Iran is a year or less from “N-Day,” but the United States will stop it – no matter what, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told CBS Monday night.
His comments were far stronger than those of President Barack Obama, who has said that Iran must not reach nuclear capability but has not categorically stated that his administration will prevent it.
Concerning the “military option,” Panetta told interviewer Scott Pelley, “There are no options off the table.”
Asked if the Ahmadinejad regime can produce a nuclear weapon by the end of 2012, Panetta answered, “It would probably be about a year before they can do it. Perhaps a little less. But one proviso, Scott, is if they have a hidden facility somewhere in Iran that may be enriching fuel.”
Pelley suggested, “So that they can develop a weapon even more quickly,” and Panetta answered, “On a faster track.”
“The United States does not want Iran to develop a nuclear weapon,” according to the Secretary of Defense. “That's a red line for us and that's a red line, [and] obviously, for the Israelis. If we have to do it, we will deal with it.
“If they [Iran] proceed and we get intelligence that they are proceeding with developing a nuclear weapon, then we will take whatever steps necessary to stop it.
His estimated timetable of Iran’s pace towards being able to manufacture a nuclear weapon is in line with other estimates, but it may take an additonal year until it can develop a missile capable of delivering a nuclear warhead.
Its nuclear development has been slowed by several explosions and computer viruses that have been widely attributed to Israel.