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Iran: 10 years from producing a nuke?
Posted by: McQ on Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Please excuse the skeptic in me, but the WaPo is reporting:
A major U.S. intelligence review has projected that Iran is about a decade away from manufacturing the key ingredient for a nuclear weapon, roughly doubling the previous estimate of five years, according to government sources with firsthand knowledge of the new analysis.

[...]

The new National Intelligence Estimate includes what the intelligence community views as credible indicators that Iran's military is conducting clandestine work. But the sources said there is no information linking those projects directly to a nuclear weapons program. What is clear is that Iran, mostly through its energy program, is acquiring and mastering technologies that could be diverted to bombmaking.
Why the skepticism? Well read the following found deep within the article:
Sources said the new timeline also reflects a fading of suspicions that Iran's military has been running its own separate and covert enrichment effort. But there is evidence of clandestine military work on missiles and centrifuge research and development that could be linked to a nuclear program, four sources said.

Last month, U.S. officials shared some data on the missile program with U.N. nuclear inspectors, based on drawings obtained last November. The documents include design modifications for Iran's Shahab-3 missile to make the room required for a nuclear warhead, U.S. and foreign officials said.

"If someone has a good idea for a missile program, and he has really good connections, he'll get that program through," said Gordon Oehler, who ran the CIA's nonproliferation center and served as deputy director of the presidential commission on weapons of mass destruction. "But that doesn't mean there is a master plan for a nuclear weapon."
It doesn't? Then what's the purpose of "design modifications ... to make the room required for a nuclear warhead?" In fact, what's the purpose for Iran's Shahab-3 missle at all?

That and the fact that Iran has not only the Shahab 3, but also the Shahab-4, both of which are modifications of the North Korean No-Dong missile. Iran has been in close contact with North Korea, which seems to have been ignored in this report. To pretend that NoKo, widely believed to have already developed and produced nuclear weapons, is only sharing MRBM knowledge (with its vital need for cash and other commodities) with Iran seems rather naive.

Add to that a recent revelation by Israeli intelligence of the conversion of the Shahab-3 from a liquid fueled missile to a solid fueled missile and you have even more of a threat.
Iran announced on 31 May that it has successfully tested a solid-fuel engine for its Shahab 3 medium-range ballistic missile (MRBM).

"Using solid fuel would be more durable and increase the range of the missile," said Iranian Defence Minister Ali Shamkhani in a TV interview in Tehran.

He stated that one of the two missile engines that were tested is intended for the Shahab 3, which, according to Iran, has a range of 2,000 km. "A missile using liquid fuel is short-lived. You can use it for a limited time. Solid fuel makes the missile durable and dramatically increases its accuracy," said Shamkhani.

The announcement alarmed Israeli intelligence agencies, which try to monitor Iran's advancing missile programme, yet few details were available on the announced test. "If, indeed, Iran developed a solid-fuel engine suitable for MRBMs, then it is a significant breakthrough for its missile programme," Uzi Rubin, former director of Israel's Missile Defence Agency, told JDW.
So excuse me if I take this assessment with a grain of salt. It seems to me to be fashioned to support a competing alternate view of the state of the nuclear program in Iran within the intelligence community, and frankly, based on the WaPo story, it isn't particularly convincing.

In a related story, Israel agrees with me (or maybe it's the other way around):
Israel has repeatedly warned that Iran, which already posses the Shahab-3 missile — a weapon capable of carrying a nuclear warhead and reaching Europe, Israel and U.S. forces in the Middle East — is a threat to the Jewish state.

"There is a growing understanding in the international community that the Iranian nuclear program is not benign," said Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev.
But it appears Israel isn't at all desirous of being the defacto "option" for ending Iran's nuclear weapon's bid:
However, Israeli experts said the world, led by the U.S., should deal with the problem.

[...]

"If the Americans, Europeans and Russians will not take Iran to the (U.N.) Security Council and put real pressure on them, they will produce nuclear capabilities," said Yuval Steinitz, chairman of the parliamentary Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.

[...]

"Israel has already said that its policy today is to leave the stage to the international players, the United States and Europe," said Efraim Halevy, the former head of Israel's Mossad spy agency. "I think Israel is acting wisely."
Many question Israel's capability to end the program even if it desired to do so:
Officials questioned Israel's ability to destroy Iran's nuclear installations. Israeli warplanes bombed the unfinished Iraqi nuclear reactor at Osirak near Baghdad in 1981. They said Iran's nuclear installations, unlike the Iraqi reactor, are dispersed throughout the country — many in populated areas, with sophisticated defense systems.

