Iran In Brief

Mullen vs. Gates on Iran this Sunday:  Did they really contradict each other?

March 2, 2009

Mark Heinrich’s piece for Reuters highlights the apparent contradiction between the two senior officials as they spoke on Sunday morning talk shows, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates on NBC’s Meet the Press and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Michael Mullen on CNN’s State of the Union.  Upon close inspection though, their comments are really not so far apart.  Gates says “they’re not close to a stockpile, they’re not close to a weapon at this point and so there is some time.  And the question is whether you can increase the level of the sanctions and the cost to the Iranians of pursuing that program at the same time you show them an open door…”  This is essentially correct and in line with ISIS’s own analyses that Iran has collected sufficient LEU to provide the basis for a weapons capability should Iran decide to divert its uranium and weaponize it, but has not yet taken those steps.  We also appreciate the reference to sanctions as an important tool for raising the costs of pursuing enrichment, while also providing alternatives through diplomacy.  Mullen, answering John King’s question “Does Iran have enough to make a bomb?” says “We think they do, quite frankly. And Iran having a nuclear weapon I’ve believed for a long time is a very, very bad outcome for the region and for the world.”  Mullen’s answer perhaps lacked some context (it was asked toward the end of the show when time was running short), but it too was essentially correct.

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