Friday, August 23, 2019 | ePaper
Pentagon intelligence chief says Iran does not want war
AP, Aspen :
A U.S. Marines helicopter takes off from the flight deck of the USS Boxer during its transit through Strait of Hormuz.
As tensions in the Persian Gulf continued to ramp up on Friday afternoon amid news that Iran had seized a British oil tanker in the Strait of Hormuz, the head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, Army Lt. Gen. Robert Ashley, concluded that Iran does not want to start a war with the U.S. or its allies.
Answering a question posed by CNN national security correspondent Jim Sciutto in Aspen, Colo., about the latest incident, Ashley declined to give a specific response to the news, but later said that none of the United States' major adversaries or competitors, including Iran, China and Russia, wants to start a war. "The outcome would be very horrific for all," he said.
Just yesterday, Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif said he was willing to talk to U.S. senators about a new deal to avoid further conflict.
Since President Trump announced last year he was pulling out of the Obama-era Iran nuclear deal, the U.S. and Iran have traded barbs, escalating in severity under the leadership of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and national security adviser John Bolton. The State Department in April designated the Iranian military, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, as a terrorist organization - a worrying move for U.S. military personnel who were soon declared terrorists by Iranian officials in turn.
Meanwhile, the U.S. has reimposed harsh sanctions on the regime, encouraged European allies to do the same and eliminated incentives for Iran to curb its nuclear development. Tensions reached a fever pitch last month when President Trump at the last minute pulled back authorization for missile strikes on Iran in retaliation for downing a U.S. spy drone.
Speaking at the annual Aspen Security Forum, Ashley interpreted recent Iranian aggression within the last six weeks, including allegations that the IRGC used limpet mines to attack ships in the strait and downing a U.S. spy drone in international waters, as a response to the pressure Iran is under from multiple angles including harsh economic sanctions and diplomatic force.
"I see Iran at an inflection point," he continued. "What you see is an attempt to break that status quo," he said.
Ashley, who has served as the head of the DIA since 2017, made similar remarks in an interview with Fox News in July. He linked the U.S. departure from the Obama-era Iran nuclear deal, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, with an "uptick" in Iranian aggression as a response.
Earlier in the day in the famed resort town west of Denver, officials from the Trump administration and the Obama administration debated different approaches to curbing Iranian aggression and bringing them to the negotiating table. Sigal Mandelker, who has served as the undersecretary of the treasury for terrorism and financial intelligence since 2017, told an audience of national security experts that the Trump administration's harsh sanctions "without a doubt" are "working."