Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld tells Newsmax that diplomacy and economic sanctions imposed on Iran by the United States and its allies have a “close to zero” chance of ending Iran’s nuclear weapons ambitions.
He also predicts that given the dire threat Iran poses, Israel may have “no other choice” but to attack the Islamic Republic’s nuclear facilities.
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Rumsfeld served as defense secretary from 1975 to 1977 under President Gerald Ford and again under President George W. Bush from 2001 to 2006. He also served as a four-term U.S. congressman, ambassador to NATO, and White House chief of staff under Ford.
His book “Known and Unknown: A Memoir,”
first published in February 2011, was a runaway best-seller and is now being published in paperback.
In an exclusive interview with Newsmax.TV, Rumsfeld was asked if the Obama administration strategy of using diplomacy and sanctions to dissuade Iran from continuing its nuclear program will likely succeed.
“No,” he declares. “What you see with respect to North Korea and Iran is a behavior pattern by the United States and, indeed, by the international community, that keeps repeating itself despite the fact that that same behavior has failed previously.
“The odds of Iran or North Korea ultimately acquiescing and acceding to the U.N. requirements for inspection, or discontinuing their nuclear program, are down close to zero.
“People keep writing in the press contending that they have a possible breakthrough coming up and one more meeting might just do it. But those regimes are vicious dictatorships that are going to get up every morning and say, What do we have to do to perpetuate ourselves in power? They decided that having nuclear weapons is an important element of perpetuating themselves in power and being factors in the world scene. Therefore, I do not see them discontinuing their efforts.
“I don’t see China putting pressure on North Korea. I don’t see Russia putting pressure on Iran. They’re closely cooperating.”
As to whether the United States or Israel will launch an attack to cripple Iran’s nuclear weapons capabilities, Rumsfeld says: “I think the likelihood of the United States doing so is something that I’m really not in the position to judge. I’m not a part of that administration.
“But from the standpoint of Israel, given the public statements repeatedly that Israel does not have a right to exist on the face of the earth, that the authorities in Iran believe it should be eradicated or incinerated, any leader in Israel is going to have a very tough decision.
“With a country that small, with a population that small, knowing that a country that is determined to have the state of Israel not exist is something that is beyond the tolerance level of Israeli leadership. I would suspect that if the intelligence evolves in a way that they decide that they’re at risk, that they will really have no other choice.”
Former Vice President Dick Cheney wrote in his book that he pushed for a U.S. attack on Iran, after Rumsfeld left his Defense Department post, but President Bush and national security advisers opposed him. Asked if he would have supported such an attack, Rumsfeld responds: “I wasn’t there. I don’t know what the facts were. I’ve got a lot of respect for the people making those decisions, and they’re difficult decisions.
“I must say that the world is a better place for the fact that Israel, years ago, took out the Iraqi nuclear capability. The world’s a better place because the Israelis went in and took out the Syrians’ nuclear capability. The prospect of Iran with a determined set of leaders who are attempting to impose their view of the world in the region and elsewhere having a nuclear weapon is a dangerous thing.
“Certainly, I would hope that the United States would be supportive of whatever Israel decided to do. On the other hand, if you see the relationship between the United States and Israel at the present time, I would think Israel’s in a somewhat awkward position because the opinions that come out of Washington, D.C., and the White House, and this administration have not been friendly to Israel.”
Turning from Iran to the ongoing conflict in Syria, where government forces this week massacred more than 100 civilians, Rumsfeld tells Newsmax: “I’m sure the people in the various governments are looking at the full range of options, from doing nothing to the use of ground forces in Syria. There are a lot of other options in between.
“It’s pretty clear that the Assad regime is tough. They’re not eager to step away. Their desire is to perpetuate themselves in power. They are brutal and repressive and thus far have been successful in maintaining power.
“A lot of things can be done. You can engage in covert action. You can do what we’re finally doing and withdrawing diplomats and putting economic pressure on Syria. There are still other things that can be done, as were done in Libya for example. You can use air power.
“The problem is you don’t know what is going to follow if in fact the Assad regime ends. It would be a good thing for the Assad regime to end. It would not be a good thing to have a Muslim Brotherhood, extreme Islamist government, take over.”
Rumsfeld assessed the threat of Islamist extremists led by the Muslim Brotherhood gaining control of the government in Egypt.
“The control at the present time is divided,” he says. “It includes the Egyptian military which has been an important stabilizing force in what is an enormously important country.
“What will the balance be between the Egyptian military and the parliament, which is now 73 percent on the extremist side, [including] the Muslim Brotherhood? If [extremists] end up taking entire control of the country, I think the relationship with Israel, the relationship with the United States, and the stabilizing influence that Egypt has been, will be gone.
“But if the Islamists win, but maintain a relationship with the military and come to some common understanding of how they will govern that is not going to be as extreme as one would think, then you would have something in between, and it remains to be seen what the decision would be with respect to the Israeli peace treaty, for example.”
Rumsfeld expressed concern that, for democracy’s sake, the United States and its allies may be empowering Islamic radicals in Libya and Tunisia as well as in Egypt. “The extremists and radicals are determined to impose a caliphate and their extreme views on everybody, not just the people in their country,” he observes.
It is not yet possible to determine how events will ultimately unfold in those Muslim nations, “but what we do know is that the extremists tend to be better organized, more determined, even though they may be in the minority. And they know where they want to go.”
Rumsfeld is donating the proceeds from sales of his book “Known and Unknown” to military charities supported by the Rumsfeld Foundation.
“The charities we’ve given to are, I suppose, 15 or 20 different military charities that support the men and women in uniform, support veterans, support the families, and support the families of the fallen,” he says.
“The important thing is to recognize how grateful the American people are to those who defend our country.
“Everyone knows that everyone serving is there because they want to be there, and they want to serve this country, and they care about the country. I hope people will look up some military charities and find a way to be helpful.”
In his wide-ranging interview with Newsmax.TV, Rumsfeld also:
See other exclusive excerpts of Donald Rumsfeld's interview with Newsmax:
- Asserts that the George W. Bush administration should get credit for the killing of Osama bin Laden because it developed the capabilities that enabled the successful operation.
- Criticizes President Obama’s targeted killing of terrorist suspects with drones.
- Predicts that further reductions in to America’s nuclear weapons arsenal will be seen as a “provocative” weakness by our enemies.
- Warns that deep cuts to the U.S. defense budget are unnecessary for maintaining America’s economic strength.
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