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05 October 2015

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LeaNder

"A member of the comitee recently expressed doubt that Israel has joined the 'thermonuclear club'"

I found that interesting too. ... if I get your reference correctly.

Cee

Exactly on the amendment. They don't want to give up the welfare that US citizens need!!

confusedponderer

It was on a comment by Babak.

LeaNder

Ok, I thought it was. I was reflecting on a sarcastic comment for a while, it would would have concerned one of my own theses lost in Pat's comment section though. ;)

room full of mirrors?

Patrick Bahzad

Repost from another thread - I guess it is more adequate to place it here: "Stating Israel don't have nuclear weapons is one of the best (worst ?) crackpot theories I've heard recently. How many warheads they have is another question".

One thing regarding CP's post: Israel didn't exactly receive French help, it was more like common research from 1956 to 1961, which also benefited the French nuclear programme.

Furthermore, before France broke up nuclear cooperation with Israel (when De Gaulle ordered an stop to the whole thing), there was also close cooperation between Israel and the UK, at least as far as deliveries of fissile material were concerned.

Additionally, one shouldn't forgot the Israel-South African cooperation in the late 1970s and the probable underwater detonation of a nuclear weapon in south African waters in 1979.

Finally, for those who might think that a country can't have nuclear weapons if it hasn't organised nuclear tests, this is a wrong assumption as Israel probably received the results of French tests in the Sahara in the mid-1960s + they were able to organise "zero yield" tests and probably detonated a small (5 KT) bomb together with the South Africans.

Overall, any doubt as to their nuclear capabilities would be seriously misguided and very, very dangerous.

confusedponderer

PB,
thanks for clarifying! The 1966 Negev tests I referred to where such zero-yield tests.

Patrick Bahzad

Yep

r whitman

Basing a country's national security on weapons that have not been tested in 35 years is not a good strategy.

LondonBob

DeGaulle believed the nuclear research was for peaceful purposes and was disgusted to learn it was being used by the Israelis to develop weapons.

Of course JFK was stridently opposed to Israeli development of nuclear weapons, prior to his assassination he was insisting upon stringent inspections of Dimona and refused to countenance a nuclear armed Israel.

RetiredPatriot

For me, a more interesting question is "does Saudi Arabia have nuclear weapons?" We hear much fear talk that KSA will engage in a nuclear program if Iran does (or does not stop theirs). However, given their neighborhood, the widespread belief that Iraq was trying to possess them (especially after the scare of 1990), as well as the assumed existence of the Israeli deterrent, I cannot believe that KSA would not engage in their own program. Perhaps they funded the perennially poor Pakistan's program in exchange for a deterrent of their own. The MRBMs they bought from China in the 1980s were built as nuclear delivery systems. Sen Bob Graham's post-Senate fiction "Keys to the Kingdom" made it a specific plot point. If it were true, I think that such a a capability would be among the deepest secrets in the region.
RP

ex-PFC Chuck

Thank you for this post, CP. For anyone desiring to go more deeply into the physics and development challenges of nuclear weapons, Richard Rhodes' writings are the go-to source for the general reader:
"The Making of the Atomic Bomb" http://amzn.to/1FPDTVo
"Dark Sun: The Making of the Hydrogen Bomb" http://amzn.to/1LbqwdX

confusedponderer

RetiredPatriot,
there have been stories on and off around to the effect that the Saudis bought Pakistani nukes and possess chinese IRBM.

"Why Saudi Arabia can’t get a nuclear weapon

... Oh, please! Saudi Arabia isn’t going to build a nuclear weapon. Saudi Arabia can’t build a nuclear weapon. Saudi Arabia hasn’t even built a car. (By 2017, after much effort, the country is expected to manufacture its first automobile.)

Saudi Arabia can dig holes in the ground and pump out oil but little else. Oil revenue is about 45 percent of its gross domestic product, a staggeringly high figure, much larger than petro-states such as Nigeria and Venezuela. It makes up almost 90 percent of the Saudi government’s revenue. Despite decades of massive government investment, lavish subsidies and cheap energy, manufacturing is less than 10 percent of Saudi GDP.

Where would Saudi Arabia train the scientists to work on its secret program? The country’s education system is backward and dysfunctional, having been largely handed over to its puritanical and reactionary religious establishment. The country ranks 73rd in the quality of its math and science education, according to the World Economic Forum — abysmally low for a rich country. Iran, despite 36 years of sanctions and a much lower per capita GDP, fares far better at 44.

And who would work in Saudi Arabia’s imagined nuclear industry? In a penetrating book, Karen Elliott House, formerly of the Wall Street Journal, describes the Saudi labor market: “One of every three people in Saudi Arabia is a foreigner. Two out of every three people with a job of any sort are foreign. And in Saudi Arabia’s anemic private sector, fully nine out of ten people holding jobs are non-Saudi. . . . Saudi Arabia, in short, is a society in which all too many men do not want to work at jobs for which they are qualified; in which women by and large aren’t allowed to work; and in which, as a result, most of the work is done by foreigners.”

http://tinyurl.com/ntcosmv

vs.

"Saudi nuclear weapons 'on order' from Pakistan

While the kingdom's quest has often been set in the context of countering Iran's atomic programme, it is now possible that the Saudis might be able to deploy such devices more quickly than the Islamic republic.

Earlier this year, a senior Nato decision maker told me that he had seen intelligence reporting that nuclear weapons made in Pakistan on behalf of Saudi Arabia are now sitting ready for delivery.

