CNN's Lou Dobbs stated that Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert "told CNN Iran could make a nuclear bomb within months." Dobbs was referring to an interview CNN host Wolf Blitzer conducted with Olmert, in which Olmert stated: "The question is when will [Iran] cross the technological line that will allow them at any given time, within six or eight months, to have nuclear bomb?" and answered his own question, asserting that the "threshold ... can be measured by months, rather than years." But Dobbs neglected to mention that the U.S. intelligence community disagrees with Olmert's assessment.
On the May 23 edition of CNN's Lou Dobbs Tonight, host Lou Dobbs stated that Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert "told CNN Iran could make a nuclear bomb within months." Dobbs was referring to an interview CNN host Wolf Blitzer conducted with Olmert on the May 21 edition of Late Edition, in which Olmert stated: "The question is when will [Iran] cross the technological line that will allow them at any given time, within six or eight months, to have nuclear bomb?" and answered his own question, asserting that the "threshold ... can be measured by months, rather than years." But Dobbs neglected to mention that the U.S. intelligence community disagrees with Olmert's assessment. By contrast, a May 24 Washington Post article reported: "Although U.S. intelligence believes Iran is years from building a bomb, Olmert believes the turning point could come in months because Iran will gain enough technological know-how to eventually develop a weapon."
As Media Matters for America has noted, the consensus among U.S. intelligence officials is that Iran is at least several years -- not months -- away from achieving the capability to manufacture nuclear weapons. For example, The New York Times reported on March 5 that "American intelligence agencies say it will take 5 to 10 years for Iran to manufacture the fuel for its first atomic bomb." After Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced on April 11 that his country had enriched a small quantity of uranium and was researching technology to enhance its enrichment capabilities -- a necessary step to produce the highly enriched uranium necessary for a nuclear weapon -- the Times reported on April 17 that "[i]f Iran moved beyond research and actually began running the machines, it could force American intelligence agencies to revise their estimates of how long it would take for Iran to build an atom bomb -- an event they now put somewhere between 2010 and 2015." According to an April 14 New York Times article, Thomas Fingar, deputy director of national intelligence for analysis, "said the official view of the [U.S.] intelligence agencies remained that Iran was unlikely to have nuclear weapons before 2010 at the earliest." A March 27 issue brief on Iran's nuclear program by David Albright and Corey Hinderstein of the Institute for Science and International Security stated that "Iran could have its first nuclear weapon in 2009." They noted, however, that "[t]his result reflects a worst case assessment, and Iran can be expected to take longer," because "Iran is likely to encounter technical difficulties."
From the May 21 edition of CNN's Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer:
BLITZER: We have lots to discuss. I want to start, though, with the situation involving Iran and its nuclear ambitions. What's Israel's estimate? How much longer before Iran has a nuclear bomb?
OLMERT: First of all, thank you very much, Wolf, for inviting me to this program, which I was very proud to take part in many times in the past in different capacities. The issue of Iran is a very serious one. And the question is not when, technically, they will be in possession of nuclear bomb. The question is when will they cross that technological line that will allow them at any given time, within six or eight months, to have a nuclear bomb? And this technological threshold is nearer than we anticipated before. This is because they are already engaged very seriously in enrichment. So, in other words, we are close enough to the possible possession of a nuclear weapon by the most extreme fundamentalist government, which talks openly and publicly about the wiping out of the state of Israel. That's where we are.
BLITZER: Well, what does that mean in terms of the time line? Do you believe it's months away, years away, from crossing that technological threshold, as you say?
OLMERT: The technological threshold is very close. It can be measured by months rather than years.
BLITZER: So what does that mean from Israel's perspective? A lot of us remember the Israeli action in 1981 against the Iraqi nuclear reactor, the facility at Osirak. You remember that Israeli strike. Is Israel planning a preemptive strike against Iran's nuclear facilities?
OLMERT: At that time, Wolf, you'll remember that most of the international community, including your country, were entirely unaware of the danger of Iraq and of the possible nuclear weapons possessed by Iraq. And therefore, at that time, when we sensed that the international community is not aware, we were left with no other option but to attack Iraq ourselves. Now there is an entirely different situation. America and Europe are leading this international effort. It is now on the agenda of the United Nations Security Council, and many countries are involved in trying to stop this, and I hope that they will succeed. We will certainly try to convince other countries how urgent it is and why it is so important that, at this time, before they cross the technological threshold, that the measures will be taken to stop them. But thank God now it's widely recognized by the international community, and therefore, Israel doesn't have to act on its own.
From the May 23 edition of CNN's Lou Dobb's Tonight:
DOBBS: Today President Bush declared that the United States will come to Israel's aid should Iran attack Israel. The president's comments came at a White House news conference with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. Two days ago, Olmert told CNN Iran could make a nuclear bomb within months. [CNN White House correspondent] Suzanne Malveaux reports from the White House -- Suzanne.
MALVEAUX: Well, Lou, there were a number of issues that these two leaders punted on, namely negotiations over a two-state solution, their dealings with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas. But both leaders were very clear on this point, they thought it was very dangerous, the idea of a nuclearized Iran, and both leaders say it was not something that they would tolerate. President Bush making it very clear that the United States stands behind Israel on this point.
BUSH [video clip]: The United States and the international community have made our common position clear. We're determined that the Iranian regime must not gain nuclear weapons. I told the prime minister what I've stated publicly before. Israel is a close friend and ally of the United States. And in the event of any attack on Israel, the United States will come to Israel's aid.
MALVEAUX: Now, Lou, of course, very important to note is President Bush did not explicitly say that this was U.S. military aid. This is something, of course, that you read between the lines. The president also not making a commitment that would be any kind of pre-emptive strike in the case that there was evidence that Iran was poised to strike Israel. Israel in the past has strike -- has actually struck Iraq in the case of 1981. This is not something that the president really has signed or endorsing on, but clearly saying that he believes the diplomatic solution is important. But the United States does have the backing, of course, of Israel.
DOBBS: Suzanne, thank you very much.