Nuclear proliferation

2007 02 26
Pakistan


An ill Matthew Yglesias confesses he doesn’t know how exactly the U.S. ought to conduct itself with respect to Pakistan. Bradford Plumer has a nice summary of the problem (click through for the hyperlinks):

Most policymakers and pundits don’t seem to know how to deal with Pakistan. (I certainly don’t.) On the one hand, the United States wants Musharraf to be more aggressive about hunting down Al Qaeda operatives in North Waziristan. On the other hand, moving too aggressively against that part of the country might cause Musharraf’s government to collapse, in which case radical Islamists could seize power–and with it, control of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal. Scary stuff.

Plumer then wonders:

At any rate, I’m curious to know what sort of safeguards Pakistan has in place to prevent its nukes from falling in the wrong hands, should, say, Taliban sympathizers in the intelligence services stage a coup (or whatever). The reporting on this front appears patchy. In 2004, Graham Allison warned that the security measures were still much too flimsy, and wanted the United States and China to do a thorough review of Pakistan’s nuclear stockpile, in order to help Musharraf set up proper controls. That would involve a lot of delicate diplomacy–especially since Pakistan is understandably reluctant to open its arsenal up to outside inspection–but it doesn’t seem completely undoable.

So what’s actually being done? A Congressional Research Service report in 2005 noted that the United States was offering some assistance, but mostly to “focus on helping secure nuclear materials and providing employment for personnel, rather than on security of nuclear weapons.” See also here. And last August, Pakistan declared that it had set up a “tri-command nuclear force,” but it’s not clear whether that would safeguard the weapons in the event of a coup. (In any case, the country’s past assurances on this score have been fairly suspect.) Those seem to be the main media stories of late. Who knows, perhaps the administration really is doing all it can here, but I’d sort of like to see a closer investigation.

There’s also the possibility of war with rival-nuclear-power-India to worry about. As for solutions, I too am stumped by the larger problem of how to deal with a nuclear power struggling with militants, rogue intelligence services, and hostilities with a nuclear neighbour. My modest suggestion of the day is that if I were in charge of U.S. foreign policy, I would have made a resolution of the Kashmir dispute a very high priority around 2002 (when things got very heated for a while between India and Pakistan), if I hadn’t already.

Obviously Kashmir is a tricky issue, but it’s not an impossible one. Constructive and careful intervention by an outside party might well make real progress on the issue, perhaps even leading to a solution that most of the parties could live with. This would be valuable for two reasons. First, one thing people are always forgetting is just how radicalizing the issue of Kashmir is within Pakistan. If you care about the issue of Islamic radicals in Pakistan – and you really ought to care – then you should be very interested in steps that might remove a major cause around which militants in the country have tended to rally. Second, obviously, a resolution of (or even progress on) the Kashmir dispute would significantly reduce the probability of a nuclear exchange on the subcontinent, an exchange that would be disastrous for the entire world’s environment and leave millions dead and dying.

Anyway, all this is just to say that I’ve spent the last few years wondering why this isn’t a very big priority for people whose opinions matter.


Howls of outrage (4)

2006 11 14
A nuke free Iraq


Perhaps it’s just the fact that I haven’t been keeping up much with Iraq-related commentary, but for what it’s worth I have the sense that a lot of people are missing the following point: As soon as Iraq does emerge in 5 or 10 years from the chaos of a full blown civil war, if there is any country left at all at that point, a top priority for whoever comes out at the top will be to secure nuclear weapons. It’s the nature of the neighbourhood, and the logic of proliferation in general. So please don’t think, “Well, on the one hand there’s going to be an increasingly brutal civil war, but at least Iraq won’t get nukes.” They will, and they’ll be in the hands of the sort of people who win civil wars. At best, the nuclear-weapons-in-the-hands-of-an-Iraqi-dictator scenario has been postponed for exactly as long as a brutal civil war, and no longer.

