and may or may not end up happening. Jane’s Defence has reported that Iran intends to deploy a homemade version of the S-300 within one year.

The US Navy has carrier-based assets on two carriers in the 5th Fleet, which the commander of the Iranian Navy threatened last year to sink, as well as the assets aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt. Those carriers together contain more combat aircraft than the Iranian Air Force has on active duty. The US Air Force has bases in Bahrain, Turkey, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.

In other words, it would difficult to overstate the available American firepower that can be brought to bear against Iran’s... ahem... defenses.

Iranian nuclear facilities are widely reported (usually by American politicians seeking to prove how fruitless an American attack on Iranian facilities would be) to be heavily fortified; often dug into mountains and covered by dozens of feet of reinforced concrete. One can find experts on both sides of the argument about the probable success or failure of an American strike. What one cannot rationally say is that setting the Iranian weapons program back “two or three years” is the best-case scenario. That is patently false. A reasonable best-case scenario would be that the program is reduced to rubble.

I don’t know about you, but I like our odds.

Perhaps that’s what Secretary Kerry meant when he said that, “today we have the ability to stop them.”

Would there be an Iranian response to an American strike? Assuredly so. Would Iran make use of its extensive network of international terrorist groups to exact revenge? You mean the network that makes fear of an Iranian nuke so entirely reasonable for Americans? Yes, they probably would. Might young Iranians, resistant to the theocratic regime, rally around the supreme leader? Yes, they might.

Those are political concerns. Not military ones. And, if the Iran Surrender Caucus would like to make those arguments, they should give it a try. But they should stop deceiving the American public about our military capabilities simply because they prefer to appease nuclear weapons-seeking state-sponsors of terrorism.

Jonathan Greenberg is a Middle East analyst, public policy expert, and former staffer at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. He is a senior fellow with the Salomon Center for American Jewish Thought.

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