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."
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