WASHINGTON: There is no guarantee that an American strike would hit the Iranian nuclear sites, US defense secretary said on Saturday, even as he warned of unintended consequences of the attack.
"Part of the problem here is the concern that at best,.....it might postpone it (Iran`s nuclear weapons) maybe one, possibly two years. It depends on the ability to truly get the targets that they`re after. Frankly, some of those targets are very difficult to get at," Leon Panetta said.
"That kind of shot would only, I think, ultimately not destroy their ability to produce an atomic weapon, but simply delay it," said the former director of the CIA.
Defense analysts have often pointed out that Iran has sought to hide sensitive nuclear sites and material in underground facilities, and Western officials privately acknowledge the hidden targets pose a military challenge.
The Pentagon chief said "a greater concern" was the "unintended consequences" of an attack on Iranian nuclear sites.
"It would have a backlash and the regime that is weak now, a regime that is isolated would suddenly be able to reestablish itself, suddenly be able to get support in the region that right now views it as a pariah," Panetta underlined.
He said the US would obviously be blamed and America could possibly be the target of retaliation from Iran, striking its ships and military bases.
"There are economic consequences to that attack, severe economic consequences that could impact a very fragile economy in Europe and a fragile economy here in the United States," he argued.
He feared that it lead to an escalation that could consume the Middle East in a confrontation and a conflict.
"So we have to be careful about the unintended consequences of that kind of an attack," the Pentagon boss warned.
The Defense Secretary, however, said the US and its allies are determined to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons.
He said there is no greater threat to the security and prosperity of the Middle East than a nuclear-armed Iran.
The US and its allies are determined deter Iran`s destabilizing activities, particularly those that could threaten the free flow of commerce throughout this vital region.
"That is a redline for the United States. Our approach to countering the threat posed by Iran is focused on diplomacy, including organizing unprecedented sanctions and strengthening our security partnerships with key partners in the Gulf and in the broader Middle East," he underlined.
BDST: 1240 HRS, DEC 04, 2011
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