The CIA assessment appeared to dispute earlier reports by the U.S.
intelligence community. Until early 2010, the agency stuck by a National
Intelligence Estimate released in 2007 that asserted that Iran would be
unable to produce nuclear warheads until as late as 2015.
Still, Panetta said the CIA continues to disagree with the Israeli
assessment on Iranian progress toward a nuclear weapon. He said Iran has
been hampered in its uranium enrichment program but would not say whether
this was linked to reported CIA sabotage.
"I can’t speak to, obviously, intelligence operations, and I won't,"
Panetta said. "It’s enough to say that clearly, they have had problems."
Panetta, in an assertion that appeared to dispute the administration of
President Barack Obama, also dismissed the effectiveness of the new United
Nations Security Council sanctions on Iran. He said the sanctions would
probably not halt Iran's nuclear weapons program.
"Will it deter them from their ambitions with regards to nuclear
capability?" Panetta said. Probably not."
In an interview on U.S. television, Panetta said Iran would need a year
to develop nuclear weapons and another year for a delivery system. He did
"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." Panetta said.
Iran has been developing an arsenal of liquid- and solid-fuel
intermediate-range missiles. Officials said both the operational liquid-fuel
Shihab-3 and the new solid-fuel Ashoura were designed to contain nuclear