Iran, international law, and the bomb

2006-04-14

in Bombs and rockets, Law, Politics, Security

While reading about US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice explaining why Iranian nuclear enrichment should be referred to the UN Security Council, I immediately began wondering why such enrichment is a breach of international law. The United States has signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), creating certain legal obligations, as has Iran. India, Pakistan, and Israel are non-signatory nuclear powers. For Iran to actually develop nuclear weapons would be a violation of the NPT, but the process of enrichment – even at an industrial scale that could produce enough uranium-235 for bomb making – does not seem to be, in and of itself. Indeed, the NPT explicitly affirms the right of members to develop civilian nuclear technologies, including uranium enrichment.

The much publicized announcement of Iranian enrichment of uranium was about material enriched to the level of about 3.5% uranium-235: the variety necessary for fission bombs. Such bombs require a much higher concentration of uranium-235, in the vicinity of 90%. Without guessing about the ultimate purpose of the program, the present enrichment activity seems to be in keeping with the requirements of nuclear power, rather than nuclear weapons.

When it comes to the United States and their obligations under the NPT, the present scorecard definitely doesn’t look so hot. The nuclear deal with India that President Bush approved and is now seeking Congressional approval for is one such violation, since it includes the provision of nuclear fuel to a state without appropriate controls in place. Likewise, the push to develop new kinds of nuclear weapons is a definite violation of the spirit – if not the precise letter – of the treaty, which stresses the obligation of states to seek disarmament and the reduction of nuclear arsenals.

Maybe it is in the strategic interests of America to stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons, but they shouldn’t try to cloak that as being an enforcement of international law when it is not. More broadly, the United States should realize that using the United Nations at the times where it seems plausible that it might serve their interests, while ignoring it otherwise, seriously diminishes the credibility of their supposed commitment to multilateralism and international law.

All that said, it is certainly possible that Iran is conducting nuclear research with an aim to developing nuclear weapons. If so, evidence of that breach needs to be presented in an open and verifiable way.

Report a typo or inaccuracy

{ 86 comments… read them below or add one }

Anonymous April 14, 2006 at 11:50 am

Lacking direct evidence, Bush administration officials argue that Iran’s nuclear program must be a cover for bomb-making. Vice President Dick Cheney recently said, ‘They’re already sitting on an awful lot of oil and gas. Nobody can figure why they need nuclear as well to generate energy’. Yet held key national security posts when the Ford administration made the opposite argument 30 years ago.

Link notifier April 15, 2006 at 11:48 pm

This OxBlog post relates indirectly to yours.

Milan May 4, 2006 at 11:32 pm

The BBC has a good article on the legality of a strike against Iran. I especially appreciate how it makes reference to the Caroline Incident of 1837: one of the more dramatic things to ever happen in what is now Canada. In legal terms, at least.

. December 4, 2007 at 1:57 pm

The United States released a new National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Dec. 3. It said, “We judge with high confidence that in the fall of 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program.” It went on to say, “Tehran’s decision to halt its nuclear weapons program suggests it is less determined to develop nuclear weapons than we have been judging since 2005.” It further said, “Our assessment that Iran halted the program in 2003 primarily in response to international pressure indicates Tehran’s decisions are guided by a cost-benefit approach rather than a rush to a weapon irrespective of the political, economic and military costs.”

. December 4, 2007 at 2:28 pm

That is not to say Iran did not benefit from having the world believe it was building nuclear weapons. The United States is obsessed with nuclear weapons in the hands of states it regards as irrational. By appearing to be irrational and developing nuclear weapons, the Iranians created a valuable asset to use in negotiating with the Americans. The notion of a nuclear weapon in Iranian hands appeared so threatening that the United States might well negotiate away other things — particularly in Iraq — in exchange for a halt of the program. Or so the Iranians hoped. Therefore, while they halted development on their weapons program, they were not eager to let the Americans relax. They swung back and forth between asserting their right to operate the program and denying they had one. Moreover, they pushed hard for a civilian power program, which theoretically worried the world less. It drove the Americans up a wall — precisely where the Iranians wanted them.

. January 16, 2008 at 3:58 pm

Nuclear war: the safety paradox

In the second of a series of articles, Geoff Brumfiel looks at whether certain nuclear-weapons technology should be shared.

“There are two types of bomb safety device: those that stop a bomb from going off accidentally; and those that stop it from going off without proper authorization. Mechanisms for accident-proofing a bomb range from simple housekeeping (keep the explosive triggers entirely separate from the nuclear cores) to sophisticated design requirements such as ‘one-point safety’. In a one-point-safe design, a nuclear explosion will not occur even if one of the various chemical explosive charges in the trigger goes off. This is quite a hard trick to master: before a 1992 voluntary test moratorium, the United States conducted 32 nuclear tests to establish one-point safety on each of its weapons.

Ensuring proper authorization is the role of what America calls a Permissive Action Link, or PAL. PALs are devices that keep the explosive systems of a bomb or warhead isolated from the outside world unless they are unlocked with a specific code: no code, no explosion. If the incorrect code is entered a set number of times, the PAL will disable the weapon, sometimes with a small explosive charge. After that, the weapon will need extensive servicing before it can be returned to readiness.

Precisely what safety systems various nuclear states have is not open knowledge (the British television news programme Newsnight recently caused a stir when it revealed that Britain lacks a PAL system). But their limited system experience and short testing history make it almost certain that any safety systems fielded by new nuclear nations will not be as sophisticated as American ones, says Geoffrey Forden, a physicist and arms-control analyst at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge.

Pakistan, for example, is believed to keep its weapons safe through disassembly, keeping the nuclear cores and triggering explosives in separate locations. But little is known about how the separation is maintained, or how the assembly and arming processes are controlled.”

. July 17, 2010 at 12:16 pm

Israel may have to give up nuclear weapons instead of attack Iran, report says

http://www.worldofjudaica.com/jewish-news/israel/israel-may-have-to-give-up-nuclear-weapons-instead-of-attack-iran-report-says-2/422/58/

“In a detailed report on the long term consequences of an Israeli attack on Iran, the Oxford Research Group has concluded that, in the end, the only way to prevent a nuclear Iran is to treat a nuclear Iran as inevitable, and follow it with a “process of balanced regional de-nuclearisation.” In other words, the only way to prevent a nuclear Iran is for Israel to give up nuclear weapons after Iran becomes a nuclear power herself.

