Leon Panetta 311 R.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
WASHINGTON - Military action against Iran could have "unintended
consequences" in the region, US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said on
Thursday, hours after Tehran warned that an attack against its nuclear
sites would be met by "iron fists."
who took over the Pentagon's top job in July, said he agreed with an
assessment of his predecessor, Robert Gates, that a strike on Iran would
only delay its nuclear program, which the West believes is aimed at
making an atomic bomb.
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Gates also warned it could unite the
country and deepen its resolve toward pursuing nuclear weapons. Iran
says its nuclear program is peaceful and that it is enriching uranium to
power reactors for electricity generation.
got to be careful of unintended consequences here," Panetta told
reporters at the Pentagon, when asked about his concerns about a
He acknowledged military action might fail to deter Iran "from what they want to do."
more importantly, it could have a serious impact in the region, and it
could have a serious impact on US forces in the region," he said. "And I
think all of those things, you know, need to be carefully considered."
Tension over Iran's nuclear program has increased since Tuesday when the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reported
that Tehran appeared to have worked on designing a bomb and may still be conducting secret research to that end.
Speculation has heightened in the Israeli media that Israel may strike
Iran's nuclear sites and there is speculation in the Western press about
a possible US attack.
Iran has warned that it will respond
to any attacks by hitting Israel
and US interests in the Gulf. Analysts say Tehran could retaliate by
closing the Strait of Hormuz, the waterway where about 40 percent of all
traded oil passes.
"Our enemies, particularly the Zionist regime (Israel), America and its
allies, should know that any kind of threat and attack or even thinking
about any (military) action will be firmly responded to," Iran's Supreme
Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on state television.