« National Journal Bllog - 28 September, 2009 | Main | "The Stability of MAD" Habakkuk »

28 September 2009


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.


~ Two of the world's leading powers and economies, both defeated in WWII, seem to have done pretty well without nukes. ~

Because they had the US protecting them under its MADly motivated nuclear umbrella.

~ It is really time for China and Russia and others to step up on Iran because there are NO winners in warfare despite what some believe. ~

Contrary to what some believe, China and Russia are "stepping up" on Iran:

They are protecting it, both because it's in their interest and because a US/Israeli attack on Iran would be fundamentally wrong.

If Iran gets nuclear weapons, we'll see peace in the Middle East within two generations.

If it doesn't, we'll simply continue to see Israel, the US, and Saudi Arabia tear the entire region to shreds.

Patrick Lang


ok. What's your preferred course of action? serve it up and we will discuss it. pl

Babak Makkinejad


I agree with the thrust of your argument regarding the Qom facility.

The late Lt. General William Odom observed as much: "The only we can make sure Iran doesn't build nuclear weapons is to occupy her." Which is not in the cards.

I think the more important things is the contents of the two letters that Mr. Obama has sent to Mr. Khamenei and any replies thereto.


I don't see the payoff of US or Israel bombing this or that facility in Iran-- a short term threat diminished somewhat, against the uncertainty of what could unfold. Consequences could be a bear for both US and Israel. I assume the deals being worked out with Russia, China and who knows who else (India, Pakistan?) aren't agreements of cooperation as much as looking for assurances that WWIII won't break out. One sure consequence is a spike in oil prices. That alone may be reason enough not to do it. Just not sure this is the time to play 11-dimensional hyper chess because of a 'possible' threat and some bellicose talk.

Babak Makkinejad

Col. Lang:

What are US intentions?

Do you know?


Contrary to what some believe, China and Russia are "stepping up" on Iran:

Posted by: china_hand | 29 September 2009 at 03:14 AM

Ding, ding ding.... correct.

1. What Russia wants: Geographical buffer from US/NATO expansion and political bargaining chip. Iran fit the bill perfectly.

2. China needs Oil (and possibly future bargaining chip in the event of Taiwan war.)

3. US drive is Israel/zionists operators in legislation and think-tank, Oil access, Cold war era project.

These are the fundamental drive of the interaction.

Anybody who thinks there will be genuine Israel/Palestinian peace, or stopping NATO expansion or the big power quit fighting for oil is either delusional or naive.

There maybe temporary detour, high horse talk about peace, etc. but in the end it's back to basic fight.

so my prediction:

knowing how little the G20 announcement on Iran (It's not even in main forum, with Only sarkozy and Brown. There wasn't even any milly mouth announcement from G20 as I expected.

- Russia has a game plan.

- Since Iran plays along and doesn't look antsy, they already have their bet hedged. (eg. either owning complete section of S-300 class defense or complete set of tested technology for small nuclear warhead.) Next panic will be: Iran show it can do MIRV (India and Pakistan can do it) Starting their own plutonium and tritium production plan without Obvious Russia help. And show it has functional advance air defense.

Beyond that, Iran obvious task would be establishing its own Banking, Insurance and shipping network. (They can win this because they have giant cost advantage. Can't beat Free money, free oil, central location and a lot of unemployed) Do price war on chemical industrial feed. And basic weapon/weapon technology exports. Africa, Asia and eastern europe are open season for everybody.

Nuclear technology worth a lot of money too. Brazil, Malaysia, Indonesia, Algeria, Egypt, Burma, Taiwan, Korea, Argentina, Chile ...etc all have active nuke program one way or another.

Any of them can ditch NPT when push come to shove. (NPT or WTO? Good luck sorting that one out.)

Afghanistan? It's free for all arena, a bullet over karzai head and bunch of low cost explosive will turn that place upside down in a jiffy and pinned 20% of US military asset down when there is major middle east conflict.

I think now, if any player decide to connect with taliban al qaeda and supply them for attack against US interest. Things will get very nasty.

