On October 10, Gen. Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, gave a briefing and took questions at the National Press Club. Two of the questions he answered were from three questions (on index cards) submitted by LPAC and EIR, with the second question being a shortened version. The following excerpts are from a Congressional Quarterly transcript of the event.
DEMPSEY (from main speech): My aim has been to make sure that we're all prepared with options for the challenges ahead, both the near term issues in Iran and in Syria and longer term issues resulting from the Arab Spring. There are some countries I haven't visited yet, but I plan to. China and India are high on my list, and so is Russia. Even though I've not yet visited Moscow, I have had several productive meetings with my Russian counterpart, Nikolai Makarov, here in Washington D.C., in Europe, and by video teleconference several times. I could go on, as you can tell I'm working hard on my Friends list.
QUESTION: In light of the differences between the U.S. on one side and Russia and China on the other over Syria and Iran, are we in danger of a greater conflict between these major powers?
DEMPSEY: I think Syria's the most complex issue — and by the way, now think about that, with all the other things we just talked about, and we haven't mentioned four or five other — other parts of the world that are complicated. But Syria's the most complex of all.
Because it is in many ways — it's in many ways a crucible for all of the other factors and influences related to the Arab Spring, the conflict among different sects of Islam, ethnic issues, major power interventions, non-state actors. I mean, you know we could — honestly I could — there's a catalog of complexity that we could — that we could share on Syria in particular.
And — and as you said, I mean there are major powers with interests and their own concerns about the outcome, what's on the other side that are — that are dominating their view. So, what I can tell you that what we're doing is — what we're doing is, those of us that dress like I do, is we continue to plan for a number of contingencies.
We're prepared to provide options if those options are required, and that's not just options internal to the United States. As you know, Syria is bordered on the north by Turkey, a very close NATO partner. And so we're working through NATO as well to — to understand, to try to clarify, and to try to collaborate on planning that ultimately might be useful. But the military instrument of power at this point is not the prominent instrument of power that should be applied in Syria.
QUESTION: During an interview on Charlie Rose last week, Sergey Lavrov stated that he feared that an Arab Autumn might be followed by a nuclear winter.
As we approach the 50th anniversary of the Cuban Missile Crisis, how can we avoid escalation of the world's hot spot be it Syria or Iran or the South China Sea?
DEMPSEY: Well, with their help hopefully. I mean, you know.
I — I hope that wasn't his intent to volleyball the challenge to us because this is something we have to work together on across — across the region. It's of course, you know the proliferation of nuclear technology, but also of ballistic missile technology that should have us all concerned and particular about Iran and also notably about North Korea because they have demonstrated both the intent — the will and the intent to proliferate technologies in particular into parts of the world that we wouldn't want them to proliferate.
But I do think — there are, by the way places where Russia and we are collaborating mightily. The northern distribution network out of Afghanistan is possible only with their help. We're working counter-piracy, counter-narcotics, border security, counter — counter-terror. There's a — there's more places that we are working with our partners than — than not, but it is as Secretary Lavrov said, an issue that could proliferate, in particular I think if Iran achieves nuclear weapons status.