In a secret three-page January memo, US Defense Secretary Robert Gates cautioned the White House that the nation lacks an effective long-term plan to deal with the continuing growth of Iran’s nuclear program, reports the New York Times.
The Gates Iran memo has sparked efforts from the White House, Pentagon, and intelligence services to provide President Obama with potential military options in the event that diplomatic actions fail.
While an official familiar with the document called it a “wake-up call,” other White House officials insist that the Obama administration has been developing different options and strategies for the past 15 months.
Meanwhile, Iran has continued its confrontational stance towards the US, with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad calling on the US to destroy its nuclear arsenal and withdraw troops from Iraq and Afghanistan.
Jones: The US is ready
Speaking with The New York Times, which first reported the existence of the memo, Mr. Obama’s security adviser, Gen. James Jones did not specifically address the memo, but denied that the US government is unprepared to deal with a nuclear Iran.
“On Iran, we are doing what we said we were going to do. The fact that we don’t announce publicly our entire strategy for the world to see doesn’t mean we don’t have a strategy that anticipates the full range of contingencies — we do,” [said Gen. Jones].
But Obama's political opponents in Washington are seizing on report of the memo to cast doubt on the president's Iran strategy.
Memo raises concerns
The Times of London reports that Mr. Gates raised concerns about what the US would do if Iran obtained all the necessary components to build a nuclear weapon but did not actually put together a nuclear missile. In this case, Iran would become a “ ‘virtual’ nuclear weapons state” and keep its status as a signatory of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.
Iran, however, continues to insist that whatever the US strategy toward its nuclear program, it is only developing atomic technologies to generate electricity. Iran’s Press TV reports that the memo appeared while Washington officials wanted to create a broader base of support for new sanctions against Iran because of its refusal to terminate uranium enrichment programs.
Ahmadinejad's own nuclear summit
At his own nuclear summit about a week after Obama’s, Mr. Ahmadinejad called for future nuclear disarmament talks to be run by states that currently do not possess an atomic arsenal.
“The involvement of the government of America will prevent any new treaty from being fair,” said Ahmadinejad in an article reported by the Washington Post.
He also criticized Obama for a recent statement saying that US policy does not rule out the use of nuclear weapons against Iran and North Korea.
Iran was not invited to participate in Obama’s nuclear summit.
On Sunday, Ahmadinejad went a step further, vowing to respond with “all [Iran’s] military potential” in the face of armed aggression, reports Al Jazeera.
The remarks came on Iran’s Army Day when the nation showcases its military technology. The Iranian president also added that the US must withdraw troops from Iraq and Afghanistan, where he says the presence of US forces has only “increased insecurity in both countries.”