Back in December, the Washington Post’s ombudsman Patrick Pexton criticized his newspaper for conflating Iran’s nuclear program with a nuclear weapons program. Noting that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) “does not say Iran has a bomb, nor does it say it is building one,” Pexton warned Post writers against asserting that Iran has a nuclear weapons program because it could “undermine The Post’s credibility” and “also play into the hands of those who are seeking further confrontation with Iran.”
Yesterday, torture apologist and Washington Post “opinion writer” Marc Theissen ignored that advice, twice. In a column on the Post’s website attacking Vice President Biden’s recent speech touting the Obama administration’s Iran policy, Theissen claimed:
But since Biden is so proud of the increased “pressure” the Obama administration has put on Iran to stop its drive for the bomb, it’s fair to ask: What are the results of that increased pressure? […]
But make no mistake: Iran is determined to obtain a nuclear weapon. And the regime in Tehran has arguably made more progress toward this goal in the past three years under Obama than it has in the three decades since the Iranian Revolution.
Indeed, while Pexton noted that the IAEA does not share this view that Iran is “determined to obtain a nuclear weapon,” neither does U.S. and Israeli intelligence. Iran “is going step by step to the place where it will be able to decide whether to manufacture a nuclear bomb. It hasn’t yet decided whether to go the extra mile,” Israeli Defense Forces Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz said last month.
But the thrust of Theissen’s argument however, is that Iran is closer to getting a nuclear weapon under President Obama’s watch than at any other time. “Before Obama took office, Iran needed months to make a dash to a bomb. Today, it could make that dash in a matter of weeks.” This is also not true, as a recent CAP report on Iran’s nuclear capabilities notes:
The most common estimates by U.S. and Israeli government officials, as well as outside groups such as the nonpartisan Institute for Science and International Security, are that Iran could develop a crude but workable nuclear explosive device within a year of deciding to do so. […]
Other estimates such as the joint technical assessment by a U.S.-Russian team of scientists reached similar conclusions in early 2009, with the caveat that the year timeframe for a simple nuclear explosive would occur only “under the most favorable circumstances.” … In fact, Russian team members concluded that more unfavorable circumstances would be more realistic, leading them to suggest a timeframe of two years to three years to build a simple nuclear bomb. The U.S.-Russian team estimated it would take Iran another 5 years after testing a bomb to develop a deliverable nuclear weapon.
And New America Foundation president Steve Coll noted in a recent New York Review of Books article that in order to move forward with a weapons program, Iran “would have to defy international inspectors and break the monitoring seals they have attached to its enrichment sites.” By doing this, Coll adds, “Iran would instantly expose its intentions and invite a response from the Security Council.”
Iran with a nuclear weapon does indeed pose a threat to regional and international security. American officials including President Obama vow to keep “all options on the table” to deal with the Iranian nuclear program, but questions about the efficacy and consequences of a strike have led U.S. officials to declare that diplomacy is the “best and most permanent way” to resolve the West’s crisis with Iran.