Sunday, October 21, 2012

The Constant Countdown:
Never-Ending Hype, Hysteria, and Hyperbole about Iran's Nuclear Program

The Flower Clock; Tehran, Iran

On Monday evening, the final presidential debate between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney will focus primarily on foreign policy.  Needless to say, the issue of the Iranian nuclear program will feature prominently.  While both the Democratic and Republican tickets are quick to employ bellicose rhetoric and myriad falsehoods regarding the issue, a quick review of the candidates' stated positions shows a slight difference between the two parties.

Taking into account the conclusions of U.S., European and Israeli intelligence agencies, President Obama explained earlier this year that "our assessment, which is shared by the Israelis, is that Iran does not yet have a nuclear weapon and is not yet in a position to obtain a nuclear weapon without us having a pretty long lead time in which we will know that they are making that attempt."


Vice President Joe Biden made the same point during his debate with Romney running mate Paul Ryan.  "The Israelis and the United States," he said, "our military and intelligence communities are absolutely the same exact place in terms of how close the Iranians are to getting a nuclear weapon. They are a good way away. There is no difference between our view and theirs."  Biden went on: "There is no weapon that the Iranians have at this point. Both the Israelis and we know we’ll know if they start the process of building a weapon."


Meanwhile, both Republican candidates have repeated the claims that Iran is now closer than ever to having a nuclear weapon.  On October 11, 2012, Paul Ryan declared during the vice presidential debate, "When Barack Obama was elected, they had enough fissile material -- nuclear material to make one bomb. Now they have enough for five. They're racing toward a nuclear weapon. They're four years closer toward a nuclear weapons capability."


Five days later, on October 16, 2012, Mitt Romney repeated that formulation, warning the town hall debate audience in Hempstead, Long Island, "We have Iran four years closer to a nuclear bomb."


This talking point will surely be repeated on Monday in Boca Raton.


It should also be remembered when the Israeli Prime Minister stood before the Knesset and declared:

"Iran is in the initial stages of an effort to acquire non-conventional capability in general, and nuclear capability in particular. Our assessment is that Iran today has the appropriate manpower and sufficient resources to acquire nuclear arms within 10 years. Together with others in the international community, we are monitoring Iran's nuclear activity. They are not concealing the fact that the possibility that Iran will possess nuclear weapons is worrisome, and this is one of the reasons that we must take advantage of the window of opportunity and advance toward peace."
That address was given in January 1993 by Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.  Just as Iran didn't have nuclear weapons ten years later, it still doesn't as 2013 approaches.

It has been nearly two years (22 months, really) since I published "The Phantom Menace: Fantasies, Falsehoods, and Fear-Mongering about Iran's Nuclear Program," a timeline of constant U.S., Israeli, and European assertions regarding the supposed inevitability and immediacy of a nuclear-armed Iran - hysterical allegations that have been made repeatedly for the past thirty years, none of which has ever come true.


Subsequently, over fifty updates - cataloging new alarmist claims and predictions - have been added to the original piece (they can be read here) and a more extensive follow-up was posted in November 2011.


With a renewed spate of relentless warmongering, regurgitated propaganda by U.S. and Israeli officials, and endless talk of red lines, deadlines, end zones, zones of immunity, windows of opportunity and points of no return, it's time for another update.


So, culled from the last eleven months, this never-ending saga continues:


Following a lengthy and thoroughly-overhyped IAEA report on the Iranian nuclear program in November 2011, the media was filled with howls of imminent Iranian atomic bombs and the need to carry out an illegal, unprovoked military attack on Iran.


A Washington Post opinion piece by members of the hawkish Bipartisan Policy Center on November 7, 2011 claimed that, "if it chooses, Iran could produce enough highly enriched uranium for a nuclear device in just 62 days using its existing stockpiles and current enrichment capability," but also stated the timeline could be even shorter.  "Once Iran acquires more than 150 kilograms of uranium enriched to 20 percent — which could happen by early 2013 if Iran’s announced plans are realized," Stephen Rademaker and Blaise Misztal wrote, "it would need only 12 days to produce enough fissile material for a bomb."


On November 8, 2011, Simon Henderson of the AIPAC-affiliated Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP) suggested "the IAEA report should serve to shift the public debate from whether Iran is developing a nuclear weapon, to how to stop it," while career mouthpiece for the Israeli government Jeffrey Goldberg, wrote in Bloomberg View that the report offered "further proof that the Iranian regime is bent on acquiring nuclear weapons."


