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28 September 2009

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Patrick Lang

Cornpone

"Our host's prediction of lower future oil prices would severely impacted."

No, I haven't. pl

optimax

Here's an article from 1948 dealing with Russia and its nuclear capabilities that sounds much like today's discussion on Iran.

http://blog.modernmechanix.com/2007/06/26/has-russia-the-atom-bomb/

The main differences between our thinking 60 years ago and today are we have already attacked a country because we were afraid (Iraq) and the Israeli influence as to whether we should strike Iran or back up Israel if they do.

Cieran

I'm still busily wrapping my already-stretched mind around the latest revelations, but my initial take on these events is one I've long suspected, namely that the Iranian government is pursuing a much more ambitious goal than a mere weapons program.

One side-effect of these various announcements is that the question of non-proliferation is back front and center on the world's stage. That's a very good thing, because while we have an international framework for dealing with this topic, we clearly need a lot better one, e.g., we seem blissfully content to advocate severe punishments for NPT signatories who commit relatively esoteric infractions, while we ignore the nuclear arsenals of non-NPT nations.

That's a mighty poor way to effect a reduction in risk of a nuclear exchange, and it appears that the Iranians are happy to point this out (repeatedly) via their recent actions. There are plenty of nuclear have-not nations in the world, and Iran could become their de facto leader with this strategy. That could get interesting.

The military risk to Iran is real, as our host points out, but there are serious risks to other nations as well. The U.S. has lost a lot of its international credibility in the last decade, and we could lose the rest of it pretty quickly by supporting military action against an NPT signatory by a non-NPT nation, all in the name of preventing proliferation. Do people in the current administration consider what the "NP" stands for?

Add in the possibility that such military action could involve nuclear weapons and the hypocrisy becomes impossible to miss -- and that's the kind of hypocrisy that could bring down the current system of controlling the spread of nuclear weapons technology. That outcome would be disastrous for the industrialized world.

Any attack on Iran over this issue could lead to a wave-the-bloody-shirt response from the Iranian government, and that would confer considerable legitimacy for them both internally and on the world stage. This might be one of those cases where attacking one's enemy carries the risk of making them stronger! So while there's plenty of near-term risk to Iran, there's also plenty of longer-term risk to the U.S., and especially to Israel.

I think it's too soon to judge the motives and strategies of the Iranian government. But if they are indeed crazy, then I suspect that they might be crazy like a fox. And I keep getting the feeling that one side in this dispute is playing chess while the other is playing checkers.

If so, I wish I could figure out for certain which is which...

curious

Just a note.

Israel nuclear weapon most likely has been tested a few times.

1. Vela incident

http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1104542.html

http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB190/index.htm

2. South Africa shaft test in kalahari

http://www.fas.org/nuke/guide/rsa/nuke/index.html

3. The multiple detonation in india recently (plus ever wonder why Israel and India are so cozy lately? Read Jinsa diplomatic goal.)

But the Vela incident is the most obvious one, specially with everybody playing dumb about it. (tho' really, everybody has been playing dumb about Israel nuke, on top of it's hyper aggressive military posture.)

Clifford Kiracofe

One might posit that if Iran wanted to use something less complicated than nukes against the Israelis, then chemical weapons would be a reasonable choice.

Nukes would take out a fair number of Arab/Muslim Palestinians I should think, and the radiation would drift over into Jordan and elsewhere including the precious and holy sands of Arabia (oh my) depending on which way the wind blows.

Despite bluster and posturing, the Israelis IMO cannot defend against chemical weapons. Start laying down 20,000 square foot or whatever patterns and...I don't envision Israelis reaching for gas masks quickly enough to prevent major attrition.

Of course, the winds can always take the chemicals into Palestinian areas too. And just how accurate are Iranian weapons these days? And so on...

Perhaps all the nuke hysteria is just a cover for the underlying strategic idea of knocking the Persians back in general a few decades...what would the target set REALLY be????

Arun

Meanwhile someone talks coup talk.

http://www.newsmax.com/john_perry/obama_military_coup/2009/09/29/266012.html

J

Nancy K.,

So kind of you to refer to me as a block-head. LOL LOL, I do have a humorous side at times.

My 'view' is based on a adult life-time of interactions with the different cultures and populations that comprise the Mideast. What I have found is that the Israelis tend to be too self-absorbed to show empathy with anybody else around them, much less try to deal amicably with others in a humane way.

The Arabs and those who are adherents of Islam, I have found to be very warm, excellent hosts, and very sensitive to the plight of others around them.

