CARTHAGE, TUNISIA - Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta sent a tacit message to Israel Monday, urging that diplomacy and economic pressure be given more time to work before moving ahead with any military strike on Iran.
In comments to reporters in Tunisia a day before he was to arrive in Jerusalem, Panetta said that economic sanctions against Iran were increasingly effective.
His words were at odds with those of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who on Sunday called the sanctions useless. Meeting in Jerusalem with Mitt Romney, he said the sanctions had not set back Iran's nuclear program "one iota."
Panetta, seeming to respond to Netanyahu, said, "These sanctions are having a serious impact in terms of the economy of Iran." He added that "while the results of that may not seem obvious at the moment," the Iranians had expressed a willingness to negotiate, and that they "continue to seem interested in trying to find a diplomatic solution." Panetta concluded that "what we all need to do is continue the pressure on Iran."
Although the sanctions have cut seriously into Iran's oil exports, and its currency has plunged, they have failed to force the country to stop enriching uranium. Negotiations aimed at getting Iran to give up its nuclear ambitions have stalled.
The Obama administration remains hopeful that a sweeping new round of sanctions meant to cut Iran off from the global oil market will further increase the pressure.
NEW YORK TIMES