The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff says he sees the possibility of new alliances emerging in the Middle East, springing from the on-going instability across much of the region.
Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey is in Israel to discuss issues of mutual strategic interest with Israeli defense officials.
Dempsey told reporters that current instability across the Middle East provides opportunities, to include “an outreach to other nations who may not have been willing to be partners in the past.”
Dempsey arrived in Israel yesterday and immediately went into meetings with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon. Israeli Army Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz, the chief of the Israeli General Staff, is hosting Dempsey.
In his meetings with Israeli officials, Dempsey said he’s trying to step away from reacting to the daily headlines in order to look at the region strategically.
The Middle East is experiencing a period of instability affecting Egypt, Syria, Iran and other areas, which is having an impact on the strategic landscape.
This, Dempsey said, is causing countries that may not have agreed on much in the past to realize they have a common cause toward regional instability.
Dempsey pointed to the Persian Gulf states as an example. They “may not have been as open-minded about the potential for cooperation with Israel in any way,” he said.
“What we discussed,” he added, “was the possibility that there were opportunities that would present themselves because of the instability around them that could create a different web of alliances than existed before.
“What I’m suggesting,” Dempsey continued, “[is] the possibility of new and different alliances in the region in response to this instability.”
The chairman said he’s neither optimistic nor pessimistic about the Mideast situation.
“I think there are enough issues across the region in common that it should provide an opportunity for greater cooperation,” Dempsey said. “So our allies become allies with each other.”
For example, many nations have discussed strategy to counter al-Qaida. “Al-Qaida is adapting regionally because we’ve succeeded in putting pressure where they used to operate with impunity,” Dempsey said. “What you see now is al-Qaida core is much less capable, but there are other organizations that have branded themselves with the al-Qaida ideology.”
The al-Qaida network crosses the region, and this has caused the United States to come together militarily with like-minded and interested parties to discuss everything from intelligence sharing to capacity building to foreign military sales. All of these things put pressure on the group.
The chairman called this just one example of an opportunity that didn’t exist before.
Combating Iranian moves in the region could provide other opportunities, he said. Iran is involved with arms trafficking, building surrogate networks and launching cyber attacks.
“It seems to me that as threats evolve so, too, do our systems of alliances to deal with them,” Dempsey said.
Military officials from many countries and at many levels are having these conversations “so we can be a network to confront networks,” he said.
“Sometimes we’ve been accused of not leading enough,” he said. “I have found both a great appetite and a great acceptance for our military leadership, especially in things like building partner capacity, which ultimately is the greatest strategic hedge against risk in the future -- far more so than any direct action.”
(Follow Jim Garamone on Twitter: @GaramoneAFPS)