Mullen: Iran policy limited for now to sanctions, engagement

WASHINGTON (JTA) — The U.S. focus on "dialogue, engagement and sanctions" in dealing with Iran is the right focus for now and military force remains an option "in the future," the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff said.

Adm. Mike Mullen, meeting at the Pentagon Wednesday with his Israeli counterpart Gabi Ashkenazi, was asked about demands by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that the United States make a "credible military threat" against Iran to get it to stand down from its suspected nuclear weapons program.

"Right now the focus is on dialogue and engagement and sanctions," he said. "The sanctions are actually taking a fairly significant bite, and that’s the current path. We’ve all been pretty clear here that all options remain on the table, including military options, and will — and will remain on the table in the future."

Ashkenazi agreed: "We still have some time to watch it and see what will be the final outcome," he said of the sanctions.

Ashkenazi, who was received with an honor guard, planned to call in his meeting with Mullen for a tightening of the sanctions, sources in his entourage said, as well as to raise Israeli fears that Lebanon may implode in violence once a United Nations report on the 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri is released.

The report, expected to be released soon, is likely to blame Hezbollah for the killing. Such a conclusion would escalate international pressure on Lebanon to make arrests and Ashkenazi is concerned that this could trigger a Hezbollah takeover of the country.

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