Last month Amos Yadlin, a former head of Israeli military intelligence, told a conference in Sweden that if Iran got the bomb, "the Saudis will not wait one month. They already paid for the bomb, they will go to Pakistan and bring what they need to bring."

http://tinyurl.com/mz7owv4

That piece, suggesting that the Saudis want to pre-empt a nuclear Iran by going nuclear first, probably has to be put in light of the impending nuclear deal between the US and Iran, may have been targetet at western audiences to induce as sense of urgency.

By now every 'any minute now' comment by Israel official, active or retired, should be met the derision it deserves given Israel's record of late. The joke is getting stale.

The last time the Saudis expected to have bought something from Pakistan they imagineed it was an army corps to use against Yemen. The Pakistanis refused to priovide that, to Saudi Arabia's surprise and chagrin.

http://tinyurl.com/pp8j87d

Nukes are per se a national security matter, and if the Pakistanis had the good sense to not let the Saudis waste one of their corps they will also have the good sense to not give them nukes.

That is, I have the impression the Saudis may well think that the Pakistanis owe them nukes for them having contributed financially to Pakistan's nuclear program i.e. that they 'bought Pakistani nukes', but that doesn't mean the Pakistanis will be so dumb as to deliver what the Saudis expect.

So, based on my gut feeling:

I don't believe the Saudis can build nukes.
I don't believe anybody is dumb enough to sell them any.

Babak Makkinejad

That was always a canard; I suppose trying to frighten Iranians.

charly

The US "tested" their first uranium bomb above Japan. I think that answer the question can a state have nuclear weapons without testing them

charly

White South Africa could build a bomb with a team of 200 so i don't see why Birma or Saudi Arabia can't.

Outrage Beyond

If the Saudis have nukes, they obtained a handful of them from Pakistan. If they do have them, I suspect that they remain under Pakistani control.

The book "The King's Messenger" by David Ottaway goes into this possibility in some detail.

turcopolier

charly

"White South Africa could build a bomb with a team of 200 so I don't see why Birma or Saudi Arabia can't." "Birma?" What is that? As for SA, that might be possible if they hired enough foreigners. I guess you don't know many Saudis. pl

confusedponderer

charly,
the most polite and political correct answer would be that Apartheid South Africa, for all its flaws, was no Burma and no Saudi Arabia.

South Africa had well trained scientists and technicians and, by necessity, a pretty self-sufficient industry base operating at a pretty high technical level. Not so Birma and Saudi Arabia.

Among other things, South Africa had South Africans doing actual work with their protestant voortrekker work ethos. Can't speak for Birma here, but one certainly can't say that about Saudis who by all accounts appear to prefer to avoid physical labour.

In Saudi Arabia it is considered shameful to work as janitors, binmen (garbage collectors*), or cleaning in general, or in jobs like plumbing, construction and gardening (likely because these once were occupations of slaves) - leaving these occupations to foreigners without contest. Throw in that a large number of Saudis are unskilled, they are useless to Saudi Arabia's biggest industry, oil, not to mention a theortical Saudi nuclear program.

* More on that in the open thread.

scott s.

Charly
OK but I think Trinity test did provide results that were used to fine tune the delivery of the Hiroshima weapon, even though Trinity's design was that of the Nagasaki weapon.

Imagine

SIPRI (Stockholm) has been promulgating the ~80 estimate based on the number of bomber and missile warheads that would "make sense". They excluded Israeli submarine warhead counts. Most reporters miss this.

Imagine

Strong rumor that Nixon had a verbal agreement with Golda Meir that no President would mention Israel's nuclear weapons, in exchange for ?, and this has been passed on from President to President.

Rumor that there is a law that no government employee/contractor is allowed to mention Israel's nuclear weapons, on pain of imprisonment; apparently "DOE Classification Bulletin WPN-136 on Foreign Nuclear Capabilities"(classified) and/or "GEN-16"(?). Presumably these would apply to active military as well.

obviously if accurate these would create a chilling effect on discussions.
Is it possible to confirm or deny these?

America must be getting something out of maintaining the status quo, but what? Thank you.

Will

Birma when googled comes up as Myanmar.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Myanmar_and_weapons_of_mass_destruction

confusedponderer

Will,
that Wiki entry states:

"On June 3, 2010, a five year investigation by an anti-government Myanmar broadcaster, the Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB), found evidence that allegedly shows the country's military regime begun a programme to develop nuclear weapons.[14] The DVB said evidence of Myanmar's nuclear programme came from top-secret documents smuggled out of the country over several years, including hundreds of files and other evidence provided by Sai Thein Win, a former major in the military of Myanmar.[15][16] A UN report said there was evidence that North Korea had been exporting nuclear technology to Burma, Iran and Syria.[17]

Based on Win's evidence, Robert Kelley, a former weapons inspector, said he believed Burma "has the intent to go nuclear and it is... expending huge resources along the way." But as of 2010, experts said that Burma was a long way from succeeding, given the poor quality of their current materials.[17] Despite Kelley's analysis, some experts are uncertain that a nuclear weapons programme exists..."

It adds in the footnote [2] the following:

"Kelley further argued, however, that it would be extremely difficult for Myanmar, given its limited technical and financial capabilities, to develop nuclear weapons successfully"

To put Birma/Myanmar there with South Africa is probably an insult to the South Africans.

Also: Nasty regime, opposition group, smuggled documents on an alleged nuclear weapons program ... another one?!

Imagine

It turns out that "unauthorized communication of national defense information" and "willful communication of classified communications intelligence information to an unauthorized person" are separately each felonies. So even talking about talking about what's going on may be a crime. Huh.

charly

I think it would be an insult for Saudi Arabia let alone South Africa.

But making plutonium for a bomb isn't hard if you don't have to deal with the health department. And Burma is so unimportant and perceived weak that having a nuclear weapons program alone (without the nukes) is probably more than enough of a deterrent.

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