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Secretary Gates Conducts Town Hall Meeting at Forward Operating Base Warrior, Kirkuk, Iraq

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates
December 11, 2009

                SEC. GATES:  (Applause.)  I want to thank all of you for coming today, although I suspect more than a few of are -- are volunteered for this duty today.  Hope you haven't been standing around here waiting too long.

 

                I know some of you are just finishing up your tours.  And I just want you to know how grateful I am for the service that you've rendered over the last 12 months.  Whether you're just rotating in or rotating out, you may have noticed that this theater has largely disappeared from the headlines.  That's due to the sacrifices of too many of our comrades and too many of the sacrifices back home on the part of their families.  But that doesn't mean that this theater isn't still important. 

 

                Your mission here is still critical to preserving the gains of recent years.  This post, right on the Kurd-Arab fault line, will be increasingly important in the next several months.  And your role in fostering cooperation here is essential in ensuring a credible election process and transfer of power. 

 

                That's the message that I conveyed to Prime Minister Maliki this morning and the message that I'll convey to Mr. Barzani this afternoon. And this effort will allow the Iraqis to consolidate the gains that they've had.

 

                I just want you to know that as the holidays approach, everybody back home has you in their thoughts and prayers, and they also have your families in their thoughts and prayers.  And I hope that when you communicate with your families the next time, that you will pass along to them my personal thanks for the support they give you and for the sacrifices that I know they put up with.

 

                So what I'd like to do is take some questions.  And then what I really want to do is have the opportunity to thank each of you individually, get a photograph with each of you and give you a coin, just as a small token of personal appreciation for your service to our country.

 

                So with that, who's the intrepid soul who will have the first question?  (Laughter.)  Over here.  And no, you can't go home with me.  (Laughter.)

 

                Q     Good morning, sir.  Specialist Bacon (sp), HHC Brigade from 1AD, paralegal specialist.  My question to you this morning, sir, is, what type of training or operations can we expect to be implemented in reference to detainee operations so that we can prevent incidents such as the incident at the canal in Afghanistan?

 

                SEC. GATES:  Well, I think that -- or we have some very specialized units in terms of detainee operations.  And obviously we're in the middle of a huge transition here in Iraq.

 

                When I first took this job, or maybe six months into it, in 2007, I think we reached a high point of somewhere near 25,000 detainees here in Iraq.  We're down now, I think, to somewhere in the neighborhood of about 6,000.  And I think that one of the concerns that we all have is, as these folks are released, how many of them are going to end up back in front of us. 

 

                And the reality is, there are no guarantees, and we can do as much training in terms of screening these guys; we can observe them; we can try and have the local authorities monitor them.  And I think, for the most part, it's going to work out okay.  But I think that the only way to -- with all the training and with all the screening and everything else, the only way to avoid tragedies like that is frankly just for people to stay alert and to be on their guard around when we're dealing with these detainees and as we release them.

 

                I'm not sure that's a satisfactory answer to your question, but I think it's a reflection of reality. 

 

                Q     Good morning, sir.  Staff Sergeant --

 

                SEC. GATES:  By the way, I should say there's at least a 50-50 chance I won't be able to answer your question, and I'll tell you an honest answer when I can.  (Laughter.)

 

                Q     Mr. Secretary, Staff Sergeant Wheeler from the 506th Air Expeditionary Group.  My question, sir, is, considering the imminent drawdown of U.S. air forces in Iraq, what do you see our role as the U.S. Air Force's advise and assist mission to the new Iraqi air force?

 

                SEC. GATES:  Well, I think it's a -- I think it's a role that I wouldn't be a bit surprised to see agreements between ourselves and the Iraqis that continues a "train, equip and advise" role beyond the end of 2011.  They realize that they're probably not going to be ready. 

 

                And, in fact, I had this same conversation with some of our folks a couple of days ago in Kabul who were advising the new Afghan air force.  And I told them -- you know, they were saying, you know, you can't teach somebody to maintain or fly a helicopter in six months or 12 months. 

