The world must join together in backing tough sanctions to pressure Iran into giving up its suspect nuclear program, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Friday.
Describing the sanctions as “very tough” political and economic measures, Panetta said: “We’ve a tremendous amount of pressure on Iran to isolate Iran from the rest of the world.”
“We’ve got to continue that kind of pressure,” he said, in response to question from a U.S. trooper during a visit to the U.S. air base of Ramstein in the German state of Rheinland-Pfalz.
“My view is that right now the most important thing is to keep the international community unified in keeping that pressure on to try to convince Iran that they shouldn't develop a nuclear weapon...” Panetta said.
“If they don’t, we have all options on the table,” he said.
Panetta’s comments came a day after Israel launched new threats of military intervention. There is heightened speculation that Israel is contemplating air strikes against Iranian nuclear facilities, with or without U.S. help.
The Jewish state has pushed for tough sanctions and warned it retains the option of a military strike if necessary to prevent Tehran from obtaining atomic weapons.
Israel has the Middle East’s sole if undeclared nuclear arsenal, which international experts believe contains between 100 and 300 nuclear warheads, but it has never confirmed or denied such reports.
Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Thursday praised new European sanctions against Iran's oil sector, being phased in over the next five months, and called to extend them to the financial system and central bank.
Later Barak said there was currently “broad international understanding that if the sanctions do not achieve their desired goal of stopping the Iranian nuclear military program, the need to consider action will arise.”
He also stressed the need for timely “action” against Iran, without specifying its nature.
Western economic sanctions have ramped up against Iran over the past three months, since the U.N. nuclear watchdog issued a report saying it had evidence the Islamic republic appeared to be researching atomic warheads.
A key U.S. Senate panel adopted a sweeping package of tough new sanctions Thursday targeting Iran’s national oil and tanker firms and its elite Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps.
It would for the first time also widen sanctions on Iran’s energy sector to any joint venture anywhere in the world where Iran's government is a substantial partner or investor.