Reuters reports: The top U.S. military officer told Reuters on Wednesday he did not know whether Israel would alert the United States ahead of time if it decided to take military action against Iran.
General Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, also acknowledged differences in perspective between the United States and Israel over the best way to handle Iran and its nuclear program.
He said the United States was convinced that sanctions and diplomatic pressure was the right path to take on Iran, along with “the stated intent not to take any options off the table” – language that leaves open the possibility of future military action.
“I’m not sure the Israelis share our assessment of that. And because they don’t and because to them this is an existential threat, I think probably that it’s fair to say that our expectations are different right now,” Dempsey said in an interview as he flew to Washington from London.
Asked whether he was talking about the differences between Israeli and U.S. expectations over sanctions, or differences in perspective about the future course of events, Dempsey said: “All of the above.” He did not elaborate.
He also did not disclose whether he believed Israel was prepared to strike Iran.
Meanwhile, Israel’s Defense Minister Ehud Barak told Israel Radio on Thursday: “Israel is a sovereign state and it is the government of Israel, the Israeli army and security forces who are responsible for Israel’s security, future and survival.”
Ali Gharib notes:
Barak reportedly rebuffed U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta last month when Panetta sought assurances that Israel would give the U.S. a heads up if it decided to attack Iran. Barak refused to “give any assurances that Israel would first seek Washington’s permission, or even inform the White House in advance” of an impending attack, according to an unnamed source in the U.K.’s Telegraph newspaper.
So here’s the question Panetta, Dempsey, President Obama, and all the GOP presidential candidates need to answer: In the event that without warning or contrary to U.S. advice, Israel preemptively attacks Iran, will the United States nevertheless be obliged to intervene on Israel’s behalf?
In other words, is the United States a pawn that Israel is free to move whenever it chooses?