 

                And I think in both countries, that kind of a role is very likely to continue beyond the end of our combat operations.  So I -- you know, there's no agreement at that, for that, here in Iraq yet. 

 

                But I suspect as we get on through 2010 and begin approaching 2011 that the Iraqis themselves will probably have an interest in this because -- in fact, I talked to the prime minister this morning about their equipment purchases, training and so on as they look at 2012 and beyond.  And they clearly have some concerns. 

 

                So as I say, nothing has been said on either side about it at this point.  But it wouldn't surprise me at all to see that that's going to be a longer-term relationship between the two countries. 

 

                Yeah. 

 

                Q     Mr. Secretary.  I apologize.  Staff Sergeant Gomez, Expeditionary, Logistics Readiness. 

 

                My question is, as far as ideally, how long do we want to stay in Afghanistan?  And realistically how long will we stay in Afghanistan, do you believe, sir? 

 

                SEC. GATES:  Well, I suspect I speak for most people, both in the service and most Americans, in saying we don't want to be there one day longer than we have to be.  And I was at pains to make clear to them when I was in Kabul that, you know, we have no desire to be an occupying force. 

 

                We're the first -- we and our partners, international partners, are the first foreign military forces in the whole history of Afghanistan to be there on behalf of the Afghans, instead of trying to conquer them. 

 

                I think that we -- I think we face several years in Afghanistan.  I think General McChrystal is pretty confident that with the additional forces he's being given that he will be able to reverse the momentum of the Taliban, prevent them from occupying territory and degrade their capabilities, within the next 18 months or so. 

 

                That's not the end of the fight.  But it certainly will change the way it looks.  And I -- that -- the gradual -- the drawdown that we will have after July of 2011 will be -- will be a gradual one.  It will be conditions-based.  Just as we turned over provinces here in Iraq to provincial Iraqi control, we'll do the same thing in Afghanistan, district by district, province by province. 

 

                But I think, you know, we're going to be there not just for the next 18 months, but beyond, for some period of time, I think, until we can degrade the Taliban far enough that an enhanced Afghan security force can handle those guys while we then retire as we have here to, first, tactical and then strategic overwatch, and also focus our efforts on trying to put an end to al Qaeda.

 

                So it's going to be a while, and it's going to be a tough fight, particularly in the next -- in the next 12 to 18 months.  And frankly I think it will look a lot like the surge here in the first six or eight months.  And the first six or eight months of 2007 were pretty tough here.  But then I think in the longer term it's going to get a lot better.

 

                Q     Mr. Secretary, Specialist Pivus (ph), 25th Combat Aviation Brigade, 2nd Squadron, 6th Calvary Regiment.  My question to you is, surging into Afghanistan, a request has been made for more combat aviation brigades to move in.  A lack of air support for our ground troops -- how is that going to affect the aviation brigades going in, as well as our NATO allies?  What role are they going to play in that?

 

                SEC. GATES:  Well, there is going to be a need for substantially more combat aviation.  And we're trying to figure out how to balance both what's being sent from the States and redirecting capabilities that may have been intended for Iraq.  These are issues that we're sort of kind of sorting through right now.  We have a pretty good idea who -- in fact, we know clearly who -- who's going in the first tranche. 

 

                I assigned the deployment orders last -- a week ago today for about the first 17,000 in the surge to go into Afghanistan.  A big component of those are Marines. 

 

                I think General McChrystal and Central Command are still sorting out that next 13,000, what the exact composition is going to be.  But clearly just given the terrain and everything in Afghanistan, more combat aviation is going to be required. 

 

                And frankly a big concern of mine that I started working on, I guess, a year ago is to try and make sure that we come as close as we can, in Afghanistan, to the golden hour in terms of medevac that we've had here in Iraq. 

 

                And early in the year, we sent three additional field hospitals and a bunch of additional helicopters.  And so as I look at the rotary requirement, it's not only the combat that's important for me but also the medevac capability, with all these additional soldiers going in. 

