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Ex-CIA chief does not say Iran war inexorable.

Contrary to news reports published all across the world, former CIA Director Michael Hayden has NOT said that U.S. military action against Iran now "seems inexorable."

But he has said that he no longer personally thinks a military attack on Iran is such a bad idea. And in the public media, more American commentators are now talking seriously about the war option--apparently moved in that direction by the UAE ambassador to the United States, who said publicly earlier this month that bombing Iran would be much better than tolerating it as a nuclear power.

But the misunderstood comments of Hayden, who served as CIA director in George W. Bush's second term, have further fed the war cries.

Hayden was interviewed Sunday on CNN's "State of the Union." Asked a double question about Iran's effort to get a nuclear capability and the option of "taking out" their facilities, Hayden responded: "It seems inexorable, doesn't it."

The Associated Press jumped to the conclusion Hayden was saying a military attack on Iran seemed inexorable. This was picked up by newspapers and broadcast news all over the world. Buy Hayden's office issued a statement saying his reference to inexorability applied to Iran's effort to build nuclear weapons, not to military action.

However, in the interview, Hayden also said that during the Bush Administration--and contrary to the common wisdom--a military attack was "way down on our list" but that now he personally has "begun to consider that that may not be the worst of all possible outcomes.

Hayden also said he does not believe Iran will actually build a nuclear weapon, but instead build all the components and leave them sitting separately on the shelf, much as Pakistan did. Iran would then technically not be a nuclear power, but could put all the components together and explode a bomb within weeks if it chose--as Pakistan finally chose to do after India exploded an atomic bomb in the 1990s.


Here is the full exchange that Hayden had with Candy Crowley of CNN:

Crowley: "Iran doesn't seem to be paying much attention to the sanctions. As far as we know, they are still trying to get nuclear capability. If it should, is there any alternative to taking out their facilities?"

Hayden: "It seems inexorable, doesn't it?

"We engage. They continue to move forward. We vote for sanctions. They continue to move forward. We try to deter, to dissuade. They continue to move forward.

"My personal view is that Iran, left to its own devices, will get itself to that step right below a nuclear weapon, that permanent breakout stage, so the needle isn't quite in the red for the international community. And frankly, that will be as destabilizing as their actually having a weapon.

"When I was in government, what we would mystically call 'the kinetic option' [military force] was way down on our list. In my personal thinking--in my personal thinking, I need to emphasize that--I have begun to consider that that may not be the worst of all possible outcomes."

The day after the CNN interview and the erroneous Associated Press story, the AP ran a one paragraph "Clarification" saying Hayden had not said war was "inexorable." But that clarification has not been widely reported.

Still, it may be more important that Hayden said he has begun to think that military action against Iran may not be such a bad idea after all. And he is just one of several people speaking publicly that way.

None of those people are decision-makers inside the Obama Administration. They are public commentators, many of whom have pooh-poohed the military option in the past. They include:

* Joel Klein of Time magazine who was a harsh critic of President Bush's military policies and previously a skeptic about military action against Iran;

* Walter Russell Mead, who writes a popular blog, American Interest, and now argues that allowing Iran to go nuclear would mean the total destruction of Obama's hopes for a cooperative world order; and

* Reuel Marc Gerecht who wrote a lengthy piece in the conservative Weekly Standard arguing for authorizing an Israeli attack on Iran, although this is not out of line with his views over the years.

The new openness to hawkishness among the commentariat appears to have been sparked by remarks made at a conference July 6 by Yousef Al-Otaiba, the UAE ambassador to the United States, who agreed that an attack on Iran would cause riots and disorder in many parts of the Islamic world. But, on balance, he said, he "was willing to live with that [disorder] versus living with a nuclear Iran." (See Iran Times of July 16, page one.)
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Publication:Iran Times International (Washington, DC)
Date:Jul 30, 2010
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