I think war supporters miss this, when they do, because they assumed all along that a U.S. friendly government in Iraq would co-operate with the U.S. in its counter-proliferation efforts. But that assumption, to which they were never entitled, is all the more absurd now.

And also on Iraq, watch me despair in this thread.


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2006 04 18
North Korea, Iran


I’m busy but I do hate to disappoint my many fans. So, quick post, in the form of a question or two: What’s the deal with North Korea these days? When the administration was last starting to sound serious about North Korea, you could hardly hear a peep about Iran from anyone (except Michael Leeden, crying in the wilderness). Now Iran’s all the rage and you’d think that raising the North Korea issue would get you nothing but yawns and blank stares. What gives? Has the administration simply thrown in the towel on North Korea? Or is the next stage to turn away from Iran and start sounding all Churchillian about North Korea again? Granted, this might confuse the hell out of both North Korea and Iran. But what’s going on? Have I missed something? I had the impression earlier that the President was trying to mediate between competing factions in an administration divided between a party that wanted to engage North Korea and a party that wanted to get serious about military action. Did he forget to decide?

For the record, I think that a North Korea with nukes is a bit more terrifying than an Iran with nukes and that military action against either would be insane. It’s a tough call, but my vote for the crazier course of action goes to military action against North Korea.


Howls of outrage (10)

2006 04 17
Round up (risen from the dead edition)


Have I mentioned that the stomach flu isn’t any fun? I’m getting better, but I still feel like I have a shot put in my stomach after eating even the blandest foods. Luckily I can make a fine feast of self-pity in any situation. Anyway . . .

— Make sure to update your Mozilla products. Now.

— I used the time I was vomiting and then recovering from vomiting to reflect on my recent Iran predictions. One thing missing from it is a sense of grim foreboding, which I somehow neglected to include. You might get the false impression from my predictions that I’m more or less sanguine about the Iran situation, since I don’t think the U.S. is going to do the stupidest thing possible out of the range of alternatives they’re considering (tactical nuclear strikes, or even air strikes). But no. Of course it sucks that Iran will get nuclear weapons sooner or later, and U.S. bungling on the issue probably makes it sooner. Also, although I strongly suspect that Hersh makes too much of the contingency plans being drawn up by the U.S., if the plans do include a tactical nuclear strike, the wisest words I’ve read so far will have to be Henley’s:

Whether or not nukes get used, the whispering campaign still tends to normalize discourse advocating the first use of tactical nuclear weapons as a policy option.

That is a tremendous cost, a cost already incurred as a result of the debate so far. Matters aren’t helped when supposedly centrist commentators like Joe Klein speed that process along. A serious counterproliferation efforts requires, among many other things the U.S. has failed to do, a principled and highly public commitment to refrain from first-strike use of nuclear weapons.

— Speaking of that Hersh article, I think Umansky has the right instincts. It’s far too much “I spoke with the friend of a first cousin of a civilian who lives next door to a retired general who once met Bush at a luncheon when he was governor who has a great intuitive sense of the man’s next move, and he gave me this awesome tough guy quote that I pull out whenever I drink whiskey with someone I’m trying to impress about Bush thinking the stakes are really high on this one.” E.g.,

A government consultant with close ties to the civilian leadership in the Pentagon said that Bush was �absolutely convinced that Iran is going to get the bomb� if it is not stopped. He said that the President believes that he must do �what no Democrat or Republican, if elected in the future, would have the courage to do,� and �that saving Iran is going to be his legacy.�

How the fuck does he know? What, did he have a heart-to-heart with the Prez? Or with someone who had a heart-to-heart with the Prez? How many heart-to-hearts, exactly, is he removed from this insight? And how do the various and conflicting interests hidden in these hearts twist the original message? After all, in Washington, power is often very much a function of proximity to the President, and influence is very much a matter of how that proximity is represented to others. I know Hersh does some great reporting, but he also does lousy reporting. I just don’t know. But neither do you, chump.

