Nuclear Expert: Iran's Drive for Bomb 'Relentless'

Sunday, 19 Jun 2011 07:40 AM

By Jim Meyers and Kathleen Walter

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Nuclear terrorism and nonproliferation expert Jack Caravelli tells Newsmax that Iran remains “relentless” in its pursuit of nuclear weapons despite all efforts to dissuade the regime.

He also says that while a nuclear-armed Iran would pose a serious political threat in the region, the Islamic Republic would likely not launch an immediate attack on Israel because Iran is “not suicidal.”

Caravelli served on the White House National Security Council, was a Deputy Assistant Secretary at the U.S. Department of Energy, and worked for the CIA. He is now a fellow and member of the advisory board of Oxford University’s Pluscarden Program on Intelligence and Terrorism.

His latest book is “Beyond Sand and Oil: The Nuclear Middle East.”

Story continues below video.

In an exclusive interview with Newsmax.TV, Caravelli warned that there is the threat of a nuclear arms race in the Middle East today “and the biggest concern of course is Iran. We’ve been watching Iran and its commitment of resources to a program that almost certainly has a weapons element to it. On a parallel track, Iran has developed long-range missile capability.

“These capabilities, if they play out in the next couple of years — Iran hasn’t crossed the nuclear weapons threshold yet as far as we know – pose a direct threat not only to Israel in a military sense, but also in a political sense. What some people don’t fully appreciate is a nuclear weapons capability could have profound implications politically throughout the region.

“What is most important is that no matter what the international community has tried to do to move Iran off that course — through politics, diplomacy, economic sanctions — those policies have not really changed Iran’s behavior.

“We need to do more because Iran appears to be relentless in their desire to achieve this capability.”

Asked to assess the Obama administration’s dealings with the Iranian threat, Caravelli responds: “Under the Obama administration I think the short answer is [Iran has] not changed, and through that lens the Obama administration’s policies have not succeeded.”

Given the threat Iran poses to Israel, and the likely Israeli response to an attack, some say a regional war in the Middle East is inevitable.

“I wouldn’t say it’s inevitable, but given the fragility of the Middle East politically, it can’t be ruled out,” Caravelli comments.

“I don’t think if Iran succeeds that it uses it abilities on the following day. I think Iran is not suicidal. There’s probably more rationality than we understand.

“But the long-term political implication of Iran with the [nuclear] capability and with aggressive policies in the region — support for terrorism, Hezbollah and the like — really adds to the political fragility in the region and is something Israel cannot ignore.”

With Arab governments toppled in Egypt and Tunisia and anti-government unrest in Syria, Yemen and Bahrain, Caravelli expresses confidence that democracy may someday take hold in the region.

“Democracy of sorts may well emerge, and I hope it does in countries like Egypt. This will not happen overnight. It will probably be messy. There may be elections held the results of which we may or may not like, and this process will take years and perhaps decades to unfold, until we have answers as to what the new Egypt, the new Bahrain, the new Yemen look like.

“I think there are reasons within the Arab world to look at what Israel has achieved and say democracy works. It can build a better future for our citizens.”

Following Pakistan’s arrest of five people thought to have helped the United States find Osama bin Laden, Caravelli was asked if American can count on Pakistan as an ally in the war against terror.

“It’s a mixed answer,” he tells Newsmax.

“Pakistan was embarrassed by what we achieved in killing bin Laden. Pakistan will be quick to point out on the other hand that thousands of its troops have died fighting extremist groups.

“Pakistan has probably not been the partner we would have liked to have seen in the counter-terrorist policies we have pursued. But we can’t give up on Pakistan. We hope Pakistan won’t give up on us.”

Caravelli also warns about the planned withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq and Afghanistan: “We put at risk the gains we have achieved through our blood and treasure if we precipitously pull out.”

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