US General Martin Dempsey, on a visit to Israel, tried to assuage Israeli fears regarding the emerging Iran nuclear deal.
By AP and World Israel News
General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said on Tuesday that Israel will continue to maintain a military edge over potential adversaries, including the Gulf Arab states, regardless of whether or not Washington signs a nuclear deal with Iran.
In discussions with the top US military officer, Israeli officials raised concerns regarding the scope of US arms sales to the Gulf Arab states as they build defenses against an expansionist Iran. The US has long promised to ensure that Israel enjoys a qualitative military edge in the region.
“Israel just wants to make sure that we’re not just helping them on the qualitative side,” Dempsey told reporters after meeting in Tel Aviv with his counterpart, IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot, and later with Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon. He was awarded an IDF badge of appreciation by Eisenkot during the meeting.
Israeli leaders, he continued, want assurances that the Gulf states, while being assisted militarily by the US, “don’t grow so much just simply in size that they become an overwhelming presence in the region,” he said.
Dempsey, on his fifth and final trip to Israel in his current position, is scheduled to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday.
Dempsey’s visit to Jerusalem is the first by a senior American military officer since Netanyahu told a joint meeting of Congress in March that Obama’s overture to Tehran would “all but guarantee” that Iran will obtain nuclear weapons. Netanyahu predicted that a nuclear-armed Iran would turn the Middle East into a “nuclear tinderbox.”
Regarding the effects of such a deal on Israel’s security, Dempsey said that it is too early to know whether Israel’s security will be enhanced by a US nuclear deal with Iran.
“If a deal is made … we need to re-engage with them [Israel] quickly and comprehensively to make that determination,” he said. “It will be incumbent on both of us to make sure that we provide the kind reassurances that the state of Israel has always counted on us to provide. But we are going to have to do the same thing with the Gulf allies.”
Dempsey said the US intends to continue helping Israel improve its air and missile defenses and will be talking to the Israelis about ways to improve their cyber defenses, their maritime security and their means of countering the terror tunnels such as those dug into Israel from Gaza.
Better off with non-nuclear Iran
Dempsey said he understands why Israelis believe a nuclear deal will give Iran room to accelerate its funding of surrogate terror groups like Hezbollah and to put more resources into its own military.
“I share their concern,” Dempsey said. “If the deal is reached and results in sanctions relief, which results in more economic power and more purchasing power for the Iranian regime, it’s my expectation that it’s not all going to flow into the economy to improve the lot of the average Iranian citizen. I think they will invest in their surrogates; I think they will invest in additional military capability.”
Despite Iran’s military build-up and its financing of global terror, Dempsey said he thinks a nuclear deal, taken as a whole, could be beneficial in the region.
“The long-term prospects seem to all of us, privately, that we are far better off with an Iran who is not a nuclear power than an Iran who is a nuclear power.”