In testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee today, Former Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs and former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations (appointed by George H.W. Bush) Thomas Pickering laid out the potential risks of a military strike on Iran’s nuclear program.
Pickering — who served as Ambassador to Israel during Reagan administration and Ambassador to Russia during the Clinton administration — warned that an attack would only set back Iran’s nuclear program “for a number of years” and could push Iran in the direction of pursuing a nuclear weapon, a decision which neither the IAEA nor U.S. intelligence agencies believe Iran has yet made:
[A military strike] has a very high propensity, in my view, of driving Iran in the direction of openly declaring and deciding, which it has not yet done according to our intelligence, to make a nuclear weapon to seemingly defend itself under what might look to them and others to be an unprovoked attack.
Iran has great possibilities for asymmetrical reactions including against Israel through Hezbollah and Hamas who have accumulated a large number of missiles. […] It is a series of potential escalatory possibilites that puts us deep in the potential for another land war in Asia, something that I think we’ve spent the last number of years trying to get out of.
Pickering’s comments today closely match the warnings issued by former Israeli spy chief Meir Dagan earlier this month. Dagan warned that an Israeli attack on Iran could spark a “regional war” and, at best, could only delay Iran’s nuclear program. That assessment is shared by U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.
The Obama administration has emphasized that a diplomatic solution is the “best and most permanent way” to resolve tensions with Iran. President Obama warned that a nuclear armed Iran poses a threat to regional and international security and endangers the nonproliferation regime. While the Obama administration does not rule out military action on Iran’s nuclear facilities, Obama said that “loose talk of war” with Iran is only serving to benefit the regime in Tehran.