Gates: Military force is not the only way to deter Iran
US Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Monday that American diplomatic and economic efforts to halt Iran's nuclear program need more time, rebuffing Israel's call for military force.
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The comments, made as Gates was traveling in Australia, were seen as a rejection of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's statement yesterday in Washington that Iran could only be deterred from making nuclear weapons by the threat of military force.
Gates's statement highlights the gap between the US and Israeli governments on how hard a line to take on Iran, even as a new round of negotiations for a nuclear fuel-swap deal looks set to take place in Turkey this month.
Both countries aim to convince Iran to halt its nuclear program. But Israel has been pressing for tougher measures against Tehran – including the threat of military action. The White House, on the other hand, wants to give economic sanctions more time to work.
"I disagree that only a credible military threat can get Iran to take the actions that it needs to, to end its nuclear weapons program. We are prepared to do what is necessary, but, at this point, we continue to believe that the political-economic approach that we are taking is, in fact, having an impact on Iran," he said.
The Washington Post reported that Netanyahu is "turning up pressure on the Obama administration to take a tougher line. If Israel concludes that Tehran is close to a bomb it could launch its own military strike against Iran's nuclear facilities within months," the newspaper reported.
According to the Jerusalem Post, Netanyahu told Vice President Joseph Biden that "the only way to ensure that Iran is not armed with nuclear weapons is to create a credible threat of military action against it, unless it stops its race to obtain nuclear weapons.”
“The only time that Iran stopped its nuclear program was in 2003, and that was when they believed that there was a real chance of an American military strike against them,” Netanyahu told Biden, according to diplomatic sources.
“Paradoxically, only a real military threat against Iran can prevent the need to activate a real military force,” the prime minister said.
According to diplomatic sources, Netanyahu said, “Iran is attempting to mislead the West and there are worrying signs that the international community is captivated by this mirage."
The Post called the remarks "a sharp escalation from his past statements on Iran, which have focused more on the need for diplomatic measures such as harsh economic sanctions, rather than military deterrence."