A November 9, 2011 editorial in The Guardian noted that, as usual, the latest "flurry of leaks" about the Iranian nuclear program "tend[s] to suggest, without being able to absolutely prove, that Tehran is working to acquire nuclear weapons capacity."  Undaunted by this absence of evidence, the British paper concluded that, not only is it "time to drop the pretence that Iran can be deflected from its nuclear path," but that "[i]t really is time for Iran to drop the pretence that it is not on that path."


Furthermore, editorials in both the The New York Times ("The Truth About Iran") and The Washington Post ("Running Out of Time") endorsed the IAEA's insinuations without the slightest hint of skepticism or scrutiny.  The Times claimed that without "a new round of even tougher sanctions...Iran will keep pushing its nuclear program forward," while the Post, drawing conclusions that are actually rejected by the IAEA itself, stated the latest report "ought to end serious debate about whether Tehran's program is for peaceful purposes," and warned that "the danger is growing, not diminishing," suggesting Iran is "at least a year or more away from completing" a bomb.


The same day, November 9, 2011, analysts for the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments stated, "Iran might have both the technology and material to build a nuclear bomb in a matter of months" and recommended that "Obama should take out Iran's nuclear program...before it's too late."


Columnist Carlo Strenger, also writing on November 9, 2011 in the Israeli daily Ha'aretz, claimed that the IAEA report "confirmed Israel's and the Western World's fears: there can be no reasonable doubt that Iran is working actively towards the atomic bomb."   Even Ha'aretz's most rational and articulate commentator Gideon Levy fell for the hype, lamenting in his column, "Iran will apparently have an atom bomb, and that is very bad news."


On November 10, 2011, a Ha'aretz editorial declared, "The [latest IAEA] report clearly shows that Iran carried out tests which cannot be interpreted in any way other than as signaling an intent to develop nuclear weapons," while t he same day, The Wall Street Journal ran an opinion piece by then-GOP nomination hopeful Mitt Romney (though certainly written by the war-crazy cabal known as his "foreign policy team") which stated, "Iran is making rapid headway toward its goal of obtaining nuclear weapons."


Also on November 10, 2011, former Director of Policy Planning in the Obama State Department and current Princeton University professor Anne-Marie Slaughter opined that the IAEA report "affirms what western governments already know or believe: that for all the sanctions and diplomacy, Iran continues to make steady progress toward producing a nuclear weapon."


On November 11, 2011, contributing columnist for The New York Times Magazine and ForeignPolicy.com James Traub lamented, "Neither Bush nor Obama has stopped Iran from pursuing a goal to which Iranian leaders are single-mindedly dedicated," adding that "Iran has been seeking for years to develop a nuclear warhead and is continuing to do so."  Traub continued: "Iran is still enriching uranium and is now estimated to have enough to produce four bombs." 


The Wall Street Journal published its own editorial on November 14, 2011, claiming that the new IAEA report "lays to rest the fantasies that an Iranian bomb is many years off" and insisted that "[t]he serious choice now before the Administration is between military strikes and more of the same. As the IAEA report makes painfully clear, more of the same means a nuclear Iran, possibly within a year."


In truth, as acknowledged by Greg Thielmann and Benjamin Loehrke in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists:

Most analysts familiar with the report agree that there "is nothing in the report that was not previously known by the governments of the major powers" -- a nuclear Iran is "neither imminent nor inevitable." While it is clear that Iran's continuing research on nuclear weapons is a serious concern for international security, there "has been no smoking gun when it comes to Iran's nuclear weapons intentions."
Thielmann, who is a former State Department and Senate Intelligence Committee analyst, noted further that "there is nothing [in the report] that indicates that Iran is really building a bomb," adding, "Those who want to drum up support for a bombing attack on Iran sort of aggressively misrepresented the report."

Nevertheless, Jerusalem-based right-wing conspiracy theory website DEBKAfile released a new prediction in mid-November 2011. "According to the briefing given to a closed meeting of Jewish leaders in New York...the window of opportunity for stopping Iran attaining a nuclear weapon is closing fast" and "will shut down altogether after late March 2012," the report said.  Why?  Because "intelligence reaching US President Barak Obama is that by April, Iran will already have five nuclear bombs or warheads and military action then would generate a dangerous level of radioactive contamination across the Gulf region, the main source of the world's energy."


