US Secretary of Defence Panetta departing Tripoli_311.
(photo credit: Reuters)
Iran will be able to assemble a nuclear bomb within a year, if not sooner, US
Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said during an interview with CBS News late
When asked by CBS News anchor Scott Pelley if Iran could
get a nuclear weapon by 2012, Panetta answered: “It would probably be about a
year before they can do it. Perhaps a little less.”
He added that the
Iranians may have a hidden facility somewhere already enriching fuel, meaning
they may be able to develop a nuclear weapon even earlier.
The US defense
secretary said the United States and Israel shared a common concern.
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United States does not want Iran to develop a nuclear weapon. That’s a red line
for us and that’s a red line, obviously, for the Israelis. If we have to do it
we will deal with it,” he added.
When asked what steps the US would be
willing to take in order to prevent a nuclear attack, Panetta said that if
intelligence was received that Iran was proceeding with developing a nuclear
weapon then “we will take whatever steps necessary to stop it.” “There are no
options off the table,” he added, repeating a refrain used constantly by both US
and Israeli leaders.
Panetta said that while Iran needed a year or less
to assemble a weapon, he had no indication the Iranians have made the decision
to do so.
This was a markedly different tone than one taken by Panetta
earlier this month, when he said in Washington that a military action, which
could have “unintended consequences” in terms of regional stability, would
likely just delay, but not end, Iran’s nuclear development.
Minister Ehud Barak, asked about Panetta’s comments during a menorah lighting
ceremony at the Ephraim Brigade headquarters near Kedumim, said the US was
standing alongside Israel on security-related issues to a degree that hasn’t
been seen for many years.
Barak, who returned Monday from a trip to
Washington where he met US President Barack Obama, said there was a “deep
understanding” between Israel and the US on the intelligence picture regarding
Iran, as well as on the belief that a nuclear Iran was unacceptable, and that
everything must be done to keep Tehran from reaching that potential.