The Phantom Menace: Fantasies, Falsehoods, and Fear-Mongering about Iran’s Nuclear Program
“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 Zionist 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.
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.
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.” In January 1992, Benjamin Netanyahu told the Knesset that “within three to five years, we can assume that Iran will become autonomous in its ability to develop and produce a nuclear bomb.”
Furthermore, a February 1992 report by the U.S. House of Representatives suggested that Iran would have two or three operational nuclear 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 an Iranian nuclear weapon by 2000, then later changed their estimate to 2003.
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.'”
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. The following month, the New York Times reported that Israel was confident Iran would “become a nuclear power in a few years unless stopped.”
The same year, Robert Gates, then-director of the CIA, addressed the imminent threat of Iranian nuclear weapons. “Is it a problem today?” he asked at the time, “probably not. But three, four, five years from now it could be a serious problem.”
On January 23, 1993, Gad Yaacobi, Israeli envoy to the UN, was quoted in the Boston Globe, claiming that Iran was devoting $800 million per year to the development of nuclear weapons. Then, on February 24, 1993, CIA director James Woolsey said that although Iran was “still eight to ten years away from being able to produce its own nuclear weapon” the United States was concerned that, with foreign assistance, it could become a nuclear power earlier.
That same year, international press went wild with speculation over Iranian nuclear weapons. In the Spring of 1993, U.S. News & World Report, the New York Times, the conservative French weekly Paris Match, and Foreign Report all claimed Iran had struck a deal with North Korea to develop nuclear weapons capability, while U.S. intelligence analysts alleged an Iranian nuclear alliance with Ukraine. Months later, the AFP reported Switzerland was supplying Iran with nuclear weapons technology, while the Intelligence Newsletter claimed that the French firm CKD was delivering nuclear materials to Iran and U.S. News and World Report accused Soviet scientists working in Kazakhstan of selling weapons-grade uranium to Iran. By the end of 1993, Theresa Hitchens and Brendan McNally of Defense News and National Defense University analyst W. Seth Carus had reaffirmed CIA director Woolsey’s prediction “that Iran could have nuclear weapons within eight to ten years.”
In January 1995, John Holum, director of the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, testified before Congress that “Iran could have the bomb by 2003,” while Defense Secretary William Perry unveiled a grimmer analysis, stating that “Iran may be less than five years from building an atomic bomb, although how soon…depends how they go about getting it.” Perry suggested that Iran could potentially buy or steal a nuclear bomb from one of the former Soviet states in “a week, a month, five years.”
The New York Times reported that “Iran is much closer to producing nuclear weapons than previously thought, and could be less than five years away from having an atomic bomb, several senior American and Israeli officials say,” a claim repeated by Greg Gerardi in The Nonproliferation Review (Vol. 2, 1995).
Benjamin Netanyahu, in his 1995 book “Fighting Terrorism: How Democracies Can Defeat the International Terrorist Network,” wrote, “The best estimates at this time place Iran between three and five years away from possessing the prerequisites required for the independent production of nuclear weapons.”
At the same time, a senior Israeli official declared, “If Iran is not interrupted in this program by some foreign power, it will have the device in more or less five years.” After a meeting in Jerusalem between Defense Secretary Perry and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, they announced that Iran would have a nuclear bomb in seven to 15 years.
On February 15, 1996, then-Israeli Foreign Minister Ehud Barak told members of the UN Security Council that Iran would be producing nuclear weapons by 2004.
On April 29, 1996, Israel’s then-Prime Minister Shimon Peres claimed in an interview with ABC that “the Iranians are trying to perfect a nuclear option” and would “reach nuclear weapons” in four years. By 1997 the Israelis confidently predicted an active Iranian nuclear bomb by 2005.
In March 1997, U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency director John Holum again attested to a House panel that Iran would develop a nuclear weapon sometime between 2005 and 2007.
The following month, according to a report in Hamburg’s Welt am Sonntag, the German Federal Intelligence Service (BND) believed Iran had an active nuclear weapons development program and would be able to produce nuclear weapons by 2002, “although that timeframe could be accelerated if Iran acquires weapons-grade fissile material on the black market.” Eight days later, in early May 1997, a Los Angeles Times article quoted a senior Israeli intelligence official as stating that Iran would be able to make a nuclear bomb by “the middle of the next decade.”
