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Gen Kenneth McKenzie: Iran possesses one of most capable militaries in the Middle East

Missile defence

Head of US Central Command General Kenneth McKenzie says Iran possesses one of the most capable militaries in the Middle East; the top General said Iran's ballistic missile force is the most formidable in the region.

General Mackenzie who testified before the US House Armed Services Committee said Iran's widespread use of drones means that the US is operating without complete air superiority for the first time since the Korean War.

Iran has time and again stated that its military capabilities are merely defensive and are designed to deter foreign threats.

Our correspondent Colin Campbell joins us now from Washington to tell us more about the testimony that was given before the US House Armed Services Committee by CENTCOM commander, Kenneth McKenzie.

The reports are created through lots of Intel and research from the interactions that have happened prior. What they are looking at in addition to the report that was released in testimony.

During Operation Praying Mantis, back in 1988, when there was an exchange between the US Navy and Iran ships where several sailors were killed in the exchange.

What the commanders and leadership is looking at (is) the increase in the amount of the weaponry that could have improved from 30 years ago, and this of course would increase the casualties of these sailors who were involved in any conflict.

The US is loath to engage in conflict with Iran because they know that with the advance of technology, the use of mines, and the improvement of weaponry, such an exchange could be very deadly.

And that's part of the testimony that you heard, trying to emphasize that a more diplomatic resolution would be desirable, rather than something that would involve the US or the Iranian military.

Colin Campbell, Press TV, Washington

Lets welcome former UN weapons inspector in Iraq, and former US Marine intelligence officer, Mr Scott Ritter who is joining us from Bethlehem, New York.

Mr Ritter, what do you make of this acknowledgement by General McKenzie?

It is a statement of reality. The fact of the matter is, what McKenzie testified to is something that the Pentagon has been saying in private to the executive branch, whether it was Donald Trump prior or Joe Biden today.

If you recall when the Iranians shot down a (n) American drone, Donald Trump was talking about striking Iran with a retaliatory strike, and the Pentagon briefed him on what the consequences of such a strike would be saying that look, if you want to war with Iran, we can fight and we can win a war with Iran, but it'll take us six to eight months to build up the military force necessary to achieve that victory.

In the meantime, Iran will be striking us regionally, with everything they got. And they got a lot, if it's going to hurt and it's going to hurt badly.

Not just us, but our allies in the region.

And, you know, apparently that briefing was enough to get Donald Trump to say we're not going to attack and Joe Biden has been given the same briefing.

Scott Ritter, frmr. UN weapons inspector in Iraq, frmr. US Marine Intelligence Officer

And now we have international relations expert Mehrdad Torabi joining us from Bolonia.

Do you think that the statements pointing to the waning influence of the US in the region shows Washington is facing limitations in the region?

I think this is the US Central Command is absolutely wrong. In fact Iran, if not the most, is one of the most capable militaries in Western Asia, but actually say military force goes beyond  what is usually demonstrated, I mean, the military for strategic reasons, they do not always reveal or disclose all the power, all the means, they may have in their possession.

And so I think the Iran's military power, is much, much more powerful than what is demonstrated, what is seen, what is perceived in those calculations, and that's one thing. For one mentioned another point, and that is at the tactical level. Iran, as we know, has a great army of modern drones, it has short and mid range ballistic missiles which are precise.

At the strategic level, I think, Iran, in fact has entered into space, enjoys a great deal of deterrence by long range ballistic missiles, which are precise again, all of which are developed domestically so they are technologies that are unknown, really, to others. That again creates risk and uncertainty, makes outcomes not calculated.

The third point, last but not least, I want to mention, I want to talk about moral issues involved because I think they are very important in the strategy. I think not only Iran have strategically and tactically and tactically has the upper hand also morally has the upper hand in the region. Let me quote Professor Matt Mearsheimer, he's a he's a(n) international relations theorists.

