US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said on Tuesday that he did not believe that
Israel had made a decision on whether to attack Iran over its nuclear program,
and added that he thought there was still time for a stronger sanctions
Panetta’s comments came at a Pentagon briefing against the
background of the very loud and public debate in Israel about whether to attack
Panetta held a round of talks in Israel two weeks ago, and met with
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak.
few days before his arrival, Netanyahu said in a television interview that he
had not yet decided whether to attack Iran. He did make clear, however, that
neither diplomacy nor sanctions were working.
Asked about comments by
Israeli officials, Panetta said, “I don’t believe they’ve made a decision as to
whether or not they will go in and attack Iran at this time.”
regards to the issue of where we’re at from a diplomatic point of view, the
reality is that we still think there is room to continue to negotiate,” he
Tehran says its nuclear ambitions are peaceful and has threatened
wide-ranging reprisals if attacked. A muscular response from Tehran would
increase the likelihood that the United States would be drawn into any
Israel’s financial markets fell sharply on Monday in response
to the intensifying debate on the prospect of going to war with Iran, although
some of those losses were recovered on Tuesday.
Gen. Martin Dempsey, the
chairman of the US military’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, cautioned that any Israeli
strike would not destroy Iran’s nuclear program, only delay its work.
may not know about all of their capabilities but I think that it’s a fair
characterization to say that they could delay but not destroy Iran’s nuclear
capabilities,” he said.
Regardless, the media has been awash over the
last week in a public debate over the issue, reaching the point where analysts
have begun speculating about the conclusions from a future committee of inquiry
into the attack and ensuing war.
This debate – as well as the
well-publicized disagreement between Israel and the US over whether military
action should be taken before Tehran has all the ingredients for a bomb, or
whether it should be held off until the Islamic Republic actually makes the
decision to assemble the bomb – has not been lost on Iran.
conclusions the Iranians have drawn from the debates, at least judging from remarks made Tuesday by
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast, is that no attack is
“Even if some officials in the illegitimate regime [Israel]
want to carry out such a stupid action, there are those inside [the Israeli
government] who won’t allow it because they know they would suffer very severe
consequences from such an act,” he was quoted by the AFP as telling reporters at
a weekly briefing on Tuesday.
“In our calculations, we aren’t taking
these claims very seriously because we see them as hollow and baseless,” he
He also reportedly said that Israel is only talking about an attack
because of domestic problems, such as the economic protests. Israel Radio
reported that Iranian leaders are convinced that Israel will not act without US
backing, and that as long as Washington is indicating that they do not currently
support such a move, there is no reason for undue concern.
a statement he made alongside Panetta earlier this month, foresaw this attitude,
and said that despite forceful statements by the US and Israel, Iran is not
convinced “that we are serious about stopping them.”
“Right now, the
Iranian regime believes that the international community does not have the will
to stop its nuclear program. This must change and it must change quickly,
because time to resolve this issue peacefully is running out,” Netanyahu
Meanwhile, former chief of staff Amnon Lipkin-Shahak added his
voice to the numerous former security heads openly discussing the matter and
advising against an attack.
“I assume that the decision-makers have the
same information that is in the hands of the heads of the security
establishment,” he said.
“I ask myself how the security officials and the
politicians can arrive at such different conclusions. I completely trust the
security establishment officials and give a great deal of weight to their
Lipkin-Shahak, speaking at a ceremony marking 20 years since
the beginning of the second Rabin government, also said he believes the
Americans when they say that they will not let Iran get a nuclear weapon. He
decried what he said was the failure of the political echelon to have the same
intimacy now with Washington enjoyed by the military and intelligence
communities. He also said there was no rush to attack Iran, as some in
the media have speculated, before the November elections in the US.
is not right to present this as something that has to happen in the autumn,” he
Reuters contributed to this report.