nuclear

Why Iran Should Get the Bomb: Not a Typo

by David Harris

When I first saw the headline in the current issue (July/August 2012) of Foreign Affairs – "Why Iran Should Get the Bomb" – I thought there was a typo. Surely it was meant to read "Why Iran Should Get the Bomb – Not!"

But then I remembered that this bimonthly journal is not known for its typos – nor, for that matter, irony.

On the contrary, this is arguably the world's most influential and straight-shooting publication on foreign policy.

The author of this particular essay, Kenneth Waltz, is no slouch, either. He is a prominent scholar and a founder of the neorealism school in international relations theory.

So I turned to the piece, eager to see if my own longstanding concern about an Iranian bomb was perhaps misplaced.

I was dumbfounded by what I read.

Here are a few choice snippets:

"Most U.S., European, and Israeli commentators and policymakers warn that a nuclear-armed Iran would be the worst possible outcome of the current standoff. In fact, it would probably be the best possible result: the one most likely to restore stability to the Middle East."

"Another oft-touted worry is that if Iran obtains the bomb, other states in the region will follow suit, leading to a nuclear arms race in the Middle East.... Should Iran become the second Middle Eastern nuclear power since 1945, it would hardly signal the start of a landslide.... No other country in the region will have an incentive to acquire its own nuclear capability, and the current crisis will finally dissipate, leading to a Middle East that is more stable than it is today."

"Diplomacy between Iran and the major powers should continue.... But the current sanctions on Iran can be dropped: they primarily harm ordinary Iranians, with little purpose."

And then there's Waltz's closing line: "When it comes to nuclear weapons, now as ever, more may be better."

In essence, Waltz constructs his argument on two pillars.

First, he asserts the core problem in the Middle East is Israel's nuclear arsenal, which needs to be balanced by another power, in this case Iran.

And second, he believes such a balance of power inherently stabilizes the situation, thereby reducing, not increasing, the risk of conflict.

He could not be more wrong on Iran.

Iran does not fit the theoretical template, drawn from his research, that he seeks to impose on it, and the consequences of this misreading could be profound.

First, Waltz declares that Iran's leaders are rational, hence no need for concern about a nuclear bomb in their hands.

Really?

Just because Waltz deems them to be dependable actors who, he asserts, will behave like others moderated by their possession of a nuclear bomb (does that include North Korea's strongmen?), are we all now to go home and get a good night's sleep?

Is their Shiite eschatology, focused on hastening the coming of the Hidden Imam, not to be taken into account, as if there were no place for state ideology in the discussion?

Apropos, is it just possible that their vision of the "end of days" could be accelerated by a world without Israel? After all, the former Iranian president, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, famously declared "[T]he use of even one nuclear bomb inside Israel would destroy everything."

Could that kind of thinking not prompt Iranian leaders, living in a self-imposed cocoon, to conclude that the risk might be worth the reward?

Was their recruitment of young Iranian boys as would-be bomb sappers in the eight-year war with Iraq, and armed only with plastic keys to enter "heaven" and the awaiting 72 virgins, the behavior of a "rational" government?

Was the plot to blow up a Washington restaurant and kill the Saudi ambassador to the U.S. the thinking of a predictable regime?

Second, Waltz's confidence that there would be no "landslide" of proliferation in the Middle East if Iran goes nuclear is belied by the facts.

He totally ignores the regional context. There is no mention of the critically important Shiite-Sunni rivalry. He inexplicably fails to note the panic in neighboring Arab countries, documented in Wikileaks and elsewhere, about the prospect of an Iranian nuclear bomb.

Is it conceivable that Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and, for that matter, Turkey would sit idly by and watch neighboring Iran become a nuclear power without following suit -- and with all the attendant consequences?

The prospect of such a neighborhood hegemon sends shivers up the spines of everyone in the region, save Iran's few friends, such as Bashar al-Assad's Syria, and those already too "Finlandized" by Iran's growing assertiveness to speak up.

And, speaking of proliferation, Waltz unconvincingly dismisses the possibility of Iran passing along its nuclear technology to terrorist groups, and entirely ignores the prospect of Tehran sharing nuclear tidbits with state actors, such as Hugo Chavez's Venezuela.

