The Phantom Menace: Fantasies, Falsehoods, and Fear-Mongering about Iran’s Nuclear Program

ANALYSIS, 14 Nov 2011

Nima Shirazi – Wide Asleep in America

“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 that Iran was “making progress on a nuclear arms program and could develop a nuclear weapon by 2000,” then later changed their estimate to 2003.

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.'”

The Washington Post reported on June 15, 1992, that Israeli Major General Herzl Budinger had said that unless “Iran’s intensive effort to develop atomic weapons is not ‘disrupted,'” it would “become a nuclear power by the end of the decade.”

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 the same month 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 subsequently repeated by Greg Gerardi in The Nonproliferation Review (Vol. 2, 1995). Chris Hedges, writing for the Times, quoted an unnamed “senior official” as warning, “The date by which Iran will have nuclear weapons is no longer 10 years from now…If the Iranians maintain this intensive effort to get everything they need, they could have all their components in two years. Then it will be just a matter of technology and research. If Iran is not interrupted in this program by some foreign power, it will have the device in more or less five years.”

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.

Addressing the the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) Policy Conference on May 7, 1995, President Bill Clinton warned, “The specter of an Iran armed with weapons of mass destruction and the missiles to deliver them haunts not only Israel but the entire Middle East and, ultimately, all the rest of us as well. The United States, and I believe all the Western nations, have an overriding interest in containing the threat posed by Iran.”

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.

On July 10, 1996, the newly-elected Israel Prime Minster, Benjamin Netanyahu, who had assumed office less than a month earlier, addressed a joint session of the United States Congress. During his speech, he warned of the imminent daner posed “unreconstructed dictatorships whose governmental creed is based on tyranny and intimidation,” of which the “most dangerous” was Iran. Netanyahu stated that if Iran “were to acquire nuclear weapons, this could presage catastrophic consequences, not only for my country, and not only for the Middle East, but for all mankind,” and claimed that “the deadline for attaining this goal is getting extremely close.”

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 (Bundesnachrichtendienst, or 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.”

On October 26, 2004, Trita Parsi, founder and president of the National Iranian American Council, conducted an interview for his book “Treacherous Alliance – The Secret Dealings of Iran, Israel and the United States” (published three years later) with Shlomo Brom, a researcher at the Tel Aviv-based Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies. Brom spoke of the Israeli government and military’s use of “worst-case scenarios” to advance its own propaganda. “It’s much easier to give worst-case scenarios,” he said. “It usually serves the personal interest of the planner. Because if you are giving the worst-case prophecy, then when it is not realized, everyone is happy. No one remembers it. But when it is realized, you can always say, ‘I told you so.'” Parsi writes that Brom, who had previously served as director of the Strategic Planning Division in the Planning Branch of the General Staff of the IDF, “had been part of the Israeli intelligence apparatus when it systematically overestimated, and at times exaggerated, Iran’s nuclear capabilities.” He quotes Brom as admitting, “Remember, the Iranians are always five to seven years from the bomb. Time passes but they’re always five to seven years from the bomb.” (p. 167)

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.

A Fox News opinion poll taken in late January 2005 found that 41% of Americans believed “the United States should take military action to keep Iran from developing or trying to develop a nuclear weapons program.”

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.”

Mossad head Meir Dagan chimed in again in December 2005, telling the Israeli Knesset that “Iran is one to two years away, at the latest, from having enriched uranium. From that point, the completion of their nuclear weapon is simply a technical matter.”

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.

In an April 17, 2006 report in The New Yorker, investigative journalist Seymour Hersh quoted a U.S. government consultant connected to the Pentagon as saying that George W. Bush was “absolutely convinced that Iran is going to get the bomb” and WINEP’s Patrick Clawson as claiming, “So long as Iran has an Islamic republic, it will have a nuclear-weapons program, at least clandestinely.” In the same article, Hersh reported former CIA agent Robert Baer as declaring that the Iranians “are capable of making a bomb, hiding it, and launching it at Israel. They’re apocalyptic Shiites. If you’re sitting in Tel Aviv and you believe they’ve got nukes and missiles – you’ve got to take them out. These guys are nuts, and there’s no reason to back off.”

The same article revealed even more predictions. Robert Gallucci, a former government expert on nonproliferation and dean of Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service, told Hersh, “Based on what I know, Iran could be eight to ten years away” from developing a deliverable nuclear weapon,” while a high-ranking diplomat suggested, by the IAEA’s best guess, “the Iranians are five years away from building a nuclear bomb.”

On August 23, 2006, the U.S. House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence released a 29-page report entitled “Recognizing Iran as a Strategic Threat: An Intelligence Challenge for the United States.” The report, which according to the Washington Post was “principally written by a Republican staff member,” stated that Iran was engaged in “active denial and deception efforts,” was a “vital threat,” and was “currently enriching uranium to weapons grade.” In response, the IAEA itself said the report contained “some erroneous, misleading and unsubstantiated information,” while identifying specific statements as “outrageous and dishonest” and others as “regrettable” and “incorrect.”

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 ElBaradei 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.”

In May 2008, the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND), Germany’s foreign intelligence agency, issued a report which claimed the BND has amassed evidence which “showed comprehensively” that, contrary to the findings of the 2007 NIE, “development work on nuclear weapons can be observed in Iran even after 2003.”

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.

According to the May 2009 press release from a “special national security panel of the Federal Supreme Court in Karlsruhe,” German judges, using the information gathered by the BND intelligence agency, determined that “Iran in 2007 worked on the development of nuclear weapons.”

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.

On September 17, 2009, the Associated Press revealed that, according to “a secret report” seen by the news agency, “Experts at the world’s top atomic watchdog are in agreement that Tehran has the ability to make a nuclear bomb and is on the way to developing a missile system able to carry an atomic warhead.” The document, supposedly the “secret annex” long suppressed by the IAEA, was “drafted by senior officials at the International Atomic Energy Agency is the clearest indication yet that the agency’s leaders share Washington’s views on Iran’s weapon-making capabilities” and claims Iran has acquired “sufficient information” to build a nuclear bomb.

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, a Fox News/Opinion Dynamics Poll from late September 2009 showed that 77% of Americans are “worried” that Iran is “developing a nuclear weapons program.” 59% of respondents believed “the U.S. [will] eventually need to take military action to stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons” and 61% supported the use of such force. A Pew Research Center survey from early October 2009 revealed that 61% of Americans believed “it is more important to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, even if it means taking military action,” while 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.

At the beginning of 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. By 2012 Iran would be able to build one weapon within weeks and an arsenal within six months.” In response to this dire assessment, American diplomats noted, “It is unclear if the Israelis firmly believe this or are using worst-case estimates to raise greater urgency from the United States.”

Two weeks later, however, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu told a U.S. Congressional delegation led by Missouri Democrat Ike Skelton, who was then Chairman of the House Committee on Armed Services, that Iran already had the capacity to build a single nuclear weapon. A diplomatic cable, dispatched from the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv on December 23, 2009 reported Netanyahu as declaring “that Iran has the capability now to make one bomb or they could wait and make several bombs in a year or two.” Nevertheless, he added, “we still have a year or two to stop the Iranian program.”

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.”

On January 25, 2010, the right-wing Zionist Israel National News (Arutz Sheva) reported, “A secret intelligence dossier currently being reviewed by US, Israeli, German, and Austrian governments reveals secret Iranian tests and hierarchies of power dedicated to the successful development of a nuclear bomb, and predicts that Iran will have a primitive nuclear bomb by year’s end.” INN, which is based in an illegal West Bank colony, also claimed that ‘[a]ccording to the classified document featured in an exposé by Germany’s Der Spiegel magazine, Iran is well on its way toward obtaining its first nuclear bomb,” before declaring that “two to four years after” Iran builds “a primitive nuclear weapon the size of a truck,” the device “will be compressed to a size capable of fitting into a nuclear warhead and being launched at Israel.”

Two days later, 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.” Similarly, a Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll from late February 2010 found that 60% of voters thought that it would “take military force to stop Iran from working on nuclear weapons” and that it would be “a disaster” if “Iran gets the capability to use a nuclear weapon.”

On the Ides of March 2010, the Telegraph (UK) reported that, in 1990, “Iran had struck an agreement with Pakistan’s army chief to buy ‘nuclear bombs’ for $10 billion (£6.6 billion) but Pakistani officials pulled out of the offer when an Iranian delegation travelled to Islamabad to collect the material.” The information supposedly came from a leaked 11-page confession by notorious Pakistani nuclear proliferator A.Q. Khan, which was made available by the AIPAC-affiliated think tank, the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP). The report claims, “This is the first real indication that Iran wants – and has always wanted – a nuclear bomb, not just nuclear technology.”

In an interview with Harry Smith of CBS‘ The Early Show broadcast on April 2, 2010, President Barack Obama claimed, “All the evidence indicates that the Iranians are trying to develop the capacity to develop nuclear weapons” and affirmed – as usual – that the United States doesn’t “take any options off the table,” including a military assault, when it comes to confronting Iran’s nuclear program.

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. Reuters reports that “when asked how long it would take Iran to produce enough highly enriched uranium for a single nuclear weapon if the leadership decided to do so,” Burgess replied, “The general consensus — not knowing again the exact number of centrifuges that we actually have visibility into — is we’re talking one year.”

General James Cartwright, vice chairman of the U.S. military’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, also spoke at the hearing and concurred with Burgess’ assessment. “They have enough low enriched uranium now that, if they further processed and enriched that, that in a year…they would have enough material for one weapon,” he told the committee. Cartwright continued to explain that it would still take “three to five years” for Iran to stockpile enough highly enriched uranium to create a “deliverable weapon that is usable…something that can actually create a detonation, an explosion that would be considered a nuclear weapon.”

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 2010 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).” Goldberg also quoted an “Israeli policy maker” as claiming Iran would have a nuclear weapon “nine months from June – in other words, March of 2011.”

Speaking on Fox News on September 20, 2010, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak told Greta Van Susteren, in response to the question “how long before Iran has nuclear weapons?” that “technically, probably, they can reach it within a year-and-a-half or two, if they decide to break all rules. Probably it might take a little bit longer.” Barak also said that because he did not “believe the sanctions [on Iran] would work,” he encouraged the Israeli policy “that no options should be removed from the table” with regard to stopping Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons program.

On November 17, 2010, Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann told the National Press Club that Iran was “a danger to every nation in the world,” and that, according to what she termed “intelligence,” the United States knows “that they [Iran] already have a nuclear capability.”

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 Ya’alon 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.”

The Economist, also today, warns, not only of a looming war in the Middle East next year, but of “the apparent desire of Iran to acquire nuclear weapons at any cost.”

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.”

Writing in the November 27, 2006 issue of The New Yorker, investigative journalist Seymour Hersh wrote that “The CIA found no conclusive evidence, as yet, of a secret Iranian nuclear-weapons program running parallel to the civilian operations that Iran has declared to the International Atomic Energy Agency.” Hersh also reported that the Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency was challenging the CIA’s conclusions and the White House believed Iran had a nuclear weapons programs based on the mere assumption that “the lack of evidence means they must have it.”

A February 25, 2007 report from The Los Angeles Times revealed that, according to IAEA officials, “most U.S. intelligence shared with the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency has proved inaccurate, and none has led to significant discoveries inside Iran” and confirms that its inspectors “have found no proof that nuclear material has been diverted for use in weapons.” A senior diplomat at the IAEA was quoted as saying, “Since 2002, pretty much all the intelligence that’s come to us has proved to be wrong.”

During a press conference in Washington D.C. on October 27, 2007, IAEA Director-General ElBaradei 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 forgedtwo-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.”

That same month, IAEA Director-General ElBaradei stated that “the idea that we’ll wake up tomorrow and Iran will have a nuclear weapon is an idea that isn’t supported by the facts as we have seen them so far.” He also said that, with regards to any possible Iranian nuclear weapons program, “the threat has been hyped.”

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 over 240 years later, in 2011, the facts will begin to matter.

Happy New Year.

***** ***** *****

UPDATE:

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 weapon, while one-in-five (19%) are not sure.”

*****

UPDATE II:

January 3, 2011 – Today, the Wall Street Journal published an article entitled, “India and Iran Sanctions,” the opening line of which is, “Since Iran announced its intention to build a nuclear bomb, it has had a friend in India.”

Needless to say, Iran has never made such an announcement and has routinely rejected the allegations that it intends to build a nuclear weapon.

For instance, on May 3, 2010, President Ahmadinejad was interviewed by Charlie Rose and addressed head-on the allegation that Iran is developing a nuclear weapons capability. He said:

“We are opposed to the bomb, the nuclear bomb, and we will not build it. If we want to build it, we have the guts to say it. We’re courageous enough to say it, because we’re not afraid of anyone. If we want to have the bomb, we’ll come and tell everyone he want to build it. We’re not afraid of anyone if we want to make it. Who’s there to be afraid of?”

