The growing prospect of an Iran capable of nuclear weapons will be the most pressing national security issue as Barack Obama takes office as president, former Sen. Charles S. Robb told the World Affairs Council of Greater Richmond last night.
During a dinner at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, the former Virginia governor and U.S. senator received the council's Woodrow Wilson Award for International Engagement.
The council also honored John Adams Jr., chief executive officer of The Martin Agency, with its George C. Marshall Award for International Commerce.
The council presented its teacher of the year award to Clare Sisisky, director of the Center for the Humanities for Henrico County Public Schools.
Robb, a senator from 1989 to 2001, noted that he has "failed retirement miserably." In recent years he has served on a series of high-profile panels dealing with national security, including the Iraq Study Group. President Bush appointed Robb as co-chairman of the Commission on Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction.
Last night he spoke chiefly about his recently concluded work with former Sen. Daniel R. Coats, an Indiana Republican, as co-chairmen of the Bipartisan Policy Center's national security task force on Iran.
An Iran with nuclear weapons capability is "strategically untenable," Robb said.
He said "the complete cessation" of nuclear enrichment activities inside Iran is "the only acceptable end state." He said a diplomatic solution can succeed only if the U.S. negotiates from a position of strength, through stricter sanctions and better coordination with U.S. allies.
Robb said Obama must convince Israel that the U.S. will not allow Iran to achieve nuclear weapons capability, so that Israel is not compelled "to take unilateral action." He said military action against Iran should be "an option of last resort."
Following Robb's address, the council honored Adams of the Martin Agency, a company known for its ad campaigns on behalf of GEICO, UPS and Wal-Mart, among many others.
Adams noted that as brands become global they have come to represent not only companies, but nations, acting like "small calling cards." In addition to this phenomenon of "the brand as envoy," he noted the rise of universal "world brands" such as Coca-Cola, Adidas and, in the ultimate example, the Olympic Games.
Adams said Martin carefully chooses the companies it represents.
He said he was proud to note that he drove in on Michelin tires, that he wore a Seiko watch, that he ships packages by UPS -- and that he was "very comfortable tonight" in his Hanes underwear.