Leon Panetta, the low-key Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, made an eye-opening disclosure on Sunday that received little attention, yet called into question the Obama Administration’s strategy for preventing Iran from attaining a nuclear weapon. Speaking on ABC’s Sunday news show, “This Week”, Panetta revealed that Tehran could soon have a nuclear weapon: “We think they have enough low-enriched uranium right now for two weapons. They do have to enrich it, fully, in order to get there. And we would estimate that if they made that decision, it would probably take a year to get there, probably another year to develop the kind of weapon delivery system in order to make that viable.”
But the CIA director was not optimistic about slowing Iran’s nuclear push through sanctions, the keystone of the Obama Administration’s strategy for preventing a nuclear Iran. Panetta said: “I think the sanctions will have some impact. . . . It could help weaken the regime. It could create some serious economic problems. Will it deter them from their ambitions with regards to nuclear capability? Probably not.”
ABC News journalist Jake Tapper then pressed Panetta about the validity of the controversial 2007 National Intelligence Estimate on Iran’s nuclear program: “The 2007 National Intelligence Estimate said all of Iran’s work on nuclear weapons ended in 2003. You don’t still believe that, do you?” Panetta replied: “I think they continue to develop their know-how. They continue to develop their nuclear capability.”
This casual admission finally signaled the quiet demise of a flawed intelligence analysis that had hamstrung U.S. diplomatic efforts to halt Iran’s nuclear program by undermining the perceived urgency of doing so. Now the question is: will the Obama Administration, which spent more than sixteen months on a spurned engagement effort with Tehran before imposing sanctions, act with a greater sense of urgency to prevent the emergence of a nuclear Iran?