I would say that the one [situation] that I think is the most difficult -- and it was difficult in the Bush administration, and it's difficult in this administration -- is the problem of Iran. And it is Iran's determination, apparently, to seek nuclear weapons, the inability of the international community to affect their determination to do that, and how you deal with that -- and where all of the outcomes are negative. If they achieve one, the possibility of a nuclear arms race in the Middle East is very, very real. And if some action is taken to prevent them from getting one, the consequences of that are completely unpredictable, and likely very bad.While Gates' suggestion that the fallout of military action to stop Iran's nuclear program would be "likely very bad" is welcome, he should feel reassured by the fact that the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) says he has not seen "any evidence" Iran is developing nukes.
So if we -- we, the international community -- it's not just the United States that faces this problem. After all, Iran is going to have missiles that can deliver nuclear weapons to people in their region a lot sooner than they're going to have the capability to deliver one to us. And this is one of the messages that I've delivered to the Russians over the last two or three years, is that -- is that they're a lot closer than we are.
And though Gates implicitly connects Iran's missile development program with a presumed nuclear weapons program, U.S. Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair struck down such a suggestion in congressional testimony earlier this year when asked by Senator John McCain (R-AZ) whether "Iran will be developing a nuclear weapon to go along with these . . . delivery vehicles".
"I don't think those missile developments, Senator McCain, prejudice the nuclear weapons decision one way or another," Blair said, continuing:
"I believe those are separate decisions. The same missiles can launch vehicles into space, they can launch warheads, either conventional or nuclear, onto land targets. And Iran is pursuing those for those multiple purposes. Whether they develop a nuclear weapon, which could then be put in that warhead, I believe, is a separate decision which Iran has not made yet."