WASHINGTON — The top U.S. military commander said he believed it would be “premature” to take military action against Iran in response to its nuclear program in an interview to be aired Feb. 19.
Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, also told CNN’s “Fareed Zakaria GPS” program that economic sanctions have to be given a chance to work, and the United States and its allies should be better prepared for a military option.
“I think it would be premature to exclusively decide that the time for a military option was upon us,” Dempsey said, according to excerpts of the interview released by CNN.
“I think that the economic sanctions and the international cooperation that we’ve been able to gather around sanctions is beginning to have an effect,” he added.
In recent weeks, there has been feverish speculation that Israel was getting closer to mounting a preemptive strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities, but Israel has denied reaching such a decision.
Tensions between Iran and Israel have also been simmering with Iranian warships entering the Mediterranean through the Suez Canal in a show of “might,” a move Israel said it would closely monitor.
The United States, other Western powers and Israel believe that Iran is seeking to build a nuclear bomb, but Tehran denies the charge, insisting its atomic program is for purely peaceful purposes.
Iran said last week it was ready to resume stalled talks on its nuclear drive, prompting a cautious welcome from the United States and the European Union.
Dempsey said he believed that “diplomacy is having an effect” and suggested that even if the West opted for a military solution, it had to be better prepared for such a step.
“I mean, fundamentally, we have to be prepared,” he said. “And that includes, for the most part, at this point, being prepared defensively.”
Asked if Iranian leader were acting rationally, the U.S. military commander said: “We are of the opinion that the Iranian regime is a rational actor. And it’s for that reason, I think, that we think the current path we’re on is the most prudent path at this point.”