(by Rowan Scarborough, WashingtonTimes.com) – The U.S. military is operating under the assumption that Iran is five
to eight years away from being able to build its first nuclear weapon,
a time span that explains a general lack of urgency within the Bush
administration to use air strikes to disable Tehran’s atomic program.
Defense sources familiar with discussions of senior military commanders
say the five- to eight-year projection has been discussed inside the
Pentagon, which is updating its war plan for Iran. The time frame is
generally in line with last year’s intelligence community estimate that
Iran could have the capability to produce a nuclear weapon by the
beginning or middle of the next decade.
    But the sources said
that while the five-year window provides President Bush additional time
to decide on whether to launch military strikes, they suspect it
underestimates Iran’s determination to build a bomb as quickly as
    Iran faces a United Nations Security Council deadline today to stop enriching uranium or face economic sanctions.
Advocates of stopping Iran’s nuclear ambitions point to gaps in what
the U.S. intelligence community really knows about Iran’s secretive
process. They also point to the fact that Iraq was much closer to
building the bomb than the U.S. thought in 1991, when Operation Desert
Storm air strikes destroyed much of Baghdad’s atomic capability.
Some of this impatience was revealed in a bipartisan report Aug. 23
from the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. The report,
which dealt with Iran’s support for terrorism and quest for weapons of
mass destruction, chastised the U.S. intelligence community for not
devoting sufficient resources to Tehran. It also indirectly criticized
current intelligence reporting on Iran as too timid.
important dimension of the detection of Iran’s WMD program is how
intelligence analysts use intelligence to characterize these programs
in their analysis,” the report said. “Intelligence community managers
and analysts must provide their best analytic judgments about Iranian
WMD programs and not shy away from provocative conclusions or bury
disagreements in consensus assessments.”
intelligence resources for Iran, the report said, “The national
security community must dedicate the personnel and resources necessary
to better assess Iran’s plans, capabilities and intentions, and the
Director of National Intelligence (DNI) must identify, establish, and
report on intelligence goals and performance metrics to measure
progress on critical fronts.”
    Retired Air Force Lt. Gen.
Thomas McInerney, a prominent proponent in Washington of air strikes
against Iran, said that whether the estimate is five years or 10 years,
the time span instills complacency in war planning. He said that Mr.
Bush is now following the State Department’s diplomatic path, without a
clear policy.
    “Everyone is in the Jergens lotion mode — ‘woe is me.’ Wringing our hands,” the former fighter pilot said.
Gen. McInerney advocates using B-2 stealth bombers, cruise missiles and
jet fighters to conduct a one- or two-day bombing campaign to take out
Iran’s air defenses, military facilities and about 40 nuclear targets,
which includes a Russian-built reactor and an enrichment plant.
The Washington Times has previously reported that Israel has drafted
plans for air strikes using long-range versions of the F-15 and F-16
fighters. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has often threatened to
destroy Israel, which is within range of Iran’s Shahab-3 ballistic
    The Times also reported that U.S. Central Command is updating a target list for Iran.
The House report said Iran owns the largest ballistic missile arsenal
in the Middle East, and is also working on a missile re-entry vehicle
that could carry a nuclear warhead.

Copyright 2006 News World Communications, Inc.  Reprinted
with permission of the Washington Times.  This reprint does not
constitute or imply any endorsement or sponsorship of any product,
service, company or organization.  Visit the website at www.washingtontimes.com


Who told the Washington Times reporter that the U.S. military believes
that Iran is five to eight years away from being able to build its
first nuclear weapon?

2.  What is the
‘intelligence community’?  Last year, when did the intelligence
community estimate that Iran would have the capability to produce a
nuclear weapon?

3.  According to
the sources quoted for this article, what is the problem with
estimating that Iran is five years away from building its first nuclear
weapon? (paragraphs 4 & 6)

4.  Define bipartisan.  What conclusion did the House of Representatives’ Committee on Intelligence come to regarding Iran? 

5.  What did the Committee on Intelligence’s report say about Iran’s current weapons supply?

6.  What do you
think about the assertions that there is “a general lack of urgency
within the Bush administration to use air strikes to disable Tehran’s
atomic program” (para. 1) and that there is “complacency in war
planning” (para. 10)?  Be specific.


For the complete report from the Committee on Intelligence, go to www.house.gov,
open the “Committee Offices” page, choose the Committee on
Intelligence, and open the “Report on Iranian Strategic Threat” (NOTE:
This is a pdf document.  You must have Adobe Acrobat Reader to open
this document.)

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