`Attack on Iran would have unintended consequences`

US Def Secy Leon Panetta said the IAEA report was in line with intelligence assessment that suggests Tehran is trying to develop nuclear capabilities.

Last Updated: Nov 11, 2011, 12:53 PM IST

Washington: A military strike against Iran
would have "unintended consequences", US Defence Secretary
Leon Panetta has warned, sounding the Obama administration`s
strongest reservation about an attack since the release of a
UN report which suspected Tehran was working on a nuclear
explosive device.

While agreeing with the assessment that the military
strike would only push back Iran`s nuclear weapons quest by
three years at the most, Panetta said: "the strike could have
a serious impact on the region and it could have a serious
impact on US forces in the region."

"You`ve got to be careful of unintended consequences
here," the Pentagon chief said as he reiterated that US was in
talks with its partners and allies in regard to imposing newer
sanctions on Tehran.

Panetta, a former CIA chief, said the IAEA report was in
line with intelligence assessment that suggests Tehran is
trying to develop nuclear capabilities, but there is a
division within the country whether to build a bomb.

Asked what would be Washington`s response if sanctions
don`t work, the defence secretary said: "I hope we don`t reach
that point and that Iran decides that it should join the
international family."

The Pentagon chief, however, said that US agrees that
military action ought to be the last resort.

"I think all of those things, you know, need to be
carefully considered. Having said that, look, Israel and the
United States share a very common concern with regards to
Iran. And that concern was reflected in the IAEA report that
was issued this week," Panetta told reporters at the press
conference which was also attended by the Chairman of Joint
Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey.

"For that reason, it is important for us to make sure we
apply the toughest sanctions economic, diplomatic pressures on
Iran to change their behavior. We are in discussions with our
allies with regards to additional sanctions that ought to be
placed on Iran," Panetta said.

He said the US has made very clear that it`s unacceptable
for Iran to develop a nuclear capability.

"We`ve made that point time and time again. We have taken
steps and implemented sanctions to make that clear to Iran,"
he said.

"Iran is a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

They`ve got to abide by that. They`ve got to abide by
international standards. They`ve got to abide by international
rules. And, obviously, the report from the IAEA just
indicates that that is not the case," he said.

"The fact that a respected international organization
like IAEA has come to this determination I think raises
serious concerns that Iran continues to flaunt international
rules and standards, and as a result of that, it`s very clear
that additional sanctions have to be applied," Panetta said.

"For that reason, it is important that the world come
together to apply sanctions against Iran and make very clear
to them that they are going to pay a heavy price if they
continue along this track. As to what happens down the road I
think our hope is that we don`t reach that point and that Iran
decides that it should join the international family," he
said.

PTI