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"I do not believe the current Sunni concern over the Shi'ite nuclear weapons program in Iran will lead to some sort of covert Saudi, Egyptian, American, Israeli modus vivendi to protect ourselves together against the Shi'a," former CIA director James Woolsey told the Herzliya Conference on Monday, responding to sentiments voiced in the first two days of the conference by many attendees and speakers.
"The Wahhabis, al-Qaida, the Vilayat Faqih in Teheran, although often lethally competitive with one another in the way the Nazis and communists were in the 1930s, are capable of unification," Woolsey asserted. "Those who say that these movements will never work together because of their ideology are precisely as correct as those who in the 1930s said that the communists and Nazis will never work together. They didn't, until they did."
In a private meeting following his speech, Woolsey told journalists that "there is a very substantial likelihood that if the diplomatic approach failed - and I think it will - and non-violent regime change won't work [in Iran], there is no alternative except for the US to use force."
Asked if US President George W. Bush was willing to launch a military attack on Iran, Woolsey answered in the affirmative, saying: "The president is a man of great character and principle."
While "in fighting the Iraq war this has not, in important ways, translated into shrewd strategy or effective implementation," Woolsey believes Bush is a man "who means what he says, and he said we're not going to let Iran have a nuclear weapon."
Woolsey also expressed regret that Israeli and US forces did not strike at Syria "last summer when Hizbullah gave the opportunity. We should not pass up, if we are forced to use force, the opportunity to use it decisively."
Woolsey clarified privately that "I don't think one should out of the clear blue use military force against Syria," but wished "the United States and Israel had gotten together and figured out how to break the power of the Syrian regime in response to Syria's meddling in Iraq and Lebanon."
Asked about a possible US strike on Iran, Woolsey declared, "I agree with [Senator] John McCain: Using force against Iran to stop its nuclear program is the worst option we have, except for [the option of] letting Iran have a nuclear weapon."
Finally, Woolsey advocated "moving decisively away from the use of oil" to counter the power of the Islamist threat that was financed to a large extent by oil revenue. "New developments are making that entirely feasible now," he added, predicting that "within a short time" consumers will be able to drive hundreds of miles on a single gallon of "petroleum products."â€¢
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