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Nuclear War, WMD issues
Topic: Nuclear War, WMD issues (Read 115423 times)
Re: Nuclear War?
Reply #50 on:
October 31, 2008, 04:50:58 PM »
Since we are not doing anything about it why worry?
Then again it would have helped if we had real leadership that got us off dependence on the foereign oil.
Our only hope are the Iranian moderates.
Of course BO will fix it with a genius argument.
Re: Nuclear War?
Reply #51 on:
October 31, 2008, 08:21:02 PM »
Ahmadinejad is "not well", oil has dropped over 50%, the Iranian economy has serious problems, Iran has a serious problem with Afg opium, and the government is not popular.
If BO gets aggro in Afg-Pak, it might be easier for the Iranians to change course with Barack Hussein Obama.
Yeah, , , right , , ,
Re: Nuclear War?
Reply #52 on:
November 01, 2008, 03:35:51 PM »
Missile Defense Agency chief: Iran will soon be able to strike US, Europe with missiles
The head of the Pentagon's Missile Defense Agency said Friday that Iran was not far from attaining the means of using missiles against all of Europe and against the US in five to six years, Israel Radio reported.
Lt. Gen. Henry A. Obering III was speaking in Prague in an effort to convince the Czech Parliament to approve a US missile defense installation in the country's territory.
Reply With Quote
Iran: Enough to build a bomb
Reply #53 on:
November 20, 2008, 11:01:22 AM »
Iran Said to Have Nuclear Fuel for One Weapon
By WILLIAM J. BROAD and DAVID E. SANGER
Published: November 19, 2008
Iran has now produced roughly enough nuclear material to make, with added purification, a single atom bomb, according to nuclear experts analyzing the latest report from global atomic inspectors.
The figures detailing Iran’s progress were contained in a routine update on Wednesday from the International Atomic Energy Agency, which has been conducting inspections of the country’s main nuclear plant at Natanz. The report concluded that as of early this month, Iran had made 630 kilograms, or about 1,390 pounds, of low-enriched uranium.
Several experts said that was enough for a bomb, but they cautioned that the milestone was mostly symbolic, because Iran would have to take additional steps. Not only would it have to breach its international agreements and kick out the inspectors, but it would also have to further purify the fuel and put it into a warhead design — a technical advance that Western experts are unsure Iran has yet achieved.
“They clearly have enough material for a bomb,” said Richard L. Garwin, a top nuclear physicist who helped invent the hydrogen bomb and has advised Washington for decades. “They know how to do the enrichment. Whether they know how to design a bomb, well, that’s another matter.”
Iran insists that it wants only to fuel reactors for nuclear power. But many Western nations, led by the United States, suspect that its real goal is to gain the ability to make nuclear weapons.
While some Iranian officials have threatened to bar inspectors in the past, the country has made no such moves, and many experts inside the Bush administration and the I.A.E.A. believe it will avoid the risk of attempting “nuclear breakout” until it possessed a larger uranium supply.
Even so, for President-elect Barack Obama, the report underscores the magnitude of the problem that he will inherit Jan. 20: an Iranian nuclear program that has not only solved many technical problems of uranium enrichment, but that can also now credibly claim to possess enough material to make a weapon if negotiations with Europe and the United States break down.
American intelligence agencies have said Iran could make a bomb between 2009 and 2015. A national intelligence estimate made public late last year concluded that around the end of 2003, after long effort, Iran had halted work on an actual weapon. But enriching uranium, and obtaining enough material to build a weapon, is considered the most difficult part of the process.
Siegfried S. Hecker of Stanford University and a former director of the Los Alamos weapons laboratory said the growing size of the Iranian stockpile “underscored that they are marching down the path to developing the nuclear weapons option.”
In the report to its board, the atomic agency said Iran’s main enrichment plant was now feeding uranium into about 3,800 centrifuges — machines that spin incredibly fast to enrich the element into nuclear fuel. That count is the same as in the agency’s last quarterly report, in September. Iran began installing the centrifuges in early 2007. But the new report’s total of 630 kilograms — an increase of about 150 — shows that Iran has been making progress in accumulating material to make nuclear fuel.
That uranium has been enriched to the low levels needed to fuel a nuclear reactor. To further purify it to the highly enriched state needed to fuel a nuclear warhead, Iran would have to reconfigure its centrifuges and do a couple months of additional processing, nuclear experts said.
“They have a weapon’s worth,” Thomas B. Cochran, a senior scientist in the nuclear program of the Natural Resources Defense Council, a private group in Washington that tracks atomic arsenals, said in an interview.
He said the amount was suitable for a relatively advanced implosion-type weapon like the one dropped on Nagasaki. Its core, he added, would be about the size of a grapefruit. He said a cruder design would require about twice as much weapon-grade fuel.
“It’s a virtual milestone,” Dr. Cochran said of Iran’s stockpile. It is not an imminent threat, he added, because the further technical work to make fuel for a bomb would tip off inspectors, the United States and other powers about “where they’re going.”
The agency’s report made no mention of the possible military implications of the size of Iran’s stockpile. And some experts said the milestone was still months away. In an analysis of the I.A.E.A. report, the Institute for Science and International Security, a private group in Washington, estimated that Iran had not yet reached the mark but would “within a few months.” It added that other analysts estimated it might take as much as a year.
Whatever the exact date, it added, “Iran is progressing” toward the ability to quickly make enough weapon-grade uranium for a warhead.
Peter D. Zimmerman, a physicist and former United States government arms scientist, cautioned that the Iranian stockpile fell slightly short of what international officials conservatively estimate as the minimum threatening amount of nuclear fuel. “They’re very close,” he said of the Iranians in an interview. “If it isn’t tomorrow, it’s soon,” probably a matter of months.
In its report, the I.A.E.A., which is based in Vienna, said Iran was working hard to roughly double its number of operating centrifuges.
A senior European diplomat close to the agency said Iran might have 6,000 centrifuges enriching uranium by the end of the year. The report also said Iran had said it intended to start installing another group of 3,000 centrifuges early next year.
The atomic energy agency said Iran was continuing to evade questions about its suspected work on nuclear warheads. In a separate report released Wednesday, the agency said, as expected, that it had found ambiguous traces of uranium at a suspected Syrian reactor site bombed by Israel last year.
“While it cannot be excluded that the building in question was intended for non-nuclear use,” the report said, the building’s features “along with the connectivity of the site to adequate pumping capacity of cooling water, are similar to what may be found in connection with a reactor site.” Syria has said the uranium came from Israeli bombs.
Re: Nuclear War?
Reply #54 on:
November 21, 2008, 09:23:12 AM »
New Report Calls Nuclear Terrorism Serious Risk
By Meredith Buel
19 November 2008
A new report says the world still faces a serious risk that terrorists could obtain a nuclear bomb and urges President-elect Barack Obama to make reducing that risk a top priority of U.S. security policy and diplomacy. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel has details from Washington.
The new report, called "Securing the Bomb 2008," says major progress has been made to reduce the danger of nuclear terrorism.
The report warns, however, there are still major gaps in these efforts and says the risk of terrorists acquiring a nuclear weapon remains unacceptably high.
The author of the report, Harvard professor Matthew Bunn, says the potential for a disastrous attack is very real.
"That would incinerate the heart of a major city," he said. "It could turn the center of Washington, D.C. or the center of Manhattan into a smoking, radioactive ruin that would be unusable for decades to come. That would have profound and catastrophic affects on our society, really reverberating around the world."
The study is the seventh annual report from Harvard University's Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs and was commissioned by the Nuclear Threat Initiative, a nonproliferation group based in Washington, D.C.
The report details a series of events around the world in recent years it says highlights the risk of poor security at nuclear installations.
These include an armed break-in at a South African site with hundreds of kilograms of highly enriched uranium, the arrest of a Russian colonel for soliciting bribes to overlook violations of nuclear security rules and the increasing terrorist threats amid the ongoing strife in Pakistan.
The report says the materials for a nuclear bomb exist in hundreds of buildings in dozens of countries.
Professor Bunn says there are currently about 130 research reactors around the world that still use highly enriched uranium for fuel.
"I think they are a quite serious concern because many of these facilities have very minimal security measures," he said. "Some of them are on university campuses and other locations where it is really not plausible that you would ever have the kind of security that in my view is required when you are talking about potential nuclear bomb material."
The report says there has been progress in the former Soviet Union in recent years. It says U.S.-sponsored security upgrades have been completed for 75 percent of the buildings that contain weapons-grade material and for about 65 percent of Russia's nuclear warhead sites.
The study says major issues remain, however, ranging from insider theft and corruption to chronic underinvestment in nuclear security.
The report also recommends expanding efforts to secure nuclear materials in China, India, Pakistan and South Africa.
The study contains an agenda for the next U.S. president to prevent nuclear terrorism and Professor Bunn says President-elect Barack Obama needs to accelerate efforts to combat the threat.
"They really need a comprehensive strategy to prevent nuclear terrorism, starting with locking down nuclear stockpiles all over the world, making sure that every nuclear weapon, every kilogram of plutonium or highly enriched uranium, wherever it may be, is secure and accounted for," he said.
Professor Bunn says the Obama administration should appoint a senior White House official, with direct access to the President, to supervise all efforts focused on preventing nuclear terrorism.
WSJ: What a single nuke could do
Reply #55 on:
November 24, 2008, 02:37:58 AM »
What a Single Nuclear Warhead Could Do
Why the U.S. needs a space-based missile defense against an EMP attack.By BRIAN T. KENNEDY
As severe as the global financial crisis now is, it does not pose an existential threat to the U.S. Through fits and starts we will sort out the best way to revive the country's economic engine. Mistakes can be tolerated, however painful. The same may not be true with matters of national security.
Although President George W. Bush has accomplished more in the way of missile defense than his predecessors -- including Ronald Reagan -- he will leave office with only a rudimentary system designed to stop a handful of North Korean missiles launched at our West Coast. Barack Obama will become commander in chief of a country essentially undefended against Russian, Chinese, Iranian or ship-launched terrorist missiles. This is not acceptable.
The attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, have proven how vulnerable we are. On that day, Islamic terrorists flew planes into our buildings. It is not unreasonable to believe that if they obtain nuclear weapons, they might use them to destroy us. And yet too many policy makers have rejected three basic facts about our position in the world today:
First, as the defender of the Free World, the U.S. will be the target of destruction or, more likely, strategic marginalization by Russia, China and the radical Islamic world.
Second, this marginalization and threat of destruction is possible because the U.S. is not so powerful that it can dictate military and political affairs to the world whenever it wants. The U.S. has the nuclear capability to vanquish any foe, but is not likely to use it except as a last resort.
Third, America will remain in a condition of strategic vulnerability as long as it fails to build defenses against the most powerful political and military weapons arrayed against us: ballistic missiles with nuclear warheads. Such missiles can be used to destroy our country, blackmail or paralyze us.
Any consideration of how best to provide for the common defense must begin by acknowledging these facts.
Consider Iran. For the past decade, Iran -- with the assistance of Russia, China and North Korea -- has been developing missile technology. Iranian Defense Minister Ali Shamkhani announced in 2004 their ability to mass produce the Shahab-3 missile capable of carrying a lethal payload to Israel or -- if launched from a ship -- to an American city.
The current controversy over Iran's nuclear production is really about whether it is capable of producing nuclear warheads. This possibility is made more urgent by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's statement in 2005: "Is it possible for us to witness a world without America and Zionism? But you had best know that this slogan and this goal are attainable, and surely can be achieved."
Mr. Ahmadinejad takes seriously, even if the average Iranian does not, radical Islam's goal of converting, subjugating or destroying the infidel peoples -- first and foremost the citizens of the U.S. and Israel. Even after 9/11, we appear not to take that threat seriously. We should.
Think about this scenario: An ordinary-looking freighter ship heading toward New York or Los Angeles launches a missile from its hull or from a canister lowered into the sea. It hits a densely populated area. A million people are incinerated. The ship is then sunk. No one claims responsibility. There is no firm evidence as to who sponsored the attack, and thus no one against whom to launch a counterstrike.
But as terrible as that scenario sounds, there is one that is worse. Let us say the freighter ship launches a nuclear-armed Shahab-3 missile off the coast of the U.S. and the missile explodes 300 miles over Chicago. The nuclear detonation in space creates an electromagnetic pulse (EMP).
Gamma rays from the explosion, through the Compton Effect, generate three classes of disruptive electromagnetic pulses, which permanently destroy consumer electronics, the electronics in some automobiles and, most importantly, the hundreds of large transformers that distribute power throughout the U.S. All of our lights, refrigerators, water-pumping stations, TVs and radios stop running. We have no communication and no ability to provide food and water to 300 million Americans.
This is what is referred to as an EMP attack, and such an attack would effectively throw America back technologically into the early 19th century. It would require the Iranians to be able to produce a warhead as sophisticated as we expect the Russians or the Chinese to possess. But that is certainly attainable. Common sense would suggest that, absent food and water, the number of people who could die of deprivation and as a result of social breakdown might run well into the millions.
Let us be clear. A successful EMP attack on the U.S. would have a dramatic effect on the country, to say the least. Even one that only affected part of the country would cripple the economy for years. Dropping nuclear weapons on or retaliating against whoever caused the attack would not help. And an EMP attack is not far-fetched.
Twice in the last eight years, in the Caspian Sea, the Iranians have tested their ability to launch ballistic missiles in a way to set off an EMP. The congressionally mandated EMP Commission, with some of America's finest scientists, has released its findings and issued two separate reports, the most recent in April, describing the devastating effects of such an attack on the U.S.
The only solution to this problem is a robust, multilayered missile-defense system. The most effective layer in this system is in space, using space-based interceptors that destroy an enemy warhead in its ascent phase when it is easily identifiable, slower, and has not yet deployed decoys. We know it can work from tests conducted in the early 1990s. We have the technology. What we lack is the political will to make it a reality.
An EMP attack is not one from which America could recover as we did after Pearl Harbor. Such an attack might mean the end of the United States and most likely the Free World. It is of the highest priority to have a president and policy makers not merely acknowledge the problem, but also make comprehensive missile defense a reality as soon as possible.
Mr. Kennedy is president of the Claremont Institute and a member of the Independent Working Group on Missile Defense.
Raid on SA nuke facility
Reply #56 on:
November 24, 2008, 10:51:58 AM »
Second post of the day:
60 Minutes story on just now. Amazing how aloof the SA government and the plant management are about this whole thing.
video of story at link:
Brazen Nuke Facility Raid An Inside Job?
Nov. 23, 2008
(CBS) The assault on Pelindaba would make quite a movie. But it's a thriller that is all too real, with consequences that might have threatened the world. It was a daring break-in at a heavily guarded nuclear plant that holds enough weapons grade uranium to build a dozen atomic bombs. The story is little known, but after months of reporting, 60 Minutes can tell the tale, for the first time, through the eyes of the one man who stopped the plot. What happened at Pelindaba is the kind of thing that keeps presidents awake at night.
Pelindaba is nestled in the African bush, not far from the capital of South Africa. It is where the former Apartheid regime secretly built nuclear weapons. In the 1990s, South Africa chose to disarm. The bombs were dismantled, but the highly enriched uranium, known as HEU - the fuel for the bombs - is still there. South Africa assures the world that Pelindaba is a fortress. But, last year, on the night of Nov. 7, it was the scene of the boldest raid ever attempted on a site holding bomb grade uranium.
"It happened just after one o’clock at night. We heard a sound inside the building," remembers Anton Gerber, who has worked at Pelindaba for 30 years and is the chief of the plant’s emergency control center.
He was in the control room when masked men broke in. "There's a crack in the door. And I looked through this and I saw this four armed gunmen entering the passages is coming straight to us in the control room."
Gerber says all four were armed.
The men had breached a 10,000 volt fence, passed security cameras, and walked three quarters of a mile to the control room that monitors alarms and responds to emergencies. Gerber called the security office, just three minutes away.
"I immediately said to them they must come and help us. We're under attack. There's four armed men inside our building. The first guy who stepped into the office, he said to me, 'Why do you phone?' He was shouting at me, 'Why do you phone? Why do you phone?'" Gerber remembers. "And I was still so surprised, you know. My first words to them, 'Is this a joke?'"
The only other employee in the control room was Ria Meiring. "And he grabbed me at my hair and pull me out. And he put a gun to my head while the other three guys were fighting with Anton," she remembers.
But the attack on the control room was just the start. A second group of gunmen, on the other side of the plant, was cutting through the fence and opened fire on a guard.
Asked if he thinks the gunmen were after the HEU, Matthew Bunn of Harvard's Kennedy School of Government tells correspondent Scott Pelley, "That's certainly the most valuable single thing that's at that site."
Bunn has studied the attack and has written a classified report for the government on atomic security. He says highly enriched uranium is extremely difficult to make, and would be worth millions of dollars on the black market. And if terrorists get a hold of it, it would not be hard to build a crude atomic bomb. "Making a nuclear bomb with highly enriched uranium basically involves slamming two pieces together at high speed. That's really all there is to it," he explains.
Asked how much highly enriched uranium a terrorist group would need to build a weapon, Bunn says, "The amount of highly enriched uranium metal would basically fit into the cans of a six pack."
And handling the material, according to Bunn, isn’t very dangerous. "Unfortunately not. Highly enriched uranium is only very weakly radioactive. You can handle it with your hands."
Pelindaba holds more than a thousand pounds of HEU, and it uses some of it to make medical products. South Africa calls the plant is a "national key point," a facility with the highest security.
"This is the first time that this has ever happened on site," says Ari Van Der Bijl, the general manager.
Van Der Bijl brought 60 Minutes to the place where the gunmen got through the electric fence.
They picked a spot in the bottom of a ravine, far below the perimeter road where the security guards would be traveling. The guards couldn’t see them from up there. Once they got to the fence, one of the men used plastic clips to raise the bottom of the fence just several inches above the ground. He spent about 20 minutes shimmying under the electrical wire and once inside, he made straight for the box that controls the electricity, and shut the whole thing down.
"So the box has an alarm on it, they disabled that. It has a communications cable to warn the security office, they cut that. And then they shut the fence down. They knew what they were doing," Pelley remarks.
"They knew what they were doing. Definitely," Van Der Bijl acknowledges.
It was a fluke that the man who stopped the plot was in the control room at all. The attack came on the night of a plant holiday party. The employee who was supposed to be on duty is a paraplegic in a wheelchair, but he got drunk. Meiring filled in at the last moment. Anton Gerber is her fiancé and he decided to keep her company. That left him facing the intruders, who came at him with an iron bar.
Why did he decide to fight the four armed gunmen?
"I don't know," Gerber says. "For the first moment, I thought maybe I must just put hands in the air and said, 'Listen, what do you want?' But I think the moment they hit me with that piece of iron, it was all over. I start fighting."
Gerber says he knocked two of them down and turned to a third man. "I grabbed him. But the moment before I can take this guy he fired the shot, you know. And I was still fighting. I didn't know that there was, he shot me through the, through the chest."
"And after they shot him, it was terrible. They hit him over and over and over and over again," Meiring remembers. "After they shot, while he was lying on the floor."
Gerber was seriously wounded, waiting for the security force. He says it should have taken about three minutes for security to respond; instead, he says it took 24.
Meiring says she wondered the entire time where security was, while she was on her knees with a gun to her head.
After they shot Gerber, the gunmen fled and had plenty of time to get away. The second team of gunmen also vanished. And it seemed that South African officials wanted to make our questions disappear as well.
"After the first team got in, what was happening with the second team?" Pelley asks.
"You are talking about teams as if they are related. We don’t think they are related," Van Der Bijl says
"If these were sophisticated terrorists, Anton Gerber wouldn't be alive to tell his tale today," says Rob Adam, the CEO of the Nuclear Energy Corporation of South Africa. He runs Pelindaba. "I think that it was a piece of random criminality, frankly, having looked at it."
Asked what he means by "random criminality," Adam tells Pelley, "Well, I don't think that there was any concerted attack of a nuclear nature. You had one technically sophisticated individual with some friends."
Adam says he doesn't know what the intruders were after.
What does the South African government have to say? Pelley asked Ambassador Abdul Minty, one of South Africa's top officials on nuclear policy.
"So far, the evidence we have is that it was an attempt at burglary. People went to the one facility and tried to take, for example, a notebook computer which they left behind, subsequently," Minty says.
"You're not saying that the intrusion at Pelindaba was designed to take a laptop computer?" Pelley asks.
"No, no. I'm saying it was probably a burglary attempt from what evidence we have," Minty replies.
"Mr. Ambassador, the point is, what's valuable at Pelindaba? And the answer is the radiological materials. Nobody would break into a national key point in South Africa to steal office machines," Pelley points out.
"No, you know, the Pelindaba facility is off a main road. There's a lot of traffic on that road. So, if they felt that here is a facility that has gates, that has security, maybe there's something valuable," Minty says.
"Are you saying they attacked the plant not knowing what it was?" Pelley asks.
"No, I'm saying no one knows what the motivation is. So, we have to keep to the facts and the truth," Minty replies.
The facts that we know were recorded. A camera at the fence taped the intruders, but guards who were supposed to be watching the monitors didn’t report the men. A phone log that 60 Minutes has seen shows that 24 minutes passed between Gerber's call for help and the arrival of security. Gerber suspects someone in security was in on the plot. And he's suing Pelindaba.
CEO Rob Adam says it took security "a couple of minutes" to arrive, but that he doesn't have the exact figure.
"There's a lawsuit in this case, you may be aware of, that's been filed, that suggests that it was 24 minutes before the security arrived after that telephone call," Pelley points out.
"I'm aware of the allegation. We'll respond to it when we need to in court," Adam says.
"You've done an investigation. You're in charge of the plant. Did it take 24 minutes for them to get there?" Pelley asks.
"It took, in our calculation, somewhat less than that," Adam says.
"You initially said two minutes. Now we're talking 24 minutes," Pelley points out.
"I said a couple of minutes, but I understand from our analysis of the phone records that it took less than that," Adam says.
"There's a gap here, between two and 24. Can you help me narrow that gap a little bit?" Pelley asks.
"I didn't come prepared with that figure, Scott," Adam acknowledges.
But Matthew Bunn thinks it is nonsense to think this was a third-rate burglary. "These people cut through a 10,000 volt security fence. They disable sophisticated electronic intrusion detectors. They went straight to the emergency control center of the site. These people knew what kind of site they were in and knew what they were doing."
"You know, the unknown that seems to me the most worrying is why these people had so much confidence that they could take that place down," Pelley remarks.
"It does suggest that they had someone inside who was going to help them make sure that the security alarms didn't go off. And that security forces didn't respond in time," Bunn says.
To get to the uranium would have required penetrating more layers of security: fences, cameras and locks. All we can be sure of is that the gunmen had no trouble with the first fence and didn't seem worried about the obvious camera there.
Rob Adam says it has crossed their minds that the intruders had inside help. "And we put out a reward. We haven't had any takers to this point."
There have been multiple investigations, but 60 Minutes was surprised to find out that the police didn’t talk to their prime eyewitness until we showed up.
Gerber says investigators didn't talk to him for ten months.
"Doesn't seem like they wanted to hear your story," Pelley remarks.
"Yeah, that is, it is strange for me as well," Gerber says.
The U.S. government is worried. It's offering to help secure Pelindaba and convert its highly enriched uranium into a form that won't explode.
Ambassador Abdul Minty, South Africa’s nuclear policy advisor, gave 60 Minutes his government’s answer: "Why should we get rid of it when others don’t? Why are we less secure than others?"
"Because these men got so far into the plant. They got into the emergency control center. They shot a man. There was a second team waiting outside that got…into a gunfight with your security people," Pelley says.
