Sanctions are not preventing Iran’s nuclear progress, the US Army commander in the Middle East told Congress on Tuesday, adding that he had prepared a military option.
A simple “No, sir” was General James Mattis’s response when asked whether “the current diplomatic and economic efforts to stop Iran from obtaining nuclear capability” were working.
“I think we have to continue sanctions, but have other options ready,” said Mattis, of the Central Command, to the Armed Services Committee during an official hearing.
Mattis said Iran could be convinced to alter its course by “a purely cost-benefit ratio,” but at the moment, he noted, the “nuclear industry continues” apace, despite sanctions.
“Between economic sanctions, diplomatic isolation, and encouragement of behavior that does not cost them such a degree of political support that they end up losing power, there may yet be a way to bring them to their senses,” the general stated.
Such means to bring Iran “to its knees,” Mattis commented in response to another question, did not necessarily entail “open conflict,” but a military operation is “one of the options that I have to have prepared for the president.”
Mattis’s statements came in the wake of a fresh effort on the part of the West to curb Iran’s nuclear program via diplomatic means, and echoed comments made by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday.
“We have to stop Iran’s nuclear enrichment program before it’s too late. Words alone will not stop Iran. Sanctions alone will not stop Iran. Sanctions must be coupled with a clear and credible military threat if sanctions fail,” Netanyahu told a room of some 13,000 AIPAC supporters in Washington by satellite feed from Jerusalem.
In an earlier speech, US Vice President Biden told the same crowd that President Barack Obama isn’t bluffing when he says he’ll use military action, if ultimately necessary, to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.
An Iranian spokesman on Tuesday said the country’s nuclear talks with world powers yielded “positive results” and assailed what he described as “negative” remarks by some Western officials following those negotiations.
According to Ramin Mehmanparast, the Foreign Ministry spokesman, some Western officials and media outlets are trying to portray the results of the talks last week in Almaty, Kazakhstan, in a bad light because of their own political agenda.
“It is a matter of surprise that some Western and regional countries, as well as their media outlets, are trying to cast a negative image on the talks, which had positive conclusions,” said Mehmanparast.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.