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Dempsey Hosts Israel's Lt. Gen. Gantz for Talks at Pentagon

By Lisa Ferdinando Army News Service

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WASHINGTON, Jan. 8, 2015 — The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff hosted the Israel Defense Forces chief of the General Staff at the Pentagon today for talks on regional security and bilateral cooperation.

U.S. Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey and Israeli Lt. Gen. Benjamin Gantz met with reporters today after more than an hour of talks.

When asked about the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, Dempsey described the strategy with Iraq as a "drumbeat" of "building pressure" on ISIL along several lines of effort, including counter-financing, counter-foreign fighters and counter-messaging.

The strategy is for members of the Iraqi government to determine how to "best recapture their lost territory to form an inclusive government that includes the Sunni, the Shia, the Kurds and the other minority groups," he said.

The United States is working with Iraqi military and civilian leaders, Dempsey said, to determine the "pace at which we will encourage them and enable them to do a counter-offensive."

The United States, he said, is building the capacity of the Iraqi forces.

"We're where we need to be," the chairman said, adding that the U.S. is looking at other areas, including countering improvised explosive devices, to help Iraqi security forces reduce their causalities.

Dempsey said the Iraqi government will initiate, with the United States, "some kind of broad counter-offensive" once Iraq is ready militarily to recapture territory, and then follow that with humanitarian and reconstruction efforts.

U.S. Comments on Iranian Presence in Iraq

Dempsey said Iran has been "interested in and sought to influence the future of Iraq since Iraq's sovereignty was restored in 2004."

However, the top U.S. military leader said, the Iranian presence and any Iraq partnership with Iran is not troubling at the moment, since it is not threatening U.S. forces or the U.S. mission in Iraq.

"If it is a path that ties the two countries more closely together economically or even politically, as long as the Iraqi government remains committed to inclusivity of all the various groups inside the country, then I think Iranian influence will be positive," he said.

"But what really matters is where it all goes, and we're watching that very carefully," Dempsey said.

Israel 'Disappointed' By Palestinian Approach on ICC

Gantz said he is not worried about the Palestinians seeking war crimes charges against Israel through the International Criminal Court.

"It is an unnecessary, unilateral step by the Palestinians," he said.

The Israel Defense Forces are the forces of a democratic, lawful country and they abide by international law, he said.

"We do huge effort to prevent civilian causalities as much as we can, yet we still have to defend our own population," Gantz said.

U.S., Israeli Cooperation

Dempsey and Gantz both hailed the strong ties between their nations.

"I deeply respect his leadership of the Israel Defense Forces and deeply value our partnership with the Israel Defense Forces," Dempsey said.

Gantz acknowledged there is turmoil in the Middle East.

"It's a source of terrorism that might go anywhere," he said. "I believe the world, led by the United States, must continue to face it, to fight it, and to try to shape a better future."

After taking questions from reporters, the two generals continued their discussions in a working luncheon.