"I believe this is beyond our abilities," said Uzi Even, a former lawmaker and a Tel Aviv University expert on nuclear weapons.
Yeah, well, maybe that's true, if you talk conventional. But most know the world's worst kept secret is the Israeli nuclear capability. While I doubt that Israel would commit to a first strike, I don't believe it would hesitate to launch a second strike. But that being said, Israel prefers the diplomatic option and if there must be a military solution thinks it should be the US which does so:
Iran should fear the U.S., not Israel, Steinitz said. "The Americans have proven their ability to strike many sites simultaneously."
How about instead, Europe step up to the plate and increase the pressure on Iran to back away from the pursuit of nuclear weapons, or is that asking too much of them? It would seem that they'd be just as alarmed with the capability of Iran's missiles to reach Europe as the Israeli's are that they can reach Israel.

And then, of course, there's the ineffective UN.

Anyway, it seems to me, given other evidence as noted, that the new NEI report noted above is an incomplete assessment of Iran's capabilities as well as their intentions. It again gives me pause about the state of our intelligence apparatus if it is turning out this sort of product.
 
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Comments
"How about instead, Europe step up to the plate and increase the pressure on Iran to back away from the pursuit of nuclear weapons, or is that asking too much of them?"

Or hey, better yet, how about Europe and the US get used to the idea that they don’t get to dictate which weapons sovereign nations are "allowed" to have?

Tom Knapp
 
Written By: Thomas L. Knapp
URL: http://knappster.blogspot.com
better yet
Why would it be "better" for the US and Europe if Iran had nukes?
 
Written By: JWG
URL: http://www.qando.net
>how about Europe and the US get used to the idea that they don’t get to dictate which weapons sovereign nations are "allowed" to have?

Not "get to dictate" but, rather, get to strongly suggest. "Hey Ali, that’s a nice, expensive set of centrifuges you got there. I’d hate to see something happen to them, wouldn’t you?"
 
Written By: D
URL: http://
Quoth JWG:

"Why would it be ’better’ for the US and Europe if Iran had nukes?"

I didn’t say it would (although I could make an argument that it would—I just don’t think the argument holds a whole lot of water).

Thing is, there are limits to the ability to achieve foreign policy goals. The whole world is not going to just fall into line to make things "better" for the US and Europe. They’re interested in making things "better" for themselves—and in a conflict between the two, things can get a whole lot "worse" for everyone, very quickly.

As a matter of fact, that’s what this whole thing is about. Nobody with any sense actually believes that Iran is just itching to start busting nuclear caps in everyone else’s ass (if that was all they wanted, they almost certainly could have acquired the material for some quick and dirty fission devices and done it already). The whole point of trying to bludgeon them into giving up their nuclear program is to keep them in a position where they’re easier to push around. It ticks the US off to no end that Iran, one of two stable parliamentary democracies in the region (the other being Israel) won’t do the Step and Fetchit for Uncle Sam routine (and, for that matter, that that stable parliamentary democracy came into being at the expense of the loss of a client US dictatorship).

Iran certainly has expansionist ambitions, but those are already, in turns, being satisfied and contained. The US has handed Iraq to them, all tied up pretty with a bow on top. The former Soviet republics that they have eyes on have their own proxy nuclear deterrents to the extent that Russia is still very interested in ensuring that they remain Russian, rather than Iranian, client states, and to the extent that Russia is not so interested, nukes aren’t part of the probable package that would be contemplated ("flowers strewn in our paths"). Afghanistan seems to have reached fairly cordial relations with Tehran and the Iranians, being more sensible than the US, probably have no interest in trying to conquer it.

The Iranians probably (and probably incorrectly) anticipate that nukes would give them a better hand to play when kvetching with Israel, and they want a deterrent to make it more certain that the US won’t try any of the damnfoolishness with them that it pulled on their next-door neighbors.

Tom Knapp
 
Written By: Thomas L. Knapp
URL: http://knappster.blogspot.com
One problem, Mr. Knapp—Iran is a signatory to the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, and as such, is legally bound not to pursue nuclear weapons. The US is not dictating anything to anyone in this—it is simply trying to get Iran to live up to its treaty obligations.
 
