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Are we seeing a push for a US war with Iran?

Hawks are already demanding an aggressive response against Tehran over Hamas attacks in Israel.

Reporting | Middle East

Calls for a military response against Iran in response to this weekend’s attacks in Israel are beginning to percolate in Washington, particularly among long-time advocates for regime change.

While Iran has provided funding and training for Hamas, the militant organization responsible for the attacks, Tehran’s direct role in the attacks is not yet clear.

The Wall Street Journal reported on Sunday that Iranian security officials played an important role in planning Saturday’s attacks in Israel, but many experts have expressed skepticism about the report. Both U.S. and Israeli officials have said that they have seen no evidence Iran was directly involved in this weekend’s events.

“Iran is a major player but we can’t yet say if it was involved in the planning or training,” said an IDF spokesman on Monday.

Nonetheless, many hawkish voices are already floating the possibility of a military response against Tehran.

“How much more death and destruction does the world have to take from the Iranian Ayatollah and his henchman before they pay a real price?” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) wrote on the social media platform X. “If this ‘Israel 9/11’ - in which American citizens have apparently died - was in fact authorized and planned by the Iranian regime that would more than justify the use of military force to deter future aggression.”

On Monday, during an interview on Fox News, Graham went a step further, saying that he was “confident” regarding Iran’s involvement, and that it was “time to take the war to the Ayatollah's backyard.”

Nikki Haley, former ambassador to the United Nations and current presidential candidate, said in an interview on Fox News that her message to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was: “Finish them. Hamas did this, you know Iran’s behind this. Finish them.”

"What happened to Israel could happen here in America,” Haley said in a separate interview. “I have been terribly worried about the fact that Iran has said that the easiest way to get into America is through the Southern border … we don’t need to wait for another 9/11.”

Washington-based advocacy groups have also been calling for war with Iran in response to the Hamas attacks on Israel..

“We call on our government in Washington, together with Israel, and our allies around the world to launch strikes against military and intelligence targets in Iran, including Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) sites, and missile and drone bases, where Iran’s proxy and partner network is trained,” said United Against Nuclear Iran chair and former Connecticut senator Joe Lieberman and the group’s CEO Mark Wallace in a statement. “If we do not stop Iran now, its threat will only grow more lethal.”

“The Israeli response must be overwhelming and aimed not just at Hamas but at the head of the snake inside Iran,” added Mark Dubowitz, the CEO of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

Meanwhile, Netanyahu himself notably did not mention Iran in his address to the nation on Monday.

Many other members of Congress have stopped short of explicitly calling for a military response, but rather placed responsibility for the attacks squarely on Iran. This rhetoric opens the door for escalation that risks bringing the United States into the conflict.

“From a US perspective, it is critical to help prevent further escalation since a direct Israeli-Iranian confrontation will very likely drag the US into yet another major war in the Middle East,” says Trita Parsi, executive Vice President of the Quincy Institute. “The US simply cannot afford such a war in the midst of the conflict in Ukraine and the risk of conflict with China over Taiwan.”

Others claimed the Biden administration’s recent decision to release $6 billion in Iranian funds held by South Korea as part of a prisoner exchange agreement helped fund the Hamas attack.

The White House has pushed back against these accusations, maintaining that the funds were transferred to Qatar and have not yet been spent. “[W]hen it is spent, it can only be spent on things like food and medicine for the Iranian people,” wrote National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson on X. “These funds have absolutely nothing to do with the horrific attacks today and this is not the time to spread disinformation.”

New York, NY - April 29, 2018: US Senator Lindsey Graham speaks during 7th Annual Jerusalem Post Conference at Marriott Marquis Hotel (Shutterstock/Lev Radin)
New York, NY - April 29, 2018: US Senator Lindsey Graham speaks during 7th Annual Jerusalem Post Conference at Marriott Marquis Hotel (Shutterstock/Lev Radin)
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