Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, U.S. Navy Admiral Michael Mullen, says Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons is a major destabilizing influence in the Middle East and is one reason why the Middle East remains an area of deep concern for the U.S.
In a speech to the American Bar Association, Admiral Mullen said that Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons has the potential of sparking an arms race:
"When one country in a region gets it [a nuclear weapon], other countries in the region think they have to have it. So it is not just the potential intended consequence of having nuclear weapons – threatening the region with those weapons with that capability – it's the unintended consequences of that which I worry about in a region that already is pretty unstable."
Admiral Mullen said Iran also poses a threat because of its connections to terrorist groups and activities.
With regard to Iraq, Admiral Mullen says the 2007 surge of U.S. forces has led to remarkable improvements in the security situation there, allowing for economic and political development. But, says Admiral Mullen, the gains in Iraq remain fragile.
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Zalmay Khalilzad made a similar point when he recently addressed the U.N. Security Council. Mr. Khalilzad noted that over the past year violence has decreased sharply in Iraq in every category: overall attacks; Iraqi and coalition military deaths, and civilian fatalities. But, Mr. Khalilzad said, al-Qaeda in Iraq and extremist militias supported by Iran remain a significant threat. "All retain the intent and capability," he said, "of carrying out lethal attacks against the Iraqi people."
The Iranian government's failure to meet its international nuclear nonproliferation obligations and its aggressive foreign policy – including lethal support to Lebanese Hezbollah, Hamas, Taliban fighters and Iraqi extremists – constitute an increasing threat to regional security and U.S. interests abroad. The Iranian government's continued pursuit of policies that directly undermine stability in the region have caused Iran to come isolated from the international community. The U.S. calls on the Government of Iran to change course by complying with international obligations and by committing to playing a positive role in Iraq and throughout the region.