Thursday, August 6, 2009

Iran and the bomb

Iran with a nuclear device and the means to deliver it frightens a lot of people, especially the Israelis who, given the slightest provocation, wouldn't hesitate to make a surgical strike on the facility. For that they would need a couple of U.S. made bunker-busting bombs, but they do have the national will for such an action.

But, and there some very large buts. First of all Iran may be only months away from having enough weapons-grade uranium, but that is a long way from putting together a bomb. Could be five years out. It takes a fairly sophisticated bit of engineering to actually manufacture such a weapon, produce the trigger for it and then test the device--all in secret. Holding Israel back during all of that would be a feat in itself--worthy of a novel.

Which would leave Iran with what? One bomb tested--assuming it works--and perhaps enough fissionable material for a second, certainly not for the half-dozen or more needed to truly provide for a nuclear deterance.

And even then, according to Richard Bennett in the Asia Times of February 28, 2009, if Iran were to be foolish enough to fire a bomb on Tel Aviv, most of the deadly fall out would be carried on the prevailing winds back to the West Bank, Jordan, Syria, Iraq, Kuwait and even Iran itself.

Israel's overwhelming nuclear response would mean the end of Iran as a modern state. Nothing of any importance would be left inside the country which would have been turned into a wasteland.

According to Bennett, who is an intelligence and security analyst, simply having nuclear weapons does not make a nation a super power. At best such weapons would do nothing more than act as a deterrrent against an attack.

Iran may get its bomb, but it's not as big a threat in the region as many people think it is. Israel, needs to wait and watch. And if and when the time comes to take action, the U.S. needs to supply Israel with those bunker-busting bombs.


  1. What a lot of people don't realize is that Israel is a nation that is constantly aware of all that is going on around it. Given the turbulent history of the country, it is a pretty safe assumption that they, under the auspices of the Mossad, are already fully aware of what is happening and have taken steps to safe-guard not only themselves, but other countries (by guarding themselves) as well. Should we relax vigilance, however? No. and the reason is very simple: nuclear devices come in all packages, some small, some large. I know as an eternity ago, I was involved with the Davy Crockett weapons system in the U.S. Army which was a nuclear system run by small teams with the capability of parachuting in with a limited nuclear device and then get away. By "limited" nuclear device, the "spill out" was well-contained within a certain target area. Now, such an operation is, in all reality, a terrorist weapon and that could be used in other countries by terrorists. That would mean that the uranium that Iran has managed to gather would not necessarily be used for a bomb of massive destruction but several little ones exploded in strategic areas. That, I should think, would be of more concern than one big bang!

  2. David:

    This blog is a great idea. I'd add a couple of observations on your comments on “Iran and the bomb”. Not disagreeing, just factors to consider.

    By many accounts, Iran is indeed only months away from enriching sufficient quantities of weapons-grade uranium. But there are estimates that as of December 2008, they already had sufficient “low-grade” uranium which could be enriched to weapons grade in six months. That makes it June 2009. But you are correct that reaching that “breakout” point is not the same as having a bomb. It does indeed take a fairly sophisticated bit of engineering to actually manufacture such a weapon, produce the trigger for it and then test the device, but will Iran actually need to do all of this itself?

    North Korea has the bomb by all accounts and is known to be assisting Iran. And indeed some suspect Iran is at least at a point where it may have been, along with NK, assisting Syria with regard to their facility that the Israelis' took out in September 2007. As for testing, as far back as 2007, there were reports that North Korea was sharing its testing information with Iran. If so, there's no reason to think they wouldn't be continuing to share information – and materials? - and hardware? - on an ongoing basis. In the absence of a need for duplication of effort, who knows how quickly Iran could compete the process. And with their 7000 plus centrifuges – not counting a theoretical(?) clandestine facility that could increase the amount and shorten the time – how long would there be just one bomb?

    My other observation is that the danger of Iran going nuclear is not just to Israel or the region. To be sure, the threat to Israel is existential but – speaking of proliferation – is there any question that the world's greatest state sponsor of terrorism wouldn't “share the wealth”? There isn't a spot on the planet that wouldn't be a potential target.

    I agree with your conclusion that Israel – and the world including us/US - needs to watch. But I'm not so sure how long the wait should be. I also agree that, if and when the time comes to take action, the US needs to supply Israel with those bunker-busting bombs. But, given the current administration's “reconfiguration” of US policy toward Israel, the more likely scenario is that the US refuses to support Israel and refuses to sell/provide the means to carry it out. Can Israel go it alone? History suggests it has the will. And history also suggests they'll find a way. But if the US has turned its back on them, what happens afterwards?

    Agree completely with your comments on “The Jihad in the CONUS” and “Cheney and the CIA”. Nothing to add there.

  3. The point we're all making here, and I agree with evrybody, is that North Korea has the bomb--maybe 12 of them--and they are a definite problem for us and the region. And if and when Irean develops the bomb we will have to something about it before the situation gets totally out of hand. Just about any nation when pushed to its survival point will fight back with everything in its power.

    I think that the situation must become a part of our national dialogue, and not merely be left to the National Security Council. This is too important.

    Take a look at my next post.