As many different attempts to stop Iran’s nuclear program have failed, the options are narrowing. Hayden agreed and further noted that “some of the options we felt very uncomfortable with, like kinetic actions, seem to be moving up the list as other options drop off and are reduced. It’s simple math that as the options narrow those that remain are getting fewer.”
What can be drawn from the CNN interview is that the military action option has raised the stakes but by no means is it inevitable. When asked about this point, Hayden stated that “there is kinetic action that can be taken against Iran. No one said it would be easy.” Although Hayden did not address the character of kinetic action during the interview, he explained that such action can include a conventional military attack as well as other options.
Given the fact that Iran might remain in a breakout stage, could America resort back to the deterrence option that was used during the Cold War? Hayden noted that “it took us a long time to get a balance with the Soviet Union. What does deterrence mean today? Will the Gulf States be as comfortable with the American promise as the Europeans were? Will the Saudis sit by and be as comfortable under the American umbrella as the Germans? Or will the Saudis try to get their own? We just don’t know.”
Placing Hayden’s CNN statements into a proper framework is important. His comments about Iran’s nuclear ambitions are too vital an issue to be reduced to a series of sound bites and headlines. Since America’s options seem to be narrowing, he felt that “deterrence is one of the options that remain, but do you bet the farm that you can deter them? That is the context of what I was saying yesterday.”