May 9, 2016
- Former Defense Secretary Panetta: Is the President Serious about Stopping Iranian Nukes? – David Samuels
Leon Panetta was Obama’s head of the CIA and secretary of defense. I ask him about a crucial component of the administration’s public narrative on Iran: whether it was ever a salient feature of the CIA’s analysis when he ran the agency that the Iranian regime was meaningfully divided between “hard-line” and “moderate” camps. “No,” Panetta answers. “There was not much question that the Quds Force and the supreme leader ran that country with a strong arm, and there was not much question that this kind of opposing view could somehow gain any traction.”
As secretary of defense, he tells me, one of his most important jobs was keeping Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel and his defense minister, Ehud Barak, from launching a pre-emptive attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities. “They were both interested in the answer to the question, ‘Is the president serious?'” Panetta recalls.
“My view, talking with the president, was: If brought to the point where we had evidence that they’re developing an atomic weapon, I think the president is serious that he is not going to allow that to happen.” “Would you make that same assessment now?” I ask him. “Would I make that same assessment now?” he asks. “Probably not.” (New York Times Magazine)