Air strikes against suspected Iranian nuclear facilities would delay a weapons program by at most three years, according to intelligence assessments that have been consistent since 2009, a U.S. defense official said, the Bloomberg reported.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, who hasn't addressed the topic publicly since taking the post, agrees with the intelligence community view that was expressed by predecessor Robert Gates starting in 2009 and then-Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Admiral Michael Mullen, said the official who is not authorized to discuss the issue publicly.
Speculation about whether Israel will strike Iran increased with release yesterday of a United Nations' International Atomic Energy Agency report, which said Iran has been trying to develop the capabilities to produce an atomic bomb small enough to put on a missile capable of hitting Israel.
Iran's suspected nuclear weapons facilities are dispersed over a broad area 1,000 miles (1,609 kilometers) and multiple countries to the east of Tel Aviv. Some are underground. Iran has repeatedly asserted that its nuclear program is for peaceful civilian goals, such as power generation.
Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said yesterday in an interview with Israel Radio that Israel "has not yet decided to embark on any operation" against Iran.