McCain decries daylight between Israel, US on Iran

After meeting Netanyahu, US senator says there is tension between Washington and J'lem over the Iranian threat; McCain takes issue with Gen. Dempsey's appraisal of Iran as rational.

February 21, 2012 21:30
2 minute read.
The Jerusalem Post

John McCain 311. (photo credit: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg)


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Just hours after meeting Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, US Senator John McCain (R-Arizona) said Tuesday there was “daylight” and “tension” between Jerusalem and Washington over the Iranian issue.

“There should be no daylight between America and Israel in our assessment of the [Iranian] threat,” McCain said at a Jerusalem press conference.

“Unfortunately there clearly is some.”

McCain, the ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, is the head of a five-member bipartisan senate delegation touring the region. His comments came just two days after Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in a CNN interview it would not be prudent for Israel to attack Iran at this point, and added that Iran is a “rational” actor.

McCain took strong issue with Dempsey’s appraisal of Iran, saying that by pursuing nuclear weapons despite mounting international isolation, growing sanctions and the “very real threat of conflict, it is hard to see this as rational behavior.”

“Any regime with an abiding concern for its own security, self-interest and self-preservation would not engage in such deeply provocative conduct,” he said.

His colleague Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) was even blunter in his criticism of Dempsey.

“I admire General Dempsey,” he said. “But I don’t think it is helpful to say that Iran is a rational actor given their behavior.” Anyone who denies the Holocaust, as Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has done, and plotted to kill the Saudi Arabian ambassador in Washington should not be considered rational, he said.

In reference to a spate of reports claiming that Washington was pressing Israel not to take action against Iran now, Graham said: “People are giving Israel a lot of advice here lately from America. I just want to tell our Israeli friends that my advice to you is never lose control of your destiny. Never allow a situation to develop that would destroy the Jewish state.”

Graham also referred to the current impasse with Iran as a “never again” moment.

McCain, acknowledging that he was not privy to the content of the meetings that White House National Security Adviser Tom Donilon held in Israel over the weekend, said there was “significant tension on how to approach the whole issue.”

McCain sided with Jerusalem in the debate with the US over the time to act against Iran – whether it was only when the Iranians made the political decision to assemble a bomb, as Washington seems to maintain, or before they could fortify all their nuclear installations against military attack, as Israel argues.

“There is no doubt that Iran has so far been undeterred on the path of acquiring nuclear weapons,” McCain said.

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