US defence chief Panetta warns against Iran strike

The reactor building at the Russian-built Bushehr nuclear power plant in southern Iran - 26 October 2010 Iran says its nuclear programme is for peaceful purposes only

The US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta has said a military strike against Iran could have "unintended consequences".

He said it would only delay Iran's nuclear efforts by three years at most.

Correspondents say the comments appear to play down speculation that a military strike might be used to cripple Tehran's nuclear programme.

On Tuesday, the UN's nuclear watchdog, the IAEA, said Iran was carrying out research aimed at developing nuclear weapons capacity.

"You've got to be careful of unintended consequences here," Mr Panetta told reporters in Washington, when asked about his concerns about a military strike.

He acknowledged military action might fail to deter Iran "from what they want to do".

"But more importantly, it could have a serious impact in the region, and it could have a serious impact on US forces in the region," he said.

"And I think all of those things need to be carefully considered."

Leon Panetta warns of the risks of a strike on Iran at a Pentagon press conference on 11 November 2011 Leon Panetta said he supported sanctions against Iran
'Toughest sanctions'

The BBC's Zoe Conway in Washington says the comments go against what in some Washington circles is seen as the accepted wisdom of using the military to curtail Iran's nuclear ambitions.

Speculation had been rife in the American and Israeli media that a strike could take place, either by the Americans themselves or by Israel.

Mr Panetta said he instead supported the use of "the toughest sanctions - economic, diplomatic pressures - on Iran to change their behaviour".

Asked what the US would do if sanctions did not force Iran to change course, he said the hope was that it would not reach that point.

Iran insists that its nuclear programme is for peaceful purposes, to generate civilian power.

In its latest and toughest report so far on Iran, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said on Tuesday that it had information indicating Iran had carried out tests "relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device".

The IAEA said the research includes computer models that could only be used to develop a nuclear bomb trigger.

Tehran condemned the findings of the IAEA as politically motivated.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 181.

    Country leaders look after their own country's interests not other countries' interests. They were voted in to do that. Our politicians will ignore what our allies do but happily criticise our "enemies" for the same thing. Because of the fragile state of the world and its economy, the US cannot afford to destabilise the ME any further so hence Panetta's comments.

  • rate this

    Comment number 144.

    At last, a US Defence Secretary who has thought something through.

    "Unintended consequences".
    The knock on effect to Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Palestine and Israel with a Shia led rebellion is probably too bad to contemplate,

  • rate this

    Comment number 140.

    Independent research must be given credit
    There is concern on Nuclear Weapons (NW) coming to Iran
    Since creation of NW the tragedy of Japan in WW2 it is a deterrent on all out war.
    The human race does not want NW but we have them
    Speculation on Iran firing on Israel is just nonsense
    They are too close and Iran would suffer as well
    US as part of a Global Alliance can put an end to this folly

  • rate this

    Comment number 124.

    Any military attack will bring the Iranian peoples closer to their government and further destroy the world economy - whilst Russia and China sit back and watch. It's a zero win situation, but we cannot allow the current Iranian administration nuclear weapons capability. That is far,far worse. Unimaginable.

  • rate this

    Comment number 118.

    Logical progression would consider Iran's building of one two or three nuclear weapons a waste of time effort and money.

    If they use such a weapon, they (and probably everyone else) might cease to exist. If an all out war were contained testing would prove where the materials came from. Development of many for world supremacy is futile.

    So in building, they make something they can never use!


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