August 1st, 2012
04:13 PM ET

World needs to keep 'maximum pressure' on Iran, Panetta says

The United States won't let Iran obtain a nuclear weapon, "period," but sanctions remain the best tool to keep Tehran off the nuclear path, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Wednesday in Israel.

Panetta called united, international pressure "the most effective way to stop Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon."

"We have been steadily applying more and more pressure against Tehran, focusing on diplomatic and economic sanctions, and I believe these steps are having an effect," Panetta said after reviewing an Israeli missile-defense battery with Defense Minister Ehud Barak. But international leaders must keep "maximum pressure" on Iran, he added.

In an interview with CNN's Barbara Starr, Panetta said Israel had not decided whether to attack Iran, which he said would be about a year away from being able to produce a nuclear weapon if it were to decide to do so.

"My message has been that we have a clear goal here, which is to ensure that Iran never gets a nuclear weapon," he said. "If, for some reason, that doesn't work, we're fully prepared militarily with options to enforce that."

Panetta told Israeli leaders that Washington, its leading ally, "stands firmly with Israel" and has a "rock-solid" commitment to its security. After talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the Pentagon chief said the United States "will not allow Iran to develop a nuclear weapon, period."

But Netanyahu expressed skepticism, saying, "Time to resolve this issue peacefully is running out."

"However forceful our statements, they have not convinced Iran that we are serious about stopping them," Netanyahu said. "Right now, the Iranian regime believes that the international community does not have the will to stop its nuclear program."

Iran has refused international demands that it stop producing enriched uranium, saying that its work is aimed at fueling civilian nuclear reactors. But some Western countries, particularly Israel, say they fear the program is a cover for Iran to develop atomic weapons, and the International Atomic Energy Agency has said it can no longer verify that the Iranian program is strictly peaceful.

U.S. spy agencies believe that Iran has not decided to pursue nuclear weapons but that it is building the "scientific, technical and industrial capacity" that would allow it to do so, James Clapper, the national intelligence chief, told a Senate committee in February.

Concerns have been raised that the window for a diplomatic solution to the matter may be closing, and a military strike by Israel - the leading U.S. ally in the region - against Iran's nuclear program may be on the horizon.

Israeli President Shimon Peres said last week that Iran was in an "open war" with Israel after he pointed the finger at Iran and Hezbollah for a bus bombing in Bulgaria last month that killed six people, five of them Israelis.

Iran, which condemned the attack, rejected Israel's claims.

The Obama administration on Tuesday announced new sanctions targeting Iran's petrochemical industries as well as banks in China and Iraq that U.S. officials say helped Iranian authorities evade existing sanctions. Iranian oil exports have been cut by 40%, the International Atomic Energy Agency reports. The rial, Iran's currency, has dropped by nearly the same amount, fueling rampant inflation that has affected ordinary Iranians.

Panetta is on a weeklong trip to the Middle East and North Africa. His stop in Israel came three days after presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney visited Jerusalem and pledged to support any measures to keep Iran from developing a nuclear bomb.

At the outset of his trip, Panetta said the issue "hasn't been easy." But, he added, "I think the fact is that when the United States, Israel and the international community remain unified in our position against Iran, that that's the best way to convince Iran to pull back from what they are doing and to abide by international rules and regulations."

Strong support for Israel is a core element of U.S. policy in the Middle East, and the two countries collaborate on military planning and research. One example of that was the "Iron Dome" anti-missile system he saw in Ashkelon, a project that received funding from the U.S. government.

soundoff (38 Responses)
  1. easyrhino

    Please, no more wars for Israel.

    August 14, 2012 at 8:49 pm | Reply
  2. jstuxx

    How stupid are people, don't they know that the nuclear fallout can travel for hundreds of miles from the blast site. So why do they think that Iran will attack Israel when they know Iran will be one of the first country to suffer from the fallout. Plus how is Israel's threat to attack neighbors gonna work since they will be in a state of permanent nuclear fallout, How stupid are people?

    August 2, 2012 at 4:40 pm | Reply
  3. gabe

    Jeremy Bernstein of the New Yorker wrote an interesting e-single on Iran's developing nuclear program. Bernstein is a physicist, but it is more of a history of how we ended up in this situation. Worth reading, for those interested: http://goo.gl/RvCmG

    August 2, 2012 at 3:23 pm | Reply
  4. StanCalif

    Nothing changes! Our policy of "maximum pressure" did nothing to stop North Korea's nuclear program it certainly will not work with Iran! It really won't matter who becomes our next President, this same failed policy will be continued.

