January 24, 2012
Foreign Policy reports:
President George W. Bush’s administrncouragedation concluded that a military strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities would be a bad idea — and would only make it harder to prevent Iran from going nuclear in the future, former CIA and National Security Agency (NSA) chief Gen. Michael Hayden said Thursday.
“When we talked about this in the government, the consensus was that [attacking Iran] would guarantee that which we are trying to prevent — an Iran that will spare nothing to build a nuclear weapon and that would build it in secret,” Hayden told a small group of experts and reporters at an event hosted by the Center for the National Interest.
Hayden served as director of the NSA from 1999 to 2005 and then served as CIA director from 2006 until February 2009. He also had a 39-year career at the Air Force, which he ended as a four-star general.
Hayden then went into some detail about how a U.S.-led strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities could be accomplished, and why it would not solve the Iranian nuclear threat. There would first be a movement of aircraft carriers into the area, Tomahawk land-attack cruise missile strikes, a diplomatic effort to get Gulf states to give access to their airspace, and “then you would pound it [with airstrikes] over a couple of weeks,” Hayden explained.
But he also said that efforts to slow down the nuclear program, through mostly clandestine measures and encouraging internal dissent, is the better course of action.
“Could we go back to July 2009 and see where that could have led?” he said, referring to the Green Movement protests that raged through Iran then but ultimately failed to alter the regime’s course. “It’s not so much that we don’t want Iran to have a nuclear capacity, it’s that we don’t want this Iran to have it … Slow it down long enough and maybe the character [of the Iranian government] changes.”
Other top military experts have said the same thing.
As Foreign Policy notes:
Hayden’s comments track closely with the argument made by Colin Kahl, the recently departed head of Middle East policy at the Pentagon, who opposed a military strike on Iran in an article this week in Foreign Affairs.
“Even if a U.S. strike went as well … there is little guarantee that it would produce lasting results,” Kahl wrote. “[I]f Iran did attempt to restart its nuclear program after an attack, it would be much more difficult for the United States to stop it.”
Former CIA director and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates agreed in 2009:
Testifying before the Senate Appropriations committee, Mr Gates outlined the central objection to using force to halt Iran’s nuclear programme.
All of the country’s known nuclear installations, notably the crucial uranium enrichment plant in Natanz, could in principle be destroyed. But the Iranian regime would eventually be able to rebuild them – and it would almost certainly do so without admitting the inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency, who presently monitor Iran’s most important nuclear plants.
A military strike would only delay Iran’s nuclear programme, while the regime’s resolve to build a weapon, if it so chooses, may only be hardened.
“Even a military attack will only buy us time and send the programme deeper and more covert,” said Mr Gates, during the hearing on Thursday.
In 2007, he told a private meeting of Congressmen that bombing Iran would “create generations of jihadists, and our grandchildren will be battling our enemies here in America,” according to the New Yorker.
And while Israel’s bombing of Iraq’s nuclear facility is often cited by hawks as a model for dealing with Iran, the American Foreign Policy Project notes that it actually accelerated Saddam’s nuclear program:
Israel’s bombing of Saddam Hussein’s Osirak reactor in 1981 is widely cited as a favorable precedent for bombing Iran. It should not be. We now know that Israel’s bombing of the Osirak reactor did not stop Saddam Hussein’s nuclear weapons program. On the contrary, it so enraged Saddam Hussein that he covertly expanded that program by more an order of magnitude, according to the later, independent reports of two Iraqi nuclear scientists. It took Operation Desert Storm and the inspections regime that followed it to bring the program to a halt. We should expect no different results from any bombing of Iran.
This article was posted: Tuesday, January 24, 2012 at 4:58 am