US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta at AIPAC 390 (R).
(photo credit: REUTERS/Joshua Roberts)
US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta on Tuesday vowed the United States would take military action to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon if diplomacy fails.
"Military action is the last alternative when all else fails," he said in prepared remarks to the pro-Israel lobbying group. "But make no mistake, if all else fails, we will act."
Panetta's comments echoed similar statements made on Monday by US President Barack Obama, stating that all options remain on the table regarding Iran. Obama made the statement following a meeting at the White House with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.
Prior to their meeting, the Israeli prime minister said that “Israel must have the ability always to defend itself, by itself, against any threat... Israel has the right, the sovereign right, to make its own decisions.”
This meeting was the first one between Netanyahu and Obama in which the Palestinian issue was not the central point of discussion, though it did come up in the roughly 90-minute lunch held by the two sides and their staffs following the first part of the encounter, a two-hour discussion that included both countries’ national security advisers. The lunch also touched on Syria, Turkey, Egypt and other regional developments, and Netanyahu at one point raised the issue of the release of Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard.
President Shimon Peres, also in Washington for the AIPAC conference, asked Obama to release Pollard when they met Sunday as well, Peres’s office said Monday.Hillary Leila Kreiger, Herb Keinon and Gil Hoffman contributed to this report.