The Oxford Research Group, it should be noted, promotes exclusively non-violent solutions to conflict. The group warns that an Israeli attack on Iran would trigger a long, drawn out war and fail to prevent the Islamic State from eventually acquiring a nuclear arsenal in the first place, concluding decisively that military action should be ruled out as a response to Iran’s “possible nuclear weapons ambitions.”

“An Israeli attack on Iran would be the start of a protracted conflict that would be unlikely to prevent the eventual acquisition of nuclear weapons by Iran and might even encourage it,” the report said.

The report continued, “Long-range strike aircraft acquired from the United States, combined with an improved fleet of tanker aircraft, the deployment of long-range drones and the probable availability of support facilities in northeast Iraq and Azerbaijan, all increase Israel’s potential for action against Iran,” hinting that Israel does have the ability to attack if it so chooses.

Concerning the logistics of an attack, the Oxford group wrote that military action would include direct bombing of Tehran, attempts to assassinate scientists and technocrats, bombing of factories, research centers, and even university labs in an attempt to cripple Iranian scientific infrastructure.

Will Israel Attack Iran?

This, according to the report’s assessment, would lead to Tehran sprinting towards building a nuclear arsenal to prevent further attacks and a long, drawn out missile war between the two countries, leaving the only plausible option to be balanced regional de-nuclearisation.

To date, only one Israeli politician, Moshe Feiglin, has been recorded as saying that failing to attack Iran before it becomes a nuclear power would lead to Israel’s eventual forced nuclear disarmament. His words are now being echoed in the international community.”

. July 17, 2010 at 12:19 pm

“Castro warned Cuban ambassadors that he believed there existed “grave danger” of a U.S. and Israeli “aggression” against Iran or North Korea.

“All responses have already been programmed,” warned the 83-year-old leader of the Cuban revolution. “It’s only a question of seconds . . . Today it is not possible to draw plans that would not be computerized.”

Speaking of his health, Castro said that he was able “to partly repulse his consistent and grave health situation,” but did not elaborate.

The address was Castro’s fifth public appearance in only nine days.

Read more: http://www.montrealgazette.com/news/Castro+emerges+warn+Mideast/3289231/story.html#ixzz0txPFiYR0

. July 17, 2010 at 1:10 pm

“So far the facts lead us to believe that an illiterate, juvenile delinquent from a backward tribal region of Iran grew up to become one of the most lethal and effective terrorists in the world, by age thirty. Well, we said anything is possible . . . On the other hand, some things are just not adding up in this story.

For example, with that resume, how is it that Rigi does not land on the mile-long US National Security list of known terrorists, way up at the top of the list? How is it that Rigi is decked out as a doctor and presented as a “brave” Iranian revolutionary leader on Voice of America – while holding hostages? How is it that Rigi has the ability to easily infiltrate security surrounding the Iranian President, top military brass and police locations again and again?

Iran, of course, has no doubt that the US CIA is involved and, actually, they’re not alone in that assessment. In 2007, an ABC News Exclusive reported that they had reliable, credible information from U.S. and Pakistani intelligence sources that Jundollah has been secretly encouraged and advised by American officials since 2005.”

http://www.frumpgazette.com/2010/03/01/in-bed-with-the-enemy/

. July 17, 2010 at 1:11 pm

“According to the UK’s Daily Telegraph, Jundallah is just one part of a Black Operation Plan involving psychological operations and other covert operations to support dissents among minorities (Baloch, Arab, Kurds, Azeris, etc.) in Iran, which along with tactics of military posturing, risky maneuvers and occasional conciliatory gestures are designed to improve United States bargaining position in any future negotiation with Iran. Furthermore these Black Operations build upon a coordinated campaign consisting of disinformation, placement of negative newspaper articles, propaganda broadcasts, the manipulation of Iran’s monetary currency and international banking transactions.

Iranian Interior Minister Mostafa Pour-Mohammadi, has said, United States intelligence operatives have been meeting and coordinating with Anti-Iranian militants in Afghanistan as well as encouraging drug smuggling into Iran. A former Chief of Army Staff of the Pakistan Army General Aslam Beg has accused the Coalition Forces in Afghanistan of training and supporting Jundallah against Iran.”

Tristan July 23, 2010 at 1:06 pm

As far as I can tell, there has been no post on American and Israeli opposition to Iran’s development to nuclear power since this 2006 post.

If anyone thinks this issue hasn’t been consigned to the history book, they might want to check out a post I wrote on the current state of the threats and the rational effects of these threats on Iran here:
http://northernsong.wordpress.com/2010/07/14/irans-nuclear-program-threats-agression-and-crazy/

. July 23, 2010 at 1:42 pm
Tristan July 23, 2010 at 1:56 pm

That post simply assumes Iran is developing a bomb, and re-iterates the dogma that Israel ought to fear an Iranian first strike. Can you find a legitimate security commentator who actually believes there is a larger than 1% chance Iran would use a nuke offensively? It is irresponsible and complicit to power to re-iterate these dogmas, and to assume that the best civilians can do is wait and see “what outcome will result in this case”. In reality, especially considering your considerable expertise in international relations and security, you should be critical of the mainline Washington story. This is what I see in this 2006 post, but has disappeared from your more contemporary analysis.

Milan July 23, 2010 at 2:01 pm

If it is possible to stop Iran from getting the bomb, it would probably be good for the world to do so. The last thing we need is more nuclear-armed states in the Middle East.

Of course, it may be impossible to stop Iran. In the mean time, threats like bunker busters may be effective in making them willing to negotiate.

. July 23, 2010 at 2:10 pm

Lesson #2: Rationality will not save us.

I want to say, and this is very important: at the end we lucked out. It was luck that prevented nuclear war. We came that close to nuclear war at the end. Rational individuals: Kennedy was rational; Khrushchev was rational; Castro was rational. Rational individuals came that close to total destruction of their societies. And that danger exists today.

The major lesson of the Cuban missile crisis is this: the indefinite combination of human fallibility and nuclear weapons will destroy nations. Is it right and proper that today there are 7500 strategic offensive nuclear warheads, of which 2500 are on 15 minute alert, to be launched by the decision of one human being?