Third, Israel's nuclear arsenal, believed to have been developed over 50 years ago, has not created the strategic imbalance that Waltz suggests needs recalibrating.

Indeed, that reported arsenal neither stopped Egypt and Syria from provoking war in 1967, nor launching a surprise attack against Israel in 1973.

Nor did it halt the PLO from waging its terrorism campaign.

Nor did it dissuade Hamas and Islamic Jihad from firing thousands of missiles and rockets at Israel.

Nor did it block Hezbollah from triggering a war with Israel from its redoubt in Lebanon.

Moreover, unlike Iran, Israel has never threatened another nation with extinction.

Thus, to put Israel and Iran in the same boat, as Waltz does, is utterly irresponsible.

And finally, Waltz calls for the continuation of diplomacy with Iran and the end of sanctions. Huh?

Drop the sanctions, as Waltz suggests, and we will have precisely the outcome he invites – a nuclear-armed, chest-thumping Iran, convinced, not without good reason, that it had masterfully manipulated a gullible world. At that point, what useful purpose could diplomacy serve?

As the P5+1 faces the growing prospect of failed talks with Iran, there will doubtless be more calls from the likes of Waltz for some dramatic accommodation with Tehran.

Nothing could be more dangerous for regional and global stability.

And nothing would better prove our inability to learn the lessons of history than, to borrow from the title of Barbara Tuchman's book, such a march of folly.

 

Iran Could Have Fuel for Nuke by September: Where is Israel's Red Line?

by Ryan Mauro

Earlier this year, the American Enterprise Institute’s Critical Threats Project concluded that Iran could have the fuel for a single nuclear bomb by September. That is a frighteningly short time away but luckily, Iran would still have to construct the bomb and fit it onto a missile. The question is: Where is Israel’s red-line?

The think-tank determined that Iran could make enough 20% enriched uranium for a bomb by June. From there, it would take only “two and one half months” to make the fuel for a 15-kiloton weapon, roughly the power of the atomic bomb that destroyed Hiroshima.

This assessment is realistic. Top nuclear expert David Albright says that it would only take about 6 months to turn 20% enriched uranium into bomb-grade fuel if 500 to 1,000 centrifuges are used. In November, the IAEA reported that 412 centrifuges were installed at Fordow. It is presumed that Iran is adding more centrifuges as you read this. This supports the AEI study.

There are many more centrifuges at the Natanz site, but the Fordow site is of special concern. The site is clearly designed for nuclear weapons production, not a domestic energy program, and is buried deep in the mountains. There is a significant worry that Israeli munitions can’t destroy it. The IAEA recently reported that Iran has increased its stockpile of 20%-enriched uranium by nearly half, with over one-third of this increase coming from the Fordow site.

So, does Israel absolutely have to strike by September? Not necessarily, though Israel might reasonably decide it’s too dangerous to wait any longer.

Mark Fitzpatrick of the International Institute of Strategic Studies says that there is still time to stop Iran after it produces the bomb-grade fuel. He says it’ll still take Iran over a year to put together the bomb. The Israeli military-intelligence chief says it’ll take another 1-2 years after that for a nuclear warhead to be placed onto a missile.

The Israeli military-intelligence chief says Iran has enough uranium for four bombs and that it’ll take Iran about one year to make a bomb once it begins enriching above 20%. Once that starts happening, it’s clear that Iran has decided to build a bomb. That means Iran will have to either kick out the U.N. inspectors from Fordow or enrich it with them watching it and reporting every step of progress. That gives Israel and the international community time to react.

That is a bit more comforting but these projections rest on three notions: That Iran isn’t enriching uranium above 20% at a site we don’t know about, that our intelligence is accurate about how long it’ll take Iran to assemble a bomb and that our intelligence is accurate about how long it’ll take Iran to make a nuclear-armed missile.

For Israel, it is too risky to gamble that our intelligence knows all about Iran’s secret activities and capabilities, and we can wait until the very last moment until when, we think, Iran will be nuclear-armed.

