Israel, U.S. View Iranian Threat Differently

Dempsey says Israel and the U.S. have a different interpretation of the same intelligence reports regarding Iran’s nuclear program.

Elad Benari ,

Dempsey, Peres and Gantz
Dempsey, Peres and Gantz
Israel news photo: Flash 90

Israel and the United States view the Iranian nuclear threat differently, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey, said on Sunday.

Dempsey, who spoke to reporters as he began a visit to Afghanistan, said that Israel and the U.S. have a different interpretation of the same intelligence reports regarding Iran’s nuclear program.

“Israel sees the Iranian threat more seriously than the U.S. sees it, because a nuclear Iran poses a threat to Israel's very existence,” Dempsey said, adding that he and his Israeli counterpart, IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz, regularly confer on the issue.

“We speak at least once every two weeks, we compare intelligence reports, we discuss the security implications of the events in the region,” said Dempsey, adding, “At the same time, we admit that our clocks ticking at different paces. We have to understand the Israelis; they live with a constant suspicion with which we do not have to deal.”

He noted, “You can take two countries, give them the same intelligence and reach two different conclusions. I think that's what’s happening here.”

Last week, Dempsey and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta tried to play down an Israeli strike on Iran. Dempsey told reporters that “I might not be aware of all their capabilities, but I think it is a fair assessment that [Israel] can delay but not destroy Iran’s nuclear capabilities.”

Panetta said that he did not believe that Israel made a decision regarding an attack on Iran. “Israel is a sovereign independent state, and it should make the decision based to its national security, but I do not believe they have made this decision yet,” he said.

Dempsey visited Israel in January, where he met with Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Gantz and President Shimon Peres. During his visit he stressed the “mutual commitment” between Israel and the U.S.

His remarks regarding the way Israel and the U.S. view the Iranian threat echo comments he made in an interview with the American weekly National Journal, several days after his visit to Israel.

“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.”

Meanwhile, former IDF Intelligence Chief Amos Yadlin said on the weekend that President Barack Obama should show Iran his muscle and visit Israel as a clear sign of support for a military strike.

Writing in the Washington Post’s Saturday edition, Yadlin outlined steps that President Obama can take to avert a military attack on Iran to halt or delay its undeclared aim to manufacture a nuclear bomb that can be placed on a missile aimed at Israel.

He wrote that a visit to Israel and a clear message to the Israeli people that “preventing a nuclear Iran is a U.S. interest,” even if it demands military action, “would be far more effective than U.S. officials’ attempts to convey the same sentiment behind closed doors.”