US Defense Secretary Robert Gates warned this week that an Israeli attack on Iran would have dangerous consequences, and claimed that Tehran's acquisition of a nuclear bomb can be prevented only if "Iranians themselves decide it's too costly," the Los Angeles Times reported Thursday.
Speaking to students at Marines Corps University in Quantico, Virginia, Gates said that while an Israeli strike would likely delay the Islamic Republic's nuclear program one to three years, it would also "cement their (Iranians) determination to have a nuclear program, and also build into the whole country an undying hatred of whoever hits them."
Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres, have suggested the Jewish state could use military force to prevent Tehran from developing nuclear weapons, as the West suspects it is doing.
On Tuesday Iran demanded that the UN Security Council respond firmly to what it described as Israel's "unlawful and insolent threats."
Iran insists it is only interested in building reactors that peacefully generate electricity. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has said Israel should be "wiped off the map," has vowed to continue his country's nuclear program.
Last week, Vice President Joe Biden said Netanyahu would be "ill advised" to launch a strike.
Gates was quoted by the LA Times as saying that US President Barack Obama "needs the full range of options."
"We need to look at every way we can to increase the cost of that (nuclear) program to them (Iran), whether it's through economic sanctions or other things," he told the students on Monday.
According to the US defense secretary, other countries need to put more emphasis on arguments that a bomb would diminish, rather than improve, Iran's security "particularly if it launches an arms race in the Middle East."
According to the LA Times, experts postulate that Israel would seek the US' approval before striking Iran.
"One reason is that Israelis may want US clearance to fly over Iraq, and possibly help with aircraft refueling or aspects of the operation. In addition, a strike could set off retaliatory Iranian attacks on US forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, straining relations between the two allies," the LA Times report said, but added that "the comments of Gates and Biden suggest that in their private conversations US officials are discouraging such a course, even though officials say they would never deny Israel's right to act in self-defense."
News agencies contributed to the report