On June 26, 1997, the U.S. military commander in the Persian Gulf, General Binford Peay, stated that, were Iran to acquire access to fissile material, it would obtain nuclear weapons “sometime at the turn of the century, the near-end of the turn of the century.”
In September 1997, Jane’s Intelligence Defense Review reported that former U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher declared, “we know that since the mid-1980s, Iran has had an organized structure dedicated to acquiring and developing nuclear weapons,” as then-Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned that the Iranian nuclear technology program “may be the most dangerous development in the 21st century.”
Writing in the Jerusalem Post on April 9, 1998, Steve Rodan claimed “Documents obtained by the Jerusalem Post show Iran has four nuclear bombs.” The next day, U.S. State Department spokesperson James Rubin addressed this allegation, stating, “There was no evidence to substantiate such claims.”
On October 21, 1998, General Anthony Zinni, head of U.S. Central Command, said Iran could have deliverable nuclear weapons by 2003. “If I were a betting man,” he said, “I would say they are on track within five years, they would have the capability.”
The next year, on November 21, 1999, a senior Israeli military official was quoted by AP reporter Ron Kampeas (who was later hired as Washington bureau chief for the Jewish Telegraphic Agency) saying, “Unless the United States pressures Russia to end its military assistance to Iran, the Islamic republic will possess a nuclear capability within five years.”
On December 9, 1999, General Zinni reiterated his assessment that Iran “will have nuclear capability in a few years.”
In a January 2000 New York Times article co-authored by Judith Miller, it was reported that the CIA suggested to the Clinton administration “that Iran might now be able to make a nuclear weapon,” even though this assessment was “apparently not based on evidence that Iran’s indigenous efforts to build a bomb have achieved a breakthrough,” but rather that “the United States cannot track with great certainty increased efforts by Iran to acquire nuclear materials and technology on the international black market.”
On March 9, 2000, the BBC stated that German intelligence once again believed Iran to be “working to develop missiles and nuclear weapons.” The Telegraph reported on September 27, 2000 that the CIA believes Iran’s nuclear weapons capability to be progressing rapidly and suggests Iran will develop an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of reaching London or New York within the next decade. CIA Deputy Director Norman Schindler is quoted as saying, “Iran is attempting to develop the capability to produce both plutonium and highly enriched uranium, and it is actively pursuing the acquisition of fissile material and the expertise and technology necessary to form the material into nuclear weapons.”
By the summer of 2001, Israeli Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer was warning that Iran could have nuclear weapons by 2005 and that, sometime in the next decade, the Iranian nuclear program would reach a “point of no return,” from which time “it would be impossible to stop it from attaining a bomb.” By the end of the year, despite an inquiry into the questionable validity of Israeli intelligence regarding the Iranian nuclear program, Mossad head Efraim Halevy repeated the claim that Iran is developing nuclear and other non-conventional weapons.
In early 2002, the CIA again issued a report alleging that Iran “remains one of the most active countries seeking to acquire (weapons of mass destruction and advanced conventional weapons) technology from abroad…In doing so, Tehran is attempting to develop a domestic capability to produce various types of weapons — chemical, biological, nuclear — and their delivery systems.” Soon thereafter, CIA Director George Tenet testified before a Senate hearing that Iran may be able to “produce enough fissile material for a nuclear weapon by the end of this decade…Obtaining material from outside could cut years from this estimate.”
During his “Axis-of-Evil” State of the Union address on January 29, 2002, George W. Bush declared that Iran was “aggressively” pursuing weapons of mass destruction.
On July 29, 2002, U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Marshall Billingslea testified to the Senate that “Iran is aggressively pursuing nuclear weapons.” Three days later, after a meeting with Russian officials on August 1, U.S. Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham stated that Iran was “aggressively pursuing nuclear weapons as well as [other] weapons of mass destruction.” By the end of the year, White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer was reiterating U.S. concerns about, what he termed, Iran’s “across-the-board pursuit of weapons of mass destruction and missile capabilities.”
