[Dr. Aaron Lerner - IMRA:
What's the danger if Iran has nuclear bombs?
"A nuclear-armed Iran could transform the landscape of the Middle East,
precipitating a nuclear arms race, dramatically increasing the prospect and
danger of local conflicts, fatally wounding the global non-proliferation
regime, and emboldening the terrorists and extremists who threaten the
United States and our allies."
National Security Advisor James L. Jones
So here is what National Security Advisor James L. Jones thinks the downside
is if Iran has nukes:
#1. Nuclear arms race - both on a regional and global level
#2. Local conflicts - apparently with conventional weapons.
#3. "Emboldening the terrorists and extremists"
What's missing from the list?
Bottom line question: Does National Security Advisor James L. Jones
entertain the possibility that a nuclear-armed Iran might actually use a
This is not an academic question.
When you weigh the costs of stopping Iran from getting the bomb against the
benefits, the cost-benefit equation is profoundly different if you think
that Iran might nuke someone.
If National Security Advisor James L. Jones and the rest of the decision
makers in Washington thought that Iran might nuke someone if they got the
bomb they would be willing to pay almost any price to make sure this didn't
But they don't.
And, unfortunately, Iran knows this.]
Remarks by National Security Advisor James L. Jones at the Washington
Institute for Near East Policy
On April 21, 2010, In Whitehouse Press Office feed, By The White House
Michael Stein Address, Soref Symposium
25th Anniversary Soref Gala
Thank you all very much. Thank you, Martin Gross, for your very kind
introduction, and for your leadership as the Institute’s new president.
You have 25 years of Institute history to live up to…and 25 years of
Institute presidents watching to make sure you get it right.
Thank you Rob Satloff, for welcoming us tonight.
On this, your 25th anniversary, let me commend all those who have made
the Washington Institute for Near East Policy the respected institution
it is today…especially past presidents Barbi Weinberg, Fred Lafer,
Michael Stein and your Chairman Howard Berkowitz.
I also want to thank your distinguished Trustees and Board of
Advisors—which has one empty chair tonight because of the recent loss of
one of your longtime Advisors…a public servant…a true
warrior-diplomat…and one of my predecessors as Supreme Allied Commander
Europe. Tonight, we remember General and Secretary of State Alexander Haig.
For a quarter-century…through five different administrations…this
Institute has provided an invaluable service, to policymakers and the
American people. Instead of partisanship, you’ve given us scholarship.
Instead of simply recycling old arguments, you’ve given us fresh and
objective analysis. So I want to thank Rob and your entire staff…and 25
years of scholars and fellows…for your insights and your contributions.
I’ve seen it myself. A few years ago, I served as Special Envoy for
Middle East Regional Security. Our work was strengthened by the advice
and counsel of many experts, including one of our special advisors—and
your Senior Fellows—Matthew Levitt. We benefited from discussions with
other Institute Fellows, including David Makovsky and Dennis Ross. And,
of course, President Obama’s Administration was all too happy to steal
Dennis away from you, and he is now helping to lead our efforts in the
region at the National Security Council. And I believe Dennis is here
I especially want to thank the Institute for your work on behalf of the
effort that President Obama called for in his speech last year in
Cairo—that is, greater understanding between the United States and
Muslim communities around world. The President called for “a sustained
effort to listen to each other, to learn from each other, to respect one
another, and to seek common ground.”
In that spirit, you’ve been promoting mutual understanding for many
years…whether it’s welcoming to Washington scholars from Cairo to
Baghdad…your Arabic-language website…Rob’s weekly Arabic-language
interview show…or his recent documentary recounting the little known
story of how Arabs saved Jews from the Holocaust.
So thank you all…for analysis that has strengthened our national
security…and for promoting the mutual understanding that can lead to a
safer, more secure world for us all. And I wish you continued success,
because, frankly, our nation—indeed, the world—needs institutions like
yours now more than ever.
Indeed, since taking office, President Obama has made it clear that his
first and foremost priority is the safety and security of the American
people. To this end, he has pursued a new era of American leadership
and comprehensive engagement based on mutual interests and mutual respect.
In the coming weeks, we’ll be releasing a new National Security Strategy
that formalizes the President’s approach—an approach that is rooted in
and guided by our national security interests. These interests are
clear and enduring.
