WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Targeted economic sanctions on Iran probably will not deter Tehran from seeking a nuclear capability, CIA chief Leon Panetta said on Sunday.
Urged on by the Obama administration, the U.N. Security Council this month passed a resolution to impose new sanctions on Iran over its nuclear development. New sanctions also were agreed on by the European Union and the U.S. Congress.
Western nations say Iran’s nuclear work is aimed at building atomic weapons but Tehran says the program is for civilian energy use.
In an interview with ABC’s “This Week” program, Panetta said the new sanctions could create serious economic problems and help weaken the Tehran government.
“Will it deter them (Iran) from their ambitions with regards to nuclear capability? Probably not,” he said, adding that Iran was continuing to develop its nuclear know-how.
The United States believes Iran has enough low-enriched uranium now for two weapons but Iran would have to enrich it first, the Central Intelligence Agency director said.
“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 weapons delivery system in order to make that viable,” Panetta said.
He said Israel felt more strongly than Washington that Iran had already made a decision to proceed with the bomb but Israel was willing to wait and see what the impact of the new sanctions will be. Neither the United States nor Israel has ruled out a military option to stop Tehran from getting the bomb.
“I think they (Israel) are willing to give us the room to be able to try to change Iran diplomatically and culturally and politically as opposed to changing them militarily,” he said.
Editing by Bill Trott