Mullen Hints U.S. Strike on Iran would Rely on Air, Sea Power

Adm. Mullen: action against Iran would employ air, naval forces. Possibility of a ground war ‘very slim.’ Says U.S. and Israel are in agreement.

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Gil Ronen,

Adm. Mike Mullen
Adm. Mike Mullen
Charlie Rose show

Admiral Mike Mullen, the U.S. military’s Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, hinted in a weekend interview what a U.S. strike on Iran would look like.

Speaking on the Charlie Rose interview show about the possibility of a U.S. strike on Iran, Mullen said “that’s… a maritime part of the world, where the emphasis would certainly be on those two forces” – i.e., the Air Force and Navy. While Mullen did not say outright that he was talking about a U.S. strike on Iran, the context (from minute 32:00 onwards in the video) makes that clear.

Mullen denied that there was disagreement between the U.S. and Israel on the subject of Iran.

Israeli Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi is currenly in the U.S. where he will be meeting the heads of the defense establishment, as well as Dennis Ross, the U.S. Secretary of State’s special adviser for the Persian Gulf and Southwest Asia, to discuss the Iranian threat.

Referring to Ashkenazi, Mullen said: “I’ve been with my Israeli counterpart a number of times and, by and large, we see it the same way... We are in agreement and have been for the better part of six months or so. There was a time that we weren’t, but we’ve actually worked pretty hard to understand where we both are, so I think that generally we’re in agreement. But the Israelis for sure believe that the Iranians are on a path and are going to develop nuclear weapons.”

Risk posed by Israeli attack
Regarding the possibility of an Israeli attack on Iran, Mullen said: “What I worry about in terms of an attack on Iran is in addition to the immediate effect, the effect of the attack, it’s the unintended consquences. It’s the further destabilization in the region. It’s how they would respond. We have lots of Americans who live in that region who are under the threat envelope – rig
"We’ve got a very strong strategic reserve in our Air Force and in our Navy."
ht now – capability that Iran has across the Gulf. So I worry about the responses and I worry about it escalating in ways that we couldn’t predict. So that kind of option generates a much higher level of risk in terms of outcomes in the region and it really concerns me.”

Regarding a U.S. attack, however, Mullen said: “We have the capacity to do it but we are stretched. My ground forces are very stressed, very worn… On the other hand we’ve got a very strong strategic reserve in our Air Force and in our Navy and in fact that’s a part of the world, it’s a maritime part of the world, where the emphasis would certainly be on those two forces. And it’s not like the Navy and the Air Force haven’t been working hard at what we’ve doing but there’s plenty of capacity there.”

Mullen hinted that the U.S. was not considering a ground offensive against Iran: “The probability of a significant ground war somewhere else in the world [besides where U.S. forces are currently deployed – ed.] is very slim. If we had another conflict it would be principally our Air Force and our Navy.”

Adm. Dennis Blair, the new U.S. director of national intelligence, appeared before a congressional committee in Washington last week and estimated that "there is potential for an Iran-Israeli confrontation or crisis" over Iran’s nuclear progress, but said that the Israelis "take more of a worst-case approach to these things."

‘We’d cave in the roof before they got a bomb’
According to a New York Times analysis on the subject, “The Israelis have seized on the Iranian milestone [the U.N. confirmation that Iran had collected enough nuclear material to produce a bomb - ed.] to redouble pressure on the United States for a tougher stance against Iran and to remind the new American president that their patience has a limit. In fact, Israeli officials have quietly been delivering the message that the diplomacy Barack Obama wants to start with Iran should begin promptly — and be over quickly.”

The Times speculated that Israel could be bluffing when it makes signs that it would be ready to act alone, if necessary. “Mr. Obama’s top aides suspect that [Binyamin] Netanyahu, Israel’s likely next prime minister, will not risk acting alone. It would undercut his relationship with his most important ally before that relationship really gets going. But that’s a guess.”

“In the race between an Iranian bomb and bombing Iran, we would win,” Jeffrey G. Lewis, a nuclear specialist at the New America Foundation, a research group in Washington, told the Times. “We would cave in the roof before they got a bomb’s worth of material.”






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