Though the U.S. military will respond to the Iranian nuclear issue if asked, diplomatic resolution remains the preferable option, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said today.
"Obviously, without straying into classified matters, we do have the capability, were we asked to use it, to address a Iranian nuclear capability," Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey said during a forum at the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs in New York City.
There is a "challenge," however, Dempsey said: using the military instrument of power simply would delay Iran's nuclear ambition, as opposed to eliminating it.
Iran Abandoning Nuclear Ambitions is Best Solution
"What really makes the nuclear capability of Iran an issue is not centrifuges and ballistic missiles, but rather the human capital that has the expertise to regenerate it," the general explained. "Ultimately, the Iranian government itself would have to take a decision to move away from that aspiration entirely, and that's why the diplomatic track is actually the right track."
Iran has an opportunity for a diplomatic solution through negotiations with the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5-plus-1, the chairman said.
"If they refuse to take the opportunity that the P5-plus-1 are presenting to them, and if asked, we do have the capability to delay their nuclear enterprise by some number of years, which I won't, obviously, articulate here," he added.
It would be a "much wiser course" for Iran to go the diplomatic route, Dempsey said.