Victor Davis Hanson: Bombs are not what is scary
Leonard Pitts is on vacation. We are subbing Victor Davis Hanson.
The gangster state of North Korea became a nuclear power in 2006-2007, despite lots of foreign aid aimed at precluding just such proliferation — help usually not otherwise accorded such a loony dictatorship. Apparently the civilized world rightly suspected that if nuclear, Pyongyang would either export nuclear material and expertise to other unstable countries, or bully its successful but non-nuclear neighbors — or both.
The United States has given billions of dollars in foreign aid to Pakistan, whose Islamist gangs have spearheaded radical anti-American terrorism. Since a corrupt Pakistan went nuclear in 1998, it has been able to extort such foreign payouts — on fears that one of its nukes might end up in the hands of terrorists.
By any measure of economic success or political stability, Pakistan would not warrant either the cash or the attention it wins without nuclear weapons.
An observant Iran appreciates three laws of current nuclear gangbanging.
1. Nuclear weapons earn a reputation.
2. The more loco a nuclear nation sounds, the more likely civilized states will fear that it is not subject to nuclear deterrence, and so they pay bribes for it to behave. Gangbangers always claim that they have nothing to lose; their more responsible intended targets have everything to lose.
3. As of yet there are no 100 percent effective nuclear defense systems that can guarantee non-nuclear powers absolute safety from a sudden attack. The nuclear gangbanger, not the global police, currently has the upper hand.
Again, the actual bombs are not the problem. We do not worry about a nuclear but democratic Israel or France. We are not even bothered by a hostile but non-nuclear Cuba or Venezuela. The combination of a bomb with a rap sheet is what changes all diplomatic and strategic considerations.
It would be hard to contain a nuclear Iran with bribes, as we have so far handled Pakistan — and in the past North Korea as well. In both cases, we have had some help. Nuclear neighbor India assists in warning Pakistan to behave. A nervous Chinese overlord is amused by North Korean troublemaking — but only up to the point that North Korea might threaten China’s vital export markets.n contrast, only one of Iran’s two enemies — Israel — is nuclear. Its wealthier Sunni Saudi Arabian rival is not.
When Iran goes nuclear, one of two things will follow. Either its Arab rivals will buy nuclear weapons from Pakistan to ensure that Iran does not bully them for political concessions — on matters of oil production and pricing, autonomy for Shiite minorities, and an end to non-belligerency with Israel. Or the Sunni powers will accept Iran’s hegemony to win exemption from its episodic lunatic threats of Armageddon. Either way, the Middle East will become a far more dangerous place.
There is yet another side to the nuclear gangbangers: the reaction of non-nuclear democratic civilized states that must live with their occasional existential threats.
Australia, Japan, the Philippines, South Korea and Taiwan have the expertise, but so far not the need, to become nuclear states. Up to now, they have all felt that American power was overwhelming, and its security guarantees ironclad.
In addition, nuclear China and Russia were not so threatening after the end of the Cold War. The expense, the odium and the memories of horrific wars made nuclear proliferation unimaginable.
All that could soon change. The one constant in American foreign policy over the last five years is that the administration’s game changers, red lines and deadlines proved mostly negotiable. Meanwhile, China is beginning to translate its economic success into military adventurism, in the same manner imperial Japan did in the late 1920s and early 1930s.
The more nuclear powers, the less resistance to the addition of a new one. War would not necessarily be inevitable in the China Sea should there soon be five or six nuclear powers with a presence in the region, rather than the present China, U.S. and North Korea. But the odds of conflict would increase — and the ability of the United States to ensure calm would diminish even further.
So far we have talked of democratic nuclear powers containing, coaxing or bribing outlaw nuclear gangsters to be reasonable — or threatening military force to disrupt their nuclear programs before they come on line.
Yet just as likely looms the sudden growth in the nuclear family of responsible powers, who at present have no sure source of deterring nuclear renegades. Would a rich but non-nuclear Germany always count on a retrenching U.S., a fickle nuclear France, bribes or diplomacy to convince theocratic Iran to turn its missiles in a different direction? If Iran has a bomb, why not Turkey? Or, for that matter, Brazil?
In such a nuclear club of 20 or more, rather than the present nine nuclear powers, border disputes, religious rivalries, ideological antagonisms and terrorism could all escalate not just to regional wars, but to the end of 21st-century culture itself.
Iran Asking For 60 Percent Uranium
Iran Lawmakers Propose Bill On Uranium Enrichment
December 26, 2013
Some 100 Iranian lawmakers have introduced a bill that would require the government to increase uranium enrichment to 60 percent if any new international sanctions are imposed on the country.
State media reported on December 25 that it is unclear when the legislature will consider the bill.
The proposed measure is being seen as retaliation for a bill introduced last week in the U.S. Senate that would authorize new sanctions if Iran fails to abide by a temporary agreement over its disputed nuclear program signed in Geneva last month.
