Panetta: “Plans” Ready to Stop Iran’s Nuclear Program

The defense chief confirms plans have been drawn up to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons.

American defense secretary Leon Panetta said on Sunday that the United States are prepared to launch military action to prepare Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. “We have plans to be able to implement any contingency we have to in order to defend ourselves.”

In an interview with ABC News’ This Week, Panetta insisted that “neither the United States or the international community is going to allow Iran to develop a nuclear weapon.”

Panetta responded to statements made earlier in the week by America’s ambassador to Israel, Daniel Shapiro, who disclosed that plans have already been made for military action.

“It would be preferable to solve this diplomatically and through the use of pressure, than to use military force,” said Shapiro. “But that doesn’t mean that option isn’t fully available. Not just available, it’s ready.”

Israel is particularly anxious about the Iranian nuclear program because it considers a bomb an existential threat to the Jewish state. Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad once said that Israel should be wiped off the map.

Iran claims that the purpose of its uranium enrichment program is peaceful — to produce energy and medical isotopes.

World powers failed to reach an agreement with Iran on the future of its enrichment program in Baghdad this week. Further talks are scheduled for June in Moscow.

Panetta was quoted in The Washington Post in February as saying that he expects Israel to launch unilateral airstrikes against Iran’s prime nuclear sites before June when Israel expects Iran to enter a “zone of immunity” to commence building a bomb. At this stage, the Muslim country would have enough fissile material, stored underground, to produce a weapon with impunity.