December 20th, 2011
02:41 PM ET

EXCLUSIVE-Dempsey: Iran shouldn't "miscalculate our resolve"

By Barbara Starr reporting from Kabul, Afghanistan. Pam Benson and Charley Keyes contributed from Washington

As General Martin Dempsey toured around the globe over the last eight days, one issue was prominent - Iran's nuclear intentions.

Dempsey, in an exclusive interview with CNN, warned that Iran is playing a dangerous game that could ensnare the Middle East, the United States and others into conflict and a renewed nuclear arms race. From Iraq to Afghanistan, Kuwait to Saudi Arabia, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff heard about growing concerns about Iran's ambitions.

"My biggest worry is they will miscalculate our resolve," Dempsey said in an interview conducted during a stop in Afghanistan. "Any miscalculation could mean that we are drawn into conflict, and that would be a tragedy for the region and the world."

The recent loss of the U.S. spy drone over Iran exposed part of America's espionage efforts against the country. CNN recently reported that the drone was sent into Iran to conduct surveillance of possible nuclear sites. In perhaps the most candid comments yet from an American official about the spying efforts, Dempsey said the loss of the drone is not the end of U.S. efforts to figure out what Iran is doing.

"If you are asking 'are we gathering intelligence against Iran in a variety of means?', the answer is of course," Dempsey said. "It would be rather imprudent of us not to try to understand what a nation who has declared itself to be an adversary of the United States is doing".

Behind the scenes Dempsey is quietly leading the ongoing military planning for an attack against Iran's nuclear weapons in the event the president gives the order to do so.

"We are examining a range of options," Dempsey said, echoing the "all options on the table" line used by administration officials.

Dempsey, the highest ranking officer in the U.S. military, said the military options are achievable.

"I am satisfied that the options that we are developing are evolving to a point that they would be executable if necessary," he said.

Dempsey said there is no guarantee that Israel will give the United States warning if it decides to attack Iran. But America is sharing intelligence with Israel, Dempsey said.

"We are trying to establish some confidence on the part of the Israelis that we recognize their concerns and are collaborating with them on addressing them," he said.

Other countries are also on edge about Iran's progress towards a nuclear weapon. If Iran gets a nuclear weapon, the Saudis have said they too will pursue getting the same capability. Dempsey said the United States believes a nuclear arms race in the Middle East would be a disaster for everyone.

Dempsey's candid comments come as Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta declared the United States believes Iran is capable of developing a nuclear weapon within a year's time, if they chose to do so.

Panetta told CBS News that "it will probably be a year before they can" have a nuclear bomb but added it could be done in less time "if they have a hidden facility somewhere in Iran." The report also said that according to Panetta there is no indication the Iranians have made the decision to press ahead.

In November, Israel's Defense Minister Ehud Barak told CNN's Fareed Zakaria that Iran is probably less than a year away from being at a point that it will be too late to stop its nuclear program.

"It's true that it wouldn't take three years, probably three quarters, before no one can do anything practically about it because the Iranians are gradually, deliberately entering into what I call a zone of immunity, by widening the - the redundancy of their plan, making it spread over many more sides," Barak said.

But U.S. intelligence officials have noted in the past that capability and intent are two different matters. Back in February, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told a Senate committee that while Iran "continues to advance its uranium enrichment capabilities along with what appears to be the scientific, technical and industrial capacity to produce nuclear weapons" it is a question "if its leaders choose to do so."

The Pentagon is pushing back against suggestions that Panetta has speeded up the U.S. prediction of when Iran could have a nuclear weapon.

"Nothing has changed about the views he has expressed - repeatedly - of the concerns about where Iran is headed and about the approach the United States and the international community need to continue to take," Pentagon spokesman, Capt. John Kirby, said Tuesday.

"I think what he meant in general was they could have the nuclear weapons capability in a year, I think was how he captured that," Kirby said.

"We all recognize that is a difficult process - could be that fast, might not be that fast."

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  12. mipolitic

    lots of barking, but we all know its going to take a wolf pack to take this evil down. russia has to be part of the pack and i do not see it yet, and time is running out. israel needs to stay home and go boating . iran must be dealt with buy i just do not see it yet. iran is a terrorist state that will try to make a delivery by covert means.

