Breathless predictions that the Islamic Republic will soon be at the brink of nuclear capability, or – worse – acquire an actual nuclear bomb, are not new.
For more than quarter of a century Western officials have claimed repeatedly that Iran is close to joining the nuclear club. Such a result is always declared "unacceptable" and a possible reason for military action, with "all options on the table" to prevent upsetting the Mideast strategic balance dominated by the US and Israel.
And yet, those predictions have time and again come and gone. This chronicle of past predictions lends historical perspective to today’s rhetoric about Iran.
Fear of an Iranian nuclear weapon predates Iran's 1979 Islamic revolution, when the pro-West Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi was deep in negotiations with the US, France and West Germany, on a nuclear-energy spending spree that was to yield 20 reactors.
Late 1970s: US receives intelligence that the Shah had "set up a clandestine nuclear weapons development program."
1979: Shah ousted in the Iranian revolution, ushering in the Islamic Republic. After the overthrow of the Shah, the US stopped supplying highly enriched uranium (HEU) to Iran. The revolutionary government guided by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini condemned nuclear weapons and energy, and for a time stopped all projects.
1984: Soon after West German engineers visit the unfinished Bushehr nuclear reactor, Jane's Defence Weekly quotes West German intelligence sources saying that Iran's production of a bomb "is entering its final stages." US Senator Alan Cranston claims Iran is seven years away from making a weapon.