Washington DC, December 7, 2006 - To complement the Democratic takeover of the House and Senate in November and the resignation of UN Ambassador John Bolton, Secretary of Defense Nominee, Dr. Robert Gates, was confirmed yesterday by the full Senate by a vote of 95 to 2. In the same week the Iraq Study Group (ISG) report, which Gates participated in drafting, expectedly called for diplomacy rather than any military strike on Iran.“
[Regarding] any problems that we have with Iran, our first option should be diplomacy and working with our allies to try and deal with the problems that Iran is posing to us. Military conflict with Iran could be quite dramatic. And therefore, I would counsel against military action, except as a last resort and if we felt that our vital interests were threatened,” soon-to-be Secretary of Defense Gates asserted in response to questioning from the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Gates also played down the importance of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad within Iran’s political system, saying that “there are higher powers than he [President Ahmadenijad] in Iran.” Furthermore, while accusing Tehran of lying when declaring their nuclear program peaceful, Gates still insisted that the program had defensive purposes. “They [Iran] would see their nuclear capability in the first instance as a deterrent,” he said.
Thus the new Secretary of Defense, who won overwhelming approval to replace former Sec. Donald Rumsfeld, indicated a willingness to consider positions that may not coincide with those long espoused by the Bush Administration.
In discussing the need for diplomacy with respect to Iran, and the response Iran would give to any military attack on their soil, Gates said that the Iranians could “close off the Persian Gulf to all exports of oil, damage our interests further in Iraq, and unleash a significant wave of terror through Europe and the Middle East.”
The Iraq Study Group also countered the Bush Administration’s current policy with respect to Iran by recommending that “the US should actively engage Syria and Iran in its diplomatic dialogue, without preconditions…The United States and Iran cooperated in Afghanistan, and both sides should explore whether this model can be replicated in the case of Iraq.”
By engaging Iran in constructive diplomacy that, “emphasizes political and economic reforms instead of advocating regime change,” along with other incentives, the ISG report suggests that Iran can help the US in Iraq, specifically to help “stem the flow of arms and training to Iraq, respect Iraq’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and use its influence over Iraqi Shi’a groups to encourage national reconciliation.”
Responding to the ISG’s report and the Bush Administration’s current policy, Chair and Co-Founder of the 73-Member “Out of Iraq” Congressional Caucus, US Representative Maxine Waters (D-CA) stated, “I also agree with the ISG report’s recommendation that the United States talk to Iran and Syria as part of any plan to end the war in Iraq, and I hope that President Bush will set aside his intractable posturing and meet the leaders of those nations.”
For more information or to view a copy of the Iraq Study Group report visit, the United States Institute for Peace’s website at: http://www.usip.org/isg/.