Obama's pick to head US military warns Iran over nukes

General Martin Dempsey says Tehran's nuclear activities and its attacks against US soldiers in Iraq show "miscalculation of US resolve."

Martin Dempsey 311 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Martin Dempsey 311
(photo credit: REUTERS)
US President Barack Obama's pick to become the top US military officer warned Iran not to underestimate US resolve in responding to attacks on US forces in Iraq by Iranian-backed militia and Tehran's continued nuclear activity .
General Martin Dempsey did not outline potential US responses in a Senate hearing on his nomination to become chairman of the US military's Joint Chiefs of Staff, a post he is expected to assume in October.
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But his remarks underscored growing US concern in the wake of the killing of 14 US service members in hostile incidents in June, the highest monthly toll in Iraq in three years.
Asked what his message to Iran would be, Dempsey said: "It would be a gross miscalculation to believe that we will simply allow that to occur without taking serious consideration or reacting to it."
Dempsey appeared to signal his fear that Tehran might go too far, both in its actions in Iraq and with its nuclear program, which the West believes is aimed at making nuclear weapons. Tehran says the program is for peaceful purposes.
In his written response to questions from the Armed Services Committee, Dempsey wrote: "With its nuclear activities and its surrogate activities in southern Iraq, there is a high potential that Iran will make a serious miscalculation of US resolve."
US forces officially ended combat operations in Iraq last August but have come under increasing fire in recent weeks. Pentagon officials blame Shi'ite militias armed by Iraq's Shi'ite neighbor Iran for most of the recent attacks.
New US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta urged Iraq this month to go after the Shi'ite groups responsible, and warned during his visit to Baghdad that the United States would take unilateral action when needed go after those threats.
Aides stressed at the time that Panetta was referring to the right of US forces to defend themselves on Iraqi soil.
Dempsey, who has commanded troops in Iraq, said Iran hoped to re-create a "Beirut-like moment" in Iraq, referring to the 1984 pullout from Lebanon's capital in the wake of attacks including a major suicide bombing targeting US Marines.
"Iran's activities in southern Iraq are intended to produce some kind of Beirut-like moment ... and then in so doing to send a message that they have expelled us from Iraq," Dempsey said, citing the opinion of US military leaders in Iraq.
The United States is on track to withdraw all of its 46,000 remaining forces from Iraq by the end of the year under the terms of a bilateral security pact.
Dempsey said he would favor keeping some US forces in the country should Baghdad ask, but so far Shi'ite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's coalition government has yet to make a decision whether it wants an extended troop presence or not.
"As long as we've got those soldiers there, we're going to do whatever we have to do to protect them. And I want to make sure that's clear to everyone," Dempsey told the committee.
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