- The Washington Times - Monday, July 22, 2013

Iran’s nuclear program cannot be stopped by military means, by either the U.S. or by Israel, the recently retired chief of U.S. Central Command said over the weekend.

“I don’t think anyone can destroy a program that has spread out from Tehran to the mountains, from underground facilities to above ground,” retired Marine Gen. James Mattis said Saturday.

Even successful military strikes would likely only destroy and block the entrances to hardened underground facilities, Gen. Mattis said.

“With a good backhoe, you can open that back up,” he told the Aspen Security forum, according to posted video of the event.

Gen. Mattis said all that the U.S. or nations in the region could achieve through a military strike would be to temporarily delay Ian’s program, adding that diplomacy is the only long-term solution.

“Certainly, it can be delayed a month, six months, 18 months. What do you do with the delay is the question,” he said. “The military can buy our diplomats some time, but it cannot solve this problem straight up.”

Despite his responsibilities overseeing the wars in Afghanistan and in Iraq, Gen. Mattis said Iran was his primary focus during his tenure as commander of Central Command.

“The first three things I asked my briefers about when I woke every morning were Iran, Iran and Iran,” he said.

• Shaun Waterman can be reached at swaterman@washingtontimes.com.

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