Gates tells O: Get an Iran plan
By TIM PERONE
By TIM PERONE
Last Updated: 6:20 AM, April 18, 2010
Posted: 3:49 AM, April 18, 2010
Defense Secretary Robert Gates issued a stinging warning to the White House that the administration doesn't have an adequate plan to stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons, according to a report.
The highly classified memo served as a "wake-up call" for the Obama administration, sending the White House and the Pentagon scrambling to develop a new set of military options, one senior official told The New York Times.
In the secret missive, sent in January to Obama's national security adviser, Gen. James Jones, Gates took the administration to task for not being more prepared if its efforts fail to change the rogue state's course.
The administration tried last year to engage Iran, which recently produced its first significant batch of enriched uranium, in dialogue, but those efforts failed. Now it is pursuing a "pressure track" that includes a push for sanctions.
The most pressing matter, according to Gates, is what the White House would do if the repressive regime of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad develops most of the pieces of a nuclear weapon, but stops short of assembling it.
This would mean Iran wouldn't be in violation of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, but would become a "virtual" nuclear state -- technically compliant with the treaty, but possessing nuclear capabilities, the paper said.
Gates also said the White House must rethink its options if Iran were to provide nuclear material to a terrorist group.
The defense secretary has said that recognizing Iran's progress in taking the final steps towards building a nuke would be very difficult to verify, according to an interview on NBC's "Meet the Press."
"If their policy is to go to the threshold, but not assemble a nuclear weapon, how do you tell that they have not assembled?" he asked.
The president and his advisers have said they would not allow Iran to become a nuclear state, but have not delineated how they would handle a nuclear-capable Iran.
But White House officials insisted that they haven't been asleep at the switch and have been developing a detailed plan to deal with Iran for 15 months.
"On Iran . . . 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," Jones told the paper.
"It's absolutely false that any memo touched off a reassessment of our options," National Security Council spokesman Benjamin Rhodes said.