Ryan Mauro is a National Security Analyst with the Clarion Fund, the founder of WorldThreats.com and a frequent guest expert on Fox News TV on the topic of national security.

 

Where are the Media? Yet Another Iranian Terror Plot Foiled

by Ryan Mauro

A Kuwaiti newspaper has broken the story that yet another Iranian-orchestrated, Hezbollah-implemented terrorist plot was foiled this week. A cell of three terrorist operatives was arrested in Singapore as Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak was visiting the country. They were planning on killing him in his hotel.

The ADD of the West, especially its media, is making it miss a point I made in a recent column I wrote on this website titled, Iran's Recent Terror Assault Barely News, Iran is becoming more and more aggressive as its nuclear program advances and as international pressure increases.

The full scope of what Iran has been up to is being missed because of the lightning-speed of the news cycle. Consider what happened just this month:

  • The aforementioned plot to assassinate the Israeli Defense Minister in Singapore was foiled.
  • Plots to simultaneously kill Israeli diplomats in the nation of Georgia and India were stopped.
  • An Iranian terrorist threw grenades after an accidental explosion foiled his cell’s plot to attack Israeli diplomats.
  • The West received intelligence about a joint plot by Iran and Al-Qaeda to carry out a “spectacular” attack, likely in Europe.

And before this month:

  • In January, a plot likely aimed at Israeli tourists was foiled in Thailand.
  • In November, an Iranian plot to carry out a wave of dramatic attacks against high-profile targets in Bahrain was stopped.
  • In October, the U.S. stopped an Iranian plot to kill the Saudi ambassador in Washington D.C. by blowing up a restaurant he was to dine at. The plotters also discussed attacks on the Saudi and Israeli embassies in the U.S. and Argentina.

Is there any wonder why Israel is considering military action to stop Iran from getting a nuclear weapon?

Thu, January 30, 2014 Turkey's Possible Nuclear Ambitions

Illustrative photo of a nuclear reactor. © Reuters

Illustrative photo of a nuclear reactor. © Reuters

by: 
Ryan Mauro

Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan recently met with the Prime Minister of Japan to discuss the construction of four nuclear reactors in Sinop. The $22 billion deal would allow Turkey to enrich uranium and extract plutonium, two processes needed for nuclear weapons creation.

Reports that Erdogan’s government was debating building nuclear weapons, or at least the capacity to quickly produce them, began surfacing in September 2008. International relations analyst Mehmet Kalyoncu wrote in Today’s Zaman that Turkey is “intensifying its lobbying in Western capitals, most notably in Washington, to get the green light to develop nuclear weapons.”

The Global Information System reported in July 2010 that Erdogan’s party was debating whether to move forward in developing a nuclear weapons program. It said that secret nuke research was already in progress, but uranium-based nuclear reactors would have to be constructed if the green light was given. That’s exactly what Japan just agreed to help Turkey build.

The reports indicated that Erdogan was driven by a desire to counter the nuclear ambitions of Iran, but he has been moving his country closer and closer to that terrorism-sponsoring regime. Erdogan traveled to Iran this week as part of the two countries’ efforts to get past their differences in Syria. He said that Iran “feels like a second home.” A deal regarding natural gas was also announced. Iran and Turkey are hoping to form powerful energy partnership.

In September 2012, Erdogan gave an interview to the Washington Post where he claimed that Iran is not seeking nuclear weapons but expressed sympathy with why Iran might want to.

“But let’s say a country that doesn’t have nuclear weapons gets involved in building them, then they are told by those that already have nuclear weapons that they oppose [such a development]. Where is the justice in that?” he asked.

The Erdogan government seems to get immunity because it’s a member of NATO and official U.S. ally. No diplomat will crave confronting Turkey over its drift towards Islamism, crackdowns on freedom, possible nuclear weapons drive and support for terrorist groups and regimes.

The argument against confronting Turkey is that it will push the country away from the West geopolitically—but that argument is about delaying the inevitable. Erdogan isn’t being pushed away from the U.S.; he’s pulling away from the U.S.

It’s time to reconsider our relationship with Turkey. Being called an “ally” is a privilege and not something to be taken for granted.

