James Baker surely didn't make Bill Kristol, John Bolton and any of the other neocon hawks happy who have been beating the drums for either the United States or Israel to launch a military strike against Iran to prevent them from acquiring a nuclear weapon. During his interview with Fareed Zakaria on GPS he explains why he believes it would not work and just play into the hands of the hard-liners there. I'm curious to see if he ends up being ignored or attacked for this. My guess is he gets ignored.
He said something else I had not heard before that I found very surprising -- that Israel had asked the Bush administration for help in attacking Iran and was told no. That sure didn't keep them beating the war drums with their rhetoric while they were in power.
ZAKARIA: But that was -- that was a part of a policy of containment, keeping the Soviet Union kind of in a box and pressing it.
ZAKARIA: We didn't attack them militarily.
Would you -- would you say that you're uncomfortable with the idea of a military attack on Iran?
BAKER: Look, let me say this. Iran is a huge force for instability, not just in the region, but in the world generally, and if they acquire a nuclear weapon, it could set off a major nuclear arms race in that very difficult part of the world.
So don't under -- we don't underestimate the problem when I say what I'm about to say. I don't know that there is a military solution. Most of the people, knowledgeable people, I talk to say there is no satisfactory military solution, that a strike will delay but not prevent their acquiring a nuclear weapon.
That's not to say that you say, OK then, they should get it. But it's -- it's very questionable whether or a military solution exists.
As a matter of fact, in the last administration, it's my understanding that the Israelis wanted to strike and they came to us and they asked for bunker-busting bombs and refueling -- in-flight refueling capabilities and over-flight rides and deconfliction codes and we said, no, we're not going to do that. That's not in our interest.
Why isn't it in our interest? Because a strike that just -- that just delays will create untold -- nobody knows what the consequences of that would be, and one thing -- but one thing we do know is that would strengthen the hard-line regime in Iran at the very time that they're experiencing great domestic dissatisfaction. We ought to play on that domestic dissatisfaction.
And you'll get differing assessments of how long it will be before Iran can -- can obtain a nuclear weapon, but even a former head of Mossad not long ago, a year or so ago, said it will be three or four years. So we'll not -- you know, you never take the military option off the table, but we ought not to be rushing into that.
ZAKARIA: You were the last administration -- as Secretary of State to successfully put pressure on the government of Israel to restrain itself on settlement activity, and, in that sense, make gestures that were read by the other side, by the Palestinians as -- as kind of pro-peace and pro, you know, some kind of settlement.
The Obama administration has tried to do something, but the peace process is going nowhere --
BAKER: Yes, but before I get into the peace, let me go back to Iran for just one minute -
ZAKARIA: Sure. Sure.
BAKER: -- because I want to make sure -- what you me arguing for is -- is the idea that deterrents can be effective. It was effective for 40 years against the Soviet Union, and I -- and I'm not at all sure it wouldn't be effective against these ayatollahs who may be -- may be flakey, but they -- but they like self preservation.
So, you know, we've got all this unused strategic nuclear capability, and I think we called them up and said it takes 30 seconds to re-aim those missiles at you. And, by the way, they're now re- aimed at you and if you so much as blink toward Israel or toward us or one of our allies, moderate Arab states, you know, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, the Gulf State, we're going to -- you'll be the subject. You wouldn't like it. It will be -- it will be bad news.
ZAKARIA: So you would extend the nuclear umbrella, in a sense (ph).
BAKER: I think if we -- I think if we do that -- and that would require us then to extend a nuclear umbrella to Israel, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan and the Gulf States, and I think we should do that. And -- I mean, I think that's something we ought to keep in our -- an arrow that we have in our quiver and we ought to keep it there.
Deterrents worked well against the Soviet Union. It -- I think it's wrong to simply reject out of hand that somehow deterrents wouldn't work here. So that's something I just wanted to add.