Almost seven months later, Mohammad-Javad Larijani, head of Iran’s Human Rights Council and chief adviser to head-of-state Ali Khamenei, also sat down with Rose for an interview. Larijani also articulated the Iranian position on nuclear weaponry, stating,

“We made our mind very, very clearly and very rigorously. We do not want armament, nuclear armament. This is definite. We made our mind, we want the most advanced nuclear technology for a lot of peaceful use.”

The Wall Street Journal‘s statement is pure propaganda.

*****

UPDATE III:

January 7, 2011 – Outgoing Mossad chief Meir Dagan (who in 2003 said that Iran was close to the “point of no return” toward nuclear weapons capability, in 2004 said that Iran would have a nuclear weapon by 2007, and in 2009 warned of an Iranian nuclear bomb by 2014) has a brand new estimate. Ha’aretz reports that, in his final intelligence summary delivered to the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, Dagan declared that “Iran was a long way from being able to produce nuclear weapons” and “will not get hold of the [nuclear] bomb before 2015 approximately.”

Ha’aretz intelligence and security correspondent Yossi Melman reports:

The Israeli intelligence community’s assessments of Iran’s nuclear capability have changed during Dagan’s tenure. In 2003, Israeli intelligence officials thought Iran would have its first bomb by 2007. In 2007, they thought it would be 2009, and a year later they put it at 2011. Now the date has moved to 2015. These adjustments were not the result of mistaken evaluations, but due to the difficulties Iran has encountered in advancing its program, largely because of the Mossad’s efforts. Melman also points out that, under Dagan’s eight year leadership, the Mossad was responsible for the assassinations of Iranian scientists.

It should be noted that, according to Reuters Dagan also said any Israeli military assault on Iranian nuclear facilities “could spur Iran to pull out of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and pursue its program entirely free of U.N. inspections.” In their reporting, Reuters decided not to include the fact that an Israeli official warning about the dire consequences of non-IAEA monitored nuclear programs is ironic in the extreme, considering that Israel is not a signatory of the NPT and has an arsenal of about 400 nuclear warheads.

*****

UPDATE IV:

January 7, 2011 – Elliot Abrams, one of George W. Bush’s top national security advisors and currently a senior fellow for Middle Eastern studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, used Meir Dagan’s 2015 prediction to further fear-monger about Iran. After revisiting the myth of Khamenei’s imminent death, Abrams (whose fealty to Zionism and U.S. imperialism knows no bounds) warns that the new four-year time frame provides the United States with new opportunities to impose new sanctions on Iran in order to “create additional political tension” in Iran and “stop the Iranian nuclear weapons program.”

Snore.

*****

UPDATE V:

January 9, 2011 – Hillary Clinton, speaking today in Abu Dhabi, dismissed Meir Dagan’s prediction (see UPDATE III above) as irrelevant, saying, “The timeline is not so important as the international effort to try to ensure that whatever the timeline, Iran is not pursuing nuclear weapons.” Repeating the age-old absurdity that Iran has threatened Arab countries and Israel with military action (which it never has), Clinton continued, “I don’t know that it gives much comfort to somebody who is in the Gulf, or who is in a country that Iran has vowed to destroy, that it’s a one-year or a three-year timeframe.”

The Reuters report stated that “Western intelligence agencies say Iran could make a bomb by the middle of the decade, should it choose to enrich uranium to higher levels and master weaponization techniques.”

Translation: A country could make a nuclear bomb if it does what is necessary to make a nuclear bomb.

Genius.

*****

UPDATE VI:

January 10, 2011 – Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth reported on January 9 that Netanyahu was furious at Dagan’s assessment of Iran’s nuclear capabilities since it undermines the aggressive Israeli and U.S. push for sanctions, regime change, and military attacks. “According to a high-ranking political official,” the report said, “Netanyahu reprimanded Dagan and said that his statements had undermined Israel’s efforts to fight against the Iranian nuclear program by means of the international community.”

The same day, Sever Plocker, a senior editor at Yedioth, published an op-ed explaining the gravity of Dagan’s prediction:

“The Iranian nuclear threat died. It keeled over. Because, if the director of the State of Israel’s Mossad is prepared to risk saying that Iran won’t have even a single nuclear bomb ‘at least until 2015,’ that means that Iran is not going to have a nuclear bomb. Period.”

Nevertheless, in yesterday’s Washington Post, David Ignatius continues to fear-monger about Iran’s nuclear program:

“U.S. officials estimate that if Iran were to try a ‘break out’ by enriching uranium at Natanz to the 90 percent level needed for a bomb, that move (requiring reconfiguration of the centrifuges) would be detectable – and it would take Iran one to two more years to make a bomb.”

So, basically, if Iran actually was trying to build a bomb, it would have to drastically reconfigure its current enrichment equipment and kick out all IAEA inspectors from its facilities, which would instantly be reported. Then, after that, it would still take another year or two to be able to have enough highly-enriched uranium for a single warhead. But, of course, this hasn’t happened – Ignatius is just fantasizing about what it would be like if it did happen, which it hasn’t.

Meanwhile, Fox News has taken it upon itself to claim that Dagan’s assessment has single-handedly “sabotaged” the long-standing Israeli policy of warmongering about and explicitly threatening Iran with a military attack.

A senior Israeli official is quoted as lamenting, “The timing of Dagan’s remarks, and the way they were said, is unacceptable. Former heads of Mossad did not behave that way on the day of their departure.”

*****

UPDATE VII:

January 10, 2011 – Clinton has once again chimed in from Abu Dhabi, advancing the claim that the successful implementation of sanctions “have made it much more difficult for Iran to pursue its nuclear ambition.” Although Clinton also credited technical and technological problems with supposedly slowing down Iran’s “timetable,” she continued, “But the real question is how do we convince Iran that pursuing nuclear weapons will not make it safer and stronger but just the opposite…We have time, but not a lot of time.”

In order to be sufficiently ridiculous, Clinton also blamed Iran for both warmongering in the Middle East and opposing the so-called Israeli-Palestinian “peace process.”

Clinton’s focus on sanctions should be viewed within the context of the latest Iranian airplane crash that occurred yesterday, killing at least 77 people. The Washington Post points out today that “U.S. sanctions prevent Iran from updating its 30-year-old American aircraft and make it difficult to get European spare parts or planes as well. The country has come to rely on Russian aircraft, many of them Soviet-era planes that are harder to get parts for since the Soviet Union’s fall.”

As LobeLog analyst Ali Gharib points out:

“State Department spokesperson P.J. Crowley basically admitted last fall that a shift had occurred wherein U.S. sanctions were no longer seeking to assiduously focus pressure on certain figures associated with Iran’s leadership. In other words, innocent Iranians — ‘Jamshid Averages’ — were now on the hook for the behavior of their government.

One may wonder whether this plane full of Iranians was dangling precariously from that hook before it broke in mid-air and fell to the ground.”

Speaking in Abu Dhabi, Clinton expressed her confidence that existing sanctions on Iran “have had a very significant impact.”

Without a doubt, the mothers, fathers, wives, husbands, brothers, sisters, children, families, and friends of those Iranians killed in yesterday’s plane crash would agree.

Regarding Dagan’s 2015 prediction, by far the best thing Clinton said was this:

“We don’t want anyone to be misled by anyone’s intelligence analysis.”

Indeed, what a shame that would be.

*****

UPDATE VIII:

January 11, 2011 – In an interview with IAEA chief Yukiya Amano, published today in Der Spiegel, reporter Dieter Bednarz states, “According to the most recent estimates, Iran is only a year away from building a bomb.” Amano responds, “I’m not so sure about that. Despite all unanswered questions, we cannot say that Iran is pursuing a nuclear weapons program” and also confirms that all enrichment facilities are “completely subject to our monitoring.”

It is worth pointing out that Amano, after his July 2009 election as new IAEA head, told reporters that had not seen “any evidence in IAEA official documents” regarding an Iranian nuclear weapons program.

It appears nothing has changed.

Meanwhile, Jeffrey Goldberg wrote yesterday that Obama’s stance on Iran, along with the sabotage, subterfuge, and murder conducted by Western and Israeli operatives, has helped slow its drive for nuclear weapons. In his totally bizarre, fact-impaired, and disingenuous post, Goldberg dismisses the findings (and, presumably, the subsequent affirmations) of the 2007 NIE report. He writes, “It is important to remember that Iranian intentions are unchanged, until proven otherwise,” apparently believing that there has at some point been evidence of Iran’s determination to build a nuclear bomb. In fact, there has been none.

So again, as Goldberg himself notes, “It is important to remember that Iranian intentions are unchanged, until proven otherwise.”

Remember that.

*****

UPDATE IX:

January 11, 2011 – Today, Ha’aretz reports: “Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Tuesday that Iran would not stop its nuclear program unless economic sanctions were backed with a ‘credible military option.'” Netanyahu continued to claim that Iran’s goal is to build nuclear weapons and would stop only “if they thought they were facing a credible military option at the end of the tunnel.”

Netanyahu dismissed Meir Dagan’s latest prediction about Iran’s nuclear program by saying, “I think that intelligence estimates are exactly that, they are estimates. They range from best case to worst case possibilities…so I think there is room for some differing assessments.” He then insisted that Iran is “determined to move ahead despite every difficulty, every obstacle, every setback, to create nuclear weapons.”

*****

UPDATE X:

January 12, 2011 – Writing today in the Japan Times, former U.S. diplomat Christopher R. Hill encouraged diplomacy, along with increased sanctions, between the U.S. and Iran over Iran’s nuclear program. Hill (whose government service includes stints as a former U.S. assistant secretary of state for East Asia, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, South Korea, Macedonia, and Poland, U.S. special envoy for Kosovo, a negotiator of the Dayton Peace Accords, and chief U.S. negotiator with North Korea from 2005 to 2009) also repeated the claim that Iran is developing nuclear weaponry, without citing a single shred of evidence.

After bizarrely stating that there was “no apparent purpose” to the Iranian takeover of the U.S. embassy in Tehran and subsequent hostage-holding (does Hill really not know that Iranians were asking for the Carter administration not to allow the deposed tyrant of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, to find refuge in the United States?), he mentioned “the diplomatic impasse on nuclear weapons,” and stated,

“Iran, after all, is not building an Islamic bomb. It is building an Iranian bomb, or, worse yet, a Shiite bomb that Arab leaders must be more resolute in trying to stop.”

The Iranian nuclear program was also addressed by Reuters many times today. In addition to describing the internal machinations of Israeli policy, both political and military, regarding an attack on Iran, Reuters reported that “U.S. intelligence agencies believe Iranian leaders have not yet decided to build a nuclear bomb, and some officials say recent problems affecting Tehran’s nuclear equipment and personnel have set back Iran’s nuclear program by two years or more.”

Former CIA director General Michael Hayden is quoted as saying, “We’ve got more time than we thought,” and continued to state his belief that the “key decision point” for any potential military strike against Iranian facilities had been postponed until after the 2012 presidential election.

Reuters also quotes “a current U.S. official” familiar with the Iran issue as saying, “The intelligence folks think that the Iranians aren’t necessarily moving full steam ahead with the development of a nuclear weapon, but that there’s fairly robust debate inside the Iranian regime on whether to go forward.” He added:

“Even if (the Iranians) choose to do the wrong thing and proceed toward nuclear weapons, it’s unclear that they could do so quickly. While they’ve got a lot of knowledge, putting it into practice is a whole different ball game.”

The report states, “The 2007 National Intelligence Estimate suggested it was conceivable Iran might be able to produce enough bomb-grade uranium to build a weapon at the earliest in 2010. But U.S. agencies believed the Iranians’ ability to achieve this was more likely after 2015,” adding that “Some Israeli intelligence experts strongly disagreed, suggesting publicly following the report’s release that Iran might be able to build a bomb within months rather than years.”

The Reuters piece concludes with this sinister warning:

“David Albright, a former United Nations weapons inspector who heads the Institute for Science and International Security, a Washington think tank, told Reuters that his own analysis still indicated Iran’s nuclear research could reach a breakout point for bomb building in a year or two.

“Albright said he did not understand why Israelis like Dagan were so confident Iran will remain incapable of putting together a bomb any earlier than 2015.”

Published concurrently with the above report, Reuters presented a “a timeline on Iran’s nuclear program since the last talks in Geneva in 2009 between Tehran and the six powers seeking to ensure Tehran does not develop an atomic bomb.”

The timeline includes a number of repeated falsehoods regarding the Iranian nuclear program, erroneous assumptions about its legal obligations to the IAEA, and outright lies regarding the conclusions of recent IAEA reports and the legitimacy of UN Security Council resolutions.

The most glaring fabrication is the statement that, on February 18, 2010, “an IAEA report suggest[ed], bluntly and for the first time, that Iran is actively pursuing nuclear weapons capability.” This simply isn’t true. The IAEA report referred to simply rehashes the same tired old accusations that Iran hasn’t fully answered IAEA inquiries regarding forged documents the IAEA received from Mossad-linked agents of exile terrorist group, the MEK. The report states that the IAEA seeks to gain “confidence in the absence of possible military dimensions to Iran’s nuclear programme,” but never alleges that military dimensions actually exist, only that certain information given to the Agency by outside sources claim they exist.

