'This Week' Transcript: Panetta

And, finally, he said that there was a division with the Israelis on the question of whether the Iranians have determined that they should go ahead with a weapons program with the U.S. believing that there's been no decision made and the Israelis believing that, in fact, the Iranian leadership does want to move ahead with a weapon. I thought all three of those were pretty newsy.

TAPPER: Robin?

WRIGHT: Yes, I -- they took the best headlines already.

(LAUGHTER)

But it's clear that one of the things that's been most interesting in this town is the expected national intelligence estimate on Iran and it's been delayed over and over and over. And he basically gave us an outline of what is going to contain and the concern that we're going to reverse what was the controversial NIE under the Bush administration, that Iran wasn't working on weaponization and now the U.S. believes it is. And of course that then escalates the timetable, how much time do we have to try to get the Iranians to come to talk to us, to engage with the international community. And this is going to, I think, play into the questions of what do we do next since there's every indication, as he said, that the sanctions alone are not going to be enough to convince them to either give up their enrichment program or to come back in the negotiating table.

TAPPER: Interesting. Well let's move on to the big news of the week which is obviously President Obama's dismissal of General Stanley McChrystal. George, do you think the president did the right thing?

WILL: Life is full of close calls, this is not one of them. He did the right thing and he did it with the right way, with the right words and an agreeable parsimony of words saying this is just not behavior acceptable at the senior levels of our military. And then he picked the only man around who could fill the leadership vacuum in Petraeus. But this again raises the question of you're sending Petraeus into a situation with this deadline. One of the reasons of setting the July deadline was to concentrate the mysterious mind of Hamid Karzai on what, reconciliation. But having the deadline makes the incentive for the Taliban to reconcile minimal.

TAPPER: And in fact, here's Senator Lindsey Graham talking about that this week.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I would argue that when the Taliban sends around leaflets quoting members of the administration and suggesting to people in Afghanistan after July, the Americans are going to leave you, that the enemy is seizing upon this inconsistency and uncertainty.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: David, can we do this on this timetable? The timetable is July 2011, U.S. troops will begin to withdraw, according the Vice President Biden, a lot of troops. According to other members of the administration, maybe not so much. But is this timeline even feasible?

SANGER: It strikes me from listening to what we have heard this past week and the underlying debate that was taking place before General McChrystal was dismissed that the general's timeline and the politicians' time lines are very different. President Obama has got a big reason to want to begin to withdraw, even if it's a small withdrawal, by next summer.

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