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Mullen: Iran Concerns Middle Eastern Neighbors

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 22, 2010 – Just back from a trip to the Middle East, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff today cited widespread concern about Iran’s nuclear program, but emphasized the importance of diplomatic and economic pressure, rather than military action, to stem it.  Video

“Let me be clear: We owe the secretary [of defense] and the president a range of options for this threat. We owe the American people our readiness,” Navy Adm. Mike Mullen said. “But as I’ve said many times, I worry a lot about the unintended consequences of any sort of military action.”

For now, Mullen said, the “diplomatic and economic levers of international power” are the appropriate responses to Iran’s actions in defiance of international law and the international community.

“Indeed, I would hope they are always and consistently pulled,” he said. “No strike, however effective, will be, in and of itself, decisive.”

Mullen cited concern about Iran as an overarching theme during his recent visit to Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. All share the U.S. belief that Iran’s nuclear program is headed on a path to achieve weaponization – a pursuit Mullen said further destabilizes the region.

“Like us, it isn’t just a nuclear-capable Iranian military our friends worry about,’ he said. “It’s an Iran with hegemonic ambitions and a desire to dominate its neighbors. This outcome drives many of the national security decisions our partners there are making, and I believe we must be mindful of that as we look to the future, post-Iraq and post-Afghanistan.”

Throughout his visit, Mullen said, he was encouraged that despite varying perspectives, each country shared a common goal of stability and security for the region. The chairman said he also was struck that U.S. military relationships in the region continue to strengthen.

“Our partners want to engage,” he said. “They want to exercise and operate with us, and they want to pursue new and innovative ways to tackle common challenges there and around the world.”

He cited the Egyptians’ pride in the recent Bright Star exercise, with a goal of building on it in the future. Meanwhile, the Israelis are reaching out beyond the immediate region to the wider world to contribute unique humanitarian skills and capabilities. Mullen noted the Israeli military’s medical contributions on the ground in Haiti.

The Jordanians continue to contribute to United Nations peacekeeping missions around the world, and have provided medical support in Iraq and Afghanistan. Mullen said he was impressed by a new special operations training center he toured, and its potential for preparing modern militaries for counterterrorism operations.

While in Saudi Arabia, Mullen learned of the valuable lessons the Saudis have learned working with the Yemeni government to deal with rebel leader Yahia Badreddin al-Houti and his followers.

And in United Arab Emirates, Mullen toured a new advanced training center that he said “provides virtually unimpeded training opportunities” to regional air forces while improving real-world tactical air coordination.

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Navy Adm. Mike Mullen

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Transcript: Gates, Mullen Briefing

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