April 30th, 2009
04:06 PM ET
12 months ago

Gates: Military strike on Iran's nuclear program won't work

 Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke before a Senate panel.
Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke before a Senate panel.

WASHINGTON (CNN) – Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Thursday a military strike on Iran's nuclear program would not stop that country from pursuing the development of a nuclear weapon.

Gates told a Senate panel that a military option would only delay Iran's nuclear ambitions and drive the program further underground, making it more difficult to monitor, he said.

He said the better option would be for the United States and its allies to convince Iran that building a nuclear program would start an arms race that would leave the country less secure.

"Their security interests are actually badly served by trying to have nuclear weapons," Gates said. "They will start a nuclear arms race in the Middle East and they will be less secure at the end than they are now."

Gates was joined by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in an appearance before the Senate Appropriations Committee to discuss the 2009 supplemental request.

Clinton and Gates told the panel the United States and its allies should pressure Iran with tougher sanctions.

"We do have intensive consultation efforts going on with our friends and like- minded nations, not only in the region but elsewhere in the world concerning the threats that Iran poses," Clinton said.

Gates said the U.S. should partner with Russia on missile defense programs in the region to isolate Iran, an issue that has soured relations with Russia recently.

"I think there is value in pursuing a partnership with the Russians on missile defense in Europe and in Russia itself," he continued, but did not elaborate.

Another hot-button issue that touched off questions from the panel: the final destination of suspected terrorists held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Gates said the relocation to the United States of dozens of suspected terrorists held there is being discussed by U.S. officials this week.

Gates told senators the Department of Justice has started working on relocation plans within the United States for detainees who cannot be tried or transferred to another country.

The issue of moving the detainees is a touchy subject among politicians who do not want the high-profile prisoners in their backyards.

Gates told committee members he understands that the majority of Congressional members will file legislation barring the U.S. from moving the detainees to their states.

While the Department of Justice is sorting through the 241 detainees cases to see who will not be put on trial or be taken by other countries, Gates said the number will most likely fall between 50 and 100 that could be relocated.

"There clearly will be a specific plan that comes out of this, but what we've had to await is the determination, roughly speaking, of about how big a group of people we will be talking about. And so the review of each of these case files has to precede the development of a specific plan in terms of where the prisoners would go," Gates said.

An early possibility: the Army's prison facility at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, which is being considered as a site to build a detention facility especially for the detainees.

Kansans have been outspoken about rejecting the idea, and panel member Sen. Sam Brownback started his questioning of Gates with a plea.

"Please not at Leavenworth. I think you should look overall, and I'm glad you're looking at Europe with that," said the Kansas Republican.

"It's a hot topic with your commander at that base, whose primary mission is educational," Brownback continued.

"What we are attempting to do is try to convince other countries to take back their own nationalities of detainees and perhaps even others," Clinton said when asked about the status of the closing down the detention facility.

Senators were also concerned whether the Pakistani leadership understood what was happening inside their country.

As Taliban forces threaten to move closer to the capital Islamabad, and instability throughout the country looms, Secretary Gates likened the struggle to a familiar fight in the U.S.

"The United States was first attacked by Al Qaida in 1993. Al Qaida was at war with the United States for eight years before we decided we were at war with Al Qaida," Gates said. "I think the same kind of thing has kind of happened in Pakistan, the Pakistanis haven't realized the threat that has been posed to them over the last several years," he said.


Filed under: Hillary Clinton • Iran • Robert Gates • Sam Brownback
soundoff (46 Responses)
  1. Seth

    Sounds like Gates wants to stay on as Secretary of Defense, I'm sure he would have said the opposite under Bush.

    April 30, 2009 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  2. Super D

    I guess Gates now is a card carrying Liberal.

    How Stupid an idea!

    The only thing Iran is ever going to understand is the business end of a shotgun.

    Doesn't really matter because Israel doesn't believe this nonsense.

    April 30, 2009 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  3. BobAbrams

    Oh yea, this is a good idea, let's "CONVINCE" iran that they shouldn't build nuclear weapons. While we're at it, let's convince them to stop hating the west and America...this won't be hard...I don't know why Bush didn't think of...this whole time all we had to do was convince them to stop!

    April 30, 2009 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  4. The Broker.

    It just did. Otherwise you would not be talking about it.

    April 30, 2009 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  5. Mahmoud

    Good luck with that.

    April 30, 2009 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  6. Qui-Tam Relator

    ****************************************************************
    I guess there are a lot of people that didn't see The China Syndrome. You can't blowup working reactors you bunch of bone heads. If you think we have problems with this manufactured so called Swine Flu just go ahead and blowup a working reactor ! Man, you people scare me ! ****************************************************************

    April 30, 2009 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  7. RICO

    First of all, how can anyone say that bombing anothers countries nuclear plants, and reserch be acceptable. This would just cause even more maddness in the Middle East.

