Iran General NewsGeneral: Allies on 'best path' with Iran

General: Allies on ‘best path’ with Iran

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Chicago Tribune: The United States is ready to respond to an escalation in tensions with Iran but will continue working with its allies on an approach that includes military preparedness and economic sanctions, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff told the Tribune on Friday.
Chicago Tribune

By Wailin Wong, Chicago Tribune reporter

The United States is ready to respond to an escalation in tensions with Iran but will continue working with its allies on an approach that includes military preparedness and economic sanctions, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff told the Tribune on Friday.

Speaking to the Tribune editorial board ahead of the NATO summit in Chicago, Army Gen. Martin Dempsey said he believes “the path we’re currently on with Iran is the best path.”

The U.S. and European Union have imposed sanctions on Iran’s central bank and oil industry over the country’s nuclear program, which Iran says is for civilian purposes. The U.S. says it is a cover for developing the capability to build atomic bombs.

Global cooperation needs to be “evident in the way we approach the diplomatic piece” of the Iran relationship, Dempsey said. Iran and six countries, including the U.S., are scheduled to hold nuclear talks this week in Baghdad.

“If the president were to ask me what we could do to respond to an Iranian provocation, I would have a menu of options,” Dempsey said. He added: “Our stance, if you will, is one of preparedness and deterrence. It’s not a stance that’s based on offensive action.”

On the subject of Afghanistan, expected to be a major focus for the world leaders convening in Chicago, Dempsey said he expects discussion on how the alliance will meet the objectives laid out at the NATO summit in Lisbon in 2010. A key target is for local Afghan forces to take responsibility for security by the end of 2014.

French President Francois Hollande, who took office Tuesday, campaigned on an early pullout from Afghanistan and reiterated Friday in a visit to the White House that he will withdraw French combat troops by the end of the year.

The timeline is a “28-nation issue, not a U.S.-France issue,” Dempsey said when asked about Hollande’s stance. “I’m sure it will be part of the conversations this week.”

NATO partners also will discuss plans to build Afghan security forces to 352,000 members by the end of the year, Dempsey said. He acknowledged difficulty in reconciling disparate views of the local forces’ readiness by military commanders on the ground and intelligence groups, but his own assessment was optimistic.

“Based on my observations, I am incredibly confident in the Afghan security forces to maintain security locally,” Dempsey said.

Among NATO members, one challenge military leaders will address this weekend is how to adapt strategy to a tighter fiscal environment, he said. Declining financial and military resources could pose a risk to NATO’s “ability to project power beyond the borders of Europe,” Dempsey said.

And within Europe, he said, he continues to back a missile defense system. This plan has strained relations with Russia.

“I think it’s very important,” Dempsey said of the system. “Missile defense shields are important so we’re not dragged into conflict on someone else’s terms.”

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