U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, has made it clear that the U.S will not allow Iran to assemble a nuclear bomb and declared that that any plans will be disrupted.
Speaking onboard a jet nicknamed ‘The Doomsday Plane,’ Panetta told Scott Pelley of CBS News, that Iran has the potential to realize nuclear weapons capability in less than a year.
The 60 minute interview took place during Panetta’s return from an overseas trip, where he formally declared an end to the Iraq war and conducted a review of strategy for Afghanistan. In a compartment of the jet, from which Panetta would execute the Commander in Chief’s orders in the event of a nuclear war, Panetta warned, “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.”
When asked by Pelley whether the prospect of a preemptive Israeli strike on Iran's nuclear facilities would be a concern for the U.S, Panetta responded “Well, 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." Panetta then said, "If we have to do it we will deal with it.”
When asked what "it" means, Panetta told CBS “If they proceed and we get intelligence that they are proceeding with developing a nuclear weapon then we will take whatever steps necessary to stop it,“ adding that no steps, including military action, were off the table. Panetta's statement reiterated the comments made by President Obama at speech to the Union for Reform Judaism last week, when he said of Iran's nuclear aspirations, "[R]est assured, we will take no options off the table. We have been clear."
Though Iran could potentially obtain a deployable nuclear weapon in less than a year, Panetta says that he has no confirmation that the Iranians are indeed proceeding to complete a nuclear weapon.
Jude Freeman is a freelance writer and film-maker based in the UK.