"No, no. It's how you interpret events," Minty replies. "So we are of course concerned about it that anyone gets into it, but we have taken steps to try and prevent that in future."
The two camera operators who missed the gunmen were fired. But the investigation is stalled, leaving no clue as to who was behind the assault on Pelindaba or whether their intent was to supply uranium for a nuclear bomb.
Produced by Graham Messick and Michael Karzis
© MMVIII, CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Re: Nuclear War?
Reply #57 on:
November 24, 2008, 02:04:19 PM »
I watched 60 Minutes last night. The SA plant managers were lying their asses off. That was no crime of opportunity, that was a terrorist/organized crime operation.
NYT: Hidden Travels of the A-Bomb
Reply #58 on:
December 09, 2008, 04:27:23 AM »
By WILLIAM J. BROAD
Published: December 8, 2008
In 1945, after the atomic destruction of two Japanese cities, J. Robert Oppenheimer expressed foreboding about the spread of nuclear arms.
“They are not too hard to make,” he told his colleagues on the Manhattan Project at Los Alamos, N.M. “They will be universal if people wish to make them universal.”
That sensibility, born where the atomic bomb itself was born, grew into a theory of technological inevitability. Because the laws of physics are universal, the theory went, it was just a matter of time before other bright minds and determined states joined the club. A corollary was that trying to stop proliferation was quite difficult if not futile.
But nothing, it seems, could be further from the truth. In the six decades since Oppenheimer’s warning, the nuclear club has grown to only nine members. What accounts for the slow spread? Can anything be done to reduce it further? Is there a chance for an atomic future that is brighter than the one Oppenheimer foresaw?
Two new books by three atomic insiders hold out hope. The authors shatter myths, throw light on the hidden dynamics of nuclear proliferation and suggest new ways to reduce the threat.
Neither book endorses Oppenheimer’s view that bombs are relatively easy to make. Both document national paths to acquiring nuclear weapons that have been rocky and dependent on the willingness of spies and politicians to divulge state secrets.
Thomas C. Reed, a veteran of the Livermore weapons laboratory in California and a former secretary of the Air Force, and Danny B. Stillman, former director of intelligence at Los Alamos, have teamed up in “The Nuclear Express: A Political History of the Bomb and its Proliferation” to show the importance of moles, scientists with divided loyalties and — most important — the subtle and not so subtle interests of nuclear states.
“Since the birth of the nuclear age,” they write, “no nation has developed a nuclear weapon on its own, although many claim otherwise.”
Among other things, the book details how secretive aid from France and China helped spawn five more nuclear states.
It also names many conflicted scientists, including luminaries like Isidor I. Rabi. The Nobel laureate worked on the Manhattan Project in World War II and later sat on the board of governors of the Weizmann Institute of Science, a birthplace of Israel’s nuclear arms.
Secret cooperation extended to the secluded sites where nations tested their handiwork in thundering blasts. The book says, for instance, that China opened its sprawling desert test site to Pakistan, letting its client test a first bomb there on May 26, 1990.
That alone rewrites atomic history. It casts new light on the reign of Benazir Bhutto as prime minister of Pakistan and helps explain how the country was able to respond so quickly in May 1998 when India conducted five nuclear tests.
“It took only two weeks and three days for the Pakistanis to field and fire a nuclear device of their own,” the book notes.
In another disclosure, the book says China “secretly extended the hospitality of the Lop Nur nuclear test site to the French.”
The authors build their narrative on deep knowledge of the arms and intelligence worlds, including those abroad. Mr. Stillman has toured heavily guarded nuclear sites in China and Russia, and both men have developed close ties with foreign peers.
In their acknowledgments, they thank American cold warriors like Edward Teller as well as two former C.I.A. directors, saying the intelligence experts “guided our searches.”
Robert S. Norris, an atomic historian and author of “Racing for the Bomb,” an account of the Manhattan Project, praised the book for “remarkable disclosures of how nuclear knowledge was shared overtly and covertly with friends and foes.”
The book is technical in places, as when detailing the exotica of nuclear arms. But it reads like a labor of love built on two lifetimes of scientific adventure. It is due out in January from Zenith Press.
Its wide perspective reveals how states quietly shared complex machinery and secrets with one another.
All paths stem from the United States, directly or indirectly. One began with Russian spies that deeply penetrated the Manhattan Project. Stalin was so enamored of the intelligence haul, Mr. Reed and Mr. Stillman note, that his first atom bomb was an exact replica of the weapon the United States had dropped on Nagasaki.
Page 2 of 3)
Moscow freely shared its atomic thefts with Mao Zedong, China’s leader. The book says that Klaus Fuchs, a Soviet spy in the Manhattan Project who was eventually caught and, in 1959, released from jail, did likewise. Upon gaining his freedom, the authors say, Fuchs gave the mastermind of Mao’s weapons program a detailed tutorial on the Nagasaki bomb. A half-decade later, China surprised the world with its first blast.
The book, in a main disclosure, discusses how China in 1982 made a policy decision to flood the developing world with atomic know-how. Its identified clients include Algeria, Pakistan and North Korea.
Alarmingly, the authors say one of China’s bombs was created as an “export design” that nearly “anybody could build.” The blueprint for the simple plan has traveled from Pakistan to Libya and, the authors say, Iran. That path is widely assumed among intelligence officials, but Tehran has repeatedly denied the charge.
The book sees a quiet repercussion of China’s proliferation policy in the Algerian desert. Built in secrecy, the reactor there now makes enough plutonium each year to fuel one atom bomb and is ringed by antiaircraft missiles, the book says.
China’s deck also held a wild card: its aid to Pakistan helped A.Q. Khan, a rogue Pakistani metallurgist who sold nuclear gear on the global black market. The authors compare Dr. Khan to “a used-car dealer” happy to sell his complex machinery to suckers who had no idea how hard it was to make fuel for a bomb.
Why did Beijing spread its atomic knowledge so freely? The authors speculate that it either wanted to strengthen the enemies of China’s enemies (for instance, Pakistan as a counterweight to India) or, more chillingly, to encourage nuclear wars or terror in foreign lands from which Beijing would emerge as the “last man standing.”
A lesser pathway involves France. The book says it drew on Manhattan Project veterans and shared intimate details of its bomb program with Israel, with whom it had substantial commercial ties. By 1959, the book says, dozens of Israeli scientists “were observing and participating in” the French program of weapons design.
The book adds that in early 1960, when France detonated its first bomb, doing so in the Algerian desert, “two nations went nuclear.” And it describes how the United States turned a blind eye to Israel’s own atomic developments. It adds that, in the autumn of 1966, Israel conducted a special, non-nuclear test “2,600 feet under the Negev desert.” The next year it built its first bomb.
Israel, in turn, shared its atomic secrets with South Africa. The book discloses that the two states exchanged some key ingredients for the making of atom bombs: tritium to South Africa, uranium to Israel. And the authors agree with military experts who hold that Israel and South Africa in 1979 jointly detonated a nuclear device in the South Atlantic near Prince Edward Island, more than one thousand miles south of Cape Town. Israel needed the test, it says, to develop a neutron bomb.
The authors charge that South Africa at one point targeted Luanda, the capital of neighboring Angola, “for a nuclear strike if peace talks failed.”
South Africa dismantled six nuclear arms in 1990 but retains much expertise. Today, the authors write, “South African technical mercenaries may be more dangerous than the underemployed scientists of the former Soviet Union” because they have no real home in Africa.
“The Bomb: A New History,” due out in January from Ecco Books, an imprint of HarperCollins, plows similar ground less deeply, but looks more widely at proliferation curbs and diplomacy. It is by Stephen M. Younger, the former head of nuclear arms at Los Alamos and former director of the Defense Threat Reduction Agency at the Pentagon.
Dr. Younger disparages what he calls myths suggesting that “all the secrets of nuclear weapons design are available on the Internet.” He writes that France, despite secretive aid, struggled initially to make crude bombs — a point he saw with his own eyes during a tour of a secretive French atomic museum that is closed to the public. That trouble, he says, “suggests we should doubt assertions that the information required to make a nuclear weapon is freely available.”
The two books draw on atomic history to suggest a mix of old and new ways to defuse the proliferation threat. Both see past restraints as fraying and the task as increasingly urgent
Page 3 of 3)
Mr. Reed and Mr. Stillman see politics — not spies or military ambitions — as the primary force in the development and spread of nuclear arms. States repeatedly stole and leaked secrets because they saw such action as in their geopolitical interest.
Beijing continues to be a major threat, they argue. While urging global responses like better intelligence, better inspections and better safeguarding of nuclear materials, they also see generational change in China as a great hope in plugging the atomic leaks.
“We must continue to support human rights within Chinese society, not just as an American export, but because it is the dream of the Tiananmen Square generation,” they write. “In time those youngsters could well prevail, and the world will be a less contentious place.”
Dr. Younger notes how political restraints and global treaties worked for decades to curb atomic proliferation, as did American assurances to its allies. “It is a tribute to American diplomacy,” he writes, “that so many countries that might otherwise have gone nuclear were convinced to remain under the nuclear umbrella of the United States.”
And he, too, emphasizes the importance of political sticks and carrots to halting and perhaps reversing the spread of nuclear arms. Iran, he says, is not fated to go nuclear.
“Sweden, Switzerland, Argentina and Brazil all flirted with nuclear programs, and all decided to abandon them,” he notes. “Nuclear proliferation is not unidirectional — given the right conditions and incentives, it is possible for a nation to give up its nuclear aspirations.”
The take-home message of both books is quite the reverse of Oppenheimer’s grim forecast. But both caution that the situation has reached a delicate stage — with a second age of nuclear proliferation close at hand — and that missteps now could hurt terribly in the future.
Mr. Reed and Mr. Stillman take their title, “The Nuclear Express,” from a 1940 radio dispatch by Edward R. Murrow , who spoke from London as the clouds of war gathered over Europe. He told of people feeling like the express train of civilization was going out of control.
The authors warn of a similar danger today and suggest that only close attention to the atomic past, as well as determined global action, can avoid “the greatest train wreck” in history.
Reply #59 on:
December 09, 2008, 08:35:01 AM »
Second post of the AM:
Michael Yon with an odd little tidbit:
Here is a rare and curious thing: an antique British WB-17 bomber flying over Afghan skies. These planes flew in the 1950s and 60s, performing top of the atmosphere reconnaissance. The U.S. Air Force retired the WB-17 decades ago. But NASA owns two, which it uses for an odd group of missions, including collecting cosmic dust from extremely high altitudes. It seems doubtful that NASA came all the way to Afghanistan to collect cosmic dust, but this would be an interesting region in which to search for traces of nuclear debris, drifting upwards from Iran, Pakistan, various Central Asian states, China, or India.
WSJ: Disarming ourselves
Reply #60 on:
December 15, 2008, 02:58:52 AM »
Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo get more press, but among the most urgent national security challenges facing President-elect Obama is what to do about America's stockpile of aging nuclear weapons. No less an authority than Secretary of Defense Robert Gates calls the situation "bleak" and is urging immediate modernization.
Department of Defense
On the campaign trail, Mr. Gates's new boss appeared to take a different view. Candidate Obama said he "seeks a world without nuclear weapons" and vowed to make "the goal of eliminating all nuclear weapons a central element in our nuclear policy." His woolly words have given a boost to the world disarmament movement, including last week's launch of Global Zero, the effort by Richard Branson and Queen Noor to eliminate nuclear weapons in 25 years. Naturally, they want to start with cuts in the U.S. arsenal.
But the reality of power has a way of focusing those charged with defending the U.S., and Mr. Obama will soon have to decide to modernize America's nuclear deterrent or let it continue to deteriorate. Every U.S. warhead is more than 20 years old, with some dating to the 1960s. The last test was 1992, when the U.S. adopted a unilateral test moratorium and since relied on computer modeling. Meanwhile, engineers and scientists with experience designing and building nuclear weapons are retiring or dying, and young Ph.D.s have little incentive to enter a field where innovation is taboo. The U.S. has zero production capability, beyond a few weapons in a lab.
A World Free of Nuclear Weapons (01/04/07)
– George P. Shultz, William J. Perry, Henry A. Kissinger and Sam NunnToward a Nuclear-Free World (01/15/08)
– George P. Shultz, William J. Perry, Henry A. Kissinger and Sam Nunn
THE WEEKEND INTERVIEW
Gen. Kevin Chilton: Sounding the Nuclear Alarm (11/22/08)
– Melanie KirkpatrickWe're told Mr. Gates's alarm will be echoed soon in a report by the Congressionally mandated commission charged with reviewing the role of nuclear weapons and the overall U.S. strategic posture. The commission's chairman is William Perry, a former Clinton Defense Secretary and a close Obama adviser. Mr. Perry is also one of the "Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse," the nickname given to him, George Shultz, Henry Kissinger and Sam Nunn for an op-ed published in these pages last year offering a blueprint for ridding the world of nuclear weapons.
The commission's interim report is due out any day now, and the advance word is that Mr. Perry has come back to Earth. We're told the report's central finding is that the U.S. will need a nuclear deterrent for the indefinite future. A deterrent is credible, the report further notes, only if enemies believe it will work. That means modernization.
That logic ought to be obvious, but it escapes many in Congress who have stymied the Bush Administration's efforts to modernize. Britain, France, Russia and China are all updating their nuclear forces, but Mr. Bush couldn't even get Congress this year to fund so much as R&D for the Reliable Replacement Warhead (RRW) program. Senator Dianne Feinstein dismissed the RRW, saying "the Bush Administration's goal was to reopen the nuclear door."
In today's Opinion Journal
REVIEW & OUTLOOK
Madoff and MarketsDisarming OurselvesIran's YouTube Generation
The Americas: Innocents Die in the Drug War
– Mary Anastasia O'GradyInformation Age: Internet Attacks Are a Real and Growing Problem
– L. Gordon Crovitz
Bush Blinks on the Auto Bailout
– Paul IngrassiaThe Fed Still Has Plenty of Ammunition
– Frederic S. MishkinIt's Time to Junk the Electoral College
– Jonathan SorosIn the House, similar damage has been done by Ellen Tauscher, chairman of the subcommittee on strategic weapons. Ms. Tauscher, whose California district includes the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, likes to talk about a strong nuclear deterrent while bragging about killing the RRW. She also wants to revive the unenforceable Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which the Senate rejected in 1999. Let's hope the Perry report helps with her nuclear re-education.
If Congress isn't paying attention, U.S. allies are. The U.S. provides a nuclear umbrella for 30-plus countries, including several -- Japan, Germany and South Korea, for example -- capable of developing their own nuclear weapons. If they lose confidence in Washington's ability to protect them, the Perry report notes, they'll kick off a new nuclear arms race that will spread world-wide.
In a speech this fall, Mr. Gates said "there is no way we can maintain a credible deterrent" without "resorting to testing" or "pursuing a modernization program." General Kevin Chilton, the four-star in charge of U.S. strategic forces, has also spent the past year making the case for modernization. "The time to act is now," he told a Washington audience this month.
The aging U.S. nuclear arsenal is an urgent worry. A world free of nuclear weapons is a worthy goal, shared by many Presidents, including Ronald Reagan. Until that day arrives, no U.S. President can afford to let our nuclear deterrent erode.
Reply #61 on:
February 16, 2009, 07:43:19 PM »
also posted in the Afg-Pak thread
This is the most detailed article (2005) I have read about the status of pak nukes...very interesting. The original report by Durrani is googleable.
Guarding Pakistan's nuclear estate
By Kaushik Kapisthalam
Even as media and public attention in the United States and South Asia has focused on the issue of nuclear-capable F-16 fighter jets going to Pakistan, there has been a series of interesting developments within the US regarding policy toward Pakistan's nuclear program.
Publicly, Bush administration officials have been remarkably guarded, and even nonchalant, about Pakistan's leaky nuclear program, even as one revelation after another came out regarding nuclear proliferation from Pakistan to Iran, Libya, North Korea and other unnamed countries. After exerting pressure behind the scenes on Pakistani President General Pervez Musharraf, the US has quietly accepted his explanation that all proliferation acts were the responsibility of one man, Abdul Qadeer Khan, the father of Pakistan's atomic bomb, and lent its blessings to Khan being pardoned and kept under house arrest in Pakistan.
The official Washington spin is that the administration of President George W Bush has persuaded Pakistan to end its nuclear trade once and for all and that it is better to move forward than dwell on the past.
Despite this public posture, many experts and former government officials in Washington and elsewhere are not so sanguine. Virtually every report on nuclear security from major US and Western think-tanks, such as the Carnegie Endowment, the Monterrey Institute and the Cato Institute, consistently raise the issue of the leaky nature of Pakistan's nuclear assets. The Congressional Research Service, the advisory arm of the US Congress, has issued numerous reports on Pakistan's nuclear program highlighting the need to do something. However, until recently, Bush administration officials had in effect stonewalled on this issue and avoided talking about it on or off the record, other than a few cryptic remarks on occasion.
That has slowly begun to change.
The curtain lifts?
In testimony to the Senate on March 17, Vice Admiral Lowell Jacoby, who is the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, spoke at length about the fragility of Pakistan. After the usual platitudes about Musharraf's virtues, Jacoby noted in his submitted statement, "Our assessment remains unchanged from last year. If Musharraf were assassinated or otherwise replaced, Pakistan's new leader would be less pro-US. We are concerned that extremist Islamic politicians would gain greater influence."
Interestingly, it was former presidential candidate Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts who was one of the first to talk about Pakistan's nuclear arsenal openly. In a January 2004 debate with other contenders from his Democratic Party, Kerry said that if he were elected president, he would get tough with Pakistan on nuclear safety, noting that past Pakistani leaders had lied to him and the US quite blatantly on the nuclear issue. Kerry added that failing to protect Pakistan's nuclear weapons from falling into the wrong hands was "one of the most glaring weaknesses in this [Bush] administration's entire foreign policy". More curious, Kerry said the US should work with India to make a plan for taking out Pakistan's nukes in case of an emergency. Another Democratic senator, Barack Obama of Illinois, went a step further and said the US should launch surgical strikes on Pakistan in a nuclear leak eventuality.
After the re-election of Bush, it was Kerry who once again raised the issue. During the Senate hearing to confirm Bush's appointment of Condoleezza Rice as secretary of state, Kerry had a fiery exchange with Rice, which needs to be quoted in full for readers to appreciate its significance.
Kerry: And what about any initiatives or discussions with President Musharraf and the Indians with respect to fail-safe procedures in the event - I mean, there have been two attempts on President Musharraf's life. If you were to have a successful coup in Pakistan, you could have, conceivably, nuclear weapons in the hand of a radical Islamic state automatically, overnight. And to the best of my knowledge, in all of the inquiries that I've made in the course of the last years, there is now no failsafe procedure in place to guarantee against that weaponry falling into the wrong hands.
Rice: Senator, we have noted this problem, and we are prepared to try to deal with it. I would prefer not in open session to talk about this particular issue.
Kerry:Okay. Well, I raise it again. I must say that in my private briefings as the nominee I found the answers highly unsatisfactory. And so, I press on you the notion that, without saying more, that we need to pay attention to that.
Rice: We're very aware of the problem, Senator, and we have had some discussions. But I really would prefer not to discuss that.
In essence, Kerry noted that as a presidential candidate, the US "secret plan" for Pakistan's nukes as conveyed to him was unsatisfactory. But Rice hinted that while the plan might not be perfect, the administration was working on it. There are some signs that this may already be happening.
Follow the money
In Washington it is said that all plans stay on paper until Congress appropriates funds for them. There are a variety of agencies and bureaus in the US government that deal with various aspects of the nuclear cycle. One such agency is the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC).
The official budget presented by the NRC for the upcoming 2006 fiscal year includes US$800,000 for "initiatives supporting nuclear safety cooperation with India and Pakistan". One Washington insider noted that while the NRC's cooperation with India was in the realm of providing advice on emergency procedures, fire safety issues and the safety of ageing plants, as well as collaborative nuclear research, the initiatives with Pakistan were likely focused on Pakistan's nuclear arsenal and its safety.
"American non-proliferation laws and international treaty commitments may severely restrict direct assistance to the safety of Pakistan's warheads and fissile material, you can wager good money that the Bush administration is not going to let global treaties to compromise American security interests," noted the insider.
The source insisted that it is highly likely that such cooperation is already under way behind the covers, but the NRC budgeting makes it possible on a larger scale with congressional oversight. One possible option is the provision of Permissive Action Links (PALs). A PAL is basically a box with sophisticated cryptography electronics inside that prevents unauthorized access to a nuclear weapon by disarming or disabling the triggering mechanism if the wrong code is entered or if the box is tampered with in any manner. PAL locks could make a nuclear warhead unusable in the wrong hands.
Interestingly, after the two successive assassination attempts on Musharraf in December 2003, NBC News reported that the US had installed PAL locks on Pakistani nuclear warheads. The report quoted former US ambassador to Pakistan Robert Oakley confirming the cooperation behind the scenes. About this time Bush was asked in a press conference whether Pakistan's nukes were secure. Bush replied, "Yes, they are secure," and changed the subject immediately.
However, not everyone agrees that providing PAL locks to Pakistan is a wise choice. Leonard Weiss, a prominent non-proliferation expert and former Senate staffer who helped author many US non-proliferation laws, feels that it is a "hoary idea" and compared it to "providing clean needles to drug addicts, thereby making proliferators seem like helpless victims of uncontrollable physiological appetites". He cautions that PALs may make it easier for a Pakistani leader to consider using a nuclear weapon. Despite this, the Washington insider tells Asia Times Online that PALs and other safety devices are likely to be in the cards for guarding Pakistan's nuclear weapons, if they are not in place already.
It is a known fact that foreign governments use seminars and sponsored studies by private and quasi-government think-tanks to explain or elaborate on their country's policies. In recent months, many serving and retired Pakistani military officials and diplomats have launched a seemingly coordinated campaign in the US and Western strategic-policy circles. The goal of this campaign seems to be to reassure the power brokers and academics who often go on to become key players in the US and Western governments that Pakistan's nuclear estate is safe and that Pakistan will take its nuclear non-proliferation commitments seriously, after the Khan scandal.
One such effort was by retired Pakistani army Major-General Mahmud Ali Durrani at the Sandia Labs in New Mexico. It is to be noted that Sandia Labs is owned by defense contractor Lockheed Martin and is affiliated with the US Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration. Durrani states in his report titled "Pakistan's Strategic Thinking and the Role of Nuclear Weapons" that he was able to tour many sensitive Pakistani nuclear facilities and found the safety procedures to be credible, though there was room for improvement in certain security aspects.
But not everyone who read the Durrani study was convinced. One former US security official, who did not want to be identified, told Asia Times Online that he had more questions about Pakistan's nuclear safety procedures after reading the Durrani report than before. He noted that Durrani highlighted the claim that Pakistan has a "three-man rule" for nuclear-weapon safety that it claims is superior to the "two-man rule" in practice in the US. What that means in essence is that three people are supposed to enter codes before a nuclear weapon can be deployed, but he pointed out that the three people can sometimes be at a lower level in the military hierarchy, such as the base commander and unit commander. He wondered whether that was really a safe procedure, given that Pakistan has already acknowledged that al-Qaeda has penetrated lower levels of the military forces.
The expert also highlighted that the Durrani report's stated exception to the "three-man rule" is in the case of a Pakistani air force pilot who can solely be given the full weapon-arming code in certain situations. "This is not comforting to anyone [who] does not know what those 'special situations' are and what if any fail-safes are there to prevent a rogue pilot from taking off with a nuclear weapon," the expert cautioned. It is to be noted that the Durrani report includes a sobering note about the safety of Pakistan's nuclear installations, while dismissing the possibility of Islamist radicals being on the inside. "There is an urgent need to improve the technical skills of personnel charged with the security of [Pakistan's] nuclear installations and develop an institutional security culture," the report warns. Coming from a Pakistani insider, this must be alarming to some within the US government, the expert surmised.
