In an interview with the National Journal Panetta discussed what were to happen if Israel carries out an attack on Iran's nuclear facilities. “If they decided to do it there’s no question that it would have an impact, but I think it’s also clear that if the United States did it we would have a hell of a bigger impact,” Panetta stated.
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Washington's diplomatic escalation in regards to Iran comes after a long week of meetings between US President Barack Obama and Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres, in which the US declared it's committed to preventing Iran from achieving nuclear capabilities.
Netanyahu and Obama (Photo: Amos Ben Gershom, GPO)
“Let me be clear—we do not have a policy of containment,” Panetta clarified. “We have a policy of preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.”
Just like his fellow Washington officials, Panetta has come to a conclusion that Israel has yet to make up its mind about whether or not to attack Iran. “As the president himself has said, I don’t believe they’ve made a final decision here,” Panetta said. “I feel confident that they really are seriously weighing all of the ramifications of how best to deal with Iran.”
Panetta mentioned the US has far more advanced weapons and a significantly larger air force than Israel, concluding that an American attack on Iran would be a lot more effective.
Attack 'unlikely this year'
On Wednesday, the head of a respected London-based think-tank said that an Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities would only set back Tehran’s program by a couple of years.
Nuclear reactor at Parchin
International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) head John Chipman said an Israeli attack against Iran was unlikely this year, following US assurances this week to Israel that it would not rule out military action.
Only the United States could conduct a serious campaign against Iran’s nuclear facilities, he said.
Furthermore, a pre-emptive Israeli strike could backfire because it is likely to push the Tehran regime to accelerate its nuclear ambitions, warned the IISS director-general at the release of its annual “Military Balance” report.
“My judgment is that an Israeli attack on Iran of an overt kind is unlikely this year,” Chipman told a news conference on the annual assessment of the global military power balance.
Panetta participated in the meeting between Obama and Netanyahu, afterwhich he sat down privatally with the Israeli PM. According to Panetta, “I think they’re serious about the threat that they view from Iran and its impact on Israel. I think they also understand that we view Iran as a threat to our security as well.”
Meanwhile, the White House denied Thursday that Obama and Netanyahu discussed an Israeli request for advanced US military technology that could be used against Iran.
"In meetings the president had there was no such agreement proposed or reached," White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters. Obama and Netanyahu meet in the Oval office for two hours on Monday and then had lunch together.
An Israeli official said earlier on Thursday that Israel has asked the US for advanced "bunker-buster" bombs and refueling planes that could improve its ability to attack Iran's underground nuclear sites.
Reuters contributed to this report
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