Defense Secretary Leon Panetta believes Israel could launch attacks against Iran as early as April or May.
War hysteria continues to grip the Middle East, as heightened anxieties over Iran's surreptitious nuclear program have the U.S. Defense Secretary on edge.
Leon Panetta said Thursday that Israel could launch attacks against Iran as early as April or May in effort to stop Tehran from building a nuclear bomb.
Panetta made the initial remarks to Washington Post columnist David Ignatius, who said Israelis are worried the Iranians have enough enriched uranium and only the U.S. could stop them militarily.
When asked in Brussels if he disputed the report, Panetta said, "No I'm just commenting," adding "What I think and what I view, I consider that to be an area that belongs to me and nobody else." He noted the U.S. has "indicated our concerns."
Panetta's comments come after Israel issued a harsh warning that time was running out to stop Iran's ambitious nuclear program.
Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said at a news conference that the country should confront Iran to keep its nuclear program from continuing to grow and argued that foreign governments would support such an attack.
And Yoram Cohen, head of Israeli security agency Shin Bet, added fuel to the fire, insisting Iranian agents were attempting to attack Israeli targets in retaliation for the assassination of four Iranian nuclear scientists since November 2010.
Iran Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei chimed in on Friday, promising to help any nation or group that wants to confront Israel and vowed to continue its nuclear program.
He called Israel a "cancerous tumor that should be cut and will be cut," blasting Western-backed oil sanctions and warning the U.S. will be defeated if Washington decides to use military force to halt the country's program.
A statement by Intelligence Director James Clapper, delivered to the Senate earlier this week, said U.S. intelligence agencies to do not think Iran is currently developing nuclear weapons, but Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is keeping the option open.
"We do not know, however, if Iran will eventually decide to build nuclear weapons," Clapper's report said.