— A lot of the British lefties have their knickers in a knot over the Euston Manifesto. It’s a pity I’m really fucking busy over the next month. It’s just the sort of thing I used to love to blog about.


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2006 03 01
Ignatius on Iran


David Ignatius’s column today would be the subject of a lengthy what-does-this-say-about-American-political-culture? post if I were still blogging in earnest. Little snippets:

Juxtaposed this week are the two poles of the emerging world: India and Iran. They are alpha and omega, the dream and the nightmare. One symbolizes the promise of globalization, the other the threat of global disorder.

What they share, unfortunately, is a passion to be members of the nuclear club. India has nuclear weapons; Iran wants them. Between them stands the United States, trying to set rules that will apply to both — rewarding the good boy while maintaining an ability to punish the bad one.
. . .
The world is ready to accept India as a nuclear power because its actions have given other nations confidence that it seeks to play a stabilizing role. A world where behavior matters gets the incentives right: It forces Iran to demonstrate its reliability so that, over time, it can be seen in the same league as India and Pakistan.

Throughout the piece Ignatius switches, apparently as little more than a stylistic variant, between “the world,” “the West” and the “United States.” Like a parent – patient, wise and firm – the U.S. will sort out the “boys” – lesser countries – depending on how they behave.

How all of this is supposed to work, how the U.S. is supposed to get anyone else to take its role as global father-figure, after the Iraq War, after its own irresponsible nuclear behaviour, is a mystery. Irresponsible behaviour on the part of the U.S. includes: developing, for a time, nuclear bunker busters, refusing to do anything serious about nuclear weapons stockpiles, and, reportedly, threatening to use U.S. nuclear weapons against Iraq at the beginning of the first Gulf War (Baker to Aziz). It’s often conveniently forgotten that the non-proliferation conventions frequently appealed to by the U.S. also contain provisions requiring nuclear powers to take certain steps which they haven’t taken.

The mention of Pakistan at the end of the bit quoted is a nice touch, too, isn’t it? India’s rhetoric about nuclear weapons has been pretty irresponsible at times (2002, especially), but Pakistan is just such an irresponsible, reckless proliferationist basket case that Ignatius’s might have done better just to pretend that India was the only nuclear power on the subcontinent. Ignatius knows, of course, that Pakistan is useful to the U.S. in related but different areas, and that this means that Big Daddy U.S. has special reasons to overlook Pakistan’s own history with nuclear weapons. And he knows that overlooking Pakistan’s own behaviour is inconsistent with his attempt to defend some sort of standard against which to measure Iranian behaviour. So – facts be damned – Pakistan gets tacked on as an afterthought as part of a “league” that includes India and other responsible fledgling nuclear powers.

I’m not saying the U.S. should just throw in the towel on nuclear proliferation. On the contrary, it needs to get serious about it. But it’s a non-starter to single out Iran when the problem also includes the U.S. and France and Pakistan, along with a boatload of inconvenient facts.


Howls of outrage (4)

2005 08 14
Help!


I’m especially interested in getting some feedback on this post (on Iran and nuclear weapons). If you have any thoughts, please jump right in.


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2005 08 13
Bush warns Iran


The BBC:

US President George W Bush says he still has not ruled out the option of using force against Iran, after it resumed work on its nuclear programme.

He said he was working on a diplomatic solution, but was sceptical that one could be found.

The UN’s atomic watchdog has called on Iran to halt nuclear fuel development.

Iran, which denies it is secretly trying to develop nuclear arms, restarted work at its uranium conversion plant at Isfahan on Monday.

“All options are on the table,” said Mr Bush, when asked about the possible use of force during an interview for Israeli TV.

“The use of force is the last option for any president. You know we have used force in the recent past to secure our country,” he said.

The BBC’s Jonathan Beale in Washington says the president wants to send a clear warning to Tehran, although in reality the US already has its hands full in neighbouring Iraq.

