In a little-noticed exchange Tuesday at the Senate Armed Services Committee, a top US general said he had no doubt Israel would attack Iran if the Islamic Republic reached a critical point in its nuclear weapons drive. Furthermore, said General James Mattis, Israel could so without the assistance of the United States.
Mattis, who is retiring this month as head of the US army's Central Command, which includes the Middle East and North Africa, was responding to questions from Sen. Lindsey Graham, who asked him whether he believed Israel would strike at Iran if the regime "reached a critical point in terms of nuclear capability."
Responded Mattis: "The Israelis have said so; I take them at their word."
Graham followed up by asking whether Israel would need US assistance to carry out such an attack. Said Mattis, "They could conduct a strike without our help."
Asked next whether the US should assist in such an Israeli attack, Mattis said, "That would depend on what the objective of the strike is. Is it to stop them, is it to delay them, is it how long do you want to delay them, is there a broader effort...?"
Last summer, the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey, said he would not want to be "complicit" in an Israeli strike on Iran, which could undo US-led international pressure on Iran if carried out prematurely.
Graham then asked the general what kind of US attack he would recommend -- a limited strike or one that targeted Iran's navy, air force and Revolutionary Guard. Mattis said that "I owe confidentiality to the president" on that question.
Finally, Graham asked him whether a nuclear Iran would lead other regional states to seek similar nuclear capabilities. Mattis said he had been told by "the leadership" of at least one Sunni state that they would indeed pursue a nuclear capability in such a case, and he believed other states would too.
In the same session, Mattis said flatly that sanctions were not preventing Iran's nuclear progress, adding that he had prepared a military option for the president.
SOURCE: AARON KALMAN
The Times of Israel
The Times of Israel