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Count Down to Iran's Nuclear Test

| 33 Comments | 6 TrackBacks

We are now in a fast count-down to Iran’s first nuclear test. The only issues left are:

1) When it will take place, and
2) What kind of nuke will be used.

If Iran’s nuclear test happens this spring, the device will be a plutonium-fueled, implosion triggered, bomb of North Korean design and fissile material. If the test happens in the fall, there will probably be two devices - one each of each of Plutonium and Enriched Uranium. The plutonium bomb will be North Korean and the enriched uranium bomb will have a mix of Iranian fissionables and “world market pre-enriched” uranium feed stock. In either case the Iranian test sites will be infested with North Korean technicians – North Korea’s nukes will be tested in Iran to give China plausible deniability concerning its role in these matters.

Tom Holsinger, in his The Case for Invading Iran, and Rafi Eitan (former Israeli Intelligence chief) in a Jerusalem Post article, both contend Iran possesses operational nuclear devices today. I predicted here on Winds of Change in April 2004 that Iran would have nuclear weapons by the spring of 2006. It will be spring in five more weeks.

A recent article in the Sunday Times of London makes it clear that Iran has the Means ($60-70 a barrel oil), the Motive (Iran’s current President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad) and now the Opportunity to become a nuclear armed state with "off the shelf" plutonium.
”The Americans were aghast to learn last year that while engaging in disarmament talks, North Korea had made enough plutonium to amass a stockpile of about 43 kilograms, perhaps as much as 53kg. For the first time since the nuclear crisis began in 1994 it has sufficient fissile material to sell some to its ally while retaining enough for its own purposes.
Plutonium is the element used to fuel the bomb that destroyed Nagasaki in 1945. Between 7kg and 9kg are needed for a weapon. According to Siegfried Hecker, the eminent American nuclear scientist, officials in North Korea intend to restart a reactor that will produce 60kg a year.
Iran already has a nuclear program devoted to plutonium research, according to John Bolton, US ambassador to the United Nations. In a 2004 speech Bolton said the Iranians were building a research reactor “optimal for the production of weapons-grade plutonium”.
And Iran has officially restarted its enrichment of weapons-grade uranium.

We have not only have the London Times, Rafi Eitan, and Tom Holsinger saying Iran has nukes, but we also have the public testimony of National Intelligence Director Negroponte before Congress - that it is the consensus of American intelligence that Iran "probably does not yet have a nuclear weapon.” Given our intelligence community’s past performance, we can expect them to get it horribly wrong when it counts the most.

Iran’s possession of at least a few crude but working nuclear weapons, awaiting only testing before more can be designed for delivery by ballistic missile, means that bombing alone cannot stop Iran from testing the nukes it already has. Bombing can at best delay Iran’s production of better nukes capable of delivery by the missiles it already has, again mostly courtesy of North Korea.

And we can’t be sure just how effective Iran’s nukes already are, because the Chinese and Pakistanis might have sold them designs for better weapons just as they sold designs for cruder and older designs.

Tom Holsinger contended that Iran would delay its first nuclear tests until it had backfilled a complete nuclear weapons production line, from unprocessed uranium, to fissionables being cooked at every stage, and to finished weapons-grade fissionables being fabricated into weapons. But Iran doesn’t have to wait that long. It would be prudent to do so, but it doesn’t have to wait if it already has some working nuclear weapons made with North Korean materials and assistance.

What do we do if, after we bomb Iran’s known nuclear facilities flat, over the 4-6 week period needed to be really thorough, and ride out Iran’s expected retaliation – mining of the Straits of Hormuz, attacks on oil tankers in the Persian Gulf, uprisings by its covertly controlled militias in southern Iraq, etc., Iran then does a nuclear test anyway a few months later, with a nuke it has had all along?

And says that, if we attack again, it will nuke Kuwait and the oil ports of Saudi Arabia? Because it is still getting, from North Korea, everything it needs to build more nuclear weapons. Because we’re letting North Korea be an invulnerable sanctuary for Iran’s nuclear weapons enrichment, while Iran provides the sites for North Korean nuclear tests.

What can merely bombing Iran's nuclear facilities, without overthrowing its mullah regime, buy us but THE CERTAINTY OF NUCLEAR WAR?

We might find out in as little as a month. We might find out in six months. But this year we will learn something we never wanted to know.

6 TrackBacks

Tracked: February 15, 2006 4:04 PM
Too Late? from Transterrestrial Musings
Excerpt: Trent Telenko thinks that Iran may already have nukes. It would fit the current pattern of their behavior, unfortunately....
Tracked: February 15, 2006 5:24 PM
Spinning up from Peace Like A River
Excerpt: Iran is not in a cooperative mood. Iran is not genuinely trying to assuage the fears of the world community. By letting the IAEA see this, Iran is sending another message. The message is "Here's what we can do, we are enriching uranium, and surely yo...
Tracked: February 15, 2006 6:25 PM
Excerpt: Courtesy of Winds of Change: by Trent Telenko at February 15, 2006 12:53 PM We are now in a fast count-down to Iran’s first nuclear test. The only issues left are: 1) When it will take place, and 2) What kind of nuke will be used. If Iran’s nu...
Tracked: February 15, 2006 7:24 PM
Excerpt: The paradox of the MSM and the EU supporting free speech by appeasing the most radical of the Islamists over the cartoons is likely to have very serious and tragic repercussions. Anyone who has graduated from grade school should recognize
Tracked: February 15, 2006 9:22 PM
Eye on the ball from The Glittering Eye
Excerpt: While the professional news media, the blogosphere, and much of the world remain distracted on hunting accidents and Danish cartoons, the major story of the day remains Iran’s progress in nuclear development: MOSCOW (AP) - Russia and Iran will ho...
Tracked: February 16, 2006 10:14 AM
Excerpt: Trent Telenko, Armed Liberal, and their commenters have a very interesting discussion going at Winds of Change. Don't miss it.

