Panetta Says Nuclear-Armed Iran ‘Unacceptable’

WASHINGTON, Dec. 20, 2011 — A nuclear-armed Iran is “unac­cept­able” to the Unit­ed States and no option to pre­vent that from hap­pen­ing is off the table, Defense Sec­re­tary Leon E. Panet­ta told CBS News.

Panet­ta told 60 Min­utes reporter Scott Pel­ley that if Iran­ian lead­ers decid­ed to go full bore on their nuclear pro­gram, then they could have nuclear weapons with­in a year. It could be quick­er if the Ira­ni­ans have a hid­den facil­i­ty enrich­ing fuel, the sec­re­tary said dur­ing the Dec. 17 inter­view.

The sec­re­tary, speak­ing aboard his air­craft on the way back from a vis­it to the Mid­dle East, Cen­tral Asia and Libya, point­ed out that Israel and the Unit­ed States share a com­mon con­cern about Iran devel­op­ing nukes.

“That’s a red line for us,” he said. “And it’s a red line, obvi­ous­ly, for the Israelis. If we have to do it, we will do it.”

If the Ira­ni­ans pro­ceed with the devel­op­ment of nuclear weapons, Panet­ta said, “Then we will take what­ev­er steps are nec­es­sary to stop it.” This would include mil­i­tary options, the sec­re­tary said.

Inspec­tors from the U.N. Inter­na­tion­al Atom­ic Ener­gy Agency are well-placed in Iran to observe nuclear activ­i­ties, said Navy Capt. John Kir­by, a Pen­ta­gon spokesman.

The sec­re­tary believes the U.N. inspec­tors would know if Iran­ian lead­ers make the deci­sion to pro­duce nuclear weapons. “They have not done so yet,” Kir­by said.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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