Israelis should have faith that the United States is willing to use force to stop the Iranian nuclear program, former Central Intelligence Agency director David Petraeus said Tuesday.

“Take yes for an answer. This is not an off the cuff comment. He [US President Barack Obama] has articulated his approach on the Iranian nuclear program many times,” Patraeus said at the Institute for National Security Studies’ (INSS) annual conference in Tel Aviv.

Using the examples of Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan, Petraeus said that while there is a prevailing “wariness” among the American public towards military interventions abroad, people should not make the mistake that the United States is not willing to use force to protect its interests.

“We are embarked on more nation-building at home for sure, there is wisdom in that, but people should not mistake that for the ability or willingness of the US to protect its vital interests,” Petraeus said.

In regards to the Obama administration’s handling of the Syria war and the apparent use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime, Petraeus said that “the complication of the Syria issue and the redline caused a degree of confusion and concern.”

The former commander of US forces in Afghanistan and the US Central Command added that in a wider look at US defense policy, while it is true that the Pentagon is reducing its budget “even after we will still spend more on defense than the next 10-14 countries together.”

Petraeus’s comments came during a back-and-forth with Amos Yadlin, the former head of AMAN, the IDF Military Intelligence Directorate.

Yadlin asked Petraeus about the security threats facing the US, and the former CIA chief referred to recent gridlock in Washington and the government shutdown saying “if you asked me a month ago what the worst security threat to the US was I would have said DC.”

Yadlin closed by asking Petraeus what he believes was the effect of the leaks by former National Security Agency employee Edward Snowden, to which he said “Snowden has done colossal damage and it was an enormous blow, as much as any spy, traitor or turncoat,” concluding “at the end of the day the damage done was enormous.”

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