I think Mr. Beale is on to something there. For the reason he gives, and others, I’m inclined to doubt that the U.S. (or Israel) is going to use force against Iran over this issue. On the other hand, the time is certainly right, in the sense that Iran doesn’t have nukes just yet, and force will be much harder to apply after that point. We’ll see.

One interesting question is: Does the U.S. have any right at all to behave in this way? So much of the reporting on the Iran/nukes issue seems to simply assume that Europe and the U.S. are behaving perfectly reasonably in demanding (and backing the demands with threats) that Iran restrict its activities in ways that they wouldn’t themselves accept (in Europe, think especially of the French). Notice that this is distinct from the question of whether I want Iran to have nukes. I most certainly do not. The question is rather: Given U.S. behaviour, what right does the Bush administration have to put this kind of pressure on Iran? The relevant U.S. behaviour includes maintaining enormous stockpiles of nuclear weapons, and aggressively pushing forward in the development of new nuclear technologies, including mini-nukes, which they’re marginally more likely to use than the regular kind. Also relevant: The U.S. did threaten Iraq with a nuclear strike during the first Gulf War, and everyone knows it. It was a bluff, I’m sure, but it’s still relevant to what a rational actor in the region might expect to come up against in the future.

If you want to argue that Iran has no legitimate right to nukes, in contrast to France and the U.S., I think your best bet is to appeal to the deeply flawed character of the Iranian political system. The idea would be that the Iranian government can’t legitimately possess nukes, then, because it isn’t in fact a legitimate government. It isn’t a legitimate government, because, e.g., its recent elections were too flawed for it to plausibly be said to legitimately represent the citizens of Iran.

The problem is: I doubt this works.

For one thing, it conveniently looks only at the domestic behaviour of the Iranian regime, and ignores behaviour on the international stage. There is no question that the U.S. treats its own citizens better than Iran does. But the U.S. is responsible for some pretty ugly stuff, if we broaden our perspective to include international behaviour.

But even if we set this aside, there is still this: The elections were seriously flawed, and there is much to be desired in the workings of Iranian society today, as far as I can tell. If they want to throw themselves another revolution to get rid of those awful Mullahs, I wish them well. But for all its problems, Iran is a good deal more open than a lot of countries. With a country like North Korea, I really do think that the government is so thoroughly wretched and so thoroughly lacking in legitimacy that its citizens are better thought of as essentially prisoners, and when we refer to the “government,” we ought to do so only if we remember that we’re stretching language. But Iran isn’t like that. And so long as the government of Iran is the government, it has a right and a responsibility to defend the sovereignty of the country. If that’s the case, I don’t see why the development of a nuclear deterrent is necessarily wrong, unless it is for reasons that rule out the development of a nuclear deterrent for all countries.

What do people think? Does Iran have a right to develop a nukes? Or, in case you think that no country has actually has the right to develop nukes, are there special reasons that give Iran even less of a right to develop nukes than the U.S. or France?


Howls of outrage (16)

2005 07 19
U.S., India May Share Nuclear Technology


This is just baffling. The story gets at some of the administration’s motivation – which is fine as far as it goes – but the move seems so short-sighted and so at odds with the rest of the adminstration’s aims and policies that I can hardly believe the story is accurate.

President Bush agreed yesterday to share civilian nuclear technology with India, reversing decades of U.S. policies designed to discourage countries from developing nuclear weapons.

The agreement between Bush and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, which must win the approval of Congress, would create a major exception to the U.S. prohibition of nuclear assistance to any country that doesn’t accept international monitoring of all of its nuclear facilities. India has not signed the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which requires such oversight, and conducted its first nuclear detonation in 1974.

Participants in the discussions said there had been debate within the administration about whether the deal with India — which built its atomic arsenal in secret — would undercut U.S. efforts to confront Iran and North Korea over their nuclear programs. There were also concerns about how the agreement would be accepted in Pakistan, India’s regional rival and an ally in the U.S. campaign against al Qaeda.