Making the plan
Soon after September 11, 2001, American investigative reporter Seymour Hersh wrote in The New Yorker magazine of a supposed secret US-Israeli plan to take control of Pakistan's nuclear facilities in the case of an Islamist coup there. In a book by Washington Post's Bob Woodward, President Bush is quoted as telling Musharraf that "Seymour Hersh is a liar" after the Hersh story came out. Whether the US had a secret plan for Pakistan's nukes in 2001 or not, there is evidence that the US government and Congress are beginning to accept the reality that a US military action plan is needed to prepare for taking over and managing a state-failure situation in a country that possesses mass-destruction weapons.
In a public hearing in March conducted by the US Senate's Armed Services Committee on plans for the US Army's transformation, Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut raised the question of whether the US military was ready for a "contingency" situation in Pakistan or Iran. In response, General Richard A Cody, the US Army's vice chief of staff, said that such questions were the ones US Army leaders "grapple with every day", without going into details. The timeframe for these plans mentioned a requirement to be ready by as early as 2007.
The US Military Force Structure Review Act of 1996 directed the secretary of defense to conduct a Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) of the strategy, force structure, force modernization plans, infrastructure and other elements of the defense program and policies with an intent of establishing a revised defense program. It is therefore interesting to note that the next QDR, planned to be released this autumn, reportedly includes plans for scenarios such as a rogue commander getting hold of Pakistan's nuclear arsenal. "The more the scenarios hit a nerve ... the more I know I am onto something," a Pentagon official working on the QDR 2005 was quoted as saying in the Wall Street Journal recently.
The significance of these hearings and the QDR plans is that the normally secretive US Defense Department does not make its ideas public for the purposes of public relations. These plans are made public to pressure Congress into releasing massive funds to the US military to be able to realize the plans. They also signify that the US considers the eventualities being planned for in the QDR to be realistic enough to happen in the next four years. Previous QDRs had plans for a conventional combat operation against the likes of Iraq. It may very well turn out that the US State Department, always sensitive to Pakistan's concerns, steps in to force the Pentagon to omit any references to Pakistan in the public QDR version, but if the Pentagon wants debate on the matter, a well-timed leak could do the trick.
Islamabad must be watching these developments with a wary eye, but any protestations it might choose to express are unlikely to deter the US from making plans to slowly yet deliberately cast a net around Pakistan's nuclear estate.
Kaushik Kapisthalam is a freelance defense and strategic affairs analyst based in the United States. He can be reached at
(Copyright 2005 Asia Times Online Ltd. All rights reserved. Please contact us for information on sales, syndication and republishing.)
WSJ: Iran starting nuke arms race
Reply #62 on:
March 23, 2009, 07:21:05 AM »
By AMIR TAHERI
In the capitals of Western nations, Abdul Qadeer Khan, the man regarded as the father of the Pakistani atom bomb, is regarded as a maverick with a criminal past. In addition to his well-documented role in developing a nuclear device for Pakistan, he helped Iran and North Korea with their nuclear programs.
But since his release from house arrest a month ago, Mr. Khan has entertained a string of official visitors from across the Middle East. All come with messages of sympathy; and some governments in that region are looking to him for the knowledge and advice they need to fast track their own illicit nuclear projects.
Make no mistake: The Middle East may be on the verge of a nuclear arms race triggered by the inability of the West to stop Iran's quest for a bomb. Since Tehran's nuclear ambitions hit the headlines five years ago, 25 countries -- 10 of them in the greater Middle East -- have announced plans to build nuclear power plants for the first time.
The six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council (Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates [UAE] and Oman) set up a nuclear exploratory commission in 2007 to prepare a "strategic report" for submission to the alliance's summit later this year. But Saudi Arabia is not waiting for the report. It opened negotiations with the U.S. in 2008 to obtain "a nuclear capacity," ostensibly for "peaceful purposes."
Egypt also signed a nuclear cooperation agreement, with France, last year. Egyptian leaders make no secret of the fact that the decision to invest in a costly nuclear industry was prompted by fears of Iran. "A nuclear armed Iran with hegemonic ambitions is the greatest threat to Arab nations today," President Hosni Mubarak told the Arab summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia two weeks ago.
Last November, France concluded a similar nuclear cooperation accord with the UAE, promising to offer these oil-rich lands "a complete nuclear industry." According to the foreign ministry in Paris, the French are building a military base close to Abu Dhabi ostensibly to protect the nuclear installations against "hostile action," including the possibility of "sensitive material" being stolen by terrorist groups or smuggled to Iran.
The UAE, to be sure, has signed a cooperation agreement with the U.S. forswearing the right to enrich uranium or produce plutonium in exchange for American nuclear technology and fuel. The problem is that the UAE's commercial hub, the sheikhdom of Dubai, has been the nerve center of illicit trade with Iran for decades, according to Western and Arab intelligence. Through Dubai, stolen U.S. technology and spent fuel needed for producing raw material for nuclear weapons could be smuggled to Iran.
Qatar, the smallest GCC member by population, is also toying with the idea of creating a nuclear capability. According to the Qatari media, it is shopping around in the U.S., France, Germany and China.
Newly liberated Iraq has not been spared by the new nuclear fever. Recall the history. With help from France, Iraq developed a nuclear capacity in the late 1970s to counterbalance its demographic inferiority vis-à-vis Iran. In 1980, Israel destroyed Osirak, the French-built nuclear center close to Baghdad, but Saddam Hussein restored part of that capacity between 1988 and 1991. What he rebuilt was dismantled by the United Nations' inspectors between 1992 and 2003. But with Saddam dead and buried, some Iraqis are calling for a revival of the nation's nuclear program as a means of deterring "bullying and blackmail from the mullahs in Tehran," as parliamentarian Saleh al-Mutlaq has put it.
"A single tactical nuclear attack on Basra and Baghdad could wipe out a third of our population," a senior Iraqi official told me, on condition of anonymity. Since almost 90% of Iraqis live within 90 miles of the Iranian border, the "fear is felt in every town and village," he says.
Tehran, meanwhile, is playing an active part in proliferation. So far, Syria and Sudan have shown interest in its nuclear technology, setting up joint scientific committees with Iran, according to the official Islamic Republic News Agency. Iranian media reports say Tehran is also setting up joint programs with a number of anti-U.S. regimes in Latin America, notably Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua and Ecuador, bringing proliferation to America's backyard.
According to official reports in Tehran, in 2006 and 2007 the Islamic Republic also initialed agreements with China to build 20 nuclear-power stations in Iran. The first of these stations is already under construction at Dar-Khuwayn, in the oil-rich province of Khuzestan close to the Iraqi border.
There is no doubt that the current nuclear race in the Middle East is largely prompted by the fear of a revolutionary Iran using an arsenal as a means of establishing hegemony in the region. Iran's rivals for regional leadership, especially Turkey, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, are aware of the propaganda appeal of the Islamic Republic's claim of being " the first Muslim superpower" capable of defying the West and rivaling it in scientific and technological fields. In that context, Tehran's development of long-range missiles and the Muslim world's first space satellite are considered political coups.
Mohamed al Quwaihis, a member of Saudi Arabia's appointed parliament, the Shura Council, warns of Iran's growing influence. Addressing the Shura Council earlier this month, he described Iranian interferences in Arab affairs as "overt," and claimed that Iran is "endeavoring to seduce the Gulf States, and recruit some of the citizens of these countries to work for its interests."
The Shura devoted a recent session to "the Iranian threat," insisting that unless Tehran abandoned its nuclear program, Saudi Arabia should lead the Arabs in developing their own "nuclear response." The debate came just days after the foreign ministry in Riyadh issued a report identifying the Islamic Republic's nuclear program as the "principal security threat to Arab nations."
A four-nation Arab summit held in the Saudi capital on March 11 endorsed that analysis, giving the green light for a pan-Arab quest for "a complete nuclear industry." Such a project would draw support from Pakistan, whose nuclear industry was built with Arab money. Mr. Khan and his colleagues have an opportunity to repay that debt by helping Arabs step on a ladder that could lead them to the coveted "threshold" to becoming nuclear powers in a few years' time.
Earlier this month, Mohamed ElBaradei, the retiring head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, warned that the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty has become a blunt instrument in preventing a nuclear arms race. Meanwhile, the U.S., France, Russia and China are competing for nuclear contracts without developing safeguards to ensure that projects which start as peaceful undertakings are not used as cover for clandestine military activities.
The Obama administration should take the growing threat of nuclear proliferation seriously. It should try to provide leadership in forging a united response by the major powers to what could become the world's No. 1 security concern within the next few years.
Mr. Taheri's new book, "The Persian Night: Iran Under The Khomeinist Revolution," is published by Encounter Books.
Re: Nuclear War?
Reply #63 on:
March 23, 2009, 09:53:30 AM »
***The Obama administration should take the growing threat of nuclear proliferation seriously. It should try to provide leadership in forging a united response by the major powers to what could become the world's No. 1 security concern within the next few years.***
Blah blah blah.
Why do we keep denying the obvious? we must use military force to damage their program, or in the less likely pray for some sort of regime change.
Simple talking is NOT going to work. Hasn't ten years of Iran proceeding with their program made this obvious?
God, are we weak.
BO gets nuke policy backwards
Reply #64 on:
April 05, 2009, 01:20:36 AM »
President Obama met Russian President Dmitri Medvedev in London this week, and you'd have thought topics like the financial crisis and Iran would have more than filled the conversation. But when a U.S. President meets his Russian counterpart, the reflex left from the Cold War is always to sign another arms control deal. So here we go again.
APThe Obama Administration wants to replace the soon-to-expire 1991 START treaty with a new regime that would set a ceiling of 1,000 nuclear warheads apiece for the U.S. and Russia. That would dramatically cut the two countries' existing number of operational weapons, both strategic and nonstrategic, from a current estimated total of about 4,100 for the U.S. and 5,200 for Russia. It would also exceed the terms agreed by the Bush Administration in the 2002 Moscow Treaty, which committed each side to reduce their arsenals to between 1,700 and 2,200 strategic warheads by 2012.
As we learned in the 1970s, the devil of arms control often lies in the technical arcana of warheads and delivery systems, so we'll await the text before pronouncing judgment. But the devil of arms control also lies in the overall concept, with its implicit assumption that the weapons themselves are inherently more dangerous than the intentions of those who develop and deploy them.
We would have thought this thinking was discredited after the Second Lateran Council outlawed the use of crossbows in 1139, or after the Hague Convention of 1899 banned aerial bombardment, or after the Kellogg-Briand Pact outlawed war. Nope. Mr. Obama has set the ultimate goal of eliminating nuclear weapons, and as one of his first official acts he pledged to "stop the development of new nuclear weapons."
What Mr. Obama wants to kill specifically is the Reliable Replacement Warhead, which the Bush Administration supported over Congressional opposition, and which Mr. Obama now opposes despite the support of Defense Secretary Robert Gates and the military. Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told us this week that "we do need a new warhead." When we asked about Mr. Obama's views on the warhead, the Admiral said, "You would have to ask him."
The RRW is not, in fact, a new weapon; it has been in development for several years and is based on the W89 design tested in the 1980s. It is said to be a remarkably safe and long-lasting warhead, a significant consideration given the gradual physical deterioration of the current U.S. arsenal, particularly the mainstay W76.
The irony is that Mr. Obama's opposition is making substantial reductions in the total U.S. arsenal that much riskier. In the absence of actual testing, which hasn't happened in the U.S. since 1992, the only real hedge against potentially defective weapons is a larger arsenal. Naturally, arms-control theologians are instead urging the Senate to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and ban the production of weapons grade uranium and plutonium.
The thinking here is that somehow the American example will get Russia, as well as North Korea, Pakistan and perhaps Iran, to reject nuclear weapons. In fact, a U.S. nuclear arsenal that is diminished in both quantity and quality would be an incentive for these countries to increase their nuclear inventories, since the door would suddenly be opened to reach strategic parity with the last superpower. Mr. Medvedev, for one, recently announced Russia would pursue "large-scale rearmament" of its army and navy, including nuclear arsenals.
France also plans to deploy new sea-based nuclear missiles next year, even as it reduces the overall size of its arsenal. The French understand that a credible nuclear deterrent requires modern and reliable weapons. The Obama Administration should understand that the best security for both the U.S. and the allies that rely on our nuclear umbrella lies in an unchallengeable arsenal, and not an invitation to the world's Mahmoud Ahmadinejads to compete on equal terms.
Reply #65 on:
April 05, 2009, 10:23:13 PM »
SUNDAY, APRIL 05, 2009
And the Winner Is....
Maybe it's the influence of sports in our lives.
Or that human desire to measure everything in terms of who came out on top, and who got left behind.
Whatever the reason, there's no doubt that life, love and international relations are often defined in terms of winners and losers. And, with that in mind, we're pleased to announce the world leader who emerged triumphant at this weekend's EU summit in the Czech Republic.
May we have the envelope, please? (drumroll)
Taking top honors without so much as showing up, the top prize for grabbing global attention--and embarrassing the U.S. in the process--goes to Kim Jong-il of North Korea.
Think about it. With today's launch of a Tapeodong-2 long-range missile, Mr. Kim achieved a slew of political goals in less that 15 minutes--the time required for his rocket to fly from North Korea, to splashdown in the Pacific.
First, the DPRK dictator once again thumbed his nose at international convention. Virtually everyone from President Obama to Kim's Asian neighbors warned him against the missile test, but the TD-2 went off as scheduled. Did we mention that many of these same leaders still favor diplomacy as the preferred method of engaging Pyongyang?
In fact, the new U.S. envoy to the Six Party talks--aimed at ending North Korea's nuclear program--has suggested that Washington may be prepared to "overlook" the missile test, if Mr. Kim will return to the bargaining table. Fire off a long-range missile and get Washington to beg for a resumption of negotiations? That's a win-win by any one's standards.
But it gets even better. Not only did Kim Jong-il put his regime back in the global spotlight (and score an impressive propaganda victory to boot), but there's virtually no chance he'll be punished for his actions. While Mr. Obama is talking about additional sanctions, North Korea's friends on the U.N. Security Council--China and Russia--have veto power over any measures, and both are urging "restraint" in any new resolution against Pyongyang.
That means the likely "punishment" for the DPRK is another meaningless diplomatic warning. They haven't deterred North Korea in the past, and this time is no different.
While the diplomats haggle over language, Pyongyang will press on with its missile and nuclear weapons efforts. An Iranian delegation was present for today's launch, and the ICBM technology being developed in North Korea will quickly find its way to the Middle East.
By some accounts, at least one stage of the TD-2 is built in Iran, another testament to Mr. Kim's worldwide proliferation program. From Damascus to Caracas, there is no shortage of willing customers for North Korean weapons technology, including petro-states who will underwrite his development efforts.
Not bad for a guy who was supposedly on his death bed just a few months ago. You know, the same, two-bit dictator who has been written off time and time again. As we've noted before, various experts in the State Department and the intelligence community have been predicting the demise of North Korea for decades. Clearly, the DPRK's economic and political models are unsustainable. But it's naive to believe that Pyongyang will disappear anytime soon, or make significant concessions on its most important issues.
Obviously, if Kim Jong-il was the big winner this weekend, then there had to be a loser of equal proportions. Our vote goes to President Obama, who has been ignoring or downplaying the North Korean issue for more than a month. Refusing to use missile defenses to shoot down the TD-2, Mr. Obama then expressed surprise and outrage over the test. His response? Get the U.N. to pass another, empty resolution.
We would imagine that Mr. Kim is genuinely looking forward to the next four years. His country is bankrupt and millions of his citizens are starving, but suddenly, North Korea's global prospects seem particularly bright.
Re: Nuclear War?
Reply #66 on:
April 06, 2009, 10:57:34 AM »
"Refusing to use missile defenses to shoot down the TD-2"
Do we know even if we really can even if BO wanted to?
I am dubious.
Re: Nuclear War?
Reply #67 on:
April 06, 2009, 11:00:35 AM »
I cannot quote the source, but my understanding is that the general in charge of it said that he thought we could and that he awaited the President's order.
Re: Nuclear War?
Reply #68 on:
April 06, 2009, 11:39:39 AM »
I saw this but I am not convinced it's not just a bluff.
U.S. Could Shoot Down Missile
Top brass in the U.S. military say they can probably shoot down any North Korean missile. But will they?
Adm. Timothy Keating speaks at a meeting with the Japanese defense ministry in Tokyo, Feb. 19, 2009.
WASHINGTON—Two high-ranking U.S. military commanders say U.S. forces are prepared to shoot down any North Korean missile following a planned rocket launch in April.
"We'll be prepared to respond," the top U.S. commander in the Pacific, Adm. Timothy Keating, told a Senate panel.
He cited a "high probability'' that the United States could shoot down a North Korean missile.
I'm sure there's been a lot a contingency planning within the Pentagon."
WSJ: Naivete invites aggression
Reply #69 on:
April 09, 2009, 09:18:36 AM »
By DAVID LEWIS SCHAEFER
In response to North Korea's rocket launch, President Barack Obama has committed the U.S. to reducing our supply of nuclear weapons, urged the passage of a ban on nuclear weapons testing, and through Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, proposed scaling back our missile-defense program. In short, Mr. Obama apparently believes that the chief lesson to be learned from Pyongyang's missile launch is the need for more arms-control initiatives.
As a means of reducing the dangers of nuclear proliferation and nuclear war, this makes no sense. Once a country passes a minimal threshold, there is no reason to suppose that increasing its nuclear arsenal heightens the likelihood of its use. The only means of deterring rogue states from using (or more likely, threatening to use) nuclear weapons once they have acquired them are first, the capacity to threaten a much more massive response, and second, an effective program of missile defense.
Reducing our nuclear arsenal only gives outlaw states (including China) the incentive to increase theirs, to try to rival ours. And eliminating nuclear-weapons testing reduces the reliability of our arms and hence their effectiveness as a deterrent.
Mr. Obama's flight to arms control demonstrates the persistence of a dangerous illusion of the 20th century -- the notion that reducing a democratic nation's armaments is a means of mitigating the threat of war. Here's some of the history:
- Beginning in 1906, Britain cut back an ambitious program of naval construction, begun under a previous administration, in the hope of thereby avoiding an "arms race" with Germany. But the change in British policy actually encouraged Germany's Adm. Alfred von Tirpitz to redouble his efforts to build a navy that would rival Britain's. This perception of British weakness may well have buttressed the confidence that led the Germans to launch World War I.
- The Washington Naval Conference of 1922 set limits on battleship construction by the U.S., Japan, Britain, France and Italy. But as a result, Japan instead focused on building other kinds of warships, paving the way for Pearl Harbor.
- Britain's policy of restraint in military production during the 1930s -- combined with the refusal of British and French governments to send forces to turn back Hitler's then weak army when it violated the Versailles Treaty by remilitarizing the Rhineland in 1936 -- did not placate Hitler. It only whetted the dictator's appetite, generating what Winston Churchill called the "unnecessary war," World War II, which might never have occurred had the Western allies maintained their armaments and a firm policy during the years that led up to it.
- The U.S. signed the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks antiballistic missile treaties with the Soviet Union in 1972, expecting they would produce a "stable" balance and ultimately a reduction in nuclear armaments. Instead the Soviets continued their race for nuclear superiority, as summed up in congressional testimony by Jimmy Carter's Defense Secretary Harold Brown in 1979: "[W]hen we build, they build. When we cut, they build." As President Ronald Reagan observed in a 1985 radio address on the Strategic Defense Initiative missile defense program the Soviets never accepted the "innocent" American notion "that being mutually vulnerable to attack was in our common interest."
- As soon as the Soviets signed the 1972 convention banning the manufacture of biological weapons, they immediately (secretly) ramped up their production of such weapons.
- The end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet empire were brought about not by arms reductions, but by Reagan's unwillingness to give up work on SDI. Soviet Prime Minister Mikhail Gorbachev recognized the Soviets simply lacked the means to compete.
The likelihood that reducing America's strategic forces is going to elicit reciprocal behavior from our antagonists is nil. Nor will anything short of forceful sanctions (such as the George W. Bush administration applied, but then withdrew, against North Korean financial assets), have any effect in halting their march towards nuclear status.
In the words of the Joan Baez antiwar song from the 1960s: When will they ever learn?
Mr. Schaefer is professor of political science at College of the Holy Cross.
Reply #70 on:
May 06, 2009, 02:57:38 PM »
By DAVID CRAWFORD
International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors discovered traces of highly enriched uranium, a fuel that can be used to make nuclear weapons, at a site in Egypt, according to excerpts of a report by the U.N. agency.
Details of the finding, which the United Nations nuclear watchdog made up to two years ago, were contained in an annual report on worldwide activities of IAEA inspectors. The report was released to members of the IAEA board of governors on Tuesday. Excerpts were seen by the Wall Street Journal.
A Vienna-based diplomat familiar with the report's findings said traces of highly enriched uranium isotopes were found in separate samples of dust particles collected on a routine basis by agency inspectors in 2007 and 2008, at the Inshaf nuclear research facility in Egypt.
News of the discovery comes as the international community is using U.N. sanctions in an attempt to pressure Iran to abandon its nuclear fuel program, due to concerns over a potential nuclear arms race in the region.
Egyptian officials told IAEA inspectors the contamination was likely carried onto the site on equipment purchased outside Egypt. IAEA inspectors are investigating the source of the isotopes, and have yet to verify the source, the report says.
An IAEA spokesman said agency officials were not authorized to comment on the findings, which have not yet been made public. A spokeswoman for the Egyptian mission to the United Nations in New York declined to comment.
Isotopes usually remain for decades or longer on equipment and at sites where nuclear material is created or stored. The U.N. agency maintains a detailed database of isotope samples that often allows inspects to trace isotopes to the reactor or site where they were created.
The Pak clusterfcuk continues to deepen
Reply #71 on:
May 18, 2009, 11:00:01 AM »
Pakistan Is Rapidly Adding Nuclear Arms, U.S. Says
By THOM SHANKER and DAVID E. SANGER
Published: May 17, 2009
WASHINGTON — Members of Congress have been told in confidential briefings that Pakistan is rapidly adding to its nuclear arsenal even while racked by insurgency, raising questions on Capitol Hill about whether billions of dollars in proposed military aid might be diverted to Pakistan’s nuclear program.
Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, with Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, during a Senate hearing on Thursday.
Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, confirmed the assessment of the expanded arsenal in a one-word answer to a question on Thursday in the midst of lengthy Senate testimony. Sitting beside Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, he was asked whether he had seen evidence of an increase in the size of the Pakistani nuclear arsenal.
“Yes,” he said quickly, adding nothing, clearly cognizant of Pakistan’s sensitivity to any discussion about the country’s nuclear strategy or security.
Inside the Obama administration, some officials say, Pakistan’s drive to spend heavily on new nuclear arms has been a source of growing concern, because the country is producing more nuclear material at a time when Washington is increasingly focused on trying to assure the security of an arsenal of 80 to 100 weapons so that they will never fall into the hands of Islamic insurgents.
The administration’s effort is complicated by the fact that Pakistan is producing an unknown amount of new bomb-grade uranium and, once a series of new reactors is completed, bomb-grade plutonium for a new generation of weapons. President Obama has called for passage of a treaty that would stop all nations from producing more fissile material — the hardest part of making a nuclear weapon — but so far has said nothing in public about Pakistan’s activities.