In an interview with CNBC on February 2003, U.S. Undersecretary of State John Bolton said that Iran is seeking technological assistance from North Korea and China to enhance its weapons of mass destruction programs. In April 2003, John Wolf, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State, accused Iran of having an “alarming, clandestine program.”
That same month, the Los Angeles Times stated that “there is evidence that Iran is developing nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction,” in a polling question regarding American attitudes toward Iran. The question followed, “Do you think the U.S. should or should not take military action against Iran if they continue to develop these weapons?” Fifty percent of respondents thought the U.S. should attack Iran.
The Telegraph reported on June 1, 2003 that “Senior Pentagon officials are proposing widespread covert operations against the government in Iran, hoping that dissident groups will mount a coup before the regime acquires a nuclear weapon.” The report contained a quote from a U.S. “government official with close links to the White House” as saying “There are some who see the overthrow of the regime as the only way to deal with the danger of Iran possessing a nuclear weapon. But there’s not going to be another war. The idea is to destabilize from inside. No one’s talking about invading anywhere.”
A CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll taken in late June 2003 asked Americans, “How likely do you think it is that Iran is developing weapons of mass destruction?” 46% of those surveyed said “very likely,” while another 38% said “somewhat likely.” Only 2% replied “not at all likely.”
An August 5, 2003 report in the Jerusalem Post stated that “Iran will have the materials needed to make a nuclear bomb by 2004 and will have an operative nuclear weapons program by 2005, a high-ranking military officer told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.”
On October 21, 2003, Major General Aharon Ze’evi, Israel’s Director of Military Intelligence, declared in Ha’aretz that “by the summer of 2004, Iran will have reached the point of no return in its attempts to develop nuclear weapons.” A few weeks later, the CIA released a semi-annual unclassified report to Congress which stated Iran had “vigorously” pursued production of weapons of mass destruction and that the “United States remains convinced that Tehran has been pursuing a clandestine nuclear weapons program.”
By mid-November 2003, Mossad intelligence service chief Meir Dagan testified for the first time before the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee and said that Iran was close to the “point of no return” in developing nuclear arms.
In early 2004, Ken Brill, U.S. Ambassador to the IAEA, reiterated the American position that Iran’s nuclear efforts are “clearly geared to the development of nuclear weapons.” One year later, on January 24, 2005, Mossad chief Meir Dagan again claimed that Iran’s nuclear program was almost at the “point of no return,” adding “the route to building a bomb is a short one” and that Iran could possess a nuclear weapon in less than three years. On January 28, the Guardian quoted Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz stating the same thing. He warned that Iran would reach “the point of no return” within the next twelve months in its covert attempt to secure a nuclear weapons capability. A week later, U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said on CNN that Iran was “on a path of seeking a nuclear weapon,” but admitted that Iran was “years away” from building a nuclear bomb.
By August 2005, a “high-ranking IDF officer” told the Jerusalem Post that Israel has revised its earlier estimate that Iran would have a nuclear bomb by 2008, now putting the estimate closer to 2012. The same day, a major U.S. intelligence review projected that Iran was approximately ten years away from manufacturing the key ingredient for a nuclear weapon, doubling its previous estimate.
Two weeks later, however, Israeli military chief General Aharon Zeevi contradicted both the new Israeli and U.S. estimates. “Barring an unexpected delay,” he said, “Iran is going to become nuclear capable in 2008 and not in 10 years.”
In November 2005, Mohammad Mohaddessin, chair of the so-called National Council of Resistance of Iran (otherwise known as the Islamist/Marxist terrorist cult Mojahadeen-e Khalq, or MEK, which is currently designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization by the U.S. government) addressed a European Parliament conference and proclaimed that the “Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei is determined to pursue and complete Tehran’s nuclear weapons program full blast…[and] would have the bomb in two or three years time.”
On January 18, 2006, Donald Rumsfeld told Fox News that Iran was “acquiring nuclear weapons.”
A CNN/USA Today/Gallup survey conducted in late January 2006 asked, “Based on what you have heard or read, do you think that the government of Iran is or is not attempting to develop its own nuclear weapons?” 88% of those polled said Iran is.