Written By: bob
URL: http://
"Iran, one of two stable parliamentary democracies" Um... no.

Can you say totalitarian theocracy? I mean, when you’re not applying it to the Bush Administration? Cuz that is what Iran is. Its people are oppressed by the mullahs, not represented by them.
 
Written By: Dave
URL: http://www.thepatriette.com/dangerous
They’re interested in making things "better" for themselves
I agree.
[The US wants to] keep them in a position where they’re easier to push around
I agree again.

Maybe you didn’t phrase your original sentence very well, but you clearly implied that it would be "better" if we didn’t "dictate" that Iran could not acquire nukes. Since that means Iran would get them...your statement logically means that it’s better if Iran has nukes.

Why is it "better" if the US doesn’t exert it’s global power to stop the spread of nuclear weapons? Between the US butting in versus Iran getting nukes, you must think butting in will have worse consequences.

 
Written By: JWG
URL: http://www.qando.net
JWG,

That’s the disconnect.

I didn’t say that it would be "’better’ if we didn’t ’dictate.’"

I said, if you need clearer phrasing, that it would be "’better’ if we got it through our fucking heads that we can’t ’dictate.’"


You also ask,

"Why is it ’better’ if the US doesn’t exert it’s global power to stop the spread of nuclear weapons? Between the US butting in versus Iran getting nukes, you must think butting in will have worse consequences."

Precisely.

If Iran really wants nukes, the only way to stop them from getting nukes is to go to war with them. The US hasn’t even been able to pacify Iraq yet, and isn’t going to be able to. Attacking a country with three times the population, a much more modern military, real chemical weapons instead of imaginary ones and missiles that are accurate and long-range, unlike the Scud, would be stump-stupid. Presumably even the neocons aren’t idiotic enough to actually go to war with Iran at this time, so why not drop the posturing and get used to the idea that Iran is going to go from a regional power to the regional power. Better to have an ally, or at least a non-enemy, that you don’t have to fight, than an enemy that you can’t fight.

Bob,

As you should probably know with respect to treaties, they are simply not binding in any meaningful sense unless one or more parties are willing to wade in with tanks and make them meaningful. They can be dropped at will. The US has abrogated more treaties than you can shake a stick at (ever heard of the ABM treaty? Ever heard of the friggin’ Sioux?). Granted, Iran should probably just go ahead and say "screw the treaty" instead of playing out a line that it is not seeking nuclear weapons with its nuclear program, but at the end of the day, it’s the same result.

Dave,

To put it bluntly, you don’t know what you’re talking about. Yes, Iran has a constrained democracy in terms of who is allowed to run for and be elected to office. But not as constrained as, say, Oklahoma. Is that democracy also a theocracy? Yes—there’s no essential incompatibility between the two, the cult of democracy notwithstanding. Totalitarian? Not even close, and it’s an abuse of the word to use it in that context.

Tom Knapp
 
Written By: Thomas L. Knapp
URL: http://knappster.blogspot.com
The ABM treaty was stupid when it was signed, but abrogated hardly applies. In accordance with the treaty we opted out. As for the Sioux, they are finally protected from invaders for the first time in their existence, and they damn sure eat better.
You may be willing to abandon top dog and submit to the will of the pack. Keep your nobility to yourself. It is not too much to paraphrase a king and say after us, the deluge.
 
Written By: Walter E. Wallis
URL: http://
cult of democracy
This particular turn of phrase says everything about the speaker, methinks.
 
Written By: capt joe
URL: http://
Yep. After all, in this cult democracy of Oklahoma, we have the government sending gangs of thugs to kill protesters like, daily!
 
Written By: Dave
URL: http://www.thepatriette.com/dangerous
Okay, here we go with the "But we’ve got religious extremists too..." strawman.

>Yes, Iran has a constrained democracy...

Chalk one up for mendacious understatement of the year. There were literally thousands of candidates invalidated as "unsuitable" in Iran’s recent elections. Now, who gets to determine "suitability"? That’s right; Ayatollah Khamenei and his band of unelected, unaccountable oligarchs. There are absolutely no tools in the hands of the public to overturn that power. Couple this with the fact that Iran’s parliament serves a purely advisory role to the Supreme Ruler. Remember PM Khatami and his frustrated attempts to empower the public? That was not the result of bad luck or a failed "best effort" but the Iranian parliament working as designed, effectively marginalizing and ignoring the citizenry. Iran’s system of government can be called many things. But "democracy"? "Not even close, and it’s an abuse of the word to use it in that context. in any form."

