AEI scholar Joshua Muravchik has consistently pushed for war with Iran. In Nov. 2006, for example, Muravchik wrote an LA Times op-ed called simply, “Bomb Iran.” But as his appearance on MSNBC’s Hardball yesterday demonstrated, Muravchik’s calls for war with Iran aren’t based on any real evidence.
When host Chris Matthews asked how long it will take the Iranians to develop a nuclear weapon “that could be transported by a terrorist group,” Muravchik admitted he didn’t “know how long it will take them.” Muravchik’s comments came on the same day that IAEA head Mohamed ElBaradei confirmed that it would take Iran three to eight years to build a nuclear weapon.
Nevertheless, Muravchik added, “I don’t mind if we bomb next month or the month after. I think we have to do it sometime in a short time frame.” Matthews then suggested that the real reason Muravchik is pushing for war so soon is not because of national security imperatives, but because Bush is the most likely president to follow through:
I respect you coming on and you’re a logical thinker. Let’s go to the logic of this. The one reason to bomb them now is you don’t trust the incoming presidency, the next president of the United States to do it. So you say let’s get Bush to do it. He’s the most likely guy to do it.
In the past, Muravchick has made clear that he wants war with Iran to happen before the 2008 elections. “Make no mistake, President Bush will need to bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities before leaving office,” he wrote in late 2006.
Muravchik has pushed for a targeted air strike because it “would not end Iran’s weapons program, but it would certainly delay it.” Yet as a recent study by the British-based Oxford Research Group reports, military strikes on Iran “could accelerate rather than halt Tehran’s production of atomic weapons.”
(HT: Matt Yglesias)
WALSH: Two things on this. One, there’s no country in the history of the world that’s transferred a weapon of mass destruction to a terrorist group, not a nuclear weapon, radiological weapon, biological weapon, chemical weapon.
MATTHEWS: What’s the fence? What stops them?
WALSH: Because they don’t want it coming back and blowing back against them. They can’t trust these crazy guys.
MATTHEWS: Respond, because that’s the one that scares people the most in this country?
MURAVCHIK: Well, the fact that no one has done it yet — we haven’t had this kind of terrorist regime in possession of a nuclear weapon before. It is kind of — to say it hasn’t happened until now doesn’t really tell us anything.
MATTHEWS: Isn’t there a bigger danger than the former Soviet Republics, when there’s an engineer there that’s hard up for cash, hasn’t that always been the biggest fear, that you can go buy a suitcase bomb that’s available?
MURAVCHIK: I don’t think they’re available, but there is a fear.
MATTHEWS: Do you think the Iranians are capable of developing the kind of nuclear weaponry that could be transported by a terrorist group?
MURAVCHIK: I’m sure they are. I don’t know how long it will take them.
MATTHEWS: You say bomb them now though?
MURAVCHIK: Yes, because I don’t know, because it could take them longer. It could take them shorter.
MATTHEWS: Do you know of anyone who believes, in your area of expertise at AEI, who believes that they’re on the verge of getting a weapon that could be transported by a terrorist group? You say bomb now? That’s why I’m asking. There’s a lot of routes down the road we could use, but you say bomb now. Don’t wait for the diplomacy. Don’t wait for sanctions.
MURAVCHIK: No, we’ve waited.
MATTHEWS: You say bomb now. So you have to argue there’s an imminent threat, it seems to me.
MURAVCHIK: I don’t mind if we bomb next month or the month after. I think we have to do it sometime in a short time frame.
MURAVCHIK: Because we don’t know how long. We have consistently –
MATTHEWS: No one believes that you condense the process of developing a nuclear weapon that would be transportable, even delivery by an airplane, in a couple of months? Do you? Do you anybody who believes that?
MURAVCHIK: In a couple of months, no.
MATTHEWS: You said soon, if not now. I’m trying to follow your logic. Why attack now?
MURAVCHIK: Well, Chris, you know, it — as I said, it doesn’t have to be this minute.
MATTHEWS: What about a year from now?
MURAVCHIK: A year from now might be soon enough. The point that I’m trying to make is that there’s no alternative way to stop them. Whether we do it this month or next month –
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you a political question –
MATTHEWS: I respect you coming on and you’re a logical thinker. Let’s go to the logic of this. The one reason to bomb them now is you don’t trust the incoming presidency, the next president of the United States to do it. So you say let’s get Bush to do it. He`s the most likely guy to do it.
MURAVCHIK: No, Chris, that’s not right. What I’m saying is there’s no alternative way to stop them, that we have tried diplomacy, we have tried sanctions.
MATTHEWS: What about the consequences that Jim laid out?
MURAVCHIK: Hold on. There’s no alternative way to stop them and therefore — and we don’t know exactly how long it`s going to take them to get a nuclear weapon.
MATTHEWS: Nobody says months.
MURAVCHIK: But we — actually in the past, we disastrously underestimated how long it would take the Soviet Union. We underestimated how long it would take China.
MATTHEWS: Can I make a comment? We didn’t know how many east Germans they had. They had a hell of a lot of German scientists helping them back in those days in the late 1940′s. The Russians didn’t develop the nuclear weapon without the Germans.
MURAVCHIK: Iran has a lot of German help, actually.
MATTHEWS: Do they?
MURAVCHIK: A lot of the technology that they have comes from Germany. Yes, it does.