Former Bush official warns against Iran attack

National Security Council advisor and Iraq hawk Stephen Hadley counsels diplomacy, not war

Topics: Iran,

Former Bush official warns against Iran attackStephen Hadley (Credit: AP/Alex Brandon)

Another voice against war in Iran is heard and from perhaps an unexpected source. Former Bush administration National Security Advisor Stephen J. Hadley warned against an attack on the Islamic Republic yesterday. “If something needs to be done, it is not military action,” said Hadley. “There’s a wide spectrum between sheer diplomacy and military action.”

Hadley was an early and enthusiastic functionary in the war against Iraq. During the George H. W. Bush administration, he was a Pentagon aide to uber-hawk Paul Wolfowitz, and later served as a senior foreign policy advisor to George W. Bush’s presidential campaign. Hadley was instrumental in allowing the “Yellowcake Forgery” fabrication into Bush’s 2003 State of the Union address, a mistake for which he reportedly offered to resign. Taking over as national security advisor in 2005 from Condoleezza Rice, he was known for being on the relatively moderate spectrum of the Bush administration (well, at least when compared to Cheney and Rumsfeld). Upon leaving office, he formed a consulting shop with Rice, and he recently co-wrote a piece calling for negotiations with the Taliban.

Hadley was speaking at a panel at the University of Maryland, alongside former Carter administration National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski. Brzezinski went further, saying that even if Iran did obtain nuclear weapons, it could be contained. According to Brzezinski, who was the top policymaker during the time of the Iran revolution and hostage crisis in 1979 and 1980, a nuclear Iran is something the world can live with. “Deterrence needs to be given a chance to work,” he said. “The Iranians are devious, but they are not suicidal.”

The panel was moderated by Shibley Telhami, a veteran pollster and scholar on the Middle East. Telhami released a poll finding that only one in four Americans favor Israel conducting a military strike against Iran’s nuclear program. Close to 70 percent favor the U.S. and other major powers continuing to pursue negotiations with Iran, a position that is supported by majorities of Republicans (58 percent), Democrats (79 percent) and Independents (67 percent). The poll, conducted by the Program on International Policy Attitudes, found only 14 percent of respondents said the U.S. should encourage Israel to strike Iran’s program. Steven Kull, director of PIPA, said, “One of the reasons Americans are so cool toward the idea of Israel attacking Iran’s nuclear program is that most believe that it is not likely to produce much benefit.”



Brzezinski agreed heartily. “We have no idea how such a war would end,” he said. “Iran has military capabilities, it could retaliate by destabilizing Iraq.”

Hadley was much more worried about the consequences of a nuclear Iran. “Iran is different than North Korea, which is more inward-directed,” he said. “I worry that they would be more ambitious in support of terrorism and that other countries” in the region would also want nuclear weapons. Still, Hadley believes that the Obama administration has been pursuing the right approach with Iran, focusing on sanctions instead of opting for military action. Even if covert action or taking other approaches to delaying Iran’s nuclear weapons program only worked for two or three years, that would be worth it, he said.

“The Iranian public is watching what is going on in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya,” he said. Delaying a military strike may offer a chance for something to change in Iran, either through diplomacy or through the leadership’s reconsideration of its foreign-affairs approach. He believes Iran’s recent agreement to nuclear talks came as a result of increasing pressure on the regime.

Brzezinski is worried about a situation whereby Iran is forced to choose between a humiliating retreat and crippling sanctions. Such an ultimatum offers no chance for the regime to take a face-saving retreat, similar to how the Soviet Union was granted concessions in return for removing its missiles from Cuba during the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. “The Israelis have been predicting since 1994 every year that Iran will have nuclear weapons the next year,” he said. While the United States has a rightful moral obligation toward Israel, Brzezinski said, offering it protection under America’s nuclear umbrella and resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are the best way to integrate it permanently into the international community.

In contrast to some top Republicans, Hadley said that America should engage with Islamist and Muslim political parties that have gained power in Egypt and elsewhere. “Just because they have the word ‘Islamic’ or ‘Muslim’ in the name — we should be pushing them to pursue pluralism,” he said.

Hadley’s comments are a marker of how top Bush administration official have been chastened by the Iraq disaster. With the important exception of Cheney and Rumsfeld, all seem to admit that the war did not go as planned — to the extent that it was planned). One of the few good things to come out of the Iraq war is that it has cautioned American leaders against starting another.

Jordan Michael Smith writes about U.S. foreign policy for Salon. He has written for the New York Times, Boston Globe and Washington Post.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 11
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails
    Burger King Japan

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Burger King's black cheeseburger: Made with squid ink and bamboo charcoal, arguably a symbol of meat's destructive effect on the planet. Only available in Japan.

    Elite Daily/Twitter

    2014's fast food atrocities

    McDonald's Black Burger: Because the laws of competition say that once Burger King introduces a black cheeseburger, it's only a matter of time before McDonald's follows suit. You still don't have to eat it.

    Domino's

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Domino's Specialty Chicken: It's like regular pizza, except instead of a crust, there's fried chicken. The company's marketing officer calls it "one of the most creative, innovative menu items we have ever had” -- brain power put to good use.

    Arby's/Facebook

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Arby's Meat Mountain: The viral off-menu product containing eight different types of meat that, on second read, was probably engineered by Arby's all along. Horrific, regardless.

    KFC

    2014's fast food atrocities

    KFC'S ZINGER DOUBLE DOWN KING: A sandwich made by adding a burger patty to the infamous chicken-instead-of-buns creation can only be described using all caps. NO BUN ALL MEAT. Only available in South Korea.

    Taco Bell

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Taco Bell's Waffle Taco: It took two years for Taco Bell to develop this waffle folded in the shape of a taco, the stand-out star of its new breakfast menu.

    Michele Parente/Twitter

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Krispy Kreme Triple Cheeseburger: Only attendees at the San Diego County Fair were given the opportunity to taste the official version of this donut-hamburger-heart attack combo. The rest of America has reasonable odds of not dropping dead tomorrow.

    Taco Bell

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Taco Bell's Quesarito: A burrito wrapped in a quesadilla inside an enigma. Quarantined to one store in Oklahoma City.

    Pizzagamechangers.com

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Boston Pizza's Pizza Cake: The people's choice winner of a Canadian pizza chain's contest whose real aim, we'd imagine, is to prove that there's no such thing as "too far." Currently in development.

    7-Eleven

    2014's fast food atrocities

    7-Eleven's Doritos Loaded: "For something decadent and artificial by design," wrote one impassioned reviewer, "it only tasted of the latter."

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>