Earlier this week, Mark Wallace, the head of the influential Washington, D.C., think tank United Against Nuclear Iran, called for a “military response” against Iran for Hamas’s attack on Israel.
Appearing on the London-based satellite network Iran International, Wallace explained, “In the wake of 9/11, we said that we would find every Al Qaeda terrorist wherever they were, hunt them down, and kill them or bring them to justice, and that we would bring a response to their state sponsors, at that point the Taliban in Afghanistan. Right now, that is Iran.”
Wallace loosely quoted Secretary of State Antony Blinken as saying, “There is no doubt that Iran is the primary funder and supporter and patron of Hamas.”
Therefore, Wallace continued, “Whether or not Iran pressed the button to go into Israel is irrelevant. It all lies at the hands of Iran. So the debate of whether Iran was involved in the specific planning of individualized events is irrelevant.”
Wallace wrapped up by saying, “Let me send a message to the [Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps] viewers in Iran that might be watching this: I look forward to seeing you hanged from the end of one of your own ropes.”
Wallace’s remarks are significant for several reasons, including United Against Nuclear Iran’s place in the D.C. firmament and the context of the past 22 years since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
UANI was founded in 2008 by the late Richard Holbrooke and Dennis Ross. Holbrooke was a top Democratic diplomat who held various posts, including U.S. ambassador to the U.N. and special representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan. Ross played a prominent role in Bill Clinton’s policy toward Israel and Palestine and later was a special adviser to Hillary Clinton during her tenure as secretary of state. UANI’s current chair is Joe Lieberman, the former senator from Connecticut.
The name “United Against Nuclear Iran” is something of a misnomer. Similar think tanks focused on Iraq in the late 1990s and early 2000s, using the issue of Iraq’s purported weapons of mass destruction as a rationale for their actual goal: the overthrow of Saddam Hussein’s government. The Project for the New American Century was particularly influential in lobbying for the invasion of Iraq. The same dynamic applies to UANI, which uses Iran’s potential nuclear weapons program as a vehicle to damage Iran’s current government and potentially overthrow it.
One of UANI’s main funders is Thomas Kaplan, a billionaire investor in precious metals. UANI often functions as a sort of research arm for the Office of Foreign Assets Control, which enforces U.S. sanctions on Iran (and other countries sanctioned by the U.S.). In 2020, UANI led a push to stop pharmaceutical companies from doing business with Iran at the height of the Covid-19 outbreak.
Then there’s the peculiarity of Wallace’s analogy, given the relevant history. The U.S. did invade Afghanistan and dislodge the Taliban, and then occupied Afghanistan for 20 years. But this was not a notable success, given that the Taliban, in 2021, defeated the Afghan military set up by the U.S. and its allies, forcing a humiliating evacuation by the U.S.
Is this what Wallace is advocating — an invasion of Iran costing trillions of dollars and ending with exactly the same people in power? (Wallace did not respond to a request for comment.) Or does he simply want us to bomb Iran? UANI has released a statement calling “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.”
But what will this accomplish, exactly? The UANI statement says the world has failed to “deter Iran.” But after 9/11, the bombing of Afghanistan, without an invasion, was seen as weak-willed appeasement, insufficient to deter the Taliban.
Also, does Wallace believe the U.S. should attack other countries that support Hamas, such as Qatar and Turkey? In fairness, Wallace has called for the U.S. to demand that Qatar, where Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh sometimes lives, hand over Haniyeh or experience “U.S. military action on its territory to bring him to justice.”
Finally, is this now a rule that applies to everyone? For instance, if another country considers the actions of Israel to constitute terrorism, can they attack the U.S., which is Israel’s “primary funder and supporter and patron”?
Meanwhile, others in the U.S. political system are also anxious to attack Iran. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina recent stated that “for every Israeli or American hostage executed by Iran, we should take down an Iranian oil refinery. … How much more death and destruction do we have to take from the Iranian regime? I am confident that this was planned and funded by the Iranians.”
Wonderfully enough, Iran has its own list of organizations it’s designated as terrorists, and UANI is on it.
The channel on which Wallace appeared, Iran International, appears to be funded by Saudis. In 2018, Iran International hosted a spokesperson for a separatist group within Iran, who praised a terrorist attack in the Iranian city of Ahvaz. Twenty-four people, including children, were killed. The spokesperson added, “I insist that armed resistance is part of our resistance.”