Asked whether the U.S. military could take out Iran’s nuclear facilities, Dempsey coyly responded: “I certainly want them to believe that that’s the case.”
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, sitting beside Dempsey on the program, chimed in that Iranian leaders “need to know that ... if they take that step ... they’re going to get stopped.”
The duo’s subtly muscular comments came on the same day an Iranian newspaper reported the nation has begun enriching uranium in a deeply buried facility, a step that, if true, would move Iran an important step closer to fielding a nuclear weapon.
The site, according to the Kayhan daily newspaper, is said to be built into a mountain near Qom.
“The transfer of uranium enrichment to Fordo means that the option of a military threat against the nuclear program of Iran is taken off the table for good,” the Kayhan daily wrote. “The West will have to gradually accept the immunity of the program against any interference by foreigners.”
Washington and its allies are unlikely to see things that way. The Obama administration said it wants to avoid using the U.S. or Israeli militaries to take out nuclear weapons sites inside Iran — the White House has been pushing a sanctions-based approach.
Many lawmakers in both parties have for several months been questioning whether sanctions will work.