Home/Daniel Larison/Derailing Diplomacy With Iran Makes War More Likely

Derailing Diplomacy With Iran Makes War More Likely

Mark Wallace and David Ibsen are annoyed that Iran hawks are being called out for their sabotage of diplomacy:

For Ms. Meehan to assert that the majority of U.S. Senators secretly want a war and are not being “up front with the American public” is nonsensical, beyond the pale and puzzling for a variety of reasons.

For one, sanctions are a non-violent policy tool used to avoid war.

This is at best a half-truth. It’s true that sanctions are a coercive tool short of using force, but they are nonetheless coercive and inflict real harm on the population of the targeted country. On several occasions in the recent past, imposing sanctions has just been a stepping stone to military action. Sanctions can be more of a prelude to military action rather than an alternative to it, and that is especially true when the demands connected to sanctions are so maximalist that the other government cannot agree to them short of capitulation. By setting conditions that the other party cannot or will not realistically accept, advocates for new sanctions on Iran are making conflict more likely whether they know it or not. Perhaps some of the supporters of the so-called “Nuclear Weapons Free Iran Act” believe that they are backing a measure that makes war less likely, but if they do believe this they are quite wrong. Matt Duss observes:

No one predicted at the time that the Iraq Liberation Act, which was promoted as an effort to support democratic movements in Iraq, would within five years result in a U.S. invasion and occupation of that country. In retrospect, it was a significant step in that direction. Supporters of new Iran sanctions may not necessarily desire a war with Iran, but there’s little question that these sanctions would make such an outcome more likely.

While it’s true that the failure of negotiations would not immediately trigger hostilities, it is virtually certain that agitation for military action against Iran will increase significantly if negotiations are derailed at this stage. If Congress passed this bill, it would give Iran the pretext to abandon the negotiations while blaming the U.S. for their collapse, and many of the same people pushing for the bill’s passage would declare that diplomacy had “failed” and that ever-increasing sanctions and/or military action are the only options left. Since at least one of the bill’s co-sponsors is on record repeatedly saying that the U.S. has been appeasing Iran, it is disingenuous at best to say that most of the bill’s supporters are interested in a diplomatic resolution to the dispute. As far as Kirk, Rubio, et al. are concerned, any diplomatic agreement that can realistically be had is treachery, and the only deal they would approve of is one that Iran would never accept. Many of the bill’s supporters clearly loathe diplomacy with Iran unless it results in Iran’s total capitulation on this issue, which is to say that they loathe diplomacy with Iran as such.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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