33 Comments

I am supposing there is a plan to discover and eliminate Iran's nuke techs and scientists. I also suppose those guys are even more difficult to find than the hard assests.

I agree a test will occur this year. I wonder if we can guess where. I am wondering if anyone knows what annual weather patterns, wind patterns, etc are typical in the Iranian spring/summer. Any ideas?

Just for the record, I said a year ago that Iran had such weapons...I think they will show that they have nuclear warheads in early April.

What happens if the test takes place in Tel Aviv?

Trevor, possibly the beginning of the most destructive non-world war in history. However, just the confirmed detonation of a test weapon will cause an immediate economic shock worldwide.

For some reason the link to my April article is dead.

I won't be on a machine that can access my account until lunch, so until then, you can seemy original prediction here:

IRAN'S SPOILING ATTACK
by Trent Telenko at April 20, 2004 03:23 AM
http://windsofchange.net/archives/004885.php

This popped up over on strategpage.com on the 13th

Iranians Steal German Warhead Technology

February 13, 2006: Germany has arrested two of its citizens and charged them with helping Iran obtain German technology needed to build nuclear warheads for ballistic missiles. A Russian and a North Korean were also accused of helping the Germans. While little discussed in the media, the warhead for a nuclear missile is one of the more difficult bits of technology to develop. A nuclear weapon is a precision machine, containing many complex electronic, mechanical and chemical components. The ballistic missile basically carries the warhead outside the earth's atmosphere, and then sends it back ("reentry") at speeds in excess of 20,000 kilometers an hour (nearly six kilometers a second). It's this speed that creates tremendous heat, as the warhead enters the atmosphere. The high speeds also create high G forces and vibration. All this generates some very unfriendly conditions for the components of the nuclear device. It is not easy to build a warhead that can keep the nuclear device in operating order. The two Germans were specifically charged with getting a vibration testing device out of the country, and to Iran. This device makes it possible to test nuclear bomb and warhead structure components without having to launch a missile.

The Russian connection is ominous, because Russia has lots of proven warhead technology. North Korea is also working on designing warheads for nuclear weapons. Iran has long used bribed foreigners to help them get military technology and equipment for them, stuff that no nation would knowingly sell to Iran.

"What happens if the test takes place in Tel Aviv?"

150+ Israeli nuclear warheads rain down on Iran effectively turning the county into an iradiated desert.

>>150+ Israeli nuclear warheads rain down on Iran effectively turning the county into an iradiated desert.

People tend to both under and over estimate the power of nuclear weapons. True, those 150 nukes are probably mostly fusion weapons, so a few thousand of the most important and densely populated square kilometers of land in Iran would be reduced to rubble. This would leave very large sections of Iran largely unaffected by the direct effects of the nukes. Likely the largest death toll would be starvation caused by destruction of the transportation infrastructure rather than the explosions themselves.

One of the real problems with this situation is that the Mad Mullahs might be able to stomach 150 nukes worth of heat. This is similar to the problem the USG had when facing the Soviets: 20 million war dead was a notion the Soviets already understood because they had already endured it.

Even if Iran does have a couple of nukes it doesn’t mean aerial bombardment won’t work? A GW1 style air campaign with a decapitation element followed by a nation wide no fly zone held with targets of opportunity taken below. Of course some targets will need ground forces inserted to ensure target destruction. This will allow the “revolution” to crawl out from under the gov and we can insert SOF and weapons for them to take sections of territory.

Worst case if over time the “rally around the flag” scenario happens no revolution we do a negotiated cease fire with strict military limitations, rigorous open random unwarned inspections, and backed up with pre-written strong consequences. I think we learned enough from Saddam to fill in the loopholes with teeth.

One or two nukes are just as likely to be destroyed in the strikes and follow on ones as anything else. If they test one so what they confirm our justification. Their only alternative would be a missile strike (unlikely missile ready for that now and air craft gotta get past the massive US fighter cap) or other delivery (most likely target in theater more distant the more chance of compromise) outside Iran and that would be at risk of being compromised before completion. Not to mention such action even if successful would galvanize the alliance and just force a full scale ground invasion under a lot less compassionate terms.

No matter how you look at it the only option is bad now or worse later. Iran if we faultier will only be more emboldened and empowered. They openly support terrorist movements now can you imagine the support they will offer when they have a nuke umbrella. We will have a worldwide revolution like the Soviets supported, funded, supplied, and urged except Islamist style with random terror on civilians as the main weapon (not just Communist propoganda).

Also don’t forget that Israel is not the only “occupied by infidels” Muslim land. Southern Asia, Balkans, Turkey, Stans, Caucasus’s, Southern Russia proper, Abdullah (Spain), North Africa parts, ect…hell man I have even read stories of Muslim navigators used by Columbus so I guess the New World should be considered in the pot.

You'll pardon me, Mr. Telenko, if I say that to even someone closely following the Iran story, this sounds a tad hysterical.