But supporters of the approach said it was an important part of a White House strategy to accelerate New Delhi’s rise as a global power and as a regional counterweight to China. As part of the strategy, the administration is also seeking ways to bolster Japan’s posture in the region.

[. . . ]

Under the terms of the deal, India agreed to place its civilian nuclear facilities — but not its nuclear weapons arsenal — under international monitoring and pledged to continue to honor a ban on nuclear testing. In return, it would have access, for the first time, to conventional weapons systems and to sensitive U.S. nuclear technology that can be used in either a civilian or a military program. It could also free India to buy the long-sought-after Arrow Missile System developed by Israel with U.S. technology.

The agreement does not call for India to cease production of weapons-grade plutonium, which enables India to expand its nuclear arsenal.

[. . .]

The White House faces two major hurdles to put the deal into effect. One is altering rules in the Nuclear Suppliers Group, a consortium of more than 40 countries that controls export of nuclear technology. The group has been unreceptive to previous Bush administration initiatives and will be reluctant to create country-specific rules, said George Perkovich, a nuclear specialist at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

The other challenge will be persuading Congress to change the U.S. Nonproliferation Act, which prevents sales of sensitive nuclear technology to countries that refuse monitoring of nuclear facilities.

Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) condemned the agreement as a “dangerous proposition and bad nonproliferation policy” and said he will introduce legislation to block it. “We cannot play favorites, breaking the rules of the nonproliferation treaty, to favor one nation at the risk of undermining critical international treaties on nuclear weapons,” he said in a statement. “What will Russia say when they want to supply more nuclear materials or technology to Iran? You can be sure that Pakistan will demand equal treatment.”

Jesus. Can this really be as stupid as it looks?


Howls of outrage (6)

2005 02 07
Osirak revisited


Last year I got a bit worked up about Noam Chomsky’s view of the consequences of Israel’s strike on Iraq’s nuclear power plant at Osirak. Recently, I’ve seen two interesting arguments in favour of Chomsky’s view, and against my own. For anyone who didn’t get enough of this issue the last time around, Eric Umansky has a brief post on the subject worth reading.


Howls of outrage (4)

2004 12 02
North Korea


The Poor Man has some thoughts on North Korea. I think he may push the “they’re completely crazy” line a bit too far – at least I hope he’s pushing it too far. But the main point – that North Korea has absolutely no good reason give up nuclear weapons and a number of good ones to pursue them – seems correct.

A surprising amount of commentary in the U.S. about nuclear proliferation seems to overlook this fairly basic point. I hope to return to this point – along with a few sticky moral questions about anti-proliferation efforts – in connection with Iran as soon as I get a chance.


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2004 11 23
Mini-nukes


This is really good news:

Congress has eliminated the financing of research supported by President Bush into a new generation of nuclear weapons, including investigations into low-yield atomic bombs and an earth-penetrating warhead that could destroy weapons bunkers deep underground.

The Bush administration called in 2002 for exploring new nuclear weapons that could deter a wide range of threats, including possible development of a warhead that could go after hardened, deeply buried targets, or lower-power bombs that could be used to destroy chemical or biological stockpiles without contaminating a wide area.

But research on those programs was dropped from the $388 billion government-wide spending bill adopted Saturday, a rare instance in which the Republican-controlled Congress has gone against the president. The move slowly came to light over the weekend as details of the extensive measure became clear.

Dropping the programs was praised by arms-control advocates and some members of Congress who tried unsuccessfully for several years to kill them. These opponents argued that such research by the United States could trigger a new arms race, and that the existence of lower-yield weapons — sometimes called “mini-nukes” — would ultimately increase the likelihood of war.

The U.S. did a certain amount of damage to the cause of non-proliferation simply by announcing its intentions on this matter, but the rebuke from Congress still counts for something.

One thing to watch for: How long until the Pentagon tries to get around this little obstacle?


