Former Bush administration National Security Agency head and CIA director Michael Hayden told the Israeli daily newspaper Haaretz that Israel may not have the military capacity to take out Iran’s nuclear facilities and reiterated his belief that any attack would only delay the Iranian program and perhaps push it toward obtaining nuclear weapons:
“I do not underestimate the Israeli talent, but geometry and physics tell us that Iran’s nuclear program would pose a difficult challenge to any military, as it is not a raid, and Israel’s resources are more limited than those of the U.S.,” Hayden told Haaretz.
“There is no absolute certainty that all targets are known,” he added. “They will have to be revisited – which only the U.S. Air Force would be able to do – andthe operation will only set the Iranians back some time and actually push them to do that which it is supposed to prevent, getting nuclear weapons.”
Hayden also said there is “still some time” before a decision needs to be made about whether to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities, adding that “real decisions are to be made in 2013 or 2014.”
Hayden’s view is widely shared among current and former U.S. and Israel officials. “At best this would buy you a few years,” an anonymous Obama administration official told the New York Times recently.
But at the same time, the Israelis, led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak, are openly debating an attack on Iran. Netanyahu recently criticized the international community for not being tougher on the Islamic Republic. “The international community is not drawing a clear red line for Iran,” he said. “Iran doesn’t see determination from the international community to stop its nuclear program.”
Haaretz also reported last week that according to a top Israeli official, German Chancellor Angela Merkel called Netanyahu recently to give a “clear message as to her opposition” to an military attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities.
The Obama administration is aware, not only of the threat an Iranian nuclear weapon poses, but also the potential negative consequences of a military attack on Iran. And that, coupled with U.N., U.S. and Israeli assessments that Iran has not yet decided on whether to build a nuclear weapon, leads the administration to pursue a diplomatic solution with Iran, a track the it deems the “best and most permanent way” to solve the nuclear crisis.