I have found the Israelis to be great lip-sinkers in that they 'say' great and grand words and extol grand Biblical thought processes, but for some reason cannot walk the walk in sync with their words.

Until the Israelis decide to grow-up and act like responsible adults and caring members of the Mideast community, they are going to continue to have problems that are of their own making. And their infantile self-centered mindset mixed with a cache of 400 plus nuclear weapons does not make for a good day for the Mideast as a whole. That is why I recommend that we the U.S. either bury Israel's nuclear cache or take possession of it. There needs to be some 'adult supervision' exercised before somebody gets hurt in a bad way.

Have a pleasant evening.

Mark Logan

I can't fathom why Iran, if their goal is to build a
bomb, would be publicly spraying missles around long, long before any warhead could possibly be
ready. That could only increase the odds of Isreal
acting. Either that is what they want to happen to quell
their internal political troubles or they are simply
acting without consideration. Are those the only two possibilities?

Mark Pyruz

Colonel, you're looking at the use and effects of ballistic missiles from an American (with combat experience) perspective.

"The War of the Cities" experience from the Iranian perspective is much different than yours (even while in Iraq). Hundreds of Iraqi MRBMs falling on Iranian population centers caused hundreds of thousands of ordinary Iranians to flee the cities, particularly in Tehran where 160 fell in a campaign of short duration.

The IRIAF cannot compete with the IASF, and does not have the means to deliver an effective response to an Israeli strike. The Iranians are smart enough to realize that buying inferior Russian or Chinese warplanes is an expensive waste of money. So a much cheaper alternative, with a far more certain means of delivering an effective strike, has been hit upon by the Iranians- conventional MRBMs. Iranian conventional MRBMs are far more likely to hit their target than anything capable from a non-Western air force against a Western one- particularly an American equipped one.

Consider for a moment the effectiveness of comparatively small Katyusha missiles (BM-21 and BM-27 types) during the 2nd Lebanon War. The psychological effect created a virtual siege mentality upon northern Israel, particularly the port city of Haifa, crippling its economy. That's what really put an end to that war.

So while the conventional MRBM might not be considered a logical choice from a Western perspective, with all its many sophisticated and expensive military options, it can certainly be considered quite logical from an Iranian perspective.

optimax

Here's a John L. Perry quote--after saying Bush must stop Iran from developing the hydrogen bomb he states:

"There is only one entity that can either prevent, or defeat, the Islamic fascist master plan to convert or destroy Western Civilization. That is the United States, with its overwhelming nuclear arsenal.

That's a hideous thing to contemplate. The alternative is many, many times more horrendous."

He's saying we should nuke Iran. The guys nuts.

Stormcrow

I have failed to understand Iranian motivations for several years now. Its always seemed to me as if they've gone out of their way to antagonize absolutely everyone they can. And the way they've managed their nuclear installations has never been exactly low-profile, has it? Ahmadinejad seems to take every opportunity he possibly can to have his photo taken in places like Natanz, while engaging in the most ridiculous displays of public rhetoric since Nikita Khrushchev mistook his shoe for a hammer at the UN.

But everybody was fairly clear that we could not afford to level Moscow, because DC would likely suffer the same fate. Even as early as 1960.

But most people perceive Tehran as a different matter. So whether it really is or not, is irrelevant to the risk these publicly broadcast spectacles help to incubate.

Cynthia

Let's hope to God that Obama doesn't do to Iran what Bush did to Iraq. For us to launch a preemptive strike against another Muslim country in the Middle East will cause whatever remains of our power and respectability in the world to go spirally down the drain.

Clifford Kiracofe

The continuing information war and the Suez Crisis partners (Israel and UK)...shades of 1956?

So just where did the "intelligence" per Iran come from? Israel and the UK?

The obvious policy choice for the US is to let Israel, Britain, and France attack Iran over the nukes. Washington can take a pass and indicate we are rather busy in Iraq and Afghanistan.


Per The Telegraph (London):

"The Financial Times and New York Times have separately reported that Western and Israeli intelligence agencies are in the throes of a dispute over the exact nature of Iran's work to build a functioning atom bomb.

"Following the discovery of a secret plant outside the holy city of Qom, US intelligence hopes that it has made a breakthrough in finding out how much covert work Iran is undertaking.

"The New York Times quoted a US official claiming Qom "was the big one" but he added Iran was a big country.