It wont be shoe bomb/acetone peroxide amateur hour. It'll be more like updated PLO stuff.



I think there are several problems with your analysis:

First, Iran's longer-range missiles (Shahab 3) have throw weights of around 2000 pounds, not a few hundred.

Secondly, HEU can be used for both implosion and assembly weapons.

Third, yes, fabricating a weapon and mating it to a delivery vehicle are difficult engineering problems. Difficult is not the same thing as impossible or even improbable and all Iran requires is time, resources and the will.

Fourth, testing is nice if one can do it, but it is not an impediment to a credible nuclear deterrent. Israel, after all, has never tested its designs, yet few doubt Israel's weapons would fail, nor is there much doubt that they have not overcome the engineering challenges related to weaponization and delivery vehicle integration. This is why nonproliferation efforts (and the IAEA mandate) focus so heavily on fissile material. Without fissile material, nuclear weapons are impossible. With fissile material, nuclear weapons are simply a difficult engineering problem. The problem with Iran is that the standard safeguards under which the IAEA monitors Iran's program are not adequate to provide credible assurances that Iran cannot acquire fissile material undetected.

Additionally, Israel's weapons are not as relevant as they're so often made out to be. The impetus for Iran's program back when it began in the 1980's and through the 1990's was not Israel - it was Iraq. Your assertion that Israel's weapons are a "prime motivation" for Iran is inconsistent with the historical record. It is also discordant with the rest of your arguments - If Israeli nukes are really a "prime motivator" then Iran is not going to allow a few engineering challenges get in the way of acquiring its own capability.

With the end of Iraq as any kind of threat to Iran, Iran's strategic justification obviously changed. It may be that the Iranians now see Israel as a primary strategic competitor but then one gets into a chicken-and-egg argument: Iran needs weapons to counter Israeli threats of attack, yet Iran's perceived efforts to acquire such weapons are what is precipitating those threats to begin with.


This new facility in Qom, by itself, is relatively unimportant. It represents, however, the reality that Iran could setup a centrifuge shop almost anywhere it pleases and, under the current safeguards agreement, the IAEA has no independent ability to discover such facilities. I continue to believe the Iranians must be bribed/compelled to fully adopt the additional protocol on a permanent basis. We should also look at Iran's previous offer of an international enrichment facility on Iranian soil, provided Iran's own enrichment efforts are verifiably ended. The Iranians claim they only want reactor fuel and engagement on an international facility is one way to call their bluff.


The US has no intentions. It only has process. Are you suggesting that the
same is true for Iran? Pl

Larry Kart

J wants the U.S. to bomb or take over Dimona? How's that going to work?

I agree that Iran almost certainly is going to get nuclear weapons, for the reasons that many have stated here (in particular, that one can't destroy the knowledge of how to make them, only in the short run damage the capacity to make and deliver them). Isn't the question, what will Iran do with those weapons, or be able to do because it has those weapons, that will be uniquely threatening/dangerous to whomever down the road?

We know, of course, that no nuclear weapon has been used in war since Nagasaki, which may or may not make anyone sleep better. What leads me to think that one warily has to accept Iran's eventual nuclear capacity is that every remedy/response that I'm aware of almost certainly would make things much worse, probably in ways that we can't adequately imagine.

frank durkee

If we, the US. has no intentions, only process, how do we ever make a decision?

Babak Makkinejad

Col. Lang:

No idea what you mean.


The USG Open Source Center translated remarks to Iranian television of General Hoseyn Salami, commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Air Force concerning Iran's Monday missile tests (Islamic Republic of Iran News Network Television (IRINN), Monday, September 28, 2009):

Gen. Salami said, "as long as our enemies act within a political domain, our behavior will be completely political. However, if they want to leave the domain of political action and enter the domain of military threat, then our action will be exactly and completely military." . . .

