This past week, former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates told an audience in Norfolk, Virginia that an American or Israeli strike on the Iranian nuclear sites would be “catastrophic” and that American officials should make it clear to the government of Israel that “they do not have a blank check to take action that could do grave harm to American vital interests.”
Mr. Gates’s view that such a strike would be catastrophic is less persuasive with a bit of context: he also believed the 2007 Israeli strike on the Syrian nuclear reactor would be disastrous, opposed it strongly, and urged that the entire relationship between the United States and Israel be brought into question if Israel went forward.
In The Weekly Standard, I give an account of what happened in 2007 and conclude
This story should be borne in mind when Mr. Gates now predicts with certainty, once again, that an Israeli or American strike (this time on Iran) will produce only “catastrophic” results, and expresses, once again, these negative views of Israel’s relationship with the United States. To be sure, the case of Iran is very different from that of Syria. But the man who thought the attack on Syria’s nuclear program would be catastrophic may not be the most reliable judge of likely consequences—nor of the entire American-Israeli relationship.