It wasn’t until January, 1992, in a meeting chaired by Castro in Havana, Cuba, that I learned 162 nuclear warheads, including 90 tactical warheads, were on the island at the time of this critical moment of the crisis. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing, and Castro got very angry with me because I said, “Mr. President, let’s stop this meeting. This is totally new to me, I’m not sure I got the translation right.”

“Mr. President, I have three questions to you. Number one: did you know the nuclear warheads were there? Number two: if you did, would you have recommended to Khrushchev in the face of an U.S. attack that he use them? Number three: if he had used them, what would have happened to Cuba?”

He said, “Number one, I knew they were there. Number two, I would not have recommended to Khrushchev, I did recommend to Khrushchev that they be used. Number three, ‘What would have happened to Cuba?’ It would have been totally destroyed.” That’s how close we were.

EM: And he was willing to accept that?

Yes, and he went on to say: “Mr. McNamara, if you and President Kennedy had been in a similar situation, that’s what you would have done.” I said, “Mr. President, I hope to God we would not have done it. Pull the temple down on our heads? My God!”

In a sense, we’d won. We got the missiles out without war. My deputy and I brought the five Chiefs over and we sat down with Kennedy. And he said, “Gentlemen, we won. I don’t want you ever to say it, but you know we won, I know we won.”

And LeMay said, “Won? Hell, we lost. We should go in and wipe ’em out today.”

LeMay believed that ultimately we’re going to confront these people in a conflict with nuclear weapons. And, by God, we better do it when we have greater superiority than we will have in the future.

Tristan July 23, 2010 at 3:57 pm

You’re insane. You think it would be better for America to go to war with Iran, than Iran to develop a nuclear deterrent – a need for which is basically caused by American threats of going to war with Iran?

That’s one oxford education down the drain.

Tristan July 23, 2010 at 4:02 pm

If you were serious about desiring the middle east to be safer, you would criticize US support for Israeli rejectionism, both on the issue of joining the non-proliferation treaty, and on accepting the international consensus on a two state solution (which means the dismantling of all settlements). If you were serious about peace, you would have commended Hamas for calling for the IDF involved in the occupation to be replaced by a neutral international peacekeeping force.

If you were serious about peace, you would not support a US war against Iran – which by any evidence has not actually violated any treaty, and if it does – its a less serious violation than the threats of aggression against it which put pressure on it to violate that treaty.

Tristan July 23, 2010 at 4:05 pm

Just to clarify, this kind of hawkish view is not endemic of Oxford students – the Oxford middle east research group has a commendable outlook which is not simply hawkish support for the world defined as Washington and whoever happens to agree:

“Oxford Research Group: The Middle East

Our Philosophy

The landscape of conflict and security is shifting across the Middle East and demands new approaches. Our work aims to support a new, inclusive approach to the Arab-Israeli conflict by opening new space for consultations among legitimate yet opposed stakeholders through high-level political dialogue, analysis and engagement. The goal is to explore accommodations grounded in real support in the societies. The action will engage rooted elements of Palestinian and Israeli societies and stakeholders from the wider region, including faith-based movements.

It also includes an integrated programme of research, consultations, publication, workshops and dissemination. Our work will:

Build up relationships with all the parties involved in the conflict.

Where appropriate, bring together conflicting parties for informal
roundtables in a conducive atmosphere.

Our approach includes:

The pursuit of non-military options to the resolution of conflict.

The application of human security principles to the understanding of conflict.

The need to address the root causes of conflict in order to bring an end to political violence.

The use of sustained dialogue methods.

The pursuit of rigorous research with the aim of a practical application to the resolution of conflict.

http://www.oxfordresearchgroup.org.uk/projects/human_security_and_middle_east

Milan July 23, 2010 at 4:06 pm

By now, we are all aware that you will take every opportunity to condemn Israel. The fact that you are angry about how Israel behaves doesn’t mean it is a good idea for Iran to get nuclear weapons.

Also, there is a big difference between publicly developing bunker busting weapons as a credible threat – in order to improve the odds of Iran negotiating away their nuclear program – and actually attacking Iran, which probably would not succeed.

Tristan July 23, 2010 at 4:11 pm

The fact that you refuse to take any position at all doesn’t change the fact that the crime of agression includes threats of agression, and the first line of the first paragraph of the UN charter condemns the use of threats and calls for collective measures to resolve conflict without resorting to threats or other acts of agression.

“The fact that you are angry about how Israel behaves doesn’t mean it is a good idea for Iran to get nuclear weapons.”

This isn’t exactly true. If you’d bothered to read my recent post on the Iranian issue, you’d know that Israeli historian, Martin Levi Van Creveld, wrote this:

“Even if the Iranians are working on a bomb, Israel may not be their real concern. Iran is now surrounded by American forces on all sides — in the Central Asian republics to the north, Afghanistan to the east, the Gulf to the South and Iraq to the west. Shamkhani expressed Tehran’s unease at the American presence in an Al Jazeera interview broadcast late Wednesday, in which he hinted that some Iranian commanders believe they should strike first if they sense an imminent threat from the United States.

Wherever U.S forces go, nuclear weapons go with them or can be made to follow in short order. The world has witnessed how the United States attacked Iraq for, as it turned out, no reason at all. Had the Iranians not tried to build nuclear weapons, they would be crazy.

Though Iran is ruled by Islamic fundamentalists, most commentators who are familiar with the country do not regard its government as irrational. The only figure capable of inspiring Iranians to extraordinary sacrifices, Ayatollah Khomeini, died more than a decade ago. Even before then, it was Saddam Hussein who attacked Iran, not the other way around; since then Iran has been no more aggressive than most countries are.”
http://www.nytimes.com/2004/08/21/opinion/21iht-edcreveld_ed3_.html

So, there is actually a direct connection with the prime minister of Israel’s calls on Washington to threaten military agression against Iran, and it being “a good idea” for Iran to develop nuclear weapons as a deterrent.

Tristan July 23, 2010 at 4:14 pm

“By now, we are all aware that you will take every opportunity to condemn Israel”

And “America”, and “Capitalism”, and “various crimes against humanity as defined under international law”.

You use to be pretty interested in international law – war law specifically. But I suppose now you think the more reasonable liberal position to take is “strong states do what they like, and civilians can’t do anything about it.”

Unfortunately, one of the casualties to “strong states doing what they like” will be the precious climate. And the climate is precious; it’s the basic condition for human life. And it’s too important to leave up to warmongers to defend.

