AFP: The top US commander in the Middle East accused Iran of taking destabilizing actions in Iraq and Afghanistan on Wednesday, but he also left open the door to talks with Tehran.
WASHINGTON, April 18, 2007 (AFP) – The top US commander in the Middle East accused Iran of taking destabilizing actions in Iraq and Afghanistan on Wednesday, but he also left open the door to talks with Tehran.
Admiral William Fallon pointed to Iran’s nuclear weapons program, boasts about its uranium enrichment program, and the recent capture of British sailors and marines in the Gulf as examples of Tehran’s bad behavior.
“They are … tripping over themselves, it seems to me, to make breast-beating proclamations that are unhelpful,” Fallon said at a congressional hearing here.
“And there is no doubt they are taking actions particularly destabilizing in both Iraq and Afghanistan,” he said.
“So the behavior is not very good — this recent caper with the British, the kind of cowboy-type activity that is certainly not representative of what they claim to be trying to do, which is become a major player in the region,” he said.
Fallon’s comments came a day after General Peter Pace, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters Iranian-made mortars and explosives destined for the Taliban were intercepted by coalition forces in Afghanistan.
Pace stopped short of accusing the Iranian regime of involvement, but it suggested high-level US concern that Iran is expanding its challenges to the US military presence in the region.
The United States has long charged that the Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ elite Quds Force has been supplying bomb-making components and training to Iraqi extremist groups for attacks on US forces.
Pace said the United States would deal with Iran through diplomacy and that direct military action was a tool of last resort.
Echoing that, Fallon told lawmakers he was looking forward to a regional conference on Iraq in Egypt in May to enlist the help of Iraq’s neighbors.
The first such meeting in Baghdad last month included a brief one-on-one exchange between then US Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzhad and his Iranian counterpart.
“You’re aware there was an inauguaral discussion and I would look forward to the discussion that might ensue in this meeting, particularly in the context of what role Iran may play in a helpful venue towards Iraq,” Fallon said.