"[An Iranian nuclear bomb] 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."
- Benjamin Netanyahu, March 7, 2012
"Red line, white line, black line and the like is for children. This is the level of this guy's character."
- Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, October 2, 2012
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took to the Sunday morning airwaves to spout tired talking points about the non-existent threat Iran's safeguarded, civilian nuclear program poses to Israel, the United States, and presumably Neptune and Krypton.
In a renewed propaganda blitz, Netanyahu told CBS' Bob Schieffer on "Face the Nation" that Iran is getting "closer and closer to the bomb," and resurrected a number of embarrassing phrases including "red line," "credible military threat" and something about ticking clocks.
"They're edging up to the red line," Netanyahu said. "They haven't crossed it yet. They're also building faster centrifuges that would enable them to jump the line, so to speak, at a much faster rate - that is, within a few weeks." He also said Iran is "building ICBMs [intercontinental ballistic missiles] to reach the American mainland in a few years," which is a gross exaggeration, if not an outright impossibility.
Dismissing the recent Iranian election as irrelevant to what he insists are devious Iranian intentions, Netanyahu called Hassan Rouhani, who will be inaugurated as Iran's new president on August 3, "a wolf in sheep's clothing," whose maniacal strategy will be, "Smile and build a bomb."
The media carried the news with headlines like "Israeli PM threatens to strike Iran" and "Israel Increases Pressure on U.S. to Act on Iran," quoting Netanyahu as claiming that, when it comes to blah blah blah, "I won't wait until it's too late."
We've been here before. It was boring then and it's boring now.
"If sanctions don't work, they have to know that you'll be prepared to take military action -- that's the only thing that will get their attention," Netanyahu said, suggesting that Iranians are subhumans who only understand grunts and shoves, rather than rational actors preserving and protecting their inalienable national rights and refusing to back down to offensive and illegal demands made by serially-aggressive nuclear-armed bullies.
Netanyahu urged the United States government to "make clear that the nuclear option" - whoops, Freudian slip of the war criminal's tongue - "the military option which is on the table is truly on the table," but lamented that there seemed to be "no sense of urgency" when it comes to stopping Iran from doing something every intelligence agency on the planet - including Israel's - says it's not doing.
The Israeli Prime Minister and his military and political acolytes, have repeatedly called for the United States to issue a "credible military threat" against Iran. Netanyahu did so again at a Cabinet meeting prior to his appearance on "Face the Nation."
Threatening - let alone committing - an unprovoked attack on Iran is unquestionably a violation of the United Nations Charter.
Still, an obsession is an obsession and, at least, Netanyahu isn't ashamed of being obsessed. "Iran is the most important, the most urgent matter of all," he whined, before throwing up a silly hodgepodge of scary-sounding words in an attempt to be taken seriously. All the problems in the world - including Israel's ongoing colonization of Palestine - won't amount to a hill of beans, he cried, if the "messianic, apocalyptic, extreme regime" in Tehran acquires "atomic bombs."
Such a ghastly scenario would present "a terrible, catastrophic change for the world and for the United States," he said, because the United States apparently isn't part of the world. (Actually, considering the isolation the United States and Israel - along with lackey states like Palau and Micronesia - face in the United Nations, Netanyahu may be on to something here.)
Of course, the often-repeated assessment of the U.S. intelligence community that Iran is not actually building a bomb and has no nuclear weapons program went unmentioned, as did the fact that Iran has supposedly been "a year or so" away from developing nuclear weapon for roughly a decade now.
Unsurprisingly, "Face the Nation" host Bob Schieffer challenged none of Netanyahu's assertions; all the warmongering and propaganda was given a free pass. This is especially disappointing considering, in January 2012, then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told Schieffer himself when asked about Iran's alleged pursuit, "Are they trying to develop a nuclear weapon? No."
Netanyahu has been leading the charge against Iran since the mid-1990s, warning of weapons programs that don't exist and calling for sanctions and explicit military threats. His talking points since then literally have not changed and are identical to those he used to encourage the United States to invade Iraq a decade ago.
