Gates says US is prepared on Iran’s nuclear plan
WASHINGTON (AP) — Defense Secretary Robert Gates asserted Sunday that the U.S. is prepared to take a range of actions against the Iranian nuclear program and told friends and foes not to fall for any perception Iran can catch Washington off guard.
Gates said a memo he wrote in January identified steps to be taken in defense planning after the Obama administration decided to increase pressure against Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
It was not, he insisted, a “wake-up call” that set off a scramble by an unprepared government, as was suggested by sources who disclosed the memo’s existence to The New York Times.
Even so, it’s clear administration planning is very much in motion.
Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in a speech Sunday at Columbia University that Iran “has been a great focus for years, not months” and “the military option has been on the table and remains on the table.” Yet, he added: “The diplomatic, the engagement piece, the sanctions piece — all those things, from my perspective, need to be addressed.”
Gates released a statement saying his memo to the White House merely laid out an orderly and timely decision-making process as various agencies work together to make policy on Iran in the months ahead. “There should be no confusion by our allies and adversaries that the United States is properly and energetically focused on this question and prepared to act across a broad range of contingencies in support of our interests.”
President Barack Obama has been pushing for tougher international sanctions and has increased military activity in the region since Iran spurned his offer to come to the table by the end of last year to resolve concerns about Iran’s accelerated nuclear development. Obama and other administration figures have vowed Iran will not be allowed to become a nuclear state but have not said what the U.S. would do if Iran gained the ability to produce a weapon.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., has complained that the administration has not put tough action behind its talk. He said Sunday he did not need a secret memo to convince him the U.S. lacks an effective Iranian policy.
Associated Press writer Karen Matthews in New York contributed to this report.