Iranian nuke is a ‘red line’

News Brief – December 20, 2011

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta says Iran’s development of a nuclear weapon would be a “red line” for the U.S. and its allies.
Speaking to CBS News in an interview broadcast Monday, Panetta said that the “United States does not want Iran to develop a nuclear weapon”.
But he added, “If we have to deal with it we will.”
Pressed as to whether the U.S. would use military force to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, Panetta replied, “No option is off the table”.
A Pentagon spokesperson later tried to downplay his remarks by saying that Panetta was speaking “hypothetically” and that no new intelligence had been received on Iran’s nuclear program.
However, Panetta’s remarks echo similar comments by President Obama who only days earlier had repeated that “no option was off the table”, regarding Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
In his CBS interview, Panetta said U.S. actions would be dependent on intelligence but he said that if “we get intelligence that they are proceeding with developing a nuclear weapon, then we will take whatever steps necessary to stop it.”   
He added that current intelligence indicates that Iran was possibly only months away from developing nuclear weapons.
“Despite the efforts to disrupt the Iranian nuclear program”, he told CBS, “they have reached a point where they can assemble a bomb in a year or potentially less.”
In an interview with Fox News last week Panetta said the U.S. would “absolutely” continue to use surveillance drones to monitor Iran’s nuclear program.
Those remarks followed the seizure of the U.S. RQ-170 surveillance drone over Iran and came shortly before Iran announced the arrest of an alleged CIA spy, whose confession was broadcast on Iranian TV Monday

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