Just because the CIA -- or the entire intelligence community -- is wrong some of the time does not mean they are wrong all of the time. I also understand the military intelligence principle of planning for the worst case scenario, but nonetheless, I find it unlikely that (with all the starts and stops, and the fall of the Khan network) Iran can test in less than six more months. That pushes things to late '06, and possibly early '07.

Iran has two motivations for their nuclear program: domestic regime support and external power. The mere existence and success of the nuclear program is sufficient for domestic support: the nuclear ambition is one of the few items on the Mullah/Prez agenda that most Iranians, even young ones, support.

For some reason, the Iranian public does not take the possibility of retaliatory strikes on Iran seriously. Has anyone researched why? Do they believe the mullahs will not launch first, or do they think no one has the guts to strike once they have a nuke? Or has no one really thought about it?

Iran also scores major points simply by testing their nuke: tensions flare, the price of oil spikes. Only in their dreams do Arabs rally to them, though, because a) there is already one Islamic nuclear power, Pakistan, b) they're Shi'ites, c) they're not Arabs, and d) they're theocrats.

At any rate, actual use of the nukes (as opposed to testing) can only be for purposes of increasing Iran's external power. Certainly a strike on Israel would immediately cause a general Mideast war to break out, with American forces fighting Iranians, what's left of Israel securing itself against the (in the fallout zone, let's not forget) Palestinians, etc. Does this actually benefit Iran? I'm sure the Iranian generals are wargaming this out now.

A key question is whether the Mullahs and the Prez are actually rational megalomaniacs feigning insanity for power purposes a la the Norks, or truly irrational megalomaniacs who will nuke Israel on completely religious principles.

"People tend to both under and over estimate the power of nuclear weapons. True, those 150 nukes are probably mostly fusion weapons, so a few thousand of the most important and densely populated square kilometers of land in Iran would be reduced to rubble"

Its important to remember that most of Iran is already desert, mountain, or steppes. More than half of the country is sparsely populated at best, similar to Afghanistan. The vast bulk of the population and infastructure is in the West and North. An Israeli nuclear strike with a large portion of its arsenal (very likely including thermonuclear weapons) would devastate the country to such a point that it would cease to function entirely. Not to mention the oil fields being irradiated and useless as a source of income. Iran would be reduced to a loose collection of penniless tribes similar to Aghanistan but with a smaller population slowly dying of radiation poisoning.

Whether the Mullahs are willing to trade their lives and Iran as a viable nation-state for Israel is the question. They talk a big game, but who can say? The big-wigs never seem to carry through on the martyr business like their pawns do.

What if the mullahs test on a real target. Jeddah or Kuwait City, perhaps. At the same time they send a message to the Saud family- "thanks for taking care of the holy places, we'll take over now, we need 75% of your oil revenues to support the revolutionary guards who start landing in ten minutes. Stand back and no one else gets hurt."
Would Israel, US or the EU respond to such an attack? The Iranians hate the great and little Satans but have little love for the Arabs or the Sunnis either. They automatically get great power status, and a reputation as the guy you don't want to mess with. Oil goes to whatever price they ask.
I hope it doesn't happen that way, but would not be surprised.

10 Catfish
"the Iranian public does not take the possibility of retaliatory strikes on Iran seriously"
Good point. I'd argue nearly no one (American, European, Iranian... ) outside some levels of government and academia seriously considers the possibility of wartime use of nukes. We've worried so long about them, without seeing their use, that it just doesn't seem likely.
Before 9-11, Madrid, or London, we knew terrorism existed, but for most of us it was not something that had ever touched us, or ever would.
A nuke over Tel Aviv or Bombay or Teheran will change a lot of perspectives, in ways no one expects.

C-n-C

Anyone who isn't 'alamist' on Iranian nukes is a fool or self-deluded.

Please note the following and the date:

November 14, 2003, 9:18 a.m.
Recipe for Disaster
Asking the right Iran questions.

By Amir Taheri
http://www.nationalreview.com/script/printpage.p?ref=/nr_comment/taheri200311140918.asp

(snip)…IAEA inspectors also found the following:

Plutonium: Manufactured at a Tehran laboratory between 1988 and 1992, despite previous denials from Iran. Very small quantity extracted, not enough for a bomb. But Iranian scientists now know how to manufacture bomb-grade plutonium. If Iran does not plan to make any bombs there is no reason why it should produce any plutonium.

Laser uranium enrichment: Under U.N. questioning in October, Iran admitted it had built a pilot laser-enrichment facility at Lashkar Abad, northwest of Tehran in 1999. Four unnamed countries have been involved in supplying equipment and know-how for 20 years. The Iranians admit banned experiments there until this year. They say the facility was dismantled in May. Last month U.N. inspectors' requests to examine equipment and talk to the scientists were "deferred by Iran."

Uranium metal conversion: Uranium metal is most commonly used for nuclear missiles. Earlier discoveries of metal conversion work were explained away by the Iranians as "shielding material." In October they said the uranium metal was for use in the previously undisclosed laser-enrichment project.

Weapons' grade uranium: The IAEA's previous report disclosed traces of two types of weapons-grade uranium at the underground centrifuge enrichment plant at Natanz. The IAEA then reported traces of weapons-grade uranium at the Kalaye electric company in Tehran.

Heavy water: Iran has been working on heavy water, needed to manufacture plutonium, at a secret facility in Arak, west of Tehran since 1995. Having denied the existence of the facility, Iran admitted it last month but has refused to allow IAEA inspectors to visit it.

