By VICTORIA JONES
Talk Radio News Service
WASHINGTON – Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, on a five-day swing through Tunisia, Egypt, Jordan and Israel, said Sunday “We respect Israel’s sovereignty and their ability to make decisions with regard to their own security.”
“The sanctions (against Iran) in these next few weeks are going to be ratcheting up to a whole new level of impact,”
he added. “It is basically sending a very strong message to [the Iranians] that they can’t continue to do what they are doing,”
But Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said over the weekend that he didn’t think sanctions had had an effect.
Panetta also discounted speculation that Israel is planning an imminent attack on Iran’s nuclear program.
“My view is that they have not made any decisions with regards to Iran and they continue to support the international effort to bring pressure against Iran,” he said. Panetta arrives in Israel tomorrow, on the heels of GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney’s trip there.
Panetta also spoke about the Syrian civil war, saying that that nation’ss use of helicopter gunships to counter the civil uprising “ultimately will be a nail in (Syrian President) Assad’s coffin.”
The White House cautioned Syrian rebels not to repeat the mistakes of Iraq and completely disband Assad’s hated security and government apparatus if he’s killed or forced from power. The dismantling of the Iraqi Army following the fall of Saddam Hussein unleashed additional turmoil.