Security—we have an enduring interest in the security of the United
States, our citizens and U.S. allies and partners; Prosperity—we have an
enduring interest in a strong, innovative and growing U.S. economy in an
open international economic system that promotes opportunity and
prosperity; Values— we have an enduring interest is upholding universal
values, at home and around the world; and, International Order—we have
an enduring interest in an international order advanced by U.S.
leadership that promotes peace, security and opportunity through
stronger cooperation to meet global challenges.
Security, prosperity, universal values, and an international order
advanced by American leadership—these are the interests that the
President and his Administration are working to advance around the world
every day, including in the Middle East.
To strengthen our security, we are responsibly ending the war in Iraq.
As evidenced by the successes this weekend of military operations
against al Qaeda in Iraq, Iraqi security forces are in the lead. The
United States will end our combat mission by the end of August. In
accordance with the U.S.-Iraq Security Agreement, all U.S. forces will
be out Iraq by the end of next year. Now, the most immediate challenge
is for Iraqi political leaders to form an inclusive and representative
government. As they face the longer-term challenges of expanding
prosperity and opportunity, the Iraqi people will continue to have a
partner in the United States.
In Afghanistan and beyond, we have refocused the fight against al Qaeda
and its extremist allies. We’ve struck major blows against their
leaders, who are now hunkered down in the tribal regions along the
border between Afghanistan and Pakistan. At the same time, we’re
forging partnerships that isolate extremists, combat corruption and
promote good governance and development—all of which improves the daily
lives of ordinary people and undermines the forces that fuel violent
And to confront the greatest threat to global security—the danger that
terrorists will obtain nuclear weapons or materials—the President hosted
last week’s historic Nuclear Security Summit, where 46 nations joined
the goal of securing the world’s vulnerable nuclear materials in four years.
To advance our prosperity, the President has worked with allies and
partners to expand the global economic recovery…pursue growth that is
balanced and sustained…launched a national export initiative to double
American exports and support two million American jobs…. …and reformed
the international economic architecture so that the G-20 is now the
premier forum for international cooperation.
And as he promised in Cairo, next week the President will host a Summit
on Entrepreneurship with business leaders and entrepreneurs from more
than 50 nations—including many Muslim-majority countries and Israel—to
promote our common prosperity.
To advance values that are universal, the President has made it clear
that the United States will uphold our ideals both at home and abroad,
including the right of people to have a say in how they are governed. As
the President said in Cairo, the U.S. is committed to supporting
governments that reflect the will of the people, because history shows
that these governments are more stable, more successful, and more
secure. So political reform and effective and accountable governance
will remain core elements of our vision for the future, in the Middle
East and around the world.
And to advance a just and sustainable international order, the United
States is working to ensure that both the rights and responsibilities of
all nations are upheld. For example, the new START Treaty with Russia
is part of the President’s comprehensive agenda to pursue a world
without nuclear weapons—an agenda that reflects the three pillars of the
Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty: nations with nuclear weapons will
reduce them, nations without nuclear weapons will forsake them, and the
recognition that nations have a right to peaceful nuclear energy.
Whether or not the rights and responsibilities of nations are upheld
will in great measure determine whether the coming years and decades
result in greater security, prosperity and opportunity—for Americans and
for people around the world.
Perhaps nowhere do we see this more than in the Middle East, where we
face two defining challenges that I want to touch on tonight: preventing
Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them, and
forging a lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians as part of a
comprehensive peace in the region.
When President Obama took office, Iran had already assembled thousands
of centrifuges and accumulated nearly a bomb’s worth of low enriched
uranium. Iran was in active violation of five UN Security Council
Resolutions. Moreover, Iran’s sponsorship of terrorist actors in Iraq,
Lebanon, and Gaza signaled a continued determination to sow its brand of
violence and coercion across the Middle East.
Clearly, a policy of not engaging Iran did not work. That is why
President Obama made clear his commitment to engage Iran on the basis of
mutual respect on the full range of issues that divide our countries. As
the President repeatedly said, he was under no illusions. He knew it
would not be easy to overcome decades of mistrust, suspicion, and even
open hostility between our countries. But he also knew that engagement
was necessary to present Iran with a choice and to unite the
international community around the need for Iran meet its international
So to advance our interests, President Obama extended his hand and the
opportunity for dialogue. American and Iranian diplomats met in Geneva
in October, and through the International Atomic Energy Agency. With
strong support from the United States, France, and Russia, the IAEA put
forward a creative offer to produce nuclear fuel using Iran’s own low
enriched uranium. It was an offer with humanitarian benefits, ensuring
that Iran would meet its need for medical isotopes. It gave Iran the
opportunity to show that its nuclear program was for peaceful purposes.
