Dressing Up Unprovoked Aggression as 'Plan B'

A military attack to “prevent” Iran from acquiring something they are not seeking is many things, but it is not a last resort.

Michael Singh wants the Biden administration to threaten Iran with preventive war:

But the Biden administration should also prepare for the eventuality that diplomatic and economic pressure will not be enough to deter Iran’s leadership from its pursuit of nuclear weapons. Officials in Tehran have already demonstrated that they are willing to permit their country to endure severe economic hardship for the sake of nuclear advancement. As a result, the United States will need to send a clear message that it is willing to go beyond sanctions and conduct a military strike as a last resort to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.

A military attack to “prevent” Iran from acquiring something they are not seeking is many things, but it is not a last resort. Attacking Iran to “prevent” a possible future threat is obviously not defensive. It is unprovoked aggression against another country based on an unproven assumption that the targeted government intends to build these weapons. It is worth adding that it would still be an act of aggression even if the Iranian government were actually trying to acquire those weapons, so it would be even more egregious if they were not. This is the same demented logic that led to the invasion of Iraq, which was an illegal war of aggression.

The U.S. has no right to take military action against Iran’s nuclear facilities. There is no international authorization for such an action, and barring some very strange developments Russia and China would never approve of such an attack. A military strike (or, more realistically, a major air campaign) against Iran’s facilities would be the act of a rogue superpower in violation of the U.N. Charter. When pundits and analysts urge Biden to pursue a “Plan B” that includes military action, they are urging him to commit a massive international crime.

If Iran were ever to build nuclear weapons, it would most likely be as a deterrent to protect themselves against just this sort of aggression. Iran hawks are incapable of grasping this point, but most of what the Iranian government does in the region that the U.S. finds so objectionable is intended to discourage attacks on their country. Launching an illegal attack on their country would be exactly the wrong thing to do if you want to discourage their government from acquiring nuclear weapons. On the other hand, if you are looking for a pretext to start a war with the goal of weakening Iran or toppling its government, launching this attack would be the way to start.

The advocates of more pressure and military action claim that they want to “deter” Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, but everything that they and other Iran hawks have done for at least the last fifteen years has had the opposite effect. The sanctions they have supported caused Iran to expand its nuclear program, and the sabotage and assassination attacks that they endorse have had the same result. Military action is practically guaranteed to backfire in the same way. They are either exceptionally incompetent in devising the right policies to achieve the goals they say they want, or their real goals are entirely different and have nothing to do with nonproliferation. Either way, Biden should ignore their recommendations and salvage the existing agreement while it is still there to be salvaged.