Israel on Iran: ‘So Wrong for So Long’

There are two important pieces by Justin Elliott at Salon that are well worth checking out. They paint a picture — if you take both together — of a U.S. campaign against Iran, led by hawkish pro-Israel groups based on dubious information and as-yet unrealized predictions.

The first is a timeline of the U.S. campaign. The latest salvo is the WikiLeaks cables, but Elliott begins in 1993 with a Washington Post piece called: “Israel seeking to convince U.S. that West is threatened by Iran.” Overall, the timeline is illuminating (although as Elliot says, “subjective”), especially in light of the recent claims by neoconservatives and their hawkish pro-Israel allies, in the wake of WikiLeaks revelations, that the campaign to attack Iran is not really about Israel. This is of course based based on the premise that a handful of Arab autocratic dictators also think it’s a good idea. Israeli figures, hawkish U.S. Jewish groups and neoconservatives pervade the list of historic items, especially in the early years of the campaign.

The second story relates to the first in that many of the figures in this two-decade campaign have been wrong, wrong, wrong about Iranian nuclear development. It’s a wonder the press still buys their analysis, given the neoconservative propensity to seek out information (and only that information) bolstering their talking points. headline of Elliott’s headline says it all: “Israel on Iran: So Wrong for So Long — The extremely long history of incorrect Israeli predictions about when Iran will obtain a nuclear bomb.”

Given Elliott went to the trouble of researching and putting together this timeline documenting repeated Israeli miscalculations,  why not quote from him a bit:


According to various Israeli government predictions over the years, Iran was going to have a bomb by the mid-90s — or 1998, 1999, 2000, 2004, 2005, and finally 2010. More recent Israeli predictions have put that date at 2011 or 2014.

None of this is to say that Iran will not at some point get a nuclear weapon — though the Iranian government has maintained that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes. That said, Iran has not fully cooperated with international inspectors. But even assuming that Iran is seeking a nuclear weapon, estimates still vary widely on when it will reach that goal.

So what the below timeline should show us is a few things: making accurate predictions about the future is difficult; the Israelis are almost certainly not always offering good-faith assessments of intelligence on Iran; and reporters and the public should demand evidence for assertions about an Iranian nuclear program, whomever the source.

Both timelines are well worth reviewing. You can see the campaign-for-war timeline and the timeline of Israel’s sloppy predictions at Salon.

Ali Gharib

Ali Gharib is a New York-based journalist on U.S. foreign policy with a focus on the Middle East and Central Asia. His work has appeared at Inter Press Service, where he was the Deputy Washington Bureau Chief; the Buffalo Beast; Huffington Post; Mondoweiss; Right Web; and Alternet. He holds a Master's degree in Philosophy and Public Policy from the London School of Economics and Political Science. A proud Iranian-American and fluent Farsi speaker, Ali was born in California and raised in D.C.



  1. All points well made, but take care not to be hoist with your own petard — after all, Iran will probably get the bomb one day, and then the “prematurists” (to coin a term) will (finally) be right, while the “denialists” will be scoffed at as naive. Just saying.

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