The Army's top general says it was never his military advice that the United States either make a nuclear deal with Iran or face the prospect of war — a haunting choice President Barack Obama has claimed Congress
now faces in its scrutiny of a pact with Tehran.
Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told a Senate hearing Wednesday on the deal that he never presented Obama with an either-or choice for a nuclear proliferation agreement, the National Review reports
"At no time did that come up in our conversation nor did I make that comment," Dempsey told Iowa Republican Sen. Joni Ernst. "I can tell you that we have a range of options and I always present them."
But Sec. of State John Kerry told lawmakers Obama wasn't misrepresenting the situation, the Review reports.
"It’s not a choice the president wants to make, but it’s the inevitable consequence of them moving to assert what they believe is their right in the furtherance of their program," he insisted, the Review reports.
Mississippi Republican Roger Wicker called Dempsey's brief opening statement a "tepid endorsement" of the accord and "damning disagreement with faint praise," but Dempsey disagreed, saying he supported the deal, Defense News reports
Instead, Dempsey called his assessment neither "tepid nor enthusiastic, but pragmatic," adding his input in the deal was sought "episodically," and that his final recommendation was offered weeks before talks concluded.
Dempsey also told New Hampshire Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte that he advised Obama not to agree to the lifting of sanctions related to Iran’s ballistic missile program and other arms.
"Yes, and I used the phrase 'as long as possible' and then that was the point at which the negotiation continued — but yes, that was my military advice," he said, the Review reports.
Yet he seemed caught off guard when Ayotte pointed out the "plain language" of the bargain requires the United States "to help strengthen Iran’s ability to protect against sabotage of its nuclear program" — even to the point of warning Iran if Israel tries to launch cyberattacks against the program.
"I hadn't thought about that, senator, and I would like to have the opportunity to do so," he responded, the Review reports.
Congress, which has begun a 60-day review of the deal, is expected to vote in September. If the Republican-controlled Congress passes a resolution of disapproval for the deal, Obama has said he will veto it.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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