Amid growing talk of war from Israeli political leaders (and questions about whether the saber-rattling is serious or a feint), U.S. military leaders are pushing back against calls for military action.
“From our point of view, the window is still open to try to work toward a diplomatic solution,” Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said at a recent DOD news briefing.
General Martin Dempsey, Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, added that an Israeli military strike would likely “delay but not destroy Iran’s nuclear capabilities.”
Other U.S. military leaders share the assessment that a military strike is not the answer to the Iran tangle. In a February 2010 press conference, then JCS Chair Admiral Mike Mullen estimated that a strike would set Iran’s nuclear program back by one to three years. “Views have been very consistent on that [estimate],” he emphasized.
Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has noted that, in addition to only delaying the Iran nuclear program, military strikes could be counterproductive.
“A military solution, as far as I’m concerned…will bring together a divided nation, it will make them absolutely committed to attaining nuclear weapons, and they will just go deeper and more covert,” Gates said at the Wall Street Journal CEO Council 2010 Meeting.
The consensus among military leaders that bombing Iran will not solve the nuclear standoff highlights the need to continue negotiations. The recent rounds of P5+1 talks with Iran did not achieve a deal, but this is hardly surprising. As noted in a recent ASP Perspective Paper, the U.S. and Iran have engaged in only a few high-level discussions on nuclear issues in the past few years.
Overcoming the mistrust that has built up over thirty years of no communication will not be easy. But, as our. military leaders have said, engagement is best way to achieve a long-term solution.