Wed, July 4, 2012 How a Desperate Iran Will React to Sanctions

by: 
Ryan Mauro

The European Union’s embargo on Iranian oil went into effect on Sunday, July 1. Other countries cut back their imports. The regime admits it’s feeling the sting but is boisterously defiant. These sanctions are the toughest yet but they will only succeed in stopping Iran’s nuclear program if the regime’s very existence is threatened. The key question now is whether it is too late for sanctions to work.

The pain caused by these sanctions should not be dismissed. Estimates vary as to how much of the regime’s revenue comes from oil exports, with some saying its 50% and others putting it as high as 85%. No matter what the truth is, the Iranian economy was a shambles before these sanctions began. In 2010, the regime had to cut funding to Hezbollah by about 40% because of financial restraints. Plus, rising domestic consumption takes away from Iran’s oil exports more and more each year. Some studies forecast that Iran would have to cease all oil exports in order to accommodate its own oil needs by 2015.

Iran’s exports began collapsing immediately after the U.S. began planning sanctions on foreign companies involved in the regime’s oil trade. The regime is suffering from a 40% decline in oil exports already. Iran has already lost at least $10 billion as its output is at its lowest level in 20 years. Inflation is above 20% and the Iranian people are, unfortunately, under tremendous stress. “Little by little, even fruit is becoming a luxury,” said one shopkeeper in Tehran.

The Obama Administration is being criticized for issuing exemptions from sanctions to Iran’s top 20 oil buyers. However, in fairness, the “stick” of possible sanctions and “carrot” of possible exemptions forced these countries to reduce their purchases.

Japan received an exemption for cutting back its Iranian oil imports by 15-22%. Singapore, which only gets about 1% of its oil from Iran, was exempted but its imports are on a “very sharp downward trend.”  Turkey’s state-owned oil company, Tupras, reduced imports in May by 20%. The remaining buyers of Iranian oil are likely to sense this dependency and, with the strong hand at the negotiating table, demand price cuts.

This approach was less successful with China, India and South Korea. China, for example, cut its oil imports from Iran by about 50% earlier this year over a dispute over prices. Its level of imports has gone back to normal in the past three months. The six-month exemption means that China will be buying about 500,000 barrels of oil from Iran every single day until then. India only cut its imports by 11%. South Korea originally said it would end all imports of Iranian oil on July 1 because it couldn’t get insurance for its tankers. Iran is offering to use its own tankers to transport the supply and South Korea is considering it.

There are other loopholes in the sanctions. For example, Genesis Assets Managers, which invests in a company with a portfolio entirely based on business with Iran, has escaped punishment. The Iranian Bonyads (charitable trusts) pose a bigger problem, as the Money Jihad blog explains. These are tax-exempt charities partially owned by the regime that are under the direct supervision of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. They control 20-40% of Iran’s entire GDP but are off-limits from sanctions because of their charitable work. There is no transparency and donations made to them, either in the form of goods or in cash, sustain the regime and could be easily diverted to paying its security services, sponsoring terrorism or its WMD programs.

Iran is trying to display strength. It boasts that it has $150 billion in foreign reserves and is earning revenue from increased exports of electricity to Turkey and Iraq. The Tehran Times reports that the price of oil rose 9% because of the embargo, but the India Times says oil prices actually dropped on July 2.

One concern is how Iran will react to the embargo. The regime needs major oil revenue. If it must sell less, then it needs to get a higher price per barrel. Iran must also hope that higher oil prices will pressure countries to reverse course and increase their imports again. One way to do this is through conflict. A terrorist strike on Saudi oil fields, for example, would accomplish this. The Saudis and the United Arab Emirates paved the way for the sanctions by increasing their output and Iran clearly threatened them in return.

The Iranians should be expected to strike at the Arab countries and perhaps even in the West. The Iranian parliament is now discussing legislation authorizing the regime to intercept any oil tanker transiting the Strait of Hormuz from a country taking part in the sanctions. The Saudis have prepared for this scenario by reviving an old pipeline so they can sell oil through the Red Sea if necessary.