As a result, these uncorroborated and unsubstantiated documents raise “concerns about the possible existence in Iran of past or current undisclosed activities related to the development of a nuclear payload for a missile.”

Reuters doesn’t point out that, in October 2009, IAEA chief Mohammad ElBaradei addressed these “alleged studies” and supposed nuclear weapon plans this way:

“I have been making it very clear that with regard to these alleged studies, we have not seen any use of nuclear material, we have not received any information that Iran has manufactured any part of a nuclear weapon or component. That’s why I say, to present the Iran threat as imminent is hype.”

ElBaradei continued to explain that “The IAEA is not making any judgment at all whether Iran even had weaponisation studies before because there is a major question of authenticity of the documents.”

Furthermore, Iran has not even been allowed to see the original documents alleging weaponization plans in order to fully confirm or deny their authenticity. Nevertheless, the February 2010 IAEA report states that “Since August 2008, Iran has declined to discuss the above issues with the Agency or to provide any further information and access (to locations and/or people) to address these concerns, asserting that the allegations relating to possible military dimensions to its nuclear programme are baseless and that the information to which the Agency is referring is based on forgeries.”

This is a disingenuous claim. Again, Iran hasn’t even been given access to the documents in order to address them.

Despite all of this hype, the February IAEA report concludes that “the Agency continues to verify the non-diversion of declared nuclear material in Iran.” While the report also states that “Iran has not provided the necessary cooperation to permit the Agency to confirm that all nuclear material in Iran is in peaceful activities,” Reuters fails to explain that only by implementing the IAEA’s Additional Protocols (which it did voluntarily for over two years) could Iran get this confirmation. But Iran is not alone (as news reports would have you believe). Iran, along with 72 other countries, has a comprehensive safeguards agreement in force with the IAEA, but has not implemented the Additional Protocols suggested by the IAEA. The IAEA, in its Safeguards Statement for 2009 confirmed that “for these States, the Secretariat found no indication of the diversion of declared nuclear material from peaceful nuclear activities. On this basis, the Secretariat concluded that, for these States, declared nuclear material remained in peaceful activities.”

Still, the recent words of current IAEA chief Yukiya Amano should be remembered:

“Despite all unanswered questions, we cannot say that Iran is pursuing a nuclear weapons programme.”

The claim that “Iran is actively pursuing nuclear weapons capability” is a fabrication, found absolutely nowhere in any IAEA report at any time. Simply, Reuters is lying.

*****

UPDATE XI: For What It’s “Worth”

I think it’s time we stop, children, what’s that sound?
Everybody look what’s going down

– Stephen Stills

January 13, 2011 – Larry Derfner of the Jerusalem Post has finally weighed in regarding outgoing Mossad head Meir Dagan’s prediction that, were Iran to actually have a nuclear weapons program and was actually trying to build a nuclear bomb (a claim with no basis in fact and without any evidence), the Islamic Republic would not even be able to have a working atomic weapon until 2015, at the absolute earliest.

Derfner, who calls himself part of the dovish “containment” camp, states bluntly his belief that “Iran is almost certain to get nuclear weapons,” though he tempers this assumption with his opinion that “while that’s not good at all, neither is it the catastrophe that the hawks foresee, because Iran will be deterred from using those nukes by the vastly superior ones held by Israel, the US and the other nuclear powers.” He continues, “And since a nuclear Iran would not be a catastrophe, it would be preferable to our starting a war, which would be a catastrophe, and would just delay Iran’s nuclear project anyway, not end it.”

Nevertheless, the article states that Dagan’s assessment presents an even more positive outlook for Israel-first-and-onlyers like Derfner, claiming that, based on Dagan’s conclusion, “sanctions work, sabotage and assassination work; the proof is that Iran’s nuclear project has been going backward.”

Just in case, lest anyone accidentally believe Derfner actually has a heart or any moral compass whatsoever, he then burnishes his Zionist, nationalist, exclusivist, ethnosupremacist, and survivalist credentials by declaring:

“Myself, I don’t like starting fights, I don’t like having scientists killed, even Iranian nuclear scientists. I don’t like giving anybody a score to settle against my side. But coming back to the idea that a nuclear Iran, while not a catastrophe, would not be a good thing, would instead be a really bad, dangerous thing, then I have to say that although blowing up some Iranian facilities and killing a few Iranian scientists were risky acts of aggression, they were worth it. They contributed to the hobbling of Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons, pushed its goal off by at least several years, so these acts of sabotage and assassination were justified.

“And they still are.”

They were worth it, he writes, blatantly recalling the despicable words of Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. In 1996, Leslie Stahl of 60 Minutes interviewed Albright about the tragic and genocidal effects of brutal economic U.S. sanctions against Iraq. Stahl asked, “We have heard that a half million children have died. I mean, that’s more children than died in Hiroshima. And, you know, is the price worth it?” Nonplussed, Albright immediately replied, “I think this is a very hard choice, but the price, we think the price is worth it.”

International law? Unimportant. The right to live without being murdered? Overrated, at least when it comes to Muslims, Arabs, or Iranians. Pretending Middle Eastern countries that challenge Israeli hegemony are acquiring nuclear weapons, despite the findings of the IAEA and all available evidence? Priceless.

Blithely justifying the murder of millions of innocent children or the assassinations of scientists and academics?

“Worth it.”

*****

UPDATE XII:

January 13, 2011 – Last evening, The Washington Post published an editorial which praised the covert sabotage, economic sanctions, and targeted assassinations ascribed to slowing down the Iranian nuclear program. The piece states, “Experts believe it would take a year to manufacture bomb-grade material with the current machines, which means the effort – if conducted in known facilities – would probably be detected with plenty of time for Western nations to react.”

The Post also advocates stepped-up efforts at regime change and claims “the challenge for the Obama administration, Israel and other allies will be to make use of that window to force a definitive end to the Iranian bomb program,” concluding that – even with Meir Dagan’s recent prediction – “five years is certainly not much time.”

The Washington Post editorial board – in its giddy effort to keep typing the word “bomb” – did not feel the need to cite even a single piece of evidence demonstrating that Iran’s nuclear program is anything but peaceful and wholly monitored by the IAEA. Then again, why let pesky facts get in the way of good ol’ propaganda?

*****

UPDATE XIII:

January 13, 2011 – Ha’aretz intelligence correspondent Yossi Melman again addressed Meir Dagan’s Iran assessment and his suggestion that Israel “should use military force only if it is attacked, or if it has ‘a sword at its neck.'”

While Melman stresses that Dagan’s remarks contradict the explicit fear-mongering of Netanyahu, who – Melman writes – “wants to create the impression that if Iran doesn’t halt its efforts to attain nuclear weapons, there will be no way to avoid the use of military force against it,” the most interesting quote of the article comes from “a liaison officer with the Mossad of a large Western intelligence organization” who spoke with Melman on the condition of anonymity. The officer wished Dagan had kept his mouth shut, rather than voicing a prediction that “harmed the international effort to persuade Iran’s leaders that if they do not voluntarily suspend their uranium enrichment, Israel will attack it.”

The officer’s choice of words is important: persuade Iranian authorities to voluntarily suspend their uranium enrichment. The officer – by accidentally letting the truth slip out – has laid bare the absurdity of the Western position regarding the Iranian nuclear program. He has stated, quite plainly, that Iran is not legally bound whatsoever to halt its civilian nuclear program, but rather must choose to do so voluntarily. This is a choice the Iranian government has to make (and, in fact, has done so temporarily in the past), not an official mandate demanded by any legal authority. In reality, the legality and legitimacy of Iran’s nuclear program is quite clear and all efforts to force its suspension are themselves illegal.

Also, by trying to persuade Iran to relinquish its “inalienable right” to “develop research, production and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes without discrimination,” by threatening an Israeli strike – or as Netanyahu puts it, a “credible military option” – the “international effort” of Western states is actually a gross violation of Article 2.4 of the United Nations Charter which prohibits even the “threat” of force against any other state.

So, thanks for clarifying that, unnamed Mossad liaison, it’s a shame no one will take notice.

*****
UPDATE XIV:

January 16, 2011 – The Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten, which claims it has access to all 251,287 diplomatic cables obtained by WikiLeaks (of which only 2,444 have yet been released), reports that “Iran has been developing contacts in more than 30 countries to acquire technology, equipment and raw materials needed to build a nuclear bomb” and that “more than 350 Iranian companies and organizations were involved in the pursuit of nuclear and missile technology between 2006 and 2010,” according to Reuters.

“For years, Iran has been working systematically to acquire the parts, equipment and technology needed for developing such weapons, in violation of U.N. sanctions against the country’s nuclear and missile program,” Aftenposten said. The report also cited sources claiming that Iran is desperately trying to develop nuclear weapons before sanctions cripples its economy. “A race exists between the bomb and financial collapse,” a French nuclear expert was quoted as saying in the Aftenposten report.

Spooooooky.

And, oh yeah, Israel and the U.S. were clearly responsible for the Stuxnet computer virus that sabotaged some of Iran’s nuclear facilities last year. No surprise there, but it sure goes to show how disingenuous any single offer by the United States for dialogue and negotiations with Iran actually is. Hey, while we murder your scientists, covertly sabotage your equipment, and maintain aggressive sanctions that cause your airplanes to fall out of the sky, why won’t you trust us?

Also, today, in a moronic column by the Los Angeles Times‘ Doyle McManus, an unnamed “senior U.S. official” is quoted as saying (in response to the ever-present Meir Dagan 2015 prediction), “The good news is that we have slowed down the nuclear clock.”

The article goes on to say that because “Iran is unlikely to produce nuclear weapons as quickly as was once feared,” the United States “hopes” that “Iran’s leaders and its people, who are bearing the brunt of economic sanctions as the price of pursuing nuclear technology,” will abandon their legal rights in face of such American and Israeli aggression.

The anonymous U.S. official says, “If they think they are within grasp of a nuclear weapons capability, then their natural inclination will be to endure another couple of years of sanctions. But if they think they are still years away and are going to continue suffering economic damage, that makes it much more likely that they would decide, if only for tactical reasons, to accept some limitations on the program.”

McManus makes sure to include a choice bit of fear-mongering in his column, lest his readership might not be too worried about Iran anymore. He writes that nuclear expert and ISIS head David Albright “warn[s] that the revised estimates of Tehran’s capabilities are just that: estimates. There are several scenarios under which Iran could still manage to build a nuclear weapon before 2015, he said; it merely appears less likely now.”

Well, in that case, it sounds like the U.S. and Israel might as well keep murdering innocent people and sabotaging a fully monitored and wholly legal nuclear energy program! I mean, it’s not like those actions contravene international law, explicitly abrogate inalienable rights, or hurt anyone, right?

*****

UPDATE XV:

January 17, 2011 – Apparently, in response to the frustrated dismay of warmongering Americans and Israelis, including Hillary Clinton and Benjamin Netanyahu, Meir Dagan has sheepishly walked back his recent estimate about Iran’s nuclear program. Dagan, the outgoing head of Israeli spy agency Mossad, addressed the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee today and assured the blood-thirsty audience that his prediction that Iran won’t be able to have a nuclear bomb until at least 2015 does “not change the fact that Iran is working toward nuclear military capabilities and in certain scenarios can shorten the time” it takes to obtain an atomic weapon.

Translation: Whoops, I didn’t mean to say that Iran isn’t really a threat, because, uh, they are! THEY ARE! THEY ARE!!

*****

UPDATE XVI:

January 20, 2011 – In a Ha’aretz opinion piece published today, editor Ari Shavit accuses Meir Dagan of damaging the effectiveness of Israeli warmongering about Iran by issuing his prediction that Iran won’t have any nuclear weapons capability until, at earliest, 2015 and that any military attack against Iran would be a disaster. Shavit excoriates Dagan for exposing the rhetoric of the existential nuclear threat of Iran as overblown and hysterical and, as a result, undermining the cause that supposedly allows “the international community” (read: the United States, some nuclear-armed powers, and a few other European countries) to “adopt a firm approach to Iran,” claiming that “major allies of Israel saw the former Mossad chief’s briefing as incomprehensible and irresponsible.”

Then the propaganda really begins. Shavit, citing nobody, writes,

“Iran already has enough fissionable material for one or two nuclear bombs. If the Ayatollahs resort to desperate measures and opt for high-grade uranium enrichment instead of low-grade, they can make the change in less than a year. Dagan says the Iranians don’t intend to do so before 2015. But there’s a difference between intention and capability. Iran might obtain a military nuclear capability within a year or two.”

He then explains that the past “success” of manipulating “the international community” into pressuring Iran to relinquish its inalienable rights and punishing Iran for not doing so with sanctions and isolation “stemmed in part from the feeling of urgency Israel instilled in the powers” and laments that Dagan’s comments have now “blur[red] the sense of urgency.”

