Want progress on Iran? Talk to Secretary Ashton Carter

US Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter is an expert on arms control, the threat of nuclear proliferation, nuclear arms races and the Iranian and North Korean nuclear programs.

May 25, 2015 21:20
3 minute read.
Moshe Ya'alon and Ashton Carter

Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon (L) and the man picked to head the Pentagon, Ashton Carter, meet in Jerusalem. (photo credit: ARIEL HERMONI / DEFENSE MINISTRY)


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US Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter is an expert on arms control, the threat of nuclear proliferation, nuclear arms races and the Iranian and North Korean nuclear programs. As a former professor affiliated with two of the leading academic institutions in the world, the Kennedy School at Harvard University, where Carter, a physicist, was a professor of science and international affairs, and at Stanford University, professor Carter frequently wrote about these subjects. As former undersecretary of defense working on these issues, his understanding of threats posed by the Iranian nuclear program and Iranian ambitions and actions in the region and the world are second to none, in the US administration.

Whereas Secretary of State John Kerry, Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs and Chief Negotiator Wendy Sherman and Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz took the lead on the P5+1 talks with Iran in Vienna and Lausanne, and the inner circle of the Obama White House, (the so-called team of loyalists) share the president’s philosophy and approach to resolving in a non-violent way conflicts in the international arena, the real expert on the Iranian nuclear program is Secretary Carter, who can judge whether an agreement is indeed good or bad.

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Carter, who shares Israel and the Gulf States’ concerns about Iran becoming a nuclear threshold state with breakout capabilities measured in months, knows the nitty-gritty of the Iranian program and argued against letting Iran having nuclear capabilities. In fact, in the past, Carter called for the use or threat of force to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.

As the White House is more or less blocking the access of top Israeli government officials to the administration when it comes to the Iran nuclear file, Israel can leverage its excellent relations with the Pentagon to try to highlight, address and close key loopholes in the proposed agreement, while working with an expert on the topic who has not been involved in the negotiation but whose voice the president is very likely to take into consideration. Ash Carter’s realistic and pragmatic view on how the Middle East and the world will look after a deal with Iran will not be ignored by President Barack Obama. It is not too late to do so.

At the 15th Annual Herzliya Conference, scheduled for June 7-9, 2015, and organized by the Institute for Policy and Strategy (IPS) at IDC Herzliya, top officials and experts will analyze the details of the proposed framework for an agreement on the Iranian nuclear program, and assess scenarios of the Middle East after such an agreement with Iran. In addition, the conference will showcase a simulation exercise titled “A third Israel-Lebanon War? Preventable? Winnable?” Keynote speakers in this year’s Herzliya conference include President Reuven Rivlin, former president of France Nicolas Sarkozy, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, Professor Nouriel Roubini, the foreign minister of the Czech Republic, former prime minister of Spain Jose Maria Aznar, top Israeli cabinet ministers, the attorney-general of the State of Israel, and the leader of the opposition. Admission to the Herzliya Conference is by invitation only.

The author is the chairman of the 2015 Herzliya Conference, and head of the Institute for Policy and Strategy (IPS) at IDC Herzliya.

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