"To tell deliberate lies while genuinely believing in them, to forget any fact that has become inconvenient, and then, when it becomes necessary again, to draw it back from oblivion for just so long as it is needed, to deny the existence of objective reality and all the while to take account of the reality which one denies — all this is indispensably necessary."
- George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four
Facts rarely get in the way of American and Israeli fear-mongering and jingoism, especially when it comes to anti-Iran propaganda. For nearly thirty years now, U.S. and Israeli politicians and analysts, along with some of their European allies, have warned that Iranian nuclear weapons capability is just around the corner and that such a possibility would not only be catastrophic for Israel with its 400 nuclear warheads and state-of-the-art killing power supplied by U.S. taxpayers, but that it would also endanger regional dictatorships, Europe, and even the United States.
If these warnings are to be believed, Iran is only a few years away from unveiling a nuclear bomb...and has been for the past three decades. Fittingly, let's begin in 1984.
An April 24, 1984 article entitled "'Ayatollah' Bomb in Production for Iran" in United Press International referenced a Jane's Intelligence Defense Weekly report warning that Iran was moving "very quickly" towards a nuclear weapon and could have one as early as 1986.
In response, a U.S. Department of State spokesman was reportedly quick to point out the official government belief that "it would take at least two to three years to complete construction of the reactors at Bushehr," adding that the light water power reactors at the Bushehr plant "are not particularly well-suited for a weapons program." He also noted that "we have no evidence of Iranian construction of other facilities that would be necessary to separate plutonium from spent reactor fuel."
Two months later, on June 27, 1984, in an article entitled "Senator says Iran, Iraq seek N-Bomb," Minority Whip of the U.S. Senate Alan Cranston was quoted as claiming Iran was a mere seven years away from being able to build its own nuclear weapon.
In April 1987, the Washington Post published an article with the title "Atomic Ayatollahs: Just What the Mideast Needs – an Iranian Bomb," in which reporter David Segal wrote of the imminent threat of such a weapon.
The next year, in 1988, Iraq issued warnings that Tehran was at the nuclear threshold.
Citing a recent Jane's Defense Weekly assessment, the trade journal Nuclear Developments reports on May 15, 1990, that Chile, Iran, South Korea, and Libya are already capable of producing nuclear weapons.
A Los Angeles Times report from January 27, 1991 stated that officials in the George H.W. Bush administration and non-proliferation analysts "have grown increasingly worried" that Iran was engaged in "secret efforts to buy nuclear technology and build nuclear weapons." The report noted, however, "that any nuclear threat from Iran would be years, perhaps a decade, away," and quoted a "State Department official" as saying, "They're doing basic research and development. From a technical standpoint, they're very far away."
By late 1991, Congressional reports and CIA assessments maintained a "high degree of certainty that the government of Iran has acquired all or virtually all of the components required for the construction of two to three nuclear weapons."
On October 13, 1991, Cairo-based Al Ahram reports that Iran has purchased five tactical nuclear missiles from the former Soviet republic of Kazakhstan. Later reports claim Iran only bought three such warheads.
On October 31, 1991, Elaine Sciolino reported for The New York Times that "an American intelligence assessment has concluded that at least some of Iran's revolutionary leaders are intent on developing nuclear weapons." The report quotes Anthony Cordesman, a military expert and author of "Weapons of Mass Destruction in the Middle East," as saying, "There is no doubt that Iran is pursuing nuclear, chemical and biological weapons and seeking to obtain long-range missiles from North Korea and to develop them in Iran."
On November 21, 1991, The Los Angeles Times reported on testimony delivered by Assistant Secretary of State Edward P. Djerejian to the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee, during which the Bush administration official was said to be "convinced that Iran is trying to develop nuclear weapons," despite the fact that Iran had "opened its facilities to international inspection."
A January 18, 1992 report about nuclear proliferation in The Economist suggested that "Iran may have snapped up a couple of tactical nuclear warheads at bargain prices in the Central Asian arms bazaar."
A report by the U.S. House Republican Research Committee, released in early 1992, stated with "98 per cent certainty that Iran already had all [or virtually all] of the components required for two to three operational nuclear weapons made with parts purchased in the ex-Soviet Muslim republics," and suggested Iran would acquire these weapons by April 1992.
In March 1992, The Arms Control Reporter reported that Iran already had four nuclear weapons, which it had obtained from Russia. That same year, the CIA predicted that Iran was "making progress on a nuclear arms program and could develop a nuclear weapon by 2000," then later changed their estimate to 2003.
On March 26, 1992, The Jerusalem Report, noting that "Israel keeps a wary watch on Teheran's march to the Bomb," predicted that, "[b]y the year 2000, Iran will almost certainly have the Bomb."
In Congressional testimony delivered on March 27, 1992, then-Director of the CIA Robert Gates stated, "We judge that Tehran is seeking to acquire a nuclear weapon capability. Barring significant technical input from abroad, however, the Iranians are not likely to achieve that goal before the year 2000."
According to The Washington Post's R. Jeffrey Smith in an article published March 28, 1992, Gates told the panel that Iran was also engaged in "the development of poison gas warheads to place atop Scud missiles" and that "the country's 'relatively crude' chemical weapons program is expected to produce such warheads within a few years. 'We also suspect that Iran is working toward a biological warfare capability,' he said."
A May 1992 report in The European claims that "Iran has obtained at least two nuclear warheads out of a batch officially listed as 'missing from the newly independent republic of Kazakhstan.'"
On May 28, 1992, Agence France Press reported that Israeli president Chaim Herzog had warned of "attempts by Iran and its allies to spread fundamentalism" in former Soviet republics. Herzog added, "The threat is all the more real as some elements linked to this fundamentalism are trying to seize nuclear weapons. Fundamentalist extremism plus weapons of mass extinction are the recipe that is bound to lead to disaster."
On June 14, 1992, the Daily Mail reported on Israeli claims that "nuclear experts from the former Soviet Union are helping Iran to build atomic bombs," quoting a "top Israel defence official" as saying, "If nothing is done to stop the Iranians they are certain to have atom bombs within a few years."
The Washington Post reported on June 15, 1992, that Israeli Major General Herzl Budinger had said that unless "Iran's intensive effort to develop atomic weapons is not 'disrupted,'" it would "become a nuclear power by the end of the decade."
On June 22, 1992, Ethan Bronner, reporting from Tel Aviv, wrote in The Boston Globe that Israeli "[i]ntelligence assessments here say that Iran will have nuclear weapons by the end of the decade."
On August 5, 1992, international wire services reported on a newly-release study by the Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center "warned that unless Western nations halt the flow of such [duel-use nuclear] technology, Iran is likely to produce its first nuclear bomb within five or six years."
Speaking on French television in October 1992, then-Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres warned the international community that Iran would be armed with a nuclear bomb by 1999. Peres declared that Iran posed the greatest threat to peace in the Middle East "because it seeks the nuclear option while holding a highly dangerous stance of extreme religious militantism."
The following month, on November 8, 1992, the New York Times reported that Israel was confident Iran would "become a nuclear power in a few years unless stopped." A "senior army officer" in Israel told the paper that "the Iranians may have a full nuclear capability by the end of the decade." The Times stated, "For Israel, a sense that the region's nuclear clock is ticking."
After the November 1992 release of a new National Intelligence Estimate, which found that Iran "is making progress on a nuclear arms program and could develop a nuclear weapon by 2000," CIA head Robert Gates addressed the imminent threat in an interview with the Associated Press. "Is it a problem today?" he rhetorically asked, "probably not. But three, four, five years from now it could be a serious problem."