U.S. worried over Israel's plans for Iran

israel, military, army, Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz, U.S. Army Gen. Martin Dempsey
In this Jan. 20, 2012 file photo, Israeli Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz, right, gestures as he stands with U.S. Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, during a welcoming ceremony in a military base in Tel Aviv, Israel. Israel cannot wait past summer to attack Iran's suspect nuclear program, but new international sanctions are cutting into Israel's response time, Israeli defense officials say, amid speculation Israel is nearing a decision to strike.
AP Photo/Dan Balilty, File

There is growing talk about a military strike against Iran to stop it from developing a nuclear weapon.

Some of it came from Israel's defense minister, who said today the world is increasingly ready to consider it.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is also quoted as saying it is likely Israel will launch the attack this spring.

CBS News correspondent David Martin reports that Panetta believes specifically that there is a strong likelihood that Israel will strike Iran in April, May or June.

That quote came from columnist David Ignatius, writing shortly after he completed a trans-Atlantic flight with the defense secretary. Panetta, on Thursday, did not dispute it.

As if to show Panetta has cause for concern, Israel's defense minister seemed to reject on Thursday U.S. arguments economic sanctions need more time to work. Sprinkling his Hebrew with English, Ehud Barak said: "Later is too late."

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As long ago as November, Barak said there were only 6 to 9 months left before Iran buries its nuclear facilities so deeply as to make them immune to attack.

The U.S. is spending $80 million to upgrade its own 30,000-pound bunker-buster bomb to go after more deeply buried targets.

But when Joint Chiefs Chairman Martin Dempsey tried to convince Israeli leaders it's too soon for military force, he came away admitting he had not changed any minds.

Israel recently cancelled a missile defense exercise scheduled with the U.S. for the spring, a move some defense officials interpret as evidence Israel is focusing all its efforts on preparing for an attack. As Panetta explained in an interview with "60 Minutes" an Israeli attack would almost certainly have consequences for the U.S.

"The United States could be targeted as a result of that," Panetta said. "We would get blame, whether they like it or not. We would get blame as to being involved."

Nobody, including the Israelis, thinks a strike - with all its unforeseen consequences - is a good option. But if sanctions don't work, and work soon, the Israelis may conclude it is the only option.

  • David Martin

    David Martin is CBS News' National Security Correspondent.