Reuters: The United States military machine is undiminished after four years of fighting in Iraq and is more prepared than ever to face any threat from Iran, one of the U.S. military’s most senior officials said. By Mohammed Abbas
MANAMA (Reuters) – The United States military machine is undiminished after four years of fighting in Iraq and is more prepared than ever to face any threat from Iran, one of the U.S. military’s most senior officials said.
Admiral Timothy Keating, head of U.S. military operations in 41 countries, was speaking in Bahrain days after Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad labeled the U.S. army “shabby”, and said his Western foes had “rusty and disabled weapons”.
Iran and the West are at loggerheads over the Islamic Republic’s nuclear enrichment program, which the West suspects is for the development of a nuclear bomb, but Tehran says is for power generation.
“I don’t think our capability has diminished at all,” said Keating, Commander of U.S. Pacific Command and former head of navy operations in the Gulf.
Bahrain, an island close to Iran, is home to the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet. Working with British and Australian ships, the fleet is tasked with maintaining stability in the region, and often conducts exercises on Iran’s doorstep.
“Because of our continued presence and exercises we’ve had… the Fifth Fleet and Central Command’s ability to provide for peace and stability is even better than before,” he told Reuters on Wednesday on his way to visit troops in Iraq.
Washington, which also accuses Iran of backing insurgents in Iraq and funding terrorist groups, says it is committed to finding a diplomatic solution to the nuclear standoff, but has not ruled out military action if that fails.
Iran, which denies charges of funding terrorism, says it is ready to act if attacked, but Ahmadinejad on a visit to Bahrain on Saturday said conflict was unlikely.
In subsequent comments at a televised rally in Iran he said the United States was facing a “united and invincible nation”.
“It ought to be unmistakable to Iran that there’s no way to defeat the coalition militarily. To do so would be pure folly, and I think they understand that,” Keating said.
Pacific Command’s area of operations encompasses most of Asia and Australia and New Zealand, and ends at the India-Pakistan border.
Keating said he was closely watching Pakistan, convulsed by opposition to President Pervez Musharraf’s emergency rule, given Pakistan and neighbor India have nuclear weapons.
Chances that Pakistan’s atomic weapons could fall into militant hands were slim, said Keating, who hailed Musharraf’s role in the U.S. war on terrorism.
“I think the threat of extremism is still real. It is due to efforts by Musharraf and many, many others around the world the threat has diminished slightly.”
(Editing by Dominic Evans)