NEW YORK – While the US has “implemented unprecedented sanctions and pressure on
Iran, we may very well have to use military force to back up our policy,” Leon
Panetta said on Thursday night.
The former US defense secretary and CIA
director made the remarks while addressing around 600 people at the
Anti-Defamation League’s 100th annual meeting.
Panetta, who was receiving
the ADL’s William and Naomi Gorowitz Institute Service Award, said the US needs
to “maintain a healthy skepticism” when negotiating to suss out Iran’s true
level of commitment to negotiations over its nuclear program.
“It is the
Supreme Leader [Ali Khamenei] who is key, and he is not likely to give up
[uranium] enrichment,” Panetta warned. “We have to remain strong. We have to
Panetta reiterated the American line that the US has
“no friend, no better ally in the world than Israel,” but he expressed concern
over the “growing sense of isolationism in this country [the US]” over the last
10 years of fighting two wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the shifting power
dynamics among world leaders.
“The fact remains that we live in a very
dangerous world,” he said. “We continue to have threats from North Korea as they
test nuclear weapons. We have instability and fragility in the Middle East. All
of this happens at a time when we are imperiled by gridlock in
Panetta was introduced by current Defense Secretary Chuck
Hagel, who expressed his admiration for his predecessor, and similarly indicated
his support for maintaining a firm hand with Tehran, while at the same exploring
“We are testing Iranian intentions for diplomatic
solutions,” Hagel said.
“When we engage Iran along with our partners, we
are clear-eyed about the reality in the Middle East. Iran is a state sponsor of
terror... but foreign policy is not a zero-sum game.”
Hagel advocated for
exploring more ways to resolve disputes, and tried to soothe audience members
concerned that diplomacy would lead nowhere.
“Engagement is not
appeasement, nor is it containment,” he said. “We know what those are, we know
where they lead, and we will not pursue them. And President Obama has repeatedly
made clear that words are not enough. Action must match words.”
announced that the US would be selling Israel six V-22 Osprey tiltrotor
helicopters, and that he recognized the “challenges” on Israel’s borders given
the crises in Egypt and Syria. “There are no margins for Israel,” Hagel
The other headliner of the first day of the meeting was UN
Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power, who received a gift from ADL National
Director Abe Foxman – a book with the word “Jew” written in it six million
times, as a tribute to her work in the field of genocide, Foxman
She address the collaboration between the US and Israeli missions
at the UN, and vowed to continue working to expand Israel’s role.
made it a priority... to oppose every example of anti-Israeli bias in the
UN system,” Power said. “On my watch, we will push ceaselessly for the further
inclusion of Israel in regional groups. We will demand objectivity in
resolutions affecting Middle East peace.... There is no basis to exclude Israel
from full participation in the United Nations system.”