Mattis says Iran could spark a regional war in Middle East involving Israel
Washington Free Beacon:
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Thursday that Iran's destabilizing actions in Syria risk an escalation with Israel that could spark a larger regional conflict.The Iranian regime does not appear open to changes in the imperfect agreement. I think it is likely that Trump will abandon Obama's bad deal with Iran and seek other ways to keep pressure on the regime which is also under stress at home as more and more of its citizens reject the Mullah's policies. Iranian citizens are unhappy that the regime is squandering treasure on foreign adventures instead of improving their lot at home.
Speaking before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Mattis said Iran has continued to work through its Lebanon-based proxy, Hezbollah, to expand Tehran's influence in the Middle East.
Fears over a new conflict breaking out deepened in February when an Iranian drone launched from Syria crossed into Israeli airspace. The drone was immediately shot down, setting off a day of tense fighting that culminated in the downing of an Israeli jet that had been bombing Iranian positions in Syria.
Sen. Jack Reid (D., R.I.) pressed Mattis on the incident, asking the defense secretary whether he believes there is a "significant risk of escalation at this moment that would not only engulf Syria, but spread throughout the region."
"That's a complex question. I believe the short answer is yes," Mattis replied. "I can see how it might start, I’m not sure when or where, I think that it's very likely in Syria because Iran continues to do its proxy work there through Lebanese Hezbollah there and over into Lebanon, so I could imagine this sparking something larger."
Mattis's comments come as the Trump administration continues to mull whether to withdraw from the Iran nuclear accord when it comes up for recertification in two weeks. Though the agreement deals exclusively with Tehran's nuclear program, U.S. lawmakers have complained Iran's destabilizing actions throughout the Middle East violate the "spirit" of the accord.
Mattis told lawmakers President Donald Trump had not yet decided on whether to fix the accord or walk away from it. He said discussions among the national security staff are ongoing but assured Congress the president would settle on a decision before the May 12 reauthorization deadline.
"There are obviously aspects of the JCPOA, of the agreement, that can be improved upon," Mattis testified, using the acronym for the Iran deal. "We’re working with our European allies on it at this time and again, the decision has not been made whether we can repair it enough to stay in it or if the president is going to decide to withdraw from it."