On Afghanistan, we have seen the emergence of a bipartisan, sober group of senators who understand the stakes and who aren’t shy about giving advice to the president. The same should be the case on Iran. Rather than platitudinous letters or resolutions, the most worthwhile endeavor at this point (one to three years from the time Iran has a nuclear weapon) would be to develop a bipartisan group that is candid on the administration’s deficiencies and vocal about the options we have for preventing Iran from going nuclear.
A fine starting point would be this, from Dan Coats, a candidate for the Senate, who explains the problem:
This is the most urgent national security issue America confronts today. Unfortunately, none of the actions taken, including inspections, reports and sanctions, has effectively challenged the Iranian regime’s nuclear ambitions. … Advocating an international group hug does nothing but encourage the enemy; all talk and no action emboldens bullies to be even more aggressive toward its neighbors and the world community.
He recommends three steps:
A much-enhanced international coalition devoted to the same objective: to prevent Iran from gaining nuclear weapons. A strong, ever-tightening sanctions track. The six UN Security Council sanctions resolutions over the past four years are far too weak to compel Iran to comply with the international community’s demands. Concrete military preparations. We are dealing with a regime that appears to respect little other than the genuine threat of force.
As to the first, we have done nothing to isolate and ostracize the Iranian regime diplomatically; to the contrary, we have welcomed the regime into UN bodies and afforded it the respect that the mullahs crave (and which will demoralize the internal opposition). But it is the third recommendation that is the most critical. Coats explains:
If it is true that a nuclear weapons-capable Iran is “unacceptable,” then our nation and the international community must understand what few options remain should the first two tracks fail. And Iran must be especially clear-eyed about those potential consequences. Indeed, to give the diplomatic and sanctions tracks the credibility they require, the military option must be genuinely credible.
It seems as though there is already a core group of grown-ups in the U.S. Senate — John McCain, Lindsey Graham, Dianne Feinstein, and Joe Lieberman immediately come to mind — who have the respect of their colleagues, the expertise, and the appropriate demeanor to take on this task. The administration is sleepwalking toward a national-security disaster, and the time for biting lips and pulling punches is over. It is time to tell the administration what it is doing wrong and how to fix it — before it is too late.