Rush Limbaugh claimed that a picture given to him by "friends in the military" was proof of an Iranian missile that could be used for a nuclear weapon. But U.S. officials and defense experts have explained that Iran is not capable of having a nuclear weapon at this time.
During the October 11 vice presidential debate, Vice President Joe Biden stated that "we will not allow the Iranians to get a nuclear weapon." Biden went on to explain that even if the Iranians "get to the point where they can enrich uranium enough to put into a weapon ... they don't have a weapon to put it into."
Limbaugh disagreed with the vice president's statement that the Iranians did not have a weapon for a nuclear bomb. On the October 12 edition of his syndicated radio show, Limbaugh mocked Biden, purporting to quote him as saying, "They don't have a missile. But I'm telling you, they don't have a weapon."
Later, Limbaugh went after Biden again, claiming that "I've got a picture ... right here" of an Iranian missile. Pointing to his computer, he continued:
LIMBAUGH: Who says the Iranians don't have a missile? I've got a picture of one right here. I have friends in the military. They have pictures of things. There's a picture -- aren't the Iranians test-firing missiles over there? I don't know where they are ending up. But who says they don't have a missile, Joey? Who's telling him?
A screenshot taken from Limbaugh's videocast shows a photo of the alleged Iranian missile on his computer monitor:
Contrary to Limbaugh's claim, however, there are significant questions about whether Iran is planning to build nuclear weapons at all. Indeed, 2007 and 2011 National Intelligence Estimates found no conclusive evidence that Iran is even trying to build a bomb.
In January 31 testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper explained that the U.S. intelligence community does not have evidence to say that Iran is trying to build a bomb at this time:
We assess Iran is keeping open the option to develop nuclear weapons, in part by developing various nuclear capabilities that better position it to produce such weapons, should it choose to do so. We do not know, however, if Iran will eventually decide to build nuclear weapons.
Reuters reported on October 2 that "Iran may still be years away from any nuclear-armed missile." The article explained that there is much more needed for Iran to be capable of arming and firing a nuclear weapon:
Iran already has enough low-enriched uranium for several atomic bombs if refined to a high degree but it may still be a few years away from being able to build a nuclear-armed missile if it decided to go down that path.
But, analysts say, Tehran would need time also for the technologically complicated task of fashioning highly refined uranium gas into a nuclear warhead small enough to fit on a missile -- if it opts for such weapons of mass destruction.
"If they haven't worked out all the steps with dummy materials beforehand they will have a lot to do," said a Vienna-based diplomat who is not from one of the six world powers involved in diplomacy over Iran's disputed nuclear activity.
Even if Iran were to begin building a weapon, it would probably face significant engineering challenges. A report by the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) explained that Iran "would likely face new engineering challenges" if it were to attempt to actually build a nuclear weapon. The ISIS concluded that Iran would require "many additional months to manufacture a nuclear device suitable for underground testing and even longer to make a reliable warhead for a ballistic missile."
Furthermore, during a September 11 interview on CBS This Morning, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta pushed back against calls for immediate action against Iran. Panetta explained that "the United States would have about a year to take action if Iran decided to build a nuclear weapon." Panetta continued: "We have pretty good intelligence on them. We know generally what they're up to. And so we keep a close track on them."