 

                So that's kind of a nonanswer to your question.  But the bottom line is, yes, more combat aviation will be required in Afghanistan.  And right now we're still working through, beyond the initial 17,000, how many and where they'll come from. 

 

                In the back. 

 

                Q     Sir, my name is Captain -- (inaudible) -- U.S. Air Force, 506th AEG. 

 

                In the 1990s, airpower had its rise to prominence and some would say even dominance in U.S. military operations.  Now with the irregular warfare and all the subsets, it seems like the Air Force is kind of relegated to a support and secondary role. 

 

                So my question is, what is the strategic outlook and posture for the Air Force, besides the nuclear deterrence and ISR? 

 

                SEC. GATES:  Well, I think, one of the things that we're looking at, just as an example, for the 2011 budget and beyond, as we think about the five-year defense plan, we probably are going to undertake a new long-range strike capability for the Air Force. 

 

                I don't want to tell you how old either I or the B-52s are.  (Laughter.)  But let's just say that when I grew up in Wichita, Kansas, and was about 10 years old, they were testing the B-52s over my house. 

 

                So I guess the piece of news is we are probably going to proceed with a long-range strike initiative coming out of the Quadrennial Defense Review and various other reviews we've had going on.  And we're looking at a family of capabilities, both manned and unmanned, in terms of capabilities.

 

                I think that -- you know, I mean, as a person who was in the Air force myself, I kind of have an interest in keeping the Air Force going, and -- but I will tell you that the real test for the Air Force over the next 10 months or so, the next -- about the next 10 months is going to be the logistical challenge.  And you guys, you all -- or you men and women know this better than most, but the logistics folks and the TRANSCOM folks are really the unsung heroes of these campaigns. 

 

                And the challenge for them as we're bringing troops out of Iraq and sending troops into Afghanistan and trying to deal with equipment at the same time is a huge challenge.  And this surge would not have been possible in Afghanistan had it not been for some incredibly creative thinking and some hard work on the part of the Air Force, Transportation Command and Central Command.

 

                So I think the Air Force has an important combat role to play in the future, both in the tactical and strategic arena.  After all, the biggest procurement program in the Department of Defense today is the F-35.  And we're going to end up probably buying, among the three services, about 2,4(00), 2,500 of those aircraft.  So that's a big, new capability.  So I think we've got a lot of good stuff coming down the road for the Air Force.

 

                Q     Mr. Secretary, my name is -- (inaudible) -- 1-9 Cav, 2nd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division.

 

                You've previously talked about diverting resources from the military to civilian (inaudible), and for better integrating those civilian and military powers.  What type of resources would you divert from military to civilian powers?  And how do you plan to further integrate this shift in power to your balance strategy, reprogramming the Pentagon for a new age?

 

                SEC. GATES:  Let me be very clear:  I have never talked about diverting resources from the Department of Defense to anybody else.  What I have argued for is more resources for the civilian component, but not at our expense.

 

                When we look at the kind of thing that we have going on here in Iraq, and the kind of partnering and stability operations that you all are increasingly involved in, and we look at the situation in Afghanistan, the civilian component of what we're doing is critical to success for our country.  And, unfortunately, the civilian elements of our government -- the State Department, AID and so on -- have been starved of resources for decades. 

 

                When I left -- when I retired the first time, in 1993, as director of CIA, the Agency for International Development had 16,000 employees.  They were expeditionary.  They spoke the languages.  They lived in primitive conditions and lived in, often, dangerous conditions in developing countries all over the world.

 

                When I came back to government at the end of 2006, AID had 3,000 employees, and they were maybe -- mostly contract officers.  And that capability has to be rebuilt.  And the same thing with the Foreign Service.

 

                We will spend more on health care in the Department of Defense this year than the entire foreign affairs budget.  If you took every Foreign Service officer in the world, you wouldn't have enough people to crew one aircraft carrier.

