Every effort should be made to stop Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, but failing that, the world could live with a nuclear-armed regime in Tehran, a recently retired commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East said Monday.
John Abizaid, the retired Army general who headed Central Command for nearly four years, said he was confident that if Iran gained nuclear arms, the United States could deter it from using them.
"I doubt that the Iranians intend to attack us with a nuclear weapon."
The Iranians are aware, he said, that the United States has a far superior military capability.
"I believe that we have the power to deter Iran, should it become nuclear," he said, referring to the theory that Iran would not risk a catastrophic retaliatory strike by using a nuclear weapon against the United States.
"There are ways to live with a nuclear Iran," Abizaid said in remarks at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a think tank. "Let's face it, we lived with a nuclear Soviet Union, we've lived with a nuclear China, and we're living with (other) nuclear powers as well."
He stressed that he was expressing his personal opinion and that none of his remarks were based on his previous experience with U.S. contingency plans for potential military action against Iran.
Abizaid stressed the dangers of allowing more and more nations to build a nuclear arsenal. And while he said it is likely that Iran will make a technological breakthrough to obtain a nuclear bomb, "it's not inevitable."
Iran says its nuclear program is strictly for energy resources, not to build weapons.
Abizaid suggested military action to pre-empt Iran's nuclear ambitions might not be the wisest course.
"War, in the state-to-state sense, in that part of the region would be devastating for everybody, and we should avoid it — in my mind — to every extent that we can," he said. "On the other hand, we can't allow the Iranians to continue to push in ways that are injurious to our vital interests."
He suggested that many in Iran — perhaps even some in the Tehran government — are open to cooperating with the West. The thrust of his remarks was a call for patience in dealing with Iran.
He said there is a basis for hope that Iran, over time, will move away from its current anti-Western stance.
Abizaid's comments appeared to represent a more accommodating and hopeful stance toward Iran than prevails in the White House.
"I believe the United States, with our great military power, can contain Iran — that the United States can deliver clear messages to the Iranians that makes it clear to them that while they may develop one or two nuclear weapons they'll never be able to compete with us in our true military might and power," he said.
Abizaid made his remarks in response to questions from his audience after delivering remarks about the major strategic challenges in the Middle East and Central Asia — the region in which he commanded U.S. forces from July 2003 until February 2007, when he was replaced by Adm. William Fallon.
Last Mod: 18 Eylül 2007, 09:43