. July 23, 2010 at 4:19 pm

“OTTAWA – New Democrat Leader Jack Layton and Foreign Affairs Critic Paul Dewar have written a letter to the Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs urging Canada to support the establishment of a nuclear-weapons-free zone in the Middle East, and to assist with building a consensus among the states in the region to achieve this objective.

“The current violation of IAEA requirements by the Government of Iran is of great concern to regional and global stability,” says Layton. “The establishment of a nuclear-weapons-free zone in the Middle East will be a significant step in uniting the region against the development or possession of nuclear weapons.”

http://www.ndp.ca/press/new-democrats-call-for-middle-east-nuclear-free-zone

Tristan July 23, 2010 at 4:31 pm

Iran would surely agree to a nuclear weapons free zone. The whole point of the Paris Agreement, from Iran’s perspective, was EU support against threats of, and possibly real military agression from the US against Iran. The fear of invasion was and remains a real concern after the US has demonstrated that it is prepared to invade sovereign countries without security council resolutions:

From the text of the Paris agreement, sourced from website of what I believe is the French embassy in Iran:

” It will equally provide firm guarantees on nuclear, technological and economic cooperation and firm commitments on security issues.”
(http://www.ambafrance-ir.org/article.php3?id_article=549)

This “firm commitment” is breached by an absence of EU diplomatic opposition against increasing threats of agression against Iran. Therefore, Iran’s “breaking” of the Paris agreement is perfectly understandable (it can’t be said to be “legal” because the agreement was understood not to be a legally binding accord, see the text).

If we’re serious about reducing tensions in the region, we have to target the primary sources of agression.

Tristan July 23, 2010 at 4:34 pm

“Also, there is a big difference between publicly developing bunker busting weapons as a credible threat – in order to improve the odds of Iran negotiating away their nuclear program”

There is surely a big difference, but they both constitute war crimes. They are both exactly what the collective process of the UN is meant to avoid. We use to call this “gunboat diplomacy” – and it’s unclear why we don’t still call it that, since one of the primary threats is the mobilization of nuclear submarines within range of Iran.

To lighten the mood – why not listen to a fun song about gunboat diplomacy! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IJ0anPSEEak

Milan July 23, 2010 at 4:48 pm

It is perfectly legal for any state to develop conventional munitions that are designed to penetrate hardened targets. That said, it is hardly a novel technology. ‘Grand Slam’ bunker busters were used back in WWII.

Tristan July 23, 2010 at 5:17 pm

Sure, but it’s illegal for a state to use that development as a threat – implicitly or explicitly – to achieve diplomatic goals, unless this agression is approved by the security council. The way you described it above does constitute a war crime:

“Also, there is a big difference between publicly developing bunker busting weapons as a credible threat – in order to improve the odds of Iran negotiating away their nuclear program”

Milan July 23, 2010 at 5:23 pm

States implicitly threaten one another all the time. What do you think it means when France or China or the United Kingdom builds an aircraft carrier? Or when India or Russia publicly test anti-ship missiles tailored to sink aircraft carriers?

States aren’t coddled elementary school students. They realize that there are entities out there who want to harm them, and deterrence is one mechanism for responding to that.

Milan July 23, 2010 at 5:27 pm

Incidentally, it is inconsistent to say that it is OK for Iran to threaten to develop nuclear weapons to try and deter the US from attacking them, while it is not OK for the US to threaten to attack Iran to stop them from developing nuclear weapons.

Milan July 23, 2010 at 5:38 pm

In any case, the argument I am making is a utilitarian one. Even if Iran had a legal right to develop nuclear weapons (which they may not have), and even if stopping them would be illegal (which it may not be), it would still be a good idea to stop them if possible.

As I said before: “[T]he last thing we need is more nuclear-armed states in the Middle East.” Reducing the probability of nuclear war is more important than upholding international law, which is slippery power-influenced stuff at the best of times.

Imagine a Middle East in fifty or sixty years in which first Iran and then a bunch of other states developed nuclear weapons: Egypt, Syria, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, perhaps even Iraq. The prospect that they would eventually end up in some multilateral version of the Cuban Missile Crisis seems quite plausible. When we remember that the original Cuban Missile Crisis – which involved just two states – very nearly led to nuclear war, the reasons for worrying about such an outcome are numerous and serious.

All this may be especially true if states like Saudi Arabia are seriously running out of oil by then. For one thing, they won’t have the cash to buy off their own citizens anymore. For another, they won’t have sufficient geopolitical importance for outsiders to protect them. Combine that with nuclear weapons, and you could end up with a very volatile situation.

In an absolutely ideal world, all states would give up nuclear weapons. As it stands, it is unreasonable to expect that. Instead, we need to work to reduce the probability of very bad outcomes, subject to the constraints that exist.

Tristan July 23, 2010 at 6:16 pm

Your “argument” (it’s not really an argument; it’s just a set of assertions) is incoherent. You are content with platitudes like “it would still be a good idea to stop them if possible”, without defining what counts as “if possible”. Does “if possible” include airstrikes against an Iran which has not yet been proven to be in violation of any international agreements?

You say Iran may not have the right to develop nuclear power, and yet you give no argument for this. Is that what it means to speak from a position of authority – that you don’t have to give reasons. “It seems so” is good enough eh?

You continue to ignore the situation under which Iran violated the Paris agreement, which is as much as ridiculing Iran’s fear of invasion – which is hardly unrealistic considering the US military threats, and the fact that their neighbor has been invaded on a made up pretence.

But what makes your position morally unacceptable, is that you tow the mainline of ignoring the other legitimate solutions of preventing nuclear escalation in the region. The NDP has endorsed a nuclear weapons free zone in the middle east – and that is the best solution for the region. There should be security council resolution to that effect, and states that do not comply can be pressured by legal international means into complying.

Tristan July 23, 2010 at 6:26 pm

“…it is inconsistent to say that it is OK for Iran to threaten to develop nuclear weapons”

Has Iran threatened to develop nuclear weapons? I don’t know, and if they did, I don’t think that would be acceptable. My point is, if they are, it is for reasons that are plain and obvious to everyone. The Israeli analysis I cited argued that Iran would be “insane” if they were not developing a nuclear deterrent. He would probably also say Israel would have been “insane” not to pre-emptively strike in ’67. And, he might even be right – but the fact is, sometimes it’s immoral to act in ways that are “not insane”. So yes, I think it’s highly immoral, wrong, and illegal for Iran to develop nuclear weapons. That said, if we care about this possible nuclear development, we can’t simply complain that other people aren’t living up to their near-impossible moral obligations – we need to recognize the positions we put others in by our actions.

