Panetta denies discussing Iran attack plans during meeting with Barak
July 31, 2012 1 Comment
By Lauren Appelbaum, Political Director
Washington, July 31 - U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta met with Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak Tuesday night in Jerusalem after denying reports that the two were discussing Iran “attack plans.”
“I think it’s the wrong characterization to say we are going to be discussing potential attack plans,” Panetta told reporters during a press conference in Cairo before departing for Israel. “What we are discussing are various contingencies and how we would respond.”
When reporters asked Panetta if these potential plans include military options, he said the discussions would be “more about what is the threat that we’re confronting” in Iran’s nuclear program and sharing intelligence information.
Panetta said the two also would speak about the Iron Dome. In the last decade, Israelis in the north and south have suffered bombardments by Iran-backed terrorist groups such as Hezbollah and Hamas. In response, Israel developed the Iron Dome system in 2007 to defend against short-range rocket and artillery attacks. The system integrates vertically launched interceptor missiles with a mobile control center as well as an advanced radar component.
During the same time, Israeli News Channel 2 aired an interview with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who said he has not yet made a decision whether to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities.
“The U.S., like us, wants to prevent a nuclear Iran,” Netanyahu said.
When it comes to the Iranian threat, Netanyahu said “Israel cannot rely on anyone else.”
Chief of General Staff of the Israel Defense Forces Benny Gantz told reporters in Tel Aviv earlier in the day that, if ordered to do so, the IDF was ready to attack Iran.
“The IDF is ready and prepared for action and as we see it ‘all options are on the table’ is not a slogan, it is a working plan and we are doing it,” he said, referring to a line often repeated by Israeli politicians when discussing Iran.
The United States has said it is determined to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, but has called on Israel to give more time for increasingly severe economic sanctions to work.
Today President Obama approved new sanctions against the Iranian energy and petrochemical sectors.
‘This action is designed to deter Iran from establishing payment mechanisms for the purchase of Iranian oil to circumvent existing sanctions, and utilizes the existing structure of our sanctions law, including exceptions for significant reductions in the purchase of Iranian oil,” Obama said in a statement. “Existing sanctions on Iran’s petrochemical industry are expanded by making sanctionable the purchase or acquisition of Iranian petrochemical products. Sanctions are also authorized for those who may seek to avoid the impact of these sanctions.”
“The United States remains committed to a diplomatic solution, but the onus is on Iran to abide by its international obligations,” Obama continued. “If the Iranian government continues its defiance, there should be no doubt that the United States and our partners will continue to impose increasing consequences.”
“Both of our countries are committed to ensuring that Iran does not develop a nuclear weapon and to that extent we continue to work together in the effort to ensure that Iran does not reach that point of developing a nuclear weapon,” Panetta said today.
Speaking to reporters on a plane Sunday, Panetta said the U.S. respects Israel’s “sovereignty and their ability to make decisions with regard to their own security.”
Panetta will meet with Netanyahu Wednesday, on his second day of meetings in Israel.