Filed in the category of things that are well understood by people who follow the Iranian nuclear issue closely, but very often deliberately distorted for more casual audiences.
From the New York Times:
In an interview broadcast Monday on “CBS Evening News,” Mr. Panetta was asked whether Iran could have a nuclear weapon in 2012.As long as the secretary was clear.
“It would be sometime around a year that they would be able to do it,” he said. “Perhaps a little less.”
But on Tuesday, George Little, the Pentagon press secretary, said Mr. Panetta’s comments should not be taken as a prediction that Iran would have a nuclear weapon within a year.
“The secretary was clear that we have no indication that the Iranians have made a decision to develop a nuclear weapon,” Mr. Little said. “He was asked to comment on prospective and aggressive timelines on Iran’s possible production of nuclear weapons — and he said if, and only if, they made such a decision. He didn’t say that Iran would, in fact, have a nuclear weapon in 2012.”
Mr. Little said inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency remained in Iran and had “good access to Iran’s continuing production of low-enriched uranium.” Should Iran choose to “break out” — diverting low-enriched uranium to produce weapons-grade highly enriched uranium — the inspectors could detect it, Mr. Little said.