Panetta to tell Barak: Iran strike could hurt world economy

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu makes a point to US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta in Jerusalem last month. (Flash 90)

JERUSALEM (JWN and agencies)–US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta intends to tell Defense Minister Ehud Barak today that America is concerned about the possible economic consequences of military strike against Iran’s nuclear program.

Panetta told reporters traveling with him to a security forum in Halifax, Canada, that the US believes the most effective way to thwart Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons is to employ diplomatic pressure and sanctions. He is to meet with Barak on Friday.

“Obviously to go beyond that raises our concerns about the unintended consequences that could result,” Panetta said.

Panetta noted defense estimates that a bombing strike on Iran would set back its nuclear program by only a year or two. Iran could retaliate by blocking the straits of Hormuz and cutting off the oil flow from the Middle East.

“There are going to be economic consequences to that, that could impact not just on our economy but the world economy,” Panetta said. “So those things all need to be considered.”

Asked what he would tell Barak, Panetta replied: “I’ve made those points before and I’ll discuss them again.”