Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Muddling the Iran Issue

Jonathan Schachter, Emily B Landau
and Ephraim Asculai
Insight No. 177
26 April '10

On April 17 the New York Times revealed that in January US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates wrote a memo to National Security Adviser James Jones on the need to develop policy options regarding Iran’s drive to develop nuclear weapons. One senior White House official is quoted as describing the memo, which came after President Obama’s end of 2009 diplomatic deadline had come and gone, as “a wake-up call” testifying to the US's lack of a workable long term policy for confronting the Iranian nuclear challenge. The day after the Times’s publication, Gates acknowledged that he had indeed written the memo, but disputed the characterization of its content and intent, saying that his goal was “to contribute to an orderly and timely decision-making process.”

The absence of a clear American strategy to deal with an aggressively nuclearizing Iran has been apparent for some time, and thus this revelation comes as no surprise. In addition, Gates’s own description of the memo strongly suggests that “an orderly and timely decision-making process” was eminently lacking. The only real surprise, it seems, is the blunt assessment coming from within the administration.

It is possible that the memo was leaked in order to document Gates’s concerns about the increasing likelihood that Iran would achieve nuclear weapons capability before long and on his watch. It is also possible that as an appointee of President George W. Bush, Gates might be setting the stage for his own resignation. Alternatively, the memo might reflect simple disagreement or for that matter much more heated battles between the Pentagon’s civilian and military leadership. Whatever the true reason or reasons, the leak of the memo and the multiplicity of plausible interpretations and explanations are indicative of the real problem with US policy on Iran: mixed and confused messages.

(Read full report)

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