WASHINGTON - America's top soldier warned Monday about the growing ties between Iran and Venezuela and said the U.S. is monitoring the burgeoning relationship.
Referring to criticism in Congress leveled at Venezuela recently because of its relationship with Iran, Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, said, "I certainly share their concern in terms of Venezuela's links to Iran, which have been there for a significant amount of time and are growing."
Noting that the U.S. has designated Iran as a state sponsor of terror, Mullen added, "we pay a lot of attention to what they're doing around the world." In his briefing with the foreign press, Mullen also pointed to U.S. efforts to create a missile defense architecture in Eastern Europe to defend against Iranian capabilities, which he said Tehran has invested in increasing.
Mullen recently stopped in Israel while returning from a trip to the region, and he said Monday that he came away from that visit reassured that Israel is working assiduously to overcome the recent tensions with Turkey so that the military coordination between the two countries can continue.
"I was reassured by the Israeli leadership that they're working to strengthen the ties with Turkey. That's a significant relationship that is long-standing," he said.
Relations between the two countries, including between the two militaries, have deteriorated since the Islamic AKP has come to power and were then intensified by the efforts of a Turkish-flagged flotilla to break Israel's blockade of Gaza last year, which left nine Turks dead at the hands of the IDF.
Mullen said that despite recent developments, the relations between the two countries endure.
"I don't see anything that would indicate that they don't exist or wouldn't in the future [at least] to some degree," he said.
America, too, faces a fraught relationship with a long-time ally in the region Pakistan and Mullen, who has invested a tremendous amount of personal and professional attention to nurturing ties with the country, acknowledged the U.S. has a challenge in working with Islamabad.
"We're in a very difficult time right now with respect to our military to military relationship," he said.
But he continued, "I don't believe we're close to severing it and we shouldn't do that. I think sustaining that relationship is critical. We've been through difficult times with them in the past. We should see this difficult time through."
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