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Panetta: I Hope Gantz is Correct on Iran

U.S. Secretary of Defense Panetta says he hopes statements from Israel's military chief on Iran's leadership are “correct.”
By Elad Benari
First Publish: 4/27/2012, 4:14 AM

Leon Panetta
Leon Panetta
Reuters

U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said on Thursday he hopes that statements from Israel's military chief describing Iran's leadership as rational were “correct,” AFP reported.

He was referring to comments made by IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz to the Haaretz newspaper on Wednesday. Gantz said that the Iranian leadership “is composed of very rational people,” and that while Tehran was reaching the point at which it could decide to build a nuclear bomb, the leaders had not yet decided whether to proceed.

Gantz made similar remarks in an interview with the New York Times on Thursday, saying that he did not believe Tehran would use its nuclear technology to build a nuclear weapon.

Referring to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Gantz said that he probably realizes that to build a nuclear bomb would be “a mistake, and I don't think he will want to go the extra mile” beyond developing nuclear capability, at least at this point.

However, as rational as Iran may be, Gantz said, fundamentalist Islam has a way of making people do some very irrational things. I think the Iranian leadership is composed of very rational people. But I agree that such a capability, in the hands of Islamic fundamentalists who at particular moments could make different calculations, is dangerous.”

Panetta, who is on a visit to Chile, responded to Gantz’s comments by saying, “I would hope he's correct and he knows something more that I do,” according to AFP.

“I do not have any specific information that indicates (the Iranians) have made any decision one way or another” on whether to build a nuclear weapon, Panetta was quoted as having told reporters after meeting his Chilean counterpart Andres Allamand.

“I would like to hope... that because of the leadership of the United States, the international community and the leadership of Israel, they can make the right decision,” Panetta said.

Earlier on Thursday, Defense Minister Ehud Barak said that Iran "is determined to fool the entire world" and obtain nuclear weapons.

"They do so while repeatedly disobeying Security Council decisions and directives from the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna," Barak said. "The last report by [IAEA Director General Yukiya] Amano clarifies the intelligence picture in an unmistakable way."

President Shimon Peres, meanwhile, said on Thursday that there is currently no need to threaten Iran with an attack on its nuclear facilities.

In two separate interviews Peres said he “fully trusts” President Barack Obama when it comes to Iran and warned against Israel “waving swords” against the Islamic Republic.