The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs and Stephen Harper on Iran

Why it is ‘not prudent at this point to decide to attack Iran’


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.

Compare and contrast that with the Prime Minister’s rhetoric on Iran.

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.

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The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs and Stephen Harper on Iran

  1. And we have a PM that mangles the English language with his Con-speak rhetoric at every opportunity to advance his cause.

    • I agree with your comment; but what do you think Harper’s cause is in this case?  It seems to me that if one wanted to design foriegn policy to decrease Canada’s standing in the international community and work against Canada’s interests, Harper’s statement would fit the bill completely. 

      • Kowtowing to the Canadian-Israeli voter most likely. I think it would be political suicide if he decided to create a “coalition of the willing” to attack Iran. Add some bluster, as he seems to like the sound of gas passing through his lips. I’m sure there’s other motivations as everything political seems to be a game to Harper and he likes to play to win.

        • This comment was deleted.

          • I haven’t got a clue of what your talking about but if you’re trying to accuse me of antisemitism then you are barking up the wrong tree. My wife and daughters are Jewish and my wife lost family thanks to Hitler’s “Easy Bake” policy. My family actively worked against Hitler’s forces during the occupation of the Netherlands. You are a despicable piece of crap for even suggesting this. Is this some kind of perverted talking point that the PMO is now distributing?

            Am I cynical about Our Glorious Leader? — you bet. Does he kowtow to the Canadian-Israeli vote? It’s a documented fact!  Has it come down to this — any criticism of Harpo’s Israeli policy is considered to be “antisemitism?”  Well that’s just plain old fascism and I won’t stand for that in my country. 

            No piss-off and don’t you ever dare to bring your filthy unsubstantiated allegations here but I will take further action.

  2. When the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff has to publically tone down our war-mongering PM….you know we have a problem.

  3. I didn’t realize I posted same twice so I did some quick editing.

    Do you think president misspeak or commit gaffe? Only reason Americans are soft pedaling this is because they are only ones the world listens to. No one cares what Harper says because he’s irrelevant but foreign pols pay attention to CJS because he can place Marines on your doorstep and you certainly don’t want that, not if you are leader of foreign country, anyways.

    Michael Kinsley ~ A gaffe is when a politician tells the truth

    • Sadly, America has gone to war on far less proof than a possibly mis-spoken word by the president! 

  4. “…. decided that they will embark on the effort to weaponize their nuclear capability.”

    Walter Russell Mead – Obama Spills Beans …. :

    Asked about the Iranian threat and Israel’s potential response, the president let slip a telling admission: he believes that Iran has a nuclear weapons program. From the interview, as reported in the NY Times:

    “I don’t think Israel has made a decision. I think they, like us, believe that Iran has to stand down on its nuclear weapons program,” Mr. Obama said in the interview, broadcast live from the White House. “Until they do, I think Israel rightly is going to be very concerned, and we are as well.”

    This is huge news—and the major media have pretty much let it slip. Until this point, the administration has insinuated that certain Iranian nuclear structures are “inconsistent” with a peaceful nuclear program. But like the IAEA and the international press, the White House refused to explicitly accuse the mullahs of building a decidedly non-peaceful nuclear program. Indeed, the Associated Press reported just days ago about the IAEA’s “attempts to investigate suspicions that Iran is secretly working on nuclear weapons.”

    With yesterday’s slip of the tongue, Obama may have revealed where he and the American intelligence community stand on the issue. If there’s no retraction, it’s a confirmation: the President thinks the mullahs are working on nukes.

  5. The only comments I ever seem to post are on copy editing …

    MISTER Dempsey? Really?

    4-star general, long career, including commanding in Iraq.

    • I believe you misread that, the article said, “The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Martin Dempsey, was interviewed ….”

      • The next sentence does use Mr. rather than whatever honorific Mr. Nelson, above, would prefer.  But it doesn’t become a copy editing issue unless there is MacLeans style guide for blog posts which over-ride author prference on the matter, and the use of Mr. would violate it. 

        • Thanks — I just did (an obviously incomplete) search on “Mister.”

  6. OK, Wherry, I’ve compared and contrasted and concluded – what exactly are we supposed to conclude?  The gist of Dempsey’s comments are “…
    the current path we’re on (sanctions and diplomacy) is the most prudent path at this point”.   This suggests that “at some other point”, the most prudent path is going to be something else.  As for Dempsey’s conviction that Iran is a “rational actor”, he also says this:

    “I mean, fundamentally we have to be prepared (for a nuclear Iran), and that includes, for the most part at this point, being prepared defensively.”

    In other words, his faith in the rationality of Iran isn’t so deep as to consider the need to prepare for an Iranian attack unnecessary.

    As for Harper, what does he say in the comments you’ve excerpted that is in stark contrast with Dempsey’s?  Both consider Iran to be a threat, although they perhaps differ on the extent to which the threat can be contained using present measures.  Both consider the threat to primarily derive from Iran’s nuclear program, although Dempsey’s view is that Iran hasn’t yet decided to “weaponize” (which is obviously not the same thing as being incapable of “weaponizing”).  Everything Harper said – that Iran is ruled by fanatical fundamentalists who violate human rights and threaten their neighbours – is demonstrably true and nothing he said is starkly inconsistent with any Dempsey’s comments.

    • In other words, his faith in the rationality of Iran isn’t so deep as to consider the need to prepare for an Iranian attack unnecessary.

      To be fair, the Joint Chiefs of Staff almost certainly have plans prepared for defending against an attack from CANADA.  Short of, perhaps, alien invasion (perhaps) I’m not sure that the U.S. military considers preparation for ANY hypothetical scenario to be unnecessary.

      • Agreed, but I’m sure the “Iranian attack” plan differs a fair bit from the “Canadian attack” plan.

        • True, lol.

          For one thing, the 10th Mountain division can’t simply drive on the main road out of Fort Drum straight in to Iran!

        • Indeed, the Canadian attack plan is significantly more difficult for them to deal with, because once we bring our two secret weapons, Canadian Beer and Boobs on Free TV, they’ll be hard pressed to keep their soldiers fighting. :)

  7. This past The Sunday Edition on CBC had an excellent look at the Iran with nukes issue which you can listen to here, http://www.cbc.ca/thesundayedition/shows/2012/02/19/iran-and-the-nuke–/.

    The most striking point for me was when guest Hirsh Goodman, senior research associate at the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University, said that the fact there was so much talk and speculation about whether Israel and/or the U.S. was going to attempt a pre-emptive strike on Iran was the surest sign that one would not happen.  If something like this were to happen it would be definitely hush, hush and on the q-t.

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