By Pam Benson
The chairman of the House intelligence committee tells CNN the U.S. military needs to do more to "scare" Iran away from pursuing nuclear weapons.
Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Michigan, made the comment in response to a question about a new report by the Bipartisan Policy Center that says the United States must put more teeth into its threat to use military power to stop Iran's nuclear ambitions.
In an interview with CNN, Rogers said more needs to be done: "I'm not saying we ought to bomb Iran, but you almost have to scare them, you have to frighten them to get to the right place."
The report from the Washington think tank recommended the United States should undertake visible, credible military preparations to go along with more intense sanctions and diplomatic efforts. The military activities could include naval deployments, military exercises and pre-positioning supplies in the region.
The report also said the United States should give credibility to the Israeli military threat against Iran by selling Israel two to three KC-135 aerial refueling tankers and 200 GRU-31 bunker-buster munitions.
In order to stop Iran's nuclear clock, the report said, the United States "needs to make clear that Iran faces a choice: it can either abandon its nuclear program through a negotiated arrangement or have its program destroyed militarily, by the United States."
Former Sen. Chuck Robb, who co-chaired the task force that wrote the report, said the group is advocating neither war nor a military strike at the moment, but believes the U.S. will only be effective if it takes credible steps to let Iran know it is serious.
"(To) the extent we are more credible, the chances for using force goes down," Robb said.
However, Pentagon spokesman Capt. John Kirby said the U.S. is satisfied with its current military posture. He said Defense Secretary Leon Panetta "has made it clear that he is comfortable with the military capabilities we have and operate in the region."
However, Kirby said, "the U.S. military must and will be ready to provide the president options should those options be desirable."
Robb stressed any sale of arms to Israel is not meant to encourage the Israelis to strike.
"What we're doing is giving them more credibility, which clearly will be factored into any decision that Iran may make with respect to whether they can get away with, or survive without much damage, a strike that might be engaged in by Israeli forces," Robb said.
But a U.S. government official who supports giving Israel the tools it needs to defend itself, cautioned, "The one catch in this is, you have to be careful that it doesn't look like the United States is prepping Israel to do this by itself. An Israel attack by itself causes a huge problem," the official said, potentially inflaming the Middle East and forcing U.S. allies in the region to oppose an attack.
Iran dominated a Senate intelligence committee hearing Tuesday on worldwide threats. Lawmakers voiced worries that any effort to stop Iran's nuclear program could be too little, too late, and some said something needed to be done urgently to prevent Iran from crossing the threshold to possessing nuclear weapons.
Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, D-California, warned that "2012 will be a critical year for convincing or preventing Iran's development of a nuclear weapon."
Sen. Dan Coats, R-Indiana, said the time to act is now. But, he said, after a decade of unsuccessful efforts to stop Iran's nuclear program, he fears Iran will get a nuclear weapon, much as North Korea did.