Ediitor and Publisher (via Sullivan) has a round-up of some of the more egregiously wrong statements on Iran’s nuclear program from various prominent pundits and think tank “experts.”  Somehow one of the most ridiculous of them all seems to have faded into obscurity.  It was such a gem of hysterical alarmism that it deserves to be brought to our attention again.  I mean, of course, Bernard Lewis’ warning of the coming Apocalypse (which, as you may have noticed, did not arrive).  He already took it as a given that Iran had or soon would have nuclear weapons:

It seems increasingly likely that the Iranians either have or very soon will have nuclear weapons at their disposal, thanks to their own researches (which began some 15 years ago), to some of their obliging neighbors, and to the ever-helpful rulers of North Korea. The language used by Iranian President Ahmadinejad would seem to indicate the reality and indeed the imminence of this threat.

You would think that no one would take what Ahmadinejad said as an indicator of the reality of anything.  Yet that was a significant part of the basis for Lewis’ speculation.  The rest of the article explained why the regime’s apocalypticism was so intense that traditional nuclear deterrents would not be enough to stop Iran from using its weapons…three years after Tehran had apparently yielded to the far more intimidating powers of the IAEA.

Back on the fateful day when nothing happened, I wrote:

Of course, in Iran’s case there is a real possibility of using a civil nuclear program to create a weapons program, and Iran has strategic interests that make acquiring these weapons understandable and even, in a sense, rational.  They might, like Pakistan did, be playing the world for fools, buying time and waiting for the moment to unveil their nuke program.  But what is so amazing about the entire debate going on in the West is that none of us–including the government that supposedly “knows more than we do” as the delightfully servile phrase has it–has any reliable information to confirm this theory, except that we think their President is looney, our government despises theirs and many of us actually believe that Iranians–and we’re talking about Iranians here–are some set of wild-eyed, suicidal maniacs who will just as soon annihilate themselves in some kamikaze nuclear war as look at us.  In just the same way that the government railroaded the country into a war in Iraq on premises that were always preposterous, the administration and a sizeable part of the population of this country are once again positive that they know what Iran intends, when we are merely supposing and guessing–just as we did with Iraq.  In fact, what is going on is the making of policy based in paranoia and fear, which is by definition not all together rational or well considered.

Of course, as long as we have an establishment preoccupied with the supposed “Iranian threat,” we will never have a rational Iran policy, because perceiving Iran as a threat to the United States is grossly mistaken and leads to all manner of wrong conclusions about what our policy should be.  So long as our government considers Iran our enemy, when it is not our natural enemy, we will keep pursuing the wrong course of action.  On the question of Iran’s nuclear program, Peter Hitchens made some appropriately skeptical comments for TAC after visiting Iran:

I am not equipped to judge such things technically. I could not tell uranium from plutonium or a centrifuge from a capacitor. But I have been subjected to enough state-sponsored panics about evil dictators and weapons of mass destruction to have become a little dubious when I am told that a Middle Eastern state is plotting my imminent death or a first strike on Tel Aviv. And I have become aware that many real, well-informed experts are highly skeptical about Iran’s ability in this field. The Tehran government appears to exaggerate the number of centrifuges it has in operation. Its capacity to enrich uranium is pitifully short of that needed to produce weapons-grade material. Its elderly nuclear reactor at Bushehr has yet to produce a watt of electricity after more than 30 years. Iran’s claim to need nuclear energy may not be false. This supposed energy superpower imposes frequent power blackouts, as I can confirm from personal experience.

The Iranian state is, in any case, famous among its own people for being very bad at delivering grand projects. Tehran’s new Khomeini Airport has just opened after 30 years under construction. A supposedly ultra-modern TV and telecommunications tower stands unfinished on the capital’s skyline after 20 years of work. Several cities, promised metro-rail systems years ago, have yet to see a single train run. Tehran’s metro, sorely needed in that traffic-strangled megalopolis, is operating a few lines, but they opened years late, and there are far too few of them.  

The latest news about the apparent suspension of any weapons program suggests that there may be a new opportunity for taking the first steps in rapprochement with Tehran, which could provide a way out of Iraq for us as well.