The irony would be rich, were the subject any less serious. After years of the the left and international critics accusing the Bush administration of fearmongering and sabre-rattling about Iran's nuclear weapons program, it turns out that Bush was dead on — Iran will have a working nuclear weapon within the year.
Critics of the Bush administration like Paul Craig Roberts accused Bush of trying to use bogus claims of nuclear weapons in Iran to promote an imperialistic agenda. Two years ago Roberts spoke for many on the radical left and the isolationist right when he wrote:
"A truthful statement, which no one any longer expects from any member of the Bush Regime, would be that the weapons inspectors of the International Atomic Energy Agency have pored over Iran's nuclear program and have found no evidence of a weapons program. A number of experts, such as Gordon Prather, have fiercely disputed the propagandistic claims of an Iranian nuclear weapons program…Any expert or knowledgeable person who examines these statements sees nothing but unsupported assertions, paranoid speculations, fear- mongering and blatant lies. It is on this basis, and this basis alone, that the Bush Regime will initiate war with Iran…Iran is being set up by the identical propaganda machine that set up Iraq with fearful imagery of "mushroom clouds over American cities" and nonexistent "weapons of mass destruction."
In trying to counter the Bush claims about Iranian nuclear aspirations, critics like Justin Raimando, of AntiWar.com, pointed to the CIA's National Intelligence Estimate to show that even our own experts disagreed with the Bush administration's assessment of Iran's nuclear potential. Raimondo wrote:
"Leaving the realm of speculation, and entering the region of hard facts: our own National Intelligence Estimate on Iran and its alleged nuclear weapons program shows that the Iranians had a weapons program that they abandoned: 'We judge with high confidence that in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program.' While keeping the option open, the Iranian regime has not restarted its nuclear program, according to our spooks, and probably could not iron out all the technical problems and hoarding of nuclear materials until at least 2015 – and even then there is no evidence Tehran has any such intention."
Apparently leftist ideology and anti-Israeli fanaticism aren't enough to turn Iran into the heroic and peace loving fantasyland people like Roberts and Raimondo would like it to be. Even the CIA, in its eagerness to show up the administration with which it often clashed, ended up committing the same sin for which the Bush administration was condemned when it launched the Iraq War on speculation and suspicion. All of them put too much trust in Iran and ignored the reality that Iran always intended to develop nuclear weapons and never even paused in its pursuit of them despite its protestations to the contrary.
It has now become overwhelmingly clear that not only did Iran not stop their nuclear program as claimed, the program has been moving forward with great success; in addition to already having the needed bomb technology and missile delivery systems, they will likely have enough weapon-grade plutonium to build their first nuclear weapon within a matter of months, according to a new report from the International Institute for Strategic Studies. The findings in this report bear out information which has been surfacing for the last couple of years which indicates that the nuclear facility at Natanz has enormously more gas centrifuges than originally believed, and that they may even already have enough fissionables to build a working nuclear bomb. If anything, the IISS report underestimates Iran's nuclear capacity, as other recent reports suggest they are even closer to having a working bomb. In fact, there have been reports for years of Iran possessing surplus Russian warheads purchased from Kazakhstan and Ukraine.
The left slandered Bush, Ahmedinejad played the persecuted innocent, the international community dithered, and Iran has just kept on producing plutonium. The IAEA was supposed to monitor Iran's supposedly peaceful and energy-oriented nuclear development, but over the last two years their inspectors have had their activities restricted; have been misdirected, and late last year Iran started blocking all their attempts to investigate, right at the time when many experts believe Iran had reached the point where their ability to fuel a bomb was inevitable. The IAEA's increasingly alarmed announcements of Iran's impending nuclear capabilities have largely been ignored.
Throughout this entire farce, the one constant has been the repeated underestimating of Iran's determination to become a nuclear power and their ability to produce the needed technology and fissionable materials. Only a couple of years ago everyone who was convinced Iran wasn't even trying to build nukes was certain that they could not possibly have a nuclear weapon in less than 10 years. Now, that has proven to be disastrously naive and there is every reason to believe that even these new assessments underestimate Iran's nuclear potential.
On Tuesday President Obama said that he was willing to "extend the hand of peace" to Iran, but it may be a bit late for diplomacy, when Iran has its nuclear goals in hand and remains determined to use every resource it has to destroy its enemies, most notably Israel. UN Ambassador Susan Rice has promised negotiations with Iran if it stops its enrichment program, but the chances of that happening at this point are laughably small, even if we were foolish enough to believe any of their claims. Not surprisingly, the latest bellicose statements from Iran suggest that they believe they are negotiating from a position of strength. Understandable, now that their nuclear destiny appears to be at hand.