WASHINGTON (CBS DC/AP) — Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Friday that military force is still on the table if Iran moves forward with its nuclear program.
The U.S., along with five other world powers, agreed with Iran on a short-term nuclear deal last month in Geneva. The deal calls for Iran to freeze parts of its nuclear program in exchange for some relief from crippling economic sanctions.
“We are not going to change any of our military posture in this area during that six-month period,” Hagel said aboard the USS Ponce, which is only 120 miles off the coast of Iran, according to CBS News. “We will keep the same kind of strong assets, the same exercises, the same partnerships, the same focus on our strategic interests as we did before we entered into this six month period.”
Hagel told service members that the next six months present the Obama administration an opportunity “to see if the Iranians are serious about following through with commitments they have said they would make” about not developing their nuclear capabilities.
“So make no mistake, this is not an exercise based on folly, this is very clear-eyed real and difficult engagement,” CBS News reported Hagel as saying. “But in the interim you can be sure the United States of America will not change any of its force posture, its force protection or any of its relationships with our partners here.”
Senior defense officials tell CBS News that Hagel will “look directly into the eyes of his counterparts” to reassure Mideast allies that the U.S. will not back down from Iran. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called the agreement a “historic mistake.”
While in Bahrain for the next few days, Hagel will meet with the King and Crown Prince of Bahrain, Saudi Arabia’s deputy foreign minister and the United Arab Emirates foreign minister.
After his tour of the ship, Hagel told crew members that the Ponce represents America’s ability to respond to threats in a region that he said remains dangerous, combustible and unstable.
“It’s as flexible and agile as any platform that we have,” he said.
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