Panetta: Keeping Iran Free of Nuclear Weapons a Common Goal

WASHINGTON, Dec. 2, 2011 — The Unit­ed States and its allies and part­ners in the inter­na­tion­al com­mu­ni­ty must do every­thing pos­si­ble to make sure Iran nev­er obtains a nuclear weapon, Defense Sec­re­tary Leon E. Panet­ta said tonight.

Tak­ing ques­tions from the audi­ence after his speech dur­ing the open­ing ses­sion of the 2011 Saban Forum, Panet­ta addressed a range of Mid­dle East issues, includ­ing the nuclear threat from Iran.

Iran’s Pres­i­dent Mah­moud Ahmadine­jad insists his nation’s nuclear pro­gram is a peace­ful enter­prise, but the Inter­na­tion­al Atom­ic Ener­gy Agency report­ed in Novem­ber about evi­dence indi­cat­ing that Iran is try­ing to build a nuclear bomb.

“Iran’s con­tin­ued dri­ve to devel­op nuclear capa­bil­i­ties, includ­ing trou­bling enrich­ment activ­i­ties and past work on weaponiza­tion doc­u­ment­ed by the IAEA, and its con­tin­ued sup­port to groups like Hezbol­lah, Hamas and oth­er ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tions,” Panet­ta said in his open­ing remarks, “make clear that the regime in Tehran is a very grave threat to all of us.”

The forum is an annu­al gath­er­ing of U.S. and Israeli offi­cials and pol­i­cy­mak­ers. This year the group focused on the his­toric shifts tak­ing place across the Arab world and their impli­ca­tions for U.S.-Israeli secu­ri­ty and inter­ests in the Mid­dle East region.

About Iran, an increas­ing­ly men­ac­ing ele­ment of the region, Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma said last month that the Unit­ed States will take no options off the table in deal­ing with that country’s nuclear ambi­tions.

“At this point, we believe that the com­bi­na­tion of eco­nom­ic and diplo­mat­ic sanc­tions that have been placed on Iran have had a seri­ous impact,” Panet­ta said. “Iran is iso­lat­ing itself from the rest of the world. It is tru­ly becom­ing, chiefly as a result of the attack on the British embassy, a pari­ah in that region. Their own gov­ern­ment is off bal­ance in terms of try­ing to estab­lish any kind of civil­i­ty with­in Iran.

The inter­na­tion­al com­mu­ni­ty has a com­mon goal, Panet­ta said: an Iran that does not devel­op a nuclear weapon.

Work­ing togeth­er with Israel, with allies in the region and with the inter­na­tion­al com­mu­ni­ty is the best way to pres­sure Iran, Panet­ta said.

“It’s the best way I believe to ulti­mate­ly weak­en this nation, so that ulti­mate­ly they have to make a deci­sion about whether they con­tin­ue to be a pari­ah or whether they decide to join the inter­na­tion­al com­mu­ni­ty,” the sec­re­tary added.

Panet­ta not­ed that Israeli Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Netanyahu has said the use of mil­i­tary force should be a last resort. Using mil­i­tary force against Iran’s nuclear pro­gram would delay the nuclear effort only by a year or two, the sec­re­tary said. “A greater con­cern is the unin­tend­ed con­se­quences,” he added. These could include a back­lash in the region that would serve to strength­en a regime that is now weak and iso­lat­ed.

The Unit­ed State would be blamed for such an attack, the sec­re­tary said, “and we could pos­si­bly be a tar­get of retal­i­a­tion from Iran, [which might] strike our ships [and] mil­i­tary bases.”

Using mil­i­tary force against Iran also could pro­duce severe con­se­quences for economies around the world, Panet­ta said, includ­ing those of Europe and the Unit­ed States. And using force could prompt an esca­la­tion in the region, he told the audi­ence — a nuclear arms race “that I think would con­sume the Mid­dle East in con­fronta­tion and con­flict.”

The key, he said, is for the inter­na­tion­al com­mu­ni­ty to work togeth­er to make sure Iran does not acquire a nuclear weapon.

“We have made good progress in these efforts,” the sec­re­tary said. “We con­tin­ue to make good progress in these efforts. That’s where we ought to con­tin­ue to put our pres­sures and our eco­nom­ic and diplo­mat­ic efforts.”

The world always will have mil­i­tary action as a last resort, Panet­ta said. “But it must be the last resort, not the first,” he empha­sized.

Source:
U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

Team GlobDef

Team GlobDef

Seit 2001 ist GlobalDefence.net im Internet unterwegs, um mit eigenen Analysen, interessanten Kooperationen und umfassenden Informationen für einen spannenden Überblick der Weltlage zu sorgen. GlobalDefenc.net war dabei die erste deutschsprachige Internetseite, die mit dem Schwerpunkt Sicherheitspolitik außerhalb von Hochschulen oder Instituten aufgetreten ist.

Alle Beiträge ansehen von Team GlobDef →