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FLASHBACK: Israeli Foreign Minister said “Iran was set to have nuclear warheads by 1999"


Here’s a quick timeline for how doomsaying on Iran’s nuclear program and whether Israel or the U.S. will attack Iran:


Time Away: 3-5 Years.
Source: Then Parliamentarian, now Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
Did Israel threaten war?: Yes.
Quote: Then Israeli parliamentarian Benjamin Netanyahu tells his colleagues that Iran is 3 to 5 years from producing a nuclear weapon – and that the threat had to be "uprooted by an international front headed by the US." (Also that year, then Israeli Foreign Minister, Shimon Peres, told French TV that, “Iran was set to have nuclear warheads by 1999.”)


Time Away: “Could be less than five years”
Source: “Several senior American and Israeli officials” in the Old Grey Lady
Did Israel threaten war? Yep.
Quotes: “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.”


Time Away: No estimates, but everyone repeats the talking point, “Iran is aggressively pursuing WMD.”
Source: President Bush, National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice, Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham
Did Israel threaten war? Not exactly, but President Bush added Iran to the “axis of evil”.


Time Away: Three years...if not sooner.
Source: Sam Gardiner Colonel (Ret.) in The Atlantic
Did Israel threaten war? The war game in the article all but assumed this scenario.
Quote: The Atlantic runs a war game on war with Iran, something reporter James Fallows describes as, “barely mentioned in America's presidential campaign”. Using the most accurate reports at the time, Fallows reported that, “The [intelligence] community believes that Iran could have a nuclear weapon in three years.”


Time Away: 5-10 years.
Source: The Bipartisan Policy Center using a National Intelligence Estimate
Did Israel threaten war? Not in this report.
Quotes: “Portions of a U.S. National Intelligence Estimate leaked in August 2005 reported that the Iranian regime was between five to ten years away from acquiring a nuclear bomb”.

(Actually, The Bipartisan Policy Center is pretty funny on this issue. Look at these titles ranging from 2008 to 2012: Meeting the Challenge: U.S. Policy Toward Iranian Nuclear Development then Meeting the Challenge: Time Is Running Out and then Meeting the Challenge: When Time Runs Out and then Meeting the Challenge: Stopping the Clock. Oh my, time has been running out since 2009! Eep!)


Time Away: No estimates.
Source: Seymour Hersh in The New Yorker
Did Israel threaten war? Yes, imminently.
Quote: Seymour Hersh reports that a strike is imminent. He also speculates that the U.S. military may use nuclear weapons to destroy Iran’s nuclear facilities.

(For the next three years, Seymour Hersh would write an article each year characterizing Israeli attack as “unavoidable” or describing Iran as “five years away” from a nuclear weapon.)


Time Away: Soon, but no estimates.
Source: Former U.S. Ambassador to U.N. John Bolton
Did Israel threaten war? Bolton predicted war before 2009.
Quote: “Then-US Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton predicts that Israel will attack Iran before January 2009.”


Time Away: 1-3 years.
Source: Secretary Robert Gates, Jeffrey Goldberg in The Atlantic
Did Israel threaten war? Goldberg predicts war in spring of 2011.
Quotes: Secretary Robert Gates, “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.”

Jeffrey Goldberg said, “Iran is, at most, one to three years away from having a breakout nuclear capability”.


Time Away: 1-5 years.
Source: See our post from Friday and Jeffrey Goldberg.
Did Israel threaten war? Absolutely.

I am not the first person to point out this unique trend. The Christian Science Monitor has a great roundup, so does Jeff Emanuel on Redstate, and this blog post’s 26,000 words, no kidding, probably round up every mention of Iran ever. Finally, this Wikipedia article shows the limits to crowdsourcing research: tons of research, poor organization and even worse writing.

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