>...Oklahoma. Is that democracy also a theocracy?

"To put it bluntly, you don’t know what you’re talking about." It is most definitely NOT a theocracy. Indeed, by definition Theocracy (government by religious doctrine) and Democracy (government by popular assent) are mutually exclusive. The state has a constitution and publicly elected officials that must regularly face the wrath of the voters. Granted, some of you sophistos living in rent-controlled blue neighborhoods like Cambridge, MA most certainly does not like recent legislative developments there. You are, undoubtedly, chagrined that religious philosophy was allowed to inform legislative debate. Of course such ideas are not "reality based" and, therefore, not allowed in the public sphere. Apparently, the representatives elected by the people of OK disagree with that assessment. That’s democracy, my friend; lumps, warts and all.

Anyways, suffice to say, US leadership has never had problems with other democracies having atomic arms in the past (UK, France, South Africa, Israel, India) and possibly in the future (Japan?, Taiwan?) because we trust that the constraints of public accountability on those countries leaders will force them to behave responsibly. Autocracies, OTOH, will always raise our ire. The Mullahs running Iran are no exception and no amount of democracy-like window dressing will change that fundamental fact.
 
Written By: D
URL: http://
McQ, Do you have those DU honey pots out again?

On the other hand, it does make me laugh. Not as much as the DNC complaining about Bush’s fitness regime but ..
 
Written By: capt joe
URL: http://
As far as Iran goes, the only thing wrong with our approach is our wording.

The problem isn’t Iran attempting to make a nuke, it’s Iran attempting to make a nuke. The non-proliferation treaty is worthless, instead of pointing to a toothless agreement the democratic nations of the world should stand up and say to the rest of the world "look, authoritarian nations don’t have an internal means of checking the power of their leaders. Thus, when they get the power to easily blow a few chunks out of countries they hate, the cost-benefit analysis they work with is slanted hard towards the benefit side. This is terrible for any semblance of stability, so we will not tolerate it. From here on out, you have a choice to make: political reform, or no nukes. Attempt to sidestep this, and we WILL react, rather harshly in fact".

 
Written By: b-psycho
URL: http://psychopolitik.blogspot.com
Quoth "D’ —

——
>...Oklahoma. Is that democracy also a theocracy?

"To put it bluntly, you don’t know what you’re talking about." It is most definitely NOT a theocracy.
——-

Either I wrote poorly, or you read poorly, or you purposely evaded what you knew to be the intended meaning. When I asked "is that democracy also a theocracy?" I was referring to Iran, not Oklahoma. Oklahoma is not a theocracy, or anything close to one. The comparison between Oklahoma and Iran was on the ability of individuals to run for office. In Iran, in order to run for office, one must first be approved by a religious council. In Oklahoma, in order to run for office, one must be chosen as the nominee of one of only two political clubs (the Democratic or Republican parties—no others need apply, as all others are disqualified from the ballot by law).

——-
by definition Theocracy (government by religious doctrine) and Democracy (government by popular assent) are mutually exclusive.
——-

Only if you exclude the real world your definitions. If popular assent affirms government by religious doctrine, then there can, indeed, be a theocratic democracy. It might be arguable whether there is popular assent in Iran to government by religious doctrine—but if there wasn’t, they’ve proven before that they know how to overthrow rulers they don’t like, even when those rulers are propped up by the US. If the popular will to overthrow the mullahs was there, how much easier would it be with the US on the side of the revolutionists? The dirty little secret of US policy on Iran is that we support one Islamist group (the Mujahadeen el Kalq—the same group which took the embassy hostages) versus the existing Islamist government. A secular democracy hasn’t been put on the table by anyone.

"Granted, some of you sophistos living in rent-controlled blue neighborhoods like Cambridge, MA"

Actually, I do live in an urban (although not rent-controlled) area now (St. Louis metro area); however, I’ve spent most of my life—the parts that weren’t spent on various military bases or in the Middle East—next door to Oklahoma, in southwestern Missouri.

