Panetta: US has been planning Iran military option

US defense secretary says Israel still undecided on strike; USAF general says US could use bunker buster against Iran.

By REUTERS
March 9, 2012 06:25
1 minute read.
US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta

US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta 390 (R). (photo credit: REUTERS/Yuri Gripas)

 
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US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told the National Journal in an interview on Thursday that the planning of a military option on Iran had been going on "for a long time."

Major powers are increasingly concerned about Iran's nuclear enrichment program, which they view as an attempt to build an atomic weapon. But Tehran says it is meant for peaceful energy production.

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Panetta, who has said diplomacy and sanctions should be given more time, told the National Journal he did not think Israel had decided whether to order a high-risk raid on Iran's nuclear sites.

He said the United States was committed to preventing Iran from acquiring atomic weapons and would have a greater impact than Israel if it decided force was necessary.

"If they decided to do it there's no question that it would have an impact, but I think it's also clear that if the United States did it we would have a hell of a bigger impact," Panetta said.

Bunker buster bomb could be used against Iran

A US Air Force general said Thursday that a 13,600-kg bunker buster bomb designed to smash through some 65 metres of concrete before exploding is a "great weapon" that could be used by US forces in a clash with Iran over its nuclear program.

Lieutenant General Herbert Carlisle, Air Force deputy chief of staff for operations, said the massive ordnance penetrator, which the military began receiving only last year, is part of the US arsenal available for strikes against countries like Iran, which has some buried nuclear facilities.

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"The massive ordnance penetrator is a great weapon. We are continuing to improve that. It has great capability now and we are continuing to make it better. It is part of our arsenal and it will be a potential if we need it in that kind of scenario," Carlisle told a conference on US defense programs.

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