Shavit goes on to admit that Dagan’s dire warnings about the catastrophe that would result from an Israeli attack on Iran are “balanced and correct” but pouts that because “one of the main tools to put pressure on Iran was the implied threat of an Israeli military attack,” which now seems “unreliable and not serious,” Dagan has “weakened the leverage.”

Just to be safe, Shavit makes sure to explain why Dagan’s estimate makes an illegal, first-strike by Israel even more likely now than before since “they damaged the attempt to impose a diplomatic-economic siege on Iran,” and apparently there’s only one other conceivable option: invasion and murder.

Before wrapping up his weird study in exasperated hasbara and frantic fear-mongering, Shavit attempts to dismiss Dagan’s assessment as irrelevant, comparing it to the “complacent [and] unfounded” 2007 National Intelligence Estimate which judged “with high confidence” that Iran did not currently have an active nuclear weapons program. Despite what Shavit insinuates, this report has never been retracted, corrected, or discredited. Quite the contrary, in fact, as it has since been reaffirmed twice, in 2009 and 2010.

Basically, Shavit is frustrated that Israel’s lies might not work anymore. Boohoo.

*****

UPDATE XVII:

January 20, 2011 – A diplomatic cable, just released by WikiLeaks and reported in The Guardian, reveals that during a meeting of international nuclear experts in Vienna in April 2009, a U.S. representative stated that “Iran had now demonstrated centrifuge operations such that it had the technical ability to produce highly enriched uranium (HEU) if it so chose.” This oh-so-scary aspect of this ability, The Guardian points out, is that creating HEU is “an essential step towards building a nuclear bomb.” No wonder the headline reads: “Iran has cleared major hurdle to nuclear weapons.” All that’s missing is for the entire article to be printed in a blood-dripping Halloween font.

The report goes on to say that “British experts predict Iran will amass a stockpile of 20 tons of low enriched uranium in the next five years” and makes sure to ratchet up the fear-mongering by adding this tidbit: This amount of LEU is “enough, if further enriched, to make 19 warheads.”

Buried deep in the article is the admission that “Britain officials now say that estimate might have to be lowered,” due to the setbacks suffered by the Iranian nuclear program as a result of U.S. and Israeli sabotage of its IAEA-monitored and inspected facilities.

*****

UPDATE XVIII:

January 20, 2011 – One more thing: can the press (and every blog and think tank everywhere) please stop using the same picture for every single article about Iran‘s nuclear program, sanctions, or centrifuges? I know that big metal tubes and Ahmadinejad in a lab coat and baby-blue disposable polypropylene shoe covers is such an utterly terrifying image that not to use it would seem irresponsible, but c’mon, how about something we haven’t seen a million times already? (And no, a sinister looking photo of an Iranian military parade doesn’t count.)

Boring.

*****

UPDATE XIX:

January 20, 2011 – A piece by the Jerusalem Post Editorial Board, published today, picks up where Ha’aretz‘s Avi Shavit left off, addresses the implications and consequences of that “recent revelations point[ing] to significant delays in Iran’s nuclear program” as declared by outgoing Mossad head Meir Dagan. The editorial begrudgingly notes that , whether or not Dagan’s 2015 forecast is overly optimistic, Iran’s nuclear ambitions have apparently been humbled, and the time frame for a nuclear breakout has been pushed off.” As such, the Board argues that, in order “to stop bold and brave Iran,” efforts to sanction, sabotage, threaten, and even bomb Iran and assassinate more of its citizens should be stepped up immediately since “it would be incredibly naïve to expect a nebulous “engagement” policy to convince Iran to abandon a nuclear program” and there is “precious little to zero chance of succeeding in engagement with a regime that enjoys widespread popularity in the Muslim world specifically because of its defiance of the West.”

The editorial, entitled “No Let-up on Iran,” worries that Dagan’s new estimate will usher in an era of “complacency,” during which “the sense of urgency in thwarting the Islamic Republic might dissipate.” Heaven forefend!

Naturally, The Post makes sure to assure its readers, and without citing even a cursory piece of evidence, that the evil Iranian mullahs are in “stubborn pursuit of the most destructive weapons that could lead to the deaths of millions in the Middle East – Jews, Muslims, Christians and members of other faiths alike.”

And, in the end, the Board issues this ultimatum trimmed with outright lies and blatant propaganda:

“This must not be allowed to happen. Iran is bent on obtaining the bomb. That the danger may have been delayed by a year or two does not make it any less of an existential threat. The apparent achievements of sabotage, indeed, should provide new encouragement that Teheran can be thwarted. And the imperative to do so is as profound as ever.”

*****

UPDATE XX:

January 25, 2011 – The incoming head of Israel’s Military Intelligence, Brigadier-General Aviv Kochavi, told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that Iran would have a nuclear bomb within one or two years.

“The question,” he said, “is not when Iran will have the bomb. The question is how long it will take for an Iranian leader to decide to have the centrifuges start enriching at 90 percent.”

Continuing, he said, “Based on their infrastructure and the technical know-how and uranium they have, within a year or two after he makes that decision, they will have nuclear weapons.”

Kochavi did state that, because of the current economic situation in Iran, “At this moment, it is not in Iran’s interest to move their [nuclear] program forward.”

Still, in order to achieve sufficient spookiness, he made clear that international sanctions have not been as effective as people like Hillary Clinton might try to believe. “The sanctions have had an impact on the Iranian economy,” he said, “but they have had no impact on Iran’s nuclear program.”

Israeli officials, who are eager to attack Iran and were dismayed by outgoing Mossad chief Meir Dagan’s recent estimate that Iran wouldn’t be able to produce a nuclear weapon (if it wanted to) until at least 2015, were thrilled by Kochavi’s desperate fear-mongering. As one official who attended the Knesset meeting said, “This is a new head of military intelligence, so he’s making very clear what the national estimate is, despite what we heard recently from the Mossad.”

And, just like that, the new scare-stimate has gone from 2015 to 2013. Excuse me while I yawn.

*****

UPDATE XXI:

January 31, 2011 – British Defense Secretary Liam Fox warned the House of Commons today that Iran would have a nuclear weapon by next year.

Fox, a Conservative hawk who has repeatedly trafficked in fear-mongering about Iran and has publicly backed a potential military attack on that country, lamented that “the international community can be caught out assuming that things are more rosy than they actually are” regarding Iran’s nuclear program and said, “We should therefore be very clear that it is entirely possible that Iran may be on the 2012 end of that spectrum [of acquiring a nuclear bomb] and act in accordance with that warning.”

What that action might be was not explained, but was nevertheless quite clear, considering Fox’s previous statements about Iran. Early last year, Fox claimed that the “single most important issue facing the West” was the threat posed by Iran and warned that, due to the development of the Islamic Republic, “the era of nuclear terrorism has arrived.” Fox went on to state that the West “know[s] that Iran, more than any other country, is willing to export instability and terror as part of its foreign policy” and said that “they are embarked on a programme which the UN says can be for no other purpose than to develop a nuclear weapon capability.”

In order to make sure he hit just about every single tired and overused talking point regarding the danger of Iran, Fox noted that Iran is an “existential threat” to Israel and affirmed “that nothing is off the table” with regards to the use of military force against Iran.

“Iran does not yet have nuclear weapons, as assessed,” Fox admitted today before raising suspicions “of possible military dimensions” to Iran’s totally legal and fully monitored nuclear energy program which has consistently been found to be in complete compliance with international inspectors and safeguards. Iran “does continue to pursue uranium enrichment and the construction of a heavy water reactor, both of which have military potential,” he stated.

Responding to former Mossad chief Meir Dagan’s recent assessment that Iran wouldn’t be capable of having a nuclear weapon until 2015 at the earliest, Fox declared it is “wrong to insinuate that we should always look at the more optimistic end of the spectrum.”

Apparently, according to Liam Fox, why should the West wait for actual evidence of anything contrary to warmongering propaganda about Iran’s nuclear program and intentions when it could be bombing Iran and killing Iranians right this very moment?

*****

UPDATE XXII:

February 4, 2011 – On the heels of UK Defense Secretary Liam Fox’s prediction that Iran will have a nuclear weapon by 2012 comes a new report from the International Institute of Strategic Studies, a London think tank, which, according to The Daily Telegraph, claims that “a four stage manufacturing method developed by Pakistan to produce its nuclear weapons – plans for which have been sold to Tehran – would produce a nuclear weapon for Iran within a year and seven months.”

The report also states that “an untried technique to manufacture highly enriched uranium in one go, known to specialists as ‘batch enrichment process,’ would generate enough material in under a year.”

Whereas Iran could – in theory – further enrich its current stockpile of low-enriched uranium (3% LEU) to nuclear weapons-grade (90% LEU) via the Pakistan method in just over two years, utilizing the “batch” method would cut that timeline in half.

Unsurprisingly, the author of the report, Mark Fitzpatrick, is also quoted as saying he believed “beyond reasonable doubt” that Iran was pursuing a nuclear bomb. Still, there is literally no evidence that demonstrates this to be the case.

Fitzpatrick also said that, due to industrial sabotage (which is illegal under international law, mind you, though that’s never talked about), Iran has not been able to develop new generations of centrifuges which would speed up the enrichment process tremendously.

The Telegraph reports, “More sophisticated machines would allow Iran to produce up to 10 times more enriched uranium and would reduce the time to construction of a bomb to four to six weeks.”

*****

UPDATE XXIII:

February 17, 2011 – Mark Hosenball of Reuters writes today that “U.S. intelligence agencies believe Iranian leaders have resumed closed-door debates over the last four years about whether to build a nuclear bomb.”

Nevertheless, a newly-released “memorandum to holders” of the 2007 National Intelligence Estimate on Iran’s nuclear program and apparent ambitions assess that the Islamic Republic’s leaders “have not decided about going ahead with an atomic weapon.”

According to U.S. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, who testified on the intelligence report today before the Senate Intelligence Committee, “Iran is keeping open the option to develop nuclear weapons in part by developing various nuclear capabilities that better position it to produce such weapons, should it choose to do so.”

Clapper also noted that Iran’s continuing progress in nuclear research and development, specifically its ability to enrich uranium, “strengthens our assessment that Iran has the scientific, technical and industrial capacity to eventually produce nuclear weapons.” What Clapper apparently omitted from his presentation is that Iran is exercising its “inalienable” right to nuclear energy – including research and development – as guaranteed by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Instead, Clapper stated, “These advancements contribute to our judgment that Iran is technically capable of producing enough highly enriched uranium for a weapon in the next few years, if it chooses to do so.”

The next few years! Oh dear, better get the bombers fueled up and ready to fly! I mean, they’ve only been “a few years away” for three decades now. How can anyone believe this stuff anymore?

*****

UPDATE XXIV:

February 25, 2011 – According to Reuters, a new confidential IAEA report claims the agency “has received new information regarding allegations that Iran may be seeking to develop a nuclear-armed missile” and expressed frustration that “Iran is not engaging with the agency in substance on issues concerning the allegation that Iran is developing a nuclear payload for its missile program.”

No more information was given or evidence presented. However, for good measure (and in case readers weren’t sufficiently spooked by the report’s allegations), Reuters made sure to add this fun fact: “Experts say that amount could be enough for two bombs if refined much further.”

*****

UPDATE XXV:

February 28, 2011 – Janne Kristiansen, General Director of the Norwegian Police Security Service, claimed today that “Iran has been trying without success to obtain Norwegian missile technology for possible use in delivering nuclear weapons,” reports Reuters. She said Iran had long been attempted to acquire “special components that can…be used in weapons of mass destruction, for building missiles” from small Norwegian defense contractors specializing in “dual-use technology.”

The report continued:

“Kristiansen said her agency discovered Iran’s attempts and stepped in before sensitive technology was passed.

“In an assessment of Norwegian security threats that was published on Monday, her agency described ‘very pushy behavior’ by supposed commercial actors from Iran who would often inquire about innocuous products first.

“They would then widen their wish list to include sensitive goods ‘and often make various proposals for transport and financing to circumvent Norwegian export regulations,’ the agency said.

“In its written assessment the agency did not specify missile technology as Iran’s target, as Kristiansen did in an interview. Nor were any companies named.”

So, not only are Iranian nuke-seekers devious and duplicitous, they’re also apparently aggressive and childish. How Orientalist!

Despite these accusations, “no Norwegian firms had been prosecuted because investigators lacked proof of intent to violate export controls or United Nations sanctions banning the sale of nuclear weapons-related technology to Iran.”

Furthermore, it is quite possible that the United States is behind these allegations. U.S. embassy in Norway spokesman Timothy Moore, after refusing address if the U.S. “was involved in disclosing the Iranian attempts,” said that “we have known for some time that Iran has been pursuing high technology around the world and we are naturally concerned, and that’s why we work closely with Norway and our other European partners.”

And by “work closely,” he means “tell them what to say about Iran in order to further fear-monger and justify continued sanctions.”

