Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey told reporters in London on Thursday that an Israeli attack on Iran would “clearly delay but probably not destroy Iran’s nuclear programme.” Dempsey — America’s highest ranking military officer — also sought to distance the U.S. from any premature attack, adding, “I don’t want to be complicit if they [Israel] choose to do it.”
Dempsey explained that he did not know whether Iran intends to build nuclear weapons — the IAEA and U.S. and Israeli intelligence all agree that Iran has not made that decision — but that a premature attack could dismantle the international coalition President Obama has assembled to confront and isolate Iran over its disputed nuclear program, the Guardian reports:
Dempsey said he did not know Iran’s nuclear intentions, as intelligence did not reveal intentions. What was clear, he said, was that the “international coalition” applying pressure on Iran “could be undone if [Iran] was attacked prematurely”. Sanctions against Iran were having an effect, and they should be given a reasonable opportunity to succeed.
Dempsey’s assessment is shared by numerous American and Israeli officials, including former Mossad chief Meir Dagan, who has also warned that a premature attack would “accelerate the procurement of the bomb” and “galvanize Iranian society behind the leadership and create unity around the nuclear issue.”
The comments come on the heals of the IAEA’s new report on Iran’s nuclear program, which found the Islamic Republic has increased its stockpile of enriched uranium and its production capacity. Yet the Obama administration and outside experts still believe there is “time and space” for a diplomatic solution. “The president has made clear frequently he is determined to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said when asked about the IAEA report.
“They can’t do it right without us,” a former adviser to Obama told the New York Times recently, referring to a unilateral Israeli strike on Iran. “And we’re trying to persuade them that a strike that just drives the program more underground isn’t a solution; it’s a bigger problem.”
Indeed, the Obama administration is aware, not only of the threat an Iranian nuclear weapon poses, but also the potential negative consequences of a military attack on Iran. And that, coupled with U.N., U.S. and Israeli assessments that Iran has not yet decided on whether to build a nuclear weapon, leads the administration to pursue a diplomatic solution with Iran, a track the it deems the “best and most permanent way” to solve the nuclear crisis.