    August 2, 2012 at 8:12 am | Reply
  5. OffTheWorldPolitics

    (Detonator already prepared) Iran: "We haven't decided to make nukes" enrichment at 20% U.S: Sanctions must increase Iran: "But we haven't decided to make nukes" enrichment at 40% U.S: Increase Sanctions Iran: "But we aren't making nukes! we promise" enrichment at 70% U.S: "alright, that's enough, you need to stop NOW!" Iran: "ok, ok we are stopping" enrichment 90% Iran: "Syke!!!" Nuclear Test...

    August 2, 2012 at 12:00 am | Reply
    • Sodomite

      I guess that after inhabiting the earth for 4000 years, they've finally decided to commit suicide, right?

      August 2, 2012 at 12:05 am | Reply
      • OffTheWorldPolitics

        Ask the Bulgarian bus bomber...

        August 2, 2012 at 2:24 am |
      • Sodomite

        Or we could ask the 15 Saudi Arabians behind 9/11. Funny, no one seems to have a perennial hard-on over them.

        August 2, 2012 at 11:48 am |
    • OffTheWorldPolitics

      I'm glad we established that people will in fact kill themselves and the innocent for political gain. Now how about we let them get some Nuclear weapons. sounds like a plan!

      August 2, 2012 at 5:48 pm | Reply
  6. William F. Phuckley

    Bibi looks a lot like Jerry Sandusky. I guess Panetta will be his Paterno. Thrilling times ahead.

    August 1, 2012 at 11:08 pm | Reply
  7. intelligencia

    Israel is in violation of more UN resolutions, than any other country.

    Furthermore, Israel was voted the greatest threat to world peace by the European Union.

    We risk loosing respect internationally, if we continue to support the apartheid and racism of Israel.

    August 1, 2012 at 7:51 pm | Reply
    • cerebrum

      As long as Israel controls the countries biggest political lobbies, the US will ever bend to Israels will in the Security Council.

      Israel needs to be peacefully dismantled, and reformed as a large UNESCO and Arab union monitored territory.

      "israel can put you on trial, but nobody can put Israel on trial." Ariel Sharon

      August 1, 2012 at 8:01 pm | Reply
    • highspeed

      As a US soldier, I can tell you that my pals and I are sick of risking our lives for the security of a theocratic, apartheid, racist nation.

      And I wouldnt push us to far.....

      August 1, 2012 at 8:51 pm | Reply
  8. OffTheWorldPolitics

    I think the Iranian regime has probably been preparing for this since Gorbachev (probably since 1986). I don't have to remind everyone that the Soviet Union was self sustained, and many former Communist countries still support Iran (Russia, China). What I would like to remind everyone is what else happened in 1986, Chernobyl. This regime should not be allowed to play with fire, but it looks like we are just going to watch...

    August 1, 2012 at 7:25 pm | Reply
    • intelligencia

      The greater human ecosystem, will not allow Israel to wage her violence unchecked.

      Russia and China will both prevent Israel and her US puppets from seizing control of all the worlds land oil reserves.

      If Israel continues her murderous policies, the world will soon forget the pity that has sustained the Israeli occupation.

      August 1, 2012 at 7:46 pm | Reply
      • OffTheWorldPolitics

        The "greater human ecosystem" just reeks of causal determinism... I suppose by your logic that Russia and China are ok with Iran using nuclear weapons against Israel? Where is your "human ecosystem" if that happens? Iran is a wild card that Russia and China are playing against the west and Israel.... not visa versa...

        August 1, 2012 at 7:55 pm |
      • cerebrum

        Israel is playing the US against Islam.

        Your logic fails right off the bat offworld.....

        August 1, 2012 at 7:58 pm |
  9. George Patton

    What would one expect this clown Panetta to say? Of course he's going to be a spokesman for the right-wing thugs in Washington as always! This vicious cycle needs to be broken and how!!!

    August 1, 2012 at 6:18 pm | Reply
    • crazy world

      GO IRAN

      August 1, 2012 at 6:33 pm | Reply
    • Thinker23

      Did you disagree with something Panetta said? If so WHAT WAS IT?

