Both Rush Limbaugh and a Washington Times editorial repeated a distortion from the Drudge Report of recent comments by International Atomic Energy Agency director general Mohamed ElBaradei regarding how soon Iran might have a nuclear weapon; each claimed ElBaradei said Iran was “a few months” away. However, ElBaradei actually said that Iran may be able to produce a nuclear weapon “a few months” after it becomes capable of enriching uranium to a grade suitable for making weapons, which, according to the IAEA and news reports on U.S. intelligence, is at least two years away.
On December 8, a Washington Times editorial and nationally syndicated radio host Rush Limbaugh repeated a distortion of recent comments by International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) director general Mohamed ElBaradei regarding how soon Iran might have a nuclear weapon. The editorial claimed that ElBaradei had said that "[i]f Iran has resumed its uranium enrichment program, it will take only 'a few months' before it had a nuclear bomb." Similarly Limbaugh asserted that “according to the International Atomic Energy Agency, good, old Mohamed ElBaradei, [Iran is] ... months away from being able to produce a nuclear weapon.” But as Media Matters for America documented when the Drudge Report website made the same claim in a December 5 post linking to an article in The Jerusalem Post, ElBaradei's words were taken out of context. He stated that Iran may be able to produce a nuclear weapon “a few months” after it becomes capable of enriching uranium to a grade suitable for making weapons. According to the IAEA and news reports on U.S. intelligence, Iran is at least two years away from being able to enrich uranium on its own.
ElBaradei's “few months” quote first appeared in a December 5 article (subscription required) in Britain's The Independent. The article stated that "[a]lthough IAEA officials have said it would take at least two years for [the Iranians' underground uranium enrichment facility at] Natanz to become fully operational, Mr. ElBaradei believes that once the facility is up and running, the Iranians could be 'a few months' away from a nuclear weapon." The article noted that Iran so far has not begun the process of re-opening the plant at Natanz. By contrast, The Jerusalem Post, in an article posted the evening of December 5, led with the following, inaccurate, claim based on a distortion of the ElBaradei quote: “IAEA chairman Muhammad ElBaradei on Monday confirmed Israel's assessment that Iran is only a few months away from creating an atomic bomb.”
From the December 8 Washington Times editorial titled "The IAEA concession on Iran":
Earlier this week, Mohammed ElBaradei, director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, warned against any non-diplomatic means (i.e. military force) to end Iran's nuclear ambitions, saying it would be like opening “a Pandora's box.” Nothing new there. What is new is what Mr. ElBaradei said immediately before this: If Iran has resumed its uranium enrichment program, it will take only “a few months” before it had a nuclear bomb. His concession is in line with what Israeli authorities have been warning for months, and maybe now Washington can start getting serious.
From the December 8 broadcast of the nationally syndicated Rush Limbaugh Show, discussing recent comments by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad expressing doubt that the Holocaust took place:
LIMBAUGH: So this is the guy they're -- they're, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency, good, old Mohamed ElBaradei, they are what? Months away from being able to produce a nuclear weapon. Now, good old CIA said, not long ago, “Ahhhhh, don't worry about Iran. They're 10 years away.” Thank you, CIA. ElBaradei's saying we're months away. And what are we doing about it? Diddly-squat. “We're engaging in diplomacy.” And the Iranians are laughing at us.