Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Former Secretary Gates:Iran Most Serious National Security Issue

At SkyBridge Capital's SALT conference, former Defense Secretary Gates was still angry more than a year later that the White House had revealed details about the capture of Bin Laden so quickly.

He said, "You are hitting on a hot button issue for me. When we were in the situation room on May 1, 2011,  I made everybody agree not to reveal the operational details. Everyone-The Justice Department, Homeland Security- promised like teenagers signing a vow in blood. That lasted 5 hours. Eventually all the details, except for the names of the Seals, were leaked. I understand the allure of the public to the blood and gore. Disclosure risks the lives of the men on the front line and hinders cooperation from other countries."

He considers the nuclear threat from Iran to be the most serious danger to national security in his 46 years of public service. He started his hunt for the elusive Iranian moderate when he was an assistant to Carter's National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski.

"The Israelis think that attacking Iran's nuclear program will be easy at the 1981 attack on Osrick reactor in 1981 or the Syrian reactor in 2007. The Iranians are smart. They have dispersed their nuclear program among many sites, most underground. I am not sure that we know where all the sites are."

He continued, "Where Israel and the US disagree on what the Iranian response will be. When they attacked in Iraq, Saddam Hussein did nothing. Syria also did nothing when their nuclear program was attacked. Israel thinks that Iran will send a few rockets and Hezbollah will lob some rockets. I am not sure that will be the response."

He candidly admitted that he did not know what the government's response would be if Israel unilaterally attacked Iran.

"I am assuming that Israel will give us some notice," he said. "While I was in government, we could not decide the response. There was no way to decide what our response will be until we see what happens."

Although he resisted declaring that President Obama had been better to Israel than former President George W. Bush, he did say, "The last two presidents, compared to the six before them, have been the best friends of Israel."

"On a pragmatic security level, Obama has done more for Israel in the last three years than anyone else - helping with the Iron Dome, selling aircraft and missiles," he said.

It seems that the Middle East is always going to be a thorn in America's side. Gates predicts that the next trouble spot will be Pakistan.

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