Republican Party presidential hopeful Jon Huntsman suggested on Sunday that Iran’s suspected nuclear weapons program may be unstoppable. “They’ve already decided for themselves they want nuclear status,” he said.
Huntsman, a former Utah governor and ambassador to China, contrasted North Korea’s international status to Libya’s on CNN’s GPS. “Nobody is touching North Korea,” he pointed out, which is assumed to posses several, rudimentary nuclear devices.
Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi, by contrast, gave up his weapons of mass destruction program only to be deposed in a NATO supported insurrection in August.
It’s no surprise therefore, said Huntsman, that Iran has decided that “credibility comes with nuclear status.” An Iranian nuclear capacity, however, “runs the risk then of proliferation problems that would be unmanageable in the region.”
The former chief of Saudi Arabia’s intelligence directorate forecast a nuclear arms last week if Iran’s quest for nuclear status is successful. Second rate powers in the region, including Egypt and Turkey, may desire a nuclear deterrent of their own to balance against the specter of Iranian hegemony in the Middle East.
As Huntsman put, “as long as the centrifuges are spinning, as long as they’re moving toward what could very well be enough fissile material for a weapon, I say we have a problem.” He said he wasn’t “at all optimistic about where this is taking us” although he didn’t volunteer a policy of containment beyond sanctions and surveillance.
Other presidential contenders have been more assertive. Notably former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, the presumptive nominee, advocated war if Iran’s nuclear efforts could not be halted. “If we reelect Barack Obama, Iran will have a nuclear weapon. If we elect Mitt Romney,” he promised, “they will not have a nuclear weapon.”
Former House speaker Newt Gingrich, who currently tops the Republican field in opinion polls, suggested that the United States should consider “taking out [Iranian] scientists” and “breaking up their systems, all of it covertly, all of it deniable” during a foreign policy debate in November.
Huntsman and Gingrich are scheduled to debate one on one in the early primary state of New Hampshire on Monday after the former wasn’t invited to participate in a televised ABC News debate on Sunday because his nationwide polling numbers are stuck in the single digits. Huntsman hopes to do well in New Hampshire though where his nonhysterical brand of conservatism could appeal to centrist voters.