Satellite image shows a nuclear facility in Iran.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The Republican US senator behind a letter to the Iranian leadership warning that future presidents may not honor any deal that President Barack Obama signs with Tehran said Monday that he believes pinpoint strikes against Iran could be carried out without leading to a long war for the US or regional fallout against Israel.
Speaking in an interview with Atlantic journalist Jeffrey Goldberg, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) warned however, that if a nuclear deal was signed with Iran, and the Islamic Republic was allowed to become a nuclear-armed state, then the likely outcome would be nuclear war with Iran.
He referenced previous statements made by former prime minister Ehud Barak that "it would just take one night" to launch an effective strike to set back Iran's nuclear program.
Cotton gained international recognition when he initiated a letter in March signed by 47 Republican senators warning the Islamic Republic that any nuclear deal not approved by Congress "is a mere executive agreement” that may not be honored after Obama leaves the White House in January 2017.
Discussing the potential for Hezbollah rocket attacks against Israel as a response to a US strike against Iran, Cotton told Goldberg: "I've consulted with various senior members of the Israeli government over the years, and they're aware of the possibility that Iran might use Hezbollah, in particular, to retaliate in an asymmetric way for any military strikes, either American or Israeli, and the assessment I've heard from them is that while that is a risk, it is a risk they can manage."
Cotton added that the risk to Israel is not what it once was. "This is different from what you might have seen nine years ago during the Hezbollah war in 2006, or even five years ago, when the talk of an Israeli strike was at its peak, in large part because of Iron Dome, and also because of the strain that sanctions have put on Iran—its ability to fund these kinds of operations and continue to replenish Hezbollah and their weapon stocks."
Cotton said that Obama himself had said over the weekend that Iran could not challenge the US militarily, quoting the US president's assertion that while the US spends $600 billion a year on its military, Tehran spends $30 billion a year. "Not only do we have the ability to substantially degrade their nuclear facilities, but we have the capability, along with our Gulf allies, who have increased their military spending by over 50 percent, to largely protect them from any kind of retaliatory air or naval strikes."
The Republican senator said that the framework reached between world powers and Iran earlier this month does not represent any real agreement between the two sides. "There's a long list of concessions that Iran's leaders continue to dispute they actually made."
Cotton defended his decision to send the letter to the Iranian leadership, rejecting claims that he had undermined Obama's foreign policy. "The letter simply stated indisputable facts of constitutional law, and Iran's leaders needed to hear that message, and they needed to hear it from us."
Cotton said that he sees a potential military confrontation with Iran down the road if the US signs the deal with Iran. "If we agreed to the kind of proposal the Obama administration has made, then military confrontation may be further off, but it might also be nuclear."
He added: "The proposal puts Iran on the path to being a nuclear-arms state, and I think once Iran becomes a nuclear-arms state, this will lead inevitably to some kind of military confrontation. It may not be initially with the United States, but I think that's virtually inevitable...I think if we choose to go down the path of this deal, it is likely that we could be facing nuclear war."