 

                So as we try to partner and as we're dealing with development and rule of law and economic projects and infrastructure and trying to give these governments capacity to deal with these issues on their own, a lot of that role has been felt -- filled in the past by our own -- our own troops, and especially by the National Guard -- agricultural development in particular.  And we need a permanent U.S. cadre to do that and to partner with us, and they need additional resources to do that.  But they don't need additional resources at our expense.

 

                Yeah.

 

                Q     Mr. Secretary, Charlie Company -- (inaudible).  How is the Army's deployment tempo going to change with the drawdown of troops in Iraq and increased troops in Afghanistan?

 

                SEC. GATES:  How is what going to change in the deployment?

 

                Q     The deployment tempo.  Our dwell time, essentially.

 

                SEC. GATES:  Yeah.  Obviously, we've got two ground forces involved in these operations, the Marine Corps and the Army.  The Marine Corps now has a dwell time of about 1.5-to-one.  And General Conway believes that they are on a track, even with the deployments to Afghanistan, of being able to get up to two-to-one:  two years at home, one year deployed.

 

                Army units at this point are about 1.1 to 1.2-to-one.  And General Casey's view is that he will be able to continue moving in the direction of increasing toward his goal of two years at home, one year deployed.  But that will be slowed by the deployments to Afghanistan.

 

                The part that we worry about the most, frankly, is not the units themselves, but it is the people in the critical enablers -- the low-density, high-demand areas, whether it's helicopter pilots; medevac; engineers; route clearance -- all of those -- intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance.  We're pushing those resources very hard.  And those are some of the areas where I think some of the stress is the hardest on the force and where the tempo has been the highest.  And it's hard to see where there's much relief in the near future for them.

 

                So that's the piece that General Casey and Admiral Mullen and I are probably most worried about.  The units -- the dwell time will not decline, but it will increase more slowly than it would have without the surge in Iraq -- in Afghanistan.

 

                Yeah.

 

                Q     Good morning, Mr. Secretary.  My name is Specialist Millas (ph) of the Second Squadron, 6th U.S. Cavalry.  And my question for you, sir, is with the elections coming up next year here in Iraq, if things don't go according to plan as far as the elections kind of getting worse, how is that going to affect the drawdown here?

 

                SEC. GATES:  Well, the way things are going right now, General Odierno is comfortable that he can stay with the plan that he has for the drawdown.  I've talked to both the prime minister and -- Prime Minister Maliki and to the Presidency Council last night about what can be done to ensure that after the elections there is a relatively quick formation of an inclusive government.  That's clearly their objective.  And because, frankly, my concern is that after the 2005 election, the fact that it took many months to put a government together really created an opening for the kind of sectarian violence that made things so bad by the end of 2006.

 

                I think things have changed a lot.  There is a commitment to not falling back into violence on the part of all of the major players.  But I think having the new government formed as quickly as possible after the elections is really important.

 

                At this point, the way everything is going, as I said, I think General Odierno feels like everything's still on track to maintain the same drawdown schedule that he's had for the past several months.

 

                Q     First Sergeant Brian Allen, from Bravo Troop 49 Cav., 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cav. Division.

 

                Sir, I read a few days ago you were speaking of Pakistan and their role as we continue to surge in Afghanistan.  And I just wanted to ask you, what do you want and what do you expect Pakistan to do, their role, as we continue to -- will it change their role, sir, for the fight against al Qaeda?

 

                SEC. GATES:  One of the things that I talked about a good bit at the hearings last week was that in some respects the situation in that region, in my opinion, has become more dangerous over the last year or so.  And it's not just because of the resurgence of the Taliban in Afghanistan.  It is the collaboration between al Qaeda and the Afghan Taliban; but also, the collaboration between al Qaeda and the Pakistani Taliban.  And we know that al Qaeda has been involved with the Pakistani Taliban in planning these attacks inside Pakistan that have -- with a view to trying to destabilize Pakistan.

