US: Iran strike 'off table' for now
Defense official says Washington hopes talks, sanctions will suffice.
NEW YORK – The United States has ruled out an attack on Iran’s nuclear
program in the short term, a top Defense Department official said on
Instead, the US will focus on negotiations with
Teheran and continue its aggressive pursuit of United Nations sanctions
against the Islamic regime.
“Military force is an option of last
resort,” Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Michele Flournoy told
reporters during a briefing in Singapore. “It’s off the table in the
Flournoy said the US has not seen Iran engage
productively. But, “right now the focus is a combination of engagement
and pressure in the form of sanctions.”
Israeli officials, who
have called for tough sanctions on Iran, did not immediately
recalibrate their policy, and emphasized their strategic partnership
with the US.
“I think there’s a growing understanding in the US
and in the international community that everything has to be done to
stop the Iranian nuclear program, the sooner the better,” one Israeli
“The important thing is to keep our eyes on the
ball and to continue this very close dialogue and interchange with the
administration… to make sure the international community will really
bring about sanctions on Iran as soon as possible.”
spokesman clarified on Wednesday that American military action against
Iran remains an option even as the United States pursues diplomacy and
sanctions to halt the country’s nuclear program.
“We are not
taking any options off the table as we pursue the pressure and
engagement tracks,” Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell said. “The
president always has at his disposal a full array of options, including
use of the military... It is clearly not our preferred course of action
but it has never been, nor is it now, off the table.”
He was responding to Flournoy’s earlier statements in Singapore.
said the military is “very confident” it could protect the US from a
Iranian ballistic missile strike. The US defense system based in
California and Alaska is “sufficient to protect us from such a threat,
he told reporters.
Last week, Israeli Ambassador to the UN Gabriela Shalev, urged the Security Council to act on Iran in a timely manner.
most alarming danger is that Iran continues to pursue nuclear weapons
capabilities, while mocking the diplomatic overtures of the
international community,” she said. “This council has an obligation to
translate this consensus into timely and effective action.”
In recent months, the US has accelerated its pursuit of Security Council sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program.
urgency of the threat and the catastrophic consequences of even a
single act of nuclear terrorism demand an effort that is at once bold
and pragmatic,” US President Obama said last week in Washington, as 47
nations signed a pact to secure the nuclear materials worldwide within
Under a new Nuclear Posture Review, the US pledged
that Iran and North Korea would become “more isolated” as part of a new
policy that restricts American use of nuclear weapons.
But earlier this week, Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said Iran wants direct talks with Security Council members.
Iran rejected UN-backed proposals that would give Teheran nuclear fuel
rods in exchange for its lower-level enriched uranium. Supporters of
the plan think it would prevent Iran from making nuclear weapons.
In an editorial on Tuesday, The New York Times called to speed up sanctions.
is especially vulnerable now, both economically and politically. Its
leaders will be watching carefully, especially to see what its longtime
trading partners and enablers in Russia and China do,” the Times wrote.
the editorial board claimed a military attack would be a “disaster,”
and quoted Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff,
telling reporters on Sunday that military options would “delay” Iran’s
nuclear program. “That doesn’t mean the problem is going to go away,”
On Wednesday, Iran’s state TV announced that the Revolutionary Guard
would conduct large-scale war games in the Strait of Hormuz.
The three-day military maneuvers are meant to “safeguard security” in
the region, the Guard’s deputy chief Hossein Salami was quoted as
The announcement added fuel to tension with the West. In the past, Iran has threatened to close the strait if attacked.
Salami said the war games sought to demonstrate Iran’s role in the
waterway, through which about 40 percent of the world’s oil and energy
AP contributed to this report.