“Severe” consequences if US bombs Iran — US Senator Hagel

WASHINGTON, Nov 8 (KUNA) — There would be “severe” consequences in many forms if the United States bombs Iran, Senator Chuck Hagel, a Republican member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and Senate Intelligence Committee, said on Thursday.
During a brief question-and-answer session following his speech, “The United States and Iran: At a Dangerous Crossroads,” Hagel was asked by KUNA what consequences might ensue if the U.S. takes military action against Iran.

Hagel predicted a significant level of retaliation by Iran “in many forms,” particularly the unleashing of terrorism, which “giant armies are not very effective against”.

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“We could see inflamed religious dynamics in the Islamic world,” Hagel told KUNA. U.S. military action against Iran also could undermine other U.S. efforts in the Middle East, he added.

During his speech at the Capital Hilton in Washington, hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank, Hagel said that in the Middle East of the 21st century, Iran will be a key center of gravity and remains a significant regional power.
“The United States cannot change that reality,” he said. “Americas strategic thinking and policies for the Middle East must acknowledge the role of Iran today and well into the future”.

U.S. officials must be clear that the United States does not seek regime change in Iran, Hagel said.

“There can be no ambiguity on this point,” he said. “We must be clear that our objections are to the actions and policies of the Iranian government, not the Iranian people, and that improved U.S.-Iran relations are a real possibility and clearly in the interests of the Iranian people, the Middle East and the United States”.

Now is the time for the United States to actively pursue an offer of “direct, unconditional and comprehensive talks with Iran,” Hagel said. “We cannot afford to refuse to consider this strategic choice any longer. We should make clear that everything is on the table — our issues and Irans, similar to the opportunity that we squandered in 2003 for comprehensive talks with Iran”.

This should include offering Iran a credible way back in from the fringes of the international community and security guarantees if it is willing to give up nuclear weapons ambitions, as well as other incentives, he said. This will require the day-to-day efforts and presence of a very senior administration official, higher ranking than the American Ambassador to Iraq, he added.

This offer should be made even as the United States continues other elements of its strategy — working with allies on multilateral sanctions applying financial pressure; working in the UN Security Council on a third sanctions resolution; and working in the region to support those Middle East countries which share U.S. concerns about Iran, he said.

“We should seek to work in concert with Russian President Putin, who traveled to Tehran last month to visit the Supreme Leader of Iran, Grand Ayatollah Khamenei, and propose a new initiative to help resolve the standoff over Irans nuclear program,” Hagel said.
The United States also should seriously explore the proposal from the Arab Gulf States, announced by Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal, to establish a nuclear consortium to provide any Middle East state with enriched nuclear fuel, including Iran, Hagel said. Initial Iranian reactions could provide an opening for common interests, he added.

“Creative approaches like these, rather than war speeches and talk of World War III, would strengthen our ability across the board to deal with Iran,” the senator said. “Our friends and allies and international institutions would be more confident to stand with us, not just because of our power, but rather because they trusted our purpose, our words and our actions”.
This could create a new dynamic in U.S.-Iran relations, in part by providing the Iranians with incentives to react to the possibility of better relations with the West because it is in their interests, Hagel said, adding, “We should be prepared that any dialogue with Iran will take time and diplomatic effort, focus and discipline”.

It may be that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad wants to take his country into conflict with the United States, Hagel said. Ahmadinejad may believe that baiting the United States into striking Iran will allow him to consolidate clear control over the Iranian government, including by undermining the influence of Irans Supreme Leader, Hagel said.

“We must not play the Iranian Presidents game by allowing ourselves to recklessly ricochet into a conflict that could help unite Iran and the Muslim world behind the very extremists that we should be isolating,” Hagel said. “Our strategy must be smarter, wiser and get above the Iranian President. We must demonstrate to the rest of Irans leaders, the Iranian people, the Middle East and the world that it is an irresponsible Iranian President who could take Iran into conflict, not the United States”.