 

                So you have this kind of unholy alliance of al Qaeda, the Taliban on both sides of the Afghan-Pakistan border, as well as other terrorist groups -- what Secretary Clinton calls a syndicate of terror -- that have reasserted themselves in really trying to destabilize both countries, and potentially the whole region.

 

                Frankly, if you had asked me a year ago whether the Pakistani Army would be in Swat and South Waziristan, I'd have said no chance.  I think sometimes you get lucky in your adversary, and I think that the Pakistani Taliban made a huge mistake when they moved within 60 miles of Islamabad.  And I think that it really put the Pakistani government on notice that these terrorists, these extremists, were a genuine existential threat to the government of Pakistan, and to Pakistan itself.

 

                And so you've seen significant military operations, that have only increased in size and tempo over the last 10 months or so.  And we see evidence, we see some evidence in the intelligence, that they're forcing al Qaeda and some of the other terrorists out of South Waziristan.  And they're fleeing.  And some of them are talking about going back into Afghanistan.  So we've kind of stirred up the nest there, and I think that's a good thing.

 

                But I think the Pakistanis have really taken some significant steps over the past year to bring pressure to bear on that border.  Because the truth of the matter is, one of the ways that the Taliban was -- in Afghanistan was able to reconstitute itself and grow again was the deals that were made by an earlier Pakistani government that basically gave them sanctuary on the Pakistani side of the border.  And what had become -- what I sort of compare as a path from Pakistan to Afghanistan in 2005 and 2006 became a four-lane highway.  And the Paks are, I think, doing a good job of putting pressure on their side of the border, and we're obviously going to do an even better job of putting pressure on the Afghan side of the border. 

 

                So I think we're pretty pleased with the actions the Pakistanis have taken up to this point.

 

                Q     Morning, sir.  PFC Chagaris (sp) with 2-3 Field Artillery battalion and 1-1 Armored Division.

 

                Mr. Secretary, yesterday in Baghdad you continued to deliver a message to press Iraqi Kurds and Arabs to settle their differences, because they have the potential to threaten Iraqi security in the long run.  Do you feel confident that they will agree to disagree by August 2010, the timeline the president announced to end the war in Iraq?  And could their refusal to get along interfere with the president's commitment to remove our troops out of Iraq by late 2011?

 

                SEC. GATES:  I think, based on -- I'll -- I met with Mr. Barzani not too long ago, talked to the prime minister about this this morning, talked to the Presidency Council about it last night.  I actually think that they've made some real headway in recent -- in recent weeks.  And I would give General Odierno and our embassy real credit here, because I think they've played a really important role in facilitating the dialogue between the Kurds and the government, between the KRG and the government.

 

                I would say at this point that, you know, this is perhaps the most worrisome issue here in Iraq as far as we're concerned.  But the progress we have seen in the last 18 months or so here in Iraq, and the actions that ultimately by the council of representation -- the Council of Representatives in passing legislation and addressing some of these issues -- I think that there is no question that the Kurds see their future as part of a unified Iraq. 

 

                And what's at issue is the terms upon which that kind of goes forward.  That's negotiable, and we'll do what we can.  But at this point all the evidence that we see indicates that they will work out these differences.  And to the degree we can help them, we will do that, but that they will do so in a timely way, so it won't affect our commitments here in Iraq. 

 

                Yeah. 

 

                Q     Morning.  Tech Sgt Ramirez (sp)  Air Force.  (Inaudible.) 

 

                My question is, World War II, we fought two fronts.  Within four years, we were done took care of business.  Why are we still here eight years later?  (Inaudible.)  Why are we still here? 

 

                SEC. GATES:  Well, it's a different kind of war.  And in World War II, the overwhelming industrial might of the United States and the fact that we were facing conventional forces, where you knew where the enemy was, and he was out there in front of you, not necessarily behind you or to the side or anywhere else. 

 

                So dealing with these kinds of terrorists and extremists and insurgents is just a different kind of conflict.  And you know, we've been here in Iraq now six years and in Afghanistan for eight.  But one of -- one of the points that I make to people is that I think it's a mistake to look at Afghanistan as sort of one eight-year war. 