*****

UPDATE XXVI:

March 7, 2011 – During his opening speech at the 35-nation IAEA board meeting in Vienna today, IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano said “that he cannot guarantee that Iran is not trying to develop atomic arms.”

What the news agencies didn’t disclose, however, is what Amano told reporters the very same day: “We are not saying that Iran has a nuclear weapons program. We have concerns and we want to clarify the matter.”

Meanwhile, the Washington Times reported today that an “annual intelligence report to Congress has dropped language stating that Iran’s nuclear weapons ambitions are a future option.” The report, coordinated between the CIA’s Weapons, Intelligence, Nonproliferation and Arms Control Center (WINPAC) and the National Intelligence Council headed by Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, dropped the previous official U.S. claims that “Iran is keeping open the option to develop nuclear weapons though we do not know whether Tehran eventually will decide to produce nuclear weapons” and that “Iran continues to develop a range of capabilities that could be applied to producing nuclear weapons if a decision is made to do so.”

The Times report concludes with a quote from Gary Milhollin, Director of the Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms Control, who claims, “You can’t explain the Iranian nuclear program as a civilian program.” Clearly annoyed by the utter lack of credible evidence of an Iranian nuclear weapons program, Milhollin declared, “Any way you look at the program, it looks like a military program, and our intelligence agencies should be willing to say so.”

These remarks echo those of supreme Congressional Zionist Howard Berman, who – despite not having even read the updated NIE memorandum which reaffirms the official U.S. position that Iran has no active nuclear weapons program – told Foreign Policy‘s The Cable, “For a year and a half the administration has been convinced that Iran has been pursuing a nuclear weapon. That’s what they whole sanctions push is based on. There can be no serious doubt that Iran wants to have a nuclear weapons capability.”

The silliness continues.

*****

UPDATE XXVII:

March 9, 2011 – In response to IAEA chief Amano’s speech to the agency’s board meeting, U.S. Ambassador to the IAEA Glyn Davies released a statement claiming that “The increasingly apparent military dimensions to Iran’s nuclear program, including efforts by Iran to develop a nuclear warhead, intensify and lend urgency to [Amano’s] concerns” and that “Iran continues to engage in ever-more sensitive nuclear activities in flagrant disregard of its international obligations.”

Davies also told reporters, “We are conveying the view that Iran appears to be pursuing the scientific, technical and industrial capacity to produce nuclear weapons.”

The very same day, Reuters reported that Robert Einhorn, the U.S. State Department’s senior adviser for nonproliferation and arms control, said that, while the U.S. believes “Iran is moving to the threshold of a nuclear weapons capability” and is “clearly acquiring all the necessary elements of a nuclear weapons capability,” he did not think that “Iran soon plans to attempt a nuclear ‘breakout’ — abandoning its commitments under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and moving full-speed to toward atomic weapons.”

While speaking at the Arms Control Association, a Washington D.C. think tank, Einhorn stated, “We don’t see breakout as imminent at this stage.”

*****

UPDATE XXVIII:

March 10, 2011 – General James Clapper, Director of National Intelligence, addressed the Senate Armed Services Committee today and, much to the chagrin of many a fear-mongering Senator, refused to say what Iran hawks so desperately wanted to hear. When asked which nations pose the greatest “mortal threat” to the United States, Clapper responded “Russia and China” due to their military and nuclear capabilities.

According to CBS News, committee chairman Senator Carl Levin said he was “really taken aback” by Clapper’s answer, complaining, “You didn’t mention Iran or North Korea, which would have been the first two countries I would have thought of in response to that question.” Clapper replied that, while “Iran and North Korea are of great concern,” they “do not have the capability to pose the same threat as China or Russia.”

*****

UPDATE XXIX:

March 17, 2011 – During an interview last night with CNN‘s Piers Morgan, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared – as he has consistently for the past 15 years – that Iran has “enriched enough material now almost for three nuclear bombs.” He immediately qualified this statement by adding, “They still have to re-enrich it again, but that is what they are doing.”

After claiming that Israel’s 1981 illegal bombing of Iraq’s Osirak nuclear facility was “probably one of the greatest acts of nuclear non-proliferation in modern times,” Netanyahu pined for a renewed threat of “credible military action” against Iran which would be “lead preferably by the United States.”

When asked by the fawning Morgan what he meant by a credible military action, Netanyahu clarified: “It means action that will knock out their nuclear facility.”

It should be noted (though naturally Morgan did not) that the Israeli bombing of Osirak was “strongly condemned” by the United Nations General Assembly as a “premeditated and unprecedented act of aggression in violation of the Charter of the United Nations and the norms of international conduct, which constitutes a new and dangerous escalation of the threat to international peace and security.”

In fact, the Iraqi nuclear program before 1981 was peaceful and under intensive safeguards and monitoring by the IAEA. According to Harvard physics professor Richard Wilson, the Osirak reactor was “explicitly designed by the French engineer Yves Girard to be unsuitable for making bombs. That was obvious to me on my 1982 visit.”

The Israeli attack, code-named Operation Opera, took the lives of ten Iraqi soldiers and one French civilian researcher and promoted the passing of UNGA resolution 36/27 on November 13, 1981 that, in addition to condemning the murderous Israeli actions, also reaffirmed Iraq’s “inalienable sovereign right” to “develop technological and nuclear programmes for peaceful purposes.” Further, it stated that, not only was Iraq a party to the NPT, but had also “satisfactorily applied” the IAEA safeguards required of it. Conversely, it noted “with concern” that “Israel has refused to adhere to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, and, in spite of repeated calls, including that of the Security Council, to place its nuclear facilities under International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards.”

In addition to condemning “the misuse by Israel, in committing its acts of aggression against Arab countries, of aircraft and weapons supplied by the United States of America,” the resolution reiterated “its call to all States to cease forthwith any provision to Israel of arms and related material of all types which enable it to commit acts of aggression against other States” and requested “the Security Council to investigate Israel’s nuclear activities and the collaboration of other States and parties in those activities” and “institute effective enforcement action to prevent Israel from further endangering international peace and security through its acts of aggression and continued policies of expansion, occupation and annexation.”

Furthermore, the General Assembly demanded that “Israel, in view of its international responsibility for its act of aggression, pay prompt and adequate compensation for the material damage and loss of life suffered” due to the illegal and lethal attack. Naturally, Israel, to date, has never complied with any of these demands, nor have any of their international arms suppliers.

It’s clear (and totally unsurprising) that Netanyahu, through his continued lies about Iran and repeated war-mongering, is intent on committing further illegal acts of aggression. After all, as he himself told Morgan, it’s what he’s “been trying to do – for a long time – for about 15 years.”

*****

UPDATE XXX:

April 8, 2011 – A short, silly Associated Press report featured in Ha’aretz today claims, “An exiled Iranian opposition group says its spies have found a major parts factory for Iran’s uranium enrichment machines, a critical part of Tehran’s secretive nuclear program.”

Naturally, the group in question is the Islamist/Marxist terrorist cult Mojahadeen-e Khalq, or MEK, which claims to have discovered Iran’s clandestine nuclear weapons program years ago (yes, the weapons program that still doesn’t exist). The MEK are the darlings of the rabid Bomb Iran crowd, which is trying desperately to have them removed from the U.S. State Department list of Terrorist Organizations.

The report states:

“The Mujahedin-e Khalq said yesterday that over the past four and a half years Iran’s Defense Ministry has secretly used a factory west of Tehran to produce parts for tens of thousands of enrichment centrifuges. These machines can make low-enriched uranium fuel for nuclear power plants or highly-enriched uranium for nuclear weapons.

“Iran says it is building a civilian nuclear power program, but the U.S.believes it is seeking the capacity to build nuclear bombs. The exiled group has exposed several key nuclear facilities in Iran since 2002, but spokesman Alireza Jafarzadeh offered no hard evidence yesterday that what the group calls the TABA facility makes centrifuge parts.”

Wait, the MEK “offered no hard evidence”?! Shocking!

*****

UPDATE XXXI:

April 10, 2011 – Thousands of diplomatic cables issued by the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv and obtained last year by WikiLeaks are finally being published exclusively by the Israeli daily Ha’aretz.

A newly-released cable describes a January 2006 meeting between U.S. Congressman Gary Ackerman and Dr. Ariel Levite, then deputy chief of Israel’s Atomic Energy Commission. During their conversation, according to the Ha’aretz summary of the cable, Levite claimed that “Iran could obtain nuclear weapons within two to three years, but admitted the estimate could be inaccurate as ‘Israel does not have a clear or precise understanding of Iran’s clandestine program.'”

Another reason why these Israeli assessments might have been mistaken is because the IAEA Director General Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei had already affirmed that “Iran has facilitated Agency access under its safeguards agreement and additional protocol to nuclear material and facilities, and has also provided access to other locations in the country, including a transparency visit to a military site.” ElBaradei also stated that the IAEA had “continued to implement the measures of the additional protocol by reviewing declarations made by Iran and conducting complementary access and other verification activities” and had “continued its verification of Iran´s voluntary suspension of enrichment and reprocessing related activities.”

The very same month Levite made his claims to the U.S. delegation in Tel Aviv, the IAEA “continued to verify and monitor all elements of Iran’s voluntary suspension of enrichment related and reprocessing activities,” as well as continuing “to monitor the ongoing civil engineering construction of the Iran Nuclear Research Reactor (IR-40) at Arak” through the use of “satellite imagery.”

Furthermore, the leaked cable reported that, in addition to Levite boasting that “Israel knows that Iran has acquired cruise missiles from Ukraine,” he also noted, without presenting a shred of evidence, rumors alleging that Iran has already obtained “some warheads from Ukraine.”

Also revealed in the cable – perhaps most importantly – is Levite’s admission “that most Israeli officials do not believe a military solution is possible” with regard to Iran’s nuclear program due to the fact that Iran’s nuclear facilities are widely dispersed throughout the country (a lesson Levite says Iran learned after the illegal 1981 Israeli bombing of Iraq’s Osirak reactor). An Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities would also be ineffective, as “some elements [of the nuclear program] are in places that Israel does not know about,” Levite said.

So, not only would Iran have nukes in “two to three years,” according to an Israeli government official and nuclear expert, but it may have already gotten them on the black market. And Israel doesn’t know much about the Iranian program, except that it’s “clandestine.” Oh, and Israel was threatening an attack which it had already ruled out. That was 2005.

The lies are just as silly now as they were then.

*****

UPDATE XXXII:

April 12, 2011 – Joby Warrick reports today in the Washington Post that “Iran is proclaiming significant gains in its nuclear program, progress that Western officials and experts say could effectively erase setbacks from recent cyber attacks and shorten the timeline for acquiring nuclear weapons.”

In recent days, Iranian nuclear scientists have announced that “they have successfully tested advanced centrifuges for enriching uranium and are less than a month away from starting the country’s first commercial nuclear reactor.”

Warrick writes that, even though many of these technological advancements have yet to be implemented, “the apparent progress has prompted some experts to redraw their forecasts for how quickly the country could build an atomic arsenal if it chose to do so.”

The article also notes the warnings of former IAEA nuclear safeguards chief and perennial Iran hysteric Olli Heinonen, who says that, if Iran gets new enrichment centrifuges up and running, “performing well, and in large numbers, it will make a big difference.” Heinonen claims that “in theory,” with “a few hundred of the new machines,” Iran might be able to “produce enough enriched uranium for a nuclear weapon in less than a year.”

That’s quite a theory.

Furthermore, Warrick reports, “Neither the United States nor the IAEA have published performance estimates for Iran’s next-generation centrifuges, but a U.S. intelligence official knowledgeable about Iran’s nuclear program did not dispute Heinonen’s observations.”

“U.S. intelligence officials share the IAEA’s concern” about Iran’s nuclear program, says some anonymous government official.

For good fear-mongering measure, the Post piece claims that “Iran, which began enriching uranium on an industrial scale in 2007, is now thought to possess enough low-enriched fuel to make at least two bombs if the material were processed further.”

*****

UPDATE XXXIII: Israeli Fear-Mongering about Iran Faces a Barak-lash

May 4, 2011 – Sometimes Ehud Barak has trouble staying on message. Last year in Herzliya, he warned of Israel becoming an apartheid state like South Africa, a usually verboten analogy among Zionist officials, unless a viable Palestinian state is created soon. “As long as in this territory west of the Jordan river there is only one political entity called Israel it is going to be either non-Jewish, or non-democratic,” Barak said. “If this bloc of millions of ­Palestinians cannot vote, that will be an apartheid state.” Whoops.

This time around, however, Barak pulled the rug out from under Israel’s favorite scare tactic. The former Israeli Prime Minister/current Minister of Defense/Deputy Prime Minister told Ha’aretz today that even “[i]f Iran succeeds in developing nuclear weapons, it is unlikely to bomb Israel,” thereby undermining one of the Netanyahu administration’s main propaganda lines that a nuclear-armed Iran (if one ever were to exist) would represent an immediate “existential threat” to the self-proclaimed Jewish state.

