WASHINGTON – Neither the US nor Israel has the ability to keep Iran from getting a nuclear bomb, a retired top US general said Thursday.

“If they have the intent, all the weapons in the world are not going to change that, because the knowledge is there and they’d just build it back,” said retired Gen. James Cartwright, who served as the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff until last year, about what would happen should the US use force to take out the Iranian program.

Speaking at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Cartwright also said that, should Israel attack, the country “can delay it, some people estimate two to five years. But that does not take away the intellectual capital. That does not take away the ability of the Iranians to then proliferate the sites.”

Cartwright said he didn’t “see a lot of value in going in,” particularly since an attack was likely merely to galvanize Iran to redouble its efforts, and suggested that his feeling was widespread throughout the US military.

Retired Adm. William Fallon, who appeared with Cartwright at CSIS, said the idea of either country attacking Iran was “certainly not a preferred option” among US military brass, and said any effective operation would require boots on the ground in Iran.

Fallon, who resigned from his post as the commander of US Central Command during the George W. Bush administration after making outspoken comments on Iran, added that the US was unlikely to undertake such a mission.

Cartwright acknowledged that it was possible that speaking openly about opposition to a military attack could erode the credible threat of force underpinning diplomacy with Iran, but said such a scenario was improbable because of the ambiguity Iran would perceive in US thinking.

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“It’s not likely that it’s going to diminish the threat of a strike,” he said.

He also said that it wasn’t clear how the US would respond should Israel decide to launch an attack on its own, but that it would be extremely unlikely to try to stop the IAF if its planes were in the air.

Fallon stressed that the US and Israel share many objectives and values when it comes to the region, and that would encourage the US to work with Israel in such a scenario.

“We will certainly cooperate on things to the maximum extent that we can,” he said.

“We’re certainly going to share intelligence, because we think that any weaponization capability in Iran is not in either of our best interests.”

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