Former Secretary of Defense and CIA Director Leon Panetta told FOX Business’ Maria Bartiromo that the implications of Iran resuming its enrichment program of uranium may draw the U.S. into a dramatic conflict in the Middle East.
“The most dangerous path [Iran] can take is to go back to enrichment and the potential of developing a nuclear weapon,” Panetta said during an interview broadcast Thursday on “Mornings with Maria.”
If Iran decides to proceed with its enrichment program and developing a nuclear weapon, Panetta warns such action would be viewed as a direct threat to the existence of Israel. Therefore, the U.S. will be forced to act to protect its number one ally in the region.
“If that happens, we could have a dramatic escalation of conflict in the Middle East to the point that it would really raise concerns about whether or not we could contain that conflict or whether we’re on the precipice of a world war,” Panetta said.
On Tuesday, President Donald Trump announced the U.S. withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal and vowed to apply the “highest level” of sanctions on the Iranian regime.
“If those sanctions are not the right leverage, then where else do we go? And military action obviously is another lever of leverage, but that makes it very dangerous in terms of what the consequences could be,” Panetta noted.
The former secretary of defense under the Obama administration said pulling out of the Iran nuclear deal was a mistake that reduces the leverage the U.S. had over limiting the regime’s efforts to undermine the Middle East.
“I don’t think there’s any question it was a mistake,” Panetta said. “I agree with the president that Iran, we need to control its development of missiles.”