Iran Experts Oppose Iran Attack During Standing Room Only Capitol Hill Forum

April 13, 2012

In January, MPAC held a policy forum on Capitol Hill with top analysts and experts on U.S. national security policy, Iranian affairs and regional security to discuss the consequences of a military strike on Iran.

On Saturday, April 14 at  2:30 p.m. PST/ 5:30 p.m. EST and Wednesday, April 18 6 p.m. PST/9 p.m. EST, LinkTV will be airing the forum on their channel.


The event, “Avoiding Disaster: The Consequences of a Military Strike on Iran and its Alternatives,” focused on the security, political and economic effects of a violent military confrontation with Iran. Dozens of Hill staffers, representatives of civil society organizations and members of the public attended the standing-room only briefing. The event was broadcast live on Link TV and attended by the Washington Times.

MPAC's Iran paperMPAC Government & Policy Analyst Alejandro Beutel, who moderated the event, also announced the release of MPAC's new position paper-- “Selecting ‘Options on the Table’ Carefully: The Consequences of a Military Strike on Iran.”

Drawing upon many of the world’s top regional, military, economic and political subjects, the paper stresses the importance of expanding our currently under-explored approaches to toning down confrontational rhetoric, re-engaging effective international institutions and reinvigorating diplomacy and sanctions that target human rights violators rather than the Iranian people.

The forum also featured:

Paul R. Pillar - Former 28-year veteran of the U.S. intelligence community and Director of Graduate Studies at Georgetown University’s Center for Peace and Security Studies.

Heather Hurlburt - Executive Director of the National Security Network and former member of the State Department’s Policy Planning Staff during the Clinton Administration.

Jamal Abdi - Director of Policy at the National Iranian American Council and former Policy Advisor to Representative Brian Baird (D-WA) and expert on foreign affairs, immigration and defense.

Key takeaways from their remarks include:

Pillar discussed the security and economic consequences of a military confrontation with Iran. He noted that it is uncertain whether or not Iran is actually seeking a nuclear weapon or merely the infrastructure – within internationally legal means – to build one later if necessary. Pillar also noted that an attack on Iran is not guaranteed to be effective enough to destroy its infrastructure.

In his assessment, an attack would absolutely guarantee an explicit pursuit of nuclear weapons by the regime and invite attack from intelligence and guerilla forces, such as Hezbollah, the Ministry of Intelligence and National Security and Revolution Corps Guard against targets in the region and elsewhere around the world. They would also close off the Strait of Hormuz. The effects of such a reprisal would be militarily and economically devastating. He concluded that the costs of an attack would enormously outweigh its benefits.

Abdi examined the domestic political dynamics of Iran and how they relate to the nuclear question vis-à-vis the United States and international community. He noted that there are significant divisions among the Iranian political elite and, contrary to popular perceptions, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is not calling the shots on nuclear issues in Iran; supreme leader Ayatollah Seyed Ali Hosseini Khamenei is the leading decision-maker.

Abdi also stressed the need for persistent diplomatic engagement. He noted that because President Barack Obama came into office, U.S. and Iranian officials have “met for a grand total of two times,” for no more than a combined 45 minutes of direct discussion. Citing the success of the Turks and Brazilians in an earlier negotiated nuclear fuel swap deal – that was rejected by the current administration – Abdi pointed that if given a chance, diplomacy can succeed. However that will require leaders on both sides to effectively neutralize efforts to undermine talks by hardliners and obstructionists.

Hurlburt focused on political developments in the United States and among other important actors around the world. For instance, she noted that there are important elections and power transitions taking place this year, not only in Iran and the United States, but also in China and France.

Within America, she noted that much of the debate on national security is not about Iran itself, but a split in the public on defining U.S. power, its application and its limits. Specifically regarding a possible attack on Iran, Hurlburt noted that public opinion has, despite recent rhetoric by some individuals, remained still or slightly declined. This is largely due to the war-wariness of the American public and the realization that an attack (for the reasons Pillar outlined) are seen to be ineffective and counterproductive.

SEE: Full video of the Iran forum (Link TV)

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