President George W. Bush’s national security adviser is warning that there exists a “very high” risk that Iran and the United States will end up in a military conflict as the political situation in Tehran gets more unstable.
In an exclusive interview with Newsmax.TV, Stephen Hadley, who served as Bush’s chief foreign policy adviser throughout his second term, also said Iran is intent on building nuclear weapons and that such a scenario should be unacceptable to the United States.
Referring to Iran’s provocative and bellicose threats about military attacks on U.S. carriers and the Strait of Hormuz, Hadley said, “I think it is a very high risk that we will have that kind of confrontation, and that’s why I think the situation in Iran is really so unstable. We can get into a situation of a confrontation fairly easily.” Hadley is currently senior adviser for national affairs for the United States Institutes of Peace.
The European Union is meeting on Jan. 23 to discuss stepping up sanctions in a bid to force the Iranian government to allow inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency.
It introduced sanctions in October which put restrictions on trade, financial services, insurance and technology. But it is unlikely that a full embargo on oil will be introduced for at least six months.
Hadley noted that such sanctions, are “finally starting to bite,” and the depreciation of the Iranian currency is “a good step.”
Asked if sanctions would lead the Iran regime into a confrontation against the United States, Hadley said the risk, "Quite frankly, it’s very high.”
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Tehran has raised tensions by warning the United States not to send warships to the area. In December, Iran’s First Vice President Reza Rahimi threatened to close the critically important Strait of Hormuz.
“You’ve seen this young former Marine who went into Iran, was arrested, was put on trial and condemned to death,” Hadley said, expressing worry about their future actions. “They always have the prospect for that kind of behavior.
“Secondly, they have been threatening about the Persian Gulf. We continue to have our warships in the Persian Gulf where 17 percent of the world’s oil supply comes out.”
He noted this is not the first time verbal tensions between the United States and Iran has led to military action.
“The possibility of a naval engagement there like we had in the 1980s, where several Iranian ships were sunk and a couple of American ships were damaged, is high risk,” he said. Hadley was referring to 1988’s Operation Praying Mantis in which the United States attacked Iranian warships in retaliation for the USS Samuel B. Roberts striking a mine.
Hadley suggested the key to stopping Iran’s nuclear weapons program was for the United States to support an internal change of government.
“The real future is for a different regime, for the Arab awakening that is happening in the Arab world to happen in Iran,” he said.
“They made a run at it in 2009; it was put down brutally by the regime. Regrettably the United States government did not support the reform movement, the Green movement in Iran, in 2009 the way they should have,” he said.
Hadley sees an opportunity this year when Iran holds parliamentary elections, and next year during its presidential election.
“When regimes steal elections, as Iran does, as we saw recently in Russia, it brings people on to the streets. I hope that happens again and I hope this time the United States government puts itself clearly behind the people, and we get a different regime in Iran,” he said.
“If we get a different regime in Iran, we can have a different dialogue about how Iran re-enters the international community and the need to give up their pursuit of nuclear weapons,” he added.
Hadley believes that President Barack Obama’s policy of engagement with Iran has failed. “People talk about engaging the regime, I don’t think this regime can ever move away from the nuclear program,” he said.
“Thinking they are going to give up their nuclear program is just fantasy,” said Hadley.
Iran has been angered by the assassination of nuclear scientists,
including Wednesday’s killing of Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan who died after a motorcyclist rode up to his Peugeot 405 and attached a magnetized explosive.
Hadley did not dismiss the possibility that the United States or Israel was involved. Such actions, he said, may “slow down Iran’s ambition to build nuclear weapons.”
“The strategy for the Bush administration, and I think in a way it’s been also of the Obama administration, is very simple: push back the date that the Iranians have a clear path to a nuclear weapon and bring forward the date that we have a different kind of regime, with which you can engage on the issue of their pursuit of nuclear weapons and to end their support for terror.”
But he was clear that the world cannot live with a nuclear Iran. “It’s one of the great faux debates we’re having. People say we can deter a nuclear-armed Iran just like we did a nuclear-armed Soviet Union.
“Can you deter Iran from using nuclear weapons against the United States? Probably, by threatening retaliation.
“But can you deter Iran, emboldened by having nuclear weapons, from using that as a shield to enhance its support for terrorism, supporting Hezbollah, supporting Hamas? I don’t think you can deter that.”
He said if Iran acquires nuclear weapons, it will likely spark an arms race in the region, with Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Turkey moving to develop their own nuclear capabilities.
“Can we live with a nuclear Iran that has pledged to eliminate our ally Israel and would have nuclear weapons as a tool for doing that? No, we cannot,” he emphasized.
“We need to be acting firmly with countries in the region to shore them up, to strengthen their defenses so they are not concerned about what the Iranians might be doing in the region. We need to bring additional pressure on the Iranian regime.
“People talk about engaging the regime, I don’t think this regime can ever move away from the nuclear program.”
Former CIA Director Michael Hayden warns that inaction on Iran is actually more dangerous than action. Click HERE to read more of his take on Iran in an exclusive interview he gave to LIGNET.com.
Iran is playing chicken in the Strait of Hormuz, and planning to blink at the last minute. But a miscalculation by Iran could lead to war. Click HERE to read the analysis from our intelligence experts at LIGNET.com.
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