August 01, 2012
U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta denied media reports on Tuesday that he would discuss possible military attack plans against Iran during a brief visit to Israel.
Speaking at a press conference in Cairo shortly before departing for Israel, Panetta said he would be talking about “various contingencies”, but said specific military plans would not be put forward.
“I think it’s the wrong characterization to say we are going to be discussing potential attack plans. What we are discussing are various contingencies and how we would respond,” he said.
Asked whether these included military options, he said: “We obviously continue to work on a number of options in that area, but the discussions that I hope to have with Israel are going to be more about what is the threat that we’re confronting and to try to share both information and intelligence on that.”
Western powers believe Iran is seeking the technology to build a nuclear bomb and Israel has repeatedly hinted it might use force to try to halt its arch foe’s atomic programme. Tehran says its nuclear work is for peaceful purposes.
The United States has said it is determined to prevent Iran from getting the bomb, but has called on Israel to give more time for increasingly severe economic sanctions to work.
“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.
Top selling Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth said on Tuesday that Panetta intended to show Israeli leaders the plans being drawn up by the Pentagon to stop Iran if diplomacy and sanctions failed to persuade Tehran to halt its nuclear programme.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he had not yet decided whether to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities, dismissing repeated media reports that the military objected to such an operation against far-flung, fortified Iranian sites.