Strike on Iran final resort, says Panetta
Leon Panetta, U.S. secretary of defense, speaks to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. REUTERS photoTaking sharply different stands, U.S. President Barack Obama urged pressure and diplomacy to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear bomb while Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu emphasized his nation’s right to a pre-emptive attack.
“I know that both the prime minister and I prefer to resolve this diplomatically,” Obama said. “We understand the costs of any military action.” The Obama administration has signaled it did not believe Iran had taken a decision to develop a nuclear weapon yet or that the time was right for military action, preferring to give biting new sanctions time to work.
Netanyahu said Israel has “exactly the same policy” as the Obama administration, but Israel cannot afford to wait much longer on Iran.
“Unfortunately, Iran’s nuclear program has continued to march forward. Israel has waited [...] for diplomacy to work, we’ve waited for sanctions to work. None of us can afford to wait much longer,” Netanyahu told some 13,000 attendees in a speech before the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) pro-Israel lobbying group late March 5.
“As prime minister of Israel I will never let my people live in the shadow of annihilation,” he said. “We’re determined to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, we leave all options on the table and containment is definitely not an option.”
Netanyahu said for the world to allow Iran – which he said was dedicated to the destruction of Israel – to attain a nuclear arsenal evoked memories of the U.S. refusal to bomb the Auschwitz Nazi death camp during World War II to prevent the mass extermination of Jews there.
“My friends, 2012 is not 1944,” he said. “Today, we have a state of our own. And the purpose of the Jewish state is to defend Jewish lives and to secure the Jewish future.”
Senior Obama administration officials said the talks at the White House left the two sides closer than they were a week ago. The Israelis walked away with prominent statements from Obama that he would not stand for containing a nuclear-armed Iran, and that the crisis was in the United States’ interest to solve. Netanyahu also told Obama Israel must remain the “master of its fate” in a firm defense of his right to mount a unilateral strike on Iran.
Retired generals send message to Obama
Several former high-ranking U.S. military, intelligence and State Department officials took out an advertisement in the Washington Post on March 5 urging U.S. President Barack Obama to stand fast against pressure to attack Iran over its nuclear program.
The advertisement, which carried the headline “Mr. President: Say No to a War of Choice with Iran,” is sponsored by the National Iranian American Council (NIAC), a non-partisan, non-profit organization headquartered in Washington.
The letter, signed by five retired generals, two senior intelligence analysts and a senior State Department official, is accompanied by a photo and quotes from other current military and defense officials warning against such an attack.
While the writers backed the idea of keeping Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, they said diplomacy was still a possible means of doing that.
“Military action at this stage is not only unnecessary, it is dangerous – for the United States and for Israel,” they said. “We urge you to resist the pressure of a war of choice with Iran.”