Bruce Riedel, the Brookings Institution scholar who served as the co-author of Mr. Obama’s review of Afghanistan-Pakistan strategy, reflected the administration’s concern in a recent interview, saying that Pakistan “has more terrorists per square mile than anyplace else on earth, and it has a nuclear weapons program that is growing faster than anyplace else on earth.”
Obama administration officials said that they had communicated to Congress that their intent was to assure that military aid to Pakistan was directed toward counterterrorism and not diverted. But Admiral Mullen’s public confirmation that the arsenal is increasing — a view widely held in both classified and unclassified analyses — seems certain to aggravate Congress’s discomfort.
Whether that discomfort might result in a delay or reduction in aid to Pakistan is still unclear.
The Congressional briefings have taken place in recent weeks as Pakistan has descended into further chaos and as Congress has considered proposals to spend $3 billion over the next five years to train and equip Pakistan’s military for counterinsurgency warfare. That aid would come on top of $7.5 billion in civilian assistance.
None of the proposed military assistance is directed at the nuclear program. So far, America’s aid to Pakistan’s nuclear infrastructure has been limited to a $100 million classified program to help Pakistan secure its weapons and materials from seizure by Al Qaeda, the Taliban or “insiders” with insurgent loyalties.
But the billions in new proposed American aid, officials acknowledge, could free other money for Pakistan’s nuclear infrastructure, at a time when Pakistani officials have expressed concern that their nuclear program is facing a budget crunch for the first time, worsened by the global economic downturn. The program employs tens of thousands of Pakistanis, including about 2,000 believed to possess “critical knowledge” about how to produce a weapon.
The dimensions of the Pakistani buildup are not fully understood. “We see them scaling up their centrifuge facilities,” said David Albright, the president of the Institute for Science and International Security, which has been monitoring Pakistan’s continued efforts to buy materials on the black market, and analyzing satellite photographs of two new plutonium reactors less than 100 miles from where Pakistani forces are currently fighting the Taliban.
“The Bush administration turned a blind eye to how this is being ramped up,” he said. “And of course, with enough pressure, all this could be preventable.”
As a matter of diplomacy, however, the buildup presents Mr. Obama with a potential conflict between two national security priorities, some aides concede. One is to win passage of a global agreement to stop the production of fissile material — the uranium or plutonium used to produce weapons. Pakistan has never agreed to any limits and is one of three countries, along with India and Israel, that never signed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.
Yet the other imperative is a huge infusion of financial assistance into Afghanistan and Pakistan, money considered crucial to helping stabilize governments with tenuous holds on power in the face of terrorist and insurgent violence.
Senior members of Congress were already pressing for assurances from Pakistan that the American military assistance would be used to fight the insurgency, and not be siphoned off for more conventional military programs to counter Pakistan’s historic adversary, India. Official confirmation that Pakistan has accelerated expansion of its nuclear program only added to the consternation of those in Congress who were already voicing serious concern about the security of those warheads.
During a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday, Senator Jim Webb, a Virginia Democrat, veered from the budget proposal under debate to ask Admiral Mullen about public reports “that Pakistan is, at the moment, increasing its nuclear program — that it may be actually adding on to weapons systems and warheads. Do you have any evidence of that?”
It was then that Admiral Mullen responded with his one-word confirmation. Mr. Webb said Pakistan’s decision was a matter of “enormous concern,” and he added, “Do we have any type of control factors that would be built in, in terms of where future American money would be going, as it addresses what I just asked about?”
Similar concerns about seeking guarantees that American military assistance to Pakistan would be focused on battling insurgents also were expressed by Senator Carl Levin of Michigan, the committee chairman.
“Unless Pakistan’s leaders commit, in deeds and words, their country’s armed forces and security personnel to eliminating the threat from militant extremists, and unless they make it clear that they are doing so, for the sake of their own future, then no amount of assistance will be effective,” Mr. Levin said.
A spokesman for the Pakistani government contacted Friday declined to comment on whether his nation was expanding its nuclear weapons program, but said the government was “maintaining the minimum, credible deterrence capability.” He warned against linking American financial assistance to Pakistan’s actions on its weapons program.
“Conditions or sanctions on this issue did not work in the past, and this will not send a positive message to the people of Pakistan,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because his country’s nuclear program is classified.
Reply #72 on:
May 19, 2009, 12:55:55 AM »
Back when the Bush Administration was warning about Iran's nuclear progress, or its deadly meddling in Iraq, the typical Democratic and media response was to treat the Islamic Republic as innocent until proven guilty. This month, Democrat Robert Morgenthau supplied the proof.
In testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that was largely ignored by the media, the legendary Manhattan District Attorney opened a window on how Iran is secretly obtaining the ingredients for an arsenal of mass destruction. Mr. Morgenthau, whose recent cases have exposed illicit Iranian finance and procurement networks, has discovered what he calls "Iran's shopping list for materials related to weapons of mass destruction." They add up to "literally thousands of records."
Missile accuracy appears to be a key Iranian goal. In one of Mr. Morgenthau's cases -- the prosecution of Chinese citizen Li Fang Wei and his LIMMT company for allegedly scamming Manhattan banks to slip past sanctions on Iran -- the DA uncovered a list that included 400 sophisticated gyroscopes and 600 accelerometers. These are critical for developing accurate long-range missiles. He also found that Iran was acquiring a rare metal called tantalum, "used in those roadside bombs that are being used against our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan." So much for the media notion that Iran has played no part in killing American GIs.
Mr. Morgenthau also noted that the material shipped by LIMMT "included 15,000 kilograms of a specialized aluminum alloy used almost exclusively in long-range missile production; 1,700 kilograms of graphite cylinders used for banned electrical discharge machines which are used in converting uranium; more than 30,000 kilograms of tungsten-copper plates; 200 pieces of tungsten-copper alloy hollow cylinders, all used for missiles; 19,000 kilograms of tungsten metal powder, and 24,500 kilograms of maraging steel rods . . . especially hardened steel suitable for long-range missiles."
Lest anyone think that these materials may have innocent uses, Mr. Morgenthau added that "we have consulted with top experts in the field from MIT and from private industry and from the CIA. . . . Frankly, some of the people we've consulted are shocked by the sophistication of the equipment they're buying."
Mr. Morgenthau's information is corroborated by a staff report for the Foreign Relations Committee, chaired by Democrat John Kerry, which notes that Iran is making nuclear progress on all fronts, and that it "could produce enough weapons-grade material for a bomb within six months." The committee also notes that "Iran is operating a broad network of front organizations," and that authorities suspect "some purchases for Iran's nuclear and missile programs may have come through an elaborate ruse to avoid U.S. financial sanctions on dealing with Iranian banks."
As we've reported, Lloyds bank entered into a deferred prosecution agreement in January with Mr. Morgenthau's office in which it admitted to a $300 million "stripping" scheme designed to hide the Iranian origin of banking transfers from 2001 to 2004. Several other banks are also in the crosshairs of Mr. Morgenthau and the Justice Department.
All this should put to rest any doubts about the Iranian regime's purposes and determination. As for what the U.S. should do about it, the committee report insists that "direct engagement" must be a part of American strategy, and so it seems fated to be under the Obama Administration. The least it can do is heed Mr. Morgenthau's central point about everything he's learned about Iran's nuclear progress: "It's late in the game, and we don't have a lot of time."
Reply #73 on:
May 20, 2009, 06:16:23 AM »
Geopolitical Diary: Doubts and Concerns About Pakistan's Nuclear Arsenal
May 19, 2009
Pakistani Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira on Monday denied a claim, published Sunday by The New York Times, that Pakistan was adding to its nuclear arsenal. Kaira said, “Pakistan does not need to expand its nuclear arsenal, but we want to make it clear that we will maintain a minimum nuclear deterrence that is essential for our defense and stability. We will not make any compromise.”
The Times had reported that, at a U.S. Senate committee hearing on May 14, U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen had succinctly answered “yes,” without elaborating, when asked if he had seen evidence of an increase in the size of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal.
A nuclear arsenal cannot be expanded on a whim. The processes Mullen was referring to are products of years of labor to refine, modernize and expand the arsenal — work that in all likelihood has proceeded apace since before Pakistan’s 1998 tests (even if the focus after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks shifted for a time to security, safety, and command and control).
Mullen said he feels “comfortable,” based on what he knows and what the Pakistanis have told him, about the increased security measures established during the last three to four years to secure Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal.
The Pakistanis are in the middle of one of their most aggressive offensives against the Taliban in and around Swat Valley, and they expect Washington to follow through with promises of $3 billion in military aid over the next five years and $7.5 billion in civilian assistance as a reward for their efforts. Since a good amount of unchecked U.S. aid to Pakistan frequently has been diverted to corporate entities for the benefit of military commanders in the past, U.S. lawmakers are naturally poking into every nook and cranny in Pakistan to see where future funds might wind up. Of course, the last thing Washington wants is for Pakistan to use U.S. money to beef up the very nuclear arsenal the United States is attempting to keep secure from jihadists.
But Pakistan has very different priorities in mind. A big part of the reason Islamabad and Washington don’t see eye-to-eye on how to manage the jihadist problem is Pakistan’s deep-seated fear of its larger and more powerful neighbor, India. While the United States is trying to keep Pakistan focused on its northwestern border with Afghanistan, where the writ of the Pakistani state is eroding at the hands of the jihadists, the Pakistani military leadership is far more concerned with keeping most troops stationed on the eastern border with India. This is a Pakistani fact of life that will not change, no matter how much the United States attempts to reassure Islamabad over India’s military intentions.
Pakistan has been playing catch-up with India since the 1947 partition. Lacking India’s geographic strategic depth, economic foundation and political cohesion, Pakistan has based its security policy on two primary pillars.
The first involves the state’s long-standing Islamization policy, which has been used as an unconventional tool to foster militants in places like Afghanistan and Kashmir, to gain allies and fend off rivals. Since Pakistan was more likely to suffer defeat in a direct military engagement with India, it increasingly relied on proxies to keep the Indians too busy putting out fires at home to seriously entertain military options against the Pakistanis.
The second pillar is rooted in Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal — a last-resort option designed to keep the Indians at bay should the militant proxies push New Delhi’s buttons too hard. Pakistan would be quantitatively and qualitatively beaten by the Indians in a military contest, and currently it can only dream of reaching nuclear parity with India. Still, the nuclear arsenal is Islamabad’s most valued defense against Indian aggression. In fact, just six months ago, Pakistan reminded India of the nuclear threat, seeking to make New Delhi reconsider any plans for military retaliation in the wake of the November 2008 Mumbai attacks.
With Taliban and scores of Kashmiri Islamist militants now turning on the Pakistani state, it has become all too clear that Islamabad’s first defense strategy — the militant proxy project — is coming undone. Once, this strategy both ensured the integrity of the state and reinforced Pakistan’s defense of its borders. Now, the same strategy is breaking it apart.
This is not to say that the military leadership is psychologically prepared to abolish the militant proxy strategy completely. But as the security and intelligence apparatus works to sort out the “good” militants from the “bad” militants that have turned against it, the Pakistani state naturally feels pressured to ramp up its second line of defense against India.
In all likelihood, Pakistan has been modernizing and expanding its nuclear arsenal for some time. Now that concerns are being raised over Pakistan’s nuclear plans and the potential diversion of U.S. funds, aid earmarks are coming into question — and Washington will experience even more difficulty in trying to deal with the Pakistanis and instill sufficient confidence in Islamabad to sustain the offensive against the Taliban. Furthermore, Washington is bound to run into complications with India, which will demand that the United States not stand idle while Pakistan expands its nuclear capability.
But as Mullen said himself, the Pakistanis “are very protective of their nuclear weapons,” and understandably so. These days, Pakistan’s concerns about securing its nuclear arsenal don’t apply only to the Indians and the jihadists. On Monday, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani said, “We want to tell the world in categoric terms that, with the blessing of God, Pakistan’s nuclear assets are safe and will remain safe. No one, no matter how powerful and influential, eyeing on our national assets, will succeed.” Gilani undoubtedly was referring to fears in his country that the United States might try to eliminate Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal, given sufficient cause to believe that the nuclear facilities could fall to jihadist control. As we have discussed previously, such U.S. threats were made loud and clear following the Sept. 11 attacks: Pakistan was pressured to admit U.S. Special Forces into the nuclear facilities in order to stave off a crisis with both Washington and New Delhi.
As the jihadists grow stronger, Pakistan sees another crisis approaching. It therefore will try to refine, modernize and expand its nuclear arsenal as much as it can, while it can.
Reply #74 on:
May 20, 2009, 10:15:52 AM »
Second post of the morning
By JOHN R. BOLTON
The curtain is about to rise again on the long-running nuclear tragicomedy, "North Korea Outwits the United States." Despite Kim Jong Il's explicit threats of another nuclear test, U.S. Special Envoy Stephen Bosworth said last week that the Obama administration is "relatively relaxed" and that "there is not a sense of crisis." They're certainly smiling in Pyongyang.
In October 2006, North Korea witnessed the incredible diplomatic success it could reap from belligerence. Its first nuclear test brought resumption of the six-party talks, which gave Kim Jong Il cover to further advance his nuclear program.
Now, Kim is poised to succeed again by following precisely the same script. In April, Pyongyang launched a Taepodong-2 missile, and National Security Council official Gary Samore recently confirmed that a second nuclear test is likely on the way. The North is set to try two U.S. reporters for "hostile acts." The state-controlled newspaper calls America "a rogue and a gangster." Kim recently expelled international monitors from the Yongbyon nuclear complex. And Pyongyang threatens to "start" enriching uranium -- a capacity it procured long ago.
A second nuclear test is by no means simply a propaganda ploy. Most experts believe that the 2006 test was flawed, producing an explosive yield well below even what the North's scientists had predicted. The scientific and military imperatives for a second test have been strong for over two years, and the potential data, experience and other advantages of further testing would be tremendous.
What the North has lacked thus far is the political opportunity to test without fatally jeopardizing its access to the six-party talks and the legitimacy they provide. Despite the State Department's seemingly unbreakable second-term hold over President Bush, another test after 2006 just might have ended the talks.
So far, the North faces no such threat from the Obama administration. Despite Pyongyang's aggression, Mr. Bosworth has reiterated that the U.S. is "committed to dialogue" and is "obviously interested in returning to a negotiating table as soon as we can." This is precisely what the North wants: America in a conciliatory mode, eager to bargain, just as Mr. Bush was after the 2006 test.
If the next nuclear explosion doesn't derail the six-party talks, Kim will rightly conclude that he faces no real danger of ever having to dismantle his weapons program. North Korea is a mysterious place, but there is no mystery about its foreign-policy tactics: They work. The real mystery is why our administrations -- Republican and Democratic -- haven't learned that their quasi-religious faith in the six-party talks is misplaced.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently rejected "linkage" in Russia policy as "old thinking." Disagreement in one area, she argued, shouldn't prevent working on "something else that is of overwhelming importance." Whatever the merits of linkage vis-à-vis Russia, de-linking a second North Korean nuclear test from the six-party talks simply hands Pyongyang permission to proceed.
Even worse, Iran and other aspiring nuclear proliferators will draw precisely the same conclusion: Negotiations like the six-party talks are a charade and reflect a continuing collapse of American resolve. U.S. acquiescence in a second North Korean nuclear test will likely mean that Tehran will adopt Pyongyang's successful strategy.
It's time for the Obama administration to finally put down Kim Jong Il's script. If not, we better get ready for Iran -- and others -- to go nuclear.
Mr. Bolton, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, is the author of "Surrender Is Not an Option: Defending America at the United Nations and Abroad" (Simon & Schuster, 2007).
Stratfor: START quid pro quo
Reply #75 on:
June 24, 2009, 07:25:38 AM »
Russia: The START Quid Pro Quo
Speaking in Vienna on Tuesday, as an Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) conference began, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov apparently linked the issue of a U.S. ballistic missile defense (BMD) system to that of nuclear disarmament. Lavrov said there is an obvious link between nuclear disarmament and an American BMD system in Europe, noting, “This position is shared by the presidents of our two countries.” The comments came two weeks before U.S. President Barack Obama’s scheduled meeting with his Russian counterpart, Dmitri Medvedev, in Russia, where they plan to discuss a replacement for the expiring 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START).
Replacing START is a priority for Russia. Though the Soviets, during the Cold War, at times might have been able to match U.S. technological capabilities and industrial resources — a burden that contributed to the Soviet Union’s eventual collapse — the Russia of today most certainly cannot. Maintaining parity with the United States in strategic nuclear weaponry, even if only in appearance, is impossible without a treaty limiting the quality and type of weapons that the United States is allowed to field.
The Americans, on the other hand, have grown to rely on the nuclear treaty as a way to monitor the status of Russia’s nuclear arsenal and to enhance cooperation in curbing nuclear proliferation. This is something that the United States would prefer not to give up, but it is by no means essential. The Russians are certainly not about to distribute nuclear technology to terrorist groups that would be almost as likely to use it against St. Petersburg as they would against New York. So while monitoring the Russian arsenal is useful, it is no longer as crucial as it was during the Cold War. In short, the United States does not face a fundamental strategic threat with the expiration of the treaty, but it seems that Russia does.
Therefore, linking the START talks — currently under way in Geneva — with the BMD system is quite a gamble. STRATFOR sources in Russia first suggested in late May that an internal debate was being waged in the Kremlin over whether to make such a play. Essentially, the Kremlin is using a valuable chip to efforts to extract a big concession from the United States. For this gamble to work, Washington essentially must both believe the bluff and value the START talks as much as the Russians do.
It is not clear how the U.S. administration will respond to this. From a purely strategic point of view, Washington very well could let the treaty expire and then pressure Russia with nuclear rearmament — if not under Obama, then under a future administration — to expose just how few resources Moscow can mobilize in a parity campaign. Moscow is probably betting that Obama, already as lukewarm on the BMD system as an American president will get, is highly vested in nuclear disarmament for domestic political purposes. Nuclear disarmament is also the only issue on which Russia and the United States still have relatively good relations. It is the only point on which contact remains open, and the Russians are hoping the Americans won’t be willing to lose that.
For Russia, this might come down to sacrificing a long-term goal — strategic nuclear parity with the United States — for what the Kremlin views as the equally important, short-term goal of preventing U.S. military encroachment in Central Europe through the BMD system. U.S. military proximity to the Russian borders also could be classed as a long-term concern, but BMD in Poland and the Czech Republic is the issue that has Moscow’s attention at the moment. However, sacrificing the nuclear parity guaranteed by a bilateral treaty for what could be only a brief pause (and even that much is not guaranteed) in U.S. military expansion into Central Europe would not necessarily be a good trade. This is particularly true if the United States decides to move into Central Europe at some later date in a different way — such as establishing so-called “lily pad” bases, housing pre-positioned equipment, that can be ramped up into a proper base in times of crisis — or through other means.
This is the quandary the Kremlin has faced in debating whether to link the two issues. Thus, Lavrov’s statement, coming two weeks before the Obama-Medvedev meeting, might not be a definitive declaration of policy, but more a trial balloon to test the U.S. response.
There is another grave danger for the Kremlin in this strategy: the possibility that Washington might come to realize just how little nuclear disarmament means to it after all.
WSJ: Target Hawaii
Reply #76 on:
June 29, 2009, 01:20:17 AM »
The Pentagon recently announced that it is repositioning ground-to-air radar and missile defenses near Hawaii in case North Korea decides to launch another long-range missile, this time toward the Aloha State. So at least 1.3 million Hawaiians will benefit from defenses that many officials in the current Administration didn't even want to build.
But what about the rest of us? It's an odd time to be cutting missile defense, as the Obama Administration is doing in its 2010 budget -- by $1.2 billion to $1.6 billion, depending on how you calculate it. Programs to defend the U.S. homeland are being pared, while those that protect our soldiers or allies are being expanded after the Pentagon decided that the near-term threat is from short-range missiles. But as North Korea and Iran show, rogue regimes aren't far from having missiles that could reach the U.S.
In case you're not convinced about the threat, consider this exchange between Arizona Republican Trent Franks and Lieutenant-General Patrick O'Reilly, head of the Missile Defense Agency, in a hearing last month at the House Subcommittee on Strategic Forces:
Rep. Franks: "Do you believe that the threat from long-range missiles has increased or decreased in the last six months as it relates to the homeland here?"
Gen. O'Reilly: "Sir, I believe it has increased significantly. . . . The demonstration of capability of the Iranian ability to put a sat[ellite] into orbit, albeit small, shows that they are progressing in that technology. Additionally, the Iranians yesterday demonstrated a solid rocket motor test which is . . . disconcerting. Third, the North Koreans demonstrated . . . that they are improving in their capacity and we are very concerned about that."
This 2006 image provided by the U.S. Navy shows the heavy lift vessel MV Blue Marlin entering Pearl Harbor, Hawaii with the Sea Based X-Band Radar (SBX) aboard.
Among the losers in the Administration's budget are the additional interceptors planned for the ground-based program in Alaska. The number will be limited to 30 interceptor missiles located at Fort Greely in Alaska and Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. Also on the chopping block is the Airborne Laser, which is designed to shoot down incoming missiles in the boost phase, before they can release decoys and at a point in the missile trajectory when it would fall back down on enemy territory. This highly promising technology will be starved.
The Administration may also kill the plan for a missile defense system in Europe. The proposed system, which would place interceptors in Poland and a radar in the Czech Republic, is intended to protect Europe against Iranian missiles. As is often forgotten, it would also protect the U.S., by providing an additional layer of defense for the Eastern seaboard, which is a long way from the Alaskan defenses.
The Administration is reconsidering the European site due to opposition from Moscow, which says -- though it knows it's false -- that the European system is intended to defeat Russian missiles. In advance of Barack Obama's visit to Russia next week, there's talk of "cooperation" on missile defense, possibly by adding radars in southern Russia and Azerbaijan. From a geographical perspective, neither location would add much as an Iranian missile headed for Western Europe or the U.S. would be on the periphery of the radars' vision, at best.
Meanwhile, Moscow says that unless the Administration backtracks on missile defense, it won't agree to mutual reductions in nuclear arsenals under the START Treaty, which expires this year. Mr. Obama is eager to negotiate arms cuts. But it would be a mistake to tie decisions on missile defense to anything except what is best for the security of the U.S. and its allies.
In Congress, bipartisan efforts are afoot to restore some of the funding for missile defense. But even if more money is forthcoming, the bigger problem is the new U.S. mindset. The Obama Administration is staffed with Cold War-era arms controllers who still believe missile defense is destabilizing -- except, apparently, now that they need it for Hawaii. They also reject the essential next phase, which is to make better use of space-based systems.
Missile defense is no techno-fantasy. The U.S. has made major strides since President Bush exercised the option to withdraw from the ABM Treaty in 2001. If North Korea launches a missile toward Hawaii, the best demonstration of that ability -- and of U.S. resolve -- would be to shoot it down.
Reply #77 on:
June 29, 2009, 01:25:56 AM »
A bipartisan congressional commission, headed by some of our most experienced national security practitioners, recently concluded that a nuclear deterrent is essential to our defense for the foreseeable future. It also recommended that urgent measures be taken to keep that deterrent safe and effective.
Unfortunately, President Barack Obama has adopted an agenda that runs counter to the commission's recommendations.
Consider the president's declaration, in a major speech this spring in Prague, of "America's commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons." Will such a world be peaceful and secure? It is far from self-evident.
In the nuclear-free world that ended in 1945 there was neither peace nor security. Since then there have indeed been many wars but none has come close to the carnage that occurred regularly before the development of nuclear weapons, and none has pitted nuclear powers against each other.
