U.S. admiral urges caution on Iran


Justin Webb, North America editor

BBC News
July 2, 2008


America's top military officer has said opening up a third front in the Middle East through a strike on Iran would be "extremely stressful" for US forces.

Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was commenting on the likelihood of US or Israeli military action over Iran's nuclear program.

Tensions have risen amid reports Israel may be planning a possible strike against Iran's nuclear facilities.

Iran denies its nuclear program is anything other than peaceful.

It has been clear for some time that Adm. Mullen does not want to attack Iran, but his latest remarks suggest that he is fighting hard behind the scenes for both the US and Israel to think carefully about the consequences of an attack before considering mounting it.

He said opening up a third front, after Iraq and Afghanistan, would be "extremely stressful, very challenging, with consequences that would be difficult to predict".

In response to a question about an Israeli attack on Iran, rather than American action, Adm. Mullen appeared to suggest that the US could not avoid becoming involved.

"My position with regard to the Iranian regime hasn't changed. They remain a destabilizing factor in the region," he said.

"But I'm convinced that the solution still lies in using other elements of national power to change Iranian behavior, including diplomatic, financial and international pressure."

He called for dialogue between the US and Tehran.

Adm. Mullen's boss, US President George W. Bush, has also been asked about recent speculation that there might be a military strike on Iran.

The president said all options were on the table but that military action would not be his first choice. His senior soldiers will be pleased to hear it.

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Published: 2008/07/02