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He was part of a group called Global Zero, and for those of us who care deeply about our nuclear arsenal and modernization and that type of thing, some of the things that were authored in this report candidly are [just] concerning.
Typically, there's a tension. The Defense Department presses for weaponry and making sure that our country is safe. The State Department presses for nuclear arms agreements and reductions. And so in the event this person is confirmed, that balance is not going to be there.
You and I have spent a lot of time on the START treaty. I helped you in that effort. You let me be involved in the ratification. Modernization was to take place at a pace that is not occurring. And I'm just wondering if there's something you might say to me that sees our future in a way that with these -- with the combination of possibly these two people, one leading the State Department but one leading the Defense Department in a role that's been very different than previous defense leaders -- is there something you can say to assure me about our nuclear posture in the future and the role that you're going to play in that regard?
When that initiative sort of first came out and we began to hear about the potential of people who said let's get no nuclear weapons, I sort of scratched my head. And I said, what? You know, how's that going to work? Because I believe in deterrence, and I find it very hard to think how you can get down to a number in today's world.
But the whole point is, they're not talking about today's world. Henry Kissinger, Jim Baker, I think Jim Schlesinger, former secretaries of defense, many others, have all agreed with that as a goal for the world. It's a goal. It's an aspiration. And we should always be aspirational. But it's not something that could happen in today's world, and nor could any leader today sit here or in any other chair and promote to you the notion that we ought to be cutting down our deterrent level below an adequate level to maintain deterrence.
Now, the military has very strong views about what that is. We've cut down some 1,500 now. There's talk of going down to a lower number. I think personally it's possible to get there if you have commensurate levels of inspections, verification, guarantees about the capacity of your nuclear stockpile program, etc.
Now, Senator, I know you're deeply invested in that component of it, the nuclear stockpile [proposal]. And I may -- we can come to some of that maybe later in the he hearing here. But I believe we have to maintain that because that's the only way you maintain an effective level of deterrence.
And the Russians certainly are thinking in terms of their adequacy of deterrence, which is one of the reasons why they have missile defense concerns.
So I'm -- I don't think Senator Hagel is sitting there or he's going to go over to the Defense Department and be a proponent -- you know, this is talking about conflict revolution [Resolution?], change -- resolution, changes that have to take pace in societies that we'll -- you know, it's worth aspiring to, but we'll be lucky if we get there in however many centuries the way we're going.
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Pentagon policy chief Jim Miller said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's warning this week that Iran would have nearly enough bomb-grade uranium to build a nuclear weapon in six months does not change the U.S. assessment of the need for military action.
Miller, under secretary of defense for policy, in an exclusive interview with the FP National Security channel on Wednesday, said that enrichment was just one factor in the U.S. calculation of how long it would take for Iran to have a working nuclear bomb.
"The timeline, from our perspective, includes the question of how long it takes to enrich, and then how long it would take to go from a certain level of enrichment to weapons grade, and other steps in that process," Miller said. "And so, as we look at that potential timeline we certainly believe, as I said, that we have time."
On Sunday, as part of a blitz of U.S. media appearances, Netanyahu told CNN, "They're moving very rapidly, completing the enrichment of the uranium they need to produce a nuclear bomb. In six months or so they'll be 90 percent of the way there. I think it's important to place a red line before Iran."
But two days earlier, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told Foreign Policy in an exclusive interview that U.S. and other intelligence agencies, including Israel's, agree that despite Iran's enrichment activities, Iranian leaders have not made the decision to pursue a bomb.
Miller would not distinguish which was the bigger threat, Iran reaching the capability for a potential bomb -- via enrichment -- or making the decision to try to build one.
"What intelligence basically tells us now is that they have not made that decision," Panetta said. "And that while they continue to do enrichment, they have not made a decision to proceed with a nuclear weapon. And I have to tell you that I think the intelligence community, whether it's Israeli intelligence or United States intelligence, has pretty much the same view."
U.S. intelligence officials believe they have one year to 18 months from that decision-point before Iran has bomb -- implying the Pentagon (or anyone else) has that long to attempt a preventive strike.
Netanyahu, however, cautioned against relying too much on U.S. or Israeli intelligence forecasts: "We've also had our failures, both of us. You know, you've just marked 9/11. That wasn't seen. None of us, neither Israel or the United States, saw Iran building this massive nuclear bunker under a mountain. For two years they proceed without our knowledge. So I think the one thing we do know is what they're doing right now. We know that they're enriching this material. We know that in the six, seven months they'll have got to covered 90 percent of the way for an atomic bomb material. And I think that we should count on the things that we do know in setting the red line."
Miller also threw his support behind the sanctions, which he argued are having adverse effects in Iran. "It may take some time before the Supreme Leader, before Iran makes the calculation," he said, of whether to give up its nuclear program or pursue the bomb.
On Wednesday, Miller toed the Obama administration line: "As we look at the intelligence, we believe that we have time and space to accomplish that, and the timeline that Secretary Panetta talked about is precisely right."
This week, Fereydoun Abbasi, chief of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, reportedly said Iran does not intend to enrich uranium beyond 20 percent, to the degree that would be required to build a bomb. Abbasi said the limited stocks of uranium Iran has enriched to 20 percent were for radiological medicinal purposes.
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Kevin Baron reports on the people and policies driving the Pentagon and the national security establishment in The E-Ring.