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Gen. Mattis takes parting shot at administration’s Iran policy

Special to WorldTribune.com

WASHINGTON — An outgoing U.S. military commander, in an
assessment that disputed that of the intelligence community, warned that
Iran was moving steadily toward nuclear weapons capability.

Gen. James Mattis, ordered into early retirement amid reports that he
opposed the Iranian reconciliation policy of President Barack Obama, said
international sanctions on Teheran were not stopping Iran’s nuclear weapons
program.

Marine Gen. James Mattis, commander, U.S. Central Command, left, and Navy Adm. William McRaven, commander, U.S. Special Operations Command, listen during a Senate Armed Services committee hearing on Capitol Hill on March 5.  /Evan Vucci/AP

Marine Gen. James Mattis, commander, U.S. Central Command, left, and Navy Adm. William McRaven, commander, U.S. Special Operations Command, listen during a Senate Armed Services committee hearing on Capitol Hill on March 5. /Evan Vucci/AP

Mattis, head of Central Command, said Teheran’s strategy was to
negotiate while it sought to develop nuclear warheads.

“I believe they are trying to buy time with the negotiations,” Mattis
said. “But that should not be in any way construed as ‘We should not try to negotiate.’ ”

In testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee on March 5, Mattis did not specifically criticize the administration. But the general expressed skepticism of Obama’s effort to negotiate a resolution of the nuclear crisis.

“I still support the direction we’re taking,” Mattis said. “I’m just
paid to take a rather dim view of the Iranians, frankly.”

In late 2012, the Defense Department ordered that Mattis’ term at
Centcom be reduced by six months. Congressional sources linked the order to Mattis’ opposition to the administration’s policy on Iran, which included
the reduction of the U.S. military presence in the Gulf.

In his last appearance to the congressional committee as Centcom chief,
Mattis said the United States could defeat Iran. He said Centcom has drafted
options to stop Iran’s nuclear weapons program.

“There are number of means to do that, perhaps even short of open
conflict,” Mattis said. “But certainly that’s one of the options that I have
to have prepared for the president.”

The Centcom chief said Iran was being threatened by the Sunni revolt in
Syria, the leading ally of Teheran. He said the U.S. military was planning
contingencies for the fall of the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad as
well as the capture of chemical weapons facilities.

“The collapse of the Assad regime, sir, would be biggest strategic
setback for Iran in 25 years,” Mattis told the Senate panel.

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