The Obama administration misled the public for years regarding its supposed estimation of Iran's one-year breakout time to create a nuclear weapon, a Bloomberg report by Eli Lake revealed Tuesday.
President Obama and others said Iran was more than a year away from producing enough fissile material for a nuclear weapon despite intelligence community estimates that the Persian theocracy was two to three months away.
"Today, Obama emphasizes that Iran is only two to three months away from acquiring enough fuel for a bomb, creating a sense of urgency for his Iran agreement," Lake wrote:
Speaking to reporters and editors at our Washington bureau on Monday, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz acknowledged that the U.S. has assessed for several years that Iran has been two to three months away from producing enough fissile material for a nuclear weapon. When asked how long the administration has held this assessment, Moniz said: "Oh quite some time." He added: "They are now, they are right now spinning, I mean enriching with 9,400 centrifuges out of their roughly 19,000. Plus all the . . . . R&D work. If you put that together it's very, very little time to go forward. That's the 2-3 months."
Brian Hale, a spokesman for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, confirmed to me Monday that the two-to-three-month estimate for fissile material was declassified on April 1.
Here is the puzzling thing: When Obama began his second term in 2013, he sang a different tune. He emphasized that Iran was more than a year away from a nuclear bomb, without mentioning that his intelligence community believed it was only two to three months away from making enough fuel for one, long considered the most challenging task in building a weapon.
"Right now, we think that it would take over a year or so for Iran to actually develop a nuclear weapon, but obviously we don't want to cut it too close," Obama told Israel's Channel Two in March 2013.
In an interview with the Associated Press in October 2013, Obama said their assessment "continues to be a year or more away."
"And in fact, actually, our estimate is probably more conservative than the estimates of Israeli intelligence services," he said.
Vice President Joe Biden said during his October 2012 debate with Rep. Paul Ryan (R., Wis.) that U.S. and Israeli intelligence matched in their assessments of Iran's breakout time, which at the time was publicly stated as one year.
"The Israelis and the United States—our military and intelligence communities are absolutely the same exact place in terms of how close the Iranians are to getting a nuclear weapon," Biden said. "They are a good way away. There is no difference between our view and theirs."
Then-Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said the same in January 2012, in an interview on 60 Minutes, as did former Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Michèle Flournoy on CNN that September.
"The consensus is that, if they decided to do it, it would probably take them about a year to be able to produce a bomb and then possibly another one to two years in order to put it on a deliverable vehicle of some sort in order to deliver that weapon," Panetta said.
"I think that all of the intelligence communities, and they've testified about this publicly, they believe that they're at least a year away, if not more, from getting a weapon," Flournoy said.