Retired Army General Lloyd Austin, US President-elect Joe Biden’s pick for the post of Secretary of Defense, said on Tuesday that Iran posed a threat to American allies in the region and forces stationed there.
Speaking during his confirmation hearing and quoted by Reuters, Austin said, “Iran continues to be a destabilizing element in the region. It does present a threat to our partners in the region and those forces that we have stationed in the region.”
“If Iran were ever to get a nuclear capability, most every problem we deal with in the region would be tougher to deal with because of that,” he warned.
Biden, who will be sworn in on Wednesday, will take office amid tensions between Washington and Tehran.
In recent weeks, the US military has several times flown nuclear-capable B-52 bombers to the Middle East.
Following a recent rocket attack on the US embassy in Baghdad, President Donald Trump warned that he would hold "Iran responsible" for any fatal attack on Americans in Iraq.
Iran’s Foreign Minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, later warned Trump against any "adventurism" before leaving the White House.
After taking office, Biden will have to deal with the issue of whether the US will return to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, from which Trump withdrew three years ago. Iran, in turn, has gradually scaled back its compliance with the 2015 deal.
Biden has taken a different approach to the Iran deal than Trump and has expressed a desire to rejoin the agreement. He recently told The New York Times that he would do so if Iran returned to compliance with it.