Iran – Did Anyone Say Imminent Threat?

A week ago, Dean Baker wrote:

The latest news about Iran should be very scary to anyone old enough to remember the 2002 elections. Those who lived in that distant time will remember a president slumping in the polls in the wake of a sinking economy and an accounting scandal that centered on his Texas buddies at Enron. Recognizing the seriousness of the situation, President Bush’s team began raising the warning about Saddam Hussein and his WMDs.

I wanted to say that Dean’s concern was tempered by this August 2005 article by Dafna Linzer:

A major U.S. intelligence review has projected that Iran is about a decade away from manufacturing the key ingredient for a nuclear weapon, roughly doubling the previous estimate of five years, according to government sources with firsthand knowledge of the new analysis. The carefully hedged assessments, which represent consensus among U.S. intelligence agencies, contrast with forceful public statements by the White House. Administration officials have asserted, but have not offered proof, that Tehran is moving determinedly toward a nuclear arsenal … At no time in the past three years has the White House attributed its assertions about Iran to U.S. intelligence, as it did about Iraq in the run-up to the March 2003 invasion. Instead, it has pointed to years of Iranian concealment and questioned why a country with as much oil as Iran would require a large-scale nuclear energy program.

Yes, ten years away is no imminent threat I said – and then I read Charles Krauthammer:

Makes you want to weep. One day earlier, Britain, France and Germany admitted that their two years of talks to stop Iran’s nuclear weapons program had collapsed. The Iranians had broken the seals on their nuclear facilities and were resuming activity in defiance of their pledges to the “E.U. Three.” … Ah, success. Instead of being years away from the point of no return for an Iranian bomb, as we were before we allowed Europe to divert anti-proliferation efforts into transparently useless talks, Iran is probably just months away. And now, of course, Iran is run by an even more radical government, led by a president who fervently believes in the imminence of the apocalypse. Ah, success. Having delayed two years, we now have to deal with a set of fanatical Islamists who we know will not be deterred from pursuing nuclear weapons by any sanctions. Even if we could get real sanctions. Which we will not. The remaining months before Iran goes nuclear are about to be frittered away in pursuit of this newest placebo.

Doesn’t this Euro-bashing remind us of the 2002 UN-bashing? I happen to trust the intelligence review even if Krauthammer does not. There is no imminent threat from Iran. But is it wise to trust Karl Rove not to be an imminent threat? Which I guess was Dean’s point.