Here's a reminder of why the Israeli Prime Minister's CBS interview may actually have been a rerun:
The suggestion that Iran would soon be in possession of, or be in a position to quickly manufacture, nuclear weapons has been in constant circulation for nearly three decades. In 1984, Iran was reportedly moving "very quickly" towards a nuclear weapon and could have one as early as 1986. By the early 1990's, the CIA predicted Iran was "making progress on a nuclear arms program and could develop a nuclear weapon by 2000," later changing their estimate to 2003.
Israeli estimates have always been of an especially hysterical quality. In March 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."
A few months later, Israeli Major General Herzl Budinger insisted 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." Then-Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres shared similar assessment later that year.
On November 8, 1992, the New York Times reported Israel was confident Iran would "become a nuclear power in a few years unless stopped." An Israeli "senior army officer" feared "the Iranians may have a full nuclear capability by the end of the decade."
On February 12, 1993, an Associated Press dispatch summarized a report from Israeli daily Maariv, which quoted "experts who predicted Tehran would have an atomic bomb within six years." One of these "experts" was Likud Party chairman Benjamin Netanyahu, who had recently claimed in an oped that Iran would have a nuclear weapon "by 1999" and would use such its "Islamic bomb" to destroy Israel.
In March 1993, a Washington Post report headlined "Israel seeking to convince U.S. that West is threatened by Iran" noted that Israeli leaders attempting to push their American counterparts into taking a stronger stance on Iran. The article quoted then-Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin warning of "megalomaniacal" Iran intent on establishing "a Middle East empire."
The alarm was still ringing a couple of years later when, on January 11, 1995, Benjamin Netanyahu told a nearly empty Knesset hearing that "within three to five years, we can assume that Iran will become autonomous in its ability to develop and produce a nuclear bomb, without having to import either the technology or the material."
His solution to this crisis? "[The nuclear threat] must be uprooted by an international front headed by the U.S. It necessitates economic sanctions on Iran," he declared.
By 1996, Israeli assessments put an Iranian nuclear bomb four years away. One year later, they confidently predicted it would happen by 2005. By mid-2001, Israel was still holding fast to its 2005 deadline and reaffirmed such a warning in 2003.
By 2004, however, an Israeli intelligence report determined that "within three years Iran would have the means to produce an atomic bomb by itself." In 2005, Israel's Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz said Iran was "less than one year away." At the same time, Israeli Military Intelligence's prediction was 2007, then 2008, later revised to 2012, then returned to 2008. In 2007, Israeli Military Intelligence said Iran would become nuclear weapons capable by mid-2009. A year later, the 2009 threshold referred to “an operable nuclear weapon,” rather than just capability.
When 2009 rolled around, then-Prime Ministerial candidate Benjamin Netanyahu told an American Congressional delegation that Israeli “experts” determined Iranian nuclear weapons capability “was probably only one or two years away,” while Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak put the window of opportunity to stop Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons at a mere six to 18 months. At the time, Mossad chief Meir Dagan insisted, "the Iranians will have by 2014 a bomb ready to be used, which would represent a concrete threat for Israel."
Later that same year, Brigadier General Yossi Baidatz, "argued that it would take Iran one year to obtain a nuclear weapon and two and a half years to build an arsenal of three weapons. By 2012 Iran would be able to build one weapon within weeks and an arsenal within six months." A month later, Netanyahu said, "Iran has the capability now to make one bomb or they could wait and make several bombs in a year or two."
By 2010, some Israeli officials said Iran was only a year away from a bomb, some said it “one to three years away from having a breakout nuclear capability,” and others said it still had seven years to go. An unnamed “Israeli policy maker” revealed to Jeffrey Goldberg that Iran would have a nuclear weapon "nine months from June - in other words, March of 2011." In early 2011, the prediction jumped to 2015.
