Reading the tea leaves on Tehran
WIN MCNAMEE/Getty Images I think we know what side of the burgeoning “bomb Iran” discussion Bob Gates is on. Speaking with Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday, who asked about comments by Gen. David Petraeus about Iranian Revolutionary Guards bases thought to be supplying arms to Shiite militants in Iraq, the U.S. secretary of defense ...
WIN MCNAMEE/Getty Images
I think we know what side of the burgeoning “bomb Iran” discussion Bob Gates is on. Speaking with Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday, who asked about comments by Gen. David Petraeus about Iranian Revolutionary Guards bases thought to be supplying arms to Shiite militants in Iraq, the U.S. secretary of defense indicated that diplomacy remains the Bush administration’s preferred approach to the Islamic Republic. My transcription:
Wallace: As the general’s boss, why not cross the Iranian border to take out these camps that are endangering U.S. soldiers [in Iraq]?
Gates: Now, first of all, there’s a question of just how much intelligence we have in terms of specific locations and so on. But beyond that, I think that the general view is we can manage this problem through better operations inside Iraq and on the border with Iran—that we can take care of the Iranian threat or deal with the Iranian threat inside the borders of Iraq, and don’t need to go across the border into Iran.
Wallace: Let me ask you a more general question, because there’s a lot of chatter in Washington now that the administration is more actively considering various plans to take military action against Iran to stop its nuclear enrichment program. First of all, is that true, and secondly, can you promise that the president will consult, will go to Congress for approval before he would ever take any such action?
Gates: Well, I’m not going to get into hypotheticals about what we may or may not do. I will tell you that I think that the administration believes at this point that continuing to try an deal with the Iranian threat, the Iranian challenge, through diplomatic and economic means is by far the preferable approach. That’s the one we are using. We always say, “All options are on the table,” but clearly, the diplomatic and economic approach is the one that we are pursuing.
Wallace: That’s on the front burner still?
Wallace then turned to another, possibly related subject of Washington chatter: the recent Israeli air strikes on Syria. Many analysts view the strikes as a pointed warning from Israel to Iran; some administration officials say they were aimed at North Korean nuclear materials. Gates was cagey:
Wallace: Let’s turn to another part of the world. Is Syria involved in a covert nuclear program with North Korean assistance?
Gates: Well, I’m not going to get into things that may involve intelligence matters, but all I will say is we are watching the North Koreans very carefully. We watch the Syrians very carefully.
Wallace: How would we regard that kind of effort, both in terms of the Syrians and the North Koreans?
Gates: I think it would be a real problem.
Gates: If such an activity were taking place, it would be a matter of great concern, because the president has put down a very strong marker with the North Koreans about further proliferation efforts and obviously, any effort by the Syrians to pursue weapons of mass destruction would be a concern for us.
More from Foreign Policy
At Long Last, the Foreign Service Gets the Netflix Treatment
Keri Russell gets Drexel furniture but no Senate confirmation hearing.
How Macron Is Blocking EU Strategy on Russia and China
As a strategic consensus emerges in Europe, France is in the way.
What the Bush-Obama China Memos Reveal
Newly declassified documents contain important lessons for U.S. China policy.
Russia’s Boom Business Goes Bust
Moscow’s arms exports have fallen to levels not seen since the Soviet Union’s collapse.