Last month Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta made comments on CBS News that seemed to imply that Iran was working on a nuclear weapon. The Pentagon stated the next day that they were made “hypothetically” and that he was not suggesting that there was new intelligence pointing to secret nuclear facilities in Iran.
Today during an interview with “Face the Nation” host Bob Schieffer the secretary cleared up any confusion that may have resulted from his December comments when he reiterated U.S. and IAEA intelligence assessments that Iran is not trying to develop a nuclear weapon and is rather working toward “a nuclear capability”:
- Bob Schieffer: …We have put these big sanctions into place. And now the price of oil has shot up to over $100 a barrel again. It’s pretty clear that we in the West are going to pay a price ourselves for having to impose these sanctions. Do you have any indication that that’s beginning to work, that that’s causing the Iranians to back off this idea of producing a nuclear weapon, if in fact, do you think that’s what they’re trying to do?
Secretary Leon Panetta: …I think the pressure of the sanctions, I think the pressure of diplomatic pressures from everywhere — Europe, United States, elsewhere– is working to put pressure on them, to make them understand that they cannot continue to do what they’re doing. Are they trying to develop a nuclear weapon? No. But we know that they’re trying to develop a nuclear capability. And that’s what concerns us. And our red line to Iran is do not develop a nuclear weapon. That’s a red line for us.
Panetta added that an attempt to close the Strait of Hormuz by the Iranians would be responded to, but did not detail how. When asked how the U.S. would respond if the Israelis attacked Iran, Panetta said the U.S. “would have to be prepared to protect our forces in that situation. And that’s what we’d be concerned about.”