Top Policymakers Speak Out About Iran

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“I think they’re developing a nuclear capability [but] our intelligence makes clear that they haven’t made the decision to develop a nuclear weapon.”

-Leon Panetta, Secretary of Defense, Budget Committee Hearing, February 28


“A military solution, as far as I’m concerned … it will bring together a divided nation. It will make them absolutely committed to obtaining nuclear weapons. And they will just go deeper and more covert.  The only long-term solution in avoiding an Iranian nuclear weapons capability is for the Iranians to decide it’s not in their interest. Everything else is a short-term solution.”

-Robert Gates, Former Secretary of Defense, November 16, 2010


“If they [Iranians] have the intent, all the weapons in the world are not going to change that.”

-Gen. James Cartwright, Former Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, February 24


“The worst thing I can imagine right now is something short of war that causes the Iranians to kick the IAEA out.”

-Robert Kelley, Former Chief Inspector for the IAEA, February 22


“if you’re worried about an Iranian nuclear weapon, the nearest term pathway to that is probably a relatively ineffective Israeli strike.”

-Colin Kahl, Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for the Middle East, February 22


“the agency assesses Iran is unlikely to initiate or provoke a conflict.”

-Gen. Ron Burgess, Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, February 16


“A military solution to the Iranian nuclear program is not “credible or desirable,” and that war with Iran would be far easier to start than to end and that the costs would be borne primarily by the United States “both in blood and money”

“Even if they get a single bomb it means that they are not a threat yet to anyone because they are not suicidal and they know that if they were to use it they would precipitate consequences to them that would be most grave.”

-Zbigniew Brzezinski, Former National Security Advisor, February 23


“We are determined to continue to rally international support to raise the costs on Iran for failing to abide by its obligations. But at the same time we are also sincere in wanting to resolve this diplomatically.”

-Phil Gordon, Assistant Secretary of State, February 16


“An Israeli Attack On Iran Would ‘Light The Middle East On Fire”

-GOP Rep. Mike Rogers, House Intelligence Committee Chairman, February 5


“The current U.S.-led push to force Iran to abandon its nuclear ambitions through steadily increasing economic and diplomatic pressure is beginning to show results and it would be “premature” to resort to military force.”

-Gen. Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, January 26


President George W. Bush‘s administration 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

-Gen. Michael Hayden, Former Director, CIA and National Security Agency, January 19


“If they [the Iranian leadership] respond too little, they could lose face, and if they respond too much, they could lose their heads… as for long-term consequences, it’s way too murky to say anything but this: It will be ugly.”

-Karim Sadjadpour, Carnegie Endowment Associate, February 29


“From a cost-benefit point of view, [a strike] would not achieve much. It will delay the program for a couple of years, but would galvanize Iran to dash toward the ultimate deterrent.”

-Dr. Ali Vaez, Director, Federation of American Scientists Iran Project, February 29


I guess everybody will determine for themselves what that means. But to me, nuclear weapons capability means that they have crossed a red line and they’re capable of producing a nuclear weapon. In other words, they have all the components necessary to do that. It is a standard that in my opinion is more real, and perhaps in some sense it’s higher than saying the red line is when they actually have the nuclear weapons.”

-Sen. Joe Lieberman, February 16


“After you’ve dropped those bombs on those hardened facilities, what happens next? What happens if they decide, in their hardened shelters with their mobile missiles, to start launching those? What happens if they launch them into U.S. bases on the other side of the Gulf? What happens if they launch into Israel, or somewhere else? Into a Saudi oil field? Into Ras Laffan, with all the natural gas? What happens if they now flush their fast patrol boats, their cruise missiles, the strait full of mines, and they sink a tanker, an oil tanker? And of course the economy of the world goes absolutely nuts. What happens if they activate sleeper cells? The MOIS, the intelligence service; what happens if there’s another preemptive attack by the West, the U.S. and Israel, they fire up the streets, and now we’ve got problems. Just tell me how to deal with all that, OK? Because, eventually, if you follow this all the way down, eventually I’m putting boots on the ground somewhere, and as I tell my friends, if you liked Iraq and Afghanistan, you’ll love Iran.”

-Gen. Anthony Zinni, Former Centcom Commander, September 1, 2009


“[Attacking Iran] would mean regional war, and in that case you would have given Iran the best possible reason to continue the nuclear program. The regional challenge that Israel would face would be impossible.”

-Meir Dagan, Former Mossad Director, June 3, 2011


“History shows that the clerics in Tehran won’t accept a deal unless they conclude that there’s no alternative but a punishing war. Somehow, the United States must convince Iran that this confrontation is deadly serious — and then work to find the rational pathway toward agreement.”

-David Ignatius, Washington Post Associate Editor, February 22


“With Iran reeling from sanctions, the proper environment now exists for diplomacy to work. The next few months will determine whether it succeeds.”

-Dennis Ross, Former Special Assistant to President Obama for the Middle East, Afghanistan, and South Asia, February 14

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