Sen. Bond: Offering 'carrots' to Iran a mistake

Republican senator insists that US-Israel intelligence cooperation is better than ever.

kit bond 248.88 (photo credit: AP)
kit bond 248.88
(photo credit: AP)
Senator Kit Bond, the ranking Republican on the US Senate's Intelligence Committee, said Sunday "carrots" won't work in getting Iran to stop its nuclear development. Bond's comments, in an interview with The Jerusalem Post during a 24-hour visit to Israel, came just a week after President-elect Barack Obama said in the US media that his administration would pursue a carrot-and-stick approach with Iran, offering Teheran economic incentives to discontinue its nuclear program, but if that failed, would focus on economic sanctions as sticks. "Offering them carrots does nothing, talking about it is not effective. We need sanctions and full pressure," Bond said. Asked if he thought Obama would do that, Bond said only, "I hope so; we will wait and see." The four-term senator, who also sits on the Senate Defense Committee's appropriations sub-committee, has supported US appropriations of the Arrow anti-missile system. Asked whether he thought the anti-missile systems already in place, or being developed, would give Israel adequate protection if Iran decided to launch a missile, Bond said, "We've got to continue to improve it." The Missouri senator said that "sanctions and anything else" are needed to be used to stop Iran from pursuing nuclearization. Bond, who was in Israel Sunday meeting with defense and intelligence officials on a three-country tour that will also take him to Afghanistan and Pakistan, said the release last year of the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) claiming Iran had given up its nuclear-weapons program in 2003 was a "bad mistake" and "painted a wrong picture." He said that report caused "a lot of heartburn" in the US, Israel and other countries. As to whether the US would release another NIE on Iran, Bond - considered a significant player in Washington on intelligence and defense issues - said he hoped it would stop releasing these reports altogether. "These are not public position papers," he said, adding that when they are seen as such - rather than as papers designed to give policy makers necessary information - "they cause problems, as the last one did." Bond placed himself in the category of those in the US who thought the last NIE on Iran "was totally mistaken when it seemed to paint a happier face on the Iranian situation. I believe the US has backed off on that. I think the intelligence agencies realized that they put out on an unwarranted favorable view." Israel disputed the NIE report at the time of its release, and Bond said he believed the intelligence differences today between Israel and the US on Iran were "very minor." Bond said "there will be discussions at the highest level on intelligence to make sure that both sides know everything each other is doing" regarding Iran. Bond praised the current level of Israeli-US intelligence cooperation, saying he believed it was at the highest level it has ever been. "Under the Bush administration, the intelligence community was given the full-speed ahead sign, and I have no reason to think the Obama administration will do anything other than that," he said. Bond said the national security team that Obama has put into place, including Robert Gates as defense secretary, Hillary Clinton as secretary of state, James Jones as national security adviser, and the possibility that he will appoint retired admiral Denny Blair as national intelligence director, indicated he wanted continuity on his national security team, rather than change. "These are people who have served before, and are very experienced," he said. "It won't be a question of starting in some new direction."