Gen. Martin Dempsey: Assad’s ‘momentum’ in Syria civil war is ‘unsustainable’

Martha Raddatz, Richard Coolidge & Jordyn Phelps
Power Players
Gen. Martin Dempsey: Assad’s ‘momentum’ in Syria civil war is ‘unsustainable’

On the Radar

The Syrian government seems to have made gains in the country’s civil conflict in recent weeks, taking over more urban areas—and now, new reports point to the use of chemical weapons by the government. But the United States' top general says Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s recent “momentum” is unsustainable.

“[Assad] appears to be gaining momentum, but I don't think it'll be sustainable,” Gen. Martin Dempsey told "On the Radar" in a sit-down interview recorded before the most recent reports of a major chemical attack.

Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, described the Syrian war as one that “ebbs and flows” and said that, although Assad may have superior weaponry and has made gains in urban areas, these advantages will not be enough to ultimately defeat the opposing rebels.

“I don’t think that even were [Assad] to take control of all the urban areas that he would ever be able to completely reduce the opposition, because of the way he’s treated it,” Dempsey said.

When it comes to next steps for possible U.S. involvement in the conflict, the general said it’s the subject of ongoing debate.

“[There are] 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, humanitarian relief,” Dempsey said.

Asked whether the United States is providing the Syrian rebels with military aid and weapons, Dempsey replied that the “the Department of Defense is not.”

On a lighter note, Dempsey also discussed his love for singing and told “On the Radar” the story of how he came to sing the national anthem at a Washington Nationals baseball game after attending a game to throw out the first pitch.

“Right before the pitch, someone had performed the National Anthem,” Dempsey recalled. “It wasn't very good. ... I take the National Anthem really seriously. That won't surprise you. And I said to one of the owners, I said, ‘You couldn't do any better than that?’ And he kiddingly said, ‘You think you can do better?’ And I said, ‘Yes.’ And so he said, ‘OK, we'll set a date.’”

Dempsey followed through on his word and went back to Nationals Park to perform the anthem on the 4th of July -– with four Army chorus singers serving as his backup ensemble.

Though given the opportunity, the general declined to sing during his interview with “On the Radar.”

For more of the interview with Gen. Dempsey, and the humanitarian crisis that’s resulted from the Syrian war, check out this episode of “On the Radar.”

ABC's Alexandra Dukakis and Tom Thornton contributed to this episode.

Ginny Vicario, Mark Banks, Richard Norling, Barry Haywood and Michael Purbaugh  assisted in the production of this episode.