US, Israeli clocks on Iran tick differently: Top soldier

US, Israeli clocks on Iran tick differently: Top soldier

BAGRAM, Afghanistan / TEL AVIV
US, Israeli clocks on Iran tick differently: Top soldier

Top US soldier Dempsey admits a friction on Iran between the US and its ally, Israel. AFP photo

The United States and Israel interpret the same intelligence reports on Iran’s nuclear program differently, the U.S. military’s top general said, as the rift between the two allies over a possible attack on Tehran widened.

Gen. Martin Dempsey, at the start of a trip to Afghanistan and Iraq, said late on Aug. 19 that Israel viewed the threat posed by Tehran’s atomic ambitions with more urgency, as a nuclear-armed Iran could endanger Israel’s very existence. Dempsey, the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, said he conferred with his Israeli counterpart Benny Gantz on a regular, bi-weekly basis, Agence France-Presse reported.

“We speak at least once every two weeks, we compare intelligence reports; we discuss the security implications. At the same time, we admit that our clocks are ticking at different paces,” Dempsey was quoted by Israeli daily Jerusalem Post as saying.

“Israelis live with a constant suspicion with which we do not have to deal,” he added. “You can take two countries and interpret the same intelligence and come out with two different conclusions. I’d suggest to you that’s what’s really happening here,” he said.

Amid intense speculation in the Israeli press that Israel soon may launch a unilateral strike against Iran’s nuclear sites, Dempsey said the U.S. military felt no pressure from Israel to back possible bombing raids.

Speaking to reporters aboard his plane before landing the night of Aug. 19 at Bagram air base in Afghanistan, Dempsey reiterated his view that any air strikes by Israel would delay but not destroy Iran’s disputed nuclear project. “I may not know about all of their capabilities but I think that [...] they could delay but not destroy Iran’s nuclear capabilities.”

Mofaz seeks urgent meet

Dempsey’s remarks came a week after Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said the U.S. and Israeli evaluations of Iran’s nuclear program are closer than ever following a secret U.S. intelligence report.

“It seems there really is a report by U.S. intelligence agencies,” Barak said on Aug. 9, asked about the report printed by Israeli daily Haaretz. “As far as we know, it brings the American assessment much much closer to ours,” Barak said. “I’d say that compared to previous American appraisals, it makes the Iranian issue a bit more urgent.”

In the meantime, Israel’s opposition head Shaul Mofaz sent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a letter yesterday demanding an urgent meeting on the Iranian issue. “I ask that this meeting be convened without delay, and address your intention to lead Israel to war,” Mofaz wrote. Mofaz asked for clarifications on the official U.S. position regarding an attack. Mofaz accused Netanyahu of “crossing red lines and neglecting the public discourse on the most intimate security-related issues.”