Ross was met with incredulity by the rest of the This Week panel, including foreign correspondent Christiane Amanpour:
TAPPER: Brian, very quickly, what are your sources telling you about how far the Iranians are when it comes to building a nuclear device?
ROSS: Four to six weeks away, if they made the decision to do it. That’s some of the intelligence. They haven’t made that decision, that’s the key.
AMANPOUR: That has been so vastly disproved. Others say that it could be a year. So, this is a guessing game that has gone on for years.
Ross’ timeline is way off the mark. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta just last week addressed the potential timeline for an Iranian nuclear device, telling CBS News that it would take at least a year for the Iranians to build any kind of nuclear weapon if they decide to pursue it. “It’s going to take them a while once they make the decision to do it,” he said.
According to U.S. and Israeli intelligence and the International Atomic Energy Agency, there have been no indications as of yet that Iran has even decided to actively pursue a nuclear weapons program.
Panetta also said the U.S. would know if Iran had begun to aggressively pursue a nuclear program. “We have pretty good intelligence on them. We know generally what they’re up to. And so we keep a close track on them,” he said last week. Indeed, apart from what U.S., Israeli and Western intelligence agencies know about Iran’s nuclear program, if Iran decided to pursue nuclear weapons, “it would be very difficult to avoid being detected by IAEA inspectors,” the Los Angeles Times noted, “who regularly visit Iranian nuclear facilities. Detection could spur other countries to try to stop them or simply attack.”
A bipartisan expert report on Iran’s nuclear program released last week says: “Conservatively, it would take Iran a year or more to build a military-grade weapon, with at least two years or more required to create a nuclear warhead that would be reliably deliverable by a missile.”