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14 February 2010


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N. M. Salamon

IMO blockade of Iran without UN sanction is an act of war.
The problem is China needs the oil, would USA fire on chinese owned and operated oil tanler [or Jabanese, South Korean Taiwan, etc all the financiers of USA's Treauries]?

What wouled you expect the Chinese [etc] to do, buy more treasuries or bankrupt the USA by selling same?

Patrick Lang


I don't think so. Islam is endlessly self-divisive, (even more than Christianity). The divisions are too deep. pl


Missing from this discussion is Iran's perceived threat from its Eastern neighbors, Pakistan & (their identity feud with) India. Both these countries have nuclear weapons pointed at each other & a shortage of petroleum. There is no love lost between the Iran/Pakistan/India Axis with grievances dating to the dawn of the age of man.
To the northwest - Turkmenistan & the Kurds, both with ties to Israeli enterprise. Turkmenistan supplies Israel with oil & receives technology in return. The Kurds use Israel's support in the creation of their autonomous state.
These issues are much closer to Teheran's heart & need a deterrent better than the 'Saddam Hussein school of nuclear bluffing'.
The US & NATO forces to the south & Northwest (Iraq/Afghanistan) actually help Iran stabilize their country by providing peaceful, clearly defined borders. Hence the lack of threats from Iran on either front these days.

The Israelis greatest deterrent is Jerusalem, the victor who will eventually wipe Israel 'off the map' wants the historic glory of liberating Jerusalem. These modern day Salah al-Din(s) will want their victory parade in Jerusalem. This cannot be done after the use of Nuclear weapons. The fallout from nuking Tel Aviv will be blown by the daily westerly winds straight to Al-Quds (Jerusalem, 36 miles away), killing the population & probably destroying the city in the process.
I won't even delve into the effect of wiping out of the city to christianity, Islam or the death toll of Palestinians, Jordanians etc...

Lastly - if Israel is destroyed, how will the ME dictatorships distract & control their populations, a new boogieman will be needed or internal turmoil will explode along sectarian/tribal riffs. Will the Persians become the new devil nation?


Patrick Lang


Cieran will sort this out but IMO a high airburst over TA would just rattle the windows in Jerusalem depending on the yield. If the fire ball does not touch the earth, there would be no fallout to speak of.

"Destroying the city?" what?

The bogyman thing is nonsense. The rulers will always have each other as rivals. pl


Could this issue be the catalyst for the establishment of 21st century state relations through the Concert of the Middle East?

In regards to Redhand's comment of a naval blockade as an act of war, hasn't the US been in a technical state of war with Iran since Nov. 4 1979? Therefore any action by US would just be a continuation of it.

It makes sense for IRI wanting to change the strategic balance since their rhetoric has them coming across as wanting to be more than a regional actor but world player. Which leads to the question of regime stability and Khamenei's eventual succession (a big question for all of the Middle East states in the next 5-10 years). The civil upheval from last summer's election is not going away anytime soon. As the crisis continues, the revolutinary generation is turning on itself in a power struggle and their economy is faltering. How long can this last before hitting the breaking point?


How high would such an airburst be?
Given the altitude differences between TA & Jerusalem approx. 2500 ft. Would not the radiation emitted from such an airburst explosion be at the same elevation as J'lem?

I am not familiar with Cieran, what is it?

Destroying the city - would be the intentional destruction of temple mount by the US settler wing in the turmoil that follows. I recollect reading in the 80s of Kahana's thoughts on such an activity in the next great war.

Clifford Kiracofe

1. We should consider the cost to the US non-proliferation goal and strategy per Iran of the Valerie Plame case.

It runs in my mind that the operations in which she was involved reportedly related directly to our goals of halting proliferation and restraining potential/actual Iranian nuclear weapons programs.

I seem to remember somewhere that it was said at the time Karl Rove and the Cheney White House action against her created significant "damage" to ongoing operations. And also that it set the US back by several years (10 some said) in this regard.

2. General Jones just noted that perhaps with a regime change in Iran we could get down to some more productive negotiations and verifiable behavior etc. Thus tightening sanctions to create conditions for a "regime change" in Iran would seem to be in the works at this time. Mrs. Clinton has made remarks in this direction of late which seem to be underscored by Gen Jones.

3. This then would take us to the matter of the Rev Guards and their relative position within Iran. Can they be fragmented? What will the regular Army, Navy, and Air Force do? What about police forces? What about the mullahs themselves?

4. The fact remains that the US has used nuclear weapons with devastating effect in the past, something the Iranian leadership might wish to take into consideration. Particularly those living in Qom, perhaps.



Just running off to class, but as far as this:

a high airburst over TA would just rattle the windows in Jerusalem depending on the yield

The fundamental thing to remember about explosive weapons effects is the cube-root-scaling law, which is a remarkably useful approximation for estimating effects.