Consider also that while the administration accepts the urgency of halting the spread of nuclear weapons, the policies it has embraced to reach that goal are likely to make matters worse.
Thus, in his Prague speech, Mr. Obama announced that the U.S. would "immediately and aggressively" pursue ratification of the comprehensive ban on the testing of nuclear weapons. The administration believes, without evidence, that ratification of the test-ban treaty will discourage other countries from developing nuclear weapons.
Which countries does it have in mind? Iran? North Korea? Syria? Countries alarmed by the nuclear ambitions of their enemies? Allies who may one day lose confidence in our nuclear umbrella?
There are good reasons why the test-ban treaty has not been ratified. The attempt to do so in 1999 failed in the Senate, mostly out of concerns about verification -- it simply is not verifiable. It also failed because of an understandable reluctance on the part of the U.S. Senate to forgo forever a test program that could in the future be of critical importance for our defense and the defense of our allies.
Robert Gates, who is now Mr. Obama's own secretary of defense, warned in a speech last October that in the absence of a nuclear modernization program, even the most modest of which Congress has repeatedly declined to fund, "[a]t a certain point, it will become impossible to keep extending the life of our arsenal, especially in light of our testing moratorium." Suppose future problems in our nuclear arsenal emerge that cannot be solved without testing? Would our predicament discourage nuclear proliferation -- or stimulate it?
For the foreseeable future, the U.S. and many of our allies rely on our nuclear deterrent. And as long as the U.S. possesses nuclear weapons, they must be -- as Mr. Obama recognized in Prague -- "safe, secure and effective." Yet his proposed 2010 budget fails to take the necessary steps to do that.
Those steps have been studied extensively by the Perry-Schlesinger Commission (named for co-chairmen William Perry, secretary of defense under President Bill Clinton, and James R. Schlesinger, secretary of defense under Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford). Its consensus report, released in May, makes numerous recommendations to increase the funding for, and improve the effectiveness of, the deteriorating nuclear weapons laboratory complex (e.g., the Los Alamos facility in New Mexico, the Pantex plant in Texas, and the dangerously neglected Y-12 plant in Tennessee) that has become the soft underbelly of our deterrent force.
The commission also assessed the nuclear weapons infrastructure that is essential to a safe, secure and effective deterrent and declared it "in serious need of transformation." It looked at our laboratory-based scientific and technical expertise and concluded that "the intellectual infrastructure" is in "serious trouble." A major cause is woefully inadequate funding. The commission rightly argued that we must "exercise the full range of laboratory skills, including nuclear weapon design skills . . . Skills that are not exercised will atrophy." The president and the Congress must heed these recommendations.
There are some who believe that failing to invest adequately in our nuclear deterrent will move us closer to a nuclear free world. In fact, blocking crucial modernization means unilateral disarmament by unilateral obsolescence. This unilateral disarmament will only encourage nuclear proliferation, since our allies will see the danger and our adversaries the opportunity.
By neglecting -- and in some cases even opposing -- essential modernization programs, arms-control proponents are actually undermining the prospect for further reductions of the U.S. nuclear arsenal. As our nuclear weapons stockpile ages and concern about its reliability increases, we will have to compensate by retaining more nuclear weapons than would otherwise be the case. This reality will necessarily influence future arms-control negotiations, beginning with the upcoming Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty follow-on.
For these negotiations, the Russians are insisting on a false linkage between nuclear weapons and missile defenses. They are demanding that we abandon defenses against North Korean or Iranian missiles as a condition for mutual reductions in American and Russian strategic forces. As the president cuts the budget for missile defense and cedes ground to the Russians on our planned defense sites in Poland and the Czech Republic, we may end up abandoning a needed defense of the U.S. and our European allies from the looming Iranian threat.
There is a fashionable notion that if only we and the Russians reduced our nuclear forces, other nations would reduce their existing arsenals or abandon plans to acquire nuclear weapons altogether. This idea, an article of faith of the "soft power" approach to halting nuclear proliferation, assumes that the nuclear ambitions of Kim Jong Il or Mahmoud Ahmadinejad would be curtailed or abandoned in response to reductions in the American and Russian deterrent forces -- or that India, Pakistan or China would respond with reductions of their own.
This is dangerous, wishful thinking. If we were to approach zero nuclear weapons today, others would almost certainly try even harder to catapult to superpower status by acquiring a bomb or two. A robust American nuclear force is an essential discouragement to nuclear proliferators; a weak or uncertain force just the opposite.
George Shultz, William Perry, Henry Kissinger and Sam Nunn have, on this page, endorsed the distant goal -- about which we remain skeptical -- of a nuclear-free world. But none of them argues for getting there by neglecting our present nuclear deterrent. The Perry-Schlesinger Commission has provided a path for protecting that deterrent. Congress and the president should follow it, without delay.
Mr. Kyl is a Republican senator from Arizona. Mr. Perle, a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, was assistant secretary of defense in the Reagan administration.
Stratfor: Crisis Suspended?
Reply #78 on:
September 15, 2009, 07:10:57 AM »
I wonder if Stratfor should be considering the possiblity that our President is a clueless kitty?
Iran: Crisis Suspended?
IT APPEARS THAT — FOR NOW, AT LEAST — A CRISIS OVER IRAN perhaps has been delayed. Still, a number of things are not sitting right as we re-examine the situation.
To review, the P-5+1 group (the United States, United Kingdom, France, Russia and China and Germany) set a Sept. 25 deadline for Iran to enter into serious negotiations over its nuclear program. Several days later, Israel — the country most threatened by a potentially nuclear-capable Iran — deliberately made public an agreement that it had cut with Washington: Either the West would get Iran to curb its nuclear ambitions by the end of September through diplomacy or “crippling sanctions,” or Israel’s military option would be taken into serious consideration. For Israel, this deadline certainly meant something.
” In spite of Iran’s attitude toward the deadline, U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration announced Sept. 11 that it — along with the other P-5+1 powers — had accepted Tehran’s offer for unconditional talks. “
But Iran treated this deadline like the many deadlines it has circumvented in the past. First, the Iranian regime rejected the very idea of a deadline being imposed upon it. Then, more conciliatory statements were issued expressing the government’s desire to talk. Finally, just a few days before the deadline, Iran ceremoniously presented a proposal that made a mockery of Western demands. Washington made it abundantly clear that the proposal — which spoke of global nuclear disarmament, United Nations reform and everything but Iran’s nuclear program — was unsatisfactory. The Iranians evidently were not taking the deadline seriously.
But a funny thing happened over the weekend. In spite of Iran’s attitude toward the deadline, U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration announced Sept. 11 that it — along with the other P-5+1 powers — had accepted Tehran’s offer for unconditional talks. A day later, Israel — which certainly is not blind to Iran’s maneuvers — also endorsed the decision to proceed with negotiations. In an interview with Reuters, Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Dan Meridor, who is also minister of intelligence and atomic energy, talked around the issue of the now-defunct deadline and said that “the time is now” for the world powers to respond to the Iranian nuclear threat. At the same time, Meridor emphasized that he was not referring to military action.
On the surface, it appears that Iran has danced around yet another nuclear deadline. Since it likely will take more than two weeks to organize a meeting between the P-5+1 and Iran, the sanctions deadline has effectively been defused. It’s not clear to us whether Iran actually made concessions behind the scenes to kill this deadline and stave off sanctions, but the speed with which Washington agreed to talk strikes us as odd, especially considering how much the deadline meant to Israel and the manner in which Iran appeared to have blown it off.
Israel must be watched closely in the weeks ahead. Israel’s patience for Iranian maneuvers has run out. Just as importantly, in contrast to the Obama administration, the Israelis know well that Russia is absolutely critical to any plans concerning Iran. Not only do the Russians retain the threat of selling strategic weapons to Tehran — which would complicate any future military operations against Iran’s nuclear facilities — but they have the ability to blow apart the U.S.-led sanctions regime by supplying gasoline to Iran itself, or through former Soviet surrogates like Turkmenistan. Considering how sour relations have become between Russia and the United States, the Israel can clearly see the potential for Moscow to up the ante with Washington by playing its Iran card.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu probably had all this in mind when he flew secretly to Moscow for a 14-hour visit Sept. 7, where he reportedly spoke frankly with Russia’s core leadership. According to STRATFOR sources, Netanyahu was trying to get a read on Moscow’s intentions toward Iran, but Russia’s response was not exactly comforting. Russia’s main dispute is with the United States and its apparent disregard for Moscow’s influence in the former Soviet periphery. Netanyahu apparently was told that if he wants Russia to back off on Iran, Israel will have to stay out of Russia’s way in places like Ukraine and Georgia (which have strong defense relationships with Israel) and also get Israel’s allies in Washington to start taking Russian demands more seriously.
Israel apparently got the message. Speaking on behalf of Netanyahu’s cabinet, in accepting the P-5+1 talks with Iran, Meridor said, “I don’t think Russia has an interest in a nuclear Iran. Maybe they want to be considered as a partner, not to be told what to do. I am not for or against the Russians. I am saying they are important elements. They have an important role in the world. Communism might be dead. Russia is not.”
This view starkly contrasts the message that has been put out by the Obama administration regarding Russian strength. U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, in particular, enraged the Kremlin when he essentially wrote off Russia as a power too economically and demographically challenged to pose a real threat to the West any longer. It remains to be seen whether Israel can convince Washington of Russia’s leverage over Iran.
So, we are left with several disjointed realities. The Israelis understand Russian leverage concerning Iran, and they were promised crippling sanctions against Iran by Washington. Instead, Israel appears to be getting another diplomatic song and dance from Iran to buy time for its nuclear program. It would seem, then, that Israeli concerns over Iran’s nuclear program are unlikely to be satisfied anytime soon, or by another round of diplomacy.
There are a lot of moving parts that need to be tracked in this Iran saga, but in such uncertain times — and with so much at stake — potential military maneuvers will bear considerable watching amid the political rhetoric.
Pushing Israel/outsourcing to Israel
Reply #79 on:
September 15, 2009, 10:17:25 AM »
second post of the day
Events are fast pushing Israel toward a pre-emptive military strike on Iran's nuclear facilities, probably by next spring. That strike could well fail. Or it could succeed at the price of oil at $300 a barrel, a Middle East war, and American servicemen caught in between. So why is the Obama administration doing everything it can to speed the war process along?
At July's G-8 summit in Italy, Iran was given a September deadline to start negotiations over its nuclear programs. Last week, Iran gave its answer: No.
Instead, what Tehran offered was a five-page document that was the diplomatic equivalent of a giant kiss-off. It begins by lamenting the "ungodly ways of thinking prevailing in global relations" and proceeds to offer comprehensive talks on a variety of subjects: democracy, human rights, disarmament, terrorism, "respect for the rights of nations," and other areas where Iran is a paragon. Conspicuously absent from the document is any mention of Iran's nuclear program, now at the so-called breakout point, which both Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his boss Ali Khamenei insist is not up for discussion.
What's an American president to do in the face of this nonstarter of a document? What else, but pretend it isn't a nonstarter. Talks begin Oct. 1.
All this only helps persuade Israel's skittish leadership that when President Obama calls a nuclear-armed Iran "unacceptable," he means it approximately in the same way a parent does when fecklessly reprimanding his misbehaving teenager. That impression is strengthened by Mr. Obama's decision to drop Iran from the agenda when he chairs a meeting of the U.N. Security Council on Sept. 24; by Defense Secretary Robert Gates publicly opposing military strikes on Iran's nuclear facilities; and by Russia's announcement that it will not support any further sanctions on Iran.
In sum, the conclusion among Israelis is that the Obama administration won't lift a finger to stop Iran, much less will the "international community." So Israel has pursued a different strategy, in effect seeking to goad the U.S. into stopping, or at least delaying, an Israeli attack by imposing stiff sanctions and perhaps even launching military strikes of its own.
View Full Image
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
.Thus, unlike Israel's air strike against Iraq's reactor in 1981 or Syria's in 2007, both of which were planned in the utmost secrecy, the Israelis have gone out of their way to advertise their fears, purposes and capabilities. They have sent warships through the Suez Canal in broad daylight and conducted widely publicized air-combat exercises at long range. They have also been unusually forthcoming in their briefings with reporters, expressing confidence at every turn that Israel can get the job done.
The problem, however, is that the administration isn't taking the bait, and one has to wonder why. Perhaps it thinks its diplomacy will work, or that it has the luxury of time, or that it can talk the Israelis out of attacking. Alternatively, it might actually want Israel to attack without inviting the perception that it has colluded with it. Or maybe it isn't really paying attention.
But Israel is paying attention. And the longer the U.S. delays playing hardball with Iran, the sooner Israel is likely to strike. A report published today by the Bipartisan Policy Center, and signed by Democrat Chuck Robb, Republican Dan Coats, and retired Gen. Charles Ward, notes that by next year Iran will "be able to produce a weapon's worth of highly enriched uranium . . . in less than two months." No less critical in determining Israel's timetable is the anticipated delivery to Iran of Russian S-300 anti-aircraft batteries: Israel will almost certainly strike before those deliveries are made, no matter whether an Iranian bomb is two months or two years away.
Such a strike may well be in Israel's best interests, though that depends entirely on whether the strike succeeds. It is certainly in America's supreme interest that Iran not acquire a genuine nuclear capability, whether of the actual or break-out variety. That goes also for the Middle East generally, which doesn't need the nuclear arms race an Iranian capability would inevitably provoke.
Then again, it is not in the U.S. interest that Israel be the instrument of Iran's disarmament. For starters, its ability to do so is iffy: Israeli strategists are quietly putting it about that even a successful attack may have to be repeated a few years down the road as Iran reconstitutes its capacity. For another thing, Iran could respond to such a strike not only against Israel itself, but also U.S targets in Iraq and the Persian Gulf.
But most importantly, it is an abdication of a superpower's responsibility to outsource matters of war and peace to another state, however closely allied. President Obama has now ceded the driver's seat on Iran policy to Prime Minister Netanyahu. He would do better to take the wheel again, keeping in mind that Iran is beyond the reach of his eloquence, and keeping in mind, too, that very useful Roman adage, Si vis pacem, para bellum.
Re: Nuclear War, WMD issues
Reply #80 on:
September 15, 2009, 10:52:09 AM »
Obama forcing Israel to hit Iran is what he wants. When the American public is paying 20.00 dollars a gallon for gas, it'll be "them Jews" at fault. Rev. Wright will be very proud.
Re: Nuclear War, WMD issues
Reply #81 on:
September 15, 2009, 10:50:05 PM »
Here's another take. What do we make of this?
Obama’s UN Gambit: King of the Universe and the Polls
He’ll chair a Security Council meeting — and pander to rogue states
By Anne Bayefsky
Looking for a quick and easy boost in the polls, President Obama has decided to go to the one place where merit bears no relationship to adulation: the United Nations. On September 24, the president will take the unprecedented step of presiding over a meeting of the UN Security Council.
No American president has ever attempted to acquire the image of King of the Universe by officiating at a meeting of the UN’s highest body. But Obama apparently believes that being flanked by council-member heads of state like Col. Moammar Qaddafi — who is expected to be seated five seats to Obama’s right — will cast a sufficiently blinding spell on the American taxpayer that the perilous state of the nation’s economy, the health-care fiasco, and a summer of “post-racial” scapegoating will pale by comparison.
After all, who among us is not for world peace?
Unfortunately, however, the move represents one of the most dangerous diplomatic ploys this country has ever seen. The president didn’t just decide to chair a rare council summit; he also set the September 24 agenda — as is the prerogative of the state holding the gavel for the month. His choice, in the words of American UN Ambassador Susan Rice, speaking on September 2 at her first press briefing since the United States assumed the council presidency, is this: “The session will be focused on nuclear nonproliferation and nuclear disarmament broadly, and not on any specific countries.”
This seemingly innocuous language has two profoundly disturbing features. First, UN documents indicate that the Security Council is currently dealing with over 100 issues. While “non-proliferation” is mentioned, “disarmament” is not. Similarly, a UN Secretariat compilation “forecasting the Council’s program of work” for the month of September — based on prior activities and requests — lists non-proliferation specifically in relation to Iran and North Korea and does not list disarmament. But in light of Obama’s wishes, a tailor-made subheading will likely be adopted under the existing entry “maintenance of international peace and security.” The new item will insist on simultaneous consideration of nuclear non-proliferation and nuclear disarmament and make no mention of particular states.
This is no trivial technicality. The linguistic formula, which Obama’s confrere Qaddafi will undoubtedly exploit, shamelessly panders to Arab and Muslim states. It is a familiar recipe for stonewalling efforts to prevent Iran or other Muslim and Arab states from acquiring nuclear weapons until Israel is disarmed or Israel’s (unofficial) nuclear capacity is exposed and neutralized. It is also a frequent tool of those whose real goal is to stymie America’s defenses.
Second, Obama’s agenda preference indicates that he is dead-set against chairing a session on the non-proliferation issues already on the council’s plate — those that name Iran and North Korea. This stretches his “beer summit” technique to the global scale. Naming names, or identifying the actual threats to world peace, would evidently interfere with the spectacle of proclaiming affection for world peace in the abstract. The problem is that this feel-good experience will feel best of all to Iran, which has interpreted Obama’s penchant for form over substance to be a critical weakness. As a Tehran newspaper close to the regime snickered in July: “Their strategy consists of begging us to talk with them.”
At Ambassador Rice’s news briefing, she gave “an overview of the principal important meetings” to be held in September on her watch. After finishing the list of subjects without mentioning Iran or North Korea, she added: “So those are the highlights. We also have . . . three sanctions regimes that are up for regular review, chaired by the heads of the sanctions committees. We have Sudan, Iran and North Korea, and these are, I expect, likely to be uneventful and routine considerations of these various regimes.”
Even hard-boiled UN correspondents were surprised. Rice was asked to explain how the recent capture by the United Arab Emirates of containers of ammunition en route to Iran from North Korea could be construed as “uneventful and routine.” Her answer highlights the administration’s delinquency: “We are simply receiving . . . a regularly scheduled update. . . . This is not an opportunity to review or revisit the nature of either of those regimes.”
A brutalized Iranian population, yearning for democracy, has repeatedly been met by nothing but sad faces from this administration. An Iranian president installed by treachery has been legitimized by American recognition of his government, a decision that has sidelined other eminently justifiable alternatives. The leaders of this state sponsor of terrorism aim to annihilate the Jewish state and are on the verge of acquiring the means to do so. But instead of making the isolation and delegitimation of Iran the top priority for America’s turn at the council presidency, the Obama administration has taken Iran off the table at precisely the time when top decision-makers will be present.
The administration’s zeal for the front-page photo-op on September 25’s New York Times has now become a scramble to manufacture an “outcome” for the session. The president’s idea for a glorious finish was described by Ambassador Rice as some kind of joint statement declaring in part “that we are united in support for effective steps to ensure nuclear nonproliferation.”
Such a result would be breathtaking — for the audacity of claiming exactly the opposite of what it really represents. Even allied council members France and the United Kingdom are reported to be very unhappy with Obama’s no-names strategy for his September rollout.
Far from bolstering his flagging image, the president’s group-hug theory of diplomacy deserves the disdain of anyone who can separate rhetoric from reality.
— Anne Bayefsky is a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute and executive director of Human Rights Voices.
.To wit: Section 9 of the Constitution says:
No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States: And no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.)
Re: Nuclear War, WMD issues
Reply #82 on:
September 16, 2009, 08:34:44 AM »
A friend from India comments:
In India, the buzz is that Mr. Ombaba wants to force non NPT signatory states to sign the CTBT. Expect India to do a thermonuclear fusion test, before signing the CTBT. This would have implications for Israel too. Israel would be forced to bomb Iran, before signing the treaty. Both these events have geostrategic implications.
Re: Nuclear War, WMD issues
Reply #83 on:
September 16, 2009, 08:51:35 AM »
So you ask what do I make of this.....
What is the nature of man? Is he flawed? Is he the noble aboriginal? The left would have you believe if left to his own man would be a genital good being. I say horsepucky. History has taught us the nature of man. Society has arisen due to the pressure this nature has placed on man. As Hobbes said, in the state of nature life would be short, nasty, and brutish.
Now we have our president running to the U.N., the house of the noble aboriginals, horsepucky..they don’t exist, to prove what an enlightened sole he is, and say can’t we all just get along. This tack will avail us nothing. "A universal and perpetual peace, it is to be feared, is in the catalogue of events, which will never exist but in the imaginations of visionary philosophers, or in the breasts of benevolent enthusiasts." ~ James Madison
We should just withdrawal from the U.N. and save our money we are going to need it.
I am tired of trying to appease and compromise with the left. This political correctness that has arisen from the philosophical views of the left are going to be the death of this country. Just because our society has worked so well people can come to these philosophical mis-conclusions does not mean that or society does not exist with other societies in the always present state of nature!!! It is not just folly but dangerous to lose sight of what lies outside the firelight of our society!
I say he has committed an impeachable offense lets not let him apologize over and over (the left don’t seem to be satisfied with that either) but impeach him! At least raise the roof till 2010 then impeach him!
Its so easy , , ,
Reply #84 on:
September 17, 2009, 10:05:45 AM »
Last update - 08:32 17/09/2009
Father of Pakistan's nuclear bomb tells just how easy it is
By Yossi Melman
Tags: Israel news
About five weeks ago, Dr. Abdul Khader Khan granted an extensive interview to a Pakistan television station. The frank interview attracted the attention of media outlets and research institutes the world over, but until now, its details have not been published in Israel.
Dr. Khan is a national hero in his country. He is the father of Pakistan's nuclear bomb. He is also the world's leading proliferator of nuclear technology, equipment and know-how. In the 1960s, he studied in Holland, where he learned how to enrich uranium with centrifuges. After India exploded a nuclear device in 1974, then prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto charged him with the secret task of developing nuclear weapons.
Khan stole the centrifuge blueprints from Holland and smuggled them to Pakistan. In the 1990s, after he finished arming Pakistan with nuclear weapons, he resigned from the civil service and began to "tend to his own backyard." He established a private company and traveled to the Middle East.
There, he first offered his knowledge to Algeria, Egypt, Syria and Saudi Arabia, but was turned away. Iran and Libya, however, accepted his offer and paid him millions of dollars. He established a smuggling network that provided equipment and technology to Iran and Libya, and apparently to North Korea as well.
When Iran has a nuclear bomb, it will be mainly thanks to Khan. "He appeared on our radar," former Mossad chief Shabtai Shavit admitted to me about two and a half years ago. "But we didn't attribute the proper importance to it. That was one of our worst failures. We should have assassinated him."
When his deeds and those of his smuggling network were exposed, he was arrested in Pakistan and interrogated at length. Under pressure from the Bush administration, then Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf was forced to order him placed under house arrest, which lasted about five years. However, he was recently released.
"Nobody sought me out," Khan told the interviewer. "After the Indian nuclear test in 1974, which caused hysteria in Pakistan, I thought I had to speak to Bhutto and tell him about my ability to create a bomb. I had first-hand experience with the technology and I knew how it worked. Pakistan's technology infrastructure was nonexistent. Bhutto asked me to supervise the work."
Whose decision was it to produce the bomb?
Where did the money come from?
"The program was not expensive. Our annual budget was $20 million to $25 million and included purchasing land, building the [centrifuge] facility in Kauta, hiring scientists and purchasing materials abroad. The overall budget over 25 years was less than half a billion dollars."
When did you develop the centrifuges?
"On April 6, 1978, we succeeded for the first time in enriching uranium."
Was this enriched uranium weapons grade?
"No, it was a low level of enrichment. But it was sufficient to make us understand that we were capable of enriching uranium."
When did you begin to believe that you had fissile material for nuclear weapons?
