The amount of misinformation on Iran’s nuclear program on the Sunday talk shows this week was staggering. The worst of which this blog previously highlighted: ABC reporter Brian Ross said that if the Iranians make the decision to build a nuclear weapon, it would take them as little as four weeks to build one bomb.
Similarly, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — who repeatedly referred to Iran having a “nuclear weapons program” (U.S. and Israeli intelligence and the IAEA do not believe Iran has made the decision to go that far) — appeared to be trying to rev up fears about a potential Iranian nuclear weapon, saying on NBC’s Meet the Press:
NETANYAHU: I think that as they get closer and closer and closer to the achievement of the weapons-grade material, and they’re very close, they’re six months away from being about 90 percent of having the enriched uranium for an atom bomb.
It’s unclear what Netanyahu is saying Iran is six months away from exactly. But whatever he meant, the reality is that, as Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said last week, it would take Iran at least a year, probably a bit longer, to obtain a bomb once its leaders made the decision to do so. A new bipartisan expert report from the Iran Project expounds:
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.
One key point on Iran’s timeline for building a bomb is that the U.S. and its allies would most likely know when the clock starts ticking. As Panetta said last week, “We have pretty good intelligence on them. We know generally what they’re up to. And so we keep a close track on them.”
Yet the Sunday show pundits got this all wrong as well. “President Obama said our intelligence service will give us a pretty long lead time in understanding where Iran is,” George Will said on ABC’s This Week, adding, “I think he may have a faith in the ability of our intelligence services to draw lines and put down markers as to where the Iranian program is that we simply actually don’t have.”