No Options on the Table

Ex-Secretary of Defense attacks Israel, says U.S. powerless to stop Iran

Robert Gates / Wikimedia Commons

In a sharp dissent from President Obama's oft-repeated promise that "all options are on the table" when it comes to stopping Iran's nuclear program, former secretary of defense Robert Gates said yesterday that the United States and Israel are powerless to stop the Iranian nuclear program by force and that military strikes would "prove catastrophic."

In a speech in Norfolk, Va., Gates, who served as Obama's secretary of defense until 2011, repeatedly contradicted Obama administration policy on Iran. An attack on Iranian nuclear sites "would make a nuclear-armed Iran inevitable," he predicted, because Iran "would just bury the program deeper and make it more covert." Gates did not state if he believes not attacking the sites would make a nuclear-armed Iran not inevitable.

Gates went on to predict that "the results of an American or Israeli military strike on Iran could, in my view, prove catastrophic, haunting us for generations in that part of the world."

And while President Obama has endorsed Israel's "sovereign right to make its own decisions about what is required to meet its security needs," as he told a 2012 AIPAC conference, Gates articulated a conditional view of Israeli sovereignty. The leaders of the Jewish state "do not have a blank check to take action that could do grave harm to American vital interests," he said.

While still secretary of defense in 2011 Gates called Israel an "ungrateful ally."