On November 20, 2011, CNN aired an interview in which Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak told Fareed Zakaria that Iran would reach a "zone of immunity" within six to nine months, at which point its nuclear infrastructure would be redundant, dispersed and protected enough to be invulnerable to an attack.  Misunderstanding Barak's allegation, Israeli media outlet Ha'aretz ran the alarming headline "Iran less than a year away from producing nuclear weapon" in anticipation of the broadcast.


Two days later, during a CNN debate between Republican presidential candidates sponsored by the American Enterprise Institute and The Heritage Foundation, two neoconservative bellwether organizations, AEI's Danielle Pletka stated that "Iran is probably less than a year away from getting a nuclear weapon" before asking whether anything short of a military assault "could stop Iran from getting a nuclear weapon."


Writing in The Washington Post on December 9, 2011, Ray Takeyh of the Council on Foreign Relations and the Iran Strategy Task Force, a neoconservative pressure group, declared, "The Islamic Republic perceives it can reclaim its international standing better with the bomb," adding that "Iran’s rulers sense that once they obtain the bomb, they can return to the international fold on their own terms."  He repeated this canard numerous times, never providing any evidence for his claims or explaining how Iran will "achieve[] the bomb" without having an active nuclear weapons program.

On December 19, 2011, U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, when asked by CBS News anchor Scott Pelley whether "Iran can have a nuclear weapon in 2012," replied, "It would probably be about a year before they can do it. Perhaps a little less," but added a "proviso" that, "if they have a hidden facility somewhere in Iran that may be enriching fuel," the timeline to developing a nuclear weapon would be "on a faster track."  The Pentagon quickly walked back the assertion.

On December 31, 2011, The Wall Street Journal quoted Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti telling reporters, "There is strong concern on the advancement of Iran's nuclear program reaching a point of nonreturn and the strategy, which Italy agrees with, is the urgency to strengthen instruments of pressure on Iran."


In the December 2011/January 2012 issue of Foreign Affairs, Matthew Kroenig, a former defense and Iran policy strategist for U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, published a call for the United States to launch an unprovoked and wholly illegal attack on Iran, citing Institute for Science and International Security "estimates that Iran could now produce its first nuclear weapon within six months of deciding to do so."


On January 4 and January 6, 2012, Reuters reporter Fredrik Dahl wrote that "Western experts give different estimates of how quickly Iran could assemble a nuclear weapon if it decides to do so - ranging from as little as six months to a year or more."


On January 8, 2012, Defense Secretary Panetta told Bob Schieffer on Face the Nation that the United States will take all necessary measures to make sure Iran "cannot continue to do what they're doing," adding, "Are they trying to develop a nuclear weapon? No. But we know that they're trying to develop a nuclear capability. And that's what concerns us."


On January 9, 2012, David Sanger of The New York Times noted, "Already Iran has produced enough fuel to manufacture about four weapons, but only if the fuel goes through further enrichment, nuclear experts say."


The following day, January 10, 2012, the Times of London claimed that a recent Israeli security report revealed "Israel is preparing for Iran to become a nuclear power and has accepted it may happen within a year."


On January 11, 2012, Senators Lindsey Graham and Joe Lieberman issued a joint press release that stated, "Despite the increased sanctions put in place over the last several years, the American people should have no illusions: time is now quickly running out to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran."  The statement called upon Congress to officially rule out "containment" as a policy option "should economic and diplomatic pressure fail to force Iran to abandon its pursuit of acquiring nuclear weapons."


On January 12, 2012, retired U.S. General Barry McCaffrey delivered a briefing to senior executives and producers at NBC News in which he determined that Iran "will not under any circumstances actually be deterred from going nuclear" and predicted that it "will achieve initial nuclear capability within 36 months."  He also concluded that, not only will Iran instigate a major war against the United States, it will acquire "a nuclear capability of dozens of weapons within 60 months with the missile and fighter delivery systems required to strike targets in Israel, the GCC states, and regional US military forces."


On January 13, 2012, Fox News contributor Liz Cheney asserted on Fox and Friends that Iran (which she accidentally called "Iraq") was merely "months, not years, away" from enriching enough uranium needed for a nuclear weapon.


On January 16, 2012, the editorial board of the Wall Street Journal published a dazzlingly Orientalist and bloodthirsty article entitled "The Intrigues of Persia," which praised the then-recent murder of Iranian nuclear scientist Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan, claiming - without providing evidence, of course - he "was engaged in building a nuclear bomb in violation of four binding U.N. Security Council resolutions."  The piece also described the Iranian government as an "evil regime" and insisted "the mullahs...are building a bomb," the success of which is now "closer than ever."


