US foreign policy

Top US military general for Middle East warns Iran

“The one thing the Iranians have done over the last three to five years is they built a very capable ballistic missile platform,” CENTCOM chief Frank McKenzie told TIME.

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Iran is “very close” to being able to develop a nuclear weapon, but the US military has ways to prevent this from happening if diplomacy fails, the top US military general for the Middle East said in an interview published Wednesday.

But Iran does not have a warhead small enough to add to its ballistic missiles yet, CENTCOM Commander Gen. Frank McKenzie told TIME.

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“They’re very close this time,” McKenzie said. “I think they like the idea of being able to break out,” he added.

And although the US is pursuing diplomacy as a way to curb Iran’s nuclear ambitions, McKenzie said the military stood ready to act if called upon.

“The diplomats are in the lead on this, but [US CENTCOM] always has a variety of plans that we could execute, if directed,” he warned.

Diplomats from the US and Iran are expected to resume indirect talks next week on the now-defunct 2015 nuclear deal in Vienna next week.

Talks stalled after six rounds following the election of a new Iranian government.

On Tuesday, US Special Envoy for Iran Rob Malley cautioned against more stalling.

“If it doesn’t want to get back into the deal, if it continues to do what it appears to be doing now, which is to drag its feet at the nuclear diplomatic table and accelerate its pace when it comes to its nuclear program, if that’s the path it chooses, we’ll have to respond accordingly,” Malley told the National Public Radio.

Iran has also been engaged in other malign activities throughout the Middle East and other parts of the world.

Militias backed by Tehran continue to target US bases and forces in and around the region.

On Tuesday, a CENTCOM official told Al Arabiya English that rocket attacks targeted US-led Coalition bases in Syria. No injuries or damages were reported, but drones and other missile attacks have come close to bases in Syria and Iraq.

“The one thing the Iranians have done over the last three to five years is they built a very capable ballistic missile platform,” McKenzie told TIME.

In the aftermath of the 2020 slaying of Iran’s Qassem Soleimani, Tehran launched a barrage of ballistic missiles at Iraqi bases housing US troops.

“Those missiles hit within tens of meters of their targets,” McKenzie revealed.

Over 100 US troops were wounded, with many suffering severe head injuries.

Read more: US slaps sanctions on Iran's drone program, will continue to hold Tehran accountable

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