Powell and Brzezinski on Iran’s proto-nuclear capabilities

During an interview on Bloomberg Television’s “Conversations with Judy Woodruff” due to air this weekend, former Secretary of State Colin Powell shared his thoughts on Iran’s nuclear ambitions, saying:

The Iranians are determined to have a nuclear program… Notice I did not say a nuclear weapon. But they are determined to have a nuclear program, notwithstanding the last six or seven years of efforts on our part to keep them from having a nuclear program… I don’t see a set of sanctions coming along that would be so detrimental to the Iranians that they are going to stop that program, so ultimately, the solution has to be a negotiated one.

From the other side of the political aisle, former National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski largely concurred with General Powell’s assessment, in an appearance on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe“:

We [the United States] have to operate in such a way, that, if necessary, we give a guarantee to all the countries in the region and we make it absolutely clear to Iran that if it seeks and acquires a nuclear weapon the United States will be committed to using weapons against it if it threatens anybody in the region. That’s the system that has worked since the Soviets acquired nuclear weapons…[A nuclear Iran] may be inevitable, but it can be deterred….

Both men agree that Iran is determined to reach a proto-nuclear capability, in which it has the potential to weaponize uranium but exercises restraint so as not demonize its position in the international community. If this argument holds true, should the West look towards deterrence, containment, or preemption? The answer to this question will determine the new strategic balance of the greater Middle East.

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  • BraddS says:

    What about the fourth option: Regime Change. Or doesn’t anyone think that this is even possible any more? Isn’t Iran about one or two National Strike Days away from their government falling? That’s what we are having fed to us by our media. Are their citizens currently pushed to their breaking point? And will they welcome the West with open arms when/if it happens? (“Here’s our Nukes, take ’em! We never wanted ’em anyway”)

  • Jaydev says:

    Zbigniew Brzezinski is a wacko..nuke Iran if it threatens neighbours?
    Its poor people are not even represented by thuggish Iranian regime..
    Isnt it better to bomb its militia and nuke facilities than retaliate with nukes on its population sometime in future. Persians are the most intelligent and intellectual Muslims on earth..too bad if we have to nuke them..
    If thuggish Republican Guards and Clerics hold on to power..
    it will become a mirror image of failed states like Pakistan with millions of wacko Muslims itching for jehad..
    A stitch in time saves nine..!

  • KW64 says:

    For deterence to work, you have to first determine that the one you are detering is rational and will make a rational choice. Second you have to convince them you will actually do what you say. Third you have to assume that you know enough about their priorites that you can threaten something so important to them that it outweighs the value of their other objective. I do not think we currently can be sure of any of these points as it relates to the leadership of the theocratic dictatorship in Iran.
    Are Amehdinajad and Khomenei rational as we define it? What is most important to these two men? It may be that they think some apocalyptic event is more to be desired than mere peace and prosperity of the moment. Perhaps they thing destroying Israel will raise their standing so high in their world that their authority will be assured. They may not believe that Obama or the Democratic Congress would ultimately actually do anything substantial in retaliation to the use of a nuclear weapon. Finally, they may think that an Iranian society on the brink of revolt against their leadership deserves preservation.
    I feel that only threats of regime change will have even a chance of influencing the Iranian government and that threat must be credible. I do not think we have that level of credibility at this time. If the Iranian regime feels it may fall anyway, even threats of regime change may not work.

  • referman says:

    With Irans political process being dictated by enforced military rule is troubling.A nuclear program under these circumstances is frightening.Sanctions against Iran is slowly bringing internal unrest.The question is will a political change come before Iran has reached enough material to just make a dirty bomb.They can put it in a warhead a threaten say Israel.Israel an other neighbors of Iran have shown their discomfort about Irans unwillingness to comply with UN inspectors.If their intentions are for supplying power and needs for the people then comply.If the Qods and the mooky have other intensions then hopefully they will have to face the rage of their own people.

  • mudslider says:

    And at the same time BHO seeks to reduce US nuclear capability.

  • Max says:

    Iran has always known the West was bluffing; that’s why they have called Obama’s bluff. We should have taken out Iran’s nuclear program years ago with air strikes, but we couldn’t really do that since Bushy boy couldn’t get his act together in Iraq fast enough to address both problems at once.

  • C-Low says:

    The question is not will the US expand its nuclear umbrella.
    The question is what level of terrorist attack will be the red line? Iran is not going to use nukes all they want is the nuclear umbrella’s safety to run their proxy terrorist from. When Iran gets nukes they will be even more open and bold with supplying the terrorist and it wont just be the terrorist fighting the evil Jooos either.
    Get ready for AQ or X terrorist groups openly harboring in Iran using Iranian made rockets, high explosives, etc… After all WTF is the US going to do about it? Can anyone really name a US presidential possible that would risk a nuclear war to get some terrorist?

