Kay, Carter urge caution on Iran
Former weapons inspector: 'It's deja vu all over again'
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Former U.S. chief weapons inspector David Kay urged the United States on Wednesday not to make the same mistakes with Iran that he said it made with Iraq ahead of the second Persian Gulf War.
Former President Jimmy Carter, meanwhile, said that even a pre-emptive strike against Iran's nuclear facilities "would not be successful," but he agreed with U.S. officials who have demanded more transparency from the Islamic republic.
In Belgium on Wednesday, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Iran must live up to its international obligations to halt its nuclear program or "the next steps are in the offing."
"It's obvious that if Iran cannot be brought to live up to its international obligations that, in fact, the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] statutes would suggest that Iran has to be referred to the U.N. Security Council," she told reporters after meeting NATO foreign ministers and European Union officials.
"The message is there, the Iranians need to get that message, and we can certainly always remind them that there are other steps that the international community has at its disposal should they not be prepared to live up to these obligations," the secretary of state said. (Full story)
Kay told CNN he is worried because he's hearing some of the same signals about Iran and its nuclear program that were heard as the Bush administration made its case for the war in Iraq.
"It's deja vu all over again," Kay said. "You have the secretary of defense [Donald Rumsfeld] talking about the problems of a nuclear-armed Iran. You have the vice president [Dick Cheney] warning about a nuclear-armed Iran and terrorism; you have [Secretary of State] Condoleezza Rice saying, 'Force is not on the agenda -- yet.' "
Kay said that much like what happened before the U.S.-invasion of Iraq in March 2003, most of the information concerning Iran's weapons program and capabilities is coming from dissidents who would like to see regime change.
As he put in a column in Monday's Washington Post, "There is an eerie similarity to the events preceding the Iraq war."
The Bush administration has also recently suggested that the matter of Iran's nuclear program be referred to the U.N. Security Council -- much as it demanded a resolution that Iraq give up its alleged weapons of mass destruction or face military action. Such weapons were never found in Iraq.
"It's amazing that we're talking about military action against Iran and we don't have a national intelligence estimate that shows what we do know, what we don't know and the basis for what we think we know," Kay told CNN.
Kay, who served as a U.N. weapons inspector in Iraq in the first Gulf War and as the chief U.S. inspector in the second war, said he has no doubt that Iran does have nuclear ambitions.
"The IAEA has now produced damning proof that for 18 years they cheated on their nuclear obligations," he said.
"But that doesn't prove that they've taken the final step toward a nuclear weapons program. They clearly have done all the preliminary work. The challenge now is to find a diplomatic basis that will keep them from going that last mile."
Kay said the United States must try through diplomatic means to deal with Iran and shouldn't rush into military action.
"Let the failure be Iranian failure, not failure of American diplomacy," he said.
An Iran armed with nuclear weapons would be especially treacherous because of its ties to terrorism, Kay said.
"We're in a dangerous time right now," he said.
Ex-president: Attack likely would fail
Carter told CNN Wednesday that the U.S. military was "bogged down in Iraq and overextended, in my opinion."
"I think diplomacy is a proper approach," he said, "And I believe that's exactly what President Bush is doing, as announced by Condoleezza Rice."
In last week's State of the Union address, Bush said the United States is working with European allies to convince Iran to give up its nuclear ambitions and "end its support for terror."
Iran insists its nuclear activities are legal and for peaceful purposes.
"Iran is a signatory of a [nuclear] nonproliferation treaty," Carter said. "Israel, for instance, is not. Iran still claims -- as backed up I think by the international commission on nuclear weapons -- that they are in compliance with the nonproliferation treaty.
"I don't know what the facts are, but I think that's going to be increasingly important for the world to ascertain," he said.
"And it may be that through the United Nations Security Council, the United States, the Europeans and others will continue to put increasing pressure on Iran ... to help reveal exactly what is the status of Iran's policies."
Carter pointed out that Iran does have a right, under the nonproliferation treaty, to develop a nuclear power program and to dispose properly of the program's waste.
"Whether they're doing it legally at this point, I don't know," said the former president and Nobel Peace Prize winner.
But Carter said that a pre-emptive strike against Iran -- such as Israel's 1981 attack taking out the Osirak facility in Iraq -- would have little chance of success because most Iranian nuclear facilities are now spread over a wide area and buried deep underground.
"It would just arouse the entire Middle East again in an antagonistic response against the United States," he said.
"And I'm not sure that we are prepared militarily now to take on another war."