Panetta Urges Tougher Sanctions on Iran

WASHINGTON, Nov. 10, 2011 — Defense Sec­re­tary Leon E. Panet­ta today called for tougher eco­nom­ic and diplo­mat­ic pres­sures on Iran in light of a new Inter­na­tion­al Atom­ic Ener­gy Agency report on Iran’s con­tin­ued nuclear activ­i­ties.

The Unit­ed States is in dis­cus­sions with its allies about what addi­tion­al sanc­tions to impose on Iran fol­low­ing the report released Nov. 8 that indi­cates a con­tin­ued nuclear weapons pro­gram, Panet­ta said at a Pen­ta­gon news con­fer­ence.

How­ev­er, refer­ring to remarks he said Israeli Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Netanyahu made today, Panet­ta said mil­i­tary action against Iran “ought to be a last resort.”

The Unit­ed States has made clear that it’s “unac­cept­able” for Iran to devel­op a nuclear capa­bil­i­ty, Panet­ta said. “We have made that point time and time again, and we have tak­en steps and imple­ment­ed sanc­tions to make that clear to Iran,” he said.

How­ev­er, the IAEA report reflects what intel­li­gence assess­ments already have revealed about Iran’s con­tin­ued activ­i­ties, he said.

“We have always made the point that they con­tin­ue to try to devel­op a thresh­old capa­bil­i­ty with regard to their nuclear capac­i­ty,” he said. “But at the same time, there con­tin­ue to be divi­sions with­in Iran as to whether or not to build a bomb itself.”

“So, in many ways, the IAEA report pret­ty much indi­cates that they con­tin­ue to work on that capa­bil­i­ty,” he said.

The fact that this respect­ed inter­na­tion­al orga­ni­za­tion has come to this deter­mi­na­tion “rais­es seri­ous con­cerns that Iran con­tin­ues to flaunt inter­na­tion­al rules and stan­dards,” Panet­ta said.

The sec­re­tary empha­sized Iran’s respon­si­bil­i­ties as a sig­na­to­ry to the non­pro­lif­er­a­tion treaty. “They have to abide by inter­na­tion­al stan­dards … and inter­na­tion­al rules,” he said.“And obvi­ous­ly, the report from the IAEA just indi­cates that that is just not the case.”

The find­ings make it “very clear that addi­tion­al sanc­tions need to be applied,” he said. “It is impor­tant that the world come togeth­er to apply sanc­tions against Iran and make very clear to them that they are going to pay a heavy price if they con­tin­ue along this track.”

Panet­ta expressed hope that Iran will aban­don its efforts. “As to what hap­pens down the road, I think our hope is that we don’t reach that point, and that Iran decides that it should join the inter­na­tion­al fam­i­ly,” he said.

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