On January 17, 2012, Jamie Fly, head of the neoconservative Foreign Policy Initiative, co-authored (with AEI staffer Gary Schmitt) a call to arms for Foreign Affairs that opens by claiming Iran is "mov[ing] closer to achieving [its] goal" of acquiring nuclear weapons.  While commending Kroenig's suggestion that the United States immediately bomb Iranian nuclear infrastructure, Fly and Schmitt go even further, stating that "it would be better to plan an operation that not only strikes the nuclear program but aims to destabilize the regime, potentially resolving the Iranian nuclear crisis once and for all."  This would require, not only a "massive strike," but an "extended campaign" targeting "key command and control elements of the Republican Guard and the intelligence ministry, and facilities associated with other key government officials." In other words: war.

A blockbuster article by Ronen Bergman, senior political and military analyst for the Israeli daily newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth, published in The New York Times on January 25, 2012, quotes Israeli Vice Prime Minister Moshe Ya'alon (who is also Minister of Strategic Affairs) as saying, "Our policy is that in one way or another, Iran's nuclear program must be stopped. It is a matter of months before the Iranians will be able to attain military nuclear capability."  Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak tells Bergman that "no more than one year remains to stop Iran from obtaining nuclear weaponry."


Bergman also writes, "According to latest intelligence, Iran now has some 10,000 functioning centrifuges, and they have streamlined the enrichment process. Iran today has five tons of low-grade fissile material, enough, when converted to high-grade material, to make about five to six bombs," and adds, "It is believed that Iran’s nuclear scientists estimate that it will take them nine months, from the moment they are given the order, to assemble their first explosive device and another six months to be able to reduce it to the dimensions of a payload for their Shahab-3 missiles, which are capable of reaching Israel."


As a result, Bergman concludes, "After speaking with many senior Israeli leaders and chiefs of the military and the intelligence, I have come to believe that Israel will indeed strike Iran in 2012."

Ron Prosor, Israel's ambassador to the United Nations, stated on January 25, 2012, "Never has it been so clear Iran is seeking to build a nuclear weapon. Now is the time to act. Tomorrow is too late. The stakes are too high. The price of inaction is too great."  Prosor also declared that "Tehran’s efforts to enrich uranium to 20 percent-levels at its reactor in Qom could serve no other plausible aim other than to develop an atomic bomb," despite the fact that such enrichment is known to be used in the creation of medical isotopes that treat cancer patients.

On January 26, 2012, Reuters reporter Frederik Dahl wrote, "The IAEA issued a detailed report in November that laid bare a trove of intelligence suggesting Iran is seeking nuclear weapons capability," and added that "some experts say" Iran "could have the potential to build at least one nuclear device as early as next year."


On the January 29, 2012 edition of 60 Minutes, Defense Secretary Panetta again addressed the Iranian nuclear program.  "The consensus is that, if they decided to do it, it would probably take them about a year to be able to produce a bomb," he said, "and then possibly another one to two years in order to put it on a deliverable vehicle of some sort in order to deliver that weapon."


At the same time, Israeli military chief Benny Gantz said he had "no doubt" Iran was pursuing nuclear weapons and Defense Minister Barak warned, "We must not waste time on this matter; the Iranians continue to advance, identifying every crack and squeezing through. Time is urgently running out."


On February 2, 2012, Director of Israeli Military Intelligence Major General Aviv Kochavi told a panel at the Herzliya Conference that "Iran is vigorously pursing military nuclear capabilities and today the intelligence community agrees with Israel on that" and assessed that "Iran has enough nuclear material for four bombs."  Kochavi said, "We have conclusive evidence that they are after nuclear weapons," adding, "When Khamenei gives the order to produce the first nuclear weapon – it will be done, we believe, within one year."  A year earlier, in late January 2011, Kochavi went on record saying Iran was not actively working on a nuclear weapon, but could build one in "a year or two" once "the leader decides to begin enriching at 90 percent."  Kochavi told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, "At the moment, it's not in Iran's interest to move their programme ahead."


Disgraced war propagandist Judith Miller posted an article entitled, "5 Minutes to Midnight," on February 8, 2012, in which she warned, "The clock on Iran's acquisition of a nuclear weapon is ticking," before launching into a litany of Israeli talking points which reveal her deep commitment to warmongering, in addition to her complete misunderstanding of the historical facts and actual consequences of Israel's bombing of Iraq's Osirak reactor in 1981 and the difference between Iran's Fordow enrichment facility and the Tehran Research Reactor.

