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Dempsey Addresses Middle East Security Concerns

By Jim Garamone
WASHINGTON — As part of a wide-ranging interview aired yesterday on the ABC News program “This Week With George Stephanopoulis,” the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff discussed security of the greater Middle East. 

In the interview with Martha Raddatz, Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey also discussed al-Qaida threats against U.S. embassies and consulates, the damage that Edward Snowden caused to the nation’s the intelligence effort, and sexual assault in the military. 

While the forces of Syrian leader Bashar Assad appear to be winning Syria’s civil war right now, the chairman said, he does not believe this is sustainable. 

“What happens next is the source of continuing discussions about our strategy, and whether we should become directly involved or become involved through support to the opposition, building partners in the region, [or providing] humanitarian relief,” he told Raddatz. 

The United States already is providing support to the Syrian opposition and people, he said. “The one thing we're not doing is becoming engaged directly,” he said. The United States has provided nonlethal aid to the opposition and is providing humanitarian relief to millions of Syrian refugees. 

Iraq is a country the chairman knows well, and there has been a spike in attacks in the country. More than 1,000 people were killed in Iraq in July. “When I look back at the sacrifices we made in Iraq, we did, in fact, provide them with … an historic opportunity to be what they want to be,” Dempsey said. The country is not where it wants to be or needs to be, he said, but a free and democratic Iraq means that “centuries-old animosities” have been unleashed. It “is going to take a while for them to get through,” he added. 

The general said his experiences in Iraq have influenced his approach to Syria and the greater Middle East. “It has branded in me the idea that the use of military power must be part of an overall strategic solution that includes international partners and a whole of government and that simply the application of force rarely produces – and, in fact, maybe never produces – the outcome that we seek,” he said. 

Raddatz asked Dempsey about the threats that led to beefed-up security at U.S. embassies and consulates this weekend. The chairman said intelligence efforts discovered “a significant threat stream,” he said. “The intent is to attack western, not just U.S. interests,” he added. 

The chairman and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel attended a meeting at the White House on the threats over the weekend. The weekend marked the 15th anniversary of the bombings of embassies in Kenya and Uganda. 

Edward Snowden’s revelations of National Security Agency programs have done harm to the United States, Dempsey said. The former NSA contractor who leaked details of classified projects to the media last month has been granted asylum in Russia. 

“Snowden’s not a guy that’s doing these things for honorable and noble purpose,” the chairman said. “He’s not doing this to make some kind of statement or spur a debate. He has caused us some considerable damage to our intelligence architecture.” 

Adversaries have changed the way they communicate following Snowden’s revelations, the general said, and this has made the job of protecting America more difficult. 

Finally, Raddatz asked Dempsey about the problem of sexual assault in the military and victims’ reluctance to report assaults through the chain of command – one reason why legislators want to take the issue out of the hands of commanders. 

“A victim doesn't have to go to the commander,” the chairman pointed out. “There are at least nine other places where a victim can go.”

The military is not waiting for legislative solutions to this issue, Dempsey added. The Air Force already has established special victims’ counsels, he noted, adding that military leaders are open to any and all ideas to address the crime.