It’s a bit like the Kant paradox about the axe wielding lunatic asking you which way the child ran – we can debate about whether or not you should tell the truth, but quite clearly, the axe wielding lunatic is doing something wrong by putting you in a situation where you can either lie (wrong, but is perceived to lead to a good outcome) or tell the truth (right, but is perceived to lead to a bad outcome).

The devout (read: insane) Kantian would say Iran must not develop nuclear weapons. But the reasonable (not insane) Iran would develop nuclear weapons, because it is a small evil in comparison to the perceived bad outcome of not developing them (invasion).

Milan July 23, 2010 at 6:26 pm

Iran has no reason to develop nuclear power. They have heaps of cheap fossil fuels for electricity production.

The only plausible explanation for their nuclear dabblings is to build bombs, or at least be able to threaten to do so.

I have not advocated bombing Iran – just said that the threat could be useful. Among other things, it could help empower those within Iran who see developing nuclear weapons as a dangerous gamble that is not in their national interest.

‘[A] nuclear weapons free zone in the middle east’ means ‘getting Israel to give up their nuclear weapons’ which is simply not going to happen. It might be desirable, in some sense, but it is a complete non-starter.

Milan July 23, 2010 at 6:29 pm

Nuclear weapons or not, there is no way Iran is at risk of invasion.

Indeed, that is one major reason bombing is so unlikely to succeed. Israel doesn’t have the ground forces to follow up on the ground, and the United States would not be willing.

Milan July 23, 2010 at 6:32 pm

Remember, Israel couldn’t even succeed in Lebanon, against an approximate force of 3,000 fighters.

Just the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps has over 100,000 regular troops.

Tristan July 23, 2010 at 6:38 pm

So, you support threats of bombing, but not actual bombing. We’ll, what kind of effect do you think that those threats will have on domestic Iranian politics? What kind of domestic support might it create for the development of nuclear weapons, or other nasty deterrents?

While a nuclear weapon is hard to build, a dirty bomb is not. And, if I were trying to deter an American attack on my country, I would cobble together the nastiest deterrent I could as quickly as possible. I think it would be irresponsible to expect a country to act in any other way than that.

I think Israel would give up their nuclear weapons if they saw prospects for long term peace in the region. Of course, the fact that the administration and army are engaged in a genocidal war of expansion makes “peace” hard to see at all.

But seriously, if there is a genuine resolution to the cycle of violence, we know not what prospects peace might engender. No one is saying it’s easy – but I think the first steps remain obvious.

Tristan July 23, 2010 at 6:40 pm

And again, you continue to ignore the conditions under which the Paris Agreement failed. This is an ominous ignorance, partly because it is so analogous to the way people ignore the conditions under which the Hamas-Israel ceasefire of 2008 failed, and failed to be re-instated. I’m not bringing this up to suggest that a similar massacre will occur, rather to point out that strategic ignorance of important information mis informs the public into thinking a violent response is justified, when in fact a non-violent solution was eminently possible.

Milan July 23, 2010 at 6:44 pm

The Israeli case is a good demonstration of how, in a dangerous part of the world, a state that develops nuclear weapons is essentially never going to give them up. To feel confident in abandoning them, the state that possessed them would need to feel confident that they will be secure decades in the future, when technology and geopolitics may have dramatically changed things. No state is likely to feel confident about that.

The situation reminds me of a quote from Yes, Minister: “Diplomacy is about surviving until the next century. Politics is about surviving until Friday afternoon.”

In the Middle East, the best that can probably be hoped for is keeping it to one nuclear power.

Tristan July 23, 2010 at 6:57 pm

I don’t think you can coherently talk about Israel’s desire for confidence of future peace without talking about the fact they have been continuously at war for the last 37 years – the occupations are acts of war. The peace treaty has literally been on the table for most of that time and it’s very simple – obey the world consensus on a two state settlement and the Arab nations will normalize relations.

It’s incoherent to think that a state which ignores it’s own interests for peace so blatantly might be able to justify possession of nuclear arms on the basis of security. Quite clearly the reason for possessing the arms is not security, but ability to expand. Specifically in this case, to annex the West Bank up to the separation wall, without fear of attack by Arab powers.

The sad thing is when you talk to Zionists, or liberals (it usually amounts to the same thing), they’ll tell you that Israel, by far the strongest military power in the region, is precarious – and fears for its existence. This culture of fear is not politically neutral; it allows for ongoing violence and racism against Arabs in Israel and in the territories. If we cared about our liberal ideals of self-determination and anti-racism, no one would spout this “precarious position” propaganda.

Milan July 23, 2010 at 7:03 pm

At its widest point, Israel runs 114 km from west to east.

It has an estimated population of 7,602,400.

Egypt has 78,737,000. Iran has 74,196,000.

It seems quite plausible that hostile states in the region could eventually build up an advantage in conventional forces. It is also plausible that doing so would rekindle their previous hopes of eliminating Israel as a state.

Milan July 23, 2010 at 7:04 pm

Remember, “surviving until the next century”

Tristan July 23, 2010 at 9:15 pm

Alright, I will. Thanks for the recommendation. Maybe it will change my mind as to the absurdity of a state desiring “peace” through pre-emptive war, and continual occupation of territory gained by war.

Do you actually not believe Israel’s policy of occupation to be directed towards annexation? Or do you think they do fully intend to annex much of the West Bank, and that this is primarily out of a desire for security?

Do you think Israel wants Iran to develop nuclear weapons? Because from the actions, that seems to be the desire.

Tristan July 23, 2010 at 9:16 pm

Sorry, I thought “surviving until the next century” was a book, I misread.

On that note – would you recommend a book which could enlighten this discussion beyond platitudes and strategic ignorance?

Milan July 24, 2010 at 1:23 pm

I don’t think Israeli policy in the West Bank and Gaza has too much to do with diplomacy or international security. Rather, it is driven by domestic pressures. Among those are the ‘Greater Israel’ expansionist aims of part of the population (such as the settler movement, which sometimes clashes with the government). Part of it is also probably a desire to suppress Palestinian terrorism, including suicide bombings within Israel or rocket attacks. For at least some portion of the population, the fact that nightclubs in Tel Aviv are not being blown up shows that the security barrier (and policy towards Gaza and the West Bank generally) is working well.

