Netanyahu on Iran (This Time Without the Cartoon Bomb)

netanyahuUS media have never been shy about promoting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu‘s take on the supposed threat from Iran. To hear him tell it,  that country is definitely building a bomb (there’s no evidence for that) and they’re developing intercontinental ballistic missiles that can strike the United States with nuclear weapons (also incredibly dubious).

There he was on CNN‘s State of the Union (4/27/14) with Candy Crowley, primarily to talk about the problems with the Israeli/Palestinian peace talks. But the menace of Iran came up too:

CROWLEY: Mr. Prime Minister, finally, in September of 2012, you told me that you thought Iran was probably six to nine months away from being able to have full nuclear weapon capability. Where is it now?

NETANYAHU: I didn’t say weapon capability. I said nuclear-enriched material.

CROWLEY: Nuclear-enriched, yes, sir.

NETANYAHU: That is fissile material for a bomb. They’re about two months away. And they’d like–to stay two months away. They have been under terrific sanctions pressure. There was an interim deal. Now they’re seeking a deal that would keep them more or less where they are. In other words, they will be a few months away–or they might be set back a few months from producing enough nuclear material for a bomb.

Netanyahu's UN presentation

Netanyahu’s visual aid: Why hasn’t the bomb gone off yet?

Now, you could ask Crowley’s question to illustrate the problem with Netanhayu’s old timeline:  If they were six months from a bomb 18 months ago, and they have no such bomb, something doesn’t add up.

But she was clearly not looking to challenge Netanyahu’s claims. He stresses that he was only talking about “nuclear-enriched material,” but  Netanyahu’s obvious point was that Iran was about to build a bomb. Which is why, on that show back in 2012 (9/16/12), he talked about  the need to “prevent Iran from completing its nuclear weapons program.” And he also declared: “We know that they’re working towards a weapon…. It’s not something that we surmise. We have absolutely certainty about that.”

But these claims are simply not rooted in the facts. There is still no evidence that Iran is currently pursuing any such weapons. In fact, if Crowley wanted to challenge Netanyahu on this point, she need only point to the recent AP report (4/17/14) about the latest from the International Atomic Energy Agency:

Iran has converted three-quarters of a nuclear stockpile that it could have turned quickly into weapons-grade uranium into less volatile forms and is well on the way toward transforming the rest, the UN atomic agency reported Thursday.

So according to the nuclear inspectors monitoring Iran’s program, the country’s feared plan to break out and manufacture weapons is becoming more unlikely–assuming one thought that was ever the plan at all.

But Netanyahu knows his talking points, and knows they’re not going to be challenged–not by a friendly CNN host, anyway. So he threw this one in for good measure:

They’re developing intercontinental ballistic missiles to put nuclear bombs on those missiles for you. Don’t let it happen.

That claim has been challenged, too (Wired, 2/24/12), with many analysts pointing out that Iran is nowhere near that capability. But for Netanyahu, American television is where you go to make baseless claims (FAIR Blog, 7/15/13) without having to worry that anyone will call you on it.

About Peter Hart

Activism Director and and Co-producer of CounterSpinPeter Hart is the activism director at FAIR. He writes for FAIR's magazine Extra! and is also a co-host and producer of FAIR's syndicated radio show CounterSpin. He is the author of The Oh Really? Factor: Unspinning Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly (Seven Stories Press, 2003). Hart has been interviewed by a number of media outlets, including NBC Nightly News, Fox News Channel's O'Reilly Factor, the Los Angeles Times, Newsday and the Associated Press. He has also appeared on Showtime and in the movie Outfoxed. Follow Peter on Twitter at @peterfhart.