Panetta: Iran Hasn’t ‘Made The Decision To Develop A Nuclear Weapon’

This month, Director of National Intelligence (DNI) James Clapper and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta fell under attack for making public statements asserting that U.S. intelligence indicates Iran has not yet decided whether to pursue a nuclear weapon. Newt Gingrich adviser Christian Whiton accused Panetta of not “telling the truth” about Iran’s nuclear program and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) told Clapper that, despite U.S. intelligence assessments to the contrary, “I’m very convinced that they’re going down the road of developing a nuclear weapon.”

Today, Graham asked Panetta a similar question during a Senate Budget Committee hearing:

LINDSEY GRAHAM: Do you believe the Iranians are trying to develop a nuclear weapon?

LEON PANETTA: I think they’re developing a nuclear capability [but] our intelligence makes clear that they haven’t made the decision to develop a nuclear weapon.

Watch him:

Graham moved on and chose not to publicly disagree with the Secretary of Defense but the message from Panetta was clear. U.S. intelligence, at this time, does not conclude that Iran is in the process of building a nuclear weapon.

These views are echoed by the the IAEA — the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog agency — which, just last week, reiterated its “serious concerns regarding possible military dimensions to Iran’s nuclear programme,” but came short of concluding that Iran is pursuing a nuclear weapon.