Israel has not decided on Iran strike: Panetta

By AFP
Published: August 15, 2012

Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu (L) listens as US defence secretary Leon Panetta (R) speaks in Jerusalem on 1 August. PHOTO: REUTERS/FILE.

WASHINGTON: Israel has not yet decided whether to strike Iran over its suspect nuclear program, US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Tuesday, as Tehran dismissed the threat of an imminent attack.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak in recent days had stiffened their rhetoric on Iran, suggesting they were thinking more seriously of military action against Tehran’s nuclear facilities.

When asked about the issue at a press conference, Panetta offered reassurances, echoing the White House line that there is still time to negotiate a solution to the nuclear showdown.

“I’ve said this before, I’ll say it now – I don’t believe they made a decision as to whether or not they will – they will go in and attack Iran at this time,” Panetta told reporters.

“Obviously, they’re an independent – they’re a sovereign country. They’ll ultimately make decisions based on what they think is in their national security interest,” he noted.

“The reality is that we still think there is room to continue to negotiate.”

Earlier this month, Panetta visited Israel, where his pleas for more time to let diplomacy run its course received a less than warm welcome from Netanyahu and Barak.

Speculation in the Israeli press about a possible strike has since multiplied.

The Jewish state insists that Iran is on the point of developing nuclear weapons, and says it reserves the right to act to prevent that. Tehran insists the program is solely for peaceful, civilian purposes.

Repeated rounds of talks between Iran and the permanent five members of the United Nations Security Council – Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States – plus Germany have failed to end the standoff.

Tehran has refused to make major concessions on its right to enrich uranium, a process used to make nuclear fuel but also the core of an atomic bomb.

US President Barack Obama has stressed that his position is that he will stop Iran from “acquiring nuclear weapons” a step further down the path to developing an atomic arsenal than the Israeli red line.

There is concern in Washington that a unilateral Israeli strike may not destroy Iran’s underground nuclear facilities, could spark Iranian retaliation worldwide and may drag the United States into another war in the Middle East.

“Any kind of military action ought to be the last alternative, not the first,” Panetta said Tuesday.

General Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, emphasized that any military strike would likely only delay Iran’s nuclear program, not ruin it altogether.

“I may not know about all of their capabilities. But I think that it’s a fair characterization to say that they could delay but not destroy Iran’s nuclear capabilities,” Dempsey told reporters.

On Tuesday, Iranian ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast told reporters that Tehran was not taking the Israeli threats seriously.

“Even if some officials in the illegitimate regime (Israel) want to carry out such a stupid action, there are those inside (the Israeli government) who won’t allow it because they know they would suffer very severe consequences from such an act,” Mehmanparast said.

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Reader Comments (6)

  • Ahmer Ali
    Aug 15, 2012 - 1:10PM

    Israel shall never decide to attack on Iran provided that US doesn’t support Israel because alone Israel can’t attack and defeat Iran without US’ assistance………

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  • Misbah
    Aug 15, 2012 - 5:24PM

    Because Israel well know that Iran is not Iraq.Recommend

  • Rajendra Kalkhande
    Aug 15, 2012 - 7:08PM

    After sorting out Syria, the heat certainly will be on Iran. Saudis are driving middle east policy lately. Chaos in Iran won’t be good for Pakistan.

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  • reality
    Aug 15, 2012 - 10:48PM

    i wish Israel make this mistake and then we will get rid of this criminal Zionist state as Iran Hezbollah Hamas and others are expected to rain all the missiles they have been storing for this day since long !

    Recommend

  • Cautious
    Aug 15, 2012 - 11:06PM

    @Ahmer Ali

    Israel shall never decide to attack on
    Iran provided that US doesn’t support
    Israel because alone Israel can’t
    attack and defeat Iran without US’
    assistance………

    That’s a common belief and makes sense – however fear sometimes overrules common sense. It’s also possible that Israel would initiate combat knowing Iran would likely start shooting at American forces in the region — allowing Israel to sit back and watch the war on CNN.

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  • Ahmer Ali
    Aug 18, 2012 - 10:20AM

    @Cautious:
    Your comment is unimpressive because it happens once in a blue moon……
    And overall Israel is a coward country and as the proof few days ago Israeli officials gave this statement in which they said that we can’t attack on Iran without US’ assistance…….

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