"British officials told the Financial Times that Iran resumed work on a nuclear warhead design in "late 2004 or early 2005." The US assessment is that worked stopped after an order was handed down by Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in 2003 and there is no conclusive evidence that it has restarted.
One former US official acknowledged there were deep differences between international intelligence agencies. "It's often the tradecraft that gets us bollixed up," said Rolf Mowatt-Larssen. "It comes down to interpreting the same data in different ways."

The shadow of faulty assessments used to pave the way to the Iraq war hangs over intelligence agencies attempts to reach conclusions about Iran.

"We'd let the country down, and we wanted to make sure it would never happen again," said Thomas Fingar, who led the State Department's intelligence bureau, which disputed the weapons of mass distruction assessment before the Iraq war. "Now, it's much more of a transparent tussle of ideas."

"While the American view is that the design work has still not resumed but Germany, Israel and Britain are more hawkish."
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/
iran/6245819/British-intelligence-believes-Iran-has-resumed-work-on-nuclear-warhead.html

Babak Makkinejad

All:

Dr. Cordesman, in the Wall Street Journal artcile on 09/26/2009, alluded to therom-nuclear weapons in the hands of Israel.

Is this a verified fact?

If true, what state gave Israelis the design of thermo-nuclear weapons?

Only 3 suspects: US, UK, France.

Does any one know anything about this matter?

WILL

the flow of new-clear knowledge can be convoluted. The brits gained their missing thermo clues by monitoring chicom nuke test air data.

the first plutonium israeli reactors were supplied by the french pissed off at pan-arab support for the algerian muqwamma. after that w/ the great participation of zionists in western and soviet science, it was inevitable that israel wouuld gain thermo knowledge.

Clifford Kiracofe

Babak,

As I recall there was a very large transfer of weapons to Israel during the Bush Administration. I believe this was prior to the 2004 election so that if by chance Bush lost, Israel would still get some goodies.

I think "bunker busters" etc. were reported in the press at that time as part of the shipment. So there might be something in the press of the day detailing this.

Didn't Israel already test some of their more exotic weapons in the Gaza campaign??? I recall something in the press about unusual wounds etc. I think I recall seeing that the Israelis developed some of these on their own but who knows.

Cieran

Babak:

Virtually nothing is a verified fact regarding Israel's nuclear weapons program. As far as who gave them their original designs, that is generally accepted to be the French.

Lots of folks presume that the U.S. supplied both the special nuclear materials and the know-how, but the provenance of that information appears to be from a Tom Clancy novel, not from actual history.

For any U.S. citizen to provide such information to a foreign government such as Israel could be a hanging offense under the provisions of the Atomic Energy Act, and that tends to clarify the minds of those who possess such secrets.

There are a lot of designs available between the "nuclear" and "staged thermonuclear" regime, and if Israel's weapons are more powerful than your garden-variety atomic weapon, then there's a good possibility that these "boosted" designs are the ones that Dr. Cordesman is takling about.

And I'll note one more time that if Israel does indeed possess nuclear weapons, then our foreign aid to that country is, and has long been, potentially illegal under U.S. law. Thus there is a strong incentive for both the U.S. and Israel not to provide definitive evidence about any Israeli nuclear weapons programs, and certainly the use of such weapons would demonstrate their existence quite convincingly.

I have a sneaking suspicion that one of the goals of current Iranian strategies is to force the explicit admission that Israel has nuclear weapons. It's hard for the U.S. to argue with any degree of credibility for sanctions against Iran if similar sanctions ought to be applied to Israel, and that may be part of what the Iranian government is currently up to.

Lysander

Optimax,

Nukes against Iran? Maybe the Israelis are evil enough to do it. But I doubt it.

Why did Truman use nukes against Japan, a defeated country looking for a face saving way to end the war, but NOT use it against China when an entire American army was at risk of destruction?

It's a different world where lots of countries have nukes or the means to make them.

Bill Wade, NH

Is Israel starting to think this all through rationally?

last paragraph of a long article that explains Dr. Cordesman's analysis of an Israeli - Iran attack:

"The time has come to adopt new ways of thinking. No more fiery declarations and empty threats, but rather a carefully weighed policy grounded in sound strategy. Ultimately, in an era of a multi-nuclear Middle East, all sides will have a clear interest to lower tension and not to increase it. "

From:

http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1085619.html

"http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1085619.html

rjj

A google news search shows 12 stories on John Perry: the original Newsmax*** article, one citing the withdrawal of the article, and the rest lefty bloggers amplifying the incident by indulging their fantods.

The Perry story is humbug - trog bait.

