Always Wrong: Predicting Iranian War and Weapons

Stephen Walt has a piece up at Foreign Policy cataloguing the persistent predictions of a US or Israeli war on Iran, which always turn out to be dead wrong. My favorite bit:

In September 2010, for example, The Atlantic published a cover story by Jeffrey Goldberg (“The Point of No Return”) based on interviews with dozens of Israeli officials. Goldberg concluded that the odds of an Israeli attack by July 2012 were greater than 50 percent. Fortunately, this forecast proved to be as accurate as most of Goldberg’s other writings about the Middle East.

The predictions from the elite media figures and journalists typically occur in tandem with direct threats from Israeli officials, of course. The constant bluster is ironic, considering how strongly it influences Iran towards getting the bomb (Iran has cleverly chosen “strategic ambiguity” instead).

But Walt’s piece reminded me of this timeline from the Christian Science Monitor back in November of last year listing official warnings of an imminent Iranian nuke for about thirty years now. 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.

Yet, in the shadow of Ehud Barak’s bluster yesterday, people are still gullible enough to believe these clowns.

19 thoughts on “Always Wrong: Predicting Iranian War and Weapons”

  1. As usual, no one gets it.

    As I've said here and elsewhere before, the issue is that Israel wants a "cheap" war". They don't want to attack Iran until Syria and especially Hizballah in Lebanon are more or less "neutralized", i.e., unable to rain down missiles on Israel in concert with Iran's own missiles.

    This is why Syria is under attack now and will be eventually attacked by the US and NATO once it is clear that the so-called "rebels" are unable to either overthrow Assad or damage Syria's missile systems (which are the real target, more so even than Assad).

    And without a US/NATO/Turkey attack on Syria, Israel will be unable or unwilling to attack Hizballah in Lebanon, because Israel will have to enter Syrian territory in order to attack the Bekaa Valley, the only way to significantly affect Hizballah's prepared defenses.

    Therefore my predictions stand:

    1) The US/NATO/Turkey will attack Syria by the end of this year.
    2) During that process, Israel will use one excuse of another to attack Hizballah in Lebanon, by entering Syrian territory and engaging Syrian forces in order to enable Israeli forces to move up and attack the Bekaa Valley from the flank, as well as attacking into Southern Lebanon.
    3) Depending on the outcomes of these attacks, i.e., whether both Hizballah and Syrian missile arsenals are significantly degraded, then and only then will Israel attack Iran – with the full support of the United States, Obama denials notwithstanding.

    It's all about the strategic balance between Israel, Syria and Hizballah. Israel''s leaders cannot afford to have its citizens sitting in bomb shelters most of every day for weeks or months, causing civilian unrest and political repercussions at the polls in the next elections. This is why Israel attacked Lebanon in 2006, but failed miserably.

    Walt and just about everyone else just don't understand the military significance of Hizballah and Syria in an Iran war vis-a-vis Israel. But that IS what is stalling the Iran war.

    1. Yep, I agree with most of what you said…I have a different take on timing and what may happen and when…but I agree with your main points.

      I'm not sure why so many are overlooking the Syria 'situation' here and view Syria as somehow a completely separate "issue". Do people think that Iran 'issue' has just 'gone away' just because the lame-stream media buffoons seem to have forgotten about it–as Assad is now all of a sudden the new 'flavor of the month' enemy #1–therefore, 'Bomb, bomb, bomb…bomb, bomb Iran" was just a "phase" everyone was going through and it has now past????

      This phenomenon of many thinking an "issue" has simply 'gone away' just because the slobs in the lame-stream aren't talking about it 24/7 is one of the many failures of 'our' foreign policy 'discourse'.

      Syria is central to the Iran 'situation'–as Iran knows–not only because of the potential retaliatory threats you mentioned that Assad poses to Israel, but also because of the logistical options and advantages of carrying out the actually bombing if the Assad regime were to fall…

      All of this is so unbelievably obvious, yet, as you said, "no one gets it"…

  2. high principle? Or does she really think its a good idea for us to be subsidizing a regime so brutal that even the US State Department characterizes it as repressive?

