Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey testified today before the Senate appropriations subcommittee, which is looking into the State Department's current budget request. Dempsey faced a number of questions related to his interview last week with Fareed Zakaria.
Here's an excerpt of an article about his testimony from CNN's excellent Security Clearance blog:
....Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey was asked to clarify a comment he made about Iran's nuclear ambitions during his testimony before the Senate Armed Services committee.
In an interview with CNN's Fareed Zakaria earlier this month, Dempsey said the United States should view Iran as a "rational actor" despite Iran's belligerent actions and rhetoric surrounding their nuclear program and ambitions. Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-New Hampshire, told Dempsey she thought such a remark sends Iran the "wrong signal."
The comment had drawn criticism from the Israeli government and Republicans as a weakening of Israel's argument that Iran was a pressing threat against their security.
"I believe that Iran is a regime that is dangerously misguided," Dempsey said in describing the way Iran threatens its neighbors and treats its citizens.
"None of that is acceptable to us, or to our way of thinking and our way of being rational but it does fit their pattern of thinking and a 30-year history of conduct, so my view of this is we can't afford to underestimate our potential adversaries by writing them off as irrational," he said.
"I personally don't mistake Iran's rhetoric for a lack of reason," he added. Dempsey said while it may not be rational thinking from a Western perspective, "as we seek to influence their behavior we have to understand their way of thinking."
"We have to decide what global pressure, including use of force if and when necessary, can turn that regime away from its nuclear ambitions," Dempsey said.
Asked by Ayotte whether military force should be excluded from the range of options directed at Iran's nuclear program, Dempsey said "absolutely not."
Dempsey also denied that he told Israel not to attack, despite what he said in that same CNN interview: "We think that it's not prudent at this point to decide to attack Iran. I mean, that's been our counsel to our allies, the Israelis, well-known, well-documented."
"I didn't counsel Israel not to attack," Dempsey said. "We had a conversation with them about time, the issue of time." He did not elaborate further.
Dempsey said there is a "real risk" that Iran could let others use a nuclear weapon on their behalf. He added another concern is the potential proliferation of nuclear weapons that could result from others feeling threatened if Iran obtained such a weapon.