    December 21, 2011 at 9:38 pm | Reply
  13. comecleanOK

    Don't ask for a coalition of the willing for this one. Your allies are getting pretty tired of this stuff. War on terror, war on drugs, war on civil rights, overt war against Vietnam, Afganistan, Libya, covert war against virtually every other country in the world. War. war, war. The World is pushing back, and with reason. Your anti bullying campaigns should start at the top. A Presidential candidate has suggested friendship. Maybe we should try that while there is time for a last resort. Iran doesn't seem to be the only country seeking armageddon.

    December 21, 2011 at 11:07 am | Reply
  14. michaelfury

    "Admiral Cosgriff’s caution was well founded: within a week, the Pentagon acknowledged that it could not positively identify the Iranian boats as the source of the ominous radio transmission, and press reports suggested that it had instead come from a prankster long known for sending fake messages in the region. Nonetheless, Cosgriff’s demeanor angered Cheney, according to the former senior intelligence official. But a lesson was learned in the incident: The public had supported the idea of retaliation, and was even asking why the U.S. didn’t do more. The former official said that, a few weeks later, a meeting took place in the Vice-President’s office. 'The subject was how to create a casus belli between Tehran and Washington,' he said."

    December 21, 2011 at 7:46 am | Reply
  15. Sayan Majumdar

    There is indeed a strong feeling in certain “establishments” that United States armed forces are sufficiently stretched both in terms of manpower and finance and thus incapable of initiating another long-drawn conflict in the foreseeable future.

    What both Iran and North Korea fail to realise that military objectives can be limited yet with sufficient precision & punch enough to terminate their nuclear (weapons) ambitions.


    December 21, 2011 at 6:51 am | Reply
  16. Jason

    “The leader of genius must have the ability to make different opponents appear as if they belonged to one category. ” ― Adolf Hitler

    December 20, 2011 at 9:14 pm | Reply
  17. Block Oppression

    Who is provoking who in this conflict. It appears that we are the one that is provoking Iranians, day after day, we threaten them with a war option on the table. The entire American politics is controlled by big Oil companies, who do not want to share the worlds power and wealth with another country that is gaining power every day slowly. We are a bunch of biggets, arrogant, ignorant, greedy bunch of people who have lost the principle of humanity, money and wealth are our NEW FAITH and GOD.

    December 20, 2011 at 7:49 pm | Reply
    • racist zionist spy

      The zionists rule the world – Americans are our slaves.
      We have Sienfield.

      We have all the stars

      We are better than the spics

      We are better than the negros

      We are better than the frenchies

      We are better than the degos

      We are the rulers of the world

      Everybody is in debt to us zionists

      We own the world!!! Get used to it if you don't like it.

      December 20, 2011 at 7:55 pm | Reply
      • william

        does not even know how to spell "seinfeld".

        December 21, 2011 at 4:40 am |
    • Jo

      Looks like your parents brainwashed you at an early age too. Muslim extremists should be jailed and never let out. If Iran get's a nuke they will use it the Minute it is developed. so ya know what? Nuke those fuckers into dust. we would never have to deal with this shit again. The Dumb asses in Iran are holding Naval exorcises to practice closing the straight of Hormuz. Wow does this mean they are breaking out both ship's? park one of our Carrier Destroyer groups right there and show them what a real navy looks like. Frickin makes me laugh. The dumb asses in Iran really think they have some kind of military They have 2 battleships and an old Russian sub. 2 ship to ship missiles and one torpedo bang gone is the Iranian Navy.

      December 25, 2011 at 9:24 am | Reply
  18. jimmer

    kinda funny.....while all the right wing war mongers were whinning about iran getting nukes, north korea snuk 'em in the back door and now they have them. Looking out the window here everthing seems ok so far.....I don't don't see any mushroom clouds yet. Wasn't a lot of the reason the radical right was beating their chests about iran getting them was that they would sell them to rogue states? The damage is already done...if we get nuked now, its not because of iran........

    December 20, 2011 at 4:51 pm | Reply
    • Gutless U.S. General Joo Slave

      I do what my zionist masters tell me to do. When my zionist masters tell me to jump, I hollor: How high?

      I am a good and loyal goyim and I can do tricks.

      Soon I will turn a trick on our servicemen and women in uniform . . . now you see them, now you don't – they'll be in Iran.

      I love being a zionist slave.

      Stay stupid America, the zionists love us dumb and dumber.

      I will gladly send my American children to the Middle East to die for my zionist masters.

      I serve the zionists soon everybody will be on their knees kissing the feet of our zionist masters.

