Former US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has warned that an Israeli or US military strike on Iran could have disastrous consequences which could haunt Washington’s dealings in the Middle East for years to come.
"The results of an American or Israeli military strike on Iran could, in my view, prove catastrophic, haunting us for generations in that part of the world," Gates said on Wednesday in a speech in Norfolk, Virginia.
The United States, Israel, and some of their allies have accused Iran of pursuing non-civilian objectives in its nuclear energy program with the Israeli regime repeatedly threatening to attack Iran's nuclear facilities based on the unsubstantiated allegation.
Iran rejects the allegations, arguing that as a committed signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and a member of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), it has the right to use nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.
In addition, the IAEA has conducted numerous inspections of Iran's nuclear facilities, but has never found any evidence showing that the country's civilian nuclear program has been diverted towards nuclear weapons production.
The former Pentagon chief also noted that Washington must make it clear to Israeli officials that "they do not have a blank check to take action that could do grave harm to American vital interests."
Despite warnings by former and current Israeli security and intelligence officials, the Tel Aviv regime has recently stepped up its aggressive rhetoric against Iran.
Iranian officials have pledged to deliver a crushing response to any military strike against the country, warning that any such measure could result in a war that would spread beyond the Middle East.
Last month, Israeli daily Ha’aretz
published the results of an opinion poll that showed almost five-in-six Palestinians and 77 percent of Israelis believed an Israeli strike against Iran would lead to a major conflict in the region.
Gates, however, called for tougher sanctions against the Islamic Republic.
"That's our best chance going forward, to ratchet up the economic pressure…," he said.
At the beginning of 2012, the US and the European Union imposed new sanctions on Iran’s oil and financial sectors with the goal of preventing other countries from purchasing Iranian oil and conducting transactions with the Central Bank of Iran.
Unlike Iran, Israel, which is widely believed to possess between 200 to 400 nuclear warheads, is a non-signatory to the NPT and continues to defy international calls to join the treaty.