[An accurate answer to the question is important in assessing how the USA approaches Iran.–Ed.]
Does Iran already have the bomb?
James S. Robbins 11:16 a.m. EST February 28, 2013
The question is whether the weapon North Korea tested this month was its own, Iran’s, or a joint project.
robbins iran has nukes
(Photo: Vahid Salemi, AP 2007 photo)
So far, the case that Iran already has the bomb is largely circumstantial.
It would be foolish for Iran to test a nuclear weapon on its own soil.
North Korea%u2019s experience is an inspiration to Iran in its defiance of the United Nations and the United States.
During Secretary of State John Kerry’s listening tour of the Middle East, one troubling regional issue might go unspoken: the possibility that Iran already has nuclear weapons capability.
That will certainly change when President Obama lands next month in Israel, where the issue is at the top of the agenda. The emergence of an Iranian atomic bomb would represent a U.S. foreign policy failure of historic proportions. It is not the kind of crisis that Kerry would like to face in his first month on the job or that Obama would like to shape his second term.
COLUMN: Shift tactics in Iran negotiations
Fortunately for them both, if Tehran does have the bomb, odds are it will keep it under wraps, at least for the time being.
So far, the case that Iran already has the bomb is largely circumstantial. Shortly after North Korea announced this month that it had successfully carried out its third underground nuclear test, Saudi Arabian news media reported that Mohsen Fakhrizadeh-Mahabadi, a leading Iranian nuclear scientist, was on hand for the blast. This should come as no surprise. Iran and North Korea have long cooperated on nuclear and ballistic missile technologies. Iran’s ballistic missiles are based on North Korean designs, and the two countries have long exchanged defense scientists and engineers.
New weapon tested
Perhaps more important, the RAND Corporation reports that the third North Korean nuclear test appears to many experts to be fundamentally different from its previous two efforts. North Korea’s first tests used plutonium to trigger the nuclear explosion. This one, according to some atmospheric tests, likely used highly enriched uranium, exactly the form of nuclear weapon pursued by Iran.
The question is whether the weapon North Korea tested this month was its own, Iran’s or a joint project. A senior U.S. official told The New York Times, “It’s very possible that the North Koreans are testing for two countries.” It would be foolish for Iran to test a nuclear weapon on its own soil. Nuclear weapons cannot be detonated in secret; they leave unique seismic markers that can be traced back to their source. An in-country test would simply confirm the existence of a program that for years Iran has denied.
It would also be unwise for Iran to immediately announce it had conducted a nuclear test. After all, the North Koreans could have detonated Tehran’s only working nuclear weapon. The Islamic Republic would then be in the worst possible position, unmasked as a nuclear proliferator yet lacking a stockpile of weapons to deter U.S. punitive action.
It would be safest to test the weapon in another country, confirm the design works and then quietly produce enough weapons to give America pause.
North Korea’s experience is an inspiration to Iran in its defiance of the United Nations and the United States. The rogue regime in Pyongyang faced down the international community to develop and test a nuclear weapon after being told repeatedly that it would “not be allowed” to do so. North Korea achieved this with fewer natural resources than Iran, far less money and facing tougher economic sanctions. And Pyongyang never paid the serious penalty that Western nations threatened.
Keep it quiet
Even when Tehran begins stockpiling weapons, it need not make its nuclear status official.
For example, Israel has long maintained a policy of ambiguity regarding its nuclear weapons, believed to consist of 100-200 warheads. Iran could follow suit, allowing just enough information to leak out to give it some deterrent power but not face the public embarrassment, international condemnation and possible military response for having created the weapons it denied wanting.
Days after North Korea’s nuclear test, Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, reiterated that his country did not want to build atomic weapons, but that if it “intended to possess nuclear weapons, no power could stop us.”
This strange construction — saying the Islamic Republic does not desire nuclear weapons but there was no way to prevent it from having them — might have been the first in a series of diplomatic signals intending to inform the United States that, with North Korea’s help, the game is already over and Iran has won.
James S. Robbins is a senior fellow in national security affairs at the
American Foreign Policy Council.
In addition to its own editorials, USA TODAY publishes diverse opinions
from outside writers, including our Board of Contributors.
By Judi McLeod (Bio and Archives) Thursday, October 24, 2013
Comments at bottom of page | Print friendly | Subscribe | Email Us
In the midst of ObamaCare woes and multi-million dollar healthcare-gov websites that don’t work, we could all be singing the new Barack Obama signature song, if only for Obama levity: He Didn’t Know the Gun was Loaded.
Obama took aim, fired and shot America’s not-broken-don’t-fix-it healthcare in the heart, but, yeah, he didn’t really know the gun was loaded.
‘He Didn’t Know the Gun was Loaded’ was the song sung by Sebelius when she was called to face the music yesterday.
“I doubt many people believe the claim of Sebelius that Obama knew nothing about HealthCare.gov’s problems until right before launch,” Dan Calabrese writes in today’s column. “That sounds like covering for the boss, although I wouldn’t totally put it past Obama to be intentionally kept in the dark for “plausible deniability.” It’s hard to imagine he would not keep on top of the details of something he sees as his legacy. But that’s what Sebelius told CNN:
“President Barack Obama didn’t know of problems with the Affordable Care Act’s website—despite insurance companies’ complaints and the site’s crashing during a test run—until after its now well-documented abysmal launch, the nations’s health chief told CNN on Tuesday.
“According to Sebelius, Obama only found out about issues with the ObamaCare website “in the first couple of days” after the site went live on October 1.”
Most Americans had never heard about Canadian company CGI that built the still floundering website until after it crashed. But Obama knew the company and was praising it as a “wonderful” one way back during the 2008 presidential campaign.
