Panetta: If all else fails, US will act against Iran

US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta lays a wreath at Jerusalem's Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in October. (Isaac Harari/Flash90)

WASHINGTON, DC—US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta told a conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee in Washington on Tuesday that America would attack Iran as a last resort if diplomacy fails.

If all else fails, the US will “act against Iran,” Panetta said. While reiterating President Barack Obama’s statement at the AIPAC conference on Sunday that diplomacy and sanctions must be given a chance to work, Panetta pulled no punches. “Military action is the last alternative when all else fails,” he said. “But make no mistake, we will act if we have to.”

Panetta’s address on the final day of the AIPAC conference followed appearances by President Shimon Peres and Obama on Sunday and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Monday. Iran’s race to nuclear armament was a focus of all three speeches.

Netanyahu had expressed amazement that, despite the findings of the UN International Atomic Energy Agency, the international community was still dragging its feet over Iran’s intentions. “Amazingly,” he said, “some people refuse to acknowledge that Iran’s goal is to develop nuclear weapons.”

“You see, Iran claims that it’s enriching uranium to develop medical research. Yeah, right,” he said, adding: “If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then what is it? That’s right, it’s a duck. But this duck is a nuclear duck and it’s time the world started calling a duck a duck.”

Panetta acknowledged the option of taking military action against Iran, saying that “when all else fails we will act against Iran.”

“The US must always have the unshakable trust of Israel,” he said, adding that both countries are “stronger when we act as one and when we work together for the security of Israel.”

His remarks echoed Obama’s declaration before AIPAC on Sunday. “Iran’s leaders should have no doubt about the resolve of the United States, just as they should not doubt Israel’s sovereign right to make its own decisions about what is required to meet its security needs. I have said that when it comes to preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, I will take no options off the table, and I mean what I say,” Obama added.