*** known to all as a bullhorn for right-wing radical cranks and operators.

curious

Dr. Cordesman, in the Wall Street Journal artcile on 09/26/2009, alluded to therom-nuclear weapons in the hands of Israel.

Posted by: Babak Makkinejad | 30 September 2009 at 08:45 AM

Who cares. (I mean it in more than tongue in cheek way) Wall st. journal opinion page quality has been going down after Murdoch bought it. It's pretty much Murdoch inc./ NYDaily/Fox News. Their line is predictable. Attack Iran. Yay, Israel. Nobody takes them seriously anymore, not even wall street.

About Israel nuclear weapon. It involves Nixon-Reagan secret deal. Nobody knows. 'Polite' people don't talk about Israel nuke.

Bottom line, it's self censor. It was sustainable in the 80's because truly nobody knows. But now, It's just another casual lies. (like spreading democracy, we don't torture, there is WMD in Iraq, we need to bail out banks to save the economy, etc.)

If Iran want to play the bluffing game, just say " We don't have nuclear weapon program, just like Israel don't have nuclear. That would be the biggest comedy punch line ever. I would pay good money to see the red faces. Of course Iran has zero access to international media, so that is pretty hard comedy to execute.


just a note. After the first 5 nuclear power. The next 5 are all non NPT. (Israel, South Africa, Pakistan, India, NK) There was Belarus, Ukraine, but they are more about Soviet breakaway.

http://www.pugwash.org/reports/nw/kadrysaid.htm

A large number of western analysts see the culture of opacity is rooted in the fundamental Israeli perceptions that developed over decades of the Arab-Israeli conflict. This culture is based on the following:
- Nuclear weapons are vital to Israel's security.
- Arabs should not be allowed to obtain these weapons.
- Israel should be allowed to keep a nuclear monopoly.
- Nuclear issues must be kept out of normal discourse and the whole issue should be left to nuclear professionals.
- The opacity policy has served Israel and Israel has no alternative.

However, some credible Israeli analysts have expressed concerns that under the culture of opacity, hawkish Israeli leadership might be tempted to developed a different attitude regarding nuclear weapons, namely their use in situations less than an existential threat to the state. Such leadership might see them for example as an "appropriate" Israeli response to an Iraqi chemical or biological attack. Such concerns led Israeli analyst Ze'ev Schiff to propose a law "The Red Button Law" that would place checks and balances on Israel's decision-making system in this most sensitive field.18

---------

My personal take on all these,

Only Iran internal security calculation determines if they should cross the nuke line or not. As of now, I don't see how that will enhance their need. Plus, once out, Iran has to make sure it reaches minimum deterrence capability. (not there yet)

My favorite scenario: If Israel outs their nuke, all bets are off. There is no NPT, IAEA, etc. Free nuke for all. The rules are for saps.

As of right now, conventional attack between Israel-Iran that involves US will be major land war. I don't see any side can win a 10-20 months war decisively.

.. beyond that, it's discussion of various battle scenarios vs. effect on global financial condition. It's too ugly to imagine, We are talking about 30-40% Iranian cities destroyed, $200+ oil, permanent damage to US economy, 10-20K people die, etc

Arun

Question: what is the real import of Ayatollah Khamenei's 2005 fatwa stating that the production, stockpiling and use of nuclear weapons is against Islam?

Seems to me that is a stronger statement than, e.g., the US President stating something like that.

Is that fatwa a fig-leaf? Is it conditional, e.g., predicated on the "enemies of Islam" not producing nuclear weapons?

Why does that fatwa play so little into deducing Iran's intentions?

LeaNder

"While the American view is that the design work has still not resumed but Germany, Israel and Britain are more hawkish."

Had Merkel already been Germany's chancellor in 2003, Germany would have joined the coalition of the willing. Absolutely no doubt.

Yesterday I received the following link under the header:
http://maoz.convio.ne/site/PageServer?pagename=maoz_holocaust_video>A brief film well worth seeing often

J

Cieran,

Tip-o-the-hat to ya, you have hit the nail on the head -- "to force the explicit admission that Israel has nuclear weapons."--

zanzibar

"I have a sneaking suspicion that one of the goals of current Iranian strategies is to force the explicit admission that Israel has nuclear weapons."

Cieran - My layman perspective is that your suspicion is spot on as it would bring about the discussion point of equivalence. The question is how can Iran precipitate such an explicit admission when those that have been instrumental in enabling the Israeli nuclear program are the key western powers that today control public perceptions and international institutions? Wouldn't such an explicit admission unmask culpability of France, Germany, UK & US with respect to nuclear weapons proliferation?

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