Confrontation is on the way, not only because it is in the regime’s nature, but because it needs it.

Ryan Mauro is RadicalIslam.org's National Security Analyst and a fellow with the Clarion Fund. He is the founder of WorldThreats.com and is frequently interviewed on Fox News.

This article appeared originally in FrontPageMag.com

Mon, July 2, 2012 Iran Boasts: War Inevitable

by: 
Reza Kahlili

Just days after the breakdown of talks with the West over Iran's nuclear program, the deputy chief commander of the Revolutionary Guards announced that there soon will be war - and that Allah will ensure his forces are victorious.

The last round of talks between Iran and the P5+1 (the United States, Britain, France, China, Russia and Germany) ended in Moscow last week without any agreement on Iran's illicit nuclear program.

Gen. Hossein Salami, in a televised interview, boasted that, "Iran has complete control of all the enemy's interests around the world and is on a path to reach equivalency with world powers." The commander emphasized that Iran's nuclear program is irreversible, the Islamic Republic News Agency reported.

Salami said war is inevitable, and the Iranian forces are ready.

"The current sanctions will only help Iran with its progress, and the Iranian ballistic missiles can target the enemy's moving carriers with 100 percent accuracy," he warned the West. "The Guards' operational plan includes a radius of deterrence in the region in which all interests of the enemy have been identified, and in case of war, those interests will be attacked."

Guards' commanders have stated previously that all U.S. bases in the region are targeted with missiles and will be attacked should America strike Iran.

Salami said Iranian ballistic missiles can travel at several times the speed of sound and cannot easily be tracked and destroyed. "Our defense inventory is so great that at times our brothers in the Guards face limitations with space."

The Revolutionary Guards have more than 1,000 ballistic missiles capable of reaching all U.S. bases in the region, all of Israel and some capitals in Europe. In collaboration with China and North Korea, they are also working on intercontinental ballistic missiles.

Salami said the Guards are on high alert, adding, "Our forces in relation to our internal security will complete their mission with all of their capability."

In 2009, millions of Iranians took to the street demanding regime change, but ultimately the uprising was cruelly suppressed and many Iranians were tortured and executed. According to statistics from the Islamic regime's Justice Department, all Iranian prisons are overflowing and there is a need for more prisons. As reported by Iranian officials, last year alone more than 600 people were executed, including women.

Salami repeated that the Guards are ready for war, which is close, and though it will be very difficult, "We have faith in Allah."

Reza Kahlili is a pseudonym for a former CIA operative in Iran’s Revolutionary Guard and author of the award-winning book, A Time to Betray. He is a senior fellow with EMPact America, a member of the Task Force on National and Homeland Security, an advisory board member of the Foundation for Democracy in Iran and teaches at the U.S. Department of Defense’s Joint Counterintelligence Training Academy (JCITA).

 

 

Wed, June 27, 2012 Iran: How Long Does the World Wait

by: 
Clare Lopez

As the third round of talks about Iran’s nuclear weapons program among the P-5+1 powers – China, France, Great Britain, Russia, the U.S., and Germany – sputtered to their inevitable, failed conclusion in Moscow in mid-June 2012, not even the European Union foreign policy chief leading the effort, Catherine Ashton, could put a positive spin on things. Negotiators could agree to nothing more than some technical talks in July 2012 in Istanbul to decide whether there is any basis for … more talks.

The fundamental problem is that nobody actually believes anymore that Iran is doing anything other than building nuclear weapons. Neither the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the United States, nor any major Western power believes Iran’s assertions that it’s all for peaceful purposes only.

Most critically, Israel doesn’t believe it either. The latest talks broke down over Iranian refusal to meet minimum IAEA and P5 + 1 country demands for a halt to enrichment activities.  Instead, Iran continues to demand the “right” to enrich uranium, despite a series of seven UN Security Council Resolutions calling on it to cease all enrichment activities and six rounds of sanctions aimed at compelling Iranian compliance.

