For Release: Dec. 19, 2011
During an interview with Alhurra Television, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey discussed the U.S. troop withdrawal from Iraq, the influence of Iran in the region and response to Syria. The following are excerpts of his interview:
Dempsey on future relations with Iraq
I think it is important to point out that we’re really not leaving. We are establishing, what I would describe as a normal relationship with Iraq, such as that which we have around the region to include here in Saudi Arabia. So it will be based on an office of security cooperation. Significant number, a couple of hundred, U.S. soldiers, contractors; and what we will be basing our relationship on is continuing to develop their security forces.
More on future relations with Iraq
Based on a security framework agreement that we’ve been working on for the past three years, this is not something that is new. We have not spoken about it much, but we have a security framework agreement that causes us to have a relationship with Iraq economically, culturally, commerce, trade and military. And I think it is the sum total of those that will allow us to maintain our relationship and to help Iraq to continue to develop.
Dempsey on the influence of Iran on Iraq
I am certain Iran has an influence in Iraq and I am sure they have an interest. Now some of that interest is to be expected; they are neighbors and so economic interests and even some political interests are certainly to be expected. But I think there is also a nefarious side of Iranian influence trying to draw Iraq too closely into their particular beliefs about the world order and about security. So I think Iraq has got to balance; and by the way, I think Iraq is aware of this. Iraq has to balance the positive influence; economically, for example, that Iran may be able to bring against some of the more nefarious influences Iran is trying to use against them.
Dempsey on Iran’s influence on the Gulf countries
I know that Iran has, we would describe it as, a hegemonic aspiration. They want to be the dominant nation in this part of the world. Of course to do that, some of that can be based in economics and some of that can be based in their particular political ideologies, which as you know we disagree with. But I am certain they are trying to influence the Gulf countries to become that hegemonic state. And I think the Gulf countries understand that as well.
Dempsey on possible protection for GCC countries
Our current effort is to discourage and prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power, so there is no need at this point, to discuss what we would describe as extended nuclear deterrents. That could be an option in the future, but we really haven’t come to that point yet. We still believe we can discourage and prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power. But in terms of how we are going to defend or protect the GCC countries, I think we have been engaged in this part of the world for a very long time and we’ll continue to be engaged and our withdrawal of forces in Iraq doesn’t indicate a withdrawal from the region. As you know, we have great partnerships with most, in fact all, of the GCC countries. And I think you will find us strengthening those relationships as a way of sending a message to Iran that they are not going to become a nuclear threat to the region.
Dempsey on Syria
People ask me is Libya some sort of template or model for the future, even in terms of how conflict is waged. I personally believe there are no templates; there is no one solution that you can move from place to place, because every situation has its own dynamics, its own influences, its own complexities. And what I would suggest to you is we are watching Syria very carefully. We know, for example, that Turkey is very involved leading the region and trying to organize a regional response. We are looking at options, we are planning with our partners, but every situation is different and we are not yet at the point where we think that is the appropriate response.
Dempsey on the possibility of military option in Syria
I think there’s always military options and I think that the region would have to come together and unite if it were to take a decision to use a military options. I would like to think it would not come to that, but there is that option.
Dempsey on the stability of the region following the Arab Spring
This is a very interesting and important moment in history. As to whether it will eventually have a positive outcome and add to stability, I think the answer to that question is yes, but I think we will go through some difficult periods in between…I think getting back to a stable platform, getting back to regional stability will take some time. It will take all of us to work very hard together to do it. So my point is I think initially it might be a bit destabilizing, but ultimately it will be stabilizing.