It started a long time ago (but not, unfortunately, in a galaxy far, far away):
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.Seven years away? And did they have a bomb in 1991?
1992: Israeli parliamentarian Binyamin 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."So was there a bomb by the late 1990s?
1992: Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres tells French TV that Iran was set to have nuclear warheads by 1999. "Iran is the greatest threat and greatest problem in the Middle East," Peres warned, "because it seeks the nuclear option while holding a highly dangerous stance of extreme religious militancy."
1992: Joseph Alpher, a former official of Israel's Mossad spy agency, says "Iran has to be identified as Enemy No. 1." Iran's nascent nuclear program, he told The New York Times, "really gives Israel the jitters."
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.So now we're looking at a nuclear-armed Iran by 2007. Scary stuff, right?
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."
2007: President Bush warns that a nuclear-armed Iran could lead to "World War III." Vice President Dick Cheney had previously warned of "serious consequences" if Iran did not give up its nuclear program.And Iran still doesn't have a bomb today - all of those reports, all of that scaremongering and warmongering was wrong. Both the CIA and Mossad agree that there is no specific evidence that Iran is working on nuclear weapons today. And many experts believe that even if Iran were working on a bomb it could take up to ten to fifteen years.
2007: A month later, an unclassified National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iran is released, which controversially judges with "high confidence" that Iran had given up its nuclear weapons effort in fall 2003.
June 2008: Then-US Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton predicts that Israel will attack Iran before January 2009, taking advantage of a window before the next US president came to office.
May 2009: US Senate Foreign Relations Committee reports states: "There is no sign that Iran's leaders have ordered up a bomb."