The idea that Iran is currently in pursuit of — or even already has — a nuclear bomb has become accepted wisdom in much of Washington and amplified by the media. But the reality is much more opaque. When James Clapper, the U.S. Director of National Intelligence, appeared before the Senate last month, he told lawmakers that “we don’t believe they’ve actually made the decision to go ahead with a nuclear weapon.” Clapper’s statement reflected the conclusions of some in the intelligence community that Iran suspended its nuclear warhead program in 2003.
Both the latest U.S. assessments, and the most recent report of the International Atomic Energy Agency, which actively monitors the sites of Iran’s nuclear energy program, buttress this viewpoint: While there is ample reason to fear Iran might acquire a nuclear weapon, and is capable of doing so, there is no definitive proof that they have yet decided to try.
The November IAEA report itself, initially touted as offering the first “credible” evidence of a nuclear weapons project, later turned out to be a far weaker document, offering allegations that The New York Times described as “not substantially new, and [which] have been discussed by experts for years.” Arthur Brisbane, the Times’ public editor, later took the paper to task for overstating the conclusiveness of the IAEA’s findings.