The real question is: Can the world accept the present Iranian regime with nuclear weapons?

It is clear that the answer cannot come from the IAEA.

Iran has been following every available technological avenue to get nuclear weapons and has been doing so for years. Now it can buy plutonium off the shelf from North Korea.

Any war America has with Iran will be a nuclear war by definition.

Catfish N. Cod

Just because the CIA -- or the entire intelligence community -- is wrong some of the time does not mean they are wrong all of the time.

First, I did not say that. I said the following:

Given our intelligence community’s past performance, we can expect them to get it horribly wrong when it counts the most.

Next:

Iran has two motivations for their nuclear program: domestic regime support and external power. The mere existence and success of the nuclear program is sufficient for domestic support: the nuclear ambition is one of the few items on the Mullah/Prez agenda that most Iranians, even young ones, support.

I said the following about Iran in "IRAN'S SPOILING ATTACK":

It is the nature of men that when faced with an impending doom, they will do something, anything, to avert it, even if that brings doom down upon themselves sooner and more surely then if they had done nothing. Such was the case in ancient Greek tragedies. So it was with the World War Two Nazis and Imperial Japanese. So it is now with Iran's Mullahocracy in their "spoiling attack" on America in Iraq.

and:

In short, the Iranians mean to defeat America, "Lebanonize" Iraq and dominate its various factions. Al Sadr was only the first Iranian sock puppet. There will be many others. Iraq cannot be pacified as long as terrorists attack us from secure bases in Iran, and the mullahs are both providing those and funding terrorists against us, including Al Qaeda as well as Al Sadr..

Nukes are Iran's shield against American power, if America lets itself believe they are. In this the Iranian leadership is not rational, it is rationalizing. Please see the public statements of Iran’s current President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

You also said:

At any rate, actual use of the nukes (as opposed to testing) can only be for purposes of increasing Iran's external power. Certainly a strike on Israel would immediately cause a general Mideast war to break out, with American forces fighting Iranians, what's left of Israel securing itself against the (in the fallout zone, let's not forget) Palestinians, etc. Does this actually benefit Iran? I'm sure the Iranian generals are wargaming this out now.

This is about far more than Iran.

Iran's nuclear break out is very much about the cancerous spread of nukes to kleptocratic tyrannies world wide.

Our enemies are cooperating to spread nuclear weapons world wide as a counter to American power.

If America allows Iran's successful acquisition of nuclear weapons to stop it -- like the Clinton Administration did with North Korea -- every two bit 3rd world kleptocrat will buy nukes so they can be as nasty as they want to be, to whomever they want to be.

A world of 20-30+ unstable nuclear armed 3rd world tyrannies is less than a 15 years away, maybe as little as seven, if Iran succeeds in its goal of becoming a nuclear power.

Now here's the odd thought...

This would be the perfect opportunity for the North Koreans to demonstrate their nuclear capability, but without actually doing it themselves! It stretches plausable deniablity to its limit, but the scenario seems credible.

Just my $.02
DRK

As I've posted previously both Iran's population and nuclear development facilities are heavily concentrated in its urban areas. A thermonuclear attack on Iran's nuclear development facilities as suggested above would result in the deaths of a helluva lot of Iranians.

Add to that the low construction standards, poor infrastructure, lack of emergency support services, and breakdown of the distribution network and it's clear that the mullahs are really courting disaster.

Haartz:

Yadlin to Knesset: Iran aims to destroy Israel

By Gideon Alon

Iran's goal is to eliminate the state of Israel, Major General Amos Yadlin, the new head of Military Intelligence, told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee yesterday in his maiden appearance before it.

Iran is likely to acquire the capability for manufacturing enriched uranium in industrial quantities within six months to a year, Yadlin said, and if its nuclear program suffers no disruptions, [b]it will have its first nuclear bomb in three to four years. [/b]


But its nuclear program is only one component of Iran's plan to eliminate Israel, Yadlin added. Other elements include its development of the Shihab-3 missile, its support for Palestinian terror and its support for Hezbollah attacks on Israel from Lebanon.

Yadlin, who described Iran as the most serious threat currently facing Israel, stressed that statements by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad about the need to "wipe Israel off the map" were not mere slips of the tongue, and should be taken seriously.

I still say that the question is not "will the world tolerate a nuclear Iran", but "What could we actually do to stop it?"

Short of bombing Iran back to the stone age, I don't think we're going to be succesfull. And a campaign of that magnitude is going to have some serious long term 'blowback' with both terrorism in the US, and be oil sanctions against the united states.

Additionally, terrorism in Iraq and Afghanistan will increase 10 fold. If we still have troops in the area, we will be putting their lives into a truly nasty guerilla war.

Never mind Tel Aviv.

What happens if the "test" takes place in New York City?

Catfish --

Iran has since Khomeni's time developed a nuclear weapons program through considerable resources, time, energy, etc. Despite sitting on a sea of oil

Since 9/11 the US has removed the hostile Taliban (and attacked Iran's main jihad rival the Al Qaeda network), restrained Pakistan, and removed Saddam and replaced him with a weak and divided government in which Iran has some influence where before they had none.

ALL actions of the United States benefits Iran politically, yet Iran constantly whips up emnity with the US. Why? Because Iran has imperial ambitions to rule the Gulf and the entire Middle East as part of the new Caliphate (Shia instead of Sunni, but nevertheless a Caliphate) and has desired this since 1979.

