Is Iran really ‘one year away from a bomb’ or did Obama defense secretary just cave in further to Israel lobby?

The relentless drumbeat for war against Iran got a little bit louder last night with comments by US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta on CBS’ 60 Minutes that Iran is only a year from making a nuclear bomb if it decided to proceed. Panetta emphasized that Iran having a bomb is a “red line for us, and it’s a red line obviously for the Israelis. So we share a common goal here. If we have to do it, we will do it.”

The interviewer, Scott Pelley, had to ask what the “it” meant – but the clear implication was a military attack.

It is hard to avoid the suspicion that Panetta’s comments were part of efforts by the Obama administration to appease and placate the Israel lobby as President Obama faces a tough re-election battle and constant Republican attacks that he is too soft on Iran and not pro-Israel enough.

Just weeks ago, Panetta admitted Iran was not pursuing nuclear weapons

While Panetta did not say that Iran has decided to proceed with making a bomb he did not repeat comments he made just weeks ago that Iran is not pursuing nuclear weapons (video above).

Speaking on CBS Face The Nation on 9 January, Panetta let slip, as Raw Story put it:

the big open secret that Washington war hawks don’t want widely known: Iran is not developing nuclear weapons.

On that occasion Panetta said:

I think the pressure of the sanctions, the diplomatic pressures from everywhere, Europe, the United States, elsewhere, it’s 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.

Sensational and misleading headlines

The predictable result of Panetta’s latest comments is sensational and misleading headlines such as the one in Israel’s Haaretz which screamed “Iran is one year away from producing nuclear weapon” and Israel’s Ynet: “Panetta: Iran a year away from atom bomb.”

Undoubtedly Israeli leaders and their supporters in Washington will seize on Panetta’s comments to continue their push for war.

“America and its allies” are already “waging war” on Iran

Here’s the transcript of Panetta’s comments on 60 Minutes relating to Iran:

Scott Pelley: But on this trip Panetta wasn’t thinking about Russia’s thousands of nuclear weapons. He was thinking about what the president would do if Iran built just one.

Leon Panetta: The United States and the president has 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 we have to do it, we will do it.

Pelley: What is it?

Panetta: If they proceed and we get intelligence they’re proceeding with developing a nuclear weapon then we will take whatever steps are necessary to stop them.

Pelley: Including military steps?

Panetta: There are no options that are off the table.

Pelley: We were surprised to hear how far he thinks Iran has come.

Panetta: The consensus is that if they decided to do it it would probably take them about a year to produce a bomb and then possibly another one to two years to put it on a deliverable vehicle of some sort, in order to deliver that weapon.

Pelley: Of course Panetta knows more than he tells. Maybe he knows who is bombing Iranian scientists, why Iran’s missile facility mysteriously blow up, or how a computer virus wrecked Iran’s uranium enrichment plant. Judging from the US spy drone that fell, America and its allies are waging war without sending thousands of troops.




Read the first paragraph, then stop and reflect, before going on..

Jan. 31, 2012.
“America’s top intelligence official says Iran is increasingly willing to conduct attacks in the United States or against U.S. interests overseas, but does not appear to have decided to build a nuclear weapon.”
“…Attacks in the United States...” OOOh. Now go on.

“In written testimony to the Senate Intelligence Committee, director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, said last year’s foiled plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to Washington shows that some Iranian officials ‘are now more willing to conduct an attack in the United States in response to real or perceived actions that threaten the regime.’ He said such officials could include the country’s supreme leader.”
From Voice of America Internet news service.

Did you think the first paragraph meant attacks against the United States in the United States? That second paragraph should have set you straight on that. How you phrase things can be pretty subtle.

Here’s more of the same, this time from Haaretz.
U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said on Sunday that Iran is only one year away from producing a nuclear weapon.

In an interview on the CBS show "60 Minutes," Panetta said that “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.”
So they will produce a bomb in one year…if they decided to do it.
Morton Nadler
Satan has a forked tongue, firmly planted in both cheeks.

Ali Abunimah

Co-founder of The Electronic Intifada and author of The Battle for Justice in Palestine, now out from Haymarket Books.

Also wrote One Country: A Bold-Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse. Opinions are mine alone.