3. US joins the warnings: 1992-97
The same alarm bells were already ringing in Washington, where in early 1992 a task force of the House Republican Research Committee claimed that there was a "98 percent certainty that Iran already had all (or virtually all) of the components required for two or three operational nuclear weapons."
Similar predictions received airtime, including one from then-CIA chief Robert Gates that Iran's nuclear program could be a "serious problem" in five years or less. Still, the bureaucracy took some time to catch up with the Iran threat rhetoric.
1992: Leaked copy of the Pentagon's "Defense Strategy for the 1990s" makes little reference to Iran, despite laying out seven scenarios for potential future conflict that stretch from Iraq to North Korea.
1995: Israeli parliamentarian Benjamin Netanyahu tells his colleagues that Iran is 3 to 5 years from being able to produce a nuclear weapon – and that the threat had to be "uprooted by an international front headed by the US."
1995: The New York Times conveys the fears of senior US and Israeli officials that "Iran is much closer to producing nuclear weapons than previously thought" – about five years away – and that Iran’s nuclear bomb is “at the top of the list” of dangers in the coming decade. The report speaks of an "acceleration of the Iranian nuclear program," claims that Iran "began an intensive campaign to develop and acquire nuclear weapons" in 1987, and says Iran was "believed" to have recruited scientists from the former Soviet Union and Pakistan to advise them.
1997: The Christian Science Monitor reports that US pressure on Iran's nuclear suppliers had "forced Iran to adjust its suspected timetable for a bomb. Experts now say Iran is unlikely to acquire nuclear weapons for eight or 10 years."
[Editor's note: This timeline has been corrected to note that this warning of Mr. Netanyahu was made in 1995, not 1992 as originally stated.]