Guerilla warfare on the sea failed in the 1980's as the US Navy destroyed Iranian speedboats with ease. Nukes and nuke attacks on the US are believed to be the Magic Sword with which Iran can force the US to withdraw from the Gulf and Middle East and allow them to over-run the entire region and establish the new Caliphate. Presumably with tribute to the Iranians to prevent further attacks. It's not unreasonable for them to think this way. Already Dem think tanks are saying we should "negotiate" with bin Laden.

All indications are that the Iranian people and regime believe this is very possible, weakness and carping in Iraq over 2,000 plus casualties (the Iranians lost appalling numbers in the millions in the Iran-Iraq War) encourages this view, as does Cindy Sheehan, Howard Dean, John Kerry, Al Gore, Bill Clinton, and the general groveling over Cartoon Jihad. If you can make the US and West back down over cartoons by shouting, screaming, killing some people and burning embassies with impunity, what could you accomplish by nuking NYC and DC and threatening more? There's really no limit and this is classic Islamic warfare, jihad as tribal raiding/threatening.

We will GET a nuclear war because we project rational Western limited aims against a Sixth Century theocratic regime that hangs rape victims and issues fatwas against writers for "blasphemy." They are NOT like us, don't think like us, or have the same goals. There is no other reason for this hostility since the US for it's own reasons has removed Iran's greatest threats. Meanwhile neither party is serious about the inevitability of the war approaching us with Iran.

Iran has said over and over again it will "destroy" Israel unless the West removes Israel to Europe or America. It officially denies the Holocaust (as do nearly all Muslims, no surprise there). Obviously they will nuke Israel (with many Europeans and a significant amount of Dems approving). But they will also nuke us. They want the Gulf and the US Navy stands in the way. This is why significant Al Qaeda leaders are sheltered in Iran.

Speaking of the Taliban, there was something strange going on in Afghanistan with the Iranians. The CIA and SF ran into a lot of Iranian assets over there (though that is very classified as has been redacted by the Pentagon from all the insider books that come out) and apparently there was some informal information sharing at the least. Best guess is the Iranians were doing there own own thing to bring the Taliban down (doubtless in order to expand their sphere of influence over Shiia areas of the country). Seems like the Iranians were warned off from causing us trouble in no uncertain terms.

Add to that the relatively wishy washy way theyve treated Iraq (could be much worse), and it makes you wonder what the heck is going on. They flitter around some real crisis spots with us but dont really push it too far, then they poke the international community in the eye when everybody and their brother is trying to throw them a diplomatic rope. Their diplomacy and their actions dont really synch up. Very strange indeed.

I've been thinking about the idea that Iran and North Korea have been in close cooperation re: nukes and I think it's a good one. Start from the known fact of the A.Q. Khan and North Korean internationalization of nuclear technology proliferation and then ask yourself whether North Korea would decide to switch partners and work with Iran (after Khan's network was shut down) and whether Iran would be willing to work with NK. The answers certainly seems to be yes on both counts, which would explain a lot of the bravado and rushing ahead on Iran's part. Especially when you remember how desperate North Korea is for hard currency (which oil rich states have in abundance) and technology transfer. Also keep in mind the known harboring of Iraqi exiles by Syria, the likely harboring of Iraqi WMDs by Syria, and the offer to harbor Iranian WMDs (especially nukes) by Syria in the event of an attack on Iran. As well, the all-too-cozy relationship of Russia in Iran's nuclear program. In short, the very cooperative and international nature of nuclear proliferation in the late 20th and early 21st centuries.

Also keep in mind the prior precedents of US/UK/Canada and Israel/South Africa nuclear technology cooperation. It seems all too likely that Trent and others are accurate in their assessments of tight, covert cooperation in Iran's nuclear program. The questions then become, how far along is Iran, and what can we do about this problem (with regard to both Iran and North Korea)?

I believe that our options are not quite so circumscribed as others have stated. Neither Iran nor North Korea have the sort of well-developed, hardened delivery and C&C infrastructure that would allow them to have any substantial attack capability after a significant strike. A strike on Iran may not take out their existing nuclear stockpiles, but it would almost certainly significantly deteriorate their ability to use them to any effect. It seems to me that no matter whether Iran has nukes already or not it is still preferable to act sooner rather than later, time is not on our side here. That being said, this is a tricky issue and we, especially us civilians without access to intelligence data, are operating a bit in the dark.

Theory: any Hitchiker's Guide fans remember why Zaphod Beeblebrox was made president of the galaxy?

"The President in particular is very much a figurehead - he wields no real power whatsoever. He is apparently chosen by the government, but equalities he is required to display are not those of leadership but those of finely judged outrage. For this reason the President is always a controversial choice, always an infuriating but fascinating character. His job is not to wield power but to draw attention away from it."

Makes me wonder if Ahmedinejad has 3 arms.

What about the New Iraqi Army?

Pan-Arabism and Pan-Islamism was a vision shared by Saddam and Osama. The Arab world, or if we expand it a little bit, the Middle-Eastern Islamic world has been faction-ridden and fractuous, and the dream of Caliphate restore is the dream of bringing power and respect to a vast people through unity. Saddam's vision was unification through raw military power -- poison gas, nuclear (the calutrons-in-the-Euphrates from 1991), G. Bull's mega guns. Osama Bin Laden is coming at it from a different angle, but the idea is pretty much the same.

