West Continues Speculation on Iran Nuclear Work By Afsaneh Ahadi

1 October 2012 Iran Review

One of the most common political tools, which has been always used by Western politicians is to aggrandize a security crisis anywhere in the world and repeat it in different ways. During recent years, efforts made by Iran to master nuclear technology have been used as an excuse by the Western officials in order to cast doubt on peaceful goals of Iran‘s nuclear energy program and warn the world that Iran will “soon” build a nuclear bomb. However, the time limit denoted by the word “soon” is somehow ambiguous and cannot create the purported psychological effect that Western states look for. Therefore, they have given various deadlines like “up to one year,” “within the next three years,” or “in a decade” as their varied forecast on how long it will take Iran to build the nuclear bomb. The Israeli officials have even gone a step further by giving unbelievable and comical deadlines such as “three months from now” and even “in 60 minutes!” as their forecast on the time period it will take Iran to build the nuclear bomb. In the latest instance of such bizarre forecasts, the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in a strange measure during his address to the 67th annual session of the UN General Assembly in New York, showed drawing of a bomb to his audience and drew a red line using a marker pen to denote Israel’s red line on Iran‘s nuclear program. He, once more, projected that Iran would be in the possession of the nuclear bomb by the next spring, or summer, or at most, next fall.

The memory of audiences is usually ephemeral and short-term. Therefore, as time goes by, the impact of news they have heard gradually erodes. To prevent this, Western officials and news media have been regularly repeating their warning about the threat emanating from Iran building a nuclear bomb. They are also incessantly talking in various forms about Iran‘s nuclear bomb and a possible strike against Iran‘s nuclear facilities. Although this trend has gained new momentum in recent years, a cursory glance at the news archives of the Western media will prove that innuendoes as well as direct and indirect references by Western officials to the possibility of developing nuclear weapons by Iran can be tracked as far back as 28 years ago. Such forecasts are usually made over short periods of time in order to put more emphasis on the significance of the conceived security threat. The notable point, however, is why after the projected time elapses and there is no sign to prove that Iran has been trying to develop nuclear weapons, no media outlet, analyst, expert, or official asks why all these forecasts have been wrong?

Instead of posing the aforesaid logical question, the Western media have instead, put new forecasts on their headlines without showing much care about whether those forecasts materialize in the real world and within the time limit specified. There have been seldom cases in which the media have tried to explain why Iran has not developed nuclear weapons in projected time, but even then they have lost no time to reiterate that Iran will “soon” build the bomb. All phrases used by the Western and Israeli officials and news media in this regard are coordinated and run on the same theme and most of them predict the same deadline for Iran‘s development of nuclear weapons. In some forecasts, they gave 2000 as the year when Iran will be in possession of a nuclear bomb. After the 2000s began, the Western officials announced that Iran will have the bomb by 2005. The year 2005 passed without Iran developing any nuclear weapons. Then the Western officials announced that Iran will develop the nuclear bomb by 2010. We are now in 2012 and there is no evidence to prove that Iran is planning to build a nuclear bomb or that there has been the slightest diversion in its nuclear energy program toward military purposes. However, the Western media continue to give such forecasts with political circles in the West and in Israel giving 2013-2015 as the deadline for development of nuclear weapons by Iran. A brief review of selected quotes from the Western as well as Israeli officials and media about when Iran will have nuclear weapons will easily reveal various cases of such contradictory remarks.



Official / Expert




US Senator Alan Cranston

Iran is seven years away from making a weapon

Scott Peterson, Imminent Iran nuclear threat? A timeline of warnings since 1979, The Christian Science Monitor, November 8, 2011



Benjamin Netanyahu

Iran is “3 to 5 years” from having a nuclear weapon

Scott Peterson, Imminent Iran nuclear threat? A timeline of warnings since 1979, The Christian Science Monitor, November 8, 2011


Colin L. Powell

We are talking about information that says they not only have [the] missiles but information that suggests they are working hard about how to put the two together.

Robin Wright and Keith B. Richburg, Powell Says Iran Is Pursuing Bomb, Washington Post,
November 18, 2004



Mohamed ElBaradei

Iran may be able to produce a nuclear weapon “a few months” after it becomes capable of enriching uranium.

The Washington Times, Tuesday, October 11, 2005



David Albright and Corey Hinderstein

Iran could have its first nuclear weapon in 2009.

David Albright and Corey Hinderstein, Iran’s Next Steps: Final Tests and the Construction of a Uranium Enrichment Plant, Institute for Science and International Security, January 12, 2006



Moshe Yaalon

In six to 18 months Tehran would have the knowledge to produce nuclear weapons, and within three to five years it would have such weaponry if its plans went unchecked.

Lt. Gen. Moshe Yaalon,Stopping the Iranian Nuclear Program: Is There an Israeli Option?Hudson Institute, March 7, 2006



American intelligence agencies

It will take 5 to 10 years for Iran to manufacture the fuel for its first atomic bomb.

William J. Broad and David E. Sanger, As Crisis Brews, Iran Hits Bumps in Atomic Path, The New York Times, March 5, 2006



Mike Mullen

Iran has enough fissile material to make a nuclear bomb.

Deborah Zabarenko, Iran “not close” to nuclear weapon: Gates, Reuters, Mar 1, 2009



Dennis Blair

Even though Iran has made significant progress in enriching uranium, the State Department bureau “continues to assess it is unlikely that Iran will have the technical capability to produce HEU (highly enriched uranium) before 2013.” In his earlier testimony to Congress, Blair has said Iran could have enough highly enriched uranium for a bomb as early as 2010.


France News Agency, Aug 7, 2009 



James E. Cartwright (Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff)

Iran could produce bomb-grade fuel for at least one nuclear weapon within a year, but that it would probably need two to five years to manufacture a workable atomic bomb.

David E. Sanger and Thom Shanker, Gates Says U.S. Lacks a Policy to Thwart Iran, The New York Times, April 17, 2010



Ehud Barak

Iran is less than a year away from being unstoppable in its goal of producing a nuclear weapon.

Haaretz Newspaper, Nov.19, 2011



David Albright

Iran could make enough for a bomb in little more than six months using 1,000 advanced centrifuges if it decided to divert its stock of UN safeguarded low enriched uranium in a dash for a weapon

David Albright and Andrea Stricker, Iran’s Nuclear Program, Institute for Science and International Security, January 18, 2011



Leon Panetta

The consensus is that, if they decided to do it, it would probably take them about a year to be able to produce a bomb and then possibly another one to two years in order to put it on a deliverable vehicle of some sort in order to deliver that weapon.

CNN, August 2, 2012


The measure taken by the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during his recent address to the UN General Assembly was the last link in this long chain when he claimed that Iran‘s nuclear energy program will reach the point of no return by the spring of 2013.

What conclusion can be reached when all these allegations are considered in one place?

Afsaneh Ahadi is an expert on Strategic & US Affairs

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