Former Defense Secretary William Perry is warning that the U.S. will soon face a nuclear crisis with Iran:
Iran is "moving inexorably toward becoming a nuclear power," with ominous implications for the Middle East, Perry said.
"It seems clear that Israel will not sit by idle while Iran takes the final steps toward becoming a nuclear power," Perry told a conference on foreign policy challenges facing the incoming Obama administration. The former Clinton administration defense secretary held out hope that more vigorous U.S. and international diplomacy could reverse North Korea's nuclear weapons program. But he was less confident about stopping Iran's ambitions.
"President Obama will almost certainly face a serious crisis with Iran," Perry said. "Indeed, I believe the crisis point will be reached in his first year in office. So on the nuclear front, President Obama will face a daunting set of problems, none of which can be solved unilaterally."
Perry told the AP that if North Korea and Iran cannot be contained, the world faces a "cascade of proliferation" of nuclear-armed states. The former defense chief believes the global community has reached a "tipping point" on the proliferation issue, adding, "if the world does tip, it will be irreversible and dangerous beyond the imagination of most people."
Readers may recall that Dr. Perry was running the Pentagon when the U.S. initiated the "Agreed To" framework with North Korea, aimed at ending Pyongyang's nuclear program. While former Clinton Administration officials (and arms control wonks) have hailed the "success" of that agreement, it was little more than a sham. While the DPRK was supposed to stop its nuclear work--in exchange for fuel deliveries and additional nuclear reactors--the North Koreans simply took their program underground.
Over the next seven years, Pyongyang achieved the technical breakthroughs that allowed them to develop nuclear weapons, culminating in the 2006 test of a nuclear device. Since then, the Bush Administration has worked out a new diplomatic agreement with the DPRK, with assistance from other nations in the region. But ensuring North Korean compliance remains difficult, if not impossible. The Syrian nuclear complex destroyed by Israeli jets in 2007 was a copy of the DPRK facility at Yongbyon.
While Mr. Perry's ominous prediction will likely come true, he doesn't say what the U.S. should do if diplomacy fails, particularly in the case of Iran. Years of talks between Tehran and the EU have achieved nothing; meanwhile, the Iranian nuclear program has advanced steadily, and will likely yield a nuclear weapon in the very near future.
For the record, President-elect Obama favors "tough and direct diplomacy" with Iran, aimed at achieving a comprehensive settlement on the nuclear issue. Someone ought to ask the president-elect what he--and our allies--are prepared to do, when the diplomatic option fails, and Tehran achieves its nuclear ambitions.
Or, better yet, how will the U.S. react when the IAF heads east, and carries out that all-but-inevitable strike on Iran's nuclear facilities.