US, Israeli military chiefs hold another face-to-face

The two generals meet for the third time in six months and discuss Iran and Syria

Mitch Ginsburg is the former Times of Israel military correspondent.

Chief of Staff Maj. Gen. Benny Gantz and US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Martin Dempsey, March 2012. (photo credit: IDF Spokesperson)
Chief of Staff Maj. Gen. Benny Gantz and US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Martin Dempsey, March 2012. (photo credit: IDF Spokesperson)

The commanders of the American and Israeli armed forces met in Washington on Monday, discussing Iran and Syria predominantly.

“We spent much of our time today talking about growing concerns with Iran and Syria,” US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey wrote in a statement. “I’m glad we had the opportunity to discuss issues of importance to our two countries. Regular and candid dialogue is critical as we face common threats and challenges.”

This is the third meeting over the past six months between Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz and Gen. Dempsey, who came to Israel in late January. Their meetings have all been conducted under the looming shadow of Iran’s nuclear program and what, from an Israeli perspective, is a narrowing opportunity for military action.

Dempsey recently drew criticism for speaking of the regime in Tehran as rational. He explained his intent to PBS’s Charlie Rose on Saturday. “Rational meant to me that there is an evident pattern of behavior that this regime has followed since the Islamic Revolution that first and foremost expresses their intention to remain in power and to preserve the regime, and that based on that there are some things that we know they will respond to. That’s a rational actor.”

Dempsey, like his commander in chief, believes that sanctions — the increased torque of deprivation — along with the assembly of an international coalition, diplomatic pressure and military preparedness, will force the regime to choose between survival and the nuclear program and that, being rational, they may well opt for the former.

If not, as he told Rose, “all options are on the table.”

Dempsey, however, underscored the primary difference between Jerusalem and Washington. “We don’t disagree in terms of intent,” he said. “We disagree in terms of time.”

Israel, according to the former head of Military Intelligence, Maj. Gen. (res) Amos Yadlin, feels it must act before Iran attains the capacity to create a nuclear weapon. The United States, on account of its military’s size and strength, can wait until the very cusp of attainment. The gap between the two could be measured in years.

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