Former US defense secretary William Perry 311 (R).
(photo credit: Jo Yong hak / Reuters)
MOSCOW – Former US secretary of defense William Perry endorsed on Monday Israeli
assessments that put Iran’s nuclear weapons program just months away from
crossing a point of no return.
He made the comments during a press
conference held by the International Luxembourg Forum on Preventing Nuclear
Catastrophe in Moscow.
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Asked by The Jerusalem Post
to respond to comments
by Defense Minister Ehud Barak to CNN in November, in which he said that in
under a year it would be too late to stop Iran, Perry said, “I agree with
The US and Israel have diverged in recent years over
the extent of Iran’s nuclear progress, with Jerusalem setting far tighter
deadlines to act than Washington.
Addressing the possibility of military
action against Iranian nuclear sites, Perry, who served as secretary of defense
under former US president Bill Clinton in the 1990s, warned against a
‘Even if it were effective, it would [lead to] a host of
unintended consequences, most of them very bad,” he said.
Perry called on
Russia and China to join US efforts to pass harsher sanctions on Tehran, adding
that the alternative to diplomatic and financial pressure “is much
Moshe Kantor, president of the Luxembourg Forum, and head of the
European Jewish Congress, said six previous rounds of sanctions on Iran did not
result in “any cardinal changes in the Iranian position,” and said Russia, the
US and China have to cooperate on tougher sanctions in order to avoid a new
Middle East conflict.
“Of the 193 member states of the UN, only two
openly call for the eradication of other countries from the world map, and one
of those is Iran,” Kantor said. He asked how Russia would respond if it was
faced with such hostility from another country.
Director-General Hans Blix said the question of a point of no return was “rather
immaterial,” adding that the world’s focus should be on persuading Iran to
abandon its nuclear activities.
“Already, these activities have increased
tensions in the Middle East and the Gulf incredibly. The Arabs are pumping up
oil, and the world is sending them airplanes and missile defenses [against Iran]
that will be rusty in 20 years,” Blix said.
The former top weapons
inspector agreed with other speakers that it was urgent to stop Iran’s nuclear
program, but criticized a “knee-jerk” response of calling for military
“I don’t think all the carrots have been put on the table,” he
said. “There hasn’t been much imagination put into this.”
Blix said he
was concerned by the prospect of Israel attacking Iran. “Do they know where the
nuclear sites are? How many would be left after an attack? If no sites are left,
will there not be prototypes left? Will Iran not be more determined than ever?
Do you think the mullahs will sit there and twiddle their thumbs? Or will there
be another war in the Middle East?”
The Luxembourg Forum expressed growing
concern over obstacles to nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation efforts. It
focused on the American-Russian dispute over plans to install a NATO missile
defense system in Europe – a disagreement that stems directly from Iran’s
development of long-range missiles and nuclear program.
The US says the
missile defense system is vital for defending western Europe and itself from an
Iranian missile threat.
But Maj.-Gen. (ret.) Vladimir Dvorkin, who served
as a key Russian arms control negotiator, said during Monday’s press conference
that Moscow does “not share the same opinion on the existence of a missile
threat. Some believe the missile defense system would be a threat to Russian
Russia has said it required guarantees before
it could consider consenting to the system. The issue has overshadowed American-
Russian plans to proceed with a new offensive arms control agreement.