U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta warned on Sunday that Iran could develop a nuclear bomb within a year and reiterated that the U.S. would do anything to stop it.
In an interview on the CBS program "60 Minutes" Panetta said, “The United States, and the president’s made this clear, 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 so we share a common goal here. If we have to do it, we will do it.”
He added, “If they proceed and we get intelligence that they’re proceeding with developing a nuclear weapon then we will take whatever steps are necessary to stop it.”
When asked if “whatever steps necessary” include military steps, he responded, “There are no options that are off the table.”
The comments are very similar to ones Panetta made in an interview with the same network, CBS, in December. In that interview he said that Iran is a year or less from “N-Day,” but the United States will stop it – no matter what.
In Sunday’s interview Panetta repeated his estimate that Iran will be able to produce a nuclear bomb in a year.
“The consensus is that, if they decided to do it, it would probably take them about a year to be able to produce a bomb and then possibly another one to two years in order to put it on a deliverable vehicle of some sort in order to deliver that weapon,” he said.
The U.S. has grown increasingly concerned that Israel will launch a military strike against Iran without prior warning. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey, visited Israel earlier this month and met with high-ranking officials on the issue.
Dempsey acknowledged last week that Israel sees the Iranian threat differently than the U.S. does.
“We have to acknowledge that they ... see that threat differently than we do. It’s existential to them,” he said. “My intervention with them was not to try to persuade them to my thinking or allow them to persuade me to theirs, but rather to acknowledge the complexity and commit to seeking creative solutions, not simple solutions.