DETROIT, Aug. 26, 2010 - Iran's continued pursuit of nuclear capabilities is unacceptable in the eye of the U.S. government, Navy Adm. Mike Mullen said today.
"Iran is a particularly difficult issue," Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told local business leaders here. "Their achieving a nuclear weapon capability is unacceptable and incredibly destabilizing."
Mullen responded to this issue amid town halls with local business leaders and Wayne State University students here as part of his "Conversations with the Country." Local residents voiced concerns over the nature of the United States' efforts to stop Iran's nuclear ambitions.
"This is an enormous challenge," he said. "We're working hard to make sure either one of those outcomes doesn't occur, because I think either will be very bad for all of us."
The United States is still pursuing a diplomatic approach, he said. Financial sanctions were placed on Iran in June. Military intervention, the admiral added, is not an option the U.S. military currently wants to engage.
Mullen said there's much the U.S. government doesn't know about Iran. The countries haven't had an open dialogue with each other since 1979, he noted.
"We don't know each other very well," the admiral said. "You may think you know enough to understand the consequences, but I worry about miscalculation here. I worry about a small incident rolling itself into something that could get out of hand."
Iran's attainment of nuclear weapons would likely lead to a strike against Israel, Mullen said. The Israeli government has a "complete belief" that Iran has that in mind, he added.
"[Iran] is a regime that is a state sponsor of terrorism," he said, noting the Islamic state's links to al-Qaida and extremist fighters in Iraq and Afghanistan. "It is an existential threat. [Nuclear] capability in hand is an existential threat to Israel."
Mullen said he is hopeful that the issue can be resolved on diplomatic terms. However, ending Iran's nuclear pursuit is a "very difficult and complex problem."
"I think Iran is on path to achieve that capability, and we need to be mindful of that," Mullen said. "It's a very critical part of the world. It's a world that is reasonably unstable. And Iran continuing to expand on that does not bode well for any body in the world."
Mullen was in Detroit today as part of a three-day "Conversation with the Nation" tour across the Midwest. The trip is geared toward helping local community leaders, businessman and academics hone the skills and life experience among military veterans. He met with businessman and community leaders in Chicago yesterday and will be in Cleveland tomorrow.