Opening a third front in the Middle East, by striking on Iran, would be “extremely stressful” for US forces, said America’s top military officer, Adm Mike Mullen (photo). The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff was commenting on the likelihood of US or Israeli military action over Iran’s nuclear programme.
The nuclear programme is only for peaceful purposes, says Iran.
It has been clear for some time that Adm Mullen does not want to attack Iran, says the BBC’s Justin Webb in Washington.
And his latest remarks even suggest that behind the scenes, he is fighting hard for both the US and Israel to think carefully about the consequences of an attack, before considering mounting it, says Justin Webb.
During a US defence department news conference, Amd Mullen refused to say what he had been told about any plan to strike Iran by Israeli leaders at meetings last week.
However, he warned that it would be “extremely stressful, very challenging, with consequences that would be difficult to predict” to open a third front, after Iraq and Afghanistan.
“This is a very unstable part of the world and I don’t need it to be more unstable”, he said when asked whether he was worried about Israel striking before the end of the year.
If a conflict began, Iran would have the capability to disrupt ship traffic through the strategic Strait of Hormuz, a waterway near the Persian Gulf, explained the admiral, but he did not say if the US Navy was stepping up its patrols in the region.
“I believe [Iran is] still on a path to get nuclear weapons and I think that’s something that needs to be deterred”, he said before adding : “My position with regard to the Iranian regime hasn’t changed. They remain a destabilising factor in the region.”
“But I’m convinced that the solution still lies in using other elements of national power to change Iranian behaviour, including diplomatic, financial and international pressure.”
He called for dialogue between the US and Tehran.
US president, George W. Bush, who is Adm Mullen’s boss, has also been asked about recent speculation that there might be a military strike on Iran. His answer was that all options were on the table, and that his first choice would not be military action would.
His senior soldiers will be pleased to hear it.