The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Martin Dempsey, was interviewed by Fareed Zakaria last weekend and discussed his assessment of Iran’s nuclear capabilities and how the United States views the situation. Mr. Dempsey said it was “not prudent at this point to decide to attack Iran” and that sanctions and diplomacy are having an effect.
To this, he added several interesting points. First, he said the United States does not believe Iran has necessarily “decided that they will embark on the effort to weaponize their nuclear capability.” Then, he and Zakaria had this exchange.
ZAKARIA: When you observe Iranian behavior, does it strike you as highly irrational? Does it strike you as sort of unpredictable, or do they seem to follow their national interests in a fairly calculating way?
DEMPSEY: That is a great question, and I’ll tell you that I’ve been confronting that question since I commanded Central Command in 2008. And we are of the opinion that the Iranian regime is a rational actor. And it’s for that reason, I think, that we think the current path we’re on is the most prudent path at this point.
ZAKARIA: Do you think that the Israelis understand that the United States is counseling them not to strike, and do you think that they will be deterred from striking in the near future?
DEMPSEY: Well, I’m confident that they understand our concerns, that a strike at this time would be destabilizing and wouldn’t achieve their long-term objectives. But, I mean, I also understand that Israel has national interests that are unique to them. And, of course, they consider Iran to be an existential threat in a way that we have not concluded that Iran is an existential threat.
I don’t think there’s much debate today among informed people about Iran’s intentions and Iran’s systematic progress toward attaining nuclear weapons … I look at the rhetoric and the kind of philosophy that drives the Iranian regime, the kind of threats they have made to others in the world and my deep concern about this regime is that, for the first time in history, we are facing a regime that not only wants to attain nuclear weapons but a regime that has, compared to virtually all other holders of nuclear weapons in the past, far less fear of using them…
As I’ve said before, I think we’re dealing with a fanatical and dangerous regime and their potential possession of nuclear weapons is a grave threat to peace and security. I don’t think I can say it any other way. I’ve said repeatedly I have no easy answers to what to do about the situation but I think Canadians in the world need to understand clearly what we’re facing…
I’m not preparing anybody for anything, other than just telling people the facts of the situation. To suggest that anybody has an easy solution to how we deal with this issue would be false. I don’t have an easy path forward but I think we need to understand we have got a regime based in Tehran that is a gross violator of human rights, that is based on an extreme fundamentalist version of its particular religion, that makes threats to its neighbours and that is clearly and unequivocally moving towards not just the production of nuclear weapons but to the acquisition of delivery systems for nuclear weapons. So I think this is a very dangerous situation.