According to Ha’aretz, Barak voiced his opinion that “Israel should not spread public panic about the Iranian nuclear program and responded to a question about whether he thought Iran would launch a nuclear attack on Israel by saying, “Not on us and not on any other neighbor.”

Just a few days ago, on May 1, both Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and Israeli President Shimon Peres repeated their dire warnings and tired talking points about the supposed Iranian threat. Speaking at the opening ceremony of Holocaust Memorial Day at Yad Vashem, Israel’s memorial to Jewish victims of Nazi genocide, Netanyahu and Peres both “stressed Iranian nuclear aspirations as an existential threat to Israel,” with Netanyahu declaring that “Iran, Hezbollah, and Hamas are working openly for the destruction of our people.” He continued, “We cannot place our fate in the hands of others,” and then warned that, “when Israel and the Israel Defense Forces say, ‘Never Again,’ they mean precisely that.” Going for broke, Netanyahu just started making things up. “[T]oday, new enemies are rising, and as they deny the Holocaust, call for the destruction of our people,” he said, “those wishing to destroy the Jewish state” are “arming themselves with nuclear weapons in order to realize those ambitions.” Naturally, he threw in the “existential threat” canard: “The threat to our existence isn’t a theoretical one, it cannot be minimized, it stands before us, before all of humanity, and it must be stopped,” he bellowed.

Peres went even further, stating, “Iran’s fanatic leadership is a danger to the entire world. It is not only a threat to Israel. It is a threat to any household, anywhere. It is a real risk to the fate of humanity.”

Drawing a bogus parallel from Nazi intentions to Iranian ones has long been a mainstay of Israeli fear-mongering despite its obvious absurdity.

Meanwhile, during his Ha’aretz interview, Barak explained, “I don’t think in terms of panic,” continuing,

“What about Pakistan, some political meltdown happens there and four bombs wind up in Iran. So what? So you head for the airport? You close down the country? Just because they got a shortcut? No. We are still the most powerful in the Middle East.”

This is not the first time Barak has made such comments. In April 2010, Barak told Israel Radio, “Right now, Iran does not pose an existential threat to Israel. If Iran becomes nuclear, it will spark an arms race in the Middle East. This region is very sensitive because of the oil flow; the region is important to the entire world. The fact that Iran is not an immediate threat, but could evolve into one, means that we can’t let ourselves fall asleep.”

The previous month, Barak told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that “Iran does not pose an existential threat to Israel at this time.” Barak then elaborated that “Iran has the potential to develop into an existential threat on Israel, and we are working to prevent that.”

A month before that, Barak, while speaking at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP) in February 2010, said plainly, “I don’t think that the Iranians, even if they got the bomb, they are going to drop it immediately on some neighbor. They fully understand what might follow. They are radicals but not total meshuganas.” He continued to explain his belief that the Iranian leaders “have quite sophisticated decision-making process and they understand realities.”

In September 2009, Barak, who was then the head of the Labor party, told Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth that “Iran does not constitute an existential threat against Israel.” Later in the interview, he repeated this assessment, saying, “I am not among those who believe Iran is an existential issue for Israel,” continuing, “Israel is strong, I don’t see anyone who could pose an existential threat.” Barak also stated, “Right now, Iran does not have a bomb. Even if it did, this would not make it a threat to Israel’s existence. Israel can lay waste to Iran.” In a direct rebuke of the oft-heard Netanyahu refrain, Barak said plainly, “I don’t think we are on the brink of a new Holocaust.”

Still, in his remarks to Ha’aretz today, Barak made sure to tread familiar fear-mongering ground by stating his belief that the Iranian leadership could not necessarily be trusted not to do something crazy (they are bearded Muslims after all).

“I don’t think that anyone can say responsibly that these ayatollahs, if they have nuclear weapons, are something you can rely on, like the Politburo or the Pentagon,” Barak said. “It’s not the same thing. I don’t think they will do anything so long as they are in complete control of their senses, but to say that somebody really knows and understands what will happen with such a leadership sitting in a bunker in Tehran and thinking that it’s going to fall in a few days and it is capable of doing it? I don’t know what it would do.”

Clearly, according to Barak, only governments run by Western white people are mature and rational enough to have nuclear weapons. Also, the idea of the Iranian leadership “sitting in bunker in Tehran” is ridiculous enough without Barak’s wishful thinking about the potential collapse of the Islamic Republic thrown in (though it is clear that the deliberate inference is to make a mental connection with the Führerbunker beneath Hitler’s New Reich Chancellery in Berlin). Additionally, the idea of the Iranian leadership detonating a nuclear weapon (that they don’t even have) in order to fend off regime change in a blaze of radioactive glory is complete nonsense. “I think we are seeing the beginning of the end of the dictatorships in the Arab world, including the Iranian one,” he said, demonstrating his apparent misunderstanding of how the Iranian governmental system actually works.

Beyond that, there is ample evidence that Iran, which maintains a strict “no first strike” policy, is not prone to act rashly with regard to military aggression, especially against countries with superior capabilities and nuclear arsenals. Efrahim Halevi, former Mossad head, revealed his calculation of the Iranian leadership to Trita Parsi in 2006, saying, “I don’t think they are irrational, I think they are very rational. To label them as irrational is escaping from reality, and it gives you kind of an escape clause.” In October 2008, Congressional foreign policy advisor Gregory Aftandilian, speaking at a Center for National Policy event titled “A Nuclear Middle East,” noted that Iran is “not stupid” and “has a long history, thousands of years, of statecraft,” concluding simply, “Tehran is not suicidal.”

In May 2010, former Israeli generals and diplomats conducted a series of “war games” designed to anticipate what might happen were Iran to obtain a nuclear arsenal. Reuters reported:

Aharon Zeevi-Farkash, a retired Israeli intelligence chief acting as Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, insisted Iran would regard its bomb as a means of “self-defense and strategic balance” — an allusion to Israel’s own, assumed atomic arsenal.

In a reasonable and realistic critique of Jeffrey Goldberg’s Israeli propaganda puff piece, Steve Clemons of the New America Foundation wrote last year, “Iran has shown itself to be a strategic, rational, albeit ruthless, calculator of its interests — not an irrational, suicidal nation.” Center for American Progress reporter Matt Duss and national security analyst Andrew Grotto also agree that Iran is neither a “suicide nation” nor a “martyr state.”

Speaking with Charlie Rose in November 2010, former United States Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair maintained that “Iran hasn’t made up its mind” to acquire nuclear weapons, continuing, “But I’m telling you, I think they will pull back, add up all of the different factors. Iran has made rational decisions in terms of pros and cons and pluses and minuses in the long run.”

The following month, Mohammad-Javad Larijani, head of Iran’s Human Rights Council and adviser to the Supreme Leader Khamenei, also assured Rose of his country’s anti-nuclear weapons policy, saying, “We made our mind very, very clearly and very rigorously. We do not want armament, nuclear armament. This is definite. We made our mind, we want the most advanced nuclear technology for a lot of peaceful use.”

Late last year, a diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks revealed that Australia’s top intelligence agency, the Office of National Assessments (ONA) viewed “Tehran as a sophisticated diplomatic player” which was not “liable to behave impulsively or irrationally.” A report in the Sydney Morning Herald quoted ONA chief Peter Varghese as saying, “It’s a mistake to think of Iran as a ‘rogue state’.”

Iranian government and military officials have long stated that they will act militarily in self-defense only if their country is attacked, never preemptively or preventatively, and have never issued threats about initiating aggression against another nation.

Despite the hysterical (and strikingly racist and Islamophobic) claims of opportunistic serial liars like Goldberg (who has warned of Iran’s “theologically driven, eliminationist anti-Semitism”), Netanyahu (who accused Iran’s leaders of belonging to a “messianic apocalyptic cult”) and Alan Dershowitz (who claimed Iran had “demonstrated a willingness to sacrifice millions of their own people to an apocalyptic mission of destruction”), even the United States government concurs with assessments that Iran is a rational actor on the world stage, concerned only with national self-defense rather than aggressive military offensives.

In April 2010, in a statement before the United States Senate Committee on Armed Services, Defense Intelligence Agency director Lieutenant General Ronald L. Burgess stated, “Iran’s military strategy is designed to defend against external threats, particularly from the United States and Israel. Its principles of military strategy include deterrence, asymmetrical retaliation, and attrition warfare.” He added that Iran is “unlikely to initiate a conflict intentionally or launch a pre-emptive attack.” The intelligence report delivered to Congress that day in conjunction with Burgess’ testimony also revealed the assessment that Iran maintains a “defensive military doctrine, which is designed to slow an invasion and force a diplomatic solution to hostilities,” and followed that “Iranian military training and public statements echo this defensive doctrine of delay and attrition.” This identical position was reaffirmed this past March in Burgess’ 2011 testimony before the Armed Services Committee.

A month earlier, in his “Statement for the Record on the Worldwide Threat Assessment of the U.S. Intelligence Community for the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence,” Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper declared that the official judgment of all 16 U.S. intelligence agencies is that “Iran’s nuclear decisionmaking is guided by a cost-benefit approach, which offers the international community opportunities to influence Tehran. Iranian leaders undoubtedly consider Iran‟s security, prestige and influence, as well as the international political and security environment, when making decisions about its nuclear program.”

So, will Barak’s candor temper Netanyahu’s rabid bellicosity in days to come? Unlikely. But are his comments a welcome break from the constant Chicken Littlesque doomsday hysteria that seems to define Israeli hasbara? Yes, they are. As such, get ready to see a whole new level of fear-mongering trotted out by both Israel and the U.S. in the near future in order to wash away the frustrating and inconvenient truths spoken by Barak today.

*****

UPDATE XXXIV:

May 8, 2011 – It’s been a bad week for Iran hawks. Not only has Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak repeated his long-held assessment that a theoretical nuclear-armed Iran would not pose an imminent or existential threat to Israel, but former Mossad chief Meir Dagan, recent scourge of the ‘Bomb Iran’ crowd, has again made things even more difficult.

Speaking at a senior faculty conference at Hebrew University in Jerusalem on Friday – his first public appearance since leaving the Israeli spy agency – Dagan called the possibility of an Israeli attack on Iranian nuclear facilities “the stupidest thing I have ever heard.”

Ha’aretz reported:

Dagan said that Iran has a clandestine nuclear infrastructure which functions alongside its legitimate, civil infrastructure. It is the legitimate infrastructure, he said, that is under international supervision by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Any strike on this legitimate infrastructure would be “patently illegal under international law,” according to Dagan.

Dagan emphasized that attacking Iran would be different than Israel’s successful air strike on Iraq’s nuclear reactor in 1981. Iran has scattered its nuclear facilities in different places around the country, he said, which would make it difficult for Israel to launch an effective attack.

Dagan also claimed, according to Ha’aretz, that “there is proof that Iran has the capability to divert its nuclear activities from place to place in order to take them out of the watchful eye of international supervision and intelligence agencies.”

When the consequences of an Israeli air strike were brought up, Dagan stated, “It will be followed by a war with Iran. It is the kind of thing where we know how it starts, but not how it will end.”

Furthermore, in an interview with the Washington Post‘s Lally Weymouth published this week, Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil El Araby outlined numerous policy changes since the ouster of long-time U.S.-backed dictator Hosni Mubarak. In addition to fully supporting (and largely responsible for) the new reconciliation between Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas and working to end the illegal siege of Gaza, El Araby also noted the Egyptian initiative to normalize foreign relations with Iran – a move Iran has been open to for quite some time.

When Weymouth attempted to provoke El Araby into saying something negative about potential Egyptian-Iranian relations by asking if “a big Hezbollah cell [was] aimed at Egypt a few years ago,” the Foreign Minister was unfazed. He replied: “They are not an enemy. If you want me to say it — Iran is not an enemy. We have no enemies. Anywhere.”

Weymouth then suggested that if Egypt restored its diplomatic relationship with Iran, it would thereby jeopardize its “strategic” relationship with the United States. El Araby, again, didn’t take the bait nor did he accept the premise of Weymouth silly suggestion, answering: “This concept of opening up and turning a new page does not affect our relations with the United States or anyone. Your closest friends and allies — the U.K. and France and Germany — all have diplomatic relations with Iran. I don’t see the problem. All your allies have relations with Iran.”

In response to the new Egyptian policies, the Los Angeles Times‘ Jeffrey Fleishman writes, “This new agenda has angered Israel and is an indication that Egypt’s emerging diplomacy will test allies and enemies on sensitive matters that could upset the balance of power in the region.” Clearly, any shift in the balance of regional power would frustrate and worry both the United States and Israel, since it would inherently weaken their long-established hegemonic hold on the Middle East. As such, Israeli Vice Prime Minister Silvan Shalom told Israel Radio that the recent Egyptian developments “do not bode well.”

Poor little Israel, things just don’t seem to be going their way these days.

