On Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume, Roll Call executive editor Mort Kondracke falsely claimed that “depending on who you listen to,” it will take Iran “between six months and two years” to produce “the material that they need for a nuclear weapon.” In fact, many estimates -- including those within the U.S. Intelligence Community -- suggest that it could take Iran significantly longer to develop a nuclear weapon.
During the “All Star Panel” segment on the March 14 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume, Roll Call executive editor Morton. M. Kondracke falsely claimed that “depending on who you listen to,” it will take Iran “between six months and two years” to produce “the material that they need for a nuclear weapon.” In fact, many estimates -- including those within the U.S. Intelligence Community -- suggest that it could take Iran significantly longer to develop a nuclear weapon.
The New York Times reported on March 5 that "[e]stimates of just when Iran might acquire a nuclear weapon range from alarmist views of only a few months to roughly 15 years." The Times further reported that “American intelligence agencies say it will take 5 to 10 years for Iran to manufacture the fuel for its first atomic bomb.”
During a February 2 Senate Intelligence Committee hearing, committee chairman Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS) stated: “The intelligence community assesses that ... Iran, if it continues on its current path -- and we hope we could see some action by the [United Nations] Security Council and others working on this -- but they will likely have the capability to produce a nuclear weapon within the next decade.” Roberts repeated this assessment in a March 1 op-ed in The Hill.
In an August 2, 2005, article, The Washington Post reported that a recently completed National Intelligence Estimate -- representing a “consensus among U.S. intelligence agencies” -- “projected that Iran is about a decade away from manufacturing the key ingredient for a nuclear weapon.”
In a January 12 issue brief on Iran's nuclear program, David Albright and Corey Hinderstein of the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) stated that “Iran could have its first nuclear weapon in 2009.” They noted, however, that "[t]his result reflects a worst case assessment, and thus is highly uncertain." Albright and Hinderstein added that intelligence community analysts believe that Iran will not develop a nuclear weapon by 2009 because of the likelihood that Iran will encounter significant “technical difficulties”:
Given another year to make enough HEU [highly enriched uranium] for a nuclear weapon and a few more months to convert the uranium into weapon components, Iran could have its first nuclear weapon in 2009. By this time, Iran is assessed to have had sufficient time to prepare the other components of a nuclear weapon, although the weapon may not be deliverable by a ballistic missile.
This result reflects a worst case assessment, and thus is highly uncertain. Though some analysts at the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] believe that Iran could assemble centrifuges quicker, other analysts, including those in the US intelligence community, appear to believe that a date of 2009 would be overly optimistic. They believe that Iran is likely to encounter technical difficulties that would significantly delay bringing a centrifuge plant into operation. Factors causing delay include Iran having trouble making so many centrifuges in that time period or it taking longer than expected to overcome difficulties in operating the cascades or building a centrifuge plant.
On March 9, retired Lt. Gen. Moshe Ya'alon, former chief of staff of the Israeli Defense Forces, spoke at the Hudson Institute about the possibility of an Israeli military strike against Iran's nuclear program. According to a March 10 article by French news agency Agence France Presse, Ya'alon “maintained that in six to 18 months Tehran would have the knowledge to produce nuclear weapons, and within three to five years it would have such weaponry if its plans went unchecked.”
From the March 14 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume:
KONDRACKE: And -- and let the thing go through and then, you'd be on your way to sanctions. And there -- there is a potential that sanctions -- as I've said before -- that if the Europeans really don't invest in the Iranian oil facilities that it could cause them some trouble because they do need that foreign investment. But, you know, the question is how far -- how long does it take for the Iranians to get the material that they need for a nuclear weapon? And it varies depending on who you listen to -- between six months and two years. And that's the short time.