It’s official: the U.S. approach of mixing sanctions and diplomatic outreach in order to persuade Iran to stop its nuclear weapons program is not getting the job done. So testified the top U.S. commander in the Middle East before a Senate committee on Tuesday, describing the Iranian side as using denial and deceit while it continues “enriching uranium beyond any plausible peaceful purpose.”
Gen. James Mattis, head of U.S. Central Command, warned that he believes Iran is using the endless, ongoing negotiations simply to buy time, AP reported.
“That should not be in any way construed as we should not try to negotiate. I still support the direction we’re taking,” Mattis told the Senate Armed Services Committee. “I’m just — I’m paid to take a rather dim view of the Iranians, frankly.”
Mattis’ no-nonsense view should work like a bucket of icy water poured over any Western diplomat’s remaining delusions regarding the course of sanctions and talks. In fact,
Continuing international worries and uncertainty over the purpose of Iran’s enrichment programs. Tehran denies any work on, or interest in, nuclear weapons, but international leaders believe its uranium enrichment is aimed at developing atomic weapons. Yukiya Amano, the director general of the UN International Atomic Energy Agency, said on Monday that he cannot guarantee that Iran’s nuclear activities are peaceful. Not as long as Tehran remains uncooperative and inspectors are not allowed access to sites where they believe work on weapons development is taking place.
The Obama administration has not ruled out—at least theoretically—using military action to prevent Iran from possessing a nuclear weapon. Gen. Mattis told senators that the U.S. military has the capability of forcing Iran to shut down its nuclear business.
“There are number of means to do that,” he said, “perhaps even short of open conflict. But certainly that’s one of the options that I have to have prepared for the president.”
Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., asked what the U.S. needs to do to prove that it is serious that it will not accept a nuclear-armed Iran.
“I fear that if they (Iran) continue to use negotiations to delay, that we will be at a point where they have nuclear-weapons capability, and then it’s too late,” she said.
Gen. Mattis pointed out that Iran is still dangerously involved in the civil war in Syria, backing the Bashar Assad regime against rebel forces, and that the Iranian Revolutionary Guard is directly involved in the fighting, with assistance from foreign mercenaries.
The General said chemical weapons sites in Syria are more vulnerable today, even after some of the weapons have been stored in more secure locations.
“Our planning is taking this into account to the degree that it can. And I’ll just tell you that we have options prepared,” he said.
Gen. Mattis noted that should the Assad regime fall, it would cause the “biggest strategic setback for Iran in 25 years.” Assad’s collapse, Mattis believes, would push Iran to arm and fund militias inside Syria, Iraq and Yemen.
Asked about arming the rebels seeking to overthrow Assad, Mattis said he was troubled by the fact that a “significant minority” of the rebel forces has extremist Islamic views and are linked to al-Qaida.