 

                We had a war in 2001-2002, in which we essentially won.  And the Taliban was kicked out of Afghanistan.  Al Qaeda was kicked out of Afghanistan, many of them killed. 

 

                And then things were very quiet in Afghanistan until about the end of 2005, when the Pakistanis created this opening for the Taliban on their side of the border.  And the level of violence beginning in the spring of 2006 has just increased significantly. 

 

                So I think we in effect have a second kind of war in Afghanistan that started the end of 2005, beginning of 2006.  And that's the war we've now been in for three years. 

 

                From January 2007 until December 2008, in four different decisions, we were able to increase the troop strength in Afghanistan from 22,000 to about 46,000.  But it was still way underresourced. 

 

                And I think it's testimony to President Obama's view of the importance of Afghanistan and what we're doing there, to our national security, that in his first year as president, he's already approved some 52,000 new troops to go to Afghanistan.  So my view is, the United States really has gotten its head into this conflict in Afghanistan, as far as I'm concerned really, only in about the last year. 

 

                And in terms of a comprehensive strategy, the Bush administration worked on a comprehensive strategy toward the end of 2008, handed it off to the Obama administration. 

 

                They took that -- took it into account, but did a much broader and I think more thorough effort.  And then we just went through it again based on General McChrystal's assessment of the difficulty of the situation in Afghanistan. 

 

                So I understand the impatience, and believe me, I understand, as I told the Congress, that the American people are tired of war.  But I think that we have begun to resource what we need to do in Afghanistan and have a strategy on how to do it right and be successful is a pretty recent development. 

 

                And what the president tried to signal through his decision was that this is not going to be an open-ended commitment; we're not going to be there forever.  And so he had a delicate balancing act to perform in terms of providing a reaffirmation of our commitment to be successful there, but at the same time build a fire under the Afghans, that they need to understand they need to step up, get their young men enlisted, trained and in the field, and develop their capability to take this fight over beginning in July of 2011.

 

                And one of the -- one of the myths in the international community is the United States likes war.  And the reality is, there is -- other than the first two or three years of World War II, there has never been a popular war in America.  When the first President Bush went into Kuwait in early 1991, 15 percent of the American people approved of what he was doing. 

 

                So what's required is presidential leadership and explaining why we need to do these things and providing the resources.  And the American people always step up, and so does the Congress.  And I think President Obama's done that with Afghanistan.

 

                STAFF:  Sir, we have time for two more.

 

                SEC. GATES:  Okay. 

 

                Captain.

 

                Q     Good morning, sir.  Captain Ash Faulker (ph) -- Captain Ash Faulker (ph), 506 Air Expeditionary Group.  Given the high OPSTEMPO we've maintained over the past few years, I was wondering how you propose both fulfilling the need for warfighters here in the AOR while also maintaining the morale and health of our service members back home.

 

                SEC. GATES:  Well, this is something we spend a lot of time on, because there is no question that there is strain on the force.  What a lot of people don't realize -- just to take the Air Force as an example -- the Air Force has really been in the fight on a continuing basis for 18 years.  Since 1991, they have had a presence and a -- and a mission here in Iraq in addition to the conflicts elsewhere.  And it obviously takes a toll over time.

 

                We've put a lot of money into the budget in terms of family support programs; in terms of trying to deal better with PTS, trying to identify it, trying to remove the stigma, trying to persuade people to seek help when they've got issues.  But the truth of the matter is, we're going to have a high OPTEMPO for the foreseeable future. 

 

                And we just need to figure out -- continue working on how can we support our families better, how can we -- are there new programs we should consider, what more can we do, and especially when it comes to the mental health of the force.

 

                It is -- as I say, it is an issue that we spend a lot of time on, and it is a measure of the resilience of the force that people are able to perform in the way that you-all do, and others, as well.  But we work on this, I will tell you, every single day.

