By RFE RL
(RFE/RL) — U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has warned Iran that “all options,” including military force, are on the table to stop it from acquiring nuclear weapons.
Panetta, who is on a trip to Israel, made the remarks outside Ashkelon, where he was given a tour of Israel’s “Iron Dome” antirocket defense system.
Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, accompanying Panetta, said he saw an “extremely low” probability that tightening Western sanctions against Iran’s oil-dependent economy will lead Tehran to give up its nuclear activities.
Earlier in Tel Aviv, Panetta said Israel and the United States shared a “strong bond” and both would do their utmost to defend their security.
“Our countries have a strong bond, not only of friendship but of security, working together to make sure that we have the strongest defense and that we can do everything we can to defend both of our countries,” Panetta said.
Panetta is expected to hold talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu later on August 1.
Panetta said the talks will revolve around “various contingencies and how we would respond” to a nuclear armed Iran.
He said he would not be discussing potential attack plans against Tehran with the Israeli leader.
Suspicions that Tehran will use enriched uranium for nuclear weapons have resulted in international sanctions and military warnings from Israel, which perceives a nuclear Iran as an existential threat.
Panetta’s visit comes just a day after the U.S. imposed new sanctions on banks in China and Iraq that the White House says have helped Iran evade international sanctions.
Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad on July 31 called the sanctions “political warfare” seeking to deny Iranian oil to an energy-hungry world.
Meanwhile, Iran’s central bank governor, Mahmud Bahmani, was quoted as describing sanctions as “no less than a military war” and said Iran must respond with its own “asymmetrical” economic countermeasures.