The Romney campaign’s lead foreign policy adviser Dan Senor in an interview that aired on NPR this morning did not dispute the validity of Defense Secretary Leon Panetta’s warnings about a military attack on Iran. During the interview, Senor, as he has previously, criticized the Obama administration for publicly discussing the potential consequences of an attack on Iran. Pointing to a recent speech Panetta gave delivering those warnings, Senor claimed that such discussion by the administration leads Iran and U.S. allies to think that “we are absolutely not serious, that the credibility of the threat [of military action against Iran] is not there.”
But when pressed about whether or not the Obama administration’s points were true or not, Senor dodged:
SENOR: The president says the military option is on the table but then Defense Secretary Panetta at a security conference, which was widely covered, he walked through all the problems with a military action, that there would be backlash in the region, that it may not be successful, you may not actually be able to wipe up the program, you just might delay it, that there will be economic repercussions.
HOST STEVE INSKEEP: Was he wrong about those things?
SENOR: Secretary Panetta has said that on many occasions. Our only view is, one obviously has to consider these very things he’s talking about. And if you want to talk to our allies about it, you absolutely should, but do it behind closed doors. By broadcasting it in public the way the administration has done, it has sent one message to Tehran, which is that we are absolutely not serious, that the credibility of the threat is not there, and it has sent the exact same message to our allies in Israel and in the Gulf Arab countries that are worried about a nuclear Iran.
INSKEEP: Is Panetta wrong about those concerns that he raised?
SENOR: I mean I would let him explain, you know, the reasoning behind each one of those.
In his December 2011 speech at the Brookings Institution, Panetta said that a potential Israeli strike on Iran “might postpone [Iran] maybe one, possibly two years.” Panetta also laid out other possible complications of an Israeli strike on Iran: Iranians might rally around the government, blame would inevitably be placed on the U.S. and an escalation leading to the loss of “many lives” could follow.
Other experts have echoed Panetta’s comments. Just last month Mike Hayden, former CIA director in the George W. Bush administration, told an Israeli newspaper that an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities would “only set the Iranians back some time and actually push them to do that which it is supposed to prevent, getting nuclear weapons.” In addition, a bipartisan group of military and defense experts, including Brent Scowcroft, President George H.W. Bush’s national security adviser, in a recent report echoed Panetta’s comments, saying that a strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities by Israel would only delay Iran’s nuclear program by two years. It’s not only American officials: Meir Dagan, former head of Israel’s spy agency, has also said that a military strike would only “delay” the Iranian nuclear program.
President Obama has repeatedly said that a military option on Iran’s nuclear program is not a “bluff” and that he is against a “containment” strategy for Iran’s nuclear program. However, the Obama administration, following current intelligence that says Iran has yet to decide whether to build nuclear weapons, is sticking to a diplomatic track for the time being, a move it sees as the “best and most permanent” way to end the nuclear crisis with Iran.