The Bipartisan Policy Center, an influential centrist think tank in Washington, has been sounding the alarm about Iran's nuclear program longer than most anyone. In a series of reports, three of its heavyweights -- the former Virginia senator Chuck Robb, a Democrat, the once-and-possibly-future Indiana senator Dan Coats, a Republican, and the retired Air Force general Chuck Wald -- have warned that American power in the Gulf, and across the Middle East, will be eclipsed by a rising Iran, should the country be allowed to cross the nuclear threshold. Their position is usefully summarized as follows:
"...They assert that "an Iran emboldened by nuclear weapons" cannot be contained and "clearly might overstep its boundaries, pulling the Middle East and the United States into a treacherous conflict." Another likely scenario is "that Israel would first attack Iranian nuclear facilities triggering retaliatory strikes by Iran and its terrorist proxies," putting the United States in an "extremely difficult position."
...Robb and Wald recommend that "the administration needs to expand its approach and make clear to the Iranian regime and the American people: If diplomatic and economic pressures do not compel Iran to terminate its nuclear program, the U.S. military has the capability and is prepared to launch an effective, targeted strike on Tehran's nuclear and supporting military facilities."
I sat with Wald recently and talked about the way he sees the threat, and what he wants President Obama to do about it. Wald is a former deputy commander of the U.S. European command, and he led the air war during the Afghanistan invasion. Here is an edited and condensed transcript of our conversation:
Jeffrey Goldberg: Do you think the Iranian government is serious about reaching a compromise with the United States on the nuclear question?
Chuck Wald: How many times does Lucy have to pick the football up? Their continued goal is to weaken any sort of coalition the U.S. builds for sanctions on the issue.
JG: Do you think the Israelis are right to call the Iranian nuclear program a threat to their country's existence, or are they overstating the case?