The chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Peter Pace, said Friday that Washington does not see military action against Iran as an immediate option to force the Iranian regime to scrap its nuclear program. General Pace made the comments on the second day of an official trip to Ankara.
Speaking to the private Turkish news channel, NTV, General Pace said, "Iran is a long way from needing any kind of military solution." General Pace added that there was much more that needed to be done "politically and diplomatically before any country considers some kind of military action."
His comments came amid widespread speculation in the Turkish media that General Pace's visit was primarily aimed at securing Turkish support for possible military action against neighboring Iran.
Relations between the United States and Turkey, the NATO alliance's sole Muslim member, have remained shaky ever since the Turkish parliament in 2003 rejected a bill that would have allowed U.S. troops to use Turkey's southeast region to open a second front against Saddam Hussein. Turkish leaders fear that relations could sour even further should the United States seek Turkey's help against Iran.
Turkey has been lobbying Tehran to abandon its nuclear enrichment program and comply with guidelines set by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), but Ankara is firmly opposed to military action against Iran.
General Pace dismissed claims on Friday that Iraq is slipping into civil war. Speaking at a conference on global terrorism, hosted by the Turkish military, General Pace called for patience and international cooperation in helping to bring peace and democracy to Iraq. General Pace said Iraqi leaders are pursuing efforts to form a national unity government that would include Shi'ites, Sunnis, Kurds and other Iraqis.
Violence between Iraq's majority Shi'ites and Sunnis has escalated after last month's bombing of a Shi'ite shrine north of Baghdad.
It would be a long campaign, General Pace said of efforts to quell the violence. The war against terror would continue long after Iraq and Afghanistan are stable, he added.