'This Week' Transcript: Panetta

But having said that, you know, the president and the international community has said to Iran, you've got to wake up, you've got to join the family of nations, you've got to abide by international law. That's in the best interests of Iran. It's in the best interests of the Iranian people.

TAPPER: The administration has continually said that Iran has run into technical troubles in their nuclear program. Is that because the Iranians are bad at what they do, or because the U.S. and other countries are helping them be bad at what they do, by sabotaging in some instances their program?

PANETTA: Well, I can't speak to obviously intelligence operations, and I won't. It's enough to say that clearly, they have had problems. There are problems with regards to their ability to develop enrichment, and I think we continue to urge them to engage in peaceful use of nuclear power. If they did that, they wouldn't have these concerns, they wouldn't have these problems. The international community would be working with them rather than having them work on their own.

TAPPER: How likely do you think it is that Israel strikes Iran's nuclear facilities within the next two years?

PANETTA: I think, you know, Israel obviously is very concerned, as is the entire world, about what's happening in Iran. And they in particular because they're in that region in the world, have a particular concern about their security. At the same time, I think, you know, on an intelligence basis, we continue to share intelligence as to what exactly is Iran's capacity. I think they feel more strongly that Iran has already made the decision to proceed with the bomb. But at the same time, I think they know that sanctions will have an impact, they know that if we continue to push Iran from a diplomatic point of view, that we can have some impact, and I think they're willing to give us the room to be able to try to change Iran diplomatically and culturally and politically as opposed to changing them militarily.

TAPPER: There was a big announcement over the weekend. South Korea and the U.S. agreed to delay the transfer of wartime operational control to Seoul for three years because of the belligerence of North Korea. Kim Jong-il appears to be setting the stage for succession, including what many experts believe that torpedo attack in March on a South Korean warship. They believe that this is all setting the stage for the succession of his son, Kim Jong-un. Is that how you read all this and the sinking of the warship?

PANETTA: There is a lot to be said for that. I think our intelligence shows that at the present time, there is a process of succession going on. As a matter of fact, I think the--

TAPPER: Was the warship attack part of that?

PANETTA: I think that could have been part of it, in order to establish credibility for his son. That's what went on when he took power. His son is very young. His son is very untested. His son is loyal to his father and to North Korea, but his son does not have the kind of credibility with the military, because nobody really knows what he's going to be like.

So I think, you know, part of the provocations that are going on, part of the skirmishes that are going on are in part related to trying to establish credibility for the son. And that makes it a dangerous period.

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