“I frankly think that crisis initiation is really tough,” said Patrick Clawson*, who also heads the Washington Institute’s Iran Security Initiative, in response to a question about what would happen if negotiations with Tehran fail. “And it’s very hard for me to see how the United States … uh … President can get us to war with Iran.”
As a consequence, Clawson said he was led to conclude that “the traditional way [that] America gets to war is what would be best for US interests.”
Intriguingly, he went on to recount a series of controversial incidents in American history — the attack on Pearl Harbor, the sinking of the Lusitania, the Gulf of Tonkin incident, and the blowing up of the USS Maine — that US presidents “had to wait for” before taking America to war.
“And may I point out that Mr. Lincoln did not feel he could call out the federal army until Fort Sumter was attacked,” Clawson continued, “which is why he ordered the commander at Fort Sumter to do exactly that thing which the South Carolinians had said would cause an attack.”
“So, if in fact the Iranians aren’t going to compromise,” the Israel lobbyist concluded with a smirk on his face, “it would be best if somebody else started the war.”
"One can combine other means of pressure with sanctions. I mentioned that explosion on August 17th. We could step up the pressure. I mean look people Iranian submarines periodically go down someday one of them may not come up. Who would know why? We can do a variety of things if we wish to increase the pressure. I'm not advocating that but I'm just suggesting that ... this is not a either or proposition.... We are in the game of using covert means against the Iranians. We could get nastier at that." (transcript source)
* Patrick Clawson is the deputy director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. He is a former research economist at the International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank, and Foreign Policy Research Institute. Clawson is also associated with the Middle East Forum.