Since any blast must expand into a 3D domain (space for an air blast, a half-space for a ground blast), the blast effects scale as the cube root of the distance.

So if you want to achieve a given blast effect at twice the distance, you need approximately eight times the blast energy, i.e., an order of magnitude of increased yield buys you something like a factor of two in terms of effects distance.

This is why low-yield weapons are no match for high-yield ones, and it's why thermonuclear weapons (i.e., megatons instead of kilotons) are so incredibly destructive. Thermonuclear technology brings order-of-magnitude increases in effects distance, so that's not something you want to see proliferated, as long as we wish to preserve some semblance of civilization.

Hope this helps!


Frankly, I am baffled by some of the arguments. Colonel states that if Iran gets the nuclear bomb, then they will put it on a long-range missile and that would be a threat to the US. IF Iran gets the bomb, THEN they develop long-range missiles and AFTER that they put the bomb on the missile…… Isn’t it a slippery-slope argument? Who says they will do that? Did we (or do we) have the same apprehension about Pakistani or even Indians?? Do you honestly believe that Iranian leaders are that empty-headed to invade Israel or for that matter any other country in the ME? I pose a hypothetical question and that is “what if US lifts the sanction on Iran all together”? I know it is crazy…..

Patrick Lang


Thanks it does. I am right. pl

Patrick Lang


You need to get out more. They ARE developing long range ballistic missiles. The Shahab-5 is being designed with a desired range of 10,000 km. pl

Patrick Lang


Cieran is a nuclear physicist/engineer. As a young man I went to school for months to be qualified in nuclear weapons effects. It is all over the internet now if you look for it.

This is a theoretical discussion and not intended to be prophetic.

I don't think that the Iranians would use a large yield weapon against TA or Haifa. It would be unnecessary even if they had some. These are not large cities. In the weapons sizes that would be likely the blast and heat effects on those cities would be quite enough.

Direct radiation effects on Jerusalem should not be a major factor if the delivery were accurate. pl

Patrick Lang


I failed to answer your question. The idea would be to keep the fireball from touching the earth. If the fireball touches the earth, then the weapon digs a big hole and throws large amounts of soil high into the air. This soil is radioactive and drifts around causing "fallout."

The height required to prevent that is determined by the yield and therefore the size of the fireball.

Where were you during the Cold War? pl


Colonel you wrote: They will be a threat to us when they achieve the farther goals of their ballistic missile program. pl

Why? Why are they more of a threat than India or Pakistan with their nuclear programs. As for ballistic missiles, they can buy more SS-N-22 Sunburns or SS-N-25 Onyx's from Russia, both of which Iran already has, and Iran has the Russian S-300PMU-2 air defense system in place.

Patrick Lang


Brilliant! All nuclear weapons states are equally dangerous! Brilliant!

Can you hold New York at risk with those weapons? pl


It is sad that the United States can't even stand up to the Iranians. We have a weak leader with no foreign policy to speak of, and a totallack of intestinal fortitude. While we say talk to the Iranians, the Israeli's are going to do what should have been done long ago. Take out Iran, then we won't have to deal with these terrorists.

William R. Cumming

Question PL? What would be the merits of redeploying all US troops current in countries bordering on Iran to that border?

Hey I know a fool may ask more questions than a wise man can answer!

Sidney O. Smith III

Looking on down the road a bit, we may reach a point where American Gentiles need to stand up on behalf of American Jews.

Here’s why:

The Satmar Rabbis, among others, have emphasized, for decades now, that Zionism triggers systematic anti-Semitism. It justifies and strengthens the State. Whether Zionism is intended to do so, I don’t know. But there does seem to be a vicious cycle at work and with each rotation of the cycle, the situation worsens.

If true -- and there is some indication that the Satmar analysis warrants consideration -- a tipping point will be reached.

Increasingly, assimilated American Jews are re-evaluating traditional allegiances towards Zionism -- such alliances that quite frankly, I once considered myself apart. So, obviously, people are becoming more aware of the potential long term repercussions from Likud Zionism, all of which portend a disaster. My belief is that it will engender some type of national fragmentation.

But the fact that so many assimilated American Jews are reassessing their loyalites seems to confirm some of the analytical assumptions underlying the Satmar view towards Zionism.

I don’t know if we are at that tipping point yet - looks unlikely -- but just something to keep in mind.

Patrick Lang


I do not see any advantage at all in doing that. We would place our ground forces in the position of being on external lines with inferior numbers and with supply lines very long indeed.