Under that deal between Iran and the so-called P5+1 group of countries — Britain, China, France, Russia, the United States, and Germany — Iran agreed to limit enrichment to 5 percent and neutralize its stockpile of 20 percent enriched uranium in exchange for an easing of some sanctions.
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Iraq’s Shiites, Sunnis and tribes have warned Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki against moving on months-long protests in Sunni-majority Anbar province, after he claimed that the site had become an al-Qaeda base and ordered demonstrators to leave before security forces move in.
Protest organizers have vowed to stand up against any crackdown on the demonstrations, which began 11 months ago.
Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who has been critical of the fellow-Shiite premier, warned Maliki against using the protests to try to settle scores against Sunni rivals, or delaying parliament elections scheduled for April.
Any move against the protesters “should not be a prelude to settle sectarian scores with the Sunnis, but must target terrorism only,” Sadr said in a statement. “This matter also should not be a reason for the delay of the upcoming legislative elections, otherwise the matter has consequences,” he warned.
Maliki’s vow to break up the sit-in followed a roadside bombing on Saturday that killed several army officers, including Mohammad al-Khuri, the commander blamed for a deadly crackdown in April on the Anbar protests that killed some 50 people.
Maliki claimed that al-Qaeda elements have infiltrated the Anbar protests and warned that an operation to clear the protest site, which has turned into a virtual tented village of sorts, is imminent.
“The sit-in tents in Anbar are part of a scheme to target the political process and they want a coup against the establishment,” Maliki claimed at a news conference in Karbala.
“It has been revealed that there are terrorists there,” declared the embattled premier, who faces opposition both by the country’s Sunnis and the autonomous Kurds in the north. He claimed that the world was accusing the Iraqi government of being lax on al-Qaeda terrorists, while the militants had set up their own camp in Anbar.
“It has become imperative for us to settle this matter in the next few days and we won’t allow Anbar and its people to be at the mercy of murderers,” Maliki warned.
In the meantime Iyad Allawi, former interim premier and leader of the Iraqiya Sunni bloc, echoed Sadr’s concern over elections.
“Iraq is going toward a decisive and bloody election that could be delayed or even could not be held at all,” he said in a statement.
Allawi doubted that the Iraqi political forces would be able to form a government after the election, especially in the absence of Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, who has been absent from the scene since suffering a stroke one year ago.
Maliki also announced that a massive security operation – code-named “Revenge of Commander Mohammed” in retaliation for the attack that killed Khuri and other officers – was underway in Anbar against al-Qaeda.
Anti-government protests began in Anbar in January following complaints that the Shiite-led government in Baghdad was neglecting Sunni provinces, depriving them of basic services, investment, government jobs and employment.
While protests ended in the provinces of Saladin, Kirkuk, Diyala and Nineveh, they have continued in Anbar, where Sunni leaders have denied government accusations of al-Qaeda involvement from the very beginning of the demonstrations.
Protest organizers say that Sunni tribes and other residents of Anbar have vowed to stand against any government crackdown on the protesters.
“The tribes and all the people of the province will take up arms in defense of the sit-in at the square, should Maliki, his army and militia target demonstrators,” the organizers said in a statement.
The imam and preacher of Fallujah played down threats of a government crackdown, vowing to stay at the square.
Ali Hatem al-Suleiman, the head of the Dulaim tribe who has been one of the leaders of the protesters, refused to end the protests. But he welcomed inspection by the government to ensure that the site was neither a place hiding al-Qaeda members or weapons.
– See more at: http://rudaw.net/english/middleeast/iraq/25122013#sthash.vdDArg1S.dpuf
Dangerous Radioactive Material was Stolen and Found in Mexico
Dangerous radioactive material, used in cancer-treating medicine, was stolen, along with the truck that was carrying the teletheraphy source containing cobalt-60. Tepojaco, a town in the central state of Hildago, was the scene of the crime. The capital, and six of Mexico’s 31 states, were put on alert on Dec. 3, and Mexican authorities were able to recover the material on Thursday of the same week, which had been abandoned in a field.
The family that came across the capsule — two centimeters in diameter — was monitored for health risks after handling the potentially dangerous device, found 0.6 miles away from the truck. The device was later isolated and taken to its original destination at a waste storage facility. However, when the family discovered the open medical device they brought it into their home, which could have potentially led to their deaths due to contamination emitted by the hazardous material.
“We will have to keep this family under medical watch for the sole reason of being near a certain distance from the source,” The National Commission for Nuclear Safety and Safeguards operations director Mardonio Jiménez told Milenio television, without indicating how many members there were.
