Scott McConnell has described the recent comments made by Patrick Clawson, director of research for the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), an organization founded by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and closely tied to the Israeli government. Clawson heads WINEP’s Iran Security Initiative. As Clawson’s comments are both quite extraordinary and revealing of a certain mindset, they deserve to be shared with a wider audience. In a briefing on September 24, Clawson said, “I frankly think that crisis initiation is really tough, and it’s very hard for me to see how the United States … uh … president can get us to war with Iran … The traditional way America gets to war is what would be best for U.S. interests.”

Note that Clawson states his conviction that initiating a crisis to get the U.S. involved in a war with Iran and thereby convincing the American people that it is the right thing to do is actually a “U.S. interest.” He also automatically conflates possible Israeli interests with those of the United States. He goes on to cite Pearl Harbor, Fort Sumter, the Lusitania, and the Gulf of Tonkin as models for how to get engaged, with the suggestion that all four incidents were contrived to produce a war. Which leads logically to Clawson’s solution:  “if in fact the Iranians aren’t going to compromise it would be best if someone else started the war… Iranian submarines periodically go down. Some day one of them may not come up…. We are in the game of using covert means against the Iranians. We could get nastier at that.”

Clawson is declaring that “someone” should fabricate a situation that would produce a conflict that could have a catastrophic impact on the United States as well as on the entire Middle East. He might be seen as moderately ridiculous, but like many of his neoconservative colleagues he is well wired into the system. He writes regularly for the Washington Post, the New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal; appears on television as an “expert”; and he is a colleague at WINEP of the ubiquitous Dennis Ross, who was until recently President Obama’s point man on the Middle East. Clawson might reasonably be required to register as an agent of the Israeli government, but instead he is feted by the media as a man who uses an institutional bully pulpit to defend American interests.