Tom Knapp
 
Written By: Thomas L. Knapp
URL: http://knappster.blogspot.com
Either I wrote poorly, or you read poorly, or you purposely evaded what you knew to be the intended meaning.
I am going with the former. You wrote "But not as constrained as, say, Oklahoma. Is that democracy also a theocracy?" with "Oklahoma" more closely preceding the indefinite pronoun "that" then did "Iran". Accordingly, from what I recall from 4th grade composition class, "that" referred to Iran, not OK.
In Iran, in order to run for office, one must first be approved by a religious council. In Oklahoma, in order to run for office, one must be chosen as the nominee of one of only two political clubs..."
You have just undermined your own comparison. In OK, if the Dems. tell you Nyet! you can always go to their competition across the street. Besides, the State Constitution can be amended if enough citizens demand it long and hard enough, without a disruptive overthrow. In Iran, Supreme Leader Khamenei holds the ultimate authority and there is no end-running around him. The only way around this is via disruptive overthrow; an option you throw around quite glibly I might add. The parallel you seek is simply not there.
If popular assent affirms government by religious doctrine, then there can, indeed, be a theocratic democracy.
No, sir! If popular assent affirms government by religious doctrine, then the public has abrogated democracy because laws are no longer made by popular assent or representation. What you posit here is simply another instance of "one man, one vote, one time"; a decidedly non-democratic move whereever tried.

OTOH, maybe you want to argue that individual religious dictates can become law by the legislative process. If that happens then they hold force by being legislative law, not by being religious law. Indeed, the same processes (or parallel processes throught court proceedings) can repeal those laws and consign them to the same dust-bin as Plessy vs. Ferguson, Prohibition or any other act of late, unlamented memory.

A true theocracy demands that religious law be the immutable last word. Any system that allows the public to enact and repeal laws demands that the public have the immutable last word. These demands are irreconcilable. Period!
 
Written By: D
URL: http://
Come to that, here’s a fact for you:

Last Gubernatorial race, we had THREE candidates.

Democrat Brad Henry.

Republican Steve Largent.

and Independent Bill Richardson.

See? Three candidates. 1, 2, 3.

All others disqualified by law?

Bullshit, and you know it, if your claims about your past residences are correct. Writing poorly? Yeah, just a little.

You would be a hell of a lot more credible if you got your easily verified facts right.
 
Written By: Dave
URL: http://www.thepatriette.com/dangerous
...better yet, how about Europe and the US get used to the idea that they don’t get to dictate which weapons sovereign nations are "allowed" to have?

Always nice to see the paleolibertarian view represented. As usual, very concerned with the "sovereignty" of a rogue nation regardless of its intentions.

 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/
I’m gonna skip the troll baiting. But I have a seperate question. Is it just coincidence that every time Iran starts making serious progress on its nukes, and it becomes obvious enough that the rest of the world starts to get spurred towards action, that the CIA announces that Iran is much further away than thought? Is the politics ’twisting’ the intelligence?
 
Written By: blanknoone
URL: http://
blanknoone:

Politics only "twists" intelligence when said intelligence supports a conservative outlook, i.e., one that believes that there are real threats out there.

Throughout the 1970s, the CIA’s analysis said that the USSR wasn’t spending all that much on defense, wasn’t really much of a threat. George Bush Sr. stands up the "Team B" exercise, involving getting some outsiders to review the raw intel.

What did the likes of Richard Pipes and company conclude? The USSR was spending an enormous amount on defense. What did CIA and the academics immediately claim? Politicized intelligence!

Of course, the USSR was spending an enormous amount on defense, bankrupting their own country, but you’d not have gotten CIA in the 1970s to admit that.
 
Written By: Lurking Observer
URL: http://
Yeah, common people, I agree the CIA are pussies, they’re always trying to ruin a bit of the old warplay. Didn’t they almost wreck the fun in Iraq? I mean didn’t responsible people even to go as far as to set up their own intelligence office, to get some truth out?

So now, I’m too old already but how’s about you gals signing up to do some of the old ultra-violence in Iran making friends with the Khalq gang and the other neocon pals, and who knows like maybe ya gets to play with some of those new nukethingies. Then ya could smuggle some of that back and nuke some freedom spirit into Langley and to please the old preachin’ geezer Pattie do Foggy Bottom too.
 
Written By: Sgt Pinback
URL: http://

 
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