There’s a lot of hullabaloo about the New York Times article on Sunday, breathlessly reporting a "wake up call" from Secretary of Defense Robert Gates about the urgent need to rush contingency plans for attacking Iran.
Don’t worry about it. Ain’t gonna happen. Not a chance. Zero. Zilch. Nada.
I’ll get to the Gates memo and the Times in a second. But geez: for years now, even under the Bush administration, it’s been clear that the U.S. military is not going to attack Iran. Not then, not now, not ever.
Speaking at Columbia University this weekend, Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, pretty much said so. (By the way, he’s been saying so for years.) Here’s what Mullen said:
"I think Iran having a nuclear weapon would be incredibly destabilizing. I think attacking them would also create the same kind of outcome. … This is as complex a problem as there is in our country and we have expended extraordinary amounts of time and effort to figure that out, to try to get that right. …
"We in the Pentagon, we plan for contingencies all the time and so certainly there are (military) options which exist. That’s not my call. That’s going to be the president’s call. But from my perspective … the last option is to strike right now.
"There are those that say, ‘Come on, Mullen, get over that. They’re going to get it. Let’s deal with it. Well, dealing with it has unintended consequences that I don’t think we’ve all thought through. I worry that other countries in the region will then seek to, actually, I know they will, seek nuclear weapons as well. That spiral headed in that direction is a very bad outcome."
Could Mullen be clearer? I don’t think so.
The other day I spoke to Chas Freeman, the former U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia and the man who was nominated a year ago to head President Obama’s National Intelligence Council, the chief analytical body for the U.S. intelligence community. (That appointment, you’ll remember, was shot down by the Israel lobby.) According to Freeman, the military is against attacking Iran for reasons that include the fact that nearly 200,000 U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan are hostages, whose vital lifelines, including logistical lines running from the Persian Gulf north to U.S. bases in Iraq, would be attacked by Iranian-supported militias if the United States hits Iran.
The original Times story on Gates, which ran Sunday, sounded ominous: it was, the paper tells us, "highly classified," as if that means anything! It supposedly suggests that the United States develop a "set of military alternatives" to stop Iran. And it included the rational comment that in fact Iran might be seeking what’s called "breakout" capability, i.e., not the actual manufacture of a bomb but just pushing up to that ability by amassing highly enriched uranium, detonators and related technology.