"We achieved 90 percent enrichment in early 1983."
And when was the bomb ready?
"In December 1984, I wrote a letter to General Zia [then president of Pakistan] and told him that the bomb was ready and we could test it with a week's advance warning."
Why did you decide at the time not to carry out a test and detonate the bomb?
"We were allies of the United States in the war against the Soviets in Afghanistan. We asked Zia and his people to approve the test. But they explained that it would have harsh consequences. Because the U.S. turned a blind eye to our nuclear program so that we would support the war in Afghanistan, an opportunity was created to continue developing the program. They said the tests could be carried out at some later date."
And that's what happened. Only in 1998 did Pakistan carry out nuclear tests, in response to India's nuclear tests.
How did you set up the acquisitions network?
"Because I lived in Europe for 15 years, I was very familiar with the industry and the suppliers there. I had all their addresses. When I arrived in Pakistan, I began to purchase equipment from them. Then we started to purchase the same equipment via other countries, like Kuwait, Bahrain, Abu Dhabi, the UAE and Singapore. They [the West] couldn't keep up with us. We were always one step ahead of them."
When did you begin to produce the delivery systems?
"We planned them back in 1981, even before the bomb was ready. But General Zia did not allow us to produce them because of the war in Afghanistan. It happened only in 1988 - with the first government of Benazir Bhutto [Zulifkar's daughter]."
From whom did you acquire the missile know-how?
"From China." Later, he said, from North Korea too.
And what about Iran?
"Iran was interested in obtaining nuclear technology. And because Iran is an important Islamic country, we wanted it to have the technology. The Western countries pressured us on this issue, and it wasn't fair. If Iran can have nuclear technology, we will have a strong regional bloc that will repel international pressures. Iran's nuclear capability will neutralize Israel's power. We advised Iran to make contact with the suppliers and to purchase the equipment from them."
Are those the same as your suppliers?
"Yes. They were told that the suppliers are very reliable. The Iranian representatives met with them in Dubai."
What about Libya?
"Libya purchased the equipment from the same suppliers, who were responsible for supplying Pakistan, Iran and Libya via the same third party in Dubai."
Who was he?
"It was a company with which we made contact when we couldn't get equipment in Europe. They were Muslims from Sri Lanka."
The conclusion that emerges from the interview is that a country determined to obtain nuclear weapons will do so, even if it has poor technological infrastructure. There are enough suppliers who will secretly provide what is required. It is not overly expensive to produce nuclear weapons. It took Pakistan nine years.
Iran's situation is similar to Pakistan's. It began to enrich uranium in 2002, and today it already knows how to do it and has the quantity necessary to produce fissile material. The Iranians also already have missiles for launching a bomb.
Re: Nuclear War, WMD issues
Reply #85 on:
September 17, 2009, 02:26:16 PM »
**It's ok, Obama has yet to begun to appease....**
AP NewsBreak: Nuke agency says Iran can make bomb
Sep 17 01:23 PM US/Eastern
VIENNA (AP) - Experts at the world's top atomic watchdog are in agreement that Tehran has the ability to make a nuclear bomb and is on the way to developing a missile system able to carry an atomic warhead, according to a secret report seen by The Associated Press.
The document drafted by senior officials at the International Atomic Energy Agency is the clearest indication yet that the agency's leaders share Washington's views on Iran's weapon-making capabilities.
It appears to be the so-called "secret annex" on Iran's nuclear program that Washington says is being withheld by the IAEA's chief.
The document says Iran has "sufficient information" to build a bomb. It says Iran is likely to "overcome problems" on developing a delivery system.
Iran hiding nuke site
Reply #86 on:
September 25, 2009, 07:19:51 AM »
Breaking News Alert
The New York Times
Fri, September 25, 2009 -- 4:12 AM ET
U.S. Preparing to Accuse Iran of Concealing Nuclear Site
President Obama and the leaders of Britain and France will
accuse Iran on Friday morning of building a secret
underground plant to manufacture nuclear fuel, charging that
Iran has hidden the covert facility for years from
international weapons inspectors, according to senior
Stratfor Intel Guidance
Reply #87 on:
September 25, 2009, 11:45:39 AM »
Intelligence Guidance (Special Edition): Sept. 25, 2009 - Iran's Nuclear Program
September 25, 2009 | 1326 GMT
STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty Images
U.S. President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown leave the summit on Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons during the U.N. General Assembly Sept. 24Editor’s Note: The following is an internal STRATFOR document produced to provide high-level guidance to our analysts. This document is not a forecast, but rather a series of guidelines for understanding and evaluating events, as well as suggestions on areas for focus.
Related Special Topic Pages
Special Coverage: The Global Summits (Fall 2009)
Iran’s revelation of a second enrichment site is not critical in a military sense. The West always knew the Iranians were playing a shell game. What it does do, however, is highlight that one of the challenges of the situation is simply that Western intelligence does not know how good its intelligence is — until it is used. So the Iranians are attempting a smoke-and-mirrors strategy in the hope of deterring an attack. But they also don’t know how much the West does or does not know either.
Far more important was the decision by the leaders of the United States, the United Kingdom and France to condemn Iran’s partial unveiling of this new site, and to demonstrate clearly that the time for talks is almost over. The round of talks beginning Oct. 1 has been portrayed by the Israelis as the final round. Now the United States is publicly saying the same thing, although Obama continues to say it prefers a peaceful settlement.
There are four issues we need to drill into:
First, will the Russians come on board with gasoline sanctions in this context or do they continue their opposition? We need to reassess the Russian mood and see what their lowest possible price is for assistance.
Second, we should start seeing some overt movements by the U.S. military to spook the Iranians. This will not be the typical watch for carriers moving toward the Gulf. Between forces participating in the Iraq and Afghan conflicts, the United States already has more than what it needs to attack Iran. Watch and evaluate activities in the region itself.
Third, are there any statements out of Israel? They have been forcing this issue to a head. A lack of statements from them is ominous.
Finally, Iran has the “use it or lose it” option with mines. If they feel attack is imminent, will they use the mines? The United States must act against the mines before anything else if this is not to cause a global recession on its own.
Bottom line: If the Iranians indicate that they will not cooperate and the Russians do not budge on their opposition to imposing sanctions, then war could come suddenly — and from the United States. All the pieces for that war are already in place. It is just a question of nerve — for all parties.
Re: Nuclear War, WMD issues
Reply #88 on:
September 25, 2009, 11:52:45 AM »
"Bottom line: If the Iranians indicate that they will not cooperate and the Russians do not budge on their opposition to imposing sanctions, then war could come suddenly — and from the United States. All the pieces for that war are already in place."
Are you kidding?
Where in the world would Stratford conclude this?
I seriously doubt this.
Israel will have to do it alone.
Reply #89 on:
September 25, 2009, 12:12:35 PM »
Editor's Note:This introduces a three-part series on what sanctions against
Iran could mean for Iran, U.S.-Russian relations, Israel and the global
On Oct. 1, Iran will sit down for negotiations with six global powers - the
United States, the United Kingdom, France, Russia, China and Germany. The
Western powers in the group are hoping that these talks will in some way
tame Iran's nuclear ambitions, but Iran, having already flouted a Sept. 24
deadline to negotiate, has thus far sent mixed signals on whether it will
even agree to discuss its nuclear program when it comes to the table.
This may seem like a familiar routine: the United States threatens
sanctions, Israel hints at military action, a deadline is set for Iran to
enter serious negotiations, Iran does its usual diplomatic song and dance,
another deadline passes and negotiations end in stalemate.
But whether the main stakeholders in the conflict realize it or not, things
could turn out very differently this time around.
U.S. President Barack Obama has made it clear that should the postponed
negotiations fail to produce any real results - and the Obama administration
has already conveyed that it doesn't have high hopes for the talks - then it
will have little choice but to impose "crippling sanctions" against Iran.
What makes the sanctions so "crippling" is the fact that the United States
already has a campaign under way to pressure major energy, shipping and
insurance firms to curtail their gasoline trade with Iran. Since Iran must
import at least one-third of its gasoline to meet its energy needs, such a
sanctions regime could have a devastating effect on the Iranian government
and (theoretically, at least) coerce Tehran into making real concessions on
its nuclear program.
No sanctions regime, however, is airtight - and this one is no exception.
Iran has a few limited contingency plans in place to prepare for a gasoline
deficit, but the real vulnerability in the sanctions comes from Russia. Iran
has become a major pressure point in Russia's ongoing geopolitical tussle
with the United States, and Moscow has signaled in a number of ways that it
isn't going to be shy about using its leverage with Tehran to turn the
screws on Washington. Moscow has a list of core demands that revolve around
the basic concept of the West respecting Russian influence in its former
Soviet periphery. As long as the United States continues to rebuff these
demands and write off Russia as a weak power, the Russians not only can
refuse to participate in sanctions but they can also blow the entire
sanctions regime apart. The more bogged down the United States is in the
Islamic world, after all, the more room Russia has to maneuver in the
The United States may have gained more room to maneuver with Russia
following a leaked announcement Sept. 16 regarding a complete revision of
U.S. Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) plans in Central Europe. The BMD
issue - which symbolizes a deep U.S. military footprint on Moscow's
doorstep - has long been a sticking point for Russia in dealing with the
United States. Russia remains unconvinced of Washington's apparent retreat
in Central Europe and has thus far refrained from changing its tune on Iran.
Instead, Russia has treated the BMD change in plans as part of a debt
Washington has owed since Russia agreed to provide the United States with
alternate transit rights for the war in Afghanistan. The atmosphere may now
be slightly more conducive for negotiations between Moscow and Washington,
but unless the United States makes a more concrete concession that
recognizes Russian hegemony in former Soviet territory, Russia will continue
to hold onto its Iran card.
Israel understands what Russia is capable of when it comes to Iran. From the
Israeli point of view, even if Iran is still years away from the bomb, a
potentially nuclear Iran poses a fundamental national security threat better
dealt with sooner rather than later - especially if Russia can prevent the
successful implementation of sanctions, and complicate any potential
military strikes against Iran by providing strategic air defense systems.
In other words, the Israelis have lost their patience with U.S.-Iranian
merry-go-round diplomacy. The Americans promised the Israelis crippling
sanctions against Iran, and if those sanctions don't happen or prove
ineffective, other options are likely to be explored that would necessarily
involve the skills and services of the U.S. military. Meanwhile, Iran -
whether faced with the threat of crippling sanctions or military strikes -
has the ability to wreak havoc on the global economy by going so far as to
mine the critical Strait of Hormuz, through which more than 40 percent of
seaborne globally traded oil passes. This is the "real" Iranian nuclear
option, if you will.
In this special series, STRATFOR examines in depth what a sanctions regime
could mean for Iran, U.S.-Russia relations, Israel and the global economy.
Part one will describe the nuts and bolts of an innovative U.S.-led
sanctions campaign and reveal the major energy firms, insurers and shippers
who are either already cutting back trade with Iran or are insulated enough
from the United States to pick up some of the slack for the Iranian regime.
Part two will discuss the array of options available for Russia to satisfy
Iran's gasoline needs and neutralize the sanctions. Russia can do so
directly by rail or sea, or it could enlist former Soviet surrogates like
Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan, all of which have more than enough
spare capacity to cover Iran's gasoline needs but also varying political and
economic constraints to consider. Part three will focus on Iran's likely
response to these sanctions, including its contingency plans to reduce
gasoline consumption at home and its last-resort options designed to stave
off a military strike or retaliate against one.
Come Oct. 1, the world's major powers will be engaged in a high-stakes round
of diplomacy. Israeli patience is wearing thin, Russia is prodding
Washington with the Iran issue, and Iran is looking at its options of last
resort. This geopolitical panorama does not leave Washington with many
options, especially when a number of other issues are already competing for
the administration's attention. It does, however, have the potential to
break the Iranian nuclear impasse.
Reply #90 on:
September 25, 2009, 12:13:57 PM »
Iran Sanctions (Special Series), Part 2: FSU Contingency Plans
Stratfor Today » September 24, 2009 | 1209 GMT
Russia has been using its relationship with Iran as leverage against the
United States. In the face of the very real possibility of sanctions
targeting Iran's gasoline imports, Russia could continue using Iran to upset
U.S. plans by supplying the Islamic republic with gasoline. However, Moscow
knows that such a move would come with a political price.
Editor's Note: This is part two in a three-part series on what sanctions
against Iran could mean for Iran, U.S.-Russian relations, Israel and the
a.. Click here to download a PDF of this report
a.. Click here to download a PDF of the entire Iran Sanctions Series
Related Special Topic Page
a.. Special Series: Iran Sanctions
Russia, having found its strength again, has been pushing back against U.S.
influence in the former Soviet Union while the United States has been
preoccupied with its wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. But even with its success
against the Western geopolitical offensive in many places on its borders,
Moscow still demands that Washington put an end to its plan to expand NATO,
drop its backing of Georgia and Ukraine, and abandon any military buildup in
One of Russia's favorite pieces of leverage to use against the United States
has been its relationship with Iran. Since 1995, Russia has been helping
Iran build its nuclear power plant at Bushehr, though Moscow has refrained
from completing work on the plant in order to keep the issue alive and in
the Russian arsenal of threats against the United States. Russia has
continually delayed the delivery of advanced military technology to Iran,
like variants of the S-300 air defense system that would complicate a
potential military strike. Russia also has routinely blocked hard-hitting
sanctions on Iran in the U.N. Security Council. All of this has served to
bog Washington down in another Middle Eastern foreign policy dilemma while
Russia coaxes the United States into separate negotiations over Russian
interests, such as the West backing away from Russia's near abroad.
This arrangement has not only given Russia a trump card in its negotiations
with the United States; as long as Russia can use Iran against the United
States, Tehran is more capable of deflecting U.S. pressure.
But now the United States has devised a relatively robust sanctions plan
that will bypass the United Nations, so Russia will not have a chance to use
its veto power. Yet Russia could create a massive breach in the sanctions.
The new U.S. sanctions plan targets Iran's gasoline imports, which make up
at least a third of the country's consumption and most of which are shipped
to Iran through the Persian Gulf. Such a supply cut could devastate the
Iranian regime and economy, forcing Tehran to make real concessions on its
nuclear program. Venezuela, another state hostile to Washington, has offered
to step in and fill some of Iran's gasoline needs despite the sanctions, but
Venezuela's shipments to the Persian Gulf theoretically could be interrupted
by even a minor U.S. naval blockade. Therefore, if Iran is to circumvent
U.S. sanctions and get its gasoline, it will have to look closer to home.
Russia and several former Soviet states bordering Iran have one of the few
alternative supply options - sending gasoline in by rail or ship from the
north - which neither the United States nor Israel could block militarily.
Moreover, these countries have spare gasoline refining capacity.
Iran's gasoline imports fluctuate frequently but average about 176,000
barrels per day (bpd) - although the Iranians currently are importing more
than 400,000 bpd as they are stockpiling in preparation for possible
sanctions. Russia - and quite a few other former Soviet states - would be
able to fill Iran's basic import needs.
In this discussion, an understanding of gasoline refining capacity is
necessary. Every refinery typically has facilities that convert oil into
several different products, ranging from gasoline to diesel fuel to
kerosene. For most refineries in the former Soviet states, gasoline accounts
for about 10 to 15 percent of their total refining capacity. However, it is
rather simple to increase that percentage. Refineries do it frequently, such
as when gasoline inventories get built up in preparation for peak season
demand. At the higher end of refining gasoline, most refineries produce at
45 percent, but theoretically refineries can scale up gasoline production to
up to 70 to 85 percent of total refining capacity before the feedstock
becomes "over-cracked" and gasoline yield falls. Since gasoline refining can
fluctuate over such a wide range, STRATFOR will simply report the total
refining capacity for each country.
Russia is currently the world's largest oil producer (it recently surpassed
Saudi Arabia) at 9.9 million bpd. Russia exports 7.4 million bpd of that oil
in either crude or refined products, mainly to Europe. But Russia is also
one of the largest refiners in the world, with a capacity to refine 5.5
million bpd of oil products.
Russia's oil production has been declining, mainly because market demand has
slumped following an economic slowdown, but Russian refineries are still
working at about 80 percent of their capacity. Considering the size of
Russia's refining sector, increasing their refining closer to capacity could
cover Iran's basic import needs many times over.
Russia is not the only energy giant in the region. Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan
and Turkmenistan are all net crude and gasoline exporters. STRATFOR sources
have indicated that Kazakhstan is not considering any gasoline sales to
Iran, due to the large U.S. economic presence in the Central Asian country.
This leaves Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan, both of which are among the top 20
global oil producers, both of which border Iran, and both of which have
plenty of spare refining capacity.
Azerbaijan currently produces about 1 million bpd of crude and has a
domestic refining capacity of 442,000 bpd. However due to a lack of global
demand, Azerbaijan is only refining at 27 percent of its capacity, leaving a
spare capacity that could cover Iran's import needs twice over. Turkmenistan
is in the same situation - producing about 195,000 bpd of crude, but only
refining at 20 percent of their 286,000 bpd capacity. This means that
Turkmenistan's spare capacity alone could easily cover Iran's import needs.
Between Russia, Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan, there is plenty of spare
capacity to produce the gasoline that Iran would need in the event of
sanctions. The next issue is how to get the gasoline to Iran.
The former Soviet states have a vast series of rail interconnections, and
their close proximity to Iran makes this transit option one of the most
likely. Russia's southern belt of refineries lining the northern Caspian
region is along a series of rail networks that could transport gasoline to
Iran in the matter of a few days. Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan's refineries
are along rail networks that could transport gasoline to Iran in less than a
day. A typical gasoline-carrying train in the former Soviet states is
capable of transporting approximately 40,000 barrels of gasoline. For any of
the former Soviet states to fulfill Iran's current gasoline needs, the
trains would have to be sent four or five times a day.
(click here to enlarge image)
One problem with this is that the former Soviet Union's rail network is on a
different rail gauge from most of the rest of the world - a leftover from
Soviet times, when Josef Stalin wanted to prevent any potential invader from
using the Soviet Union's rail network to sustain an offensive inside Soviet
territory. The rail gauge in Russia and the former Soviet states is 1,520
mm. Iran is on the standard 1,435 mm gauge that most of the world uses. In
the past, any cargo traveling from one of the former Soviet states by rail
would have to be off-loaded from the Russian train cars and reloaded onto
foreign cars with a different gauge - wasting days on the journey. However,
since 2003 Russia has been mass-producing rail cars with an adjustable
gauge, allowing for the gauge to be shifted in mere hours.
Due to increasing oil prices, the Russians also mass-produced liquid tank
cars, increasing their fleet from 100,000 cars to more than 230,000. Since
demand for crude and gasoline declined, most of these tank cars are sitting
idly in Russia, so there would be no shortage to send to Iran.
But for Russia to get its gasoline to Iran, it would have to go south along
the Caspian via Azerbaijan or through Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and
Turkmenistan. Azerbaijan or Turkmenistan could also use the Russian rail
cars to send gasoline to Iran.
There is a problem with either Azerbaijan sending gasoline to Iran via rail
or Russia using rail connections via Azerbaijan to supply Iran: The rail
lines in the region do not actually run into Iran. Of the two rail lines
from Azerbaijan to Iran, the most extensive runs from Azerbaijan to Armenia,
to the Azerbaijani exclave of Nakhchivan. This line was severely damaged
during the Nagorno-Karabakh War and remains in disrepair, so it cannot
handle any traffic. The second rail line runs along the Caspian Sea from
Russia to Iran via Azerbaijan, with multiple refineries along the way.
A rail line near the Iran-Azerbaijan border on May 28, 2009
However, this line ends once it reaches the Iranian border; all cargo has to
be trucked into Iran. Azerbaijan has used this line to send gasoline to Iran
before, and there has been much talk about expanding the line farther into
Iran (though no progress has been made on construction). This line is
running at approximately 27 percent capacity, which means it has room for a
surge of rail cars going to Iran.
Azerbaijan's rail lines might be problematic, but Turkmenistan has rail
lines that connect with Iran's rail network. However, for Russia to send
gasoline to Iran via Turkmenistan, the trains would have to transit
Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. Uzbekistan's relationships with Russia and
Turkmenistan are deteriorating, and STRATFOR sources in Kazakhstan have said
the country has taken part in discussions on allowing such a transit. There
is no indication, however, that Uzbekistan has been approached about the
There is also much discussion of shipping gasoline to Iran on the Caspian
Sea, which is bordered by Russia, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan and
Iran - five countries that have continually bickered about dividing up the
sea among them.
Currently, only a nominal amount of gasoline is shipped across the Caspian,
but such shipping could be accelerated very easily as the basic technology
of ports and pipelines that ship crude oil can be quickly converted to
handle gasoline - particularly when considering the very limited
infrastructure of a port. Iran's northern port on the Caspian, Neka, for
example, can currently handle 300,000 bpd of crude. Even with a 50 percent
loss rate from a switchover, this one port could theoretically handle all of
Iran's import needs (and Neka also boasts the necessary road, rail and
pipeline infrastructure required to then distribute any imported gasoline
supplies to the rest of the country).
(click here to enlarge image)
The problem with Russia shipping gasoline to Iran is that Russia's northern
Caspian ports - Astrakhan and Makhachkala - are frozen over for more than
four months out of the year. Kazakhstan has been expanding its capacity to
ship crude and gasoline at Aktau, though Astana is not planning to fulfill
this particular supply request for political reasons.
The ports in Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan, however, are equipped to ship
gasoline or crude to Iran. Azerbaijan's Baku port has a 301,200 bpd liquid
cargo capacity. In 1996, Baku sent 50,000 bpd to Neka when its gasoline
exports to Russia were cut off due to war in the Caucasus. The capacity at
Turkmenistan's Turkmenbashi port is unknown; it is only known that there is
Iran's port at Neka can handle 300,000 bpd of liquid cargo - more than
enough to fill the Iranians' demand for gasoline. Neka also has crude and
gasoline storage, though only for 45,000 barrels.
The Russian Dilemma
Russia and the former Soviet states are clearly able to fill in Iran's
gasoline needs should the United States successfully cut off supplies. But
Moscow is weighing the political decision on whether to do so very
carefully. The Russians have said continually that they feel the United
States' new push for sanctions would not be successful, though it is Russia
itself that would prevent that success. The new sanctions are designed to
pressure the companies involved in operating in Iran, supplying Iran with
gasoline or insuring those supplies, but with Russo-U.S. relations in
decline, Russia will weigh the benefits of successfully crushing U.S.
sanctions plans against the pain any U.S. economic pressure could create.
STRATFOR sources in the region have confirmed that Russia is taking this
issue very seriously. Currently it is unclear whether Azerbaijan would take
part in defying the sanctions since the United States has such a large
economic presence in the country. Azerbaijan does have energy swap deals in
place with Iran and has also made more plans to increase other energy
supplies, like oil and natural gas, to Iran. But Baku has not made a
decision yet on the specific issue of gasoline supplies, though STRATFOR
sources have indicated that Baku has at least been included in talks with
Moscow and Ashgabat.
Turkmenistan is the more likely player to create gasoline supply contracts
with Iran. Turkmenistan is still one of the most isolated countries in the
world, despite the government's proclaimed push to change that fact. The
United States has no real leverage it can use to force the country to not
supply its neighbor with gasoline. Moreover, Turkmenistan is in a financial
crunch because Russia stopped receiving energy supplies from the Central
Asian state, and Turkmenistan is looking for a new source of income. But
Moscow has ensured that it holds enough influence over Turkmenistan in the
realms of the military and social stability to keep Ashgabat from making
such a move without its consent. Russia wants to make sure that no other
country will usurp its ability to ruin U.S. sanctions.
