General Dempsey: Israel Should Not Attack Iran; Do Not Arm Syrian Opposition
February 19, 2012 • 12:39AM

In CNN pre-releases of an interview to air Feb. 19 on CNN, Gen Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, said:

"I think it's premature to take a decision to arm the opposition movement in Syria because I would challenge anyone to clearly identify for me the opposition movement in Syria at this point. And let me broaden the conversation a bit. Syria is an arena right now for all of the various interests to play out. And what I mean by that is you've got great power involvement. Turkey clearly has an interest, a very important interest. Russia has a very important interest. Iran has an interest. And what we see playing out is that not just those countries, in fact, potentially not all of them in any case, but we see the various groups who might think that at issue is a Sunni-Shi'a competition for regional control."

Asked about a pre-emptive strike on Iran, he said:
"I think it would be premature to exclusively decide that the time for a military option was upon us. I think that the economic sanctions and the 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. I mean, fundamentally, we have to be prepared. And that includes, for the most part, at this point, being prepared defensively."

On Tehran's leadership:
"I'll tell you that I've been confronting that question since I came into 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."

The Jerusalem Post adds that Dempsey said that an Israeli strike on Iran would be "destabilizing and wouldn't achieve their long-term objectives.... It's not prudent at this point to decide to attack Iran." But he said that he had not necessarily persuaded the Israelis of this.