U.S. official downplays Iran's prowess

July 16, 2008 at 5:24 PM

WASHINGTON, July 16 (UPI) -- A high-level U.S. diplomat told two congressional committees Wednesday that Iran was dangerous, but by no means a tower of strength in the Middle East.

William Burns, undersecretary of state for political affairs, testified that Iran was struggling with a sub-par economy and was largely isolated from the rest of the world.

"To be sure, the Iranian regime is a potent regional adversary, tactically cunning and opportunistic, and good at asymmetric conflict," said Burns. "But it is not 10 feet tall."

Burns, a former U.S. ambassador to Russia, said U.S. policy continued to be to change the behavior of the Iranian government and "not let it off the hook" for its reputed interference in regional affairs and its deteriorating humans-rights record.

"Our strategy is built on tough-minded diplomacy, maximizing pressure on the Iranians at multiple points to drive home the costs of continued defiance of the rest of the world, especially on nuclear issues," Burns told the joint meeting of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and House Foreign Affairs Committee."

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