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March 2, 2007

Neoconservative foresees Iran showdown in CFI talk

Controversial foreign policy expert Richard Perle opened with a grim prediction in his lecture, “Middle East Peace: Illusion or Reality?” on Wednesday at Swift Hall.

“Peace in the Middle East is not a reality now, nor will it be any time soon,” Perle said. “We’ve seen a lot of violence, and we’re going to see a lot more of it.”

In his Chicago Friends of Israel (CFI) talk, the former Reagan and Bush Administration official painted a portrait of inevitable bloodshed, most notably in reference to future relations with Tehran and the Iranian people.

Perle spent most of his time responding to audience questions, entertaining the possibility of a preemptive attack on Iran’s nuclear capabilities, how best to build a stable state in Iraq, and dissatisfaction with American policy toward Saudi Arabia.

A designer and long-time defender of the Bush Administration’s policy of preemptive attacks on potential foreign enemies, Perle reiterated his support for the “strike first” doctrine. While he acknowledged its difficulties, he pointed to issues with intelligence gathering rather than the principle itself as problematic.

“It seems to me it’s a pretty common sense notion to destroy the missile on the launch pad. It gets more complicated with the missile in the factory or the missile in development…but generally the concept seems quite ordinary,” Perle said.

He repeatedly referred to the Israeli attack on the Iraqi nuclear facility at Osirak in 1981 as the model for a U.S. strike against Iran and stressed that Iranian entrance into the nuclear weapons club would be unacceptable.

“If this president were to be informed that the last critical moment to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities had arrived, I think he would order an attack,” Perle said. “I would not exclude the possibility that Hillary Clinton, John McCain, Rudy Giuliani or whoever will be the next president would think this scenario through and come to the same conclusion.”

Once considered to be a top adviser to the Bush White House, Perle has attacked the administration in recent months for their post-invasion strategy in Iraq.

“I am not at all sure we will succeed in Iraq,” he said.

Perle served as the chairman of the Defense Policy Board Advisory Committee from 2001 to 2003, was a member of that organization from 1987 to 2004, and served as assistant secretary of defense for International Security Policy from 1981 to 1987.

Perle made his appearance on campus after two years of contact with CFI, whose original proposal to host the event at the Oriental Institute was controversially rejected last month based on the Institute’s Facilities Rental Agreement Policy, which prohibits events of a religious or political nature.