U.S., Israeli Leaders United Against Iranian Nuke Efforts
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
ASHKELON, Israel, Aug. 1, 2012 If diplomatic efforts and economic sanctions fail, the United States has military options to stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta said here today.
Panetta and Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak visited an Iron Dome anti-missile battery defending this city from missile attacks from Gaza, less than 10 miles away.
With a rocket launcher in the background, Panetta and Barak spoke during a news conference of the threat Iran’s nuclear program poses.
Panetta said the United States will not allow Iran to gain a nuclear capability. But although all options are available to stop this, he added, this does not mean that using the military option is imminent.
“We have to exhaust every option, every effort, before we resort to military action,” Panetta said. “The international community has applied very strong sanctions against [the Iranians]. We have ratcheted up those sanctions. It’s having an impact.”
The sanctions are biting, and the Iranians agreed to return to the so-called “P-5-plus-1” talks with the United States, Great Britain, China, Russia and Germany.
Iran is a state sponsor of terrorism, and the international community wants the nation that sponsors Hamas and Hezbollah to stop its nuclear program and abide by international rules and requirements, Panetta said. “That is something we would work with them to continue,” he added.
But if Iranian leaders make the choice to continue the nuclear program, the secretary said, “we have options that we are prepared to implement to ensure that this does not happen.”
The Israeli defense minister was even more blunt. “When we say all the options are on the table, and when the Americans say all the options are on the table, we mean it, and I believe the Americans mean it,” Barak said.
The Israelis believe time is running out for an Iranian decision and that there is little or no chance that Tehran will step away from the nuclear program, Barak said.
“It’s important to notice that while sanctions are taking place and diplomacy is taking place, it takes time,” he said. “And in the meantime, the Iranians are daily enriching uranium. We clearly have something to lose by this stretched time.”