On February 17, 2012, Israeli Vice Prime Minister Silvan Shalom announced on MSNBC, "Everyone now knows most of the world, if not all the world, knows the Iranians are trying to develop a nuclear bomb. It's out of the question. They have all the proof. Everyone knows the security and intelligence of the western world knows very well the Iranians are developing a nuclear bomb, and they should be stopped."

At the same time, Netanyahu's former chief of staff, the Zionist extremist Naftali Bennett, told Mike Huckabee on FoxNews that "Iran is racing towards acquiring a nuclear weapon; we're at the very last moment. This is going to be the first time in world history that a maniacal, radical Islamic regime will acquire a nuclear weapon. The day after they have a bomb will be a different day for the entire world...We have to stop them and, yes, it is imminent."  Naftali added, "A year from now it's going to be a whole different ballgame."

On February 19, 2012, Vienna-based George Jahn, the ever-willing conduit for Israeli propaganda, hysteria and disinformation regarding the Iranian nuclear program, claimed in the Associated Press that, according to anonymous "diplomats," Iranian advances in uranium enrichment "boost how quickly it could make nuclear warheads."

On February 23, 2012, The Los Angeles Times' Ken Dilanian wrote that, although "U.S. intelligence agencies don't believe Iran is actively trying to build an atomic bomb," David Albright's Institute for Science and International Security estimates Iran "could enrich uranium to sufficient purity to make a bomb in as little as six months, should it decide to do so."  The article also states that "Albright and many other experts believe that if it decides to proceed, the country has the scientific knowledge to design and build a crude working bomb in as little as a year" and that it would take three years "for Iran to build a warhead small enough to fit on a ballistic missile."

On March 5, 2012, David Albright's Institute for Science and International Security released a report claiming that "Iran is already capable of making weapon-grade uranium and a crude nuclear explosive device" and cataloging the different routes Iran might take to obtain a nuclear weapon by 2015.


The same day, in a Washington Post oped, Mitt Romney wrote that a "feckless" Obama had allowed Iran, with its "nuclear-bomb program," to make "rapid progress toward obtaining the most destructive weapons in the history of the world."

On March 6, 2012, Mark Fitzpatrick, Director of the Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Programme at the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies wrote that "Iran already is nuclear capable" and "has everything it needs to be able to manufacture a nuclear weapon. All it would take is a political decision and time."


The next day, on March 7, 2012, Israeli Prime Minister was interviewed on Fox News by Greta van Susteren, who asked "What's the timeline? How much time do we have?"  Netanyahu replied, "Every day that passes makes it closer and closer."  When van Susteren pressed, "Is it weeks, months, or years?," the Israeli leader declared, "It was a lot further away 15 years ago when I started talking about it. It was a lot further away 10 years ago. It was a lot further away five years. It was a lot further away five months ago. They are getting there, and they are getting very, very close."


On March 18, 2012, an Associated Press report noted Israeli concerns that the Iranian nuclear program may be allowed "to reach the point where there is enough enriched weapons grade material that a bomb could quickly be assembled, within a year."


Five days later, on March 23, 2012, Reuters published a "Special Report" that laid bare the hysteria over the Iran nuclear program.  "The United States, European allies and even Israel generally agree on three things about Iran's nuclear program: Tehran does not have a bomb, has not decided to build one, and is probably years away from having a deliverable nuclear warhead," Reuters stated plainly.  "Those conclusions, drawn from extensive interviews with current and former U.S. and European officials with access to intelligence on Iran, contrast starkly with the heated debate surrounding a possible Israeli strike on Tehran's nuclear facilities."


Nevertheless, on April 5, 2012, Ehud Barak told Fareed Zakaria on CNN that, with regard to the goal of stopping Iran's "nuclear military program," Israel has "limited time. We don't have to make a decision next week and we cannot wait years."


On May 7, 2012, Canada's Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird stated in an interview with CBC that Iran could "very quickly" produce a nuclear weapons if it so desired.  After compiling "all the ingredients" for a bomb, Baird suggested, "they could certainly dash to the end which could be done in as few as nine or as many as 18 months."