'Salami said the strategic objective in staging the war game was "to demonstrate the Iranian nation's resolution in defending revolutionary and national values and ideals as well as to make a new attempt to upgrade the level and quality of the Islamic Republic's deterrence against any probable threat given the current political and international atmosphere.

--Sounds perfectly rational, doesn't it?


Andy - James Acton is wrong according to the Legal Adviser to the IAEA (pdf):

While Iran’s actions are inconsistent with its obligations under the Subsidiary Arrangements to its Safeguards Agreement, this should be seen in proper context. Given the fact that Article 42 [of Iran's Safeguards Agreement] is broadly phrased and that the old version of Code 3.1 had been accepted as complying with the requirements of this Article for some 22 years prior to the Board’s decision in 1992 to modify it as indicated above, it is difficult to conclude that providing information in accordance with the earlier formulation in itself constitutes non-compliance with, or a breach of, the [NPT-related] Safeguards Agreement as such.

So it looks like the legal adviser to the IAEA would accept, maybe unwillingly, that Iran's notification of this new enrichment plant is not non-compliant with Iran's obligations. I use this terminology because the IAEA is almost certainly not happy with Iran's behavior but what can they do if it is still legal.
*** The following is highly speculative but is supported by some evidence. ***
Now that more details are coming out about the location of this new enrichment plant, it looks like David Albright might have got the location wrong. Both sites he suggested are north of Qum, while the Iranians are saying it is south of Qum at a place called Fordo (it might be Fardu on Google Maps), so the site that is in an advance state of construction in the press is not the real site and maybe the Iranians have done everything by the book and told the IAEA as soon as they decided on the site and before they started construction rather than 180 days before the introduction of nuclear material. If they have only just decided on the location how could US/French/British intelligence have "known about it for years"? Perhaps the Iranians set a trap for the Western IC and the Western IC jumped straight in without looking. Oops!


Sorry but many countries use inaccurate missiles in their inventory. The Argentinians have them, and the Saudis bought them off the Chinese. Are you suggesting that every ballistic missile is necessarily intended for nuclear warheads? Remember, Iran suffered through a war of missiles during the Iraq war. It would make sense for Iran to develop missiles as a substitute for air superiority.


Iranians would be idiots to NOT arm themselves against the West.....after US coup in 1953 and US-backed Iraqi invasion in 1980's and then US Iraq invasion 2002 ... our inability to empathize with others is breathtaking.



BALLISTIC missiles are good for nothing but the deliver y of nuclear
weapons. They are a prestige item for people who know no better like the
Saudis. Good for frightening people who are easily frightened. The
maximum effect with HE warheads is something like the German V-2 attacks on
London. I was in Baghdad when it was under Iranian ballistic missile
attack. The Iraqis were not impressed. Pl



Who has been the belligerent party in the Mideast for the oh say past 50 plus years? Who has been the party in the Mideast who has been intent on bullying others at every given opportunity? Who has been the threatening party to those around them that if they do not get their way they puff up their faces and turn blue akin to a spoiled child throwing a tantrum? Who had murdered, lied, cheated, and stolen their way in their land acquisitions at every given opportunity?

The answer is that party in question's name starts with an 'I', BUT doesn't end with a 'n', in short that party is Israel which has madhatters at their helm with a thumb on a nuclear cache of 400 plus nuclear weapons.

Why shouldn't the U.S. either bury or take over such a threatening nuclear cache? The world would be better served with such nuclear arsenal put under 'adult supervision'.



The Iranian Nuclear issue has nothing to do with the USA other than that the Iranian State does not kowtow in a western direction towards D.C. It has everything to do with Iranian support of Hezbollah and being in missile range of Israel.

The experts here will correct me but Pakistan has nuclear armed missiles. India and Pakistan fought in 1965 and 1971. Both states are fighting an internal civil religious wars in the Hindu Kush; yet, there is no talk in the US media of a joint Indian American bombing campaign. Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) works.

