February 17th, 2012
04:13 PM ET

Watch GPS: Martin Dempsey on Syria, Iran and China

On Fareed Zakaria GPS this Sunday at 10a.m. and 1p.m. EST, an exclusive interview with the top-ranking military officer in the U.S., Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Martin Dempsey. Fareed has a wide-ranging discussion with Dempsey on Syria, Iran, China, budget cuts, and more.

We also have a great China panel on the show, and editorials on Iran and the Euro Zone.

Here are some excerpts of what Dempsey had to say: 

On arming Syria’s opposition

Fareed Zakaria: What would you say to those who argue that the United States should arm the opposition movement in Syria?

Martin Dempsey: I think it's premature to take a decision to arm the opposition movement in Syria because I would challenge anyone to clearly identify for me the opposition movement in Syria at this point. And let me broaden the conversation a bit. Syria is an arena right now for all of the various interests to play out.  And what I mean by that is you've got great power involvement.  Turkey clearly has an interest, a very important interest.  Russia has a very important interest.  Iran has an interest. And what we see playing out is that not just those countries, in fact, potentially not all of them in any case, but we see the various groups who might think that at issue is a Sunni-Shia competition for regional control.

On comparing Syria with Libya

Fareed Zakaria:  Militarily, is Syria very different from Libya, in the geography? In the case of Libya, you had an eastern half of the country that the rebels had. They had a city, Benghazi. Or do you believe, if you needed to, you could militarily intervene in Syria in the same way you did in Libya?

Martin Dempsey:  Not the same way we did in Libya.  I mean Syria is a very different challenge.  It's a different challenge, as you described it, geographically.  It's a different challenge in terms of the capability the Syrian military.  They are very capable.  They have a very sophisticated, integrated air defense system, for example.  They have chemical and biological weapons. Now, they haven't demonstrated any interest or any intent to use those. But it is a very different military problem.

On a pre-emptive strike on Iran

Martin Dempsey:  I think it would be premature to exclusively decide that the time for a military option was upon us. 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. I think our diplomacy is having an effect and our preparedness. I mean, fundamentally, we have to be prepared.  And that includes, for the most part, at this point, being prepared defensively.

On Tehran’s leadership

Fareed Zakaria:  When you observe Iranian behavior, does it strike you as highly irrational? Does it strike you as sort of unpredictable? Or do they seem to follow their national interests in a fairly calculating way?

Martin Dempsey:  That is a great question.  I'll tell you that I've been confronting that question since I came into Central Command in 2008. And 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.

Watch the full interview on Fareed Zakaria GPS at 10a.m. and 1p.m. Eastern this Sunday on CNN.

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Topics: China • GPS Episodes • GPS Show • Iran • Syria

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