Thursday, February 22, 2018

Panetta: No Iranian decision yet on nukes

WASHINGTON — Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Thursday that U.S. intelligence shows Iran is enriching uranium in a disputed nuclear program but that Tehran has not decided whether to proceed with developing an atomic bomb.

Fears of a nuclear-armed Iran produced tough talk from Panetta and the nation's top intelligence officials, all of whom offered insights and observations on the secretive regime in separate congressional hearings. Their testimony came amid increasing international fears of a Mideast conflagration as Iran boasted of major advances in producing nuclear fuel and threatened an oil embargo in retaliation for economic and diplomatic sanctions.

Israel has accused Iran of being behind recent attacks on its diplomats in Thailand, Georgia and India and has threatened military strikes against Iran's nuclear facilities.

"We will not allow Iran to develop a nuclear weapon. This isn't just about containment. We will not allow Iran to develop a nuclear weapon," Panetta told the House Appropriations defense subcommittee. "We will not allow Iran to close the Straits of Hormuz. And in addition to that, obviously, we have expressed serious concerns to Iran about the spread of violence and the fact that they continue to support terrorism and they continue to try to undermine other countries."

Testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee, National Intelligence Director James Clapper said the decision on a nuclear weapon would be made by Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

"He would base that on a cost-benefit analysis," Clapper said. "So that I think plays to the value of sanctions, particularly the recent ratcheting up of more sanctions and anticipation that that will induce a change in their policy and behavior."

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