Mattis: Iran ‘Most Significant Threat’ To Regional Stability
By Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr.
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, March 5, 2013 Iran’s behavior poses the greatest risk to stability in the Middle East, the commander of U.S. Central Command said here today.
In testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Marine Corps Gen. James N. Mattis said “Iran remains the single-most significant regional threat to stability and prosperity,” adding that the Iranian government’s “Reckless behavior and bellicose rhetoric characterize a leadership that cannot win the affection of its own people or the respect of any responsible nation in the region.”
Iran’s continued support for the Assad regime in Syria, Mattis said, coupled with its maligned activities in the Middle East raise the risk of Iranian miscalculation sparking a disastrous conflict.
The general cited Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Bahrain, Yemen and Gaza as places where Iran has attempted to derail stability in the region.
Globally, Mattis listed Sudan, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Thailand, India, Georgia, Bulgaria, and Nigeria as other sites for Iran’s clandestine activities.
“Even here in Washington, D.C., [Iran made] an attempt to kill the Saudi ambassador,” he said. Iran remains a threat elsewhere in the world, as well as in the cyber domain, he said.
On Syria, Mattis was asked by a committee member if all options, including a military option are still available to President Barack Obama, and if so, if a plan was fully prepared.
“Those plans are fully developed,” he said.
Mattis also said he would have reservations about arming Syrian rebels battling the Assad regime.
“The situation is so complex that I have to get some degree of confidence that the weapons that we would be arming them with would not be going to people who are enemies,” he said.
“[This] would be the one caveat that I would put on any military advice to go forward along those lines,” Mattis added. “We don’t want, inadvertently, with the best of intentions, to arm people who are basically sworn enemies.”
Mattis noted he has not been tasked with such a mission and hadn’t “looked deeply” into implementing such a plan.
The general was also asked by the committee how long he believed rebels can sustain their resistance to the Assad regime, and if President Assad would be able to maintain control in Syria.
“We’re dealing with a fundamentally unpredictable situation. However, [the rebels are] eroding his power base,” Mattis said. “It is eroding the geographic base he controls daily.
“You see him using ballistic missiles to impact the areas he’s lost control [over],” the general continued. “Notice how the increased use of those missiles over the last month or two has been evident.”
Though Assad is losing ground, Mattis said, it’s difficult to forecast how long his regime can hold out.