The Christian Science Monitor has a brilliant timeline up covering warnings of Iranian nuclear weapons capability for over thirty years. According to western intelligence, they’ve pretty much always been on the verge of having the bomb. Below is a summary.
1984: West German intelligence sources say Iran’s production of a bomb “is entering its final stages.”
1992: Israeli parliamentarian Benjamin Netanyahu tells his colleagues that Iran is 3 to 5 years from being able to produce a nuclear weapon. Foreign Minister Shimon Peres tells French TV that Iran was set to have nuclear warheads by 1999.
1995: New York Times reports US and Israeli concerns that “Iran is much closer to producing nuclear weapons than previously thought” – about five years away.
1998: New York Times reports that long-range missile development indicates that “Iran is bent on acquiring nuclear weapons.” Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld reports to Congress that Iran could build an intercontinental ballistic missile – one that could hit the US – within five years. The CIA gave a timeframe of 12 years.
2002: CIA warns that the danger from nuclear-tipped missiles from Iran is higher than during the Cold War. Dubious claims from the MeK (now widely believed to be passed on by Israeli intelligence) say that Iran has undisclosed uranium enrichment facilities in breach of IAEA safeguards.
2004: Secretary of State Colin Powell claims Iran is working on technology to fit a nuclear warhead onto a missile. “We are talking about information that says they not only have [the] missiles but information that suggests they are working hard about how to put the two together,” he said.
2005: U.S. presents 1,000 pages documentation allegedly retrieved from a computer laptop in Iran, which detail high-explosives testing and a nuclear-capable missile warhead.
2006: New Yorker’s Seymour Hersh quotes US sources saying that a preemptive strike on Iran is all but inevitable.
2007: Bush and Cheney imply an impending attack on Iran if it doesn’t give up it’s nuclear program. A month later, the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iran is released, which controversially judges with “high confidence” that Iran had given up its nuclear weapons effort in fall 2003.
Then for the next few years we have the hawkish officialdom lay off on claiming Iran is on the verge of nuclear weapons capability. But the threats of attack do not stop. Now, in November 2011, the IAEA reports that Iran has coordinated weapons-related research and development for years (continuously since 2003) and may still be doing so now (although only circumstantial evidence is offered).