               

                One of the things that -- one of the things that I'm working on right now that worries me a little bit is I get all these slide briefings in the Pentagon about how programs are working, and then I go out to various posts and bases, and especially if I sit down with spouses and I found out -- find out the real world is very different than the slides that I'm getting back in the Pentagon, in sort of a parallel universe.  And so it's very helpful in terms of being able to go back and say, look, it's just not working the way you think it is.

 

                The other thing is the importance of leadership in this, because the -- we have some very good programs, but they're unevenly implemented at different posts and bases around the country.  And what that often is a function of is the quality of leadership and how seriously the leadership of those units takes these issues, and not only issues of the health of the -- mental health of the force itself, but the importance of these family support programs.

 

                So one of the things that I've been working with General Casey and General Chiarelli and the other chiefs on is, how can we even out the implementation of these programs at a higher level across the force, and how can we share best practices among the different services in terms of what's working and what's not?

               

                Last question.  Yes, sir.

 

                Q     (Name off mike) -- 6-1 Cav, 1st Brigade, 1st Armored Division.  Mr. Secretary, in the past we have often considered the possibility of military action against Iran should they continue the development of nuclear armament, which they have continued to do.  What is the likelihood of the United States going into Iran in the foreseeable future to stop them?

 

                SEC. GATES:  Iran is one of the most complex national security problems that I think we've faced in my whole career.  There are no good options in Iran.  And if we've learned -- one of the thing that weighs on me is if we have learned anything from Iraq over the past six years, it is the inherent unpredictability of war. 

               

                Frankly, Iran's stiffing the international community on some of the proposals that they actually agreed to at the beginning of October, I think has brought the international community, including the Russians and the Chinese, together in a way that they have not been in terms of significant additional sanctions on the Iranians.

 

                What -- the challenge of the -- first of all, let me just say, you never take any options off the table.  But the reality is that any military action would only buy some time, maybe two or three years.  So at the end of the day, the way to avoid a nuclear-armed Iran is to put together a package of incentives and disincentives that persuade the Iranian government that they would actually be less secure with nuclear weapons than if they had them -- that they could spark a nuclear arms race throughout the Middle East, throughout the region; that their people will suffer enormously from even more stringent economic sanctions.

 

                I think that there's a lot more political turmoil in Iran today than there was before their elections.  I think the elections had little credibility with many in Iran, and you're seeing continued turbulence.  So there's a political dynamic going on in Iran today that we didn't see a year ago.  And what the implications of that are are uncertain at this point. 

 

                But I think that you're going to see some significant additional sanctions imposed by the international community, assuming that the Iranians don't change course and agree to do the things that they signed up to do at the beginning of October.

 

                I think we have some time for these efforts to work.  But it's clearly -- I talked about the consequences potentially of military action.  The consequences of a nuclear-armed Iran in the region are also enormous, and so we'll just have to keep working our way through it.

 

                I'll just tell you, it's -- I was part of the first meeting of U.S. government officials with the new revolutionary government of Iran in 1979 in Algiers, in October 1979.  And we reached out to that new government.  We met with the prime minister, the defense minister and the foreign minister of Iran at that time.  And the national security adviser told them, we accept your revolution.  We'll work with you.  We'll recognize you.  We'll even sell you the weapons that the Shah -- that we had agreed to sell to the Shah.

 

                And they said, give us the Shah.  And we went back and forth like that for an hour and a half or two hours.  And finally the national security adviser got up and said, to give you the Shah would be incompatible with our national honor.  That ended the meeting.  Three days later, they seized our embassy, and two weeks later all three of those officials were out of a job; one of them was in jail.

 

                That was the beginning of engagement with Iran.  (Laughter.)

 

                Every administration since then has tried to reach out to Iran in one way or another, and that's one of the reasons why I support this administration trying to do what it's done:  because if it works then we save ourselves a lot of trouble.  If it doesn't, it certainly enables our ability to get the rest of the international community to join with us in bringing pressure to bear on the Iranians.

 

                Okay. 

 

                (END OF AVAILABLE AUDIO.)

 

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