Netanyahu signals a coming end to patience on Iran

Benjamin Netanyahu
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gestures speaks during a press conference in Jerusalem on September 11, 2012.

(CBS News) Whoever wins the presidential election eight weeks from Tuesday will have to deal with Iran's nuclear program.

Israel's prime minister accused the U.S. on Tuesday of dragging its feet in the face of an imminent threat.

With intelligence reports that Iran has been working on computer simulations of nuclear explosions, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu publicly scolded the Obama administration for refusing to lay down a red line which would trigger a military strike.

"If Iran knows that there is no red line, if Iran knows that there is no deadline, what will it do? Exactly what it's doing. It's continuing, without any interference, towards obtaining nuclear weapons capability and from there, nuclear bombs," Netanyahu said.

Netanyahu seemed to be reacting to remarks by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who told a radio interviewer two days ago there is still time to head off Iran's nuclear program.

"We're not setting deadlines. We're watching very carefully about what they do, because it's always been more about their actions than their words," Clinton said.

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According to one report from a European intelligence agency, Iran recently bought computer codes for simulating nuclear explosions from North Korea. That doesn't mean Iran has decided to build a weapon, but it does mean it is developing the capability to build a weapon and Netanyahu seems fed up with American patience.

"The world tells Israel: 'Wait, there's still time.' And I say: 'Wait for what? Wait until when?'" Netanyahu said. "Those in the international community who refuse to put red lines before Iran don't have a moral right to place a red light before Israel."

But in an interview with "CBS This Morning" by Norah O'Donnell, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta insisted the U.S. has a very clear red line.

"When they make the decision to go ahead and build a nuclear weapon, that, for us, is a red light," Panetta said.

Panetta also said U.S. intelligence would likely know when that decision was made. After that, the U.S. military would have about a year in which to mount a strike that could stop Iran from actually building a weapon.

  • David Martin

    David Martin is CBS News' National Security Correspondent.