On May 10, 2012, career warmonger Marc Theissen insisted that "Iran is determined to obtain a nuclear weapon" and claimed that "made more progress toward this goal in the past three years under Obama than it has in the three decades since the Iranian Revolution."  He condemned the incumbent administration's handling of the Iranian nuclear issue, claiming, "Before Obama took office, Iran needed months to make a dash to a bomb. Today, it could make that dash in a matter of weeks." Theissen concluded that "the Iranian regime has developed a rapid nuclear weapons breakout capability on President Obama's watch" and that "Iran is closer than ever to building a nuclear bomb."


On May 25, 2012, David Albright and his staff at the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) calculated that Iran had already stockpiled enough 3.5% low enriched uranium that "if further enriched to weapon grade" could "make over five nuclear weapons."


In the May/June 2012 issue of Foreign Affairs, USC professor Jacques E. C. Hymans pointed out that despite the "underlying assumption" that, unless challenged violently, Iran will soon acquired nuclear weapons, "there is another possibility."  Hymans explains, "The Iranians had to work for 25 years just to start accumulating uranium enriched to 20 percent, which is not even weapons grade. The slow pace of Iranian nuclear progress to date strongly suggests that Iran could still need a very long time to actually build a bomb -- or could even ultimately fail to do so."


A veritable who's-who of warmongering neocons including Elliott Abrams, Matthew Kroenig and Ray Takeyh published a monograph in June 2012 entitled, "Iran: The Nuclear Challenge," which states, "Nongovernment experts believe that if Iran made the decision to enrich to a higher level today, it could produce enough weapons-grade uranium for one bomb in four months. The same experts estimate that by the end of 2012 the time might be as little as one month...Extrapolating from these estimates leads to public estimates that it would take Iran about a year to produce such a nuclear weapon if it decided to do so."


On June 15, 2012, David Albright and crew were back with a new assessment of Iran's breakout capabilities, reporting that "Iran will have enough [19.75% low enriched uranium] by early next year, if further enriched to weapon-grade in a breakout, for a nuclear weapon," but adding that "it could have enough...for a nuclear weapon by the end of 2012."  Albright also concludes, "Production of enough for a second nuclear weapon would take many additional months," estimating Iran "would have enough for a second weapon in about October 2013. By November 2015, Iran would have enough for three to almost five nuclear weapons."


In late June 2012, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak was quoted by Foreign Policy as saying, "In my judgment...if nothing will be done about it, within several years Iran will turn nuclear."


On July 13, 2012, the British press quoted Sir John Sawers, the head of MI6, Britain's international espionage agency, as telling a gathering of civil servants that without risks taken by his intelligence operatives, "you'd have Iran as a nuclear weapons state in 2008, rather than still being two years away in 2012." Predictable hysteria ensued.


On August 3, 2012, RAND policy analyst Alireza Nader stated the obvious: "According to the U.S. intelligence community, the Iranian leadership hasn't even made the decision to weaponize their program.  They've been creating the technical know-how and the infrastructure, but they haven't made that decision, and there is much more time than the Israelis portray there to be. I don't think an Iranian nuclear weapons capability is inevitable or imminent."


On August 5, 2012, Israeli daily Ynet reported that Netanyahu estimates that "Iran is a few months away from becoming nuclear," quoting the Prime Minister as predicting, "The time frame isn't measured in days or weeks, but not in years either."


On August 9, 2012, National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor confirmed, "We continue to assess that Iran is not on the verge of achieving a nuclear weapon," in response to reports that Iran had made "significant and surprising progress toward military nuclear capability."


Nevertheless, on August 22, 2012, Jonathan Tobin of Commentary Magazine questioned the efficacy of "President Obama’s pledge to stop the Iranian threat," and warning that "time [is] running out before Iran's nuclear progress renders a strike impossible."

On August 24, 2012, The Los Angeles Times stated, "At its current pace, by next year Iran may be able produce enough fuel for a bomb within two months," according to timeline favorite David Albright.  The report continues, "Fairly soon after that, as Iran continues to add to its centrifuge capacity, the time will be reduced to one month, he said in an interview.  'You will see much shorter breakout times coming into play early next year or late this year,' he said, referring to the time Iran would need should it choose to rush to build a nuclear weapon. 'You have this growing enrichment capability that starts to get the breakout down to an order of a month.'"


On September 4, 2012, former director of the CIA Michael Hayden told Ha'aretz, ""While it is probably true that the so-called 'window' regarding effective action is closing, there is still some time, as real decisions are to be made in 2013 or 2014."


