March 22, 2012 1:10 pm ET
Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates gave a stern warning to those in Washington beating the drums for war with Iran. In a recent speech before the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, Gates said, "If you think the war in Iraq was hard, an attack on Iran would, in my opinion, be a catastrophe."
From the Jewish Exponent:
The Iranians see themselves surrounded by nuclear-armed countries, he said. They also see that the United States easily removed Iraq's Saddam Hussein, who had no nuclear weapons, and that the Moammar Gadhafi regime "fell to a ragtag rebel army with Western air support." In contrast, he said, the Iranians observe that the United States and its allies have been far more cautious dealing with the North Koreans because they have a nuclear capability.
Without naming names, he criticized some politicians' approaches to the Iranian problem as too simplistic. "Make no mistake about it: How to deal with Iran's defiance of international norms and its nuclear program is one of the most difficult and dangerous challenges this country has faced in decades."
It's a challenge, he added, "where I believe the most likely outcomes are all bad. Any decision to act or not to act will be one of the most consequential any president has had to make."
The article goes on to explain that Gates "contradicted recently released U.S. reports citing military and intelligence officials who question whether Iran has decided to pursue a nuclear-weapons capability," quoting him saying that he has "long been convinced that Iran is determined to develop nuclear-weapons capability." But Gates's words do not necessarily contradict intelligence assessments. As Gates's successor, Leon Panetta, as well as Director of National Intelligence James Clapper have both said that Iran has not made the decision to build a nuclear weapon, though the country is considered to have a break-out capability. Multinational and unilateral sanctions, which have been ratcheted up in recent years, are aimed at pressuring the Iranians not to take the next step.
Gates adds his voice to a growing list of former military and intelligence officials who have warned of the consequences of war. His recent comments most closely resemble comments made by Ret. General Anthony Zinni, former Commander of CENTCOM, who said in 2009 that "if you like Iraq and Afghanistan, you'll love Iran."
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