Hayden: Obama Could Have Found Time to See Netanyahu

Wednesday, 12 Sep 2012 03:01 PM

By Jim Meyers and John Bachman

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Former CIA Director Michael Hayden tells Newsmax it’s “hard to believe” President Obama’s claim that he can’t find time in his schedule to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu when he visits New York.

Hayden also says there is “absolutely no evidence” that sanctions imposed on Iran by the United States and other countries is motivating the Iranians to rein in their nuclear program.

And he warns that an Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities would be “very harmful” to the United States as well as Israel.

Hayden, a retired four-star Air Force general, was appointed to his CIA post by President George W. Bush in 2006 and served until 2009. He also served as director of the National Security Agency and is now a member of the advisory board at LIGNET.com.

Watch our exclusive interview. Story continues below.

American-Israeli relations seemed to plummet after the White House said that Obama will not be able to meet with Netanyahu when he visits later this month to attend the U.N. General Assembly. The White House blamed this on scheduling but many say this is an intentional snub.

Please Note: You can watch Gen. Hayden's special LIGNET Briefing on the Iran Crisis and the implications of an Israeli Attack — Click Here Now

Hayden comments: “I think the truth might actually be between those two extremes. It’s really hard for me to believe that if the president wanted to meet the prime minister, the schedule couldn’t be worked out. And I don’t know if he intends this to be an intentional snub of Netanyahu.

“My sense is that one thing they might be concerned about is the PM putting the president on the spot and demanding to know what are the president’s red lines — those things that if the Iranians do that, the president will take that as evidence the Iranians have decided to move toward a nuclear weapon.

“I don’t think the president wants to get in that discussion privately with the PM, and I know he doesn’t want to get involved in that with the PM publicly in the potential press opportunity that would follow a closed meeting. I think he has just decided not to have the meeting at this time.”
Obama would face risks if he decided to articulate his red lines, Hayden says.

“You put the red lines out there and you’re almost gearing the adversaries to work real hard to get you on the red lines. There has been a history in our dealing with the Iranian nuclear problem, with the Iranians either actually or at least pretending to get beyond our red line to show that they’re not stepping down to pressure.

“We’ve made it our policy that we will not act until the Iranians have decided to build a weapon. What the Iranians are doing now is moving in that direction, and they may become so close to being able to put a weapon together that waiting on the decision point is really a distinction without a difference.

"The effects of that on Israel and the Persian Gulf would be just about as strong as if the Iranians had a weapon or tested a weapon, and I think the Israelis now fear that is the end game scenario.”

Netanyahu said on Tuesday: “Those in the international community who refuse to put red lines before Iran don’t have a moral right to place a red light before Israel.”

Hayden says: “That was a remarkable phrase and it encapsulates the whole dilemma in just a few words.

“The window in which the Israelis can do something meaningful is closing as the Iranians continue to disperse and harden their targets,” Hayden says, adding that an Israeli strike “is right on the edge of Israeli capability and success is not guaranteed.”

Discussing the sanctions imposed on Iran to slow or halt its nuclear program, Hayden says: “You have very tough sanctions, creating great economic pain for the Iranian government. We see it in oil fields. We see it in the value of the currency. We see it in the overall quality of life in Iran.

"The Israelis are looking for the effect that this is making the Iranians change their minds and there is absolutely no evidence that this is taking place.

“So we are congratulating ourselves for the strength of the coalition and the toughness of the sanctions, although the Israelis are asking the question: Then what happens? And so far not much.

“Negotiations went nowhere and we’re no longer negotiating with the Iranians, and I can understand the Israelis beginning to get impatient with the process whereas we’re congratulating ourselves for the success of the process.”

If Obama and Netanyahu did meet, “I think the PM pushes for clarity as to what triggers the American response,” Hayden says.

“Netanyahu could put out the thought that when the Iranians have created X kilograms of uranium enriched to 20 percent, which has no other possible use, we will all take that as the Iranian decision [to produce a nuclear weapon].

“The president will be pushing for the Israelis not to move for very legitimate reasons: It will be very destabilizing in the region, the impact on the Iranian program will probably not be as great as the Israelis hope or expect it would be, it would fracture the international coalition, and could set in motion a whole series of events in the Middle East that would be very harmful for us and the Israelis.

“You have the PM saying give me clarity and you’ve got the president saying give me time. I think those are the fundamentals of the discussion.”

Hayden believes the odds of an Israeli air strike in 2012 are “practically quite low. That’s just based upon my overall appreciation of the situation, not any private chatter.”

He also believes that the Iranian leadership views the sanctions as an attempt by the West “to topple the regime. If this is truly their point of view, it’s hard to think what they would compromise on. It’s hard to think how they think their interests are insured by coming to an agreement with the West. You’ve got these intractable forces: We can’t live with the Iranians having a program and they can’t live without one.”

Hayden says the Iranians refusal to slow or stop their nuclear program is a “cold and carefully calculated approach to self-interest based on a false premise that this is truly about regime change.

“I think this is about their nuclear program from our point of view but they don’t see it that way. They see it as something far greater. Libya is in the news today, very sad news. The view from Tehran is quite clear when they look at what happened to [Libyan ruler Muammar] Gaddafi: This is what happens to you when you give up your weapons program.

“If anything in the past has fueled the Iranians to resist, I think it’s Libya.”

Please Note: You can watch Gen. Hayden's special LIGNET Briefing on the Iran Crisis and the implications of an Israeli Attack — Click Here Now


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