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Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Top commander to Senate Armed Services Committee: Iran sanctions not working

Gen. James Mattis, head of U.S. Central Command, told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday that the policy of trying to change Iranian behavior through sanctions is not working. No kidding....
Gen. James Mattis, head of U.S. Central Command, said it still may be possible to use sanctions and other pressure to bring Tehran "to its senses." But he also warned that he believes Iran is using the ongoing negotiations to buy time.
"That should not be in any way construed as we should not try to negotiate. I still support the direction we're taking," Mattis told the Senate Armed Services Committee. "I'm just — I'm paid to take a rather dim view of the Iranians, frankly."
Mattis' blunt assessment comes amid continuing international worries and uncertainty over the purpose of Iran's enrichment programs. Tehran denies any work on, or interest in, nuclear weapons, but international leaders believe its uranium enrichment is aimed at developing atomic weapons. The head of the U.N. nuclear agency said Monday that he can't guarantee that Iran's nuclear activities are peaceful unless Tehran is more cooperative and inspectors are allowed access to sites where they believe work on weapons development may be taking place.


Mattis also said Iran continues to pose an increasing security threat in Syria, where the Tehran government is backing the Assad regime against opposition forces, and that Iran's Iranian Revolutionary Guard is in the fight and bringing in other foreign fighters. Asked whether the U.S. has contingency plans to deal with the possible collapse of the regime, Mattis said there is "quiet planning" going on with other allies in the region.
He said chemical weapons sites in Syria are becoming increasingly vulnerable due to the chaos and civil war going on, even though as the fighting continues some weapons have been transferred to more secure locations.
"Our planning is taking this into account to the degree that it can. And I'll just tell you that we have options prepared," he said.
Mattis added that a collapse of the Assad regime would be the "biggest strategic setback for Iran in 25 years." If that happened, Mattis said he believes Iran would arm militias inside Syria and redouble efforts in other countries such as Iraq and Yemen.
Asked about arming the rebels seeking to overthrow Assad, Mattis said he has concerns because a "significant minority" of the opposition has extremist Islamic views and some are linked to al-Qaida.
 I'm sure he wasn't asked, but I wonder whether Mattis believes that the situation  would be different - and still could be different - if the United States were to lead rather than to follow. Unfortunately, we can all see Iran going nuclear while Obama waits for UN approval for a strike and Russia and China play the veto game.

What could go wrong?

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