Do you suppose George W. Bush also has a vision of restoring the Caliphate. The most significant outcome of the Iraq War is the establishment of a New Iraqi Army, not an army molded by Saddam, but an army patterned after the best of American military doctrine. Oh, they are underquiped (for now), and folks in Congress gripe about their readiness (judged by Fort Benning, not by Middle Eastern standards).

The whole reason between both the madness of Saddam and the madness of Osama is that the Arab culture does not have a tradition of effective, Western-style, armies. That is why the Middle East has spun off into terrorism -- sub-guerilla fighting is the highest level of military organization that is effective in that setting. The Iraqi army doesn't have to be perfect. It just needs to be qualitatively better than any other organization out there in the Middle East.

Do you suppose the buildup of the Iraqi Army and the emergence of Iraq as the regional superpower under American tutelage is why George W Bush is so sanguine about the Iranian situation right now? Between Iraq and Afghanistan, we have Iran surrounded, and the current Iranian bluster may be a reaction to their feeling the heat.

I'm no pollyanna about Iranian nukes, nor any friend of the Iranian regime (having Iranian friends here in America) and a dim view of theocratic fascists in general. But I'll wager Trent $25 that no Iranian nuclear test explosion occurs this spring, and another $25 that none occurs this year.

Moreover, the notion of some here that Iran will attack Israel as its "test" is more than a little overwrought. When Rajsanjani made his disputed threat of using a nuke on Israel back in 2000, he caught holy hell from inside Iran. The mullahs know full well what the retaliation could be.

Additionally, the idea that a full-bore Israeli retaliation attack - of 150 warheads - would not have utterly devastating human consequences for Iran AND the surrounding countries via blast, heat and fallout is ridiculous.

Since we don't know precisely anything about those Israeli nukes, we can only guess at their yield, but I'd be willing to bet that they're all 5x to 10x what was dropped on Hiroshima. The effect of 150 of those on the most likely targets (many of them around major cities) would not only be to obliterate Iran as a functioning society, killing millions within 48 hours, but also to expose downwinders in the 'stans and China to massive radiation doses within 72 hours.

Telenko:

Anyone who isn't 'alamist' on Iranian nukes is a fool or self-deluded.

I didn't question that, only how much of an alarmist to be. The hysterical portion is your assertion that they can test in two months; I don't think they can test before fall. I do agree that when they are ready to test, they will do so immediately. This is not like India, where they had the capability starting in 1973 but didn't exercise it until 1998. They will go nuclear at the first opportunity.

[The CIA is wrong] when it counts the most.

And how do you decide when it counts the most, ergo when they are wrong? You'll pardon me if I find your analysis sloppy.

Any war America has with Iran will be a nuclear war by definition.

Which leads to the Zen question: what is the sound of zero nuclear bombs going off? Or to put it in Western terms, is there any way for these two powers to have a war without launching? We did manage to do that with the Russians for forty years...

As to the mullahs' motivation, your appraisal may be flawed. The mullahs are not cornered and they are in no imminent danger of being overthrown. Despite Western efforts, the general Iranian population is not ready to rise in revolt at the moment. Depsite the apparent strategic encirclement, they are raking in the dough. The upcoming nuke test will push the price of oil higher, and any embargo passed against Iran will push it higher still -- and the Iranians know very well that they will find ways around the embargo. China, in particular, wants that oil badly. And despite their despotic rule, with that money to bribe the population and judicious use of propaganda, the mullahs can extend their rule until the current generation of leaders die.

However, the entire logic structure I just described only applies if the mullahs are receiving accurate data regarding their strategic position, and we all know autocracies are extremely bad at that. If their underlings are telling them they're in trouble, or their own paranoia eats away at them, they'll act cornered even if they're not.

The shield the Iranian mullahocracy thinks it has against American nuclear attack is not their own nuclear arsenal. It's the massive human shield called the Iranian populaiton. We don't really want to genocide Iran when we know that, given half a chance, 60%+ of the Iranian population really want to be our friends.

Finally, you are only correct about "cooperation" to spread nukes among our enemies in the sense that a market is founded on cooperation (even a black market). There is no central control (even such a loose one as al Qaeda) for Operation Spread Nukes. Each individual player is acting for their own benefit alone... but lo and behold, the Invisible Hand magicks up a complete system. The rules of capitalism work just as well for our enemies as for us.

But by that same logic, opposing the Iranian acquisition of nuclear weapons will not stop others from trying. For such a policy to be effective, we should already have demolished India, Pakistan, North Korea.... and Israel. Everyone knows that there are ways to get the world to accept you as a nuclear state, even grudgingly.

No one will be deterred from purusing nuclear goals because of our opposition to Iran. This is not the Cold War and there are no dominoes falling. If we get suckered into playing whack-a-mole, we will have to become as despotic a global regime as our enemies already accuse of of being. This is a decentralized war, and taking out single nodes will not achieve victory. There is no thermal exhaust port we can shoot a proton torpedo down. To win, we need to win everywhere at once... the way they are trying to.

Now how do we do that? I'm sure the answer has to do with memetics. It includes spreading democracy but it goes beyond that -- just applying democracy, without other ingredients, wound up with Hamas in charge of Palestine, which is distinctly nonoptimal.

Catfish, have you been reading my posts in advance?