Five hundred meter safety perimeters were set around the hazardous material after it was found 43 miles north of Mexico City in Hueypotia. The radioactive source was called “extremely dangerous” by U.N.’s nuclear watchdog. Two gunmen stole the truck from a service station. The theft which inadvertently led to attention being brought to potential risks that 60 grams of cobalt-60 — the amount that was stolen — which is enough to build crude “dirty bomb,” though thieves only wanted the truck.
National Security is monitoring the situation, and authorities are still search for the thieves. Meanwhile, the 40,000-population town of Hueypoxtla was reassured that the source is far from the populous. Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency said that the Mexican public is safe and will remain that way. The IAEA and CNSNS claim that there are no signs of contamination in the area.
The transport company is being blamed for the incident, failing to have a security escort with the truck as it attempted to make the drive from the hospital in Tijuana.
|From Weapons and technology|
The highest-ranking GRU defector Stanislav Lunev described alleged Soviet plans for using tactical nuclear weapons for sabotage against the United States in the event of war. He described Soviet-made suitcase nukes identified as RA-115s (or RA-115-01s for submersible weapons) which weigh from fifty to sixty pounds. These portable bombs can last for many years if wired to an electric source. “In case there is a loss of power, there is a battery backup. If the battery runs low, the weapon has a transmitter that sends a coded message – either by satellite or directly to a GRU post at a Russian embassy or consulate.” .
Lunev was personally looking for hiding places for weapons caches in the Shenandoah Valley area. He said that “it is surprisingly easy to smuggle nuclear weapons into the US” either across the Mexican border or using a small transport missile that can slip though undetected when launched from a Russian airplane. US Congressman Curt Weldon supported claims by Lunev, but “Weldon said later the FBI discredited Lunev, saying that he exaggerated things.” Searches of the areas identified by Lunev – who admits he never planted any weapons in the US – have been conducted, “but law-enforcement officials have never found such weapons caches, with or without portable nuclear weapons.” in the US.r
Another Pak nuke threat shaping up for India?
Is Pakistan’s nuclear stock safe?
Last week, Prime Minister Sharif visited the country’s National Command Center, which oversees Pakistan’s nuclear facilities. The PM was accompanied by officials from the powerful Pakistani military, which experts say has the last word when it comes to matters related to defense and security. After the visit, the premier said Islamabad wanted “peace in the region, and would not be part of an arms race.” He said further that the country’s nuclear arsenal was “well protected.”
Islamabad-based defense analyst Maria Sultan agrees with the PM and says Pakistan’s nuclear control authorities have a strong grip on the country’s nuclear assets. “Pakistan has the capability of monitoring its nuclear weapons, and the technology it is using to do that is very sophisticated,” Sultan told DW. She insisted that the West’s concerns about Pakistan’s nuclear safety were “unfounded.”
‘Talibanization of the military’
Though Pakistan’s civilian and military establishments claim their nuclear weapons are under strict state control, many defense experts fear that they could fall into the hands of terrorists in the event of an Islamist takeover of Islamabad or if things get out of control for the government and the military.
“Nuclear programs are never safe. On the one hand there is perhaps a hype about Pakistani bombs in the Western media, on the other there is genuine concern,” London-based Pakistani journalist and researcher Farooq Sulehria told DW. “The Talibanization of the Pakistan military is something we can’t overlook. What if there is an internal Taliban takeover of the nuclear assets?” Sulehria speculated.
Sulehria’s concerns are probably justified. The Taliban militants have proven time and again that they are capable of attacking not only civilians but also military bases. In August 2012, militants armed with guns and rocket launchers attacked an air base in the town of Kamra in the Punjab province. The large base is home to several squadrons of fighter and surveillance planes, which air force officials said had not been damaged in the attack. The Taliban have great influence in Pakistan’s restive northwestern Swat Valley and according to defense experts, several nuclear installations are located not too far from the area.
Despite that, political and defense analyst Zahid Hussain told DW the West was “unnecessarily worried.”
“Pakistan conducted its nuclear tests more fifteen years ago. Nothing has happened since then. Pakistan has made sure the nuclear weapons remain safe.”
However, Pakistan’s nuclear safety record is not as clean as Hussain claims. In 2004, the “founder” of the country’s nuclear bomb Dr. A. Q. Khan confessed to selling nuclear technology to North Korea and Iran. Khan was removed from his post as head of the country’s nuclear program by former military dictator and President Pervez Musharraf in 2001. Khan spent five years under house arrest after Musharraf had him arrested in 2004 for his alleged role in divulging nuclear secrets. The restrictions on his movement were relaxed after a court in Islamabad declared him a free man in 2009.
The Pakistani military and civilian leaders have been accused of being too easy on Khan, but they have defended themselves, saying that the state had no role in what they say was Khan’s “individual act.” But many in Pakistan and in the West believe Khan was only able to pass on such sensitive information with support from the establishment.