*****

UPDATE XXXV:

May 8, 2011 – In response to Dagan’s recent comments about the stupidity of an Israeli assault on Iran, Reuters reports:

Israeli Vice Prime Minister Moshe Ya’alon denied Dagan’s views would affect government decision-making. But he took the former spymaster to task for undermining the Israeli and U.S. strategy of threatening attacks in order to deter Iran and keep other world powers serious about crisis diplomacy.

“For the Iranian regime to be persuaded to give up its nuclear capability, it has to be presented by the choice between getting a bomb and surviving, and such statements do not help present Iran with such a dilemma,” Ya’alon told Israel Radio.

Yup, there you have it. It appears Israel is publicly admitting to being an existential threat to Iran. ‘Do what we say,’ Israel warns, ‘or we’ll annihilate you.’ Oh, the zirony.

And let us recall that Chapter 1, Article 4, Paragraph 4 of the United Nations Charter declares quite clearly that “All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.” (emphasis mine)

Moreover, Dagan has received support from other former Israeli intelligence officials. Ha’aretz reports today that two other past Mossad chiefs, Danny Yatom and Ephraim Halevy, as well as MK Shaul Mofaz, chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, also oppose an unprovoked Israeli attack on Iran. In contrast, Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Dagan “should not have shared that opinion with the public at large” and Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz “agreed, saying he believed Dagan to have been an outstanding Mossad chief but he should have kept the remarks to himself.”

Indeed, telling the truth in public is not always welcome in official Israeli circles since it sometimes has the unfortunate effect of damaging worn-out warmongering and propaganda.

At the end of the Reuters piece, Ya’alon is quoted again. “I hope that the Iranians see an Israeli conspiracy in this. That could help,” he says.

Don’t worry, Moshe, the Iranians have long seen this. So has everyone else. And it hasn’t helped you yet. But, hey, it’s only been thirty years.

*****

UPDATE XXXVI:

A Busy Week, AIPAC’d with Propaganda

May 24, 2011 – Click to read this update.

*****

UPDATE XXXVII:

Meir Javedanfar’s Continued Fear-Mongering and Shoddy Journalism

May 31, 2011 – Click to read this update.

*****

UPDATE XXXVIII:

An Illegal, Unprovoked Military Attack on Iran?:
Anything Less Would Be Uncivilized

May 31, 2011 – Click to read this update.

*****

UPDATE XXXIX:

Israel’s Pompous Posturing & Idle Threats

June 1, 2011 – Click to read this update.

*****

UPDATE XL:

Jeremy Bernstein’s Nuclear Propaganda Fail:
The New York Review of Books Gets It Wrong on Iran

June 2, 2011 – Click to read this update and this follow-up.

*****

UPDATE XLI:

June 3, 2011 – A Reuters report quotes Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Dan Meridor as continuing to fear-monger about the Iranian nuclear program, in an effort to increase support for harsher and harsher sanctions on the Islamic Republic, saying that increased pressure “has a chance of success, if it is taken seriously, if it is persistent, if it is very clear, if it is accelerating” and that Iran should face a “heavier price every week, every month, so that they understand they are not going to get away with it.” The “it”, of course, is Iran’s totally legal nuclear energy program, which is monitored and inspected constantly by the IAEA.

“Some months ago we had first signs that people in the Iranian leadership speak of it,” Meridor told Reuters. “They haven’t yet changed the course, I don’t have this illusion, but I think [they are feeling] the price is getting higher and higher.”

And then, like clockwork, came the obvious tick-tock of an imminent doomsday scenario:

“Time is of the essence here. Every day gets us and them closer to the day in which Iran will become a military nuclear country,” he said.

Clearly, the same clock has been ticking for three decades, yet the hands have never moved.

*****

UPDATE XLII:

June 6, 2011 – So, after nearly three decades of false allegations about the Iranian nuclear program and hysterical warnings about how close the Islamic Republic is to building or acquiring an operational nuclear device, RAND researcher Gregory S. Jones has new prediction. And it’s a doozy.

According to the Israeli daily newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth, Jones has written a paper based on the most recent IAEA Safeguards Report on Iran and has come to the following conclusion: “At its current rate of uranium enrichment, Tehran could have enough for its first bomb within eight weeks.”

Eight weeks?! Alarmism doesn’t get any better than this. Apparently, Iran can make a nuclear bomb faster than Gregory Jones can re-tile his own bathroom and sooner than it takes Amazon to ship a 2008 pamphlet co-authored by Jones entitled “Enhancement by Enlargement: The Proliferation Security Initiative.” (And no, that’s not a prescient biography of Anthony Weiner.)

The best part of Jones’ prediction is the reason he gives for the 56-day timeframe:

“Making the bomb will take around two months, he says, because constructing a nuclear warhead, is a complicated step in the process.”

Yes, making a nuclear warhead is so complicated, according to Jones, that it will take Iran less time to manufacture one than it’ll take Jones to build that backyard treehouse he’s has been meaning to get to for a while now. Iran will have a nuclear bomb sooner than it takes to air cure pancetta (not that Iran would be interested in doing that).

Jones also states that, at this point in Iran’s progress towards a nuclear bomb, “there is nothing the US can do to stop Tehran, short of military occupation,” stressing that “stopping Iran will require deploying forces on the ground, because airstrikes are no longer sufficient.” He laments that “the reality is that the US and Israel have failed to keep Iran from developing a nuclear warhead whenever it wants.”

The dire warning delivered by Jones was echoed this weekend by Israel’s Deputy Speaker of the Knesset Danny Danon during an interview with ThinkProgress‘ Travis Waldron. Danon, speaking with Waldron during the “Faith and Freedom Conference” in Washington D.C. on Saturday, said that the Iranian drive to develop nuclear weapons (which doesn’t exist) can not be ignored for long and that military action must be considered, equating Iran to Iraq and Ahmadinejad to Saddam Hussein. After Waldron asked whether the United States should “take preemptive military action against the Iranians,” Danon responded this way:

I think it should not be only the burden of the U.S. But the Western society must come and put a timeline to Ahmadinejad. If you don’t finish by this date, we will knock you down. The same way we did with the Iraqi leader, we should do with the Iranian leader. You cannot ignore it. […]

I think if the American people would realize that there is a force that is gaining in momentum and is coming after them, they will be able to fight. Today because it is so far away, so remote, people say, ‘Well we see what is happening in Afghanistan, in Iraq, we don’t want to go into another adventure.’ But Iran is different, because Iranian leadership speaks directly against the American people. You will be able to ignore it for a short while, but in the long term, you will have to face it. Needless to say, the Iraq analogy is unconvincing considering Iraq had no nuclear weapons when it was illegally invaded and occupied by the United States eight years ago.

And so, the Iran Nuclear Scare Timeline™ has been updated once again. And this time, Iran is set to establish a nuclear arsenal before Gregory S. Jones will even receive his first issue of his new MAD Magazine subscription.

*****

UPDATE XLIII:

July 11, 2011 – Writing in The Guardian today, British foreign secretary William Hague traffics in a dazzling array of fear-mongering about the Iranian nuclear program and demonstrates that all of his erroneous information comes from consistently repeated propaganda talking points with little basis in fact.

The opinion piece, entitled “Iran’s nuclear threat is escalating“, claims that Iran’s recent announcement of its “plans to triple Iran’s capacity to produce 20% enriched uranium, transferring enrichment from Natanz to the Fordo plant” is of ominous significance as it “makes even clearer the fact that Iran’s programme is not designed for purely peaceful purposes.”

Hague goes on to explain that Iran’s civilian needs don’t require 20% LEU, but then reverses himself and says they do. Then he says they don’t. He wonders,

If Iran is serious about developing civil nuclear energy, why divert limited materials and resources away from the civil energy programme in this way, while spurning offers of technological assistance for Iran’s peaceful use of nuclear energy from the outside world, including the E3+3 countries of the UK, China, France, Germany, Russia and the US?

The answers are obvious, but Hague doesn’t seem to care. Instead, his conclusions are as spooky as one would expect:

Yet, there is one clear purpose for this enriched uranium. Enrichment from natural uranium to 20% is the most time consuming and resource-intensive step in making the highly enriched uranium required for a nuclear weapon. And when enough 20% enriched uranium is accumulated at the underground facility at Qom, it would take only two or three months of additional work to convert this into weapons grade material. There would remain technical challenges to actually producing a bomb, but Iran would be a significant step closer.

Hague claims that IAEA monitoring, when comes to Iran, is meaningless since, in Hague’s opinion, “Iran has a persistent record of evasion and obfuscation with the IAEA” and “has failed to provide the IAEA with access to relevant locations, equipment, persons or documents.” Anyone with knowledge of Iran’s dealings with the IAEA knows this is far from true.

Citing such spooky things as Iran’s “active ballistic missile programme, including the development of missiles with a range of over a thousand kilometres,” and recent Iranian military exercises and missile tests, Hague concludes, “A reasonable observer cannot help but join the dots.”

Any long-time reader of Wide Asleep in America will know full well just how “reasonable” that assessment truly is.

Hague warns that “Iran’s nuclear programme could lead to a nuclear arms race in the Middle East, already the world’s most volatile region.” Of course, there is absolutely no mention of the fact that the region is already home to hundreds of nuclear bombs, produced and stockpiled by Israel, which is not a member of the NPT or subject to supervision by the IAEA.

In fact, the fear-mongering about an arms race resulting from a hypothetical Iranian bomb while ignoring existing Israeli bombs is not original. For instance, back in September 2007, Charlie Rose said the following absurdity to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad during an interview:

“The fear is that if you have a nuclear weapon, everybody in the neighborhood will want a nuclear weapon. You already have two: Pakistan and Israel. What if you have a nuclear weapon, the Saudis have a nuclear weapon, the Egyptians have a nuclear weapon, the Jordanians have a nuclear weapon, and nuclear non-proliferation is gone. And you are a signatory. That’s the problem. Not so much they fear you will use the weapon, but it sets off – and it threatens the region.”

Funny how proliferation only begins after Israel and Pakistan have acquired their own weaponry with impunity.

Towards the end of his nonsense, Hague once again refers to the Iranian plan to relocate some of its enrichment capabilities to its newest operable facility at Fordow and calls the announcement the “latest revelation” of Iran’s alleged intransigence. But Iran itself announced the plan, so what was the “revelation”?

Stupid.

Hague’s propaganda comes on the heels of a very different kind of article published in The Guardian two days earlier. An op-ed written by six former European ambassadors to Iran (Richard Dalton of the UK, Paul von Maltzahn on Germany, Steen Hohwü-Christensen of Sweden, Guillaume Metten of Belgium, François Nicoullaud of France and Roberto Toscano of Italy) explained clearly, using relevant facts and evidence, that the Islamic Republic is in fact not on the verge of acquiring nuclear weapons and that assertions to the contrary are, quite simply, deliberate lies.

The article, entitled “Iran is not in breach of international law,” states unequivocally, “There is no evidence that the country is building nuclear weapons,” and places most of the blame on “the west’s strategy” regarding Iran for creating the current “standoff.” The ambassadors expertly point out the staggering hypocrisy of the West towards Iran and its nuclear program, the ongoing misguided efforts to foment regime change, and debunk the oft-repeated falsehood that Iran is intransigent and unwilling to compromise or negotiate. Whereas these facts are not new, their publication in a mainstream media forum is certainly rare and noteworthy. The article is excellent and worth quoting at length (emphasis added):

In terms of international law, the position of Europe and the United States may be less assured than is generally believed. Basically, it is embodied in a set of security council resolutions authorising coercive measures in case of “threats to the peace”.

But what constitutes the threat? Is it the enrichment of uranium in Iranian centrifuges? This is certainly a sensitive activity, in a highly sensitive region. The international community’s concerns are legitimate and Iran has a moral duty to answer them. In principle, however, nothing in international law or in the non-proliferation treaty forbids uranium enrichment. Several other countries, parties or not to the treaty, enrich uranium without being accused of “threatening the peace”. And in Iran, this activity is submitted to inspections by the IAEA inspections. These inspections, it’s true, are albeit constrained by an agreement on safeguards dating from the 70s. But the IAEA has never uncovered any attempted diversion of nuclear material to military use.

So is Iran attempting to build a nuclear weapon? For at least three years, the US intelligence community has discounted this hypothesis. The US director of national intelligence, James Clapper, testified last February to Congress: “We continue to assess [whether] Iran is keeping open the option to develop nuclear weapons … We do not know, however, if Iran will eventually decide to build nuclear weapons.”

Most experts, even in Israel, view Iran as striving to become a “threshold country”, technically able to produce a nuclear weapon but abstaining from doing so for now. Again, nothing in international law forbids this ambition. Several other countries are close to, or have already reached, such a threshold, with a commitment not to acquire nuclear weapons. Nobody seems to bother them.