      December 20, 2011 at 7:53 pm | Reply
  19. SoldierOfFortunes

    Iran is busy dealing with immaturity of USA being Lit and My Own Worst Enemy...USA: can we forget about the things I said when I was drunk...I didn't mean to call you that...I can't remember or what you threw at me but please tell me why my DRONE is in your front yard and the CIA is sleeping with their clothes on...came in thru the window last night but you are is no suprise to me I am My Own Worst Enemy cuz every now and then I kick the shit out of me...
    Iran: 80% of pharmacutical medicines are consumed by USA...did you miss a dose of your medications USA????

    December 20, 2011 at 4:38 pm | Reply
  20. Tony T

    P.S. it's easy to play Rambo when your own behind is not in the trenches.

    December 20, 2011 at 4:36 pm | Reply
    • seppe

      I agree, right on target...

      December 20, 2011 at 5:03 pm | Reply
  21. Tony T

    More war-mongering propaganda. Reminds me of the propaganda reels about Poland in late 1930s Germany.

    December 20, 2011 at 4:35 pm | Reply
  22. Snoot

    Just another foaming-at-the-mouth war mongering, death loving c*******er. A waste of skin.

    December 20, 2011 at 4:33 pm | Reply
  23. Retired Floridian

    The U.S. is laughable! There already IS a nuclear arms race in the Mideast started by the U.S. with nuclear weapons in the region and the Israeli with its' decadesd old nukes! Why does one think Pakistn, India, and now Iran need to neutralize the U.S. and Israel with their own nukes?! We cannot stop Iran (and why should we when several other countries in the area already have them)) without losing tens of thousands of U.S. forces within days and destroying the oil infrastructure of the Mideast. Washington and Tel Aviv knows that full well. Dear God, Allah, Jehovah (wjatever)-we don't need and cannot afford another politically and power motivated war in the Mideast without destroying the U.S. economy. Period. We should just pack up all U.S. forces in the region and get the hell out!!!

    December 20, 2011 at 4:33 pm | Reply
  24. fred

    we, the saudis, israel, france, uk, germany, denmark etc. can do nothing and allow a nuclear arms race in mid east where martyrdom is sought after or take care of the problem now.

    December 20, 2011 at 4:28 pm | Reply
    • jim

      Right now, Saudis, Jordan, Iraq, Turkey, Israel, Greece, Bulgaria, are within the range of Iran missiles. It will take until 2014 before they will be able to reach Denmark, Moscow, and France. That means the West (and Russia) has two years to waste time and do nothing. In 2016, they will be able to reach Peking... ref: http:// www dot and reading NY Times.

      December 20, 2011 at 4:53 pm | Reply
      • racist zionist spy

        You're a fellow zionist – so come on – quit with the lies

        December 20, 2011 at 7:57 pm |
  25. Chuk

    Enough with all this silly war-mongering!
    Israel has nuclear weapons, but the Middle East has not been "ensnared". If Iran develops nuclear weapons it would be no more dangerous that those of Israel. In fact, all that will come of it is a balance of power whereby each state in the area will know others are equally dangerous and will not play games or it's all over.
    It's funny, those who have been raising the most hell about nuclear weapons are those who own the most of them. This is hypocrisy at its core – if nuclear weapons are so dangerous, why don't the current powers get rid of it? What's good for the goose is good for the ... (you know the rest).
    Every time I hear this "sky is falling" cries, I just see hypocrits.

    December 20, 2011 at 4:27 pm | Reply
    • fred

      "or its all over" is not really a terrific option, chuk

      December 20, 2011 at 4:29 pm | Reply
    • fred

      those that have them have not threatened to use them and dont believe there are virgins waiting in paradise when they commit suicide

      December 20, 2011 at 4:32 pm | Reply
      • jimmer

        got news for you fred.....mcaurther wanted truman to use them in korea......truman said no.

        December 20, 2011 at 5:00 pm |
    • seppe


      December 20, 2011 at 5:07 pm | Reply
  26. Matt

    What is more likely? Circa 2003:

    That Iraq has WMDs and poses a great threat to the United States?

    Or what Ron Paul said—that America was overreacting and we would find ourselves in a quagmire?

    In 2003, everyone said Ron Paul was wrong. In 2011, most Americans agree that Paul was right.

    What is more likely? Circa 2011:

    That Iran might have a WMD and poses a great threat to the United States?