Overall, the decision for any of these states to deliver gasoline to Iran
comes down to Moscow. Russia is using this threat in order to pressure the
United States into recognizing its sphere of influence. This trump card
could force the United States to act against Iran militarily, as all the
U.S. "diplomatic" efforts will by then have been exhausted. Then again, if
Russia plays this card, it could also force the United States to act more
aggressively against Russia, which will have proven its willingness to
support Iran through its actions, not just its rhetoric.
Reply #91 on:
September 25, 2009, 12:16:09 PM »
Iran Sanctions (Special Series), Part 3: Preparing for the Worst
Stratfor Today » September 25, 2009 | 1203 GMT
Iran has long been preparing itself for U.S.-led sanctions against gasoline
imports and is confident in its ability to circumvent them. But even if the
sanctions did get Iran's attention, they would not necessarily bring it to
the negotiating table. Iran takes resistance very seriously, and while
extolling the virtues of self-sacrifice it could close the Strait of Hormuz,
which would wreak havoc on the global economy.
Editor's Note: This is part three of a three-part series on what sanctions
against Iran could mean for Iran, U.S.-Russian relations, Israel and the
a.. Click here to download a PDF of this report
a.. Click here to download a PDF of the entire Iran Sanctions Series
Related Special Topic Page
a.. Special Series: Iran Sanctions
As the Iranian regime continued apace with its nuclear program, it
understood that it was only a matter of time before the West would aim for
its gasoline imports, a potential Achilles' heel for Iran. Although Iran may
be one of the world's top-five crude-oil producers and exporters, its rogue
reputation isn't exactly good for business. The Iranian energy industry has
been sagging under the weight of sanctions for decades as the foreign energy
majors with the technical skill Iran so badly needs wait for the
geopolitical storm clouds to clear before tapping the country's vast energy
To contain domestic political dissent, the Iranian regime has heavily
subsidized the population's energy needs. The drawback to such a policy is
that ridiculously cheap gasoline prices (gasoline in Iran costs around 9
cents per liter) tend to fuel rapid consumption and rampant smuggling. As
Iran's population continued to grow, so did its appetite for gasoline, and
the regime has now reached a point where it simply cannot keep up with
domestic demand without importing at least one-third of its fuel.
So, while Iran's Arab rivals, such as energy heavyweight Saudi Arabia,
profited immensely from record-high crude prices in 2008, the Iranian regime
was still struggling to balance its accounts. Then came the global economic
collapse, which sliced the country's oil revenues in half. And given the
sponsorship by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) of militant and
political proxies in Iraq and Lebanon, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's
repeated raids on the country's rainy-day oil funds for his political
campaigning, and funding for the Iranian nuclear program, Tehran does not
have much cash to spare.
Iran is not oblivious to its gasoline vulnerabilities, but it also isn't
left without options should Washington become more aggressive with its
sanctions campaign. As discussed in detail in part two of this series,
Russia - for its own strategic reasons - has developed a contingency plan,
most likely involving Russia's former Soviet surrogate, Turkmenistan, to
cover the gasoline gap should Iran start experiencing shortfalls. The
Russians are certainly not planning to do this out of the goodness of their
hearts and sincere loyalty to their allies in Tehran. On the contrary,
sabotaging Washington's sanctions regime against Tehran is yet another way
Moscow can turn the screws on the United States if the Obama administration
refuses to take seriously the Kremlin's demand that the West respect its
influence in the former Soviet sphere. Since the Obama administration backed
down recently from its Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) plans in Central
Europe, there could be more room for Russia and the United States to engage
in serious negotiations. That said, there is no guarantee that Washington
would be willing to pay the price of Russian hegemony in Eurasia in return
for Russia's cooperation on Iran, and Moscow will drive a hard bargain
before it even thinks about sacrificing its leverage with Iran.
Iran could certainly use Russia's help in maintaining its gasoline supply,
but Tehran is also quite wary of becoming that much more dependent on Moscow's
good graces for its energy security. Russia and Iran have quite a tumultuous
history (the Soviets briefly occupied Iran during World War II), and the
Iranian leadership is fearful of being abandoned by Russia should Moscow
reach some sort of compromise with Washington.
Iran's other energy-producing ally hostile to the United States is
Venezuela, which recently announced it would come to Iran's aid in the event
of sanctions and supply its Persian friends with 20,000 barrels per day
(bpd) of gasoline starting in October for an $800 million annual fee.
Beneath the revolutionary rhetoric of oppressed regimes sticking it to their
imperialist foes, this Venezuelan-Iranian energy deal is filled with holes.
For starters, Venezuela - much like Iran - is facing serious refining
problems due to mismanagement and a severe drop in foreign investment. Also
like Iran, Venezuela's populist regime heavily subsidizes its constituents
(gasoline in Venezuela is even cheaper than in Iran at 4 cents per liter),
sending consumption soaring over the past four years. While Venezuela is
currently refining around 420,000 bpd, it still needs to import gasoline to
help meet domestic demand.
Caracas could always go through a third party to supply gasoline to Iran
from a source closer to the Persian Gulf, but finding a willing supplier
could prove difficult and costly when insurance premiums and political risks
are taken into account. Moreover, should push come to shove, Washington has
substantial leverage over the Venezuelan regime given the abundance of
assets that Citgo, the refining unit of Venezuelan state oil company
Petroleos de Venezuela, has spread throughout the United States. The United
States also is the largest recipient of Venezuela's crude exports and one of
the few markets in the world with the technological capabilities to process
Venezuela's heavy crude, leaving Venezuela without much of a viable
Iran has already turned to China to help backfill its gasoline supply.
Latest estimates show that starting in September, China began to directly
supply up to one-third of Iran's total gasoline imports. Until now, Chinese
involvement in the gasoline trade had mostly been limited to shipping
companies. In the run-up to the Oct. 1 talks, China now has the extra
incentive to poke the United States and profit from these gasoline shipments
to Iran. After having boosted its refining capacity this year, China has
surplus gasoline to sell on the international market. In August alone China
exported 140,000 barrels of gasoline per day. Like Malaysia's Petronas,
which began supplying Iran with gasoline in August, China sees an
opportunity to profit off of Iran's gasoline trade at a time when political
tensions are rising and major energy firms, such as BP, Reliance and Total,
have already stopped or are cutting back their shipments to Iran. But Iran
may not be able to rely on Chinese aid over the long term.
China currently is in a heated trade spat with Washington over a recent U.S.
tariff on Chinese tire imports and could push back against Washington even
further by flouting the threatened sanctions regime. However, this is a
decision with major strings attached. Washington still has a great deal of
leverage over Beijing in the form of Section 421, a U.S. law that was
incorporated into China's accession agreement with the World Trade
Organization in 2001 and allows the United States to legally impose tariffs
on nearly any Chinese export until 2013. Now that Obama has put Section 421
to use in restricting tire imports, the Chinese have to think twice before
making any moves that could compel Washington to go even further in slapping
trade restrictions on China. Additionally, China is a massive energy
importer itself, so shipping any sort of energy product to the Middle East,
where its supply lines are unprotected, is something that works directly
against most of China's energy security strategies.
The United States has not yet formalized the gasoline sanctions against Iran
in the form of legislation or a U.N. Security Council resolution, and this
may be providing Beijing a limited opportunity to hit back at the United
States during the trade spat and demonstrate the limits of Beijing's
cooperation. However, Beijing will be far more cautious than Russia when it
comes to blocking sanctions against Iran and will keep a close eye on Russia's
intentions in deciding its next steps. China has long been noncommittal when
it comes to sanctions against Iran and will align itself with Russia in
forums like the U.N. Security Council to demonstrate its opposition to
punitive U.S. economic measures. Of course, if Russia folds and reaches some
sort of compromise with Washington, China will comply with the sanctions and
avoid being left in the spotlight as the sole sanctions-buster allied with
In short, Iran has friends that it can turn to if necessary, but the
reliability of those friends is by no means guaranteed.
Fending for Itself
In the spirit of self-sufficiency, Iran has long been preparing itself for a
U.S.-led offensive against Iranian gasoline imports. Over the past two
years, as talk of gasoline sanctions intensified, Iran sought out willing
suppliers to help stockpile its gasoline reserves. Iranian gasoline
consumption currently stands at around 300,000 to 400,000 bpd, but over the
past several months, Iran has been importing well in excess of that amount
from mostly Swiss suppliers and now newcomers like Malaysia's state-owned
Petronas, which are looking to replace the energy majors that are dropping
out of the Iranian gasoline trade while political tensions are high. Iranian
and U.S. intelligence sources claim that Iran currently has at least three
months worth of gasoline needs (estimates average around 30 million barrels)
stockpiled. The director of the National Iranian Oil Refining and
Distribution Company claims Iran's gasoline storage capacity is about 15.7
million barrels, which gives Iran about four months of in-storage capacity.
Some of the surplus gasoline is sitting on tankers off Kharg Island, but the
bulk of the supply is stored on land, where it is less vulnerable to
Reply #92 on:
September 25, 2009, 12:16:56 PM »
The Iranian government continues to make bold claims about its ability to
massively ramp up its refining capacity and become self-sufficient in
gasoline production within four years, but this is mostly hot air. Iran
simply doesn't have the capability to meet its gasoline production goals on
its own without the necessary foreign investment. And even if Iran had
willing partners in places like Central Asia, it would still need to
overcome its extreme reluctance to actually foot the bill for such projects.
It may strike some as odd that Iran has acquired a capability to develop
nuclear technology but still struggles to build and operate refineries on
its own. There are a number of reasons for this, but the simple answer is
that the technology for a nuclear program dates back to the 1930s and 1940s
and has not changed much since, while refining technology is continually
updated and Iran has been out of the global oil-and-gas mainstream for 30
years now. A nuclear weapons program requires a couple dozen or so highly
trained scientists and engineers to operate it, and these personnel can be
trained in any number of institutions around the world. On the other hand, a
permanent staff for a refinery producing around 300,000 bpd would require
some 1,200 highly trained technicians and petroleum engineers, and most of
Iran's intelligentsia - particularly the group with strong technical
skills - left the country following the Iranian Revolution. Iran's stated
energy goals are full of delusion as well as ambition.
Confronting the Subsidy Problem
Iran thus has little choice but to figure out a way to reduce gasoline
consumption at home. The Iranians started on this initiative in June 2007
when the regime implemented a rationing system. Though the move was
extremely unpopular and instigated a spate of riots in Tehran, the backlash
was swiftly contained and, according to energy industry sources, Iranian
gasoline imports dropped from 40 percent of total domestic consumption to
about 25 to 30 percent.
The next step is for the regime to start cutting untenable subsidy rates by
raising the price of gasoline. This is a plan that has long been in the
works but has been put off time and time again due to the regime's
deep-rooted fear of sparking major social unrest. This especially became a
concern following the June presidential election debacle, which gave scores
of Iranian citizens the courage to pour into the streets to voice their
dissent against Ahmadinejad. Though the protests have dramatically dwindled
in size, they continue sporadically and are a persistent irritant to the
regime. Iranian sources claim that the coming gasoline price hike will not
be that dramatic in the beginning. The government would likely continue to
subsidize domestically produced gasoline while allowing the cost of imported
gasoline to rise so it can pass along a portion of the costs to the consumer
and further dampen demand.
Besides the potential political fallout, there is another significant issue
with this gasoline price-hike plan. Since gasoline prices are heavily
subsidized in Iran and are, therefore, much cheaper than the gasoline sold
in neighboring countries, Iran has a major problem with gasoline smuggling
to these countries. Iranian sources claim that more than 750,000 barrels are
smuggled every month from Iran to Turkey, Afghanistan and Iraq, and this
puts a considerable drain on Iran's energy revenues. The smuggling rings are
run by a variety of actors, from Iranian organized crime entities linked to
the IRGC to Balochi tribesmen to Kurdish smugglers, and they are extremely
difficult for the regime to dismantle. Moreover, Iranian officials tend to
turn a blind eye to these smuggling practices in order to buy political
patronage from non-Persian minorities (Kurds, Balochis and Azeris) in the
borderlands who could otherwise cause serious trouble for the regime. With
the political situation at home particularly dicey right now, the Iranian
government will have to proceed cautiously with any future price hikes,
which are sure to be applied unevenly across the country.
Natural Gas Relief?
Iran also has an alternative-fuel plan under way that capitalizes on the
country's natural gas resources and reduces its reliance on refined crude,
but the results have so far been limited. The plan involves encouraging the
use of compressed natural gas (CNG) for Iranian motorists. Cars that can run
on CNG, which are prevalent in South Asia and Latin America, can be more
economical and environmentally friendly. In fact, the price of CNG retails
at around 4 cents per cubic meter (roughly equivalent to one liter of
gasoline). Moreover, the technology used to compress natural gas is far less
complex than that needed to refine crude. Considering that Iran is the world's
fourth-largest producer of natural gas, the switch to CNG makes sense, but
there is one big drawback. Vehicles must be modified to run on CNG, and CNG
stations would have to be built across the country. None of this would be
quick or cheap for Iran.
Nevertheless, Iran has made notable progress since kicking off its CNG plan
in 2007, when Iran Khodro Industrial Group - Iran's leading automaker -
invested $50 million in low-consumption, flexible-fuel engine production
lines. Former Iranian Oil Minister Gholam Hossein Nozari said in July that
there are currently 880 CNG stations in Iran, with plans to build an
additional 400 within the next several months. Since Iran Khodro started
ramping up production of CNG-capable vehicles, Iran has become the world's
fourth-largest CNG-vehicle producer following Argentina, Pakistan and
Brazil, according to the International Association for Natural Gas Vehicles.
As of May 2009, Iranian government officials claim the official count of
CNG-capable vehicles on the road totaled 1.4 million. The total number of
cars in Iran was estimated to be 11.7 million in 2008, according to the
Global Market Information Database. All in all, estimated fuel replacement
by CNG is currently around 7 percent of Iran's total automobile fuel
consumption, up from zero five years ago. While Iran seems to be making
steady progress in the CNG arena, it still has a way to go before the switch
to CNG would make a significant dent in the country's gasoline imports.
Responding to Pressure
When STRATFOR speaks to Iranian sources, we get the sense that the regime is
feeling fairly confident in its ability to slip the sanctions noose while
continuing to work on its nuclear program, using the same rhetoric it has
used for the past seven years to drag negotiations into a stalemate. This
continued confidence may be due to the fact that the Iranians have yet to
feel the pinch of Washington's quiet campaign against Iran's gasoline
suppliers. Though the energy majors appear to be dropping out of the Iranian
gasoline trade, the numbers we have seen indicate that Tehran is importing
surplus amounts of gasoline in preparation for tougher days to come.
However, should Iran fail to outmaneuver the P-5+1 come Oct. 1, those
tougher days could arrive sooner than it thinks.
In the weeks and months ahead, Israel will likely determine whether Iran and
the United States are headed for a collision course in the Persian Gulf. The
Israelis were promised "crippling" sanctions against Iran by the Obama
administration. If that promise goes unfulfilled, and the Iranians (as they
are expected to do) refuse to freeze their enrichment activities, the
Israelis are likely to turn to the military option and demand Washington's
cooperation. Israel understands Russia's leverage over Iran - particularly
its ability to arm the Iranians with critical defense systems and sabotage a
gasoline sanctions regime - and would rather deal decisively with the
Iranian nuclear issue while the program is still several steps away from a
Israel, unlike the United States, never had much faith in the sanctions to
begin with. The U.S. administration appears to be operating under the
assumption that severe sanctions against Iran will create a dire economic
situation in the country, galvanize the masses against the clerical elite
and thus coerce the regime into making significant concessions on its
nuclear program. More imaginative policymakers believe that such economic
sanctions could build on the dissent that followed the election and produce
a third front to challenge and topple the regime. But Tehran's actual
actions are unlikely to mesh nicely with Washington's preferred perception
of the regime's mindset. Iran - at least for now - has no intention of
meeting the West's demands to curb its nuclear program and takes the idea of
resistance very seriously.
A Doomsday Scenario
Israel is willing to see how the sanctions regime plays out, but it also
knows that it has a limited menu of options. If the sanctions are blown
apart with Russia's help, the Iranians will obviously feel little pressure
to negotiate seriously and the Israelis will have to turn to alternative
options. If the sanctions prove effective because of Russian cooperation, a
U.S. willingness to risk trade spats to enforce the sanctions or a
combination of the two, the Iranians will be left feeling extremely
vulnerable. However, that vulnerability would not necessarily bring Iran to
the negotiating table. On the contrary, the Iranians are more likely to turn
increasingly insular and aggressive with their nuclear ambitions. While
extolling the virtues of self-sacrifice for national solidarity, the Iranian
regime would begin to seriously threaten to use its "real" nuclear option -
closing the Strait of Hormuz with mines and its arsenal of anti-ship
This is an option of last resort for the Iranians, but if Tehran feels
sufficiently threatened, either by sanctions or potential military strikes,
it could wreak havoc on the global economy within a matter of hours.
Setting ablaze the Strait of Hormuz would undoubtedly inflict intense pain
on the Iranian economy, but this may be a pain that the regime is willing to
bear while it watches energy prices soar and the world's industrial powers
plunge deeper into recession. At such a level of brinksmanship, the United
States would have to seriously consider a military campaign to preempt an
Iranian move to close the strait, providing Israel with an opportunity to
strike at Iran's nuclear facilities. If the United States failed to act in
time and Iran succeeded in mining this critical energy chokepoint, then the
U.S. military would have to clear the strait. Either way, the Persian Gulf
would become a war zone and the global ramifications would be immense.
This may be a doomsday scenario, but it is one of increasing credibility
given that the main players - Iran, the United States, Russia and Israel -
continue to raise the stakes in pursuing their respective national
imperatives. A number of questions remain: Will the United States put its
trade relations on the line and aggressively enforce sanctions? Will Russia
go the extra mile for Tehran and bust the sanctions regime? Can the United
States and Russia reach a strategic compromise that will leave Iran out in
the cold? Has Israel's patience regarding Iranian diplomatic maneuvers run
out? Will Iran resort to its real nuclear option and threaten the Strait of
STRATFOR does not know the answers, and neither do the main stakeholders in
this saga. However, come Oct. 1 these stakeholders must begin making some
critical decisions that could dramatically alter the geopolitical landscape
Stratfor: A commitment to postpone a commitment
Reply #93 on:
September 26, 2009, 05:30:17 AM »
A Mutual Commitment to Postpone a Commitment
IN THE LAST LEG OF THIS WEEK’S GLOBAL SUMMITS MARATHON, world leaders made their way to Pittsburgh for a G-20 meeting after a lively U.N. General Assembly meeting in New York drew to a close Thursday.
What the assembly lacked in substance, it certainly made up in entertainment value. Highlights included U.S. President Barack Obama chairing a rare U.N. Security Council meeting, where all members adopted a toothless resolution on nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament, a fashionably dressed Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi delivering a 90-minute monologue on topics ranging from sodomy to the number of U.S. warships used to invade Grenada in 1983 — and finally, a charged face-off between Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Unsurprisingly, the focus has turned to the growing crisis between Israel and Iran. After a long-winded Wednesday night speech by Ahmadinejad, in which he reiterated Iran’s refusal to curb its nuclear program, Netanyahu took the podium Thursday with a forceful speech that not only condemned the Iranian regime for its denial of the Holocaust and “dangerous” polices, but also condemned the rest of the United Nations for allegedly failing to take a stand against Tehran. In a nutshell, Netanyahu was saying that, given the track record of failed or nonexistent U.N. resolutions, he does not trust the Security Council to protect Israel from an existential threat: a potentially nuclear Iran.
This message is loaded with implications. In less than a week, leaders from the P-5+1 group – made up of the five permanent U.N. Security Council states, along with Germany — will be meeting with Iranian officials to discuss the nuclear program. And so far, the Iranians have given every indication that they do not intend to concede enough to satisfy Israel’s concerns about the nuclear program. Israel therefore is left with few options – especially since it appears the wheels are already coming off the United States’ threatened sanctions regime, which would target Iran’s gasoline imports.
“Not only can Russia completely destroy the effectiveness of a U.S.-led sanctions regime, but it can provide Iran with critical weapons systems that could seriously complicate an attack against Iran down the road.”
The Israelis also understand the Russia factor. Russia is engaged in an ongoing struggle to win Washington’s recognition of its influence in the former Soviet region. So far, the United States hasn’t given Russia what it wants. Consequently, Russia continues to flaunt the leverage it has with the United States over its ties to Iran. Not only can Russia completely destroy the effectiveness of a U.S.- led sanctions regime, but it can provide Iran with critical weapons systems that could seriously complicate an attack against Iran down the road. The Israelis simply are not seeing the value in delaying much longer.
Israel therefore is leaning heavily on the United States to reach some sort of compromise with Moscow and bring the Russians in line on the Iran issue.
Russian President Dmitri Medvedev made a statement on Wednesday that might indicate that such a compromise has a chance — however slight — of happening. “I told the president of the United States that we think it necessary to help Iran make the right decision,” Medvedev said, with just the right touch of ambiguity. “As for various types of sanctions, Russia’s position is very simple, and I spoke about it recently. Sanctions rarely lead to productive results, but in some cases, the use of sanctions is inevitable. Ultimately, this is a matter of choice, and we are prepared to continue cooperating with the U.S. administration on issues relating to Iran’s peaceful nuclear program, as well as other matters.”
This is a notable shift in tone coming out of Moscow, but does not yet signify that a deal has been made between the Americans and the Russians that would alleviate the crisis over Iran. Our Russian sources are hinting that something bigger may be under way, but they also have made it clear that this is just the beginning of negotiations. One source in particular has indicated that thus far, Washington is at least considering a Russian demand to postpone the U.S. deployment of a Patriot air defense battery in Poland. In return, Moscow would stick to its pledge to delay delivery of the S-300 strategic air defense system to Iran. In essence, this would be a mutual commitment to postpone commitment to their strategic allies.
But, would that be enough to satisfy Israel?
Re: Nuclear War, WMD issues
Reply #94 on:
September 26, 2009, 10:45:39 AM »
Mort Zuckerman - hardly a conservative - from sept. 24 but not 2009 - it is from 2008.
His prediction for the worsening crises in the Middle East is now fact. His reiteration of Bidne's prediction that the One would be tested is also now fact. Our enemies love our President unlike any we have ever had.
Russia is supplying our enemies while shaking the hand of the One. Chavez now want to mine uranium. N Korea and Iran are ever more confident in the weakness of the One.
There is only one choice for Israel. Let the One play out as Krauthammer calls it - the farce. Maybe that is good for Israel - let the One prove to the world that his way is the fool's way and then have more legitimacy to bomb Iran.
In any case this was written a year ago by a liberal Jewish guy:
War or Peace their choice
Reply #95 on:
September 26, 2009, 10:59:38 AM »
I can't find it now but does anyone remembr who the Roman Emperor was who said something to his enemies like,
"If you want peace we will give you peace, if you want war we will give you war, it makes NO difference to us".
That my friends is why Rome last sereral hundred years.
I doubt the caesar or emperor who said this was popular with his enemies.
Unlike today our President is beloved by ours. And that says it all.
Thank God it is Netenyahu who leads Israel and not Obama.
Reply #96 on:
September 27, 2009, 08:56:19 AM »
To the many challenges discussed by this article I would add rocket attacks (there's tens of thosands of them) from Lebanon by Hezbollah.
By ANTHONY H. CORDESMAN
When the Israeli army’sthen-Deputy Chief of Staff Dan Halutz was asked in 2004 how far Israel would go to stop Iran's nuclear program, he replied: "2,000 kilometers," roughly the distance been the two countries.
