ABC News' Jonathan Karl Reports: In contrast to U.S. officials who have consistently called a nuclear Iran unthinkable, former CENTCOM commander John Abizaid told reporters Monday that he believes the United States could live with a nuclear Iran.
"There are ways to live with a nuclear Iran," Abizaid said. "I believe we have the power to deter Iran if they go nuclear" he said, just as we deterred the Soviet Union and China. "Iran is not a suicidal nation. Nuclear deterrence would work with Iran."
Even so, Abizaid said the U.S. keep up the pressure to try to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons because that would lead to further nuclear proliferation in the region. Asked if bombing Iran would be an option, he said, "We should not preclude any option" but: "War would be devastating to everyone, and we should avoid it to every extent we can."
Abizaid's comments came in response to questions following a news-less speech to the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.
Asked about Iraq, Abizaid said he believe it will take "three to five years" to stabilize the country, but he would not say how many U.S. forces would be required. It is important to reduce the U.S. "footprint" in Iraq over time, he said, but mandating a withdrawal timeline would be a mistake because "military commanders need flexibility." He would not comment directly on the current policy or on General Petraeus's assessment.
He also had tough words about Europe's approach to fighting terrorism. Al Qaeda, he said, has "an intellectual safe haven" in Europe that makes it easier for them to operate there, in some cases, than in the Middle East.