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2004 11 21
Iran and the bomb


Matthew Yglesias writes:

Seriously, though, one of the major impediments to thinking about these questions is that it’s hard to muster a great deal of sympathy for folks like the guys running Iran. Nevertheless, in order to understand what’s happening, one needs to understand how things look from their perspective. It’s obvious now that the US national security establishment went badly awry by failing to understand how the world looked to Saddam Hussein. In retrospect, as we see, he had some perfectly good reasons for pretending to have more in the way of WMD than he really had.

Moving toward Iran, the regime’s leaders are unpleasant people, and it’s certainly possible that they’re hell-bent on acquiring a nuclear weapon no matter what and intend to use this weapon to grievously injure America’s fundamental interests. But it’s also definitely the case that the Iranian government has long had some perfectly good reasons to feel threatened by its many (Pakistan, Russia, Israel) near-nuclear neighbors which have now been joined by some very good reasons to feel threatened by the United States of America. It may be the case that this latter set of concerns is really all (along with some prestige considerations) that’s driving the Iranian nuclear program. If that’s the case, then a deal should be workable. But a workable deal wouldn’t have the form of a cash-for-promises kind of thing. Instead, the US (and, to some extent, other allies) would need to offer Iran concessions that resolve its fundamental security concerns. With something like that on the table, were the offer to be rejected it would be reasonable to conclude that the nuclear program is not primarily defensive in nature. Last but by no means least, one must keep in mind that the consequences of military action would almost certainly be very very bad.

Type “Iran” into the search bar to the side to confirm that Iranian mullahs with nukes give me the willies. But I would like to know what kind of agreement would actually address Iran’s “fundamental security concerns”. Likewise, I’d like to hear more about what is “primarily defensive in nature”.

Would a guarantee from the U.S. to refrain from attacking address Iran’s fundamental security concerns? Really, what would that guarantee be worth? And, just as important, what would Iran’s leadership think that guarantee would be worth? What recourse would Iran have if the U.S. started nibbling away at the agreement? After all, there are a lot of ways that the U.S. could seriously threaten Iran short of commencing major hostilities. What happens if the U.S. takes a jab or two at Iran via a proxy, like Israel? Or if Israel goes freelancing, with half-hearted U.S. support? Or if Israel goes freelancing, against the wishes of the U.S., but with U.S. military hardware and after-the-fact diplomatic and military support to deal with the consequences? And anyway, as the whole debate about preventative/preemptive war ought to remind us, questions about what is primarily defensive in nature are awfully slippery. If you ask me – no one did, alas – the mini-nuke bunker busters currently under development within the U.S. military aren’t defensive in nature. Neither are a lot of things that seem to come naturally to the Bush administration (or the Clinton administration, for that matter). So will U.S. negotiators say that Iran ought to limit itself to military programs that are primarily defensive in nature, unlike the U.S.? And how will their Iranian counterparts feel about that? And how will the way they feel about that influence the way they think about it? (Really, issues of prestige and pride matter here, as Yglesias points out. Believe it or not, sometimes the rest of the world finds hypocrisy galling. Sometimes they find hypocrisy galling enough to dig in their heels on issues where a cost/benefit analysis suggests they shouldn’t.)

My fundamental lack of sympathy for hardline Iranian leaders encourages me to regard the prospect of a nuclear Iran with real anxiety. But here is Iran’s situation: It sits in the heart of a very dangerous neighbourhood, immediately beside a radically destabilized sworn enemy, which is currently occupied by another sworn enemy – a nuclear hyper power, no less. Israel, yet another sworn enemy, and itself a nuclear power, waits and watches and rattles its sabres. Another neighbour, Pakistan, has nuclear weapons, and it isn’t too far fetched to imagine the country some day falling into the clutches of hardline Sunni extremists. Forget whose fault any of this is. Iran’s leaders would have to be bonkers to give up the prospect of nuclear weapons – at least, short of concessions from the U.S. (and probably others) that the U.S. (and others) could never accept, and perhaps even shouldn’t (after all, everyone else has good reasons to protect themselves too). Yglesias sees Iran’s strategic situation at least as clearly as I do. It’s interesting that we come away with such different senses of what Iran would, could, or should be willing to agree to.

