Dempsey added that the unified international community’s pressure on Iran through sanctions “could be undone if [Iran] was attacked prematurely.”
The United States has urged Israel not to attack Iran unilaterally for months, as Israel suggested it might strike Iran’s nuclear program.
President Obama has told Israeli officials they should give sanctions time to take effect and that a window remains for a diplomatic solution to Iran’s nuclear program.
But Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, have said sanctions and diplomacy have done nothing to slow Iran’s nuclear production.
A recent report in the Israeli press that Netanyahu and his defense minister, Ehud Barak, favored a strike before the U.S. election in November prompted a whole new round of speculation and caution in both Israel and the United States.
An Israeli strike on Iran could change the dynamic of the presidential election, and the United States could be the target of retaliatory efforts from Iran. The U.S. military could also get drawn into a broader regional conflict that could be sparked by an Israeli attack.
Obama has been criticized by Republicans, including Mitt Romney, for not taking a hard enough line toward Iran. He has said that he wants a diplomatic solution but is taking no options off the table, including military ones.
The United States, Israel and their allies suspect Iran of seeking nuclear weapons, while Iran insists its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only.