Israel's political and military leaders have long made it clear that they are considering taking decisive military action if Iran continues to develop its nuclear program. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned at the United Nations this week that "the most urgent challenge facing this body is to prevent the tyrants of Tehran from acquiring nuclear weapons."
Reporting by the International Atomic Energy Agency and other sources has made it clear that whether or not Iran ties all of its efforts into a formal nuclear weapons program, it has acquired all of the elements necessary to make and deliver such weapons. Just Friday, Iran confirmed that it has been developing a second uranium-enrichment facility on a military base near Qom, doing little to dispel the long-standing concerns of Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia, and the U.S. that Iran is developing nuclear weapons.
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.Iran has acquired North Korean and other nuclear weapons design data through sources like the sales network once led by the former head of Pakistan's nuclear program, A. Q. Khan. Iran has all of the technology and production and manufacturing capabilities needed for fission weapons. It has acquired the technology to make the explosives needed for a gun or implosion device, the triggering components, and the neutron initiator and reflectors. It has experimented with machine uranium and plutonium processing. It has put massive resources into a medium-range missile program that has the range payload to carry nuclear weapons and that makes no sense with conventional warheads. It has also worked on nuclear weapons designs for missile warheads. These capabilities are dispersed in many facilities in many cities and remote areas, and often into many buildings in each facility—each of which would have to be a target in an Israeli military strike.
It is far from certain that such action would be met with success. An Israeli strike on Iran would be far more challenging than the Israeli strike that destroyed Iraq's Osirak reactor in 1981. An effective Israeli nuclear strike may not be possible, yet a regional nuclear arms race is a game that Iran can start, but cannot possibly win. Anyone who meets regularly with senior Israeli officials, officers and experts knows that Israel is considering military options, but considering them carefully and with an understanding that they pose serious problems and risks.
One of the fundamental problems dogging Israel, especially concerning short-ranged fighters and fighter-bombers, is distance. Iran's potential targets are between 950 and 1,400 miles from Israel, the far margin of the ranges Israeli fighters can reach, even with aerial refueling. Israel would be hard-pressed to destroy all of Iran's best-known targets. What's more, Iran has had years in which to build up covert facilities, disperse elements of its nuclear and missile programs, and develop options for recovering from such an attack.
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A sign reading “Atomic Power Plant” points the way to a nuclear power plant that was built in the Persian Gulf city of Bushehr, with Russian help.
.At best, such action would delay Iran's nuclear buildup. It is more likely to provoke the country into accelerating its plans. Either way, Israel would have to contend with the fact that it has consistently had a "red light" from both the Bush and Obama administrations opposing such strikes. Any strike that overflew Arab territory or attacked a fellow Islamic state would stir the ire of neighboring Arab states, as well as Russia, China and several European states.
This might not stop Israel. Hardly a week goes by without another warning from senior Israeli officials that a military strike is possible, and that Israel cannot tolerate a nuclear-armed Iran, even though no nation has indicated it would support such action. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad continues to threaten Israel and to deny its right to exist. At the same time, President Barack Obama is clearly committed to pursuing diplomatic options, his new initiatives and a U.N. resolution on nuclear arms control and counterproliferation, and working with our European allies, China and Russia to impose sanctions as a substitute for the use of force.
BATTLE STATIONS: Israel has to carefully consider its options.
.Mr. Ahmadinejad keeps denying that Iran is seeking nuclear weapons, and tries to defend Iran from both support for sanctions and any form of attack by saying that Iran will negotiate over its peaceful use of nuclear power. He offered some form of dialogue with the U.S. during his visit to the U.N. this week. While French President Nicolas Sarkozy denounced Iran's continued lack of response to the Security Council this week, and said its statements would "wipe a U.N. member state off the map," no nation has yet indicated it would support Israeli military action.
Most analyses of a possible Israeli attack focus on only three of Iran's most visible facilities: its centrifuge facilities at Natanz, its light water nuclear power reactor near Bushehr, and a heavy water reactor at Arak it could use to produce plutonium. They are all some 950 to 1,000 miles from Israel. Each of these three targets differs sharply in terms of the near-term risk it poses to Israel and its vulnerability.
The Arak facility is partially sheltered, but it does not yet have a reactor vessel and evidently will not have one until 2011. Arak will not pose a tangible threat for at least several years. The key problem Israel would face is that it would virtually have to strike it as part of any strike on the other targets, because it cannot risk waiting and being unable to carry out another set of strikes for political reasons. It also could then face an Iran with much better air defenses, much better long-range missile forces, and at least some uranium weapons.
Bushehr is a nuclear power reactor along Iran's southwestern coast in the Gulf. It is not yet operational, although it may be fueled late this year. It would take some time before it could be used to produce plutonium, and any Iranian effort to use its fuel rods for such a purpose would be easy to detect and lead Iran into an immediate political confrontation with the United Nations and other states. Bushehr also is being built and fueled by Russia—which so far has been anything but supportive of an Israeli strike and which might react to any attack by making major new arms shipments to Iran.
The centrifuge facility at Natanz is a different story. It is underground and deeply sheltered, and is defended by modern short-range Russian TOR-M surface-to-air missiles. It also, however, is the most important target Israel can fully characterize. Both Israeli and outside experts estimate that it will produce enough low enriched uranium for Iran to be able to be used in building two fission nuclear weapons by some point in 2010—although such material would have to be enriched far more to provide weapons-grade U-235.
Israel has fighters, refueling tankers and precision-guided air-to-ground weapons to strike at all of these targets—even if it flies the long-distance routes needed to avoid the most critical air defenses in neighboring Arab states. It is also far from clear that any Arab air force would risk engaging Israeli fighters. Syria, after all, did not attempt to engage Israeli fighters when they attacked the reactor being built in Syria.
In August 2003, the Israeli Air Force demonstrated the strategic capability to strike far-off targets such as Iran by flying three F-15 jets to Poland, 1,600 nautical miles away. Israel can launch and refuel two to three full squadrons of combat aircraft for a single set of strikes against Iran, and provide suitable refueling. Israel could also provide fighter escorts and has considerable electronic-warfare capability to suppress Iran's aging air defenses. It might take losses to Iran's fighters and surface-to-air missiles, but such losses would probably be limited.
Israel would, however, still face two critical problems. The first would be whether it can destroy a hardened underground facility like Natanz. The second is that a truly successful strike might have to hit far more targets over a much larger area than the three best-known sites. Iran has had years to build up covert and dispersed facilities, and is known to have dozens of other facilities associated with some aspect of its nuclear programs. Moreover, Israel would have to successfully strike at dozens of additional targets to do substantial damage to another key Iranian threat: its long-range missiles.
Experts sharply disagree as to whether the Israeli air force could do more than limited damage to the key Iranian facility at Natanz. Some feel it is too deeply underground and too hardened for Israel to have much impact. Others believe that it is more vulnerable than conventional wisdom has it, and Israel could use weapons like the GBU-28 earth-penetrating bombs it has received from the U.S. or its own penetrators, which may include a nuclear-armed variant, to permanently collapse the underground chambers.
No one knows what specialized weapons Israel may have developed on its own, but Israeli intelligence has probably given Israel good access to U.S., European, and Russian designs for more advanced weapons than the GBU-28. Therefore, the odds are that Israel can have a serious impact on Iran's three most visible nuclear targets and possibly delay Iran's efforts for several years.
The story is very different, however, when it comes to destroying the full range of Iranian capabilities. There are no meaningful unclassified estimates of Iran's total mix of nuclear facilities, but known unclassified research, reactor, and centrifuge facilities number in the dozens. It became clear just this week that Iran managed to conceal the fact it was building a second underground facility for uranium enrichment near Qom, 100 miles southwest of Tehran, and that was designed to hold 3,000 centrifuges. Iran is developing at least four variants of its centrifuges, and the more recent designs have far more capacity than most of the ones installed at Natanz.
This makes it easier to conceal chains of centrifuges in a number of small, dispersed facilities and move material from one facility to another. Iran's known centrifuge production facilities are scattered over large areas of Iran, and at least some are in Mashad in the far northeast of the country—far harder to reach than Arak, Bushehr and Natanz.
Many of Iran's known facilities present the added problem that they are located among civilian facilities and peaceful nuclear-research activities—although Israel's precision-strike capabilities may well be good enough to allow it to limit damage to nearby civilian facilities.
It is not clear that Israel can win this kind of "shell game." It is doubtful that even the U.S. knows all the potential targets, and even more doubtful that any outside power can know what each detected Iranian facility currently does—and the extent to which each can hold dispersed centrifuge facilities that Iran could use instead of Natanz to produce weapons-grade uranium. As for the other elements of Iran's nuclear programs, it has scattered throughout the country the technical and industrial facilities it could use to make the rest of fission nuclear weapons. The facilities can now be in too many places for an Israeli strike to destroy Iran's capabilities.
Israel also faces limits on its military capabilities. Strong as Israeli forces are, they lack the scale, range and other capabilities to carry out the kind of massive strike the U.S. could launch. Israel does not have the density and quality of intelligence assets necessary to reliably assess the damage done to a wide range of small and disperse targets and to detect new Iranian efforts.
Israel has enough strike-attack aircraft and fighters in inventory to carry out a series of restrikes if Iran persisted in rebuilding, but it could not refuel a large-enough force, or provide enough intelligence and electronic warfare capabilities, to keep striking Iran at anything like the necessary scale. Moreover, Israel does not have enough forces to carry out a series of restrikes if Iran persisted in creating and rebuilding new facilities, and Arab states could not repeatedly standby and let Israel penetrate their air space. Israel might also have to deal with a Russia that would be far more willing to sell Iran advanced fighters and surface-to-air missiles if Israel attacked the Russian-built reactor at Bushehr.
These problems are why a number of senior Israeli intelligence experts and military officers feel that Israel should not strike Iran, although few would recommend that Israel avoid using the threat of such strikes to help U.S. and other diplomatic efforts to persuade Iran to halt. For example, retired Brigadier General Shlomo Brom advocates, like a number of other Israeli experts, reliance on deterrence and Israel's steadily improving missile defenses.
Any Israeli attack on an Iranian nuclear target would be a very complex operation in which a relatively large number of attack aircraft and support aircraft would participate. The conclusion is that Israel could attack only a few Iranian targets—not as part of a sustainable operation over time, but as a one-time surprise operation.
The alternatives, however, are not good for Israel, the U.S., Iran's neighbors or Arab neighbors. Of course being attacked is not good for Iran. Israel could still strike, if only to try to buy a few added years of time. Iranian persistence in developing nuclear weapons could push the U.S. into launching its own strike on Iran—although either an Israeli or U.S. strike might be used by Iran's hardliners to justify an all-out nuclear arms race. Further, it is far from clear that friendly Arab Gulf states would allow the U.S. to use bases on their soil for the kind of massive strike and follow-on restrikes that the U.S. would need to suppress Iran's efforts on a lasting basis.
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Isfahan Uranium Conversion Facility is seen behind Imam Ali mosque just outside the city of Isfahan. This picture was taken on April 9, Iran’s recently created National Nuclear Technology Day.
.The broader problem for Iran, however, is that Israel will not wait passively as Iran develops a nuclear capability. Like several Arab states, Israel already is developing better missile and air defenses, and more-advanced forms of its Arrow ballistic missile defenses. There are reports that Israel is increasing the range-payload of its nuclear-armed missiles and is developing sea-based nuclear-armed cruise missiles for its submarines.
While Iran is larger than Israel, its population centers are so vulnerable to Israeli thermonuclear weapons that Israel already is a major "existential" threat to Iran. Moreover, provoking its Arab neighbors and Turkey into developing their nuclear capabilities, or the U.S. into offering them a nuclear umbrella targeted on Iran, could create additional threats, as well as make Iran's neighbors even more dependent on the U.S. for their security. Iran's search for nuclear-armed missiles may well unite its neighbors against it as well as create a major new nuclear threat to its survival.
How long can we continue empty threats?
Reply #97 on:
September 28, 2009, 10:56:28 AM »
I go to Drudgereport and I see articles about Iran's defiance, China is testing long range missle, and India is making higher grade nuclear material.
Obama and his cronies fly around the world and (as Krauthammer says while apologizing for US "wickedness") says for the thousandth time, "now we are serious", "now we will get tough", "now we will make sanctions hurt", "now we are warning Iran", etc etc.
The US has been doing this for years - it really would be laughable if not so sad and tragic.
We are headed for another world war if you ask me. This is the 1930s all over again. Our economy has crashed and we have a leadership running around appeasing our enemies all the while they continue to arm and quite frankly state exactly what they plan to do. It isn't obvious by now? We need to drop a bomb in the Gulf and let Iran know the next one is on Amedingjon's head.
I don't see any other way. If the US won't do it (One can legitimately make the argument it is not in our interest) than I guess Israel will have to - if they can).
If we don't do it we will be more than sorry in the future.
Sound crazy - it is. But continuing with talks is even more.
***Iran flexes muscle ahead of talks
An Iranian Zelzal missile is launched during a test at an unknown location in central Iran September … By Fredrik Dahl and Hossein Jaseb Fredrik Dahl And Hossein Jaseb – 33 mins ago
TEHRAN (Reuters) – Iran test-fired missiles on Monday which a commander said could reach any regional target, flexing its military muscle before crucial talks this week with major powers worried about Tehran's nuclear ambitions.
The missile drills of the elite Revolutionary Guards coincide with escalating tension in Iran's nuclear dispute with the West, after last week's disclosure by Tehran that it is building a second uranium enrichment plant.
News of the nuclear fuel facility south of Tehran added urgency to the rare meeting in Geneva on Thursday between Iranian officials and representatives of six major powers, including the United States, China and Russia.
U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who says any military action against Iran would only "buy time" and stresses the need for diplomacy, mentioned possible new sanctions on banking and equipment and technology for Iran's oil and gas industry.
Iran's Foreign Ministry said there was no link between the missile maneuvers and the nuclear activities.
"This is a military drill which is deterrent in nature," spokesman Hassan Qashqavi told a news conference. "There is no connection whatsoever with the nuclear program."
Press TV said the Shahab 3, a surface-to-surface missile with a range of up to 2,000 km (1,250 miles), was "successfully" test-fired on the second day of an exercise that began on Sunday, when short and medium-range missiles were launched.
Such a range would put Israel and U.S. bases in the region within striking distance. Television footage of the launches showed missiles soaring into the sky in desert-like terrain, to shouts of Allahu Akbar (God is Greatest).
"All targets within the region, no matter where they are, will be within the range of these missiles," said General Hossein Salami, commander of the Guards' air force.
Salami said the exercise was over and had achieved its goals. "All the test-fired missiles managed to hit their targets without any errors and with precision," the forces website quoted him as saying.
The tests sparked swift international condemnation.
British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said the missile test was "part of an annual provocation" by Iran and should not distract from the pending Geneva talks.
"On Thursday (Iran will) need to ... show that they are serious about ensuring that their civilian nuclear power program does not leak into a military program," Miliband told Britain's Sky News.
European Foreign Policy Chief Javier Solana, who will head the Western delegation in the Geneva talks, said "everything that is done in that context is a concern."
He said the aim of Thursday's talks was "engagement."
When asked what sanctions Iran should face if it failed to comply with Western demands over its nuclear program, Solana said "now is not the time to talk about that."
France called on Iran "to choose the path of cooperation and not that of confrontation by immediately ending these profoundly destabilizing activities and by immediately responding to the requests of the international community in order to reach a negotiated solution on the nuclear dossier."
Russia, meanwhile, urged restraint.
"We should not give way to emotions now," a Russian foreign ministry source told Interfax news agency. "We should try to calm down and the main thing is to launch a productive negotiations process (with Iran)."
The ministry source said the international community should wait to see what Iranian officials say at the Geneva talks before taking action.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said on Friday that if Iran does not cooperate at the meeting, then "other mechanisms" should be used to deal with Tehran's nuclear programme. Medvedev did not explicitly say whether Russia would support Western calls for sanctions against Iran.
The United States and its Western allies have made clear they will focus on Iran's nuclear programme at the Geneva meeting. Iran has offered wide-ranging security talks but says it will not discuss its nuclear "rights."
Washington, which suspects Iran is trying to develop nuclear bomb capability, has previously expressed concern about Tehran's missile programme. Iran, a major oil producer, says its nuclear work is solely for generating peaceful electricity.
The Pentagon chief told CNN he hoped the disclosure of the second facility would force Tehran to make concessions. "The Iranians are in a very bad spot now because of this deception, in terms of all of the great powers," Gates said.
"There obviously is the opportunity for severe additional sanctions. I think we have the time to make that work."
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Iran must present "convincing evidence" at the Geneva meeting.
"We are going to put them to the test on October 1," Clinton told CBS' "Face the Nation. "They can open their entire system to the kind of extensive investigation that the facts call for."
Both interviews were taped before Iran started the two-day missile exercise, designed to show it is prepared to head off military attacks by foes like Israel or the United States.
Iran's state broadcaster IRIB said "upgraded" versions of Shahab 3 and another missile, Sejil, had been tested. Officials have earlier said Sejil has a range of close to 2,000 km (1,250 miles). They were powered by solid fuel, IRIB said.
Neither the United States nor its ally Israel have ruled out military action if diplomacy fails to resolve the nuclear row.
Iran has said it would respond to any attack by targeting U.S. interests in the region and Israel, as well as closing the Strait of Hormuz, a vital route for world oil supplies.
Iran's defense minister warned Israel on Monday against launching any attack on the Islamic Republic, saying it would only speed up the Jewish state's own demise.
"If this happens, which of course we do not foresee, its ultimate result would be that it expedites the Zionist regime's last breath," Ahmad Vahidi said on state television.
U.S. President Barack Obama said on Saturday the discovery of a secret nuclear plant in Iran showed a "disturbing pattern" of evasion by Tehran. He warned Iran on Friday it would face "sanctions that bite" unless it came clean.
Iran has rejected Western accusations that the plant was meant to be secret because it did not inform the U.N. nuclear watchdog as soon as plans were drawn up, saying the facility near the holy city of Qom is legal and can be inspected.
(Reporting by Tehran and Washington bureaus, Avril Ormsby in London and Conor Humphries in Moscow; writing by Samia Nakhoul; editing by Dominic Evans)***
Re: Nuclear War, WMD issues
Reply #98 on:
September 28, 2009, 12:49:06 PM »
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The Huffington PostSeptember 28, 2009
The other point of view from the Huffington post. Obama's strategy is "brilliant" though it may not be enough:
****The good news is that President Obama has a brilliant strategy for dealing with Iran. The bad news is that brilliance may not be enough. In a few months he could face the most severe foreign policy crisis a young president has faced since John F. Kennedy stumbled into the Bay of Pigs.
Obama has taken several steps in the past few weeks that show he is thinking strategically about how to defang Iran's nuclear threat. For one thing, Obama is trying to bring Russia on board. By announcing that he has no intention of stationing a nuclear defense system in Eastern Europe, Obama removed a significant impediment to smoother relations with Moscow. In return, he needs Moscow's cooperation in confronting Iran. He already has the support of Britain and Germany. Constructing an alliance capable of implementing tough sanctions against Tehran is the kind of multilateral diplomacy that the Bush administration scorned. Obama doesn't.
Obama's call for a nuclear-free world is also a big plus, one that, among other things, further helps refurbish America's battered image in Europe. At an election rally in Germany, the head of the liberal party, Guido Westerwelle, announced Obama's call for a nuclear-free world almost as soon as he had made it. Obama's focus on the dangers posed by nuclear weapons further exposes Tehran as an anomalous, retrograde power. The regime is on the wrong side of history. It isn't a progressive power, but a backward one that is pursuing a dangerous course that will further isolate it. Obama, after all, wants to strip the mullahs of their moolah by pushing for punitive sanctions.
But if the hardline clerics are intent on obtaining the bomb -- as opposed to the knowledge of how to construct one -- then sanctions won't be enough. Then Obama will be confronted with an Israeli government determined to attack Iranian nuclear sites. And he'll be urged to do it himself by both liberal hawks and neocons back home.
Will Obama be able to carve out some face-saving deal with Iran? Or is he heading into a major crisis? Iraq and Afghanistan may turn out to be sideshows as Obama focuses on the threat from Tehran. But so far, Obama has handled Iran perfectly with a mixture of threats and promises of cooperation.****
Re: Nuclear War, WMD issues
Reply #99 on:
September 29, 2009, 09:39:00 AM »
As per the NYT
Publically released opinions:
Israel: Iran has restarted weaponization.
Germany: Iran never stopped weaponization.
France: There is more going on then international inspectors say.
US: Iran has halted weaponization in 2003.
The US position is the most interesting is it not?
It is conveniently in line with undermining any pre emptive attack from Israel.
This all comes about since we did not find and prove the weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Ever since then and the political turning of the tide here in the US, W and now OBama have thrown Israel to the winds of que cera que cera.
***By William J. Broad, Mark Mazzetti and David E. Sanger
updated 11:56 p.m. ET, Mon., Sept . 28, 2009
WASHINGTON - When President Obama stood last week with the leaders of Britain and France to denounce Iran’s construction of a secret nuclear plant, the Western powers all appeared to be on the same page.
Behind their show of unity about Iran’s clandestine efforts to manufacture nuclear fuel, however, is a continuing debate among American, European and Israeli spies about a separate component of Iran’s nuclear program: its clandestine efforts to design a nuclear warhead.
The Israelis, who have delivered veiled threats of a military strike, say they believe that Iran has restarted these “weaponization” efforts, which would mark a final step in building a nuclear weapon. The Germans say they believe that the weapons work was never halted. The French have strongly suggested that independent international inspectors have more information about the weapons work than they have made public.
Meanwhile, in closed-door discussions, American spy agencies have stood firm in their conclusion that while Iran may ultimately want a bomb, the country halted work on weapons design in 2003 and probably has not restarted that effort — a judgment first made public in a 2007 National Intelligence Estimate.
The debate, in essence, is a mirror image of the intelligence dispute on the eve of the Iraq war.
This time, United States spy agencies are delivering more cautious assessments about Iran’s clandestine programs than their Western European counterparts.
The differing views color how each country perceives the imminence of the Iranian threat and how to deal with it in the coming months, including this week’s negotiations in Geneva — the first direct talks between the United States and Iran in nearly 30 years.
In the case of the plant outside Qum, designed for uranium enrichment, some nuclear experts speculate that it is only part of something larger. But a senior American official with access to intelligence about it said he believed the secret plant was itself “the big one,” but cautioned that “it’s a big country.”
This distinction has huge political consequences. If Mr. Obama can convince Israel that the exposure of the Qum plant has dealt a significant setback to the Iranian effort, he may buy some time from the Israelis.
The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were discussing classified intelligence assessments.
Uranium enrichment — the process of turning raw uranium into reactor or bomb fuel — is only one part of building a nuclear weapon, though it is the most difficult step. The two remaining steps are designing and building a warhead, and building a reliable delivery system, like a ballistic missile.
American officials said that Iran halted warhead design efforts in 2003, a conclusion they reached after penetrating Iran’s computer networks and gaining access to internal government communications. This judgment became the cornerstone of the 2007 intelligence report, which drew sharp criticism from Europe and Israel, and remains the subject of intense debate.
Disagreeing with the Americans, Israeli intelligence officials say they believe that Iran restarted weapons design work in 2005 on the orders of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader. The Americans counter that the Israeli case is flimsy and circumstantial, and that the Israelis cannot document their claim.
German intelligence officials take an even harder line against Iran. They say the weapons work never stopped, a judgment made public last year in a German court case involving shipments of banned technology to Tehran. In recent interviews, German intelligence agencies declined to comment further.***
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