"This is not the Cold War and there are no dominoes falling. If we get suckered into playing whack-a-mole, we will have to become as despotic a global regime as our enemies already accuse of of being. This is a decentralized war, and taking out single nodes will not achieve victory. There is no thermal exhaust port we can shoot a proton torpedo down. To win, we need to win everywhere at once... the way they are trying to."

I couldn't agree more.

A.L.

#21:

Iran has imperial ambitions to rule the Gulf and the entire Middle East as part of the new Caliphate

True, and

There's really no limit and this is classic Islamic warfare, jihad as tribal raiding/threatening

blam This is my well. Other tribes do not drink from it. -- paraphrased from Lawrence of Arabia

Only somewhat true. Post #22 suggests that maybe there's more to this than just the basics... again from Lawrence, Muslims will use their old instincts but they will also adapt as they can. How much have they adapted? This is a key question.

And to paraphrase the rest, maybe we have a weak side, but we have a strong side too. After five years of the Bush administration that should be perfectly clear. As for wishful thinking, there's always wishful thinking, especially by autocrats. Do you blame the Duke of Windsor and Charles Lindbergh for World War II?

#23 has a point, but remember that the Norks will put their own strategic interests first. I find it a lot more plausible that they sell plans than that they sell their most valuable strategic asset.

#24: the nasty response is that the argument could apply equally well to Clinton or Bush.

#25 has a BIG point: the basic problem dar al-Islam has faced since c. 1750 is that it has still not assimilated the Western way of war. The last time the Muslims got so totally knocked about was the Mongol invasion, which led to a major revolution in Islamic military and social organization... a tradition that ran from Saladin to the Ottomans. But the Mongol model (adapted to Islamic philosophy) couldn't stand a chance against modern Western systems of fighting... and still can't. I know it makes the Muslims more dangerous to teach them how to fight properly, but it also gives them internal and external security and a sense of pride, which they desperately need.

If the Muslims need a jihad to prove themselves, there are plenty of barbarians, Muslim and non-Muslim alike, who could use whacking. They attack us not because we're really their enemy, but because we are the people ahead of them. Until they beat a Western power, they don't believe they have recovered from the fall of the Ottoman Empire. They attack us for the same reason Japan beat Russia in 1905: because until they do, none of their achievements is real to them.

Ideally, a way to resolve this is to find a way for them to "win" over us in a way that doesn't require nuclear explosions -- or terror attacks at all. The way we found in the Cold War was economic warfare: we beat the Russians at simultaneously maintaining huge militaries and consumer economies. This isn't satisfying enough for the Muslims. They have proposed cultural domination as the game to play; this is a possible solution but may or may not be the optimal one.

I think there may be an 'oh shit' moment in Iran sometime after they test -- the possibility that deploying nukes puts Iran in danger may occur to the general population, the way it occured to the Indians and Pakistanis a few months-years after they deployed.

And I think there is no chance the Iranians will deploy before testing. It benefits them more to test and then deploy, and they are well aware of it: it will spike oil prices, give them a chance to make demands again, give them a domestic popularity boost -- and, most important of all, give them an extra personal ego boost.

#26: I have Iranian friends too. I want these b*****ds gone, Iran doesn't deserve this and the mullahs do not represent Iran. I also know, from speaking to my friends, that virtually no one aged 35 and below supports the regime or what it stands for in the long run... and these make up a large majority of the Iranian people. These people ARE going down, it's only a matter of when and how much damage occurs in the meantime. In regard to Iran, a containment policy is possible -- maybe not optimal, but possible -- because the clock is ticking.

A.L.: thanks. I'm more of an armed centrist but I'm with you.

Catfish -- you have to ask yourself, what are the Iranian regime's INTENTIONS?

WHY do they continually threaten Israel (when it makes them look impotent if they can't carry it out)? WHY continually act provocatively against the US and the E-3 when it benefits them to construct some fig-leaf agreement?

The only thing that makes sense is that Iran WANTS a war with us. I agree that Islam has not been able to fight Western Armies and win, because of the differences in civilizations (free economies, civic militarism, free inquiry leading to consistent improvement and periodically revolutions in military affairs). I don't think the Iraqi Army will make great strides because of the civilizational aspects that keep Muslims from fielding Western-style armies.

Iran's leaders know they have no chance to remove Israel absent a nuclear attack. Just as they have no chance to chase the US Navy out of the Gulf absent nuclear attacks on the US homeland. I think broadly in the Islamic World the idea that a super-sized nuclear car bomb (ala Saddam's boasting tonight on Nightline) is their trump card because "we love death more than you love life" cannot be discounted. I also think Iran's rhetoric is serious, and they are that point where they have to deliver in order to maintain internal regime stability (several "accidents" inside Iran involving top military leaders look like a Night of the Long Knives to me) and compete with the Al Qaeda model for the hearts and minds of Islamists everywhere. I don't see them as indulging in wishful thinking or delusion, but rather a serious miscalculation.

To Iranians, and Muslims around the world, the US looks weak as it looked weak to Japan (which thought it could wage a war to wound the US and force it to terms with the Pacific a Japanese lake), or Hitler. Neither Japan nor Hitler expected Americans would tolerate 22,000 dead at Okinawa, or more than 50,000 dead in the Normandy beaches and hedgerows, or 50,000 plus in the skies over Germany, and INCREASE the level of fighting. Iran and the leadership see: Haiti and the US Navy sailing away after thugs intimidate on the docks, the shameful pullout from Mogadishu, the non-response to Nairobi, Dar-es-Salaam, Riyadh, and Beirut not to mention the "withdraw now!" sentiment in Iraq and Afghanistan and think that this scales to US automatic defeat with a nuclear car bomb in NYC.