Ultimately, failing to reach a settlement with the Palestinians probably does somewhat weaken Israeli security.

At the same time, I don’t think Israel’s neighbours care much about the Palestinians. They are useful for manipulating domestic public opinions, because their treatment is a good basis for condemning Israel. A Palestinian state would lose them that means of distracting their own populations; it would also represent a significant change in an extremely conservative region; it would also raise concerns about separation by other marginalized ethnic groups in the region, such as the Kurds in Turkey and Iraq.

Tristan July 24, 2010 at 1:51 pm

Your position remains incoherent, because you don’t talk about the role of the US in supporting the Israeli military, and the Israeli rejection of a peace settlement. You thereby re-enforce the dogma that we can’t do anything about it, that as citizens of democratic countries we are not complicit in the ongoing acts of war.

You can hypostatize about the Arab state’s motivations, i.e. they enjoy the oppression of the Palestinians because:

“They are useful for manipulating domestic public opinions, because their treatment is a good basis for condemning Israel. ”

And you’re not wrong – but it there is a problem with treating the States as homogeneous entities. The oppression of the Palestinians is not good for moderate or socialist movements in those countries which would use the oil for their own benefit rather than to cater to US elites. This is what Washington calls “radical Arab nationalism”, and it’s even more frightening there than in South America.

The oppression of the Palestinians therefore, remains in US foreign policy interests. This not acceptable – both because this is determined by US reliance on foreign oil (which everywhere else you would be opposed to), and because it’s imperialist (which at some point, you should have learned the meaning of).

At the same time, the peace treaty from the Arab league has been offered since the 70s and is in line with the world consensus on a peace settlement. So, as much as you hypostatize about their motivations, if you just look at the facts, it seems they are eminently ready to sign a peace accord and normalize relations. Obama mentioned this in his Cario speech, but left out the essential part: he mentioned the normalizing of relations, and left out the peace settlement along the internationally recognized border. If you think Obama is a nice guy, this is straight up insult to the Arab states.

It’s quite clear what the intellectual elite in Canada, the US and the EU can say about the oppression of the Palestinians: it’s crap. We should say it’s crap! And it’s ongoing because of foreign support, most importantly US support.

Without US rejectionism, a security council resolution repeating 242 could be passed in five minutes, and unilateral measures could be imposed to apply the world consensus peace settlement. This would be better for everyone – it would help begin an end to the cycle of violence, it would help strengthen moderate movements in Arab states, it would normalize relations between Israel and Arab states which would help reduce anti-semitism through the normal means, and it would increase the demand for alternative energy sources.

Tristan July 24, 2010 at 1:54 pm

“Part of it is also probably a desire to suppress Palestinian terrorism”

It seems pretty clear that the Israeli government has no interest in suppressing terrorism. Look into the history behind the Gaza conflict of 2008, and you’ll understand how little Israel cares about reducing rocket attacks.

Terrorism is, after all, incredibly useful in mobilizing support for extreme political positions. That’s why the 9/11 truth movement has so much support – you can say it’s not based on any evidence (although two of my friends with engineering degrees would disagree with you), but it’s certainly based on a salient motivation that state’s have to instill fear in their people to pursue extremist policies.

Milan July 26, 2010 at 9:59 am

The question of what Israel should do with Gaza and the West Bank seems quite disconnected from the question of whether Israel should retain nuclear weapons.

The first issue is largely one of domestic policies, albeit with lots of concern and involvement from outside parties.

The second issue is more a question of long-term military strategy. Because of the level of vulnerability I described, it is easy to see why Israel wants nuclear weapons as a second line of deterrence and defence, after conventional forces.

It is also not at all clear that Israeli abandonment of nuclear weapons would stop Iran (or anyone else) from developing their own. Also, once you have the stocks of enriched uranium or plutonium, as well as the knowledge of how to build a bomb, it is comparatively easy to become or re-become a nuclear power. If Iran gets itself to the cusp of being able to build bombs, they will be a de facto nuclear power. That is especially true given how bomb designs have been shared between states like Pakistan and North Korea. That could give the Iranians or other aspiring bomb makers confidence their weapons will work, even without testing.

Tristan July 26, 2010 at 6:23 pm

“The first issue is largely one of domestic policies, albeit with lots of concern and involvement from outside parties”

This is an incorrect and irresponsible thing to repeat. The occupation and blockade concern the peace treaty which has been offered by the Arab league since the 70s – it concerns the normalization of relations between Israel and Arab states. It concerns basic principles of international law – this is not a “domestic politics” question. This directly concerns Obama’s strategic not mentioning of the substantive content of the peace treaty in the Cairo speech – this Israeli rejectionism of peace is directly supported by the United States, and to a lesser extent by Canada as well (although not by the NDP).

“The second issue is more a question of long-term military strategy. ”

If you didn’t think peace were a serious long term military strategy, then you’d think nuclear weapons were great. The fact that peace is sidelined, insulted, ignored in the liberal media – and in this blog – is not neutral with respect to ongoing violence by Canada and by states which Canada supports.

Tristan July 26, 2010 at 6:24 pm

So much for your Canadian “free press”. The lies repeated in this globe and mail article make it clear that we have nothing but a statist media when the issues are to be excluded from public discussion:

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/canada-to-impose-tough-new-sanctions-on-iran/article1651467/

Milan July 26, 2010 at 6:30 pm

I question the claim that peace between Israel and Palestine would increase the chances of peace between Israel and its neighbours. In the long run, if hostile states in the region become stronger than Israel, it seems very likely that they will attack again, whether there is an independent Palestinian state or not.

Milan July 26, 2010 at 6:44 pm

To be more accurate, I question whether a two state solution would provide Israel with a sufficient security guarantee to make it sensible – from a national security perspective – for Israel to give up nuclear weapons.

Arguably, one reason why France, the United Kingdom, and Russia hang on to nuclear weapons is because they worry that at some point – perhaps hundreds of years from now – they will end up going to war with one another.

It is unrealistic to expect Israel to abandon nuclear weapons, and unrealistic to make doing so a pre-condition to stopping the Iranian nuclear weapons program, if possible. If there is some way for the United States, Israel, or the international community to convince Iran not to make bombs, they should be encouraged to do so.

