Admiral Mike Mullen says he believes Iran will continue to pursue nuclear weapons, even if sanctions against the country are increased.
Speaking at the Aspen Security Forum on Monday night, the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff said it would be "incredibly dangerous" for Iran to achieve nuclear weapons, and that there's "no reason to trust" Iran's assurances that it is only pursuing a peaceful nuclear program, especially after the discovery of a secret nuclear facility near the holy city of Qom.
But he said a military strike against Iran would be "incredibly destabilizing" to the region, and that he believes US ally Israel understands that.
The admiral was responding to questions about whether he shared the assessment of CIA Director Leon Panetta, who said on Sunday that Iran likely has enough nuclear material to make two weapons, but is at least a year away from being able to carry that out.
Mullen has just returned from a multination tour that included a stop in Tel Aviv, where he met with his Israeli military counterpart to discuss Iran's continuing defiance of the international community over the nuclear issue.
On Sunday, Mullen met with Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi. He said he always learned new things when in Israel, noting that he always tried to see threats and challenges from the Israeli angle.
He said that though certain matters were Israel's interests, they were important also to the US
The UN Security Council approved new sanctions against Iran earlier this month. Congress and the European Union followed with additional measures aimed at discouraging Iran from continuing its uranium enrichment program, which they fear could be used to produce a nuclear weapon.
Mullen said Monday there was no reason to expect Iran to conform to international norms, given its past behavior, but he declined to describe what measures the US was considering. He has often said that all options remain on the table.
He explained that the hardest part about trying to decide what to do about Iran is how much the US does not know about the country's nuclear progress.
When asked whether he thought Israel would give the United States time to see whether tougher sanctions or talks would produce more cooperation from Iran, he would only say that he believes the US and Israel are "in synch" with their current policies.