US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said yesterday that the US would not allow Iran to develop nuclear weapons and would employ all options to ensure that Tehran does not acquire them.
Panetta was speaking to reporters at a joint press conference with Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu before their meeting in Jerusalem on Wednesday. Throughout the day Panetta repeatedly said that “all options” including military force were on the table to stop Iran, should sanctions and diplomacy fail. But he also said that it is up to Israel to decide what is in its national security interest.
“I want to reassert again the position of the United States that with regards to Iran, we will not allow Iran to develop a nuclear weapon, period. We will not allow them to develop a nuclear weapon, and we will exert all options in the effort to ensure that that does not happen,” The US defense secretary said.
“The United States stands firmly with Israel, and we have a rock solid commitment to the security of Israel and to the security of its citizens. And make no mistake, we will remain determined to prevent Iran from ever acquiring a nuclear weapon,” Panetta added.
For his part, Netanyahu told the assembled press “right now the Iranian regime believes that the international community does not have the will to stop its nuclear programme.”
Turning and facing the Pentagon chief, Netanyahu added, “you yourself said a few months ago that when all else fails, America will act. But these declarations have also not yet convinced the Iranians to stop their programme. This must change, and it must change quickly because time to resolve this issue peacefully is running out.”
Earlier on Wednesday, Panetta toured Israel’s Iron Dome rocket defence system in Ashkelon accompanied by Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak. At the site Panetta, in a join press conference with Barak, said the battery was a concrete example of how the US-Israeli defence partnership is working. He added, however, that the defence relationship is more than just one system. He said the relationship is one based on shared values and goals and “is stronger than it has ever been before.”