"..they have reached a point where they can assemble a bomb in a year or potentially less,"
said US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta in a CBS interview Tuesday, Dec. 20, marking a radical change in US administration policy, he added:
"That's a red line for us and that's a red line, obviously for the Israelis. If we have to do it we will deal with it."
... as recently as Dec. 2, the US defense secretary ... warned Israel that a military attack on Iran's nuclear facilities would hold back its bomb program by no more than a year or two and seriously damage the world economy...In the CBS interview [yesterday], ...he answered:
"It would probably be about a year before they can do it. Perhaps a little less." That would depend on their having "a hidden facility somewhere in Iran that may be enriching fuel."...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. If we have to do it we will deal with it....There are no options off the table. A nuclear weapon in Iran is unacceptable.
...Panetta made no mention of sanctions in this interview – not even of the ultimate penalties of an embargo on its oil trade and blacklisting its central bank.
debkafile's intelligence sources link this radical change of posture, and its implied open door to joint US-Israeli military action, to the discussion on the Iranian nuclear issue President Barack Obama had with Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak in Washington last Friday, Dec. 16 ... at about the same time as Leon Panetta was meeting with Turkish leaders in Ankara. Both meetings ...addressed the reality of Iran having a nuclear bomb within months.
The administration's change of course finds expression in six areas:
- Panetta ... now accepts that Tehran may be only months away from [a nuclear bomb].
- His reference to "a hidden facility somewhere in Iran that may be enriching fuel" reflects the growing conviction among Western and Middle East intelligence experts that Iran has fast-tracked its high-grade uranium enrichment in underground facilities.
- He is no longer warning Israel against attacking Iran and appears to be taking the opposite tack...
- It is the last moment for the US to avert the Middle East's plunge into a nuclear race. Dec. 5, the former Saudi intelligence chief, Prince Turki al-Faisal said that after failing to persuade Israel and Iran to give up their nuclear weapons, Riyadh had no option but to develop its own; and Turkish leader have been saying to the Obama administration that if Iran has a nuclear weapon, so too will Turkey.The administration is now facing the bleak realization that a disastrous nuclear race in this volatile region can be deflected only by military action to cut down and destroy Iran's nuclear weapons program.
- Iran's capture of the American RQ-170 stealth drone on Dec. 4 brought home to US military and intelligence planners that a military showdown between the US and Iran is no longer avoidable and if America does not take the initiative, Iran will keep on driving it into corners until there is no other option but to hit back.
- The sudden death of the North Korean leader Kim Jong II and the period of uncertainty facing his successor Kim Jong-un could potentially lead to Pyongyang - or factions fighting for power – stepping up its involvement in Iran's nuclear weapon and missile development programs.