WASHINGTON (JTA) – Dennis Ross, President Obama’s former top Iran adviser, said the president would strike Iran to keep the Islamic Republic from acquiring a nuclear weapon.
"The Iranians should never think that there’s a reluctance to use the force," Ross, who has returned to the Washington Institute for Near East Policy think tank, told Bloomberg News in an interview published Tuesday.
Obama administration officials in recent weeks have edged closer to warning Iran that a strike is in the cards if it does not make transparent a suspected nuclear weapons program.
"They need to know that if they take that step, they’re going to get stopped," Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said over the weekend.
The United States has increased its military presence in the Persian Gulf and in the coming weeks will launch its largest-ever joint anti-missile defense exercise with Israel. The Obama administration also has ratcheted up sanctions, targeting Iran’s Central Bank.
On Tuesday, the administration condemned Iran’s declared intention to launch uranium enrichment at a site it had kept secret until recently.
"This step once again demonstrates the Iranian regime’s blatant disregard for its responsibilities and that the country’s growing isolation is self-inflicted," said a statement by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. "Iran only declared the Qom facility to the IAEA after it was discovered by the international community following three years of covert construction."
Obama revealed the existence of the facility near Qom, a holy city, in late 2009, forcing Iran to convey some of its particulars to the International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations nuclear watchdog.
Iran this week said it would activate centrifuges to enrich uranium to 20 percent, for medical research — all short of the 90 percent needed to manufacture nuclear bombs.
"We call upon Iran to immediately cease uranium enrichment and to comply with its international nuclear obligations," Clinton said in her statement.