    Second, the prisoners at Gitmo are not anymore dangerous than any other prisoner in our prison system now. Its not like we are going to put then in prision with AK-47 attached to them. Come on people give it up with this not in my back yard crap.

    April 30, 2009 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  8. Tom

    It is refreshing to hear a non-fear mongering simple minded comment coming from a Republican.

    Smartest republican to comment on the subject in a long time – no wonder he made the cut to be on the Obama team.

    April 30, 2009 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  9. J.P.

    "Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Thursday a military strike on Iran's nuclear program would not stop that country from pursuing the development of a nuclear weapon."

    Oh really? I don't see the Japanese with a nuke.

    April 30, 2009 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  10. Jennie

    I respect Mr. Gates opinion, he was the only competent appointee from the Bush admin. He's steady, smart and capable.

    April 30, 2009 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  11. FreeNLovIt

    Oh dear, is it Armageddon yet? The only way to stop them is to take over the country like we did with Iraq. It's the end time and no matter what, Iran is preparing for the coming of the Age. There's no stopping them. The only way to stop them is to reduce them to stone-age society like what the Russians did to Afghanistan. Good luck America!!

    April 30, 2009 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  12. phoenix86

    No one said that a strike would diminish Iran's attempts to acquire a nuclear weapon. A strike would set back their acquisition of one.

    Seems like Gates has transitioned well into Obama's world of timidity and doublespeak.

    April 30, 2009 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  13. Gary

    A strike would be dangerous and invite retaliation against us but it would work. You need to get a coalition of 50 large countries who are like-minded and concerned to particpate in the strikes. It would require 2000 sorties a day for a week but it would work.

    Night #1 you hit the radar centers, landing fields, anti-aircraft sites and all know missiles. Night #2 you hit the communication and power grid. Night #3 you hit all nuclear sites and storage facilities. Night #4 you hit any nuclear development offices. Night #5 and 6 for "clean-up" to his any targets partially hit but not destroyed. It is not an easy one hit wonder like Isreal did with iraq and Syria but it is possible and will set them back 10 years. If we target Ackmedemijad and the republican guard perhaps we could also destabilize the government to get a new more moderate miliatary dictator in place.

    April 30, 2009 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  14. Kevin in Ohio

    Unfortunately, Gates is right. We languished too long under Jimmy Carter's reign...we should have taken care of the mess then when we had the chance.

    April 30, 2009 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  15. FreeNLovIt

    It will be easier to take over Iran than Iraq. They are a uniformed society without fragmented minorities. If they dont quit, we just keep showering them with bombs until they submit. Dont be afraid!

    April 30, 2009 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  16. FreeNLovIt

    I rather wake up to ashes of bombs, than ashes of contaminated TOXIC gas of DNA degeneration. LIke I used to say, throw me a 1000 scud missiles, just dont throw me that toxic nuke.

    April 30, 2009 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  17. John

    Gates sounds like a realist....quite different than his sycophantic predecessor.

    April 30, 2009 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  18. Len

    It is a breathe of fresh air to know the United States of America now has an Administration the is intelligent and understands that "Shock and Awe" does not work!

    April 30, 2009 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  19. just another "arrogant" American

    Come on Gates, get real.... I love ya 'cause you're an Aggie, but don't let those liberals in Washington convince you that we can smile and handshake the extremists running Iran into doing the right thing.

    April 30, 2009 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  20. RH

    That's good, appease the Iranians. See what that gets you.

    April 30, 2009 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  21. Alex

    You don't have to convince most Americans, Gates... Tell it to Bibi Netanyahu!

    Though I wouldn't put it past the Iranians, I don't think there's real solid proof that they're developing nuclear weapons technology anyway. Nuclear energy has plenty of problems of its own, but that doesn't mean the world has the right to tell Iran how to generate their own domestic power supply.

    April 30, 2009 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  22. mark

    Just send BO over there and BOW, Pander, problem solved.........

    April 30, 2009 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  23. Jon

    Hey Gates, if you weren't in Israel's back pocket you would realize it was THEY who started the nuclear arms race. Geez!

    April 30, 2009 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  24. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA

    In respect to the detainee issue, if the detainess were sent to a prson in the U.S., I doubt if they will last a week. They will wish they were still Gitmo.

    April 30, 2009 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  25. Illinois 2

    They work before when another country did it...

    April 30, 2009 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
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