Ma­rine gen­eral says U.S. can’t stop Iran alone

The Washington Times Daily - - World - BY KRISTINAWONG

The top U.S. com­man­der in the Mid­dle East said Tues­day that the United States, alone, can­not stop Iran from de­vel­op­ing nu­clear weapons, as De­fense Sec­re­tary Leon E. Panetta promised that mil­i­tary force against Iran re­mains an op­tion if di­plo­macy fails.

The con­trast­ing state­ments came at a del­i­cate time for Is­rael, as the Jewish state presses for U.S. as­sur­ances to strike sus­pected Ira­nian nu­clear sites if Iran re­mains un­de­terred by di­plo­macy and tough in­ter­na­tional sanc­tions.

The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion, mean­while, is urg­ing Is­rael to give more time to di­plo­macy.

Ma­rine Corps Gen. James Mat­tis, head of the U.S. Cen­tral Com­mand, told the Se­nate Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee that the United States has few op­tions to stop the Ira­ni­ans from build­ing an atomic bomb.

“The best we can do is to de­lay them,” he said. “Only the Ira­nian peo­ple can stop this pro­gram.”

Mean­while Tues­day, Mr. Panetta told the Amer­i­can Is­rael Public Af­fairs Com­mit­tee (AI­PAC) that the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion will use mil­i­tary force if nec­es­sary.

“We want di­plo­macy to work. We will back this di­plo­macy with strong and in­creas­ing pres­sure, and we will keep all op­tions — in­clud­ing mil­i­tary ac­tion — on the ta­ble to pre­vent Iran from ob­tain­ing a nu­clear weapon,” he said.

“As the pres­i­dent has made clear, the United States does not bluff. The pres­i­dent has shown that we will do what­ever is nec­es­sary to pro­tect our peo­ple, to pro­tect our al­lies and to pro­tect our in­ter­ests.”

Pres­i­dent Obama this week tried to re­as­sure Is­raeli Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu that the United States will stand by Is­rael.

“The United States will al­ways have Is­rael’s back,” Mr. Obama said Mon­day af­ter meet­ing with Mr. Ne­tanyahu at the White House.

Also Mon­day, the Is­raeli leader ad­dressed the AI­PAC con­fer­ence and warned that time is run­ning out for Is­rael to de­cide whether to act alone against Iran.

“Is­rael has waited for di­plo­macy to work . . .. None of us can af­ford to wait much longer,” he said.

Mr. Obama on Tues­day told re­porters in Washington that he be­lieves the West still has more time to stop Iran.

“This no­tion that some­how we have a choice to make in the next week or two weeks or month or two months is not borne out by the facts,” he said.

At his AI­PAC speech, Mr. Ne­tanyahu dis­missed ar­gu­ments against a mil­i­tary strike in Iran.

“Some com­men­ta­tors would have you be­lieve that stop­ping Iran from get­ting the bomb is more dan­ger­ous than let­ting Iran have the bomb,” he said.

“They say that a mil­i­tary con­fronta­tion with Iran would un­der­mine the ef­forts al­ready un­der way; that it would be in­ef­fec­tive; and that it would pro­voke an even more vin­dic­tive re­sponse by Iran. I’ve heard these ar­gu­ments be­fore.

“But when it comes to Is­rael’s sur­vival, we must al­ways re­main the mas­ters of our fate.”

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

The U.S. will use mil­i­tary force to stop Iran from build­ing an atomic bomb if nec­es­sary, De­fense Sec­re­tary Leon E. Panetta told the Amer­i­can Is­rael Public Af­fairs Com­mit­tee in Washington on Tues­day. Ma­rine Corps Gen. James Mat­tis, head of U.S. Cen­tral Com­mand, on Capi­tol Hill, said of Iran, “the best we can do is to de­lay them.”

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