If you look around, it's clear to all of us that the United States has been the principal source of murder and mayhem in the region.  So I think the transformation of all of those, you know, liberal ideas of (the) founding fathers in practice into fascism, and this, this philosophical and moral degeneracy is the moral force behind the legitimacy of resistance. Very powerful. And again, that is not, they cannot be gauged or calculated or measured.

If we look, for instance, to the Vietnam example, we look to the Yemeni example we realize how much, how important, your forces are. Just very quickly i want to to say what is said is the fact that I should say, the United States does not know anything about the Islamic Republic's true capabilities

Mehrdad Torabi, International Relations Expert

Mr. Ritter in New York. What about the timing of all this talks on reviving the JCPOA are ongoing at the moment, do you think that there's any significance to the timing of all this?

Absolutely, as I mentioned earlier, I believe the significance is General McKenzie is putting a marker on the table to Congress and anybody who's listening that obviously better work, and anybody who thinks that we can give short shrift to diplomacy, that if the talks in Vienna fail and Iran continues to operate outside of the restrictions required by the JCPOA that there's a military option.

I think what General McKenzie is saying is that there isn't a military option, don't look to the military to solve this problem, that it won't be easy, it won't be quick, it won't be cheap, and it probably won't work.

So I think that there is great significance to his testimony, and that it, in a way he's putting pressure on the State Department, and on Joe Biden himself, to stop playing games in Vienna and get this, get this negotiation completed to the satisfaction of of all parties because, you know, the, the option of beyond diplomacy, there is no military option and I think that's what he's trying to say.

Scott Ritter, frmr. UN weapons inspector in Iraq, frmr. US Marine Intelligence Officer

The top American General said Iran's ballistic missile force is the most formidable in the region, Is that why Washington wants a new deal, a renegotiated JCPOA that includes Iranian missiles?

Well, of course, there's, it's not just Washington, it’s Israel and it's all of Iran's neighbors. The Iranian ballistic missile program has developed in ways that, you know, I don't think military planners imagined 10 or 15 years ago, and it was put on display.

Iran didn't fire its most capable missiles at the Al Asad Airbase last year. Rather, it fired good missiles with precision capability but they weren't their best missiles, there were enough to make the demonstration that when Iran wanted to hit a building with great precision, it could do so.

And that had to send a chill down (the spine of) any American military commander whose forces are based in the region, understanding that if this turned into a shooting war, they would pay a heavy price.

Scott Ritter, frmr. UN weapons inspector in Iraq, frmr. US Marine Intelligence Officer

Mehrdad Torabi, would you give us your thoughts on the same question?

Yes, of course, I totally agree. I think, this is the power politics. I don't think Iran will ever set aside its ballistic missile program because, because, in the region that is, that we see an international relations firm hierarchy, real hierarchy, real, sorry, anarchy, it is not possible for countries to look for self reliance and to provide security for themselves. And this, this is a this is a means for Iran to achieve that security in the international arena.

Mehrdad Torabi, International Relations Expert

Scott Ritter. During the Iraqi imposed war on Iran, as stated many times by the foreign minister the Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, US and other Western governments they armed and they assisted Saddam Hussein with sophisticated weapons while actively preventing Iran from getting access to the most rudimentary defensive necessities, if there's a historical lesson here it said Iran must establish a formidable level of defensive military capabilities. Do you agree?

There's no doubt about that let me let me make this point very clear. If Iran did not have the ballistic missile capability it possesses today, its nuclear facilities would have already been bombed. It's just that simple.

Iran's ballistic missile capability provides a deterrence to this kind of military adventurism, whether it be by the United States by Saudi Arabia by Israel or a combination of the three.

The knowledge that any military action against Iran will be met with a retaliation strike by precision guided missiles capable of striking any point within the region that an attack can be launched from, is enough to give pause to the political leaders who would be making the decision to strike Iran.

So without these missiles Iran would have already been attacked, these missiles are the only thing that keeps Iran from being bombed and Iran would be literally foolish to give them up.