Tristan July 26, 2010 at 7:48 pm

” I question whether a two state solution would provide Israel with a sufficient security guarantee to make it sensible – from a national security perspective – for Israel to give up nuclear weapons.”

Where does the Arab peace treaty demand Israel give up nuclear weapons?

“if hostile states in the region become stronger than Israel, it seems very likely that they will attack again, whether there is an independent Palestinian state or not.”

Why do you assume the Arab states will remain hostile? By what forces are the populations reproduced as hostile? What role do elites in those countries, and Israeli rejectionism play in that reproduction of hatred and hostility?

Tristan July 26, 2010 at 7:53 pm

Notice the similarity between the current Arab peace initiative:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arab_Peace_Initiative

and Egypt’s peace initiative between 71-73:

http://www.palestinefacts.org/pf_1967to1991_egypt_peace_1971.php

Essentially the same?

Tristan July 26, 2010 at 7:55 pm

And if you are concerned about “hostility” in the middle east – how do you feel about Obama’s claim that he doesn’t like to “use labels on folks” when asked about whether he would speak about the Egyptian human rights record during the Cairo speech? Is Obama a force of peace in the region, even ignoring support for Israeli rejectionism?

. July 26, 2010 at 10:53 pm

Attack on Iran ‘almost certain’

John Lyons, Middle East correspondent

From: The Australian July 27, 2010 12:00AM

http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/world/attack-on-iran-almost-certain/story-e6frg6so-1225897160014

“TENSIONS over Iran are ratcheting up, with a former CIA chief saying he believes a US airstrike is becoming inevitable, while Iran has warned it will “make many troubles” for the US and Israel should any attack occur.

The warnings came as Turkey announced Iran was prepared to begin discussions with the EU after the Islamic holy month of Ramadan ended in September.

But that was seen by many analysts as another stalling tactic by Iran, which insists it has a right to develop a nuclear program despite the UN Security Council imposing a fourth round of sanctions last month.

Former CIA chief Michael Hayden said that while he served under president George W. Bush the option of a military strike was given a low priority, but it now “seems inexorable”.”

Milan July 28, 2010 at 1:04 pm

Attack on Iran ‘almost certain’

I think these are just empty threats, designed to encourage Iran to negotiate.

Israel isn’t strong enough to destroy Iran’s nuclear weapon production facilities, unless they decide to use tactical nuclear weapons themselves.

The United States does not have the appetite for another war. They have been running two while trying to keep society and the economy on a civilian footing. Adding Iran to the mix would probably make that impossible.

Tristan September 3, 2010 at 3:27 am

“Israel isn’t strong enough to destroy Iran’s nuclear weapon production facilities, unless they decide to use tactical nuclear weapons themselves.”

Israel’s goal in war isn’t always to accomplish a military goal. What was the goal of the Gaza massacre?

“during Israel’s massacre in Gaza December 2008 and January 2009, afterwards Israeli officials were saying that they wanted to show the Arab world that they were capable of acting like a lunatic state and like mad dogs that they wanted to restore the Arab world’s fear of Israel and that’s why they acted like a lunatic state and like mad dogs in Gaza. But after yesterday’s events we really have to ask the question: Is Israel acting like a lunatic state or has it become a lunatic state. And that’s not just rhetoric. It’s a very serious issue.”

http://www.campaigniran.org/casmii/index.php?q=node/10239

Tristan September 3, 2010 at 4:42 am

I think the most straightforward solution to an actual Israeli attack would be assuring its failure – Russia should supply Iran with effective anti aircraft weapons. And/or Saudi Arabia should shoot down any Israeli aircraft bound for attacking Iran.

Soldiers committing illegal acts of agression are not morally considerable. The scientists and other civilians which would be the targets of Israeli agression are.

Milan September 3, 2010 at 8:36 am

You haven’t made any convincing case for why an Iranian bomb would be a positive development. All told, it would be far more threatening and destabilizing than useful at increasing regional security.

Secondly, facilities necessary for the development of nuclear weapons can be considered legitimate military targets, at least as much as manufacturing facilities for conventional munitions. There are a number of precedents for facilities being considered in that way:

  • Two commando raids against the heavy Norsk Hydro water plant at Vemork (19 November 1942 and 16 February 1943)
  • The sinking of the ferry SF Hydro, carrying heavy water (20 February 1944)
  • The aerial bombing of Japan’s gaseous thermal diffusion uranium enrichment plant (13 April 1945)
  • Special forces operations to secure uranium supplies, equipment, and scientific personnel that were part of the German nuclear weapons program during WWII (Operation Alsos)
  • The destruction of the Iraqi nuclear reactor at Osirak (7 June 1981)
  • The airstrike in Syria, against a suspected nuclear reactor (6 September 2007)

If you insist on focusing on the legality, the question is whether a pre-emptive attack against Iran is legal – not whether nuclear facilities are legitimate targets in war.

Tristan September 3, 2010 at 3:10 pm

“You haven’t made any convincing case for why an Iranian bomb would be a positive development.”

I don’t have to. This is like saying, on the eve of the Iraq war, “those who oppose the Iraq war must make a convincing case arguing why the government the US will install will be worse than the existing one”.

The burden is on those who argue for the use of violence, not those who oppose it. The use of violence has myriad nasty effects – it kills civilians and innocent soldiers (as well as non innocent soldiers). It destabilizes the striving for peace in the region. It generally makes the world a nasty place.

Yes – the world would be better if Iran did not pursue nuclear weapons. But, we don’t actually have any evidence that they are – and even if we did, they are simply acting rationally given the security threat the US poses. The fact that the standard liberal discussion in the US is to justify missile attacks proves that Iran should be fearful of US agression – and it is rational for it to pursue nuclear deterrence.

Tristan September 3, 2010 at 3:12 pm

The attacks on Nazi Germany were legitimate targets because the allies were engaged in a legitimate war.

“The destruction of the Iraqi nuclear reactor at Osirak (7 June 1981)
The airstrike in Syria, against a suspected nuclear reactor (6 September 2007)”

These are instances of unprovoked agression, or “crimes against peace” – if the Nuremberg principles were applied, those who ordered these attacks would hang.

