James Woolsey, CIA director under Bill Clinton and a senior adviser to Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, said in a CNN interview on Monday that Iran may be a “relatively short time away” from developing nuclear weapons.
“Iran is a very serious problem already and will be a much bigger one very shortly,” he warned.
Woolsey was alarmed by recent developments in North Korea as well, recommending a show of American strength in the region, along the lines of a carrier battle group deployment. He worried that America may have developed a reputation as a “paper tiger” that would make any less impressive demonstration insufficient.
“I think that the situation with North Korea is worse than a lot of people realize,” he said. “Because they can orbit a satellite, and they can fire a nuclear weapon. They have nuclear weapons. If you can detonate a satellite with a nuclear weapon in it, up above the Earth in certain locations, you can knock out the electric grid underneath. That’s, to put it mildly, a very big problem.”
As it happens, former NASA mission controller Jim Oberg sounded this very same note of alarm a few weeks ago at The Space Review. Oberg warned that North Korea’s satellite program, conducted at great expense with seemingly very little to show for it, might have always been intended to deliver an EMP weapon into orbit. Such a strike would require very little precision and have no need of re-entry protection for the weapon, two areas in which North Korea lags conspicuously behind.
Woolsey said North Korea may be the most urgent threat, but Iran was a more “fundamental” threat.
“Iran is the world sponsor of terrorism all over the place, and they are really committed to the destruction of the United States,” he observed. “North Korea may be. Russia and China, especially Russia I think is a matter of some substantial concern. But I’d put North Korea and Iran right up there at the top.”
When CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer objected that Iran does not have the capability to destroy the United States, Woolsey replied, “Not yet with a nuclear weapon, but I don’t think they are many years away from a nuclear weapon.”
“I think they may be a relatively short time away,” he said. “And in terms of their attacks through terrorism, through the Revolutionary Guard and elsewhere throughout the Middle East and throughout other parts of the world, Iran is a very serious problem already — and will be a much bigger one very shortly.”
“You don’t accept the notion that they’re honoring their commitments to halt their nuclear program with the nuclear weapons deal — the nuclear deal that the U.N. put together, the U.S. participating in that?” Blitzer asked somewhat incredulously, citing reports that the Trump administration has signaled an increased willingness to honor the deal, despite stern criticism during the campaign.
“I think that the chance the Iranians are keeping their word is about as close to zero as diplomatic relationships go,” Woolsey replied.
Blitzer sputtered about the testimony from various sources that Iran is keeping the deal, prompting Woolsey to smile and say, “Maybe very briefly.”