Monday, January 30, 2012

Panetta says Iran is one year away from a nuclear weapon, sets a sly deadline after next year's inauguration

From WJD:
In a major shift in tone for the Obama administration, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told the CBS newsmagazine "60 Minutes" that Iran will be capable of producing a nuclear weapon within a year, and that the administration will act to stop by any necessary means.

"The consensus," Panetta said,
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.

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 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.
Queried about what steps these might be, Panetta replied, "There are no options off the table."

Panetta's rhetoric is noticeably tougher than previous administration statements on the subject, which have tended to stress sanctions and other non-military options against Iran.

In this case, however, the term "red line" and the deadline of one year essentially put the Obama administration on a countdown toward action of some kind. Given that the Iranian regime is unlikely to stop its nuclear program in any event, it essentially amounts to a pledge to use force against Iran within one year.

It is difficult to know, however, just how sincere this pledge might be. Given Obama's need to shore up support from foreign policy hawks, as well as a Jewish vote that many believe will be in play this election year, such bellicose statements on Iran are very much in the administration's interest.

Whether Obama will actually live up to them is another question. It is perhaps telling that the one-year deadline will fall at the end of next January, essentially a week after the new administration will be sworn into office.

Panetta's ultimatum, in other words, may suffice for an election year but, should Obama win reelection, be conveniently forgotten.