If you liked Lee's dispositions at Gettysburg in the famously defective "fish hook" you would really like this. pl


HEU production is just one among many (and, arguably, far from the most difficult) step in achieving missile-deliverable nukes. First (please correct me if wrong), Uranium-based bombs can not be easily carried on a missile given size and shape constraints, so a plutonium-based implosion bomb is required. Therefor, and secondly, one must produce and extract plutonium, which requires a specialized (breeder) reactor (with plenty of fuel), and the chemical/radiological industrial process. Third, the design and manufacture of a thermonuclear implosion bomb is non-trivial and requires several components (high-speed, high power switches , neutron mediators, gamma lenses &c) that must either be acquired or developed. Fourth, the bomb must be miniaturized and ruggedized to survive the launch and re-entry of the missile. Fifth, a reliable ballistic missile platform.

The Iranians may be able to buy or steal some of these, but have not as of yet shown the type of deep technical expertise required for their development and production (e.g. petroleum refining). The long pole in the tent seems to me to be the Pu production, as it is very difficult and requires so much industrial expertise, not to mention the (BTW non-power producing) breeder reactor.

They may be able to make a gun type uranium bomb and set it off in the desert, but I bet it will be a long time if ever that they are able to manufacture a reliable nuke mated to a reliable over-the-horizon delivery system.

I am by no means an expert on any of this, but it really concerns me that there is so little discussion of the numerous and substantial technical hurdles that must be overcome to produce an ICBM (or even TBM) nuke. In any case, the Iranians may be 0.5-2.0 years from producing a crude nuclear device, but I bet you a dime to a d'ohnut that they are much further from an ICBM.

Not, however, a threat calculation I'd care to bet my farm on!




It appears that our Sec-O-State Hillary is a day late and a dollar short. She is warning of a nuclear arms race. Hillary needs to take a gander at aisle #6 to see that it IS Israel's undeclared nukes that have and are the reason of any nuclear arms that Iran or any other Mideast state may try achieve.

If people are so concerned about Iran nukes? Blame it on Israel's 'undeclared nuke stockpiles'.

different clue


If a "clean yield" uranium bomb is made of uranium super-enriched to just below the upper limit of safe handle-ability, so it won't go off on its own; how much radionuclide product (strontium 90, cesium 120, etc.) would be left in the air after the fission had run its course? Enough to affect human health? Where would it go and how widely would it disperse?

Would such a high-purity U235 airburst generate enough free neutrons and alphas to turn stable nuclei
into radionuclei? If so, would it be enough to matter?

Conversely, if someone enriched uranium just enough
to where a huge amount of it pressed together fast enough hard enough would go off; how much plutonium would be generated? Enough to matter? How far might it spread and where and how would it reach and enter living organisms?

Colonel Lang, looking back...should we wonder if Israel was right all along and our own estimate was too rosy? Or was our estimate correct at the time
and has since been Overtaken By Iran? In other words, have the Iranians just lately started
pouring new atomic truthwine
into old Israeli liebottles?


Different Clue:

A few hopefully-worthwhile comments:

(1) to my knowledge, there's no such thing as "clean yield" in terms of nuclear weapons design. Fission is a necessary part of all nuclear WMD, and fission is inherently dirty in terms of EM radiation and unpleasant daughter products.

(2) as Colonel Lang pointed out, there are strategies that can be employed to minimize some of the attendant messes, but none of those removes the fundamental problem of radionuclide pollution... and if a weapon is poorly-engineered or poorly-detonated, the resulting mess can get worse.

(3) some nuclear strategies are inherently dirtier than others, e.g., all the recent saber-rattling about nuclear bunker-busters neglects the likelihood of really nasty fallout that would be spread over a wide area.

(4) thankfully for the human race, nuclear weapons have not been used on civilization for over half a century. Thus there's not a lot of data on the effects of such weapons, so speculation on the resulting carnage is just that: speculation. We would expect that the real-world effects would be better than the most pessimistic scenarios, and worse that the more optimistic ones. That leaves a lot of unpleasant room in the intervening uncertainty.

Finally, for anybody wishing to make sense out of this topic, the material found on the web is a pretty good introduction, e.g., Wikipedia articles, the document resources found at sites like globalsecurity.org, or the highly-readable books written by folks like Richard Rhodes. One of my favorites is the magnificently-written "Curve of Binding Energy" by John McPhee.

The details beyond those found in open-source references are of course highly classified, but rest assured that this is a very good thing.

Patrick Lang


Incredibly (to me) someone has written to accuse me of warmongering against Iran.

For those who think that, I will try to explain...

I have been trained and educated to make available to the sovereign/boss (you) analysis as clear as I can make it and as inclusive of evidence as I can manage.

If you want someone to feed you their agenda in the guise of argument, go elsewhere.

I expect that reasonable people will come to reasonable conclusions. pl

Patrick Lang

DC, Cieran

I was taught that radionuclides were not a significant weapons effect, in other words that they could not calculated as part of the destruction.

I agree that the talk of nuclear "post hole doiggers" does not consider the enhanced fallout that would result from sub-surface detonations.

Was Israel correct all along? Iranian actions will tell us that. pl

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