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 152.


    "Bush and his democrats" ... Bush was a Republican!

  • rate this

    Comment number 151.

    I trust Iran with nukes more so that I did George W Bush...

  • rate this

    Comment number 150.

    How dare those iranians think that they can stand up to the mighty west , don't they realise that we are never wrong (cough Iraq).They should understand that We helped defeat the nazis therefore eveything we did before that is forgiven and everything after is acceptable. I just wish that the Israeli media lobby BICOM had more influence then we wouldnt have any naysayers against attacking Iran

  • rate this

    Comment number 149.

    re: #128. SteveM
    >>>I feel safer knowing the US leaders in power now think of the consequences before throwing their weight. I'd hate to think what would kick off if Bush and his democrats were still in power.

    That's a well informed comment Steve.

  • rate this

    Comment number 148.

    Reading these comments frightens me. Remember Hitler. Appeasement etc..Would YOU trust the current Iranian government?? They have also crushed internal protests, just like Syria just be a little less politically minded and reckon what they would do with these nukes..Threats, if not actual use, would soon follow...Do you REALLY want to see a nuclear Iran??..if so, there is no going back.

  • rate this

    Comment number 147.

    Strike on Iran? Who has the right to do that this time, after everything else? Seems like the best way to start WW3 to me. There must be an angle that ordinary people, like me, don't know. Is it that somebody has decided that the world's population needs culling?
    The world is mad. I'm considering growing vegetables.

  • rate this

    Comment number 146.

    The way forward therefore is peaceful negotiation from the Global Nuclear Powers to promote Iran toward a sensible outcome.

    Such actions would be to Russia and China's vested interest, considering MAD affects everybody. I doubt any good would come from another "Cold War" and it is to our own self preservation we all should invest.

    True Muslims, nor Christians, are terrorists and war should STOP.

  • Comment number 145.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • 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 143.

    Yes, the Law of Unitended Consequences definitely applies to Iraq. It has strengthen Iran & the Islamist insurgency.

    It is reassuring to know that there is an understanding of fallibility now in the US administration which didn't exist under Bush

    Strangely the US attacked Iraq knowing it unlikely they had a weapons programme but refuse to attack Iran when its clear they have.

  • rate this

    Comment number 142.

    there is a simple equation here;

    iran hates the west.

    iran is a rougue state which sponsors terrorism.

    iran wants nuclear weapons.

    there are terrorists which would use nuclear weapons against the west if they could obtain the weapons.

    the rest is obvious.

  • rate this

    Comment number 141.

    "The US got it's nuclear technology from captured Nazi scientists..."

    FYI the UK invented nuclear weapons in the mid 1930s. The usa created the Manhattan Project to manufacture the nuclear materials, an atom at a time, so they could be built according to the British designs. The German scientific understanding of the bomb was flawed & their technology laughable!

    Get clue soon!

  • 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

  • Comment number 139.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 138.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 137.

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


    They're getting there, aren't they?

  • rate this

    Comment number 136.

    Predictable or what? The world is facing financial problems again, so we better have another war.

  • rate this

    Comment number 135.

    If we disregard posts saying how bad the Palestinians, Israelis, US, Re #104 "Britain etc are, consensus seems to be in favour of stopping Iran in its tracks.

    Now the question is, what's the best way of achieving this, preferably without loss of life?"

    Using a dozen of specifically targetted bunker-busters with a very small CEP (circular error probable under 50 meters) detonated underground.

  • rate this

    Comment number 134.

    The Iranians are precipitating this. Their words and actions are totally contradictory.

    No President of America, republican or democrat would actually let them be a nuclear power. I don't think Europe would tolerate it. And Iran's neighbors certainly don't want it. Israel of course won't.

    Trouble is, our only true theocracy probably would not have moral constraints to using a bomb...

  • rate this

    Comment number 133.

    Arguments: "We could make rules and have a limited war".

    As soon as someone starts losing a bit and looks like going down they have nothing to lose in releasing the whole lot.

    How about a pre-emptive strike?
    If you do not get the lot in one swift move the whole lot comes in at you.

    Survive underground?
    It is so long till Earth recovers, nobody might survive.

    Mutual Assured Destruction: MAD !


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