      August 1, 2012 at 6:36 pm | Reply
      • intelligencia

        Moron, go report back to your hasbara supervisor.

        August 1, 2012 at 7:48 pm |
      • highspeed

        Search hasbara handbook on Google.

        Israel employs 22,000 hasbara agents, all with US taxpayer monies.

        August 1, 2012 at 8:53 pm |
  10. Chagned

    In the early 60s, before President Kennedy was tragically assassinated while he was attempting to prevent Israel from converting its civilian nuclear power program into a weapons program with inducements. Israel took the inducements, Hawk missiles, but continued with its nuclear weapons program.

    The notion that America is supposed to attack Iran to stop the Persians from acquiring nuclear weapons capability is absurd since we could not stop Israel from developing the bomb despite giving Israel inducements to stop their endeavor which they pocketed and continued developing nuclear weapons capability. The notion that Israel can have the bomb and Iran can't is also absurd. Of curse Israel is a theater of the absurd! The Persians have a rich ancient proud culture. Israel was born out of a culture of terrorism! How much more must the American people suffer for Israel's transgressions?

    There is a sustained attempt by Jews and Zionists to encourage America to attack Iran. (Which has increased the price of oil) Mr. Podhoretz attempted to make "The Case for Bombing Iran." Senator McCain sang, "Bomb, Bomb, Bomb Iran. While running for president, Hillary Clinton stated that if Iran attacked Israel, we would obliterate them. (I switched from supporting her to supporting Obama after that egregious comment.) We would kill 70 million Iranians for Israel? I would hope my country would use better judgment. But of course, Israel whines that Iran is the country that has threatened to wipe Israel off the map. It is true that Iran would like to see the map changed in Israel as does most of the world to include a Palestinian state and it must or Israel must suffer the consequence!

    August 1, 2012 at 5:28 pm | Reply
    • Thinker23

      If the Arabs and other Muslims were assured that Israel did not have nuclear weapons they would try to destroy Israel again as they've done in 1948, 1967 and 1973. The resulting was would cost hundreds of thousands or even millions of Arab lives. Therefore, Israeli nukes save millions of Muslim lives. On the other hand, if Iran will be allowed to acquire nukes it will try to use them to destroy Israel sooner rather than later. The resulting war will (again) cost hundreds of thousands or even millions of Arab and Iranian lives. Therefore, Iranian nukes will cost millions of Muslim lives.

      August 1, 2012 at 6:22 pm | Reply
      • intelligencia

        Sorry, but you're a moron.

        Israel has threatened to initiate Samson option during the him kippur war.

        The greatest terrorist act in human history.

        August 1, 2012 at 7:40 pm |
    • OffTheWorldPolitics

      Don't forget why the Independent state of Israel was created. Iran has never seen devastation on such a scale, maybe that's why the regime is so reckless. Why won't Iran simply provide transparency? All their peaceful atomic needs can be met with diplomacy.

      August 2, 2012 at 3:21 am | Reply
      • highspeed

        As a nation of criminals, Israel has no right to exact terms upon ANYTHING Iran chooses to do.

        August 2, 2012 at 4:58 pm |
  11. WP

    "World" means Israel + USA ?

    August 1, 2012 at 5:27 pm | Reply
    • Sodomite

      So it would seem.

      August 1, 2012 at 5:48 pm | Reply
    • Thinker23

      World means "people willing to live in peace and to let others to do the same".

      August 1, 2012 at 6:34 pm | Reply
      • intelligencia

        Tell that to the children melted by illegal white phosphorus munitions.

        August 1, 2012 at 7:43 pm |
      • cerebrum

        Right or the kids with shredded feet from israeli cluster munitions, dropped on non aggressive school yards....

        August 1, 2012 at 7:56 pm |
  12. saeed

    USA and Britain can't do anything we Pakistani people are the worlds most superior people we have defeated all the worlds empires in the end Pakistan zendabad long live Pakistan only Pakistan.

    August 1, 2012 at 5:08 pm | Reply
    • crazy world

      lol calm down

      August 1, 2012 at 6:35 pm | Reply
    • 66th Strategic Command & Operations Unit.

      ಠ_ಠ.....

      August 2, 2012 at 6:53 am | Reply

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