  3. condemning Rand Paul's position, but she was lumping him in with 'far rightists' who were demanding full-fledged US military intervention in Egypt on behalf of A Certain Country.

  4. <people are still gullible enough to believe these clowns> Not anyone with a brain. Believe they might be dumb enough to try attacking Iran, sure. I don't think the gullible sheep are too much into the pre-emptive bit anymore though, especially since we're still totaling up the bill from the last fiasco.

  5. This column makes the fair point that some supporters of Israel have warned of imminent war with Iran for many years, while it conveniently avoids the obvious fact that many critics of Israel have done precisely the same thing. That's kind of funny.

  6. that Assad poses to Israel, but also because of the logistical options and advantages of carrying out the actually bombing if the Assad regime were to fall…

  7. John.., these people are not what you say they are: “people are still gullible enough to believe these clowns”.., Look John.., clown have a dignity, clown have a life, clown have a respect for fellow clown, clown make you laugh, clown is what he or she wants to be. These people not even close to having anything that a clown have or represent. So please don’t disrespect clowns.

  8. The reality of any war with Iran is World War 3. Russian Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev has stated that Russia feels threatened by US hegemony & aggression in the Middle East. That any attack on sovereign states like Syria & Iran that are of high strategic importance to Russia is seen as an indirect attack against Russia itself & this will result in a nuclear war with the United States (World War 3). Russia’s remaining military base outside the former Soviet Union is a naval refuelling depot located in the Syrian port city of Tartus. The Russians have stated they have no intention of losing that base regardless of what happens to its staunch ally in Assad. Various Russian warships are currently located off the coast of Syria. Both China & Russia veto nearly every US backed UN security resolution in the security council. Russia is about deploy hundreds of nuclear missiles to Kalingrad to be within 15 minutes of wiping out any European target because it feels threatened by the

    upcoming US missile defence shield in Eastern Europe.

  9. The reality of any war with Iran is obvious. The war will engulf the entire Middle East & Persian Gulf within hours with the US,Israel,NATO,ANZUS at war with Iran,Syria,Hamas,Hezbollah,Lebanon,Egypt & most of that region which will be totally destroyed as 100,000’s die from biological,chemical & nuclear contamination from war & bombed “nuclear reactors”. This will cause a snowball of truly apocalyptic events as stockmarkets go into freefall as OIL prices skyrocket just before the “weakened” world economy completely collapses ushering in the next & most devastating great depression of all time.

    This will set of even more catastrophic events as extremism explodes across the Middle East filling the void of the “Arab spring”. The collapse of the world economy will see thousands of deadly riots breakout worldwide making hundreds of cities resemble warzones. The war that is destroying the entire Middle East will take a most horrible turn as war spills over into nuclear armed neighbors and enemies Pakistan & India. All these events will happen very quickly and not after the Russians will heavily clash with US,NATO forces along with war erupting on the Korean peninsula & with Chinese forces clashing with US forces in the Asia Pacific region.

    Not long after this a full scale global thermonuclear war will erupt (World War 3). Within weeks most of the worlds population will be dead. Within months all of the worlds population will be dead. This is the madness that will result from any war with Iran. The world is more divided today than it was with the triple entente & triple alliance a century ago prior to the start of World War 1, except today the world has thousands of nuclear missiles that are minutes away from launch readiness. I hope to god, this nigthmare never happens but its looking inevitable that world leaders are hellbent on destroying us all.


  10. Robert J Oppenheimer feared his evil weapon of mass destruction would be the “destroyer of world”. The USA spends more than the rest of the world on

  11. I'm not going to lie, I'm really impressed. Its rare for me to find something on the internet that's as entertaining and intriguing as what you've got here.

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