Sheldon Adelson, the billionaire best-known in political circles for losing a great deal of money trying to unseat President Obama in the 2012 election, is also a major donor to organizations that are pushing for new sanctions and war with Iran. Just yesterday, Adelson made some shocking comments on Iran that help clarify what the real goal is behind the latest diplomacy-killing sanctions push in the Senate. In a video recorded by Mondoweiss, Adelson suggests that instead of diplomacy, we should nuke Iran:
"What are we going to negotiate about? I would say 'Listen, you see that desert out there, I want to show you something.' ...You pick up your cell phone and you call somewhere in Nebraska and you say, 'OK let it go.' And so there's an atomic weapon, goes over ballistic missiles, the middle of the desert, that doesn't hurt a soul. Maybe a couple of rattlesnakes, and scorpions, or whatever. Then you say, 'See! The next one is in the middle of Tehran. So, we mean business. You want to be wiped out? Go ahead and take a tough position and continue with your nuclear development. You want to be peaceful? Just reverse it all, and we will guarantee you that you can have a nuclear power plant for electricity purposes, energy purposes.'"
So, instead of pursuing negotiations that experts agree could prevent an Iranian nuclear weapon, Adelson thinks it would be a good idea to break a nearly 70 year taboo on the use of nuclear weapons in warfare -- the deadliest weapons ever invented that could end life on planet earth -- in order to send a message that we don't want Iran to have nuclear weapons because they could, you know, use them or something. And if launching a nuclear weapon against Iran convinces Iran's government that having a nuclear deterrent might be a good idea, Adelson casually suggests that the U.S. should just go ahead and kill millions of innocent people.
Unfortunately, Adelson is not just some drunk uncle you have to put up with once a year at Thanksgiving, far from Washington's power circles. He is a major player in bankrolling some of the most active Middle East policy lobbies and think tanks in Washington. Among them, he has given at least $1.5 million to a hawkish think tank, the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), that has been the architect and among the chief advocates of increasingly stiff sanctions on Iran.
FDD and their neoconservative cronies know that they can't openly call for attacking Iran with nukes or other weapons -- at least not yet. But their ultimate goal in imposing sanctions is clearly not to use the sanctions as any part of a diplomatic solution, but rather to undermine one. In their latest op-ed in the Washington Post, FDD President Mark Dubowitz and Senior Fellow Reuel Marc Gerecht reiterated their call for the immediate passage of new sanctions that would limit President Obama's ability to trade in existing sanctions for a nuclear deal:
"The administration and Congress would be wise to hit Tehran with more sanctions immediately... Abandoning the long quest for atomic weapons would be an extraordinary humiliation for Iran's ruling class. That isn't going to happen unless Iran's supreme leader and his guards know with certainty that the Islamic order is finished if they don't abandon the bomb."
In other words, we should sanction Iran until we can't sanction any more. Doing so would cripple the president's ability to offer sanctions relief -- a key component of any nuclear deal with Iran - while also signaling to Iran that the conciliatory approach of their new President Hassan Rouhani only invites more pressure. By spoiling the current diplomatic opening through new sanctions, FDD would make sure that their ultimate goal -- attacking Iran and promoting regime change -- is the only option remaining.
In the lead-up to the war in Iraq, a cabal of neoconservative groups helped to sell the Iraq war as a necessity and a cakewalk. It turned out to be neither. With Americans now more skeptical about rushing into an unnecessary war, FDD and other neoconservatives have learned how to adjust their tactics to sell the next war of choice. And supporting new sanctions, just as serious diplomacy is underway, is a simple way to ensure that we get there.