News / USA

Cuban Missile Crisis Lessons for Iran

In this October 25, 1962 file photo, U.S. Ambassador Adlai Stevenson, far right, describes aerial photographs of launching sites for intermediate range missiles in Cuba during an emergency session of the United Nations Security Council at U.N. Headquarter
In this October 25, 1962 file photo, U.S. Ambassador Adlai Stevenson, far right, describes aerial photographs of launching sites for intermediate range missiles in Cuba during an emergency session of the United Nations Security Council at U.N. Headquarter
Historians agree that in October of 1962, U.S. President John F. Kennedy and Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev squared off in a showdown that brought the world to the brink of nuclear war.
Sergei Khrushchev, son of the Soviet leader and a professor at Brown University, says the crisis was ultimately resolved peacefully because both leaders were rational men.
“We were very lucky that the two leaders were balanced and reasonable and their policy was not shoot first then think, but first think, then, second time, think and maybe don’t shoot at all,” he said.
Shortly after the missile crisis, Kennedy and Khrushchev established a “hotline” between Washington and Moscow providing for direct communications between the White House and the Kremlin. It is in operation to this day. The two men also signed a test ban treaty, ending nuclear testing everywhere but underground.
“But then Kennedy was assassinated, then Khrushchev was ousted from power,” said Professor Khrushchev. “I think that if these two leaders would have been in power longer, it is a big possibility that the Cold War would have been over. But history decided in a different way and we returned to the Cold War and all this crazy arms race until the Gorbachev time,” he said.
Experts such as Graham Allison of Harvard University say there are lessons to be learned from the crisis, which even President Kennedy admitted.
“(Kennedy said) the lesson out of this is that we have to avert crises that lead to confrontations in which an adversary has to choose between humiliating retreat and war,” said Allison, adding that President Barack Obama is facing a similar situation with Iran’s suspected nuclear weapons program, which Allison calls a “Cuban Missile Crisis in slow motion.”
“The president is going to be faced with an option between acquiescing in Iran acquiring a nuclear bomb — that’s one option,” he said. “Or alternatively, attacking Iran to prevent it acquiring a nuclear bomb — so attack or acquiesce.
“The implication of that for where we stand with Iran today is, if you look at attacking Iran and the consequences of that, they look pretty ugly,” he said. “And if you look at acquiescing to Iran becoming a nuclear-weapon state and the consequences that will have in the very volatile region of the Middle East — and likely trigger further proliferation in other states like Saudi Arabia — that looks pretty ugly.”
Allison said the U.S. administration must search for a third option, as did President Kennedy during the Cuban Missile Crisis.
“I would hope that immediately after the election, the U.S. government will also turn intensely to the search for something that’s not very good — because it won’t be very good — but that is significantly better than attacking on the one hand or acquiescing on the other,” he said.
For his part, Professor Khrushchev favors dialogue.
“We have to negotiate with Iran, not threatening them with different sanctions, but negotiate on the highest level, American president with Iranian president," said the professor. "And I don’t think that President Kennedy loved Khrushchev more than President Obama loves President Ahmadinejad, but they understood — Kennedy and Eisenhower — that you have to talk with them, because if you are talking with your enemy, you can influence them and you can better understand them.”
If the Iranian crisis cannot be resolved peacefully and it comes to war, says Professor Khrushchev, the United States would win. But, asks the son of the former Soviet leader, at what price?

Andre de Nesnera

Andre de Nesnera is senior analyst at the Voice of America, where he has reported on international affairs for more than three decades. Now serving in Washington D.C., he was previously senior European correspondent based in London, established VOA’s Geneva bureau in 1984 and in 1989 was the first VOA correspondent permanently accredited in the Soviet Union.

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Comments page of 2
by: ibrahim mohamed from: mogadishu
October 16, 2012 12:31 PM
the US of America attacked on Iraq by justifying of having dangerous missiles, and now if they try take war against with Iran, it will encounter great damage if it tries to fight with Iran, because it is known that American economy is on the brink of totally collapse, hence peaceful negotiation is still open rather than war against with Iran.

by: George from: USA
October 15, 2012 10:06 PM
Steve from: Colorado Springs: They won't print my response. But, I would love to see your references. Do you include Israeli media in your search of Middle East sources?

by: George from: USA
October 15, 2012 5:56 PM
Steve from Colorado Springs: So, you think I watch Fox News? It is you who must be watching it. So, why don't you list some of the objective sources that you found that say "Iran is building a bomb, in collusion with North Korea, Pakistan."

By the way, do you include Israeli media in your Middle East source? Even Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya lie too. None of these sources are credible.
You are indeed brainwashed by neo-con and Israeli propaganda. Two NIEs said Iran is not building nukes. Even Panetta has said so and you disagree? Do you have your own intelligence agency?

by: Steve from: Colorado Springs U.S.A.
October 15, 2012 12:35 PM
Hi George
Your overall belligerent tone puts any attempt to communicate with anyone like you impossible. Do you know what the word research means? In under 10 minutes I've found numerous stories from middle eastern newspapers confirming everything I mentioned earlier. I wonder if your name is even George?
Stop watching CNN/FOX, it's rotting your brain!

by: CharleyX from: USA
October 15, 2012 10:00 AM
Gee.. I wonder which way Barack HUSSEIN Obama will go.

by: George from: USA
October 14, 2012 11:37 AM
Typically, VOA mostly prints negative comments about Iran. In particular, what is the justification for the comment by "Steve from: Colorado Springs," which is based purely on speculation, to be printed here. On the other hand, my earlier comment pointing out this fact was apparently not approved. I guess people do not deserve to know what is really going on in the world

by: George from: USA
October 14, 2012 4:03 AM
Steve from: Colorado Springs

You say, "Iran is building a bomb, in collusion with North Korea, Pakistan, Russia and China." Where did you get your information? Did you use your crystal ball or did a little bird come and tell this fairy tale? You are hilarious.

So, how did you do your research? Do you have your own intelligence agency? Please enlighten us about any concrete evidence that you have you about all your ridiculous claims.

by: Steve from: Colorado Springs, U.S.A.
October 13, 2012 7:21 PM
Iran is building a bomb, in collusion with North Korea, Pakistan,
Russia and China there are more than enough resources to help this maniacal theology not only build nuclear weapons but the delivery systems as well. Do a little research and you will know these things to be true. I trust the u.n as much as I trust U.S. politicians for getting any real truth and honesty!

by: George from: USA
October 13, 2012 1:20 PM
Iran does not have nuclear weapons and is not building any. How many times does one have to repeat this fact? Two NIEs have said the same thing and even Panetta has repeated it. So, why do we have this silly repetition of the same nonsense over and over again?

Claiming that Iran will not be allowed to have nuclear weapons is like saying Iran will not be allowed to go to Mars. Iran has no interest in going to Mars or to build useless nuclear weapons. No one can use nukes in today’s world.

by: Douglas from: Ghana
October 13, 2012 9:17 AM
Iran getting a nuclear bomb is obviously the worst idea. The USA will never attack Iran without repercussions or consequences. There will surely be seroius damage to an already weak economy. But i think the price is worth it. I don't like the hate comments made by Iran and allies such as hezbollah, hamas etc about Israel. However, i urge Israel to avoid provoking Iran in any way. It is not necessary. Peace is what the world needs.
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