82% of respondents to a Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll taken around the same time believed “Iran wants to use the uranium for military purposes, such as to build a nuclear weapons program.” 68% thought “Iran currently has a nuclear weapons program,” an increase of 8% from the previous year.
CBS News reported on April 26, 2007 that “a new intelligence report says Iran has overcome technical difficulties in enriching uranium and could have enough bomb-grade material for a single nuclear weapon in less than three years.”
In late May 2007, IAEA head Mohammad El Baradei stated that, even if Iran wanted to build a nuclear weapon (despite all evidence to the contrary), it would not be able to “before the end of this decade or some time in the middle of the next decade. In other words three to eight years from now.” On July 11, 2007, Ha’aretz reported that “Iran will cross the ‘technological threshold’ enabling it to independently manufacture nuclear weapons within six months to a year and attain nuclear capability as early as mid-2009, according to Israel’s Military Intelligence.” The report also noted that “U.S. intelligence predicts that Iran will attain nuclear capability within three to six years.”
A Fox News/Opinion Dynamics opinion poll taken in late September 2007 found that 80% of Americans believed Iran’s nuclear program was for “military purposes.”
Israeli President Shimon Peres issued an official statement on October 18, 2007 that claimed “everyone knows [Iran’s] true intentions, and many intelligence agencies throughout the world have proof that Iran is seeking to develop nuclear weapons for the purpose of war and death.”
Less than two months later, the New York Times released “Key Judgments From a National Intelligence Estimate on Iran’s Nuclear Activity,” a consensus view of all 16 U.S. intelligence agencies. The analysis, entitled “Iran: Nuclear Intentions and Capabilities,” concluded with “high confidence” that the Iranian government had “halted its nuclear weapons program” in 2003, “had not restarted its nuclear weapons program as of mid-2007,” and admitted that “we do not know whether it currently intends to develop nuclear weapons.” The NIE also found that “Iran does not currently have a nuclear weapon” and that “Tehran’s decision to halt its nuclear weapons program suggests it is less determined to develop nuclear weapons than we have been judging since 2005.” Also included in the report was the assessment that, if Iran actually had a nuclear weapons program, “the earliest possible date Iran would be technically capable of producing enough HEU [highly enriched uranium] for a weapon is late 2009, but that this is very unlikely,” continuing, “Iran probably would be technically capable of producing enough HEU for a weapon sometime during the 2010-2015 time frame,” and adding that “All agencies recognize the possibility that this capability may not be attained until after 2015.”
A report released on February 7, 2008 by the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) asserted that Iran had tested a new, and more efficient, centrifuge design to enrich uranium. If 1,200 new centrifuges were operational, the report suggested, Iran could produce enough weapons-grade uranium for a bomb in one year.
Less than a week later, Israeli Prime Minster Ehud Olmert told reporters, “We are certain that the Iranians are engaged in a serious…clandestine operation to build up a non-conventional capacity.” Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, in a speech at West Point that Spring, claimed that Iran “is hellbent on acquiring nuclear weapons.”
On June 28, 2008, Shabtai Shavit, a former Mossad deputy director and influential adviser to the Israeli Knesset’s Defense and Foreign Affairs Committee, told The Sunday Telegraph that “worst-case scenario,” Iran may have a nuclear weapon in “somewhere around a year.”
In November 2008, David Sanger and William Broad of The New York Times reported that “Iran has now produced roughly enough nuclear material to make, with added purification, a single atom bomb, according to nuclear experts.” The article quoted nuclar physicist Richard L. Garwin, who helped invent the hydrogen bomb, as saying “They clearly have enough material for a bomb.” Siegfried S. Hecker of Stanford University and a former director of the Los Alamos weapons laboratory said in the report that the growing size of the Iranian stockpile “underscored that they are marching down the path to developing the nuclear weapons option,” while Thomas B. Cochran, a senior scientist in the nuclear program of the Natural Resources Defense Council declared, “They have a weapon’s worth.” Peter D. Zimmerman, a physicist and former United States government arms scientist, cautioned that Iran was “very close” to nuclear weapons capability. “If it isn’t tomorrow, it’s soon,” he said, indicating the threshold could be reached in a matter of months.
