A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

Tiny Iran


Feb. 26 marked the beginning of the Conservative Political Action Committee (or CPAC) annual convention. Conference speakers include leading figures from the Republican Party as well as conservative columnists, pundits and activists. Among yesterday’s speakers was John Bolton, U.N. ambassador under President George W. Bush and now a senior fellow with the conservative American Enterprise Institute. During his speech, Bolton repeated a bit of old bunk from the 2008 campaign, falsely claiming that Obama called Iran “a tiny threat.”

As we said at the time, that’s a serious distortion. Obama didn’t actually say that Iran is a “tiny” threat. He said it’s tiny in size when compared with the former Soviet Union. He went on to say that Iran doesn’t “pose a serious threat to us the way the Soviet Union posed a threat to us.”

Obama is clearly correct to say that Iran does not pose the level of threat that the former Soviet Union posed. At the end of the Cold War, the USSR possessed more than 12,000 strategic nuclear warheads, nearly 8,000 of which were capable of reaching the United States. Iran possesses zero nuclear weapons, and, according to a National Intelligence Estimate, stopped working on nuclear weapon development in 2003.

We take no position on the extent to which Iran is a threat to the U.S. But it’s false to say, as Bolton does, that Obama has dismissed the threat as “tiny.”