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January 5, 1995

Iran May Be Able to Build an Atomic Bomb in 5 Years, U.S. and Israeli Officials Fear

Published: January 5, 1995

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. "The date by which Iran will have nuclear weapons is no longer 10 years from now," a senior official said recently, referring to previous estimates. "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."


Iran, like Iraq, was to have been isolated by severe sanctions in a policy described by Administration officials as "dual containment." But senior Administration officials interviewed in Washington said their efforts had failed to halt the flow of nuclear technology to Iran.

Fast forward to 2000.

Similar sanctions are in place as existed in 1995 with the exception of some slight easing by Clinton in response to the election of Khatami, a reformist.

When U.S. President Bill Clinton came into office, he initially took a tough approach with Iran as part of his "dual containment" policy against that country and Iraq and imposed sanctions, Slavin said. But when Mohammad Khatami was unexpectedly elected president of Iran in 1997 and said in a CNN interview that he wanted to "break down the bulky wall of mistrust between the two countries," Clinton welcomed the possible rapprochement.

Slavin said Clinton sent a message to the Iranians through the Saudis to arrange a meeting between high-level officials from the two countries. But Clinton received no reply from Khatami. Clinton tried again by slightly easing sanctions against Iran, and Secretary of State Madeline Albright publicly apologized for the United States' role in Iran's 1953 coup and for siding with Iraq in the Iran-Iraq War.

Fast forward to 2003.

In a direct repudiation of Clinton's appeasement efforts, Iran never takes advantage of his naivety to develop their coveted nukes. According to a National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) that the US will release in 2008, Iran halts their nuclear weapons program by 2003.

Fast forward to 2008.

After the recent National Intelligence Estimate on Iran was released, Israel publicly challenged the U.S. intelligence consensus that Iran had stopped its nuclear weapons program. "In our opinion," Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said, Iran "has apparently continued that program."


But in private conversations with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert last week, the president all but disowned the document, said a senior administration official who accompanied Bush on his six-nation trip to the Mideast. "He told the Israelis that he can’t control what the intelligence community says, but that (the NIE’s) conclusions don’t reflect his own views" about Iran’s nuclear-weapons program, said the official, who would discuss intelligence matters only on the condition of anonymity.

(Editor's aside: Didn't Bush ignore similar National Intelligence Estimates regarding Iraq? Or something about him hating the report with such passion that he pressured Tenet et al. to tailor its findings?)

Rewind to 2002.

David Kay, former Iraq Weapons inspector, characterizes the 2002 NIE on Iraq and WMDs:

I think it was a poor job, probably the worst of the modern NIE's, partly explained by the pressure, but more importantly explained by the lack of information they had. And it was trying to drive towards a policy conclusion where the information just simply didn't support.

(Editor's aside: Oh yeah, that's how we got into this mess. So speaking of never again, how about we never again elect leaders who would dupe us into a war?)

Fast forward back to today.

Originally posted to Bob Sackamento on Thu Jul 24, 2008 at 09:03 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  it's deja vu all over again! (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ExStr8, sunbro, Terra Mystica

    thanks Yogi

    Evolution is so obsolete, gotta stamp your hands and clap your feet! Gotta dance like a monkey, dance like a monkey, child.

    by espresso on Thu Jul 24, 2008 at 09:08:46 PM PDT

  •  Great diary! (4+ / 0-)

    However they will likely get nukes sooner or later and so will others but we better figure out how to survive in such a world.

    One help, of course, is to reduce conflict and encourage modernism and secularism everywhere (including the USA). Reason and rationality helps people.

    The most successful war seldom pays for its losses. - Thomas Jefferson

    by Judgment at Nuremberg on Thu Jul 24, 2008 at 09:10:45 PM PDT

  •  Good Stuff (5+ / 0-)

    Now, first of all, I'll say that we don't really know wtf is happening with the Iranian nukes.  While US intel has overestimated some countries' nuke programs, such as Iraq's, we were also caught unawares by both India and Pakistan.  So it's hard to tell, and I'm not sanguine about the Iranian program or their intent.  But it's still a good corrective to point out that there's probably no greater certainty today than there was 13 years ago when there was speculation that Iran might be less than 5 years away from nuclear capability.  

    The revolution will not be televised, but we'll analyze it to death at The Next Hurrah.

    by Dana Houle on Thu Jul 24, 2008 at 09:11:22 PM PDT

    •  situation definitely worse now (0+ / 0-)

      Thanks to Dumbya's bellicosity strangling the Iranian reformist side several years back, clearing the way for Commander Cuckoo-Bananas Ahmadinejad to be elected the front man for Iran.

      "It's only in books that the officers of the detective force are superior to the weakness of making a mistake." (Wilkie Collins, The Moonstone)

      by chingchongchinaman on Thu Jul 24, 2008 at 09:20:11 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  asdf (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      djpat, Terra Mystica

      "we were also caught unawares by both India and Pakistan"

      India and Pakistan have been at it since the early 70s. It's also possible that the US looked the other way (nothwithstanding public expressions of surprise and sanctions) in order to make for regional power balance b/w India and China (with Pakistan playing monkey on India's back.)

      "So it's hard to tell, and I'm not sanguine about the Iranian program or their intent."

      Democrats should talk about having tough and intrusive inspections through the UN and the IAEA (instead of saber-rattling as was done with Iraq's supposed WMD stockpiles) as that would be the logical approach.