It would have built confidence on both sides in the possibility of
further agreements. In addition, the United States went to great
lengths to demonstrate our commitment and establish assurances for Iran.
To date, we have seen no indication that Iran’s leaders want to resolve
these issues constructively. After initially accepting it, they
rejected the Tehran Research Reactor proposal. They have refused to
discuss their nuclear program with the P5+1. The revelation of a
previously covert enrichment site, construction of which further
violated Iran’s NPT obligations, fed further suspicion about Iran’s
intentions. Iran recently increased the enrichment levels of its
uranium to 20 percent. All the while, Iran continues to brutally
repress its own citizens and prohibit their universal rights to express
themselves freely and choose their own future.
These are not the behaviors of a responsible international actor, and
they are not the actions of a government committed to peaceful diplomacy
and a new relationship with a willing and ready partner.
Indeed, Iran’s continued defiance of its international obligations on
its nuclear program and its support of terrorism represents a
significant regional and global threat. A nuclear-armed Iran could
transform the landscape of the Middle East, precipitating a nuclear arms
race, dramatically increasing the prospect and danger of local
conflicts, fatally wounding the global non-proliferation regime, and
emboldening the terrorists and extremists who threaten the United States
and our allies.
Therefore, we are now working actively with allies and partners to
increase the costs of Iran’s continued failure to live up to its
international obligations. This includes a U.N. Security Council
As President Obama has stated, our offer of engagement with Iran stands,
and we remain prepared to pursue a better and more positive future. Iran
has rights, but with those rights come responsibilities. If Iran’s
leaders do not fulfill those responsibilities, and if they continue to
violate their international obligations, they will face ever deepening
Iran’s government must face real consequences for its continued defiance
of the international community. We hope that Iran will make the right
choice and acts to restore the confidence of the international community
in the exclusively peaceful nature of its nuclear program.
However, should Iran’s leaders fail to make that choice, President Obama
has been very clear, and I want to repeat it here: the United States is
determined to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. In so
doing, we will avoid a nuclear arms race in the region and the
proliferation of nuclear technology to terrorist organizations.
Of course, one of the ways that Iran exerts influence in the Middle East
is by exploiting the ongoing Arab-Israeli conflict. Iran uses the
conflict to keep others in the region on the defensive and to try to
limit its own isolation. Ending this conflict, achieving peace between
Israelis and Palestinians and establishing a sovereign Palestinian state
would therefore take such an evocative issue away from Iran, Hizballah,
and Hamas. It would allow our partners in the region to focus on
building their states and institutions. And peace between Israel and
Syria, if it is possible, could have a transformative effect on the region.
Since taking office, President Obama has pursued a two-state solution—a
secure, Jewish state of Israel living side by side in peace and security
with a viable and independent Palestinian state.
This is in the United States’ interest. It is in Israel’s interest. It
is in the Palestinians’ interest. It is in the interest of the Arab
countries, and, indeed, the world. Advancing this peace would also help
prevent Iran from cynically shifting attention away from its failures to
meet its obligations.
And since there has been a lot of distortion and misrepresentation of
our policy recently, let me take this opportunity to address our
relationship with our ally Israel. Like any two nations, we will have
of disagreements, but we will always resolve them as allies. And we
will never forget that since the first minutes of Israeli independence,
the United States has had a special relationship with Israel. And that
will not change.
Why? Because this is not a commitment of Democrats or Republicans; it
is a national commitment based on shared values, deep and interwoven
connections, and mutual interests.
As President Obama declared in Cairo, “America's strong bonds with
Israel are well known. This bond is unbreakable.” They are the bonds
of history—two nations that earned our independence through the
sacrifice of patriots. They are the bonds of two people, bound together
by shared values of freedom and individual opportunity. They are the
bonds of two democracies, where power resides in the people. They are
the bonds of pioneers in science, technology and so many fields where we
cooperate every day. They are the bonds of friendship, including the
ties of so many families and friends.
This week marked the 62nd anniversary of Israeli independence—a nation
and a people who have survived in the face of overwhelming odds. But
even now, six decades since its founding, Israel continues to reside in
a hostile neighborhood with adversaries who cling to the false hope that
denying Israel’s legitimacy will ultimately make it disappear. But
those adversaries are wrong.
