Panetta: US would stop Iran from getting a nuke
Published: December 20, 2011
WASHINGTON – If the United States learns that Iran is putting together a nuclear weapon, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta promised “we will take whatever steps are necessary to stop it.”
In an interview with CBS News that aired Monday, Panetta said that should Iran decide to move ahead, it could build a nuclear weapon within a year. But if the country – under international sanctions for years because of its nuclear program – possesses fuel enrichment facilities unknown to the United States, he said, a nuke could be forthcoming sooner than expected.
Other than the effect a wild-card secret facility might have on the timeline, Panetta’s estimate on when Iran could develop a nuclear weapon is not out of line with earlier statements by him or his predecessor. In June 2010, former Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Iran was one to three years away from being able to build a nuclear weapon. As CIA director, Panetta said last year the country was perhaps two years away.
In early December, Panetta said a strike against Iran could have severe consequences, and warned Israel, Iran’s most powerful regional adversary, against unilateral action. Such a strike could set back Iran’s program by a year or two at best, he said.
But in the CBS interview, Panetta said the United States and Israel stand together on the Iranian nuclear weapons issue.
“We share the same common concern,” he said. “The United States does not want Iran to develop a nuclear weapon. That’s a red line for us, and it’s a red line obviously for the Israelis.”
No options are off the table when it comes to stopping Iran from arming itself with a nuclear weapon, Panetta said. “If we have to do it,” he said, “we will do it.”