December 20, 2011
“Despite the efforts to disrupt the Iranian nuclear program, they have reached a point where they can assemble a bomb in a year or potentially less,” said US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta in a CBS interview Tuesday, Dec. 20, marking a radical change in US administration policy, he added: “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.”
DEBKAfile notes that as recently as Dec. 2, the US defense secretary in a lecture at the Brookings Institute in Washington warned Israel that a military attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities would hold back its bomb program by no more than a year or two and seriously damage the world economy. He said then that a nuclear-armed Iran would be an existential concern for Israel, but the red line for America would be the disruption of Persian Gulf oil trade.
In the CBS interview he gave on his way back from trips to Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, he drew no distinctions between America and Israel on the Iran issue.
Asked by anchor Scott Pelley if Iran could have a nuclear weapon in 2012, he answered: “It would probably be about a year before they can do it. Perhaps a little less.” That would depend on their having “a hidden facility somewhere in Iran that may be enriching fuel.”
Pelley then asked: If the Israelis decide to launch a military strike to prevent that weapon from being built, what sort of complications does that raise for you?
Panetta: We share the same common concern. 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.
Asked if “it” included military steps, the US defense secretary replied: There are no options off the table. A nuclear weapon in Iran is unacceptable.