As the President said in Cairo, for the entire world to hear, the State
of Israel “will not go away.” As he said at the United Nations, nations
“do the Palestinians no favors when they choose vitriolic attacks
against Israel over constructive willingness to recognize Israel's
legitimacy and its right to exist in peace and security.”
So America’s commitment to Israel will endure. And everyone must know
that there is no space—no space—between the United States and Israel
when it comes to Israel’s security. Our commitment to Israel’s security
is unshakable. It is as strong as ever. This President and this
Administration understands very well the environment—regionally and
internationally—in which Israel and the United States must operate. We
understand very well that for peace and stability in the Middle East,
Israel must be secure.
The United States will never waiver in defense of Israel’s security.
That is why we provide billions of dollars annually in security
assistance to Israel, why we have reinvigorated our consultations to
ensure Israel’s Qualitative Military Edge, and why we undertake joint
military exercises, such as the Juniper Cobra ballistic missile defense
exercise that involved more than 1,000 United States servicemen and
women. We view these efforts as essential elements of our regional
security approach, because many of the same forces that threaten Israel
also threaten the United States.
I can also say from long experience that our security relationship with
Israel is important for America. Our military benefits from Israeli
innovations in technology, from shared intelligence, from exercises that
help our readiness and joint training that enhances our capabilities and
from lessons learned in Israel’s own battles against terrorism and
Over the years, and like so many Americans—like so many of you here
tonight—I’ve spent a great deal of time with my Israeli partners,
including my friends in the IDF. These partnerships are deep and
abiding. They are personal relationships and friendships based on
mutual trust and respect. Every day, across the whole range of our
bilateral relationship, we are working together for our shared security
and prosperity. And our partnership will only be strengthened in the
months and years to come.
In our pursuit of a two-state solution, we recognize that peace must be
made by the parties and cannot be imposed from the outside. At the same
time, we understand that the status quo is not sustainable. It is not
sustainable for Israel’s identity as a secure, Jewish, and democratic
state, because the demographic clock keeps ticking and will not be
reversed. The status quo is not sustainable for Palestinians who have
legitimate aspirations for sovereignty and statehood. And the status
quo is not sustainable for the region because there is a struggle
between those who reject Israel’s existence and those who are prepared
to coexist with Israel — and the status quo strengthens the
rejectionists and weakens those who would live in peace.
Obviously, we are disappointed that the parties have not begun direct
negotiations. The United States stands ready to do whatever is
necessary to help the parties bridge their differences and develop the
confidence needed to make painful compromises on behalf of peace. As we
do so, we will also strongly support the Palestinian Authority’s efforts
to develop its institutions from the ground up and call on other states,
particularly in the region, to do their part to support the Palestinian
Authority as well.
We also continue to call on all sides to avoid provocative actions,
including Israeli actions in East Jerusalem and Palestinian incitement
that fuel suspicion rather than trust.
As Secretary of State Clinton has said many times, “we believe that
through good-faith negotiations, the parties can mutually agree to an
outcome which ends the conflict and reconciles the Palestinian goal of
an independent and viable state based on the ‘67 lines, with agreed
swaps, and Israel’s goal of a Jewish state with secure and recognized
borders that reflect subsequent developments and meet Israel’s security
So it is time to begin those negotiations and to put an end to excuses.
It is time for all leaders in the region—Israeli, Palestinian, and
Arab—to support efforts for peace. It is time for today’s leader to
demonstrate the courage and leadership of Anwar Sadat, King Hussein, and
I want to conclude tonight by returning to some simple words that
President Obama spoke in Oslo—this is a “moment of challenge.” And when
it comes to the Middle East, it is a moment of many challenges.
It is the challenge of transitioning to full Iraqi responsibility for
their future. In Afghanistan and beyond, is the challenge of defeating
violent extremists who threaten us all. It is the challenge of
preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons and the means to deliver
them. It is the challenge of forging a lasting peace between Israelis
and Palestinians as part of a comprehensive peace in the region. It is
the challenge of realizing greater prosperity and opportunity for all
who call the Middle East home.
Alone, any one of these would demand extraordinary patience and
perseverance. Together, they will require a comprehensive and
coordinated approach. This is the work that President Obama has
undertaken. And this is the work we will continue to pursue in the
months and years ahead…not only for the sake of America’s security, but
for the world’s.
Thank you all very much.