The Missing Guest from the 2007 Bahamas Conference

By Eli Clifton

Retired Air Force General Charles “Chuck” Wald’s opinion piece in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal is worth a read for followers of LobeLog and the neocon ‘’echo chamber’’. Wald was one of the invited speakers at the ‘’Confronting The Iranian Threat: The Way Forward’’ event hosted by the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) in 2007.

We broke the story (here on LobeLog) about the off-the-record conference and got mentioned (although not by name) by Bret Stephens in his Wall Street Journal column as ”internet sleuths’’ who, ”…might have been disappointed to find that nothing by way of bombing coordinates for the pending attack on Iran’s nuclear installations were presented.’’

The event did include a panel discussion, “Meet FDD’s Experts Beachside” reception; to wit:

o “Military Response
o What policy options are on the table for slowing Iran’s nuclear development?
o Is there a military option that would end the development of the nuclear program?
o What type of response capabilities does the U.S. and its allies have if Iran were to employ the use of a nuclear weapon?”

In response we wrote:

”Charles “Chuck” Wald, who is listed on the program as a “speaker” on this panel did not actually make it to the conference, and he was the only person listed on the program with real military expertise. Wald, former deputy commander of the U.S. European Command (EUCOM), was the air component commander based at Prince Sultan Air Base in Saudi Arabia in charge of planning and deploying U.S. air power in the run-up to and during the U.S. military campaign that ousted the Taliban in Afghanistan in 2001, according to the Washington Post’s Bill Arkin. Although Wald is now much more interested in the national-security aspects of global warming and climate change, his views on air power and precision strikes against possible nuclear and military targets in Iran would obviously be relevant to the session’s agenda.’’

Wald’s article—”There Is a Military Option on Iran: U.S. Air Force and Naval forces could do serious damage to Tehran’s nuclear facilities if diplomacy fail’’—yesterday certainly suggests that he is actively picking out military targets and strategizing contingency plans for an attack on Iran.

His strategy for attacking Iran includes such incites as, “expand strategic partnerships with countries such as Azerbaijan and Georgia to pressure Iran from all directions.’’

Allies such as Azerbaijan and Georgia would be useful for basing bombers in a large-scale attack on Iran but it’s overstating to suggest that expanded alliances with Azerbaijan and Georgia would ‘’pressure Iran from all directions.’’

Wald does acknowledge that the Iranians could play a destabilizing role in Iraq especially if antagonized by an attack on their nuclear facilities and that a destruction of their enrichment capabilities wouldn’t kill the Iranian’s desire to make a nuclear weapon.

‘’Of course, there are huge risks to military action: U.S. and allied casualties; rallying Iranians around an unstable and oppressive regime; Iranian reprisals be they direct or by proxy against us and our allies; and Iranian-instigated unrest in the Persian Gulf states, first and foremost in Iraq.

Furthermore, while a successful bombing campaign would set back Iranian nuclear development, Iran would undoubtedly retain its nuclear knowhow. An attack would also necessitate years of continued vigilance, both to retain the ability to strike previously undiscovered sites and to ensure that Iran does not revive its nuclear program.’’

So a surgical attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities wouldn’t be a one-shot-deal. It would require years of ‘’vigilance’’ and potentially further strikes inside Iran. This, along with Iran’s ability to cause considerable difficulty for American and Iraqi forces in Iraq makes Wald’s proposal sound increasingly expensive both financially as well as in American, Iranian and Iraqi human lives.

Wald—much like his colleagues at the FDD conference in the Bahamas—believes that a peaceful resolution to Iran’s nuclear program would, ”be the best possible outcome’’ but it’s difficult to see the Iranians coming to the table with someone who describes them as, ”an existential threat to Israel,’’ as he did in his article. Then again, he does give lip-service to the idea that a military attack on Iranian should only be a “Plan B”.

That’s a “Plan B” that a number of people were talking about back in 2007 in the Bahamas.

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Eli Clifton

Eli Clifton reports on money in politics and US foreign policy. He is a co-founder of the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft. Eli previously reported for the American Independent News Network, ThinkProgress, and Inter Press Service.



  1. Wait a sec. You say it appears Wald is “actively picking out military targets and strategizing contingency plans for an attack on Iran.” The man is retired. If he’s picking out targets, he’s not doing it for the guys who can give the go order. You or I could pick out targets in our respective living rooms, or at a conference, or in a magazine article — so what? That doesn’t mean the bombs are going to fly.

    We already know that there are people who want to attack Iran. The question is, do they have the ear of Obama, or Gates, or the Chiefs? There is no interest on the part of anybody in power to strike Iran. I guarantee that as long as Gates is SecDef, there will be no use of the military option. That doesn’t mean the option will be taken off the table; you’ve got to keep the other fellow guessing. But this “crisis” is going to go on for years without resolution. The Iranians will keep working toward a bomb; the U.S. will not strike. Israel is another matter; I don’t pretend to know what it will do. I do think that if the Israelis decide that the U.S. isn’t going to attack Iran, then they’ll choose what seems to them an opportune time, and give it a go. But no matter how well such an attack appears to succeed, they will be opening a Pandora’s box.

    In case no one has noticed, Iraq’s stability is already in question. The mere presence of 130,000 U.S. troops on Iraqi soil is serving to hold down some of the violence, but the situation is worsening. When we are down to 50,000 troops, there will probably be a return to sectarian warfare. The progress achieved by the surge will be shown to be a house of cards.

    Consider the following scenario: the U.S. is bogged down in Afghanistan, Iraq collapses into chaos, and Israel attacks Iran, inflicting heavy civilian casulaties. Meanwhile the U.S. is running trillion-dollar annual budget deficits with a “jobless recovery” and the number of citizens in poverty reaching a record number. What would that signify? The beginning of the end of the American empire, and beginning of an age in which China is the world’s “sole superpower.”

  2. per comments on the wald being retired, this would be a problem if things always worked. we know that the neocons had a preconstructed and detailed fantasy and took advantage of a tragedy which they saw as an opportunity in pushing it. in this sense it could be thee engineering stage of another simmering and even more dangerous fantasy. the actors are largely the same and it worked for them the first time. second, on iran and the bomb, i find it necessary to correct your offhanded charge that they are working towards the bomb. that contrasts directly with what the iaea and our own intelligence say. the more honest assertion is a desire to master the full cycle and the fact that this in effect represents a breakout capability, the very fact of which in itself is a bit of a game-changer.

  3. Be that as it may, Wald’s picking targets still means nothing in the real world — or do you think the Obama administration will turn to him and his fellow neocons for military advice? The difference between now and the Bush years is that back then Cheney and Rumsfeld and the neocons on their staffs were driving policy. I think there’s a fundamental difference between Obama-Biden-Gates on the one hand, and Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld on the other.

    All grownups know Iran wants the bomb, and is working towards getting it. The only uknown is the timetable Why would an Iranian breakthrough towards a bomb be a “game-changer?” If we allow pseudo-countries like Pakistan to have the bomb, why not the Iranians? Why should we worry, given that we have a counterstrike capability that could literally annihilate the Iranian state and people? Iran isn’t going to use nukes against us. So why should Americans care?

  4. “Why should we worry, given that we have a counterstrike capability that could literally annihilate the Iranian state and people? Iran isnâ??t going to use nukes against us. So why should Americans care?”

    Of course they aren’t going to.
    The whole ” threat” to the world propaganda spin on Iran is a crock of s*** from the ususal suspects.

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