The US should consider using tactical nuclear weapons against Iran if war appeared likely, according to a House Republican. (US Air Force)
WASHINGTON — A hawkish House Republican says the United States should use tactical nuclear weapons to destroy Iranian nuclear facilities if war with the Islamic republic becomes necessary.
House Armed Services Committee member Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., threw down that bold gauntlet Wednesday morning during a C-SPAN interview in which he also suggested Middle East “culture” fosters dishonest negotiators.
Asked if war with Iran is inevitable, Hunter replied: “I sure as Hell hope not.”
But if push came to shove and US officials deemed strikes necessary, Hunter turned hawkish.
He said any American strike would be a “massive aerial bombing campaign,” adding that such a mission should not feature any “boots on ground.” Then, Hunter said the US should use its “tactical nuclear weapons” on Iranian targets.
A Congressional Research Service states the US posses “a wide variety of systems that could carry nuclear warheads,” including “short-, medium-, and long-range ballistic missiles; cruise missiles; and gravity bombs.”
“The United States [has] deployed these weapons with its troops in the field, aboard aircraft, on surface ships, on submarines, and in fixed, land-based launchers,” according to CRS. “The United States articulated a complex strategy, and developed detailed operational plans, that would guide the use of these weapons in the event of a conflict.”
Notably, Shelden Adelson, the top political donor to Republican candidates, also recently called for the US to nuke Iran.
Kingston Reif of the Center for Arms Control and Non-proliferation told Defense News that “the preventative, first-use of nuclear weapons against Iran would have a devastating impact on US national security and dismember US power and standing in the world.”
“That a senior Republican member of the House Armed Services Committee is even suggesting such a possible course of action is the height of reckless irresponsibility and so far out of bounds it is astonishing,” Reif said. “The first use of nuclear weapons against Iran would guarantee a mad Iranian dash to acquire nuclear weapons to deter future such US attacks, likely convince other potential US adversaries in the region and around the world to acquire their own nuclear weapons to ward off a potential future US attack.”
Hunter also slammed the recent preliminary pact between Tehran and the UN Security Council, under which Iran has agreed to cease some nuclear activities in return for sanctions relief and facility inspections.
“Iran has to do nothing,” Hunter said, saying the Obama administration intends to merely “pray Iran will act differently” than its various leaders have “for the last 40 years.”
Echoing other congressional Republicans and conservative pundits, Hunter said the White House and other Security Council nations erred in inking a preliminary Iran deal that allows Tehran to enrich any uranium. Hunter said Iranian officials are “not trustworthy,” then said all Middle Easterners — due to their “culture” — cannot be trusted at the negotiating table.
“It is part of the Middle East culture” to “do anything you can … to get the best deal,” Hunter said.
Asked by a C-SPAN host if he believes all Middle Easterners are liars, Hunter did not directly discount the notion.
The conservative HASC member also accused, citing the Iran deal, the Obama administration of “making friends with our former enemies” while purposely distancing America from longtime allies in the region like Saudi Arabia.
When a caller suggested Hunter and other GOP lawmakers are unwilling to “give peace a chance” with Iran, he suggested again that Iran is not a rational, honest negotiator.
Hunter also criticized the administration for negotiating with Iran when it has “invaded other nations by proxy,” pointing to its alleged support of terrorist organizations in Syria, Iraq and beyond.
To be sure, Washington Republicans are in lockstep against the preliminary Iran nuclear deal.
GOP members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee are expected to hammer Secretary of State John Kerry next Tuesday when he testifies on the preliminary pact.
In a preview of that House hearing, Danielle Pletka, an analyst at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, told Defense News on Tuesday that the text of the preliminary deal with Iran should have clearly stated that the US considers Tehran “a state sponsor of terror.”
Pletka bristled at the notion that Iran would have little incentive to agree to any deal that included such text.