So I think war and nuclear war at that is inevitable. Because we are in denial about what to do. And yes I DO blame Lindy and the Duke for WWII being as bad as it was. Political will to crush Hitler in 1936 when he re-armed the Rhineland, or in 1938 for Anschluss would have made a short and relatively bloodless war instead of the atrocity we got. Not doing anything until you get attacked has a real cost (principally, ceding the initiative to the enemy).

Have you seen footage of the shoe-banging at the United Nations?

Yes. Saw it live on TV. Theatre. And theatre that Khrushchev, who led it, almost immediately regretted. Already by the time that banging occurred, the faith-based Marxist-Leninists were less and less in evidence at high levels; those men's goal was to maintain power, not spread the word. Whatever their public statements about New Soviet Man, they imported their cars from the West and fed corruption all the way to the factory floor.

Now the mullahs are no doubt more devout believers in the one true faith than the second generation Soviet leaders were, but they too want to maintain power above all else and have devoted themselves to the sixth and seventh pillars in order to do so: corruption and repression. They ALREADY know that using a nuke anywhere means they'll be gone in a retaliatory flash. Al Qaedans may not care about that; I think the mullahs very much do care.

---

As for not taking bets because it's a blood wager, Trent, I'll accept that. My point is that all this surety I read here, not just from you, ought, it seems to me, to be leavened with a good deal more open uncertainty. Everybody is so sure of his point of view, even though, unless somebody is putting their security clearance to illicit use for purposes of blog discussion, we've all got access to the same publicly available information and friends in high places with the same ability for judging reliability of each.

Thus, our only difference is how we interpret what we hear and read, and how we relate historically relevant events to current affairs. A little humility behooves us under the circumstances, especially given the consequences of either acting rashly or of not acting quickly enough.

With working designs courtesy of China via Khan....

Any test is more demonstration than research.

And you demonstrate not with your first batch.

Their strategy has been leaked. Become a superpower. Use oil revenues to assemble an American sized nuclear force. Nuke the west entirely in one go. The big strike not to depend on missles but martyrs.

They DO survive it. There is a world without America. The mahdi comes and sheilds the Ummah.

There is no crackpot plan to just pop off a few when total war is what is required. Their plan may be radical, but makes more sense than Hitler's vision -- and he ran with in.

And at the end, China picks up the pieces.

Fellow infidels ... you are missing something really critical about the Iranian mindset.

Yes, the Iranians want a conflict. Yes they want to nuke as much of the west as they can. (So they are holding us off as long as possible to build as many smuggleable-nukes as possible for a many-cities-at-once truck-nuke attack)

The bit you are missing is that a mass Jew/great-Satan nuking of Iran is their BEST CASE SCENARIO ... they ALL die as martyrs (paradise + 72 virgins).

You people extrapolating their thinking like mildly insane westerners do not grok the Iranian rational mindset that to die in war vs (Mohammad-denying) infidels means that the entire nuked MILLIONS of the Iranian population automatically gets a free pass into paradise (& 72 virgins).

They are NOT NUTS ... they are 100% sane and logical, once you start from a martyrdom (and paradise with 72-virgins) point-of-view.

Ahmadinejad really believes in his divine role in the passion-play to instigate-the-armageddon to trigger the return of the 12th-Imam, the Mahdi. He really thinks he was anointed, glowing with inner-light talking at the UN, smiting the infidel westerners mute in the glory of Allah's LAST messenger.

Ahmadinejad really believes that he is sserving his people best by escorting them in untold millions directly into paradise, creating the greatest surge of martyrs Allah has ever witnessed, logically setting himself up to be rewarded by Allah for his role in this mass-paradise arrival ...

NEVER before has one person been responsible directly for escorting so many millions directly to paradise ... Allah cannot fail to notice and reward the role of Ahmadinejad, shedherd to millions of martyrs. Ahmadinejad is setting himself up as Allah's most-valuable-servant.

Ahmadinejad is NOT INSANE ... hr is completely rational, but his goals are not earth-bound, and in order for him to get to be Allah's right-hand man, we and most or all of the Iranians must die, preferably all at once.

Iran is not looking to protect their turf with nukes like NK is or to blackmail us like the Chinese or to balance us in MAD like the USSR ... they are looking for mass martyrdom-suicide-by-US/Jew nukes as a ticket to paradise.

Trent ... I don't think they'll test ... they'll save up and save up and save up then mass-smuggle and truck-nuke every israeli city then every western city in descending order of population ... all at once, within minutes of each other. They will put this off for as long as they think it is possible to maximize the number of us infidels they can take with them to maximize the chances that they will also have gotten every jew they can since (as far as I can recall (badly)) there is some Koranic requirement that the jews must be slaughtered before the end-times-event can really get started.

C&C: I think Trent is right ... they have something readyish NOW ... Ahmadinejad is too overconfident to indicate otherwise ... the knows his plan is already golden ... he is acting so full of himself it is as though he is enjoying running-up-the-score. My awful suspicion is that he may already have secreted his few nukes in Tel-Aviv and NYC and so on, guarded by sleeper cells, laying low until signalled with an unintelligible one-time-signal, probably on TV ... AJ or CNN carrying some "crazy" statement he makes that is the "detonate tomorrow at 0900Zulu" signal.

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