Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff, Charles Brown Jr.
Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff, Charles Brown Jr.Sipa USA via Reuters Connect

General Charles Brown, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, warned on Sunday that an Israeli offensive in Lebanon has the potential to increase the risk of a broader conflict that draws in Iran and Iran-aligned terrorists, particularly if Hezbollah's existence is threatened, Reuters reported.

Speaking to reporters, Brown did not predict Israel's next steps and acknowledged Israel's right to defend itself, but cautioned that a Lebanon offensive "can drive up the potential for a broader conflict."

"Hezbollah is more capable than Hamas as far as overall capability, number rockets and the like. And I would just say I would see Iran be more inclined to provide greater support to Hezbollah," he said, according to Reuters.

"Again, all this could help to broaden the conflict in the region and really have Israel not only be worried about what's happening on their southern part of the country, but also now what's happening in the north," added Brown.

Brown noted that the United States could be more limited in its ability to defend Israel from attacks by Hezbollah than it was in helping intercept Iran's April missile and drone attack on Israel.

"From our perspective, based on where our forces are, the short range between Lebanon and Israel, it's harder for us to be able to support them in the same way we did back in April," Brown was quoted as having said.

Hezbollah has been firing rockets at Israel in solidarity with Hamas since the Gaza war erupted in October, forcing tens of thousands of Israelis to flee their homes in the north.

Israel has responded by striking Hezbollah targets in Lebanon, but there have been concerns in recent days that a further escalation could occur.

On Friday, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he is profoundly concerned by escalating tensions between Israel and Hezbollah.

"One rash move - one miscalculation - could trigger a catastrophe that goes far beyond the border, and frankly, beyond imagination," Guterres told reporters, adding, "Let's be clear: The people of the region and the people of the world cannot afford Lebanon to become another Gaza."

CNN reported on the weekend that US officials clarified to Israeli officials that the US will stand by Israel in a comprehensive confrontation with Hezbollah.

According to the report, during talks held by Minister Ron Dermer and the head of the National Security Council Tzachi Hanegbi in the US, senior American officials told them that if a war indeed breaks out between Israel and Hezbollah, the US will not deploy troops on the ground but will assist Israel in all necessary ways.

Dermer and Hanegbi met during their stay in Washington with senior American officials, including National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and White House Middle East Coordinator Brett McGurk.