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American Forces Press Service

Mullen Calls on Iran to Take Productive Role in Mideast

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 11, 2008 – Reiterating that he’d “rather prevent a war than fight one,” the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff today called on Iran to take a productive, positive role in the Middle East and refrain from provocative behavior.

Navy Adm. Michael G. Mullen also said the crews of the three Navy ships threatened by five Iranian speed boats as they transited through the Strait of Hormuz on Jan. 6 got the response “exactly right.”

“Given the overt and very threatening behavior exhibited by the Iranians, (the U.S. crews) followed procedures exactly the way they should have,” Mullen said during a Pentagon news conference today. “And though, thankfully, no shots needed to be fired, there is no doubt in my mind that shots would have been fired had the situation demanded it.”

The incident ended peacefully, with the Iranian speed boats returning to their ports.

“Our own military restraint in dealing with that problem should never be confused for lack of capability,” he said. “We’ve been operating in the Gulf for a long time, and we will continue to operate there for a long time.”

The Strait of Hormuz incident ought to remind Americans “how real the threat is from Iran and how ready we are to meet that threat if it comes to it,” the chairman said. “The problem of Iran is not, and should never be considered, purely a military problem.”

While the Iranian actions were dangerous and unprovoked, U.S. forces are prepared for the eventuality, the chairman said. U.S. planners have focused on this small, fast boat strategy for a number of years, Mullen said. U.S. forces also were ready for the Iranian Revolutionary Guard’s navy taking over responsibility for the Persian Gulf from the Iranian navy. The Revolutionary Guard is a radical force raised by Ayatollah Khomeini following the 1979 overthrow of the Shah of Iran and is separate from the country’s regular armed forces.

During the incident, the Iranian boats dropped boxes overboard in the path of the American warships. U.S. planners have been concerned for years about Iran mining the waters of the strategic waterway, through which 40 percent of the world’s oil flows.

“One of the messages is, we’re not anxious to see a miscalculation occur and certainly not anxious to get into combat with them. … But please do not misread restraint for lack of resolve,” he said.

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