A former high-ranking military official says the U.S. does not have the ability to stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons.
"If they [Iranians] have the intent, all the weapons in the world are not going to change that," retired Marine Corps Gen. James Cartwright, former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said late Thursday.
Speaking at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C., Gen. Cartwright also said that Israel will not be able to stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons, even if the Jewish state attacks the Islamic republic's atomic sites.
"They can slow it down. They can delay it, some estimate two to five years. But that does not take away the intellectual capital," he said.
Gen. Cartwright's assessment differs markedly from that of Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, who has said the U.S. will not allow Iran to develop atomic weapons.
The U.S.' "red line to Iran is: Do not develop a nuclear weapon. That's a red line for us," Mr. Panetta said last month on CBS' "Face the Nation."
The U.S., Israel and the European Union suspect that Iran is trying develop nuclear weapons, but the Islamic republic repeatedly has said its atomic research is geared only toward peaceful, civilian uses.
Israeli leaders reportedly have been considering a military strike on Iranian facilities to disrupt the country's nuclear program.
Gen. Cartwright and retired Navy Adm. William Fallon, also speaking Thursday at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said they would not advise the Obama administration to take military action against Iran.
"I don't see a lot of value in going in," said Gen. Cartwright.
"It's certainly not a preferred option," said Adm. Fallon, former commander of U.S. Central Command. "No one that I'm aware of thinks there's a real positive outcome of a military strike."
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