On September 7, 2012, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers revealed that Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu believes that if Iranian leaders "decide to do the dash" for nuclear weapons, it could take a s little as "four weeks to eight weeks" for Iran to acquire an atomic bomb.  Meanwhile, U.S. intelligence analysts believe it would "take a little longer than that," Rogers said. "But the problem is nobody really knows for sure."


Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, speaking on CBS' "This Morning" on September 11, 2012, said that, were Iran to make the decision to develop a nuclear weapon, the U.S. would have "roughly about a year right now" to take action to halt such a process. "A little more than a year. And so...we think we will have the opportunity once we know that they've made that decision, take the action necessary to stop [them]," Panetta revealed, adding that the U.S. has "pretty good intelligence" on Iran. "We know generally what they're up to," he said. "And so we keep a close track on them."


The same day, Associated Press' George Jahn reported, according to unnamed "diplomats," that the IAEA "has received new and significant intelligence over the past month that Iran has moved further toward the ability to build a nuclear weapon."  Jahn breathlessly repeated the allegations of these "diplomats," who told him that classified intelligence information "
from Israel, the United States and at least two other Western countries" demonstrates that "Iran has advanced its work on calculating the destructive power of an atomic warhead through a series of computer models that it ran sometime within the past three years."

On September 11, 2012, Commentary Magazine's Jonathan Tobin wrote that without presenting Iran with deadlines and "red lines" as demanded by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, "time may soon run out on any chance for the West to stop Iran."

In mid-September 2012, a bipartisan report spearheaded by William Luers, Austin Long, Thomas Pickering and Colin Kahl and endorsed by over thirty former government officials and security experts, including General Anthony Zinni, Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, Brent Scowcroft, Dick Armitage, Leslie Gelb, Admiral James Fallon, Admiral Joe Sestak, Anne Marie Slaughter, Chuck Hagel, Paul Volcker, Lee Hamilton, Zbigniew Brezinski, Nicholas Burns, and Joe Cirincione, determined, "Conservatively, it would take Iran a year or more to build a military-grade weapon, with at least two years or more required to create a nuclear warhead that would be reliably deliverable by a missile."


On September 14, 2012, deputy speaker of the Knesset Danny Danon wrote an opinion piece in the Los Angeles Times advocating an illegal military attack on Iran, claiming that Iran is "developing its nuclear program at an alarming rate."


On a September 16, 2012 Sunday morning panel, ABC News reporter Brian Ross claimed that Iran was "four to six weeks away" from acquiring a nuclear weapon, "if they made the decision to do it." Ross justified his assessment by adding, "That’s some of the intelligence."  In response, Christiane Amanpour countered, "That has been so vastly disproved. Others say that it could be a year. So, this is a guessing game that has gone on for years."


The same day, former U.S. ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk said on Face the Nation that, while "Iran doesn't have a nuclear weapon," there is only "perhaps six months" before it achieves that capability, leading him to predict that "2013 is going to be a year in which we're going to have a military confrontation with Iran."


Also that day, September 16, 2012, Prime Minister Netanyahu appeared on CNN, warning that Iran "moving very rapidly to completing the enrichment of the uranium that they need to produce a nuclear bomb. In six months or so they'll be 90 percent of the way there."


On September 24, 2012, Israeli UN representative Ron Prosor issued a condemnatory statement about Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad which read, in part, "Three thousand years of Jewish history illustrate the clear danger of ignoring fanatics like Iran’s president, especially as he inches closer to acquiring nuclear weapons."


On September 25, 2012, PBS correspondent Margaret Warner remarked that Iran has "so much uranium they can break out in a matter of weeks or months and make a weapon."


On September 26, 2012, Iran attack enthusiast John Bolton opined, "Tehran is perilously close to achieving nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles for worldwide delivery," stating that the nuclear program is "far too advanced" to be stopped by anything other than a military assault. "And because the world's intelligence on Iran is imperfect," Bolton added, "Iran may be even closer to a nuclear bomb than we think."


The next day, September 27, 2012, Benjamin Netanyahu descended upon the United Nations General Assembly, cartoon bomb diagram in tow.  He bellowed that Iran is "70 percent of the way" to stockpiling enough enriched uranium needed for a nuclear bomb.  "And by next spring, at most by next summer at current enrichment rates, they will have finished the medium enrichment and move on to the final stage. From there, it's only a few months, possibly a few weeks before they get enough enriched uranium for the first bomb."


