A former CIA director said Sunday he had come around to the view that military action against Iran's nuclear program "may not be the worst of the possible outcomes."
Michael Hayden, a retired US Air Force general and spy chief under president George W. Bush, said in an interview on CNN's State of the Union that sanctions have not succeeded in stopping the Islamic republic from pursuing nuclear weapons.
He expressed concern that Iran "will get itself to the step right below the nuclear weapon, the permanent breakout stage, so the needle is not in the red for the international community.
"And that will be as destabilizing as them actually having a weapon," he said. Hayden said that when he was in office the so-called "kinetic option," a euphemism for air strikes, was "way down on our list."
"In my personal thinking, and I need to emphasize that, I have begun to consider that may not be the worst of the possible outcomes."
In April the Pentagon said that while a military strike against Iran was off the table for the "near term," such action had not been ruled out.
The UN Security Council imposed a fourth set of sanctions on Iran in June, but Tehran, which insists its nuclear program has peaceful aims, has rejected demands that it halt a uranium enrichment program, which the West fears is aimed at producing fuel for atomic bombs.
The United States and the European Union have moved to further squeeze Tehran by imposing unilateral sanctions against the country's energy sector. The EU sanctions go into effect on Monday.