    Or what Ron Paul says—that America is overreacting concerning Iran and going to war with that country will find the US in a quagmire once again?

    December 20, 2011 at 4:26 pm | Reply
    • fred

      and if ron paul is wrong?

      December 20, 2011 at 4:31 pm | Reply
      • SoulCatcher

        Boom, Boom Boom Boom!

        December 20, 2011 at 4:34 pm |
      • Snoot

        Well, if he isn't, it's only Israel – time to let them fight their own damn battles.

        December 20, 2011 at 4:35 pm |
    • seppe

      The pentagon boys,hopes that ron paul is wrong ...

      December 20, 2011 at 5:10 pm | Reply
  27. Ken

    They can take years to develop nuclear weapons but it will only take days to destroy all their military capapbilities.

    December 20, 2011 at 4:23 pm | Reply
    • fred

      exactly, better safe than sorry,

      December 20, 2011 at 4:30 pm | Reply
  28. jonathanstone

    Well, this could get interesting!

    December 20, 2011 at 4:20 pm | Reply
  29. roy

    It wouldn't take much to draw the United States to war seems our nosey crooked politicans like war.

    December 20, 2011 at 4:17 pm | Reply
    • Don Jones

      More like the people who fund our crooked politicians; i.e. Big Oil and the Military Industrial Complex like war, because it equals big profits. Lives, economy and the rest of the world be damned. Let's drive this bad boy straight into the valley of Harmageddon if it means profit. He who dies with the most wins.

      December 20, 2011 at 4:30 pm | Reply
  30. Donald

    Nuke race was started before the US finally finished developing theirs. The US was just the first to complete.

    December 20, 2011 at 4:10 pm | Reply
  31. Larry

    Ron Paul 2012!

    December 20, 2011 at 4:07 pm | Reply
  32. gtk1065

    So why doesn't Obama just plead to the Iranians to wait until after the 2012 election? That way he won't have to make any kind of decision. If Iran says no, Obama just puts his hands up and says 'oh well, I tried'. He won't do anything that could hurt his re-election chances including stopping Iran from getting the bomb. That's a fact

    December 20, 2011 at 4:04 pm | Reply
    • seppe

      You are watching to much television..

      December 20, 2011 at 5:14 pm | Reply
  33. Keksi

    So USA with creation of nuclear bomb started nuke race?

    December 20, 2011 at 3:52 pm | Reply
    • Jeff

      The USA created nuclear bombs to stop wars, not to start them. The arms race started because dictators with bad intentions want to be bullies and certainly don't want the USA to be able to stop them.

      December 20, 2011 at 4:12 pm | Reply
      • Adam

        You must be weak to use a nuclear bomb to stop a war. So how would it be if the Iraqis were to nuke the US to stop the war? You are insane thinking that we did right killing hundred of thousands to stop a war in Japan. We nuked Japan because we were loosing the war in the pacific. Have you heard about the entropy? nothing goes away, it will eventually come back and the US will very certainly be nuked for having to carry its nuclear bombs above every country that opposes their ideology.

        December 20, 2011 at 4:28 pm |
      • Snoot

        Uh, hate to tell you this Adam, but the US wasn't....losing.....the war in the Pacific. The whole "dropped the bombs to save American lives" thing is debatable, though.

        December 20, 2011 at 5:02 pm |
      • seppe

        YOU ARE KIDDING RIGHT? usa started maaany wars in the pass 70 years and killed more then 25 millions people,you better get your fact straith...

        December 20, 2011 at 5:19 pm |
      • Jason

        and hows that workin for ya?

        December 20, 2011 at 9:16 pm |
    • Jim970

      No. The U.S. creation of the first nuclear weapon did not start the race. Both Japan and Germany were working on the development of nuclear weapons at the same time (or possibly even before) the U.S. began its efforts. The USSR may have also been conducting research but I don't think this can be proven. The U.S. was just the first nation to succeed. Blaming it all on the U.S. is just not factual.

      December 20, 2011 at 4:37 pm | Reply
      • Frank

        The Japanese would not have surrendered at that time and thousands of additional American troops would have died. The bomb ended the war sooner.

        December 20, 2011 at 5:08 pm |
    • Dumas

      you are an idiot

      December 20, 2011 at 6:25 pm | Reply
  34. Chris

    What race? It only takes one.

    December 20, 2011 at 3:46 pm | Reply

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