WASHINGTON, Feb. 16, 2012 — The nation is open to reaching diplomatic solutions with Iran, but is keeping all options on the table in case clear-cut “red lines” are crossed, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta said today.
Speaking to members of a House Appropriations subcommittee, Panetta said Iran is becoming increasingly isolated in the world.
“The international community has sent a very clear message,” he said. “We will not tolerate this. You’ve got to change your ways. You’ve got to come into the international community. You’ve got to abide by international laws, rules and regulations.”
The United States and the international community share the same concerns, Panetta noted. First, he said, “We will not allow Iran to develop a nuclear weapon.”
Panetta said intelligence reports clearly indicate that Iran continues to develop its enrichment capability; however, “intelligence does not show they’ve made the decision to proceed with developing a nuclear weapon.”
“That is the red line that would concern us and that would ensure the international community, hopefully together, would respond,” he said.
The international community also will not allow Iran to close the Strait of Hormuz, the secretary said. The strait is the only sea passage to the open ocean for petroleum-producing nations in the Persian Gulf region. Iran recently threatened to cut off access to the strait if the United States continues to maintain an aircraft carrier presence there.
Other concerns include the spread of violence, the country’s support of terrorism and its attempts to undermine other nations, Panetta added.
“All of that has been made very clear,” he said.
The international community has implemented strong diplomatic and economic sanctions that are having “a very strong impact,” he said.
“We are open … to negotiations with them to try to find a diplomatic solution to these issues, but we do keep all options on the table in the event the red lines, I just made very clear, are crossed,” Panetta said.
U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)