U.S. Weighs Options on Iran After Israeli Strike on Syria
by Steven Emerson
October 15, 2007
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MONICA NOVOTNY: Well, now that Syria has been hit, does it mean that countries with nuclear ambitions, like Iran, have officially been put on notice?
Steve Emerson is a terrorism expert and retired U.S. Army General Barry McCaffrey is an MSNBC military analyst. Gentlemen, thanks for being here.
GEN. BARRY MCCAFFREY: Good to be with you.
NOVOTNY: I didn't see you – I wanted to make sure you were there.
Ok, Steve, we'll start with you. How closely do you think that Iranian officials are watching these events unfold, and what do you think they make of it?
STEVEN EMERSON: Oh I think they've watched it very very closely and, first of all, the Israelis flew very close to the Iranian border. Number two, it was a preemptive strike – the Israelis neutralized the Syrian radar apparatus and they took out the site. Now, of course, the Iranian facilities are much more dispersed and subterranean than the Syrian ones, but certainly, they have to believe that a preemptive strike is much more of a definitive possibility than ever before.
NOVOTNY: General McCaffrey, a question that we're hearing being asked now is would this be a good model, a good blueprint, to follow in the event that the U.S. wanted to launch military strikes on Iran?
MCCAFFREY: Well, clearly we have the capacity to do it. I mean, if you gave the United States Air Force, you know, three months and five hundred aircraft, they'd reduce a lot of those seventy-some-odd suspected nuclear sites to rubble, and probably kill a lot of the key people in the process. But most of us would argue that the solution dealing with the Iranians – you know forty-five million people, a giant country larger than Alaska, which can close the Persian Gulf – probably the answers are diplomatic, international legal interventions, economic sanctions – the kind of things that Dr. Rice and her colleagues are now working on.
NOVOTNY: Steve, do you agree?
EMERSON: Well, I always respect Gen. McCaffrey, but I think I would disagree here because I don't think that the sanctions are ultimately going to work with Ahmadinejad. He's bent on acquiring a bomb, he believes in the coming of the twelfth Imam, and he is obviously a nihilist when it comes to this type of issue, so I think a preemptive strike ultimately is the only way to stop them from acquiring a bomb.
MCCAFFREY: By the way, let me add, I actually agree with Steve on this. I think they're going nuclear and that our current program won't work, and that eventually you're going to have to go to a ten – twenty year hedging in the Iranians with a new alliance. I think Steve's right: these people are going nuclear, they've spent billions of dollars on it, they're going to be at greater risk, they're going to prompt a proliferation race in the Middle East. I think he's right on the money.
NOVOTNY: Alright, Steve, let me bring in one more thing – really for both you to talk about – uh, one more aspect of all this. North Korea – there was the question as to North Korea's role in Syria. What does this do with U.S. relations with North Korea right now?
EMERSON: Well, that's another good question because the North Koreans did not disclose this, apparently, to the United States. And to the extent that the North Koreans had actually secreted this technology and transferred it to the Syrians and who else that it transferred it to without disclosing it to the U.S., as it was supposed to be doing, then I think it puts into question the sincerity of the North Korean agreement to, basically, dispense with nuclear weapons.
NOVOTNY: Gen. McCaffrey, should we be concerned about U.S. relations with North Korea now, or is that part of the reason why the U.S. administration is being tight-lipped on this?
MCCAFFREY: Well, I think we should have zero confidence in what the North Koreans are telling us at the negotiating table. The only thing you're going to respond to is the Six Power Talks – hopefully the Chinese, at some point, will see themselves as being directly threatened by a North Korea armed with nuclear weapons. What's going to happen if we don't get some sort of response out of these people is Japan will go nuclear in the coming fifteen years, which will absolutely make more unstable the entire Pacific Rim. So, North Korea led by a sociopath, murdered two million of his own people, an unstable regime – this is a huge national security threat, not just the United States, but to our allies in the region.
NOVOTNY: And we thought it was just a discussion about Israel and Syria. Gentlemen, thank you both for your time – we appreciate it.
EMERSON: You bet.
MCCAFFREY: Good to be with you.