Painting a picture of internal political dysfunction in a dangerous world, former Defense Secretary Robert Gates warned Wednesday night that a U.S. or Israeli attack on Iran would have disastrous consequences.
Neither the United States nor Israel is capable of wiping out Iran’s nuclear capability, he said, and “such an attack would make a nuclear-armed Iran inevitable. They would just bury the program deeper and make it more covert.”
Iran could respond by disrupting world oil traffic and launching a wave of terrorism across the region, Gates said.
“The results of an American or Israeli military strike on Iran could, in my view, prove catastrophic, haunting us for generations in that part of the world.”
He’s simply saying what many of us already knew – a military attack to stop Iran’s nuclear program does not pass the cost/benefit ratio test.
United Nations sanctions aimed at discouraging Iran’s nuclear ambitions are starting to have an impact on the Iranian economy, he said, and “that’s our best chance going forward, to ratchet up the economic pressure and diplomatic isolation to the point where the Iranian leadership concludes that it actually hurts Iranian security and, above all, the security of the regime itself, to continue to pursue nuclear weapons.”
And while Israeli anxiety over Iran’s intentions is understandable, he added, America should make it clear to Israel’s leaders that “they do not have a blank check to take action that could do grave harm to American vital interests.”
About a year ago Jeffrey Goldberg reported that Gates was none too happy with Netanyahu.
It was an extraordinary scene: President Barack Obama, sitting impassively in the Oval Office in May as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lectured him, at considerable length and at times condescendingly, on Jewish history, Arab perfidy and the existential challenges facing his country.
What was extraordinary wasn’t the message — it was not an untypical Netanyahu sermon. What was notable was that Netanyahu was lecturing the president live on television, during a photo opportunity staged so that the two leaders could issue platitudes about the enduring bonds between their nations.
That display of impudence left the president and his team feeling unusually angry. Shortly afterward, Obama’s chief of staff,William Daley, called the Israeli ambassador in Washington,Michael Oren, to communicate the displeasure of the White House in a reportedly heated way. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who watched her husband battle Netanyahu in the late 1990s, also expressed anger and frustration about the prime minister within the administration.
Nothing in Return
But it was Robert M. Gates, the now-retired secretary of defense, who seemed most upset with Netanyahu. In a meeting of the National Security Council Principals Committee held not long before his retirement this summer, Gates coldly laid out the many steps the administration has taken to guarantee Israel’s security — access to top- quality weapons, assistance developing missile-defense systems, high-level intelligence sharing — and then stated bluntly that the U.S. has received nothing in return, particularly with regard to the peace process.
If there is one thing the people of Israel worry about more than Iran it’s their country’s relationship with the United States and they are concerned about Netanyahu’s actions.
Cross posted at Middle Earth Journal