Former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta cautioned the Obama administration about engaging in endless negotiations with Iran, stating that "we may very well have to use military force" to stop Tehran’s pursuit of nuclear arms.
Panetta, who also served as director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) until 2011, warned that Iranian nuclear negotiators may not be able to even deliver on a deal and that, in the end, military force may be the only tactic to stop Tehran’s nuclear pursuit.
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"We must remain strong, we must remain consistent that they [Iran] must never, never be able to develop a nuclear weapon, and that we may very well have to use military force to back up our policy," Panetta said to applause Thursday evening during an address at the Anti-Defamation League’s (ADL) centennial meeting in New York City.
While it is worth negotiating with Iran for a time, these talks should not drag on forever, Panetta said.
"I think we clearly should negotiate to determine whether they’re serious about dealing with their nuclear capability," he said. "But we have to maintain a healthy skepticism."
Iran’s supreme leader holds "the key" to a nuclear deal, not the country’s negotiating team, Panetta said.
"It is the supreme leader that is the key," he said. "The supreme leader. And they are not likely to agree to give up" their right to enrich uranium, the key component in a nuclear arm.
Panetta also praised Western economic sanctions on Iran, a new round of which has been opposed by the Obama administration and Democrats on Capitol Hill.
"We have implemented unprecedented sanctions and pressure on Iran, uniting the world against their nuclear ambition and making clear that they must not close the straits of Hurmuz," a key global shipping lane, "and not develop a nuclear weapon," Panetta said.
A new round of nuclear negotiations are scheduled to be held on Nov. 11.
Panetta went on to say that his greatest "fear" is that "there is a growing move to isolationism in this country."
America must stay engaged and present in the world, Panetta said.
"The fact is that this remains a very dangerous world," he said. "We’re fighting a war. We continue to confront terrorism."
Al Qaeda clusters now exist in "Yemen and Somalia and Syria, in Mali and throughout North Africa," Panetta said.
America also faces threats from North Korea, China, and Russia, he said.
Cyber security threats are also growing, he said.
"Cyber could be the Pearl Harbor of the future," Panetta said. "We cannot retreat from the responsibility the U.S. has in the world today."
Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel also addressed the ADL.