Of course, no such right exists, much less the “inalienable right of the Iranian nation" that Saeed Jalili, Iran’s chief negotiator would like to claim. No agreement was reached on other outstanding areas either, such as what to do with the uranium Iran already has enriched, the shut-down of the Fordow enrichment plant near Qom or a firm date for International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors to visit the Parchin facility.

According to estimates by the Wisconsin Project, Iran currently has enough Low Enriched Uranium (LEU) to make four nuclear weapons, if it were to enrich that uranium further to weapons grade level (90% or higher U-235). In addition, Iran has also been converting some of that LEU into research reactor grade uranium (up to just below 20% U-235).

The May 2012 IAEA Safeguards Report on Iran noted that not only had Iran rapidly and significantly increased its production of 3.5% enriched uranium at Natanz, but also had installed over 1,000 new centrifuges at the Qom Fordow facility as well. Exactly what Iran is doing or planning to do at the deeply-buried underground enrichment site near Qom has not been verified, but Iran told the IAEA that it was planning to enrich uranium up to the 20% level (which makes it Highly Enriched Uranium—HEU) there and that it had begun doing so as of January 2012.

Activity observed at the Parchin facility is also the source of considerable concern. Parchin, located some 18 miles south of Tehran, is a military complex that includes a high explosive containment chamber whose suspected purpose is the testing of neutron triggers for a nuclear bomb.

The IAEA noted in its 25 May 2012 report that Iran continues to deny it access to inspect the Parchin facility, while June 2012 reporting from the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) described recent satellite imagery showing at least two razed buildings and tracks from heavy machinery that has been used to scrape the earth’s surface at the site.

Iran’s apparent effort at a D & D (Denial and Deception) operation at Parchin closely mirrors the same kind of clean-up activities observed in the 2003-2004 timeframe at another Iranian nuclear weapons R & D site called Lavizan-Shian.

The Lavizan-Shian site was revealed to the public for the first time in May 2003 by the Iranian opposition group, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI). A decision by the Iranian National Security Council (NSC) to raze that site to the ground and conduct extensive clean-up operations appeared similarly designed to prevent IAEA inspectors from discovering the exact nature of reported nuclear warhead and warhead trigger R & D being conducted there.

The 2003-2004 Lavizan-Shian clean-up effort apparently was so successful that it prompted the December 2007 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iran which claimed Iran had halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003.

Understood at the time to have been politically motivated (to prevent President George W. Bush from mounting a military strike against Iran’s nuclear weapons facilities), that NIE in retrospect now must be viewed in the context of the Iranian intelligence service’s highly sophisticated offensive influence operations.

The IAEA’s February 2012 Safeguards Report on Iran also noted that Iran had still not clarified its previously declared intention to construct 10 new enrichment facilities, failed to suspend work at the Arak heavy water research reactor and failed to provide the IAEA access to take samples at Arak.

The sum total of these persistent problem areas with regard to Iran’s IAEA non-compliance have resulted in some of the most explicit language the IAEA has used yet in its Safeguards reports on Iran dating from November 2011 and including both the February and May 2012 reports:  

“... [T]he Agency is unable to provide credible assurance about the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran, and therefore to conclude that all nuclear material in Iran is in peaceful activities. The Agency continues to have serious concerns regarding possible military dimensions to Iran’s nuclear programme…”  (Source: IAEA Board of Governors Report, GOV/2012/9, Date: 24 February 2012)

“[T]he Board of Governors … expressed deep and increasing concern about the unresolved issues regarding the Iranian nuclear programme, including those which need to be clarified to exclude the existence of possible military dimensions.” (Source: IAEA Board of Governors Report, GOV/2012/23, Date: 25 May 2012)

The question for the IAEA, the U.S. and the other members of the P-5 + 1 group must be, “At what point do ineffectual sanctions and more talks about more talks give way to serious consideration of other means, military strikes and regime change if necessary, to stop Iran from deploying nuclear weapons?” And if the international community refuses to fulfill its obligations, how long can it be before Israel exercises its legal right to anticipatory self-defense?

Clare Lopez is a senior fellow at RadicalIslam.org and a strategic policy and intelligence expert with a focus on the Middle East, national defense and counterterrorism. Lopez began her career as an operations officer with the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

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