WASHINGTON (CNN) — A U.S. military campaign against Iran’s nuclear facilities would only take “several days” of bombing, Sen. Tom Cotton said Tuesday.
Cotton, the Arkansas Republican freshman who has emerged as a leading critic of President Barack Obama’s effort to strike a deal to thwart Iran’s nuclear ambitions, told the Family Research Council’s Washington Watch radio that Obama’s assertion that the alternative to the pact is war is a “false choice.”
“This president has a bad habit of accusing other people of making false choices, but he presented the ultimate false choice last week when he said it’s either this deal or war,” he said in comments first noted by BuzzFeed News.
“He’s the one that said for years no deal is better than a bad deal, but he seems to have repudiated that position,” Cotton said.
Cotton, a U.S. Army veteran, was the lead author of a now-infamous letter warning Iran that Congress could abandon the deal once Obama leaves office. It was signed by 47 Republicans, infuriating the White House.
The Obama administration and the leaders of five other countries — Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia — recently announced the “framework” of a deal that will give Iran relief from Western economic sanctions. In exchange, the Middle Eastern country will reduce its number of centrifuges and the extent to which it enriches uranium and allow increased inspections of its nuclear facilities.
Obama has called it the best option to prevent war with Iran, and has argued his administration should be able to implement it without the approval of Congress — where Republicans, taking cues from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, have expressed skepticism.
Cotton said a military campaign against Iran — which Obama has said he wants to avoid — wouldn’t be a full-scale war.
Instead, he said, it would look much like 1998’s Operation Desert Fox, during which the United States and United Kingdom bombed Iraq for four days after it failed to comply with United Nations inspection requirements.
“Even if military action were required — and we certainly should have kept the credible threat of military force on the table throughout which always improves diplomacy — the president is trying to make you think it would be 150,000 heavy mechanized troops on the ground in the Middle East again as we saw in Iraq. That’s simply not the case,” Cotton said.
“It would be something more along the lines of what President Clinton did in December 1998 during Operation Desert Fox: Several days air and naval bombing against Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction facilities for exactly the same kind of behavior — for interfering with weapons inspectors and for disobeying Security Council resolutions. All we’re asking is that the president simply be as tough as in the protection of America’s national security interest as Bill Clinton was.”