Tristan September 3, 2010 at 3:17 pm

If speculation is legitimate military evidence, and possible threats to authority is a crime – then why shouldn’t Canada exercise unprovoked airstrikes of various first nations strongholds before they are able to oppose mining development with armed force?

Milan September 3, 2010 at 3:20 pm

Under the precedent from the Caroline case, to invoke the doctrine of pre-emptive self-defence states must “show a necessity of self-defence, instant, overwhelming, leaving no choice of means, and no moment for deliberation.”

This principle seems out of date in the era of nuclear weapons, especially when it comes to a small state like Israel. They face the threat of being overwhelmed by conventional forces, and an even greater threat from nuclear arms.

International law has to evolve, as circumstances change.

Milan September 3, 2010 at 3:22 pm

Similarly, there are times when it is justifiable to break the law, in order to avert a greater evil. I think the Osirak and Syria airstrikes are examples where – if international law was broken – it was done for the better.

The possibility of a nuclear arms race in the Middle East is extremely worrisome – and far more threatening to the civilian populations in the region than airstrikes against Iran would be.

Milan September 3, 2010 at 3:22 pm

Again, I agree that a diplomatic solution is preferable. I think the threat of force makes that outcome more likely.

Tristan September 3, 2010 at 3:33 pm

So, you agree with the US post 9/11 position – that they should be allowed to invade whoever they want, whenever. Support whichever non NPT nuclear development they want, and oppose it wherever they want. Play “globocop”, effectively.

This isn’t a serious position. I can’t argue with someone who is in favour of employing double standards.

Tristan September 3, 2010 at 3:34 pm

By your standards, the Pearl Harbour attack was eminently justifiable. But, because they are double standards, “that is preposterous”.

Tristan September 3, 2010 at 3:35 pm

Effectively, you are opposed to the burden of proof on those who would employ violence being any higher than those who oppose military intervention.

Milan September 3, 2010 at 3:53 pm

You think it is worth risking a nuclear arms race in the Middle East, in order to prove a point about international law and how reprehensible you think Israel is.

I doubt many people who live in cities likely to be targeted by the weapons from that arms race would share your mode of thinking. Partly, that is why – far from shooting down an Israeli attack force – Saudi Arabia would probably welcome the destruction of Iran’s nuclear facilities.

Milan September 3, 2010 at 4:02 pm

By your standards, the Pearl Harbour attack was eminently justifiable.

Arguably, it was justifiable. Pearl Harbor was a military target, and the iron and oil sanctions the United States had imposed on Japan could potentially be considered sufficient cause for going to war. I wouldn’t call it ’eminently’ justifiable, but I do think it demonstrated something important about modern war – pre-emptive strikes are now often a tactical or strategic necessity.

why shouldn’t Canada exercise unprovoked airstrikes of various first nations strongholds before they are able to oppose mining development with armed force?

This is a deeply faulty argument. I am saying: “Even if it would be illegal to attack Iran, it is justifiable to use the threat to encourage diplomacy. Potentially, an actual attack could also be justified on the basis of being a less bad outcome than letting Iran get nuclear weapons.” You cannot translate that into blanket support for any kind of attack. Doing so is like saying: “That man drove on an expired license to take his injured child to the hospital, therefore anybody can drive on an expired license for any reason.”

You need to consider the situation, not just abstract principles of law.

Milan September 3, 2010 at 4:04 pm

You have also failed to effectively counter the argument that nuclear weapons would not increase Iranian security.

Tristan September 3, 2010 at 4:04 pm

I think all states that engage in agression are reprehensible. I think crimes against peace are the major force behind such things as a middle east arms race. I think the desire to blow up Iran’s attempt to develop a nuclear deterrent is a short sighted and ineffective long-term way to address security issues in the middle east. The serious solution is peace. And America is the largest threat to peace in the region, partially through its support for Israeli expansionism, partially through its support of brutal dictators in the region, and partially through its invasion or threats of invasion towards states that do not obey orders from Washington.

Milan September 3, 2010 at 4:12 pm

A point you can make – beyond ‘Iran should not be attacked because it is illegal’ – would be to say that threats of attack are more likely to encourage Iran to be bellicose than to encourage it to scrap its nuclear program.

Whether one position or the other is true isn’t something either of us is qualified to judge, given how little we know about the internal workings of the Iranian government.

Milan September 3, 2010 at 4:17 pm

In the long run, the geopolitical importance of the Middle East will probably decline enormously as they run out of fossil fuels (though it will likely increase in the interim, as fuels get scarce and expensive).

It would surely be better to keep the region as non-nuclear as possible for now. When the oil and gas start running out, there will be major upheaval in the region. That would be a lot less scary if nuclear weapons aren’t involved. The same seems likely for the period when the world has moved beyond fossil fuels and the Middle East is relatively unimportant, strategically.

How probably do you think it is that Iranian nuclear bombs would create an arms race?

Tristan September 3, 2010 at 4:35 pm

“A point you can make – beyond ‘Iran should not be attacked because it is illegal’ – would be to say that threats of attack are more likely to encourage Iran to be bellicose than to encourage it to scrap its nuclear program.”

“Even if the Iranians are working on a bomb, Israel may not be their real concern. Iran is now surrounded by American forces on all sides — in the Central Asian republics to the north, Afghanistan to the east, the Gulf to the South and Iraq to the west. Shamkhani expressed Tehran’s unease at the American presence in an Al Jazeera interview broadcast late Wednesday, in which he hinted that some Iranian commanders believe they should strike first if they sense an imminent threat from the United States.

Wherever U.S forces go, nuclear weapons go with them or can be made to follow in short order. The world has witnessed how the United States attacked Iraq for, as it turned out, no reason at all. Had the Iranians not tried to build nuclear weapons, they would be crazy.

Though Iran is ruled by Islamic fundamentalists, most commentators who are familiar with the country do not regard its government as irrational. The only figure capable of inspiring Iranians to extraordinary sacrifices, Ayatollah Khomeini, died more than a decade ago. Even before then, it was Saddam Hussein who attacked Iran, not the other way around; since then Iran has been no more aggressive than most countries are.”
http://www.nytimes.com/2004/08/21/opinion/21iht-edcreveld_ed3_.html

http://northernsong.wordpress.com/2010/07/14/irans-nuclear-program-threats-agression-and-crazy/

Tristan September 3, 2010 at 4:37 pm

“Even if it would be illegal to attack Iran