Here is all that we – the rest of the world, that is – can really do: In the short term, we can encourage and support anti-proliferation regimes, which do at least slow the pace of nuclear proliferation, if nothing else. We can buy off countries that do choose to cooperate, e.g., Libya. We can strive to reduce the most blatant forms of hypocrisy on the part of the recognize nuclear powers. We can (peacefully) promote genuine democratic movements, on the theory that in the very long-run, a democratic world will eventually look much more like present Europe than early 20th Century Europe. And we can work to find just solutions to the conflicts which may some day spin out of control into full-blown nuclear holocausts.

But that, I’m afraid, is all that we can do. It’s a pity we’re not doing it better.


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2004 11 15
Iran and Nukes


The WaPo tells us:

Iran agreed yesterday to immediately suspend its nuclear programs in exchange for European guarantees that it will not face the prospect of U.N. Security Council sanctions as long as their agreement holds.

The nuclear deal, accepted by Iranian officials in a meeting in Tehran with French, German and British ambassadors, set the stage for a serious test of whether diplomatic engagement is capable of halting Tehran’s nuclear ambitions in the long term.

European officials were reviewing Iran’s acceptance letter, diplomats said, and expected to brief Washington today before making an official announcement.

The European deal will require months, and possibly years, of further negotiations before Iran agrees to permanently end its nuclear work and falls far short of the strategic decision the Bush administration said Tehran needs to make to convince the world it is not a danger.

Nice try, but I think it’ll be pointless in the end. So much of the negotiation, compromise, back-and-forth, threats, discussion, and etc. etc. etc. about this issue seems to suppose that these people for some mysterious reason take their security less seriously than we take our own. They don’t.


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2004 10 20
We need someone who’ll get the job done


LaTimes today:

Security services seized two containers filled with highly radioactive material at a scrap yard in central Russia, Interfax news agency said.

Radiation levels at the scene in the town of Saratov, where the containers with uranium-238 were discovered, were 358 times higher than normal, Interfax said. Depleted uranium, where uranium-238 is usually found, theoretically can be used to make nuclear “dirty bombs.”

From BBC 10/13/2004:

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) says key equipment and materials from Iraq’s old nuclear industry have been disappearing from Iraq but neither Baghdad nor Washington has noticed…

“We’ve been finding a great deal of scrap material coming out of Iraq from these sites, some of which is mildly radioactive,” [IAEA spokesman Mike Gwozdecky] said.

“Some of the material that we found, for example, has included more than a dozen missile engines.”

The Bush Plan (sans the “creating more terrorists by attacking Iraq” plank):

[A]lthough the President called for expanding the Nunn-Lugar programs which have proven so effective in securing and eliminating nuclear, chemical and biological weapons in the former Soviet Union, the administration’s budget for the coming fiscal year actually cuts funding for Nunn-Lugar programs by ten percent. Similarly, the President called for enhancing the International Atomic Energy Agency’s capabilities to detect cheating and respond to treaty violations, but he did not provide any increase in the U.S. contribution to the IAEA.

Overall, non-proliferation efforts remain the stunted pillar in the administrations three-part National Strategy to Combat Weapons of Mass Destruction. Overall, non-proliferation programs receive less than $2 billion from the national budget. The other two pillars, consequence management and counter-proliferation, received tens of times greater funding. Homeland Security programs were budgeted for $41 billion in FY 2004, while counter-proliferation, including national missile defense and the war in Iraq, cost approximately $81 billion.


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2004 10 08
Nuclear proliferation


This flash video provides a sophisticated analysis of the dangers of nuclear proliferation. A must see for anyone interested in the subject. (Warning: Turn down the sound a bit if you’re at work.)


A single voice crying in the wilderness (1)