December 2, 2011
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey drew a sharp line between Israel and the US, over Iran policy, during an interview with Reuters yesterday, as he was flying back from a two-day visit to London. When asked by Reuters if he thought Israel would notify the US ahead of time if it decided to go ahead and launch an attack on Iran, he flatly stated, “I don’t know.” He said the United States was convinced that sanctions and diplomatic pressure was the right path to take on Iran, along with “the stated intent not to take any options off the table” — language that leaves open the possibility of future military action, but does not emphasize it. “I’m not sure the Israelis share our assessment of that,” he said. “And because they don’t and because to them this is an existential threat, I think probably that it’s fair to say that our expectations are different right now.”
The Dempsey on-the-record comments are particularly significant in light of a report received by LPAC two weeks ago from a senior Pentagon source, about a recent discussion between two of America’s most senior generals and President Obama over the threat of a general war, triggered by an Israeli attack on Iran. As LPAC reported at the time (Nov. 17):
“According to the source, the generals conveyed personally to the President that it is the consensus of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, CENTCOM, and all of the other top military brass, that the Israelis must be told, in absolute clear terms, that any military attack on Iran is thoroughly unacceptable and would likely lead to world war. President Obama was asked by the generals to convey this message to the Israeli Prime Minister, and the President reportedly refused. Obama responded that the U.S. has no control over Israeli policy and, if Israel is going to attack Iran, ‘it would be better for us not to know in advance.’ ” Gen Dempsey’s public comments to Reuters on Nov. 30 are not only coherent with that source report, but also have Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak feeling the heat. “We have no intention, at the moment, of taking action, but the State of Israel is far from being paralyzed by fear,” Barak told Israel Radio, one day after Dempsey’s comments to Reuters. “It must act calmly and quietly — we don’t need big wars.”
Dempsey has also been attempting to cool down the crisis with Pakistan following the Nov. 26 border incident in which 24 Pakistani soldiers were killed by NATO air strikes. While Obama refuses to apologize for the incident, Dempsey acknowledged that “They have reason to be furious that they have 24 soldiers that are dead, and that the ordinance that killed them was the ordinance of a partner,” Dempsey told Britain’s ITV News on Monday. “I would certainly like to enlist their patience in helping us figure out what happened.” On the state of US-Pakistani relations, he said “It certainly does look like it’s on about as rocky a road as it has been in my memory. And my memory with Pakistan goes back some 20 years or so.”
Questioned whether the situation was irretrievable, he said: “No. I don’t think so.” Dempsey was in London for “consultations,” according to the Armed Forces Press Service, and he had meetings with British Prime Minister David Cameron and top British defense and military officials. While there, he also delivered three public speeches and gave at least two interviews to British news media.