In an interview with PBS’s Charlie Rose, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and former George H.W. Bush Secretary of State James Baker discussed a potential strike on Iran’s nuclear program. Both told Rose that they think the U.S. should keep all options on the table to deal with a potential Iranian nuclear weapon — a policy adopted by the Obama administration.
But Clinton and Baker had no illusions about the possible consequences of an attack by Israel or the U.S. against Iran’s nuclear program. After Baker highlighted a growing consensus of former top Israeli security officials against an attack and his view that Israeli capabilities could only cause a delay — not put an end to — Iran’s nuclear progress, he said that sanctions against Iran are “having an effect” and “you don’t want to lose all of that.” (Former top Israeli officials also share this view.)
Baker also discussed how an attack could serve hard-liners in Iran. “There are a lot of unanticipated consequences that could follow from [an attack], not least of which is — well, not least of which is strengthening the hand of the hard-liners in Iran.”
Clinton then said Baker’s assertion was “an important point,” adding what she sees as two schools of thought among Iran’s leaders:
CLINTON: There are those [among Iran's leadership] who say, “Look, you know, these sanctions are really biting. We’re not making the kind of economic progress we should be making. We don’t give up that much by saying we’re not going to do a nuclear weapon and having a verifiable regime to demonstrate that.”
And then, frankly, there are those who are saying, “The best thing that could happen to us is be attacked by somebody. Just bring it on because that would unify us. It would legitimize the regime.”
[The regime] doesn’t represent the will of the people. It’s kind of morphed into kind of a military theocracy. And, therefore, an argument is made constantly on the hard-line side of the Iranian government that, you know, “We’re not going to give anything up. And in fact we’re going to provoke an attack because then we will be in power for as long as anyone can imagine.”
Watch a clip of the exchange between the current and former Secretaries of State:
A potential Iranian nuclear weapon is widely considered a threat to both the security of the U.S. and its allies in the region, as well as the nuclear non-proliferation regime. U.S., U.N. and Israeli intelligence estimates give the West time to pursue a dual-track approach of pressure and diplomacy to resolve the crisis. Questions about the efficacy and potential consequences of a strike have led U.S. officials to declare that diplomacy is the “best and most permanent way” to resolve the crisis.