ISRAELI ATTACK ON IRAN 'WOULD NOT STOP NUCLEAR PROGRAM'
By Richard Norton-Taylor
** America's top military chief, General Martin Dempsey, reinforces Washington's opposition to unilateral Israeli action **
An Israeli attack on Iran would delay but probably not stop its nuclear program, the most senior U.S. military officer has claimed. General Martin Dempsey reinforced Washington's opposition to unilateral Israel military action as he made clear that U.S. military chiefs were equally wary of getting ensnared in Syria.
In common with NATO's supreme commander, U.S. Admiral James Stavridis, ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_G._Stavridis ) who wrote about Afghanistan for the *Guardian* on Thursday, Dempsey put a brave face on the situation there. The chairman of the joint chiefs of staff was speaking to journalists in London, where he attended the opening ceremony of the Paralympic Games as head of the US delegation.
Distancing himself from any Israeli plan to bomb Iran, Dempsey said such an attack would "clearly delay but probably not destroy Iran's nuclear programme".
He added: "I don't want to be complicit if they [Israel] choose to do it."
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.
On Syria, he said, Washington was collaborating with the country's neighbors, sharing intelligence and helping with military planning. The U.S. was supplying humanitarian aid to Turkey.
But Dempsey warned of the implications of establishing a "humanitarian zone" inside Syria, as suggested by others, including France, have suggested. Syria was not Libya, he said, there was no comparison.
Those who established a humanitarian zone would be obliged to assume responsibility for protecting it, Dempsey said. That would mean not merely establishing a no-fly zone but providing protection against Syrian missiles.
The U.S., like the U.K., was supplying "non-lethal" aid to Syrian rebels. What he described as "any broader activities inside Syria" would have to be discussed and conducted within the NATO framework, Dempsey said. The worst-case scenario would be Syria ending up as a failed state, he said. He was reflecting growing concern in the west and elsewhere, including Russia, about the crisis allowing armed extreme jihadists and al-Qaida sympathizers with the opportunity to increase their influence and expand control across Syria.
In Afghanistan, the Taliban were using young men in "green on blue" attacks -- attacks by Afghans in army uniform -- as part of a new asymmetric weapon, as improvised explosive devices had been in the past, Dempsey suggested.
A rapid expansion of Afghan security forces from some about 200,000 to more than 300,000 in two years had "exposed vulnerabilities in vetting practices," he said.
NATO had to help develop Afghan forces to ensure NATO troops ended their combat role by the target date of the end of 2014, "and we will," Dempsey said.
Stavridis wrote that "measurable and substantial progress" has been made in Afghanistan in three specific areas. Firstly, Afghanistan is no longer a safe haven for terrorists, he said. Secondly, Afghan national forces have improved markedly over the past eighteen months, "to the point where they are making significant gains in the fight against the Taliban." As a result, "this has been a particularly difficult summer for the insurgency, which has seen the elimination of two top-level commanders in the past few days alone."
Thirdly, the international community has made specific pledges on long-term partnerships with Afghanistan.
Stavridis said Afghan society was changing for the better every day, but acknowledged that the NATO-led coalition faced formidable challenges over the next few years. "I have no doubt that there will still be difficult days ahead."
'I DON'T WANT TO BE COMPLICIT' IN AN ISRAELI STRIKE ON IRAN, SAYS U.S. ARMY CHIEF
By Elie Leshem
Times of Israel
August 30, 2012
The U.S. should not become embroiled in an Israeli military strike on Iran that would not only fail to destroy Iran’s nuclear program, but could also undo international diplomatic pressure on Tehran, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey said Thursday in London.
Such an attack by Israel would “clearly delay but probably not destroy Iran’s nuclear program,” Dempsey said, adding: ”I don’t want to be complicit if they [Israel] choose to do it.”
The U.S.’s top general -- the *Guardian* reported – said that he could not presume to know Iran’s ultimate intentions in pursuing a nuclear program, as intelligence was inconclusive on that score. It was clear, however, he maintained, that mounting pressure from the American-led “international coalition . . . could be undone if [Iran] was attacked prematurely.”
Last week, Dempsey said that Israel and the U.S. did not see eye to eye on the Iranian nuclear threat, admitting that Washington and Jerusalem were on “different clocks” regarding Tehran’s nuclear ambitions.
He noted, however, that he understood Israel’s urgency in calling for action against Iran’s nuclear program.
“They are living with an existential concern that we are not living with,” he said.
Dempsey added that he and Israeli Defense Forces Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz spoke on a bi-weekly basis to coordinate intelligence, despite gaps in understanding how close Iran was to a breakout nuclear capability.
“We compare intelligence, we discuss regional implications. And we’ve admitted to each other that our clocks are turning at different rates,” he said.
Thursday’s comments from Dempsey, who was in London for the Paralympic Games, come amid mounting chatter over a possible Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear program. The U.S. has been working to keep Israel from launching a unilateral strike, maintaining that sanctions should be given more time to work.
Last week, the former American ambassador to Israel, Martin Indyk, termed Israel’s talk of attacking Iran “a classic case of crying wolf.”
