Dempsey defends his remarks on Israel

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff told a Senate panel on Tuesday he did not counsel Israel against attacking Iran over its nuclear program.

Gen. Martin Dempsey told lawmakers on the Senate Budget Committee, “We’ve had a conversation with them about time, the issue of time.”


Dempsey also defended his comment that Iran is a “rational actor,” which has been criticized by Republicans.

Dempsey said that he doesn't mistake Iran’s rhetoric for a lack of reason, and said that even Iran’s actions that are unacceptable to the United States fit the country's pattern over the past 30 years.

“We can’t afford to underestimate our potential adversaries by writing them off as irrational,” Dempsey said.

It was the first time he's addressed remarks he made in a CNN interview in which he referred to the Iranian government as a “rational actor" and said an attack by Israel on Iran would be “destabilizing” and “not prudent.” Those comments drew the ire of Israeli officials.

Israel has said time is running out to be able to stop Iran’s nuclear program, while the United States has wanted time for economic sanctions against Iran to take effect.

When Sen. Kelly AyotteKelly Ann AyotteSununu seen as top recruit in GOP bid to reclaim Senate Lobbying world Overnight Defense: NATO expanding troops in Iraq MORE (R-N.H.) asked Dempsey whether a military strike by the United States was off the table, Dempsey responded, “Absolutely not."