Colin Powell: Military Options Limited on Iran

Powell cautions against miilitary action on Iran nuclear program

ByABC News
November 13, 2011, 6:27 PM

WASHINGTON, Nov. 13, 2011— -- Former Secretary of State Colin Powell cautioned U.S. leaders to "think very, very carefully" before pursuing military options in response to a new report showing Iran continuing attempts to build a nuclear device.

Powell instead pushed for increased diplomatic and economic pressure through sanctions.

"I think the U.S. ought to keep the sanctions on and try to increase the pressure on the Iranian regime," Powell told "This Week" anchor Christiane Amanpour in an interview to air later this month. "And always the president has the military options, but I think those options are quite narrow. And you'd better think very, very carefully before you start looking at that option too closely."

A new International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report from United Nations weapons inspectors last week presented new evidence that Iran has in recent years continued key actions toward building a nuclear weapon, despite repeated denials.

"I never had any doubt that Iran was working on the technology associated with nuclear programs and development of a device," Powell said. "In fact when I sort of made this point some years ago, I was criticized in the press as hyping it. So, I have no illusions about that.

"But as the IAEA also said, they're not sure whether or not they're going to go all the way forward with a nuclear device," Powell said of Iran's intentions.

In Saturday evening's GOP presidential foreign policy debate, several candidates called for aggressive action to prevent Iran from reaching nuclear capability, including military action if other means failed.

Powell, a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, refused to engage in a hypothetical discussion of where such military action could lead.

"This kind of discussion seems to me just raises the temperature and makes it that much more difficult to try to find a solution to the problem," Powell said. "And so the international community should continue to apply pressure on the Iranians.

"The military option is always there, but I'm not sure how good that military option ultimately is if they're digging and burying," Powell added of Iran's efforts to hide its nuclear program. "And if you had a military option that did nothing more than delay them for a few years, would that be worth the other political costs associated with the use of a military option?"

Powell also said he is uncertain if it is inevitable that Iran will produce a nuclear weapon, saying instead that the focus should be to prevent further movement toward a nuclear device.

"I don't know if it's inevitably going to get a weapon or whether it's totally committed to getting a weapon," Powell said.

"I've always been under the view of let's try to see if we can stop them as they go up the level… of enrichment so when they get to the level of making power, if that's all they say they're interested in doing, then let's see if we can not put a firebreak in at that point so we don't have to see what comes after," Powell added.