In response to Netanyahu's absurd performance, perennial alarmist Jeffrey Goldberg huffed and puffed, "Netanyahu's constant threats, and warnings, about Iran's nuclear program have undermined Israel's deterrent capability. Netanyahu spent much of this year arguing, privately and publicly, that soon it would be too late to stop the Iranians from moving their centrifuges fully underground. He knows full well that the Iranians could soon enter the so-called zone of immunity, by moving the bulk of their centrifuges into the Fordow facility, where Israeli bombs can't reach. But he's now kicked the can down the road until next spring."

On October 2, 2012, Reuters' Frederik Dahl posted an extensive run-down of current assessments regarding the Iranian nuclear program.  "Iran already has enough low-enriched uranium for several atomic bombs if refined to a high degree but it may still be a few years away from being able to build a nuclear-armed missile if it decided to go down that path," he begins.


"I still think that we are talking about several years...before Iran could develop a nuclear weapon and certainly before they could have a deliverable nuclear weapon," said Shannon Kile, head of the Nuclear Weapons Project of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.


Greg Jones, a senior researcher at the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center and world-class Iran hysteric, claimed that "Iran could refine uranium for a nuclear weapon in 10 weeks and produce the required non-nuclear components in six months or less, he said, adding this could be done simultaneously."


An anonymous Israeli official told Reuters reporter Dan Williams, "Once Iran gets its first device, no matter how rudimentary, it's a nuclear power and a nuclear menace. With that said, we have always noted that, from this threshold, it would take Iran another two years or so to make a deployable warhead."


On October 4, 2012, IISS' Mark Fitzpatrick wrote in Canada's Global Brief that "Iran continues to move closer to a virtual weapons status," suggesting that "by mid-2013, Iran will have enough low-enriched uranium (LEU), if further enriched, for perhaps six weapons."  He also noted, "As of late summer 2012, Iran was still several months away from being able to make a successful dash for nuclear weapons. Producing missile-deliverable weapons would take longer."  Nevertheless, "As Iran’s stockpile of enrichment uranium increases," Fitzpatrick hedged, "the timelines shorten."


On October 8, 2012, David Albright of ISIS issued a new report which found that it would take "at least two to four months" for Iran to enrich enough weapons-grade uranium to produce a single nuclear bomb, while Mitt Romney delivered a foreign policy stump speech at the Virginia Military Institute, in which he declared, "Iran today has never been closer to a nuclear weapons capability. It has never posed a greater danger to our friends, our allies, and to us."


On October 9, 2012, Jay Solomon wrote in The Wall Street Journal

On October 11, 2012, Oxford Analytica, a global corporate and governmental consulting firm, reported that Iran had already acquired enough "enriched uranium nuclear fuel to get breakout capability but the extra steps to produce a weapon [would] take months."


The fever-pitched predictions over just how imminent and inevitable an Iranian nuclear weapon will surely continue unabated, regardless of how many decades Iranian leaders consistently deny such intentions or how many IAEA reports affirm Iran has never diverted any nuclear material to a weapons program or even had a weapons program in the first place.

That's why Monday night, Mitt Romney will repeat the disingenuous claim that "Iran is four years closer to nuclear weapons" while Obama will praise his policy of collective punishment of a civilian population over a nuclear weapons program even he has admitted doesn't even exist.


It is no wonder that a Zogby poll from late February 2012 found that 78% of Americans "believe Iran is actively pursuing nuclear weapons production."  Quite simply, in our current debate, facts just don't matter.

*****


UPDATE:

October 30, 2012 - In an interview with The Telegraph, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said that recent confirmation that over a third of Iran's stockpile of 20% enriched uranium has been converted to fuel plates, making the material virtually impossible to weaponize, "allows contemplating delaying the moment of truth by eight to 10 months."

So, everyone, get ready for a new round of Israeli hysteria and threats to bomb Iran around June 2013, if not before then.  Around and around we go.

*****

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

There may be many reasons for this hysteria. How about we assume that they really think it is true. I would have to conclude that it is because they consider everyone to be as nasty as themselves. Those in power in Israel specially the PM are unable to grasp that most people are not their enemies. They are so deep in paranoia that they fail to see reality and instead only see a repeat of the Holocaust.

This is not true for all Israeli. I have personally known plenty of nice and reasonable Israeli but every one whom I am still in contact with has moved to the USA. Minister Ehud Barak whom I do not personally know is one of the more reasonable ones. At least he is still there.