Nevertheless, a year later, the Times of London claimed an Israeli security report assessed Iran may become a nuclear power "within a year," a conclusion subsequently confirmed by Ehud Barak. Six months later, in mid-2012, Barak suggested that it would take “several years” for Iran to “turn nuclear.” Shortly thereafter, Netanyahu reportedly put the “red line” of Iranian nuclear capability at just “a few months away,” later telling the United Nations in September (along with his trusty cartoon bomb drawing) that Iran would have “enough enriched uranium for the first bomb” by mid-to-late 2013. By October, Ehud Barak added an extra “eight to 10 months” to the timeline.
Accompanying all of these predictions, of course, have been fever-pitched threats of an ever-imminent Israeli military strike on Iran and its nuclear infrastructure. In 2012, the predictions of such an illegal assault were especially incessant. Not a month went by without hysterical rumors of a new Middle East war in the offing.
This past January, a new prediction emerged. McClatchy Newspapers reported that "Israeli intelligence officials now estimate that Iran won't be able to build a nuclear weapon before 2015 or 2016, pushing back by several years previous assessments of Iran's nuclear ambitions." The report is based on "[i]ntelligence briefings given to McClatchy over the last two months" which "confirmed that various officials across Israel's military and political echelons now think it's unrealistic that Iran could develop a nuclear weapons arsenal before 2015. Others pushed the date back even further, to the winter of 2016."
In early March 2013, Netanyahu claimed that "Iran is getting closer" to his self-determined "red line" of nuclear weapons capability and is "putting itself in a position to cross that line very quickly once it decides to do so." Later that same month, in a joint press conference in Jerusalem with President Obama, Netanyahu warned of "Iran's relentless pursuit of nuclear weapons" before reiterating his position that "in order to stop Iran's nuclear programs peacefully, diplomacy and sanctions must be augmented by a clear and credible threat of military action." Soon thereafter, the Israeli press publicized claims by anonymous Israeli officials that "Iran could have the capability to build a nuclear bomb by July."
Well, it's July, so Netanyahu tells us Iran is getting "closer and closer."
Sadly, Netanayhu's tired propaganda never seems to elicit the glazed-over, yawning-inducing dismissal from the U.S. press that it so sorely deserves; rather, he gets to schedule high-profile interviews on major networks whenever he wants to reissue his warmongering bromides.
A diplomatic cable sent from sent from the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv in 2005, published by Wikileaks, noted that, despite Israeli warnings that Iran would reach a critical nuclear weapons capability within six months, some Israeli "officials admitted informally that these estimates need to be taken with caution. The head of the MFA's [Ministry of Foreign Affairs] strategic affairs division recalled that GOI assessments from 1993 predicted that Iran would possess an atomic bomb by 1998 at the latest."
Another cable from 2009 wondered whether "the Israelis firmly believe" their hysterical predictions about Iran's nuclear progress "or are using worst-case estimates to raise greater urgency from the United States."
In truth, Netanyahu himself is increasingly viewed as an Israeli Chicken Little. In early 2013, McClatchy Newspapers reported that Israeli officials "have said there's a widening gulf between Netanyahu's remarks and the intelligence reports he receives," and quoted one unnamed "intelligence officer" as wondering, "Did we cry wolf too early?"
While the alarmism will surely continue unabated, the answer is obvious.
UPDATE: Neocon ideologue Elliott Abrams used some of the same formulations as Netanyahu when quoted in a 2010 Washington Post article. "The clock keeps ticking, and Iran gets closer and closer to a bomb," he said.
When will we start seeing some new talking points?
Of course, this phrase may best be remembered as it appeared in George W. Bush's infamous "Axis of Evil" State of the Union Address on January 29, 2002:
We'll be deliberate, yet time is not on our side. I will not wait on events, while dangers gather. I will not stand by, as peril draws closer and closer. The United States of America will not permit the world's most dangerous regimes to threaten us with the world's most destructive weapons.*****