April 30th, 2009
04:06 PM ET
10 years ago

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

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/04/06/art.getty.rob.gates.jpg caption=" 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. dreamer

    To bad GW didn't have the kahuna's to handle the problem when he had the chance(political or militarally).Of course that's tipical RNC tatics to put off and blame the next president...

    April 30, 2009 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  2. Brian

    I feel very confident with this guy at the helm of Defense. Hope he stays at least the next four years.

    April 30, 2009 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  3. Randall

    Maybe a stike on just their facilities won't work but a strike on Tehran I bet would.

    April 30, 2009 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  4. Randy

    Wow! A very sensible remark, intelligently thought out, and prgamatically driven. This coming from a Bush appointee! Something from President Obama must have rubbed off on Mr. Gates!

    April 30, 2009 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  5. Sandi

    It seems to me that Iran's leader at the moment is intent on destroying Israel due to his religious beliefs and it won't matter what we propose. Most likely he will not discontinue the production of nuclear weapons or be dissuaded from his mission.

    April 30, 2009 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  6. No More Incumbents

    Right. Discuss it logically with a lunatic. That's a good plan......

    April 30, 2009 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  7. Larry

    Gates and Clinton ...

    Good people in the right places

    Thank you ...

    April 30, 2009 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  8. Karen S Crow

    How do you know? Have you tried, Mr Gates? Not to be flip ... but the US may not have to lift a finger. If Iran keeps this up, Israel will. And anyone out there doubt that Israel won't do everything possible to stay alive?

    And given comments by Iran's prez ... does anyone doubt Iran's desire to use nuclear weapons on Israel?

    Yeah ... thought so.

    April 30, 2009 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  9. Man

    Mr Gate,Military strike doesn't work but Iran would continous to produce more nuclear and sell them to the country with civil war or to the Palestinian.

    April 30, 2009 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  10. Tim

    That's good, publicly take a military option off the table, I'm sure Iran will respond favorably.

    April 30, 2009 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  11. Rob Johnson

    Hear that? It's the sound of a foreign policy based on reason and logic, not fear and hatred.

    Sounds good to me!

    April 30, 2009 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  12. Dan

    I respect this man. He respect his bosses too!

    April 30, 2009 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  13. Tim

    Don't tell that to Newt Gingrich. That would be his first option.

    April 30, 2009 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  14. Dayahka

    Why should Iran give up its desire to have nuclear weapons, if it in fact has such desires, when Israel, led by an equally rabid bunch of lunatics, has hundreds of nuclear weapons and is always threatening Iran?

    A better way would be to get Israel to admit that it has nuclear weapons and then to agree to give them up–and the second will not happen until the bad place freezes over. So, the next best thing is for the US to share nuclear weapon secrets with Iran, maybe in fact give Iran a nuclear weapon or two, and so place Iran more-or-less on par with Israel.

    April 30, 2009 05:36 pm at 5:36 pm |
  15. KenB, MI

    This is nothing new...we knew military intervention wasn't on the table when the Soviets were building the plants years ago...too many variables...more cold war.

    April 30, 2009 05:36 pm at 5:36 pm |
  16. JML

    Will they listen to him? They sure NEED to.

    April 30, 2009 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  17. interesting, and you are publicly discussing this... why?

    so much for surprise, reminds me of the CIA being on the front pages all the time

    I'm all for free press and all that, but certain aspects don't need a full vetting

    April 30, 2009 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  18. ken

    What kind of crap is Obama feeding you? You honestly think Iran is going to believe that nuclear weapons will make them LESS secure? They're learning from what our stance is on Iraq and North Korea. We took a non-nuclear power out and left a more dangerous nuclear power in. What conclusions are they supposed to draw from this?

    April 30, 2009 05:46 pm at 5:46 pm |
  19. Aaron

    It's good to hear this Gates finally talking some sense. For all you self-righteous crusaders who think that Iran only understands the business end of a shotgun, you're partly right, if not historically ignorant; we gave them that during the Iran/Iraq War, in the form of U.S.-made weapons, hand-delivered to Saddam, that killed over 1 million Iranians. Any wonder why they hate us (or don't trust us, since at one time Saddam was more our ally than they, and look what we did to him...)? Stop the Bush-era strong-arm tactics and get some global and historical perspective.

    April 30, 2009 05:47 pm at 5:47 pm |
  20. Proud DHS radical

    Don't worry, the Israelis unlike this administration will have the gonads to launch a military strike at Iran's nuclear facilities.

    April 30, 2009 05:49 pm at 5:49 pm |
  21. Jon in CA

    Holy batcrap – the Obama Surrender Virus has infected Defense Secretary Robert Gates!!

    He says,

    ".. 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."

    So instead of DESTROYING the Iranian Nuclear Program and/or CRIPPLING the program.... we should "talk" to Iran hoping to convince them the would be LESS SAFE by having a nuclear weapon??


    Let's be very clear.... Talk = Iranian Nuclear Device.... Action = No Nuclear Program.

    Wow – the Obama Surrender Virus is spreading fast!

    April 30, 2009 05:49 pm at 5:49 pm |
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