The US defense Secretary has recently voiced his misgivings about bombing Iran in a series of public remarks, amid speculation Israel may take pre-emptive action to prevent Tehran from acquiring atomic weapons.
But for the first time, Panetta - the Former Director of the CIA - appeared to suggest Iran’s underground nuclear facilities might survive air strikes.
“The indication is that, at best, military action might postpone Iran’s nuclear program maybe by one or possibly two years,” he said.
“It depends on the ability to truly get at the targets that they’re after. Frankly, some of those targets are very difficult to get at,” Panetta said.
Defense analysts have often pointed out that Iran has sought to hide sensitive nuclear sites and material in underground facilities, and Western officials privately acknowledge the hidden targets pose a military challenge.
He also said a strike could derail the European and US economies, endanger US troops and trigger an unpredictable cycle of violence.
“Lastly, the consequence could be that we would have an escalation that would take place that would not only involve losing lives but could consume the Middle East in confrontation and conflict that we would regret. So we have to be careful about the unintended consequences of that kind of attack,” Panetta hinted. (Khaleej Times: Reuters)
Meanwhile, Israel's Defense Minister Ehud Barak played down speculation that his country and US-led allies were waging clandestine war on Iran, saying sanctions and the threat of military strikes were still the way to curb its nuclear program.
Barak said Israel and the United States were coordinating closely on Iran, but the Jewish state has sovereignty and ultimate responsibility for its security, comments that have been widely interpreted, in the past, as a threat to strike Iran unilaterally if the Israelis deem diplomacy a dead end.
Source: Khaleej Times: Reuters – Photo: AFP