Think tank: Iran could have the bomb in two or three years

So says the UK’s esteemed International Institute for Strategic Studies, which is already on record as believing that Iranian nukes are inevitable. The good news? They’re backing away from that a tiny bit. The bad news? Our own (now former) spychief, John Negroponte, claimed recently that Iran was probably no closer than four years away.

Guys? Let’s not overshoot on this one.

While Iran could conceivably build a bomb in two years, a three-year time frame was more likely, said Mark Fitzpatrick, a non-proliferation expert at the institute. He said estimates floated by U.S. intelligence were conservative — a likely result of its chastening experience in Iraq.

“The CIA is being extra cautious these days,” he said…

The U.N. on Dec. 23 imposed sanctions on Iran for pursuing enrichment efforts, and gave it 60 days to suspend the program…

The CEO seems to think sanctions are our best bet for stopping it:

“There are signs that political and economic pressure is having an impact in Tehran,” said John Chipman, the institute’s chief executive, speaking at the launch of the its annual publication,The Military Balance…

Chipman also said it was possible that growing disquiet within Iran over Ahmadinejad’s leadership — and the economic troubles linked to possible sanctions — may open a debate in the country on the wisdom of pursuing the nuclear program.

“Whether the internal debate will lead to a suspension in the enrichment program that would provide the basis for resumed negotiations remains to be seen,” he said.

If I were Bush trying to drum up support for an attack, I’d have Tony Snow march out there and say, “They’ll have the bomb in two years — and we’re not going to attack to stop them.” Given which party’s likely to be in the White House when this comes to a head if Bush doesn’t deal with it first, the left will practically beg him to send the bombers now.