  • My2cents says:

    The problem is not so much Iran threatening their neighbors and Israel with nukes, but the proliferation that it spawns when those countries feeling that they need to acquire their own nuclear weapons to counter the Iranian threat, particularly if they do not feel that they can rely on the US. Then you are back at the old problem where it does not matter how reasonable and stable your leaders are, but which of the other country’s leaders is the least, to keep the damn things from being used.
    So, Iran threatens Saudi Arabia while supporting terrorists in the SA, then Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the UAE, Egypt, and Turkey purchases nuclear tipped missiles from Pakistan and threatens back. Question: How soon before someone launches a limited demonstration attack to try and get the other side to back down? And what are the odds of it stopping there?
    All the studies say that once the first nuke goes off escalation is almost inevitable, too much pride is on the line. Even if the major powers have time to mobilize (not likely) and present a unified front (not a chance) do not get involved.

  • Solomon2 says:

    “Zbigniew Brzezinski is a wacko..nuke Iran if it threatens neighbours?”
    If I recall correctly, he did claim credit for manipulating the USSR to invade Afghanistan. He’s a devious one.

  • Neo says:

    Brzezinski’s greatest claim to fame was renegotiating a new Salt treaty. The Ford administration had already done a great deal of negotiating after Vladivostok in 1974. Instead of picking up on the considerable work already done, the Carter administration felt it needed a much more extensive treaty. The Russians were going out on a limb to negotiate the deal in the first place, and when the Carter administration insisted on renegotiating the whole deal from scratch, they were mad. Of course, Carter couldn’t just close the deal that Republicans were working on. He had to be a greater peace maker than those nasty Republicans, and Brzezinski thought he could negotiate a better deal for the Russians than they could themselves. The Russians, being extremely suspicious, thought the Carter administration was trying to game them, and backed out on the whole deal. It took three years to renegotiate the whole thing. Carter and Brazenski ended up alienating their own Hawks in Congress, so Start II was never ratified.
    It must be acknowledged that Start II did largely work, in spite of insufficient verification practices and the fact that the treaty was never formally signed. In the end even the most hawkish in both countries had little use for even more nukes. The Russians cheated quite a bit on arms limitations deals, but not to the extent that it became a deal breaker.
    Brzezinski’s main conceit is that he assumes that the other side will act rationally, and that that rationality will naturally reflect his own superbly rational thinking. He would find out that that is not true, than have to figure out what the other side actually is up to. Unfortunately this makes his insight into diplomatic maters almost worthless. He was never very strong on appraising the personalities he was dealing with either, a habit that can come with self absorbed intellectualizing.

  • E. says:

    Saber rattling is the standard in Middle-East country defence. Sometimes a madman like Sadam gets power. Tragically he brought about lethal action when dealing with the Kurds.
    I don’t believe M. A. is smart enough to play Middle-East politics.
    “In the campaign, he took a populist approach. He emphasized his own modest life, and compared himself with Mohammad Ali Rajai, Iran’s second president.” Wikipedia Re. 2005 campaign
    Simply aligning oneself to a popular figure is a classic move by an underqualified individual in a volatile political environment. Ex: Hitler aligning himself with Neiche.
    C. P. & Z. B. are making a practical move. Boxing in Iran’s nuclear saber rattling with cold war rules.

  • nobody says:

    It’s just unacceptable for Iran to have nuclear weapons. Dancing around the topic by mincing words like nuclear ‘program’ is not going to do anybody any good. Neither man addressed the reaction to a nuclear armed Iran by it’s neighbors Israel and other mostly Sunni Arab countries. Who in their mind is willing to risk a nuclear arms race in the most unstable region of the world!?
    It would be nice to think that we could conduct regime change in Iran and advert the coming war but that seems very unlikely. The current administration and it’s supporters have demonized the only agency capable of pulling off a regime change. We have reduced the CIA to shooting missiles at car loads of bandits on the Afghan/Pakistan border.
    Then there is Pakistan, a country that is harboring, aiding and abiding some of the world’s worst terrorist. A country that is supplying nuclear technology to Iran and other rogue nations. A country that harbors, aides and abides OBL and we still call it an ally.
    Let’s hope Israel forms a coalition of the afraid with their arab enemies to defeat the Persian monster. Maybe this is the policy we should be pursuing?

  • James says:

    Concerning Iran, how about a modified version of MAD (“mutual assured destruction”)?
    The way to do this would be to put Iran (and the other few belligerent nations) on notice that if we are struck in any significant way by a WMD that we would automatically assume that such attack came from (or was even inspired by) Iran or one or more of the other belligerent nations and that we would retaliate in like manner but also on a massive scale.
    Now, we would put Iran on notice that the only way for it to avoid such a scenario would be for it to comply with international and IAEA requirements for inspection and compliance.
    Concerning both Israel and India, we may as well make a treaty with them similar to the NATO clause that an attack against one would be considered the same as an attack against all.


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