      Just say NO to BAYH (for VP)! Here's why!

      by NeuvoLiberal on Thu Jul 24, 2008 at 10:37:25 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  India and Pakistan are not NPT signatories (0+ / 0-)

      India and Pakistan are not NPT signatories like Iran. Iran's nuclear program is under full safeguards -- more so than Brazil or Argentina's nuclear program (yes, they have recently developed the same technology as Iran, and refuse to allow the same level of inspections)

  •  Don't worry... (9+ / 0-)

    the Y2K bug will erase all of their progress.

  •  Being the hegemnic narrative (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    The Termite, Terra Mystica

    means never having to say "we were wrong".

    A nation of sheep will beget a government of wolves. ~Edward R. Murrow

    by ActivistGuy on Thu Jul 24, 2008 at 09:36:50 PM PDT

  •  This is superb (0+ / 0-)

    "I've waited all my life for a Republican Barack Obama. Now he shows up and he's a Democrat." - Frank Luntz

    by The Termite on Thu Jul 24, 2008 at 09:52:56 PM PDT

  •  Great diary. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Bob Sackamento

    you could write the same one with all the people predicting our attack and invasion of Iran...

  •  It only took me reading the title to say (0+ / 0-)


    The "rule of law"; it applies to you and me, but not the rich, the Republican or the celebrity. Welcome to America!

    by MotleyPatriot on Thu Jul 24, 2008 at 10:23:05 PM PDT

  •  Oh hell that means by now Iran must have (0+ / 0-)

    5000 to 10,000 A and H-Bomb's setting on ICBM's ready to fire at a moment notice oh wait oh oh whats that your saying Mr.Lieberman your saying that's Russia not Iran oh well well well "never mind".

  •  Iran and the bomb (0+ / 0-)

    Another lying attempt by die hard zionists to take Iran out of the West Bank equation. When will those criminals be locked up. The world will be much safer when Iran gets the Bomb or somebody neutralizes Israel. Don't be a sucker, Israel is NOT our friend.

    •  You know who isn't my friend? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Racist genocidal maniacs like you.

      Fuck you!

      If everybody on the planet has to die to make sure idiots like you never get their genocidal way... then I'm down....

      ...the species that replaces us won't allow idiots like you to exist.

      Personally, I'm in favor of killing everybody on the planet via nuclear holocaust if it would eradicate the  genocidal scum like you.  It would be a small sacrifice to make to get rid of the most pure evil that exists in the universe.

  •  Great diary. Couric just concluded an interview (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Bob Sackamento

    with a couple in Haifa, Israel who had had a katyusha hit their building, saying:

    Yet the Carasentis were fortunate because their enemy only had a crude Katyusha rocket. What they fear now is an enemy that may be only months away from having the most dangerous weapon of all. (my emphasis)

    I realize she was reporting the view from Haifa, but the transcript doesn't do it justice.  Her intonation was almost dirge-like, implying that this was a very serious near-term possibility (i.e. concurrence).

    Maybe a small thing, but when a flagship network news program starts treating these types of assertions (from whatever source) seriously, it does seem like the background clamor is growing on this.

    Can we move the election up a few months?  Please.

  •  It's all the fault of Iran. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    If they didn't have bushco's oil under their sand in the first place they wouldn't be in this predicament.
    Can anybody tell me why, if Iran wanted an A Bomb to use, they haven't just gone out and bought one?

    St. Ronnie was an asshole.

    by manwithnoname on Fri Jul 25, 2008 at 04:27:52 AM PDT

  •  You DO know what this means don't you???? (0+ / 0-)

    The Iranians have developed a time machine, gone back to the 20th century ...... and developed nuclear weapons.


    "we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex" Dwight D. Eisenhower

    by bobdevo on Fri Jul 25, 2008 at 05:06:24 AM PDT

  •  Predictions of an imminent Iranian nuke HERE: (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    samddobermann, Bob Sackamento

    The Iranians may have an atom bomb within two years, the authoritative Jane’s Defence Weekly warned. That was in 1984, two decades ago. Four years later, the world was again put on notice, this time by Iraq, that Tehran was at the nuclear threshold, and in 1992 the CIA foresaw atomic arms in Iranian hands by 2000. Then U.S. officials pushed that back to 2003. And in 1997 the Israelis confidently predicted a new date - 2005.
    [Ever a "threat," never an atomic power, Iran... The Associated Press, Monday, February 27, 2006]


    Late 1991: In congressional reports and CIA assessments, the United States estimates that there is 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.’ A February 1992 report by the U.S. House of Representatives suggests that these two or three nuclear weapons will be operational between February and April 1992."

    "February 24, 1993: CIA director James Woolsey says that Iran is still 8 to 10 years away from being able to produce its own nuclear weapon, but with assistance from abroad it could become a nuclear power earlier."

    "January 1995: The director of the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, John Holum, testifies that Iran could have the bomb by 2003."

    "January 5, 1995: U.S. Defense Secretary William Perry says that Iran may be less than five years from building an atomic bomb, although ‘how soon...depends how they go about getting it.’"

    "April 29, 1996: Israeli prime minister Shimon Peres says ‘he believes that in four years, they [Iran] may reach nuclear weapons.’"

    "October 21, 1998: General Anthony Zinni, head of U.S. Central Command, says Iran could have the capacity to deliver nuclear weapons within five years. ‘If I were a betting man,’ he said, ‘I would say they are on track within five years, they would have the capability.’"

    "January 17, 2000: A new CIA assessment on Iran’s nuclear capabilities says that the CIA cannot rule out the possibility that Iran may already possess nuclear weapons. The assessment is based on the CIA’s admission that it cannot monitor Iran’s nuclear activities with any precision and hence cannot exclude the prospect that Iran may have nuclear weapons."
    [Bad Intelligence–But in Which Direction? Cato Institute, by Cordesman and al-Rodhan]

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