Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey on Tuesday told a Senate panel that he did not instruct Israel against an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who was also speaking Tuesday on Capitol Hill, said that US President Barack Obama’s administration was working as “aggressively” as possible to implement sanctions on Iran, and that they had seen more progress than initially expected.
Dempsey, who visited Israel for high-level talks in January, was answering the panel’s questions on comments he made about a possible Israeli attack on the Islamic Republic earlier this month. In an interview with CNN, he had said: “A strike at this time would be destabilizing and wouldn’t achieve their [Israel’s] long-term objectives. I wouldn’t suggest, sitting here today, that we’ve persuaded them that our view is the correct view and that they are acting in an ill-advised fashion.”
On Tuesday, Dempsey said that he had merely spoken to Israeli officials about “the issue of time,” and had not advised them against a military strike on Iran.
Dempsey also defended comments in which he described Iran as a “rational” actor, stating in his panel testimony, “We can’t afford to underestimate our potential adversaries by writing them off as irrational.”
His comments came as Defense Minister Ehud Barak was visiting the US, where he was scheduled to meet with Vice President Joe Biden on Tuesday. Iran was expected to play a prominent role in these meetings.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is scheduled to visit Washington next week, where he will meet with Obama. Netanyahu said at Sunday’s weekly cabinet meeting that Iran would be the focus of their conversation.