David Blair, writing in The Telegraph on January 27, 2009, reported that the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) “has said Iran is months away from crossing a vital threshold which could put it on course to build a weapon,” continuing that “Mark Fitzpatrick, the senior fellow for non-proliferation at the IISS, said: ‘This year, it’s very likely that Iran will have produced enough low-enriched uranium which, if further enriched, could constitute enough fissile material for one nuclear weapon, if that is the route Iran so desires.'”
On February 12, 2009, CIA Director-to-be Leon Panetta, told a Capitol Hill hearing, “From all the information I’ve seen, I think there is no question that [Iran is] seeking [nuclear weapons] capability.” Later that month, Benjamin Netanyahu, then a candidate for Israeli Prime Minister, told a Congressional delegation led by Maryland Senator Ben Cardin that “he did not know for certain how close Iran was to developing a nuclear weapons capability, but that ‘our experts’ say Iran was probably only one or two years away and that was why they wanted open ended negotiations.” Soon after that, Israel’s top intelligence official Amos Yadlin said Iran had “crossed the technological threshold” and was now capable of making a weapon.
In contrast to these allegations, National Intelligence director Dennis Blair told a Senate hearing in early March 2009 that Iran had only low-enriched uranium, which would need further processing to be used for weapons, and continued to explain that Iran had “not yet made that decision” to convert it. “We assess now that Iran does not have any highly enriched uranium,” Blair said.
Speaking in private with U.S. Congressmembers in late Spring 2009, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak “estimated a window between 6 and 18 months from now in which stopping Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons might still be viable.” In mid-June 2009, Mossad chief Meir Dagan said, “the Iranians will have by 2014 a bomb ready to be used, which would represent a concrete threat for Israel.”
On July 8, 2009, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen, speaking at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, warned that the “window is closing” for preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. Mullen claimed that Iran was only one to three years away from successfully building a nuclear weapon and “is very focused on developing this capability.” A week later, Germany’s BND foreign intelligence agency declared Iran was capable of producing and testing an atomic bomb within six months.
The following month, on August 3, The Times (UK) reported that Iran had “perfected the technology to create and detonate a nuclear warhead” and “could feasibly make a bomb within a year” if given the order by head of state Ali Khamenei.
Meanwhile, a Newsweek report from September 16, 2009, indicated that the National Intelligence Estimate stood by its 2007 assessment and that “U.S. intelligence agencies have informed policymakers at the White House and other agencies that the status of Iranian work on development and production of a nuclear bomb has not changed.”
Nevertheless, both ABC News/Washington Post and CNN/Opinion Research Corporation polls taken in mid-October 2009 found that, “Based on what [they]’ve heard or read,” between 87% and 88% of respondents believed Iran to be developing nuclear weapons.
In November 2009, during a private meeting between U.S. Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs, Alexander Vershbow, and a number of senior Israeli defense officials in Israel, the head of Israel’s Defense Ministry Intelligence Analysis Production, 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.”
The Times (UK) reported on January 10, 2010 that retired Israeli brigadier-general and former director-general of Israel’s Atomic Energy Commission Uzi Eilam “believes it will probably take Iran seven years to make nuclear weapons,” despite the dire warnings from Major-General Amos Yadlin, head of Israeli military intelligence, who had recently told the Knesset defense committee that Iran would most likely be able to build a single nuclear device within the year.
In an interview with the U.S. military’s Voice of America on January 12, 2010, the director of the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency, Lieutenant General Ronald Burgess, said there was no evidence that Iran has made a final decision to build nuclear weapons and confirmed that the key NIE finding that Iran has not yet committed itself to nuclear weapons was still valid. “The bottom line assessments of the NIE still hold true,” he said. “We have not seen indication that the government has made the decision to move ahead with the program.”
Barack Obama, in his first State of the Union speech on January 27, 2010 claimed that Iran was “violating international agreements in pursuit of nuclear weapons.”
Speaking in Doha, Qatar on February 14, 2010, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton addressed, what she called, “Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons.” Although Clinton said that the United States was attempting to “influence the Iranian decision regarding whether or not to pursue a nuclear weapon,” she added that “the evidence is accumulating that that’s exactly what they are trying to do, which is deeply concerning, because it doesn’t directly threaten the United States, but it directly threatens a lot of our friends, allies, and partners here in this region and beyond.”
A CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll, taken at the same time as Clinton’s Doha visit, revealed that 71% of Americans believed Iran already had nuclear weapons. Of those remaining respondents who didn’t think Iran already possessed a nuclear bomb, over 72% thought it either “very likely” or “somewhat likely” that “Iran will have nuclear weapons in the next few years.”
At an April 14, 2010 hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Lieutenant General Burgess, stated that Iran could develop a nuclear weapon within a year and in three years build one that could be deployed, despite having judged that Iran didn’t even have an active nuclear weapons program a mere four months earlier.
Perennial warmongers David Sanger and William Broad of the New York Times reported on May 31, 2010 that “Iran has now produced a stockpile of nuclear fuel that experts say would be enough, with further enrichment, to make two nuclear weapons.”
On June 11, 2010, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said that “Most people believe that the Iranians could not really have any nuclear weapons for at least another year or two. I would say the intelligence estimates range from one to three years.”
The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill on June 24, 2010, introduced by Democratic Congressman Jim Costa of California, that “condemn[ed] the Government of Iran’s continued pursuit of a nuclear weapons capability and unconventional weapons and ballistic missile capabilities.”
CIA Director Leon Panetta said on June 27, 2010, Iran would need two years to prepare two tested and operational nuclear weapons. “We think they have enough low-enriched uranium for two weapons,” Panetta told Jake Tapper of ABC News, continuing to explain that Iran would require one year to enrich the material to weapon-grade levels and “another year to develop the kind of weapon delivery system in order to make that viable.”
On July 22, 2010, nearly a third of House Republicans signed onto a resolution which stated that “Iran continues its pursuit of nuclear weapons” and “express[ed] support for the State of Israel’s right to defend Israeli sovereignty, to protect the lives and safety of the Israeli people, and to use all means necessary to confront and eliminate nuclear threats posed by the Islamic Republic of Iran, including the use of military force if no other peaceful solution can be found within reasonable time to protect against such an immediate and existential threat to the State of Israel.”
On August 19, 2010, the New York Times quoted Gary Samore, President Obama’s top adviser on nuclear issues, as saying that the U.S. believes Iran has “roughly a year dash time” before it could convert nuclear material into a working weapon.
Following the release of the latest IAEA report on Iran’s nuclear facilities, The Telegraph declared that Iran was “on [the] brink of [a] nuclear weapon,” had “passed a crucial nuclear threshold,” and “could now go on to arm an atomic missile with relative ease.”
In his attention-grabbing September 2009 cover story for The Atlantic, entitled “The Point of No Return,” Israeli establishment mouthpiece Jeffrey Goldberg wrote that, according to Israeli intelligence estimates, “Iran is, at most, one to three years away from having a breakout nuclear capability (often understood to be the capacity to assemble more than one missile-ready nuclear device within about three months of deciding to do so).”
Joint Chiefs chairman Mullen, speaking in Bahrain on December 18, 2010, said, “From my perspective I see Iran continuing on this path to develop nuclear weapons, and I believe that that development and achieving that goal would be very destabilizing to the region.”
A week ago, on December 22, 2010, the great prognosticator Sarah Palin wrote in USA Today that “Iran continues to defy the international community in its drive to acquire nuclear weapons.”
Just today, December 29, 2010, Reuters quotes Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Moshe Yaalon as claiming Iran would soon have a nuclear weapon. “I don’t know if it will happen in 2011 or in 2012, but we are talking in terms of the next three years,” he said, adding that in terms of Iran’s nuclear time-line, “we cannot talk about a ‘point of no return.’ Iran does not currently have the ability to make a nuclear bomb on its own.”
Despite all of these hysterical warnings, no evidence of an Iranian nuclear weapons program has ever been revealed. The IAEA has repeatedly found, through intensive, round-the-clock monitoring and inspection of Iran’s nuclear facilities – including numerous surprise visits to Iranian enrichment plants – that all of Iran’s centrifuges operate under IAEA safeguards and “continue to be operated as declared.”
