Much like the Emperor in the fairy tale who had no clothes, Barack Obama has received a wake-up call in the form of a secret memo from his own Secretary of Defense warning that his administration has no strategy for coping with a nuclear Iran.
Of course, in this case, it is the United States, her civilian population and her allies, who are naked and embarrassed by exposure to the threat of nuclear blackmail or actual attack by surrogates of the fanatical Iranian regime.
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates has warned in a secret three-page memorandum to top White House officials that the United States does not have an effective long-range policy for dealing with Iranâ€™s steady progress toward nuclear capability, according to government officials familiar with the document.
Several officials said the highly classified analysis, written in January to President Obamaâ€™s national security adviser, Gen. James L. Jones, came in the midst of an intensifying effort inside the Pentagon, the White House and the intelligence agencies to develop new options for Mr. Obama. They include a set of military alternatives, still under development, to be considered should diplomacy and sanctions fail to force Iran to change course.
Officials familiar with the memoâ€™s contents would describe only portions dealing with strategy and policy, and not sections that apparently dealt with secret operations against Iran, or how to deal with Persian Gulf allies.
One senior official, who like others spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the memo, described the document as â€œa wake-up call.â€ But White House officials dispute that view, insisting that for 15 months they had been conducting detailed planning for many possible outcomes regarding Iranâ€™s nuclear program.
In an interview on Friday, General Jones declined to speak about the memorandum. But he said: â€œOn Iran, we are doing what we said we were going to do. The fact that we donâ€™t announce publicly our entire strategy for the world to see doesnâ€™t mean we donâ€™t have a strategy that anticipates the full range of contingencies â€” we do.â€
But in his memo, Mr. Gates wrote of a variety of concerns, including the absence of an effective strategy should Iran choose the course that many government and outside analysts consider likely: Iran could assemble all the major parts it needs for a nuclear weapon â€” fuel, designs and detonators â€” but stop just short of assembling a fully operational weapon.
In that case, Iran could remain a signatory of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty while becoming what strategists call a â€œvirtualâ€ nuclear weapons state.
According to several officials, the memorandum also calls for new thinking about how the United States might contain Iranâ€™s power if it decided to produce a weapon, and how to deal with the possibility that fuel or weapons could be obtained by one of the terrorist groups Iran has supported, which officials said they considered to be a less-likely possibility.