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Dempsey: It's Premature to Decide to Attack Iran

The Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff tells CNN: The Iranian regime is rational, sanctions are the way to go at this point.
By Elad Benari
First Publish: 2/19/2012, 5:36 AM

The Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey, is warning against an Israeli pre-emptive military strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities.

In an interview with CNN’s Fareed Zakaria GPS, which will air on Sunday and of which portions were released Saturday, Dempsey said, “I think it would be premature to exclusively decide that the time for a military action was upon us.”

He added that “the economic sanctions and international cooperation that we’ve been able to gather around sanctions is beginning to have an effect. I think our diplomacy is having an effect and our preparedness. Fundamentally we have to be prepared and that includes, for the most part at this point, being prepared defensively.”

Dempsey said that the U.S. is “of an opinion that the Iranian regime is a rational actor and it’s for that reason, I think, that we think the current path on Iran is the most prudent path at this point.”

The United States has been increasingly concerned that Israel may launch a military strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities. For this reason, Dempsey visited Israel last month and met with high-ranking officials on the issue. 

He recently acknowledged that Israel sees the Iranian threat differently than the U.S. does.

“We have to acknowledge that they ... see that threat differently than we do. It’s existential to them,” he said. “My intervention with them was not to try to persuade them to my thinking or allow them to persuade me to theirs, but rather to acknowledge the complexity and commit to seeking creative solutions, not simple solutions.

On Friday, it was reported that officials in key parts of the Obama administration are increasingly convinced that sanctions will not deter Tehran from pursuing its nuclear program and believe that the U.S. will be left with no option but to launch an attack on Iran or watch Israel do so.

The report in the British Guardian said that there is a strong current of opinion within the administration – including in the Pentagon and the State Department – that believes sanctions are doomed to fail, and that their principal use now is in delaying Israeli military action.

Meanwhile on Saturday, Israel's Defense Minister Ehud Barak called on the international community to tighten sanctions even further on Iran, warning it is essential to halt the Islamic Republic's nuclear development activities.

Speaking to reporters in Tokyo following meetings with Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda and other Japanese officials, Barak said, “I think there is consensus now in most of the world's capitals that Iran should not be allowed to become a military nuclear power.”

He added that at least in the West, and in North America, “no option should be removed off the table in regard to dealing with the threat” of Iran as a nuclear power.