'Iran could assemble nuclear bomb in under a year'

In CBS interview, US Secretary of Defense Panetta says that US, Israel share common concern and if Tehran proceeds with developing nuclear weapon "we will take whatever steps necessary to stop it."

US Secretary of Defence Panetta departing Tripoli_311 (photo credit: Reuters)
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 Monday night.
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.
RELATED:Panetta: Strike on Iran must be the last resortIsrael seeks new friends to counter Islamism Panetta: Strike on Iran could hurt world economy
“The 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.
Defense 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.