Obama didn’t know it might have been time to worry when CGI was fired by the Ontario Government for delays and cost overruns on the building of data bases for diabetic clients.
Obama didn’t know that the company he contracted for $94 million to build his signature website was the one that built the $2.7 billion-plus Canadian, scandal-ridden Gun Registry that Auditor General Sheila Fraser revealed had grown out of control, uncovering irregularities including mismanagement and corruption.
For sure Obama did not know a fake faint in the White House Rose Garden would automatically whitewash his feeble attempts at explaining that healthcare.gov “hasn’t worked as smoothly as it was supposed to work.”
Did Obama deliberately turn to a company he knew was too big not to fail? In other words go with a company that courtesy of a crashed website would buy him the time to put ObamaCare on a delay that would take him and the Democrats past the November, 2014 midterm elections?
Obama’s signature song, ‘He Didn’t Know the Gun was Loaded’ is a one-size fit not only for ObamaCare but for almost everything that happens on his watch: Benghazi, Fast and Furious, IRS, NSA et al.
In all of the above, Obama took careful aim, fired on the U.S.—but didn’t know the gun was loaded.
Obama’s indiscriminate shooting at U.S. masses should christen him with a new nickname, ‘Barry Bam Bam’.
‘Bam Bam, America, and don’t anybody try to stop me from my destructive ‘Fundamental Transformation of America’’.
And for all those who dare to ask where Obama disappeared to yesterday when he had no White House meetings scheduled, or did he sleep away the long fateful night of Benghazi, he was taking target practice.
`Unacceptable and shocking’: France demands explanation for NSA spying
Edited time: October 22, 2013 07:44
France has called for an explanation for the “unacceptable” and “shocking” reports of NSA spying on French citizens. Leaked documents revealed the spy agency records millions of phone calls and monitors politicians and high-profile business people.
The US Ambassador to France Charles Rivkin was summoned by the French Foreign Ministry to account for the espionage allegations on Monday morning.
“I have immediately summoned the US ambassador and he will be received this morning at the Quai d’Orsay [the French Foreign Ministry],” French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told press. He added that“we must quickly assure that these practices aren’t repeated.”
The media scandal triggered a phone call between US President Barack Obama and French President Francois Hollande who, according to the White House, discussed “legitimate questions” raised by US “friends and allies” about how the surveillance capabilities are employed. Obama reportedly assured Hollande that the US was reviewing the way it gathers intelligence.
In addition, citing the report on French publication Le Monde, Interior Minister Manuel Valls spoke out on national television against US spy practices.
“The revelations on Le Monde are shocking and demand adequate explanations from the American authorities in the coming hours,” said Valls on television channel Europe 1.
He went on to say that it is totally unacceptable for an allied country to spy on France.
Ambassador Rivkin refrained from commenting on the spy allegations on Monday morning and told Reuters that French-US ties are the “best they have been for a generation.”
Le Monde revealed in a report based on the security leaks of former CIA worker Edward Snowden that the NSA recorded 70.3 million phone calls between December 10, 2012, and January 8, 2013.
The NSA reportedly carries out its espionage in France using a program called ‘US-985D’ which is able to listen in on specific telephone calls and pick up on text messages according to key words used.
‘Unacceptable’: Merkel calls Obama over suspicion US monitored her cell phone
Published time: October 23, 2013 17:49
Edited time: October 24, 2013 08:37 Get short URL
CIA, Germany, Intelligence, Merkel, Obama, Politics, SciTech, USA
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has called President Obama over the German government’s suspicions the US could have tapped her mobile phone. Barack Obama assured Merkel that his country is not monitoring her communications.
Earlier, the German government spokesman said that Berlin had information the US National Security Agency (NSA) could have been spying on Merkel.
This was followed by the country’s Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle summoning the US ambassador to provide more clarity on the matter.
“We swiftly sent a request to our American partners asking for an immediate and comprehensive clarification,” Steffen Seibert said in a statement, Reuters cites.
Berlin demanded that American authorities shed light on the scale of its spying on Germany if it took place and thus finally answer the questions that the Federal government asked “several months ago,” Seibert said.
Merkel called Barack Obama over the issue and demanded an explanation. She had made clear to Obama that if the information proved trued it would be “completely unacceptable” and represent a “grave breach of trust,” Seibert said.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said that Obama assured the German leader “the United States is not monitoring the communications of the chancellor.”
Earlier this year, documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden revealed that the American spy organization intercepted large amounts of data exchanged between German citizens without any legal authorization. The scandalous revelations outraged Germans and sparked widespread demonstrations in the country which is wary of surveillance, largely due to its Stasi past.
While German opposition politicians, the media and activists have been vocal in their anger over the American eavesdropping, Merkel remained restrained in her comments on the matter.
In June, during Obama’s visit to Berlin, Merkel said she was surprised by the scope of the American data collection efforts, but admitted that Germany was “dependent” on cooperation with US agencies. She said that it was thanks to “tips from American sources” that an Islamic terror plot in Germany was foiled in 2007. She added though that it was important to continue the debate about reaching “an equitable balance” between providing security and protecting personal freedoms.
Interior Ministry spokesman Jens Teschke said Wednesday the German government was still in talks with the Americans about the spying issue.
“[But] we have recognized that many of the allegations made by Mr. Snowden can’t be substantiated, and on other issues that there was no mass surveillance of innocent citizens,” he said, as quoted by AP agency.
Earlier in July, US fugitive Snowden accused Germany and the US of partnering in spy intelligence operations, revealing that cooperation between the countries is closer than German indignation would indicate. “They are in bed with the Germans, just like with most other Western states,” Der Spiegel magazine quoted the former NSA contractor as saying.