We often hear that Iran’s refusal to negotiate seriously left our countries no other choice but to drag it in 2006 to the security council. Here too, things are not quite that clear. In 2005 Iran was ready to discuss an upper limit for the number of its centrifuges and to maintain its rate of enrichment far below the high levels necessary for weapons. Tehran also expressed its readiness to allow intrusive inspections, even in non-declared sites. But at that time Europe and the US wanted to compel Iran to ditch its enrichment programme entirely.

Iranians assume that this is still the European and US goal, and that for this reason the security council insists on suspension of all Iranian enrichment activities. But the goal of “zero centrifuges operating in Iran, permanently or temporarily” is unrealistic, and has contributed greatly to the present standoff.

It’s clear which Guardian piece relies on facts, context, and reality and which one rests on insinuation, demonization and innuendo.

*****

UPDATE XLIV:

July 13, 2011 – Writing in Tehran Bureau, David Albright and Andrea Stricker spend seven short paragraphs pretending Iran has an active nuclear weapons program. In fact, the term “nuclear weapons” is used fourteen times; the one reference to North Korea is offset by a bonus reference to an Iranian “explosive device” using high enriched uranium.

Referring to Iran’s stated goal of increasing its production of 20% LEU, the authors claim that “[t]hese steps will make it easier for Iran to quickly break out to nuclear weapons.” They also state, citing a single source they describe as “an expert close to the International Atomic Energy Agency”, that the new head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, Mossad assassination survivor Fereydoun Abbasi-Davani, “has increased the crisis atmosphere.” They allege (citing absolutely no evidence), that “Abbasi-Davani is a physicist widely suspected of having a background in Iran’s nuclear weapons research programs,” claiming he “has regularly been linked to Iran’s efforts to actually craft a nuclear weapon” and “was a key scientist in the Iranian covert nuclear weapons program”, as well as having “personally directed work to calculate the yield of a nuclear weapon.”

Albright and Stricker then claim that, were Iran to “reach a so-called ‘break out’ capability”, it would be able to “make enough weapon-grade uranium for a nuclear weapon in a few months” and add that “Iran already has the knowledge to build a crude nuclear weapon, according to the IAEA.”

They then lament that “since the [Fordow] facility is located 90 meters underneath a mountain”, it can’t be easily bombed or destoryed by U.S. or Israeli air strikes. “If Iran were to restrict IAEA inspectors from having access to the plant,” they pout, “little could be done aside from bombing the facility’s tunnel entrances or introducing ground troops, which could trigger a full-scale war.”

The spooky specter of an Iran that is “steadily moving to a status as a virtual nuclear weapons state in which it could build nuclear weapons quickly and easily” completely ignores the fact that at least 40 other countries already have that exact capability and are subject to absolutely no international scrutiny, let alone sanctions and threats.

One wonders if David Albright recalls his own statements to the San Francisco Chronicle back in October 2003 with regard to claims of an Iranian nuclear weapons program made by the MEK: “We should be very suspicious about what our leaders or the exile groups say about Iran’s nuclear capacity.”

He 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.”

*****

UPDATE XLV:

July 13, 2011 – A Reuters report published today, entitled “Iran to enrich higher-grade uranium in underground bunker”, once again addresses the totally non-secret plan of Iran to “install centrifuges for higher-grade uranium enrichment in an underground bunker.” Of course, the IAEA-monitored and inspected Fordow facility is dismissed as a devious subterranean liar.

Citing only “diplomatic sources,” the report states, “Preparatory work is under way at the Fordow facility, tucked deep inside a mountain to protect it against any attacks, and machines used to refine uranium could soon be moved to the site near the clerical city of Qom.” None of this is unknown or controversial. Iran itself has announced this.

Nevertheless, Reuters reveals: “‘They are preparing (for the centrifuges to be installed) in Fordow,’ one diplomatic source said.” Yeah, no shit. That’s what the Iranian press release said.

The report goes on to misrepresent facts about the Fordow facility, claiming that “Iran only disclosed the existence of Fordow two years ago after Western intelligence detected it and said it was evidence of covert nuclear activities.” Untrue. Iran announced the facility to the IAEA five days before it was “revealed” by Obama during a theatrical press conference.

“Carrying out the process in Fordow could provide greater protection for Iran’s uranium-purifying centrifuges against any U.S. and Israeli air strikes,” say Reuters, omitting that such strikes would kill people and are illegal. Shameful.

*****

UPDATE XLVI:

July 14, 2011 – A new article by Diane Barnes at Global Security Newswire reports that “Violent extremists could be among those to benefit from a relationship with a nuclear-armed Iran, according to Christopher Ford, who most recently served as U.S. special representative for nuclear nonproliferation.”

Ford, speaking before the neoconservative think tank The Hudson Institute alongside former IAEA official/perennial Iran alarmist Olli Heinonen, stated, “Given the scope and depth of Iran’s involvement in international terrorist groups [sic], I think terrorist acquisition of [nuclear] weapons, material and technology could come about either deliberately or inadvertently. One can’t rule out, of course, the possibility of transfers occurring without top-level authorization.”

After claiming that “Iran has developed a rich network of black- and gray-market ties around the world for the acquisition of nuclear-related technology,” Ford, who heads the Institute’s Center for Technology and Global Security, continued, “This ‘spider web’ of international contacts and transnational relationships for the acquisition and trading in nuclear technology is one that sort of co-exists — overlaps, in a sense — in Iran, with its own extensive network of terrorist ties.”

These “terrorist ties”, of course, refer to such resistance groups like Hezbollah and Hamas, which are the go-to bogeymen for warmongering analysts like Ford and his cronies at Hudson and elsewhere.

This line of speculation is not new, let alone revelatory or insightful.

In August 2005, a study [PDF] entitled “Reassessing the Implications of a Nuclear-Armed Iran” was published by the National Defense University’s Institute for National Strategic Studies (INSS), which provides research and analysis for the U.S. Department of Defense. Its authors determined that, “while some security experts, predominantly Israeli, fear that Iran’s leaders would provide terrorists with nuclear weapons, we judge, and nearly all experts consulted agree, that Iran would not, as a matter of state policy, give up its control of such weapons to terrorist organizations and risk direct U.S. or Israeli retribution.”

They continued:

“Many specialists on Iran share a widespread feeling that Iran’s desire to be seen as a pragmatic nuclear power would tend to rein in whatever ideological impulses it might otherwise have to disseminate nuclear weapons or technologies to terrorists. there is less agreement, however, on whether the regime in tehran could reliably control all elements within the Iranian system that might have the means, motive, and opportunity to do so.”

That was nearly six years ago. Around and around we go.

*****

UPDATE XLVII:

Fleitz of Fancy & A New Diehl on Iran

July 20, 2011 – Click here to read this update.

*****

UPDATE XLVIII:

July 21, 2011 – In Bloggingheads latest installment of “What Do White, Jewish Think-Tankers in Washington D.C. Think the U.S. Should Do About Iran?” , former AIPAC spokesman Josh Block, now a fellow at the bizarrely-named Progressive Policy Institute (given its penchant for espousing hawkish foreign policy views, especially on Iran), gave a veritable tutorial on how to cram every long-debunked fear-mongering talking point about the Islamic Republic into a mere 50-minute conversation. He also made it perfectly clear how much he loves the sound of his own voice.

In the course of his discussion with Joel Rubin, Director of Policy and Government Affairs at the Ploughshares Fund, Block repeated (among other things) the false claim that Obama “exposed” a secret Iranian nuclear enrichment at Fordow in September 2009, insisted that Iran seeks hegemony over the Middle East and is violently involved in Iraq, advocated forcefully for regime change (though he called it “democratic change”, and was oh so sincere about it), was adamant about Iran’s headlong pursuit of nuclear weapons (any other perspective, like one based evidence was, of course, “nonsense”), and even added a new mathematical assessment of Iran’s nuclear progress. He said that Iran’s mere capacity to enrich uranium up to 20% is “90%, if not more, of the ability to get to the fuel you need for a nuclear weapon.”

Despite Rubin’s efforts to infuse certain facts into the discussion (filtered, of course, through a significant amount of silliness of his own), Block remained a blowhard, a blabbermouth, and a liar. The best part, perhaps, was when Block, furrowed his brow, and said:

I’d like to see no war. I’d like to see peace! But I think the best chance to get there, the best chance to stop Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, which, by the way, it’s not just a question of them dropping a bomb on Israel. I mean, they went into the streets in 2009 and were brutal to their own people. They walk around saying Bahrain belongs to them. How will they act when they have a nuclear weapon? What kind of activity will we see then? Who will be able to stop them? How will they treat their people then?

Block advocated “more pressure” to “destabilize” the Iranian government in order to ensure his preferred outcome. He also refused to admit that Israeli and U.S. predictions about when Iran would obtain a nuclear weapon have been wrong for three decades. Rather, he credited sanctions for “working” over that time and then completely misrepresented the TRR nuclear deal between Iran, Brazil, and Turkey.

Block also said that Israel bombed the Iraqi nuclear facility at Osirak in 1983. It was 1981 and Joel Rubin told him so. But he really insisted it was ’83. He also was determined to place the U.S. Persian Gulf campaign against Iraq, known as Operation Desert Storm, in 1992-3. When Rubin again tried to correct him by telling him it was actually 1991, with Operation Desert Shield (the ostensibly “defensive” mission to keep Iraq out of Saudi Arabia) actually occurring in mid-1990, Block repeated his error, with even more confidence.

Block closed, predictably, by advocating a military attack on Iran by pretending to ask a rhetorical question.

*****

UPDATE XLIX:

August 4, 2011 – Allegations about Iran’s nuclear program have not slowed down.

Compulsive liar Ray Takeyh of the Council on Foreign Relations once again makes ridiculous claims in one of the country’s leading newspapers. On August 3, The Washington Post published an editorial, entitled ominously “The march toward a nuclear Iran”, in which Takeyh recounts a somewhat selective history of Iran’s nuclear program and comes to the conclusion, despite the fact that absolutely nothing in his article supports it, that Iran is just around the corner from having a nuke.

He warns that the American notion that “time is on our side” when it comes to an Iranian nuclear weapon is naive and unrealistic and manages to squirt out some truth by writing that sanctions have not worked to slow down Iran’s scientific and technological progress. He then uses this information to scare his audience about the dangers of Iran. He also seems to find it strange that Iranian scientists are supported by the government (oh yeah, same thing happens here) and don’t like being targeted by foreign spies for assassination:

In today’s Iran, rulers and scientists have crafted a national compact whereby the state provides the resources while the scientists furnish their expertise. A dedicated corps of scientific nationalists is committed to providing its country with the capacity to reach the height of technological achievement and, in the process, provide the mullahs with the means of building the bomb.

Horrifying, right? Takeyh’s not done. He ends with this:

Exact estimates vary, but in the next few years Iran will be in position to detonate a nuclear device. An aggressive theocracy armed with the bomb will cast a dangerous shadow over the region’s political transition, but the consequences will not be limited to the Middle East. An Iranian bomb is likely to unleash the most divisive partisan discord in this country since the 1949 debate about who lost China. In the end, neither the turbulent order of the Middle East nor the partisan politics of Washington can afford an Islamic Republic armed with nuclear weapons.

Sure, there’s other nonsense in his article which can easily be discredited, but, honestly, it’s all far too stupid to waste time on.

According to a different article, written by Michael Eisenstadt of the Washington Institute think tank, Iran doesn’t even have to have a nuclear weapons program to be a threat. Eisenstadt writes, “Unless the United States reverses the current dynamic, Iran could reap the perceived benefits of being a nuclear power even without building a bomb.” Apparently, an IAEA-monitored nuclear energy program and a moderate arsenal of conventional weapons, along with the rampant repetition of age-old propaganda such as the “wipe Israel off the map” silliness, the Gerdab “Nuclear Test” article, and the secret-until-they-weren’t enrichment facilities is enough to instill a sufficient amount terror in the minds of his readers that Eisenstadt goes for it while still believing he’s a respectable Beltway analyst.

He pretends Iran has an policy of nuclear “ambiguity” (no, Michael, that’s Israel) and claims, “Should Iran attempt to create a weapon at a clandestine facility (presumably what it had in mind for Natanz and Qom before their existence became public), Israel or the United States might not detect it in time to act.”

Iran – by Eisenstadt’s account – is apparently damned if they do and damned if they don’t.

In short: AAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!

*****

UPDATE L:

November 7, 2011 – A compendium of the past few months’ worth of super scary Iran nuclear predictions can be found here:

Rattling Sabers & Beating Drums: Fear-Mongering over Nuclear Iran Reaches a Fever-Pitch

Go to Original – wideasleepinamerica.com

 

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One Response to “The Phantom Menace: Fantasies, Falsehoods, and Fear-Mongering about Iran’s Nuclear Program”

  1. satoshi says:

    Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs) in Iraq? They were “creative” phantoms. Now another “creative” art of politics? This time, it is about Iran?

    “Creative phantoms” bring about war. Forget about phantoms. If you want to create something, create a reality for peace. “Creative reality” brings about peace.

    In that regard, every peace-loving person should ask: “What is the real/hidden intention behind the creative phantoms as such?”