--Joshua Davidovich contributed to this report.
CHASTISED ISRAEL SEEKS WAY FORWARD WITH U.S. OVER IRAN
By Crispian Balmer
** Stark U.S. criticism surprises Israeli leadership -- Israel seeks explicit Washington warning for Iran -- Indications U.S. president might toughen language **
September 4, 2012
JERUSALEM -- Stunned by a rebuke from the United States' top general, Israel is preparing a climbdown strategy in its war of words over Iran's nuclear programme, aware that its room for manoeuvre is shrinking rapidly.
Anxious to prevent any flare-up in the Middle East ahead of November elections, there is also a good chance that U.S. President Barak Obama will provide Israel with enough cover to avoid a loss of face, analysts say.
A burst of bellicose rhetoric over the last month led Western allies to fear that Israel was poised to launch a unilateral strike against Iran in an effort to hobble the Islamic Republic's contested nuclear facilities.
Convinced Iran is seeking the atomic bomb, Israeli leaders have warned of a possible Holocaust if Tehran is not stopped; but the saber-rattling clearly riled Washington, while failing to rally domestic public opinion behind a perilous war.
In a move that dismayed Israeli ministers, U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey, told reporters in Britain last week that the United States did not want to be "complicit" in an Israeli attack on Iran.
He also warned that go-it-alone military action risked unraveling an international coalition that has applied progressively stiff sanctions on Iran, which insists that its ambitious nuclear project is purely peaceful.
Dempsey's stark comments made clear to the world that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was isolated and that if he opted for war, he would jeopardize all-important ties with the Jewish state's closest ally.
"Israeli leaders cannot do anything in the face of a very explicit 'no' from the U.S. president. So they are exploring what space they have left to operate," said Giora Eiland, who served as national security adviser from 2003 to 2006.
"Dempsey's announcement changed something. Before, Netanyahu said the United States might not like (an attack), but they will accept it the day after. However, such a public, bold statement meant the situation had to be reassessed."
Pointing to a possible way out, Netanyahu has since said that more explicit international warnings could prevent war, indicating he wanted the United States to provide Tehran with unambiguous options to halt its nuclear activity or face war.
"The greater the resolve and the clearer the red line, the less likely we'll have conflict," he said on Monday.
Positions are likely to be clarified at an expected meeting late this month between U.S. President Barack Obama and Netanyahu when the Israeli leader addresses the U.N. General Assembly in New York.
"That will be a crucial encounter. They will have to reach an understanding there. At the end of the day, you do reach an understanding, always," said Eiland, who had numerous dealings with Washington during his time as national security adviser.
There are already signs that Obama is prepared to raise the pressure on Iran.
On Monday, his Democratic Party released its election platform, saying the window for diplomacy would not remain open "indefinitely" and explicitly raised the threat of "military force" if Iran did not "live up to its obligations."
The program appeared to be more toughly worded than public declarations from Obama, but it is not politically binding. An official within the prime minister's office said Israel wanted to hear cast iron commitments from Obama's own mouth.
"We want to hear a concrete declaration from the president, not vague promises that he will guarantee Israeli security," the official said, declining to be named.
The official noted the tough stance the Americans took in 2011, warning they would not tolerate any move by Iran to carry through with a threat to close the Strait of Hormuz, and hoped to see similar clarity applied to the nuclear program.
Netanyahu met the heads of Israel's intelligence community on Tuesday for an annual briefing to the security cabinet, where they were expected to present their latest assessments on Iran and the situation in southern Lebanon, amongst other things.
The leader of Lebanon's Iranian-backed militant group Hezbollah said on Monday Iran could hit U.S. bases in the Middle East in response to any Israeli attack on its nuclear sites.
"A decision has been taken to respond and the response will be very great," Hezbollah Secretary-General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah told a local television station, ramping up the rhetoric which has raged through the region this summer.
Israel's vice prime minister, Moshe Yaalon, issued his own bleak warning to Hezbollah to stay out of any possible conflict.
Talking to 100fm radio on Friday, he said Hezbollah had some 60,000 missiles and rockets, but that Israel had a much bigger arsenal. "Therefore, they need to understand that if they fire rockets and missiles, Hezbollah will pay a heavy price and the state of Lebanon will pay a heavy price until they stop."
Behind all the bluff and bombast, there is no question that the military in Israel is reviewing all its plans in case of conflict. Three officials told Reuters preparations for a possible, imminent, unilateral strike on Iran were "serious."
Civilians are also being readied for possible bloodshed, with the military issuing a booklet last week on how to deal with possible emergency, and lines forming at distribution centres across the country for free gas masks.
Despite all the obvious activity, it is hard to shake off a sense of scepticism. Although Israel is believed to have the region's only nuclear arsenal, it lacks the sort of conventional firepower pundits believe is necessary to put a serious dent in Iran's far-flung, well-defended atomic installations.
"All this talk of war is bullshit. If they could do it, then they would have already done it long ago," a senior European diplomat in Israel said.
(Additional reporting by Dan Williams and Jeffrey Heller; editing by Ralph Boulton)
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