Yet Another Estimate of When Iran Will Have the Bomb
McClatchy reports that Israel now believes Iran will not be able to produce a nuclear weapon until 2015 or 2016. That is progress of a sort; Netanyahu had previously been claiming that Iran would have the bomb no later than late summer 2013 — around six months from now. But Israel is still insisting that Iran is only two or three years away from nuclear capability, so I think it is useful to recall and update the timeline I mentioned early last year of breathless Israeli and Western claims about Iran’s nuclear program:
1984: West German intelligence sources claim that Iran’s production of a bomb “is entering its final stages.” US Senator Alan Cranston claims Iran is seven years away from making a weapon.
1992: Israeli parliamentarian Benjamin Netanyahu tells the Knesset that Iran is 3 to 5 years from being able to produce a nuclear weapon.
1995: The New York Times reports that US and Israeli officials fear “Iran is much closer to producing nuclear weapons than previously thought” – less than five years away. Netanyahu claims the time frame is three to five years.
1996: Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres claims Iran will have nuclear weapons in four years.
1998: Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld claims Iran could build an ICBM capable of reaching the US within five years.
1999: An Israeli military official claims that Iran will have a nuclear weapon within five years.
2001: The Israeli Minister of Defence claims that Iran will be ready to launch a nuclear weapon in less than four years.
2002: The CIA warns that the danger of nuclear weapons from Iran is higher than during the Cold War, because its missile capability has grown more quickly than expected since 2000 – putting it on par with North Korea.
2003: A high-ranking Israeli military officer tells the Knesset that Iran will have the bomb by 2005 — 17 months away.
2006: A State Department official claims that Iran may be capable of building a nuclear weapon in 16 days.
2008: An Israeli general tells the Cabinet that Iran is “half-way” to enriching enough uranium to build a nuclear weapon and will have a working weapon no later than the end of 2010.
2009: Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak estimates that Iran is 6-18 months away from building an operative nuclear weapon.
2010: Israeli decision-makers believe that Iran is at most 1-3 years away from being able to assemble a nuclear weapon.
2011: An IAEA report indicates that Iran could build a nuclear weapon within months.
2013: Israeli intelligence officials claim that Iran could have the bomb by 2015 or 2016.
The McClatchy articles quotes an Israeli intelligence officer as asking “Did we cry wolf too early?” That’s amusing: Israel (and the West) have been crying wolf over Iran’s nuclear capability for nearly three decades.