Thu, Jun 11, 2015 - Page 7 News List

US general shares Israeli concern over Iran

SANCTIONS:The US Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman said whatever the outcome of a nuclear agreement with Tehran, there would be ‘work to do’ for the two militaries

Reuters, JERUSALEM

Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey speaks inside the Israeli military headquarters in Tel Aviv, Israel, on Tuesday.

Photo: EPA

The US’ top general sought to reassure Israel on Tuesday of “unshakable” US military support, despite deep strains in political relations over the prospect of a US-led nuclear deal with Iran and differences over Israeli-Palestinian diplomacy.

US Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Martin Dempsey, who is on a visit to Israel, said he shared a core Israeli fear that sanctions relief for Iran following a nuclear agreement would allow Tehran to give more money to its military and its guerrilla proxies.

“My assessment is that I share their concern. If the deal is reached and results in sanctions relief ... it’s my expectation that it’s not all going to flow into their economy,” he said.

“I think that they will invest in their surrogates. I think they will invest in additional military capability,” Dempsey told a small group of reporters in Jerusalem.

However, Dempsey said the long-term prospects were “far better” with an Iran that was not a nuclear-weapons power.

He told Israeli defense officials that Washington would work to mitigate Iran-related risks, with or without a deal.

“That’s what my visit here has been about, reassuring them that we’re clear-eyed about the risks that Iran poses to the region and we will work with our partners to address those risks,” Dempsey said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has presented the planned nuclear deal as a threat to Israel.

US President Barack Obama, addressing Israeli television last week, renewed his assertion that a deal would do a better job than air strikes in preventing Iran from becoming a nuclear-weapons power, an ambition Iran denies.

As a deadline at the end of this month for an Iran nuclear deal approaches, Dempsey said the US and Israel had to be prepared for either success or failure in the talks.

“If a deal is made, we’ve got work to do. If a deal is not made, we’ve got work to do,” Dempsey said, hinting that the US military might eventually need to address the threat from Iran’s nuclear program if diplomatic efforts fail. “And I think we’ve built up enough trust and confidence in each other — military to military — that we’re prepared to do that work.”

The prospect of an increasingly assertive Iran has also unnerved Gulf states, which have in turn sought to build up their militaries, including with US weaponry. Obama hosted leaders of the Sunni Arab states last month in the US.

Israeli Minister of Defense Moshe Yaalon voiced concern on Tuesday that Washington’s supply of advanced arms to Gulf Arab states to deter Iran could eventually challenge Israel’s US-backed regional military supremacy, if not addressed.

“Even if there are not now any hostile designs [among them] against us, as we know: In the Middle East, intentions are liable to change. The capability will without a doubt be there and this must be prepared for,” he said.

Dempsey, in a nod to the possibility of greater US defense assistance in the years ahead, said he discussed those concerns.

“Israel wants not only to overmatch them in technology, but they realize that there’s a size component to this as well,” Dempsey said.

He singled out discussions about future support to “thicken” Israel’s integrated air and missile defense system, its cyberdefenses, maritime security and explore counter-tunneling defenses.

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