June 11, 2012

Panetta Says It Would Take Iran 2-3 Years to Build Nuke

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta described how close he believes Iran is to building nuclear weapons in an in-depth interview that aired over the weekend on CBS’s “60 minutes.”
“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,” Panetta explained. This means that, were Iran to decide to construct a nuclear weapon, it would take up to three years to actually build one given current capabilities. The clock would not begin until Iran made such a decision.
Panetta and other officials have been clear that Iran has not decided to build a nuclear weapon and has called for continued diplomacy, as well as economic pressure, in order to ensure that Iran never chooses to weaponize. Panetta’s time frame for Iran’s ability to weaponize further illuminates the disconnect between what war hawks in Congress are saying and how experts are describing Iran’s nuclear threat.
U.S., Israeli and European intelligence agree on three things about Iran’s nuclear program: Tehran does not have the bomb, has not decided to build one, and is years away from a deliverable nuclear warhead. Nonproliferation experts like Daryl Kimball, the executive director of Arms Control Association has stated, “it is clear that a nuclear-armed Iran is neither imminent nor inevitable.”
Panetta’s description of Iran’s weaponization ability as being years away emphasizes how foolish and unnecessary a preventative strike on Iran would be. However, Panetta is sure to note that, if the United States gets intelligence that Iran is creating nuclear weapons then, “we will take whatever steps are necessary to stop it,” adding that “there are no options,” including military options, “that are left off the table.”

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