Scott Ritter, frmr. UN weapons inspector in Iraq, frmr. US Marine Intelligence Officer

Iran stated that its military capabilities are merely defensive, and they're designed to deter foreign threats with a foreign presence in the region, ie the United States, the massive arms sales to the likes of Saudi Arabia, and let's add Israel's destabilizing actions into the mix, having a sufficient military capability, like the one Iran has established right now is a must for Tehran.

The fact of the matter is that Iran must have these, you know the best defense is a good offense, it doesn't mean that you execute the offense, it means you need to be capable of carrying out offensive actions that bring harm to the target.

Now Iran is not saying we want to aggressively, preemptively, strike our neighbors, what Iran is saying is that if we are attacked, we will retaliate in kind, and it will hurt. Its ballistic missile capability is that which gives us the authority, and combine that with their with their drone capability, I mean very sophisticated, very deadly, I mean, we see evidence of this. you know, on a weekly basis where Iranian derived drones and missiles strike Saudi Arabian targets at will. There's nothing the Saudis can do to stop what the Houthis are using and what Iran possesses are, you know, are weapons of even greater sophistication and accuracy.

Scott Ritter, frmr. UN weapons inspector in Iraq, frmr. US Marine Intelligence Officer

General McKenzie said Iran's drones mean that the US is operating without complete air superiority for the first time since the Korean War.

Does the fact that Iran's military knowhow is indigenous and domestically manufactured make that sound even more impressive to you?

Well first of all, it's, it's very impressive, the fact that Iran has done this on its own, I mean, anybody who knows anything about Iran knows that Iranian people are some of the most educated people in the world. That their scientists are top notch, world quality, and you would be foolish to denigrate them and think that they were incapable of doing these things but they have, they have weapon systems of great capability and the fact that these were produced In Iran should give pause to any nation seeking to engage in military conflict with Iran because the Iranians are demonstrating they are fully capable of defending themselves.

Scott Ritter, frmr. UN weapons inspector in Iraq, frmr. US Marine Intelligence Officer

We shall now be talking about the issue of sanctions. These advancements at the time of the toughest sanctions ever on Iran have led to Iran becoming more and more self sufficient.

Do you think that the whole maximum pressure campaign and the sanctions regime have not been successful with regards to the Islamic Republic of Iran?

You know when we assume that the natural relations will be distinguished between domestic politics and international policies, wherever the legitimacy of domestic politics does not exist in international relations.

Iran would realize when children are suffocated... unable to get help, even the United Nations in the use of weapons of mass destruction. So, it was the trigger, that is the process of looking inside self for self reliance. I think the process existed, but sanctions and US interventions fueled Iran's determination and the solution Iran needed more to strengthen Iran's determination, self reliance and military power.

Even sanctions I see are going to be marked are positive, but of course sanctions in other areas, in food, in medicine. I fear the situation.

Mehrdad Torabi, International Relations Expert

The Hawks in Washington have been aiming for regime change in a number of countries in the region.

The list included Syria. Obviously they failed in Syria, they have their eye on Iran as well.

Do you think they'll now have to reevaluate these ambitions given Iran's power and position that it has displayed and established in the region?

The US have no right to dictate to other nations, how they run themselves as a, you know is unbelievable, but, you know, the good news is that these hawks are being pushed out that realists are starting to come into preeminence, realists who will take guidance from experts like general McKenzie, who cautioned against the kind of adventurism, that you know the Hawks would like to use to to achieve their, their goals of regime change.

So, while I don't think you're ever going to dissuade those who are vehemently opposed to the Islamic Republic of Iran from seeking regime change in that nation. The reality is their influence is waning by the day.

Scott Ritter, frmr. UN weapons inspector in Iraq, frmr. US Marine Intelligence Officer

Mr. Torabi you can answer that question as well?

I wanted to end from another perspective, I wanted to talk about the revolution, which was the revolution of the people for the people so Iran has a great deal of domestic legitimacy and it does not need to really obtain security from outside.

Mehrdad Torabi, International Relations Expert


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