Khan is a popular figure among Islamists and common Pakistanis alike, who believe that nuclear weapons are “necessary” for the security of the country. Pakistan’s political and religious parties invariably use nuclear rhetoric against India and Western nations.
“The atomic bomb is our protector. It guarantees our sovereignty. Nobody can harm Pakistan as long as we have this bomb, and that is the reason why the US, India and other Western countries are conspiring against it,” Abdul Basit, a student at Karachi University, told DW.
Asim Uddin, a London-based Jamaat-e-Islami activist, is of the same view. He says Pakistan needs nuclear assets because it has a nuclear neighbor – India – against which it has fought three wars. “Pakistan needs nuclear weapons as a war deterrent,” he told DW.
Sulehria, on the other hand, says that though the world needs to be more vigilant about Pakistan’s nuclear weapons, its nuclear obsession is more about domestic politics than external threats.
“Politicians use nuclear rhetoric to appease the public. Since the 1980s, jihad has been part of the state doctrine. And for jihad, the country needs the ‘ultimate weapon’ -the nuclear bomb.”
Experts like Sulehria fear that a crumbling economy, an ever-increasing Islamist threat, and a popular nuclear narrative are a perfect recipe for a nuclear crisis. They also say that the Pakistani government and the premier need to do a lot more than merely issuing official statements about nuclear safety.
Philosopher and essayist George Santayana famously said that those who cannot learn from history are condemned to repeat it.
How true this is right now for the United States, which after years of tragic and costly combat in Iraq and Afghanistan, now finds itself at a crossroads in its efforts to reach a peaceful, diplomatic solution to the crisis created by Iran’s nuclear program.
Last month, the Obama administration, backed by five other major world powers, reached a preliminary agreement with Iran to freeze its nuclear program and roll back some of its most dangerous components for six months. During this time, the parties will try to reach a permanent solution that would place the Iranian program under strict and enforceable limitations and constant international supervision. Such an outcome would make Israel, the Middle East and the entire world infinitely safer.
This is not good enough for some in the US Senate, who have been backed by AIPAC, the American Jewish Committee and several other organizations. Far from trusting President Obama and allowing the administration to pursue negotiations, they are actively trying to sabotage the process. The result may well put the United States, Israel and the international community back on a course with only two outcomes, both catastrophic. Either Iran will move forward to develop a nuclear weapon — or military action will be taken, not to destroy but only to delay, the Iranian program.
Of course, nobody wants to see Iran develop a nuclear weapon. But it’s been clear for years that the goal of sanctions is to bring the Iranians to the negotiating table. Now that we’ve succeeded in this, why would we be trying to drive them away?
If we have learned anything from our disastrous military entanglement in Iraq, it should be that it is easy to begin wars — but very difficult to end them or to predict where they might lead. The American people were sold a bill of goods on Iraq. We were promised a simple, clean operation aimed at destroying weapons of mass destruction, which it turned out did not exist. We were told it would be easy to topple the Iraqi dictator and replace him with a democracy. Instead, we virtually destroyed a nation, setting off a sectarian conflict which has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives and cost trillions of dollars and which still continues. We lost thousands of our finest men and women and condemned tens of thousands others to debilitating physical and mental trauma. And we created a political vacuum that allowed Iranian influence to expand — and Iran’s nuclear program to proceed.
Some of those who advocated most strongly for that war are behind this week’s Senate bill to “expand sanctions imposed with respect to Iran and to impose additional sanctions with respect to Iran, and for other purposes.”
The bill was introduced despite clear warnings from the administration that it risks derailing the negotiations with Iran and isolating the United States from its allies. The bill’s sponsors also ignored a letter from 10 Senate committee chairmen which stated that enacting new sanctions now simply plays into the hands of Iranian hardliners who want the negotiations to fail. Lastly, the bill’s sponsors choose to disregard the assessment of the US Intelligence Community that new sanctions undermine the chance of a negotiated end to the Iranian nuclear crisis.
Not only the bill’s timing is extremely suspect but its content is also designed to ensure the failure of the talks. The bill demands the total dismantlement of Iran’s nuclear program – a demand Israel has made but one that is entirely unrealistic — as President Obama himself has stated. The goal of the talks has to be to convert the program into a peaceful, non-military endeavor under strict international supervision. The bill seeks to tie the President’s hands in many different ways. No wonder he has stated clearly that he will veto it if it ever reaches his desk.
Once again, J Street stands almost entirely alone among major American-Jewish organizations in opposing this bill. Our aim will be to persuade enough Senators to join the 10 senior committee chairs to stop the bill moving forward.
We simply must give these negotiations a chance to succeed. They are the only way to stop Iran developing a nuclear weapon while avoiding the threat of war. Those advocating for new sanctions, it seems, have learned nothing from history and are determined to repeat it. It’s up to us to stop them.