As far back as 1991, then-Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Hans Blix, made it clear that there was “no cause for concern” regarding Iran’s attempts to acquire nuclear technology. Twelve years later, in an IAEA report from November 2003, the agency affirmed that “to date, there is no evidence that the previously undeclared nuclear material and activities referred to above were related to a nuclear weapons programme.” Furthermore, after extensive inspections of Iran’s nuclear facilities, the IAEA again concluded in its November 2004 report that “all the declared nuclear material in Iran has been accounted for, and therefore such material is not diverted to prohibited activities.”
During a press conference in Washington D.C. on October 27, 2007, IAEA Director-General El Baradei confirmed, “I have not received any information that there is a concrete active nuclear weapons program going on right now.” He continued, “Have we seen Iran having the nuclear material that can readily be used into a weapon? No. Have we seen an active weapons program? No.”
By May 2008, the IAEA still reported that it had found “no indication” that Iran has or ever did have a nuclear weapons program and affirmed that “The Agency has been able to continue to verify the non-diversion of declared nuclear material [to weaponization] in Iran.” On February 22, 2009, IAEA spokesperson Melissa Fleming even issued a statement clarifying the IAEA’s position regarding the flurry of deliberately misleading articles in the US and European press claiming that Iran had enriched enough uranium “to build a nuclear bomb.” The statement, among other things, declared that “No nuclear material could have been removed from the [Nantanz] facility without the Agency’s knowledge since the facility is subject to video surveillance and the nuclear material has been kept under seal.”
This assessment was reaffirmed in September 2009, in response to various media reports over the past few years claiming that Iran’s intent to build a nuclear bomb can be proven by information provided from a mysterious stolen laptop and a dubious, undated – and forged – two-page document. The IAEA stated, “With respect to a recent media report, the IAEA reiterates that it has no concrete proof that there is or has been a nuclear weapon programme in Iran.”
In his Annual Threat Assessment of the US Intelligence Community for the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, delivered on February 2, 2010, National Intelligence director Dennis Blair stated, “We continue to assess [that] Iran is keeping open the option to develop nuclear weapons in part by developing various nuclear capabilities that bring it closer to being able to produce such weapons, should it choose to do so. We do not know, however, if Iran will eventually decide to build nuclear weapons.”
In a Spring 2010 Unclassified Report to Congress on the Acquisition of Technology Related to Weapons of Mass Destruction, Deputy Director of National Intelligence for Analysis Peter Lavoy affirmed that “we do not know whether Iran will eventually decide to produce nuclear weapons.”
Speaking with Charlie Rose in November 2010, Blair once again reiterated that “Iran hasn’t made up its mind” whether or not to pursue nuclear weaponry. On November 28, 2010, a diplomatic cable made available by Wikileaks revealed that, in December 2009, senior Israeli Defense Ministry official Amos Gilad told Undersecretary of State Ellen Tauscher that “he was not sure Tehran had decided it wants a nuclear weapon.”
Back in October 2003, the San Francisco Chronicle quoted former IAEA weapons inspector David Albright as saying, with regard to new reports about a possible Iranian nuclear weapons program revealed by the MEK, “We should be very suspicious about what our leaders or the exile groups say about Iran’s nuclear capacity.”
Albright continued, “There is a drumbeat of allegations, but there’s not a whole lot of solid information. It may be that Iran has not made the decision to build nuclear weapons. We have to be very careful not to overstate the intelligence.”
It appears that nothing much has changed in the past seven years, let alone the previous three decades.
Whereas the new year will surely bring more lies and deception about Iran and its nuclear energy program, more doublespeak and duplicity regarding the threat Iran poses to the United States, to Israel and to U.S.-backed Arab dictatorships, and more warmongering and demonization from Zionist think tanks, right-wing and progressive pundits alike, the 112th Congress and the Obama administration, the truth is not on their side.
“Facts are stubborn things,” John Adams said in 1770. “And whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.”
Here’s hoping that, in 2011, the facts will begin to matter.
Happy New Year.
Just hours after this article was posted, United Press International published the findings of a new public opinion poll conducted by Angus-Reid. The poll found that 70% of respondents believe “the Government of Iran is attempting to develop nuclear weapons. Only 11 per cent of Americans do not believe that Iran is pursuing a nuclear program, while one-in-five (19%) are not sure.”