President Obama’s talk of nuclear disarmament is claptrap just as much as the Kagan Family’s never ending Surge. The continuing Neocon propaganda promoting a bombing campaign against the Iranian nuclear sites comes from the simple fact that once the Iranians have nuclear tipped missiles; MAD will be a fact and Israel to reach accommodation with its neighbors will have to limit itself to being a Jewish ghetto within the 1967 borders.

As long as Israel is the sole Middle East nuclear power it can continue its aggressive occupation of Palestine. But once it obtains nuclear missiles, Iran will no more attack Israel than Indian will attack Pakistan or the USA will attack China. To do so assures their destruction. But nuclear weapons, will allow them to aggressively pursue their goals without a “total war”.

Nancy K

J and Greywolf are like like opposites ends of a pole. J is Israel wrong, all the time and Graywolf is Obama wrong and Israel right all the time. I find it very sad when people are such concrete thinkers. Little in politics or world affairs is so black and white.

It is quite possible that Israel will attack Iran soon and it is quite probable that we will do nothing to stop them and may even unofficially encourage them. The real question is not what the US or Israel will do, but what will China and Russia do. Yes, we live in interesting times indeed.

Cloned Poster

To all the posters who quote international law, IAEA dictats, UN agreements, Geneva Accords, etc etc.

It means Jack Shit.

Ask Iraqi citizens and Afghan tribes.

The only possible military solution to Iran is nuclear.

That is why the West is so depraved in the line they are taking.



The best that could probably be said is that the IAEA is not of one voice on the issue, even though in the majority of statements and official reports the IAEA claims Iran cannot unilaterally abrogate the newer version of code 3.1 - indeed, even Laura Rockwood's analysis, which you link to, says that much. It's ultimately a minor legal point unless construction on the facility began before Iran abrogated the newer code (ie. before December 2007) - if that is the case then it is a clear violation of Iran's CSA. Once the precise location is pinned down and historical imagery is looked at, that question will become clearer. Of course, Iran can always claim (and probably will if there was construction pre 12/2007) that the facility wasn't intended to be a nuclear facility until after that date. Such lawyering of its obligations is something Iran has a lot of experience with.

But that really wasn't my point in addressing the Ritter article - instead it was Ritter's confusion of the additional protocol and Code 3.1.


A few unrelated comments:

1. Ballistic missiles are not half bad at delivering chemical weapons too. I can't see Iran doing that unless Israel gives them the full Lebanon treatment but they do have experience with the technology.

2. Several commenters have mentioned going after the Saudi oil fields but Iran has a better option. A couple of silkworms from their batteries in tunnels along the straits of Hormuz could take down a supertanker and the companies that insure the shipping would do the rest. The subsequent oil shock would very likely make our last little economic difficulties look like a mere warmup to the economic disaster which would follow. Our host's prediction of lower future oil prices would severely impacted.

3. I recall reading a long time ago of a flash and seismic profile resembling a nuclear explosion being detected somewhere in the southern hemisphere around South Africa during the late 70's. The speculation at the time was that it could have been an Israeli atomic test with the South Africans somehow in cahoots. All discussion subsequently died out USS Liberty style.

I would prefer that we do our utmost to prevent an Israeli attack. I value a viable world economy more highly than a nuclear free Iran.


N. M. Salamon

Juan Cole has a translation of General Salami's remarks at:

on today's blog

Patrick Lang


You are right about the chemical weapons, but, so what. This is like using a shotgun to kill a bumble bee. pl



Your comment seems irrelevant to my post. I don't doubt that they can
eventually build a deliverable weapon given enough time. That is not the
question. The issue is whether or not the US will tolerate the possession
of such a power balance altering weapon in the hands of a government that
behaves the way the Iranian government does.

The throw weight? 2,000 lbs. a mighty expensive and inaccurate way to
deliver the ordnance load on one or two aircraft.

Any of You. Don't bother to send me anything about the justice of this
question. Pl

The comments to this entry are closed.

My Photo

February 2021

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
  1 2 3 4 5 6
7 8 9 10 11 12 13
14 15 16 17 18 19 20
21 22 23 24 25 26 27
Blog powered by Typepad