WASHINGTON – The United State and Israel view the Iranian nuclear threat very differently, Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said.
In an interview with the National Journal, published Thursday, the US army chief said, "We have to acknowledge that they ... see that threat differently than we do. It's existential to them."
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Dempsey, who visited Israel last week for talks with senior military and political officials, was quoted by the weekly as saying he and the Israelis each argued their positions "aggressively," but conceded that the close allies simply see the threat - and potentially how soon to act against it - very differently.
"My intervention with them was not to try to persuade them to my thinking or allow them to persuade me to theirs, but rather to acknowledge the complexity and commit to seeking creative solutions, not simple solutions," he told the National Journal.
In the interview, Dempsey said the army supported the Obama administration's determination to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon by any means necessary, but cautioned that using force should be a last resort.
"We are determined to prevent them from acquiring that weapon, but that doesn't mean dropping bombs necessarily," he said. "I personally believe that we should be in the business of deterring as the first priority," he said.
However, Dempsey added that Washington was increasing its economic and diplomatic pressure on Tehran while making preparations - if there was no other option - for possible military intervention in the Islamic Republic.
He claimed economic and diplomatic pressure is beginning to show results and it would be "premature" to resort to military force.
"I do think the path we're on—the economic sanctions and the diplomatic pressure—does seem to me to be having an effect," Dempsey said. "I just think that it's premature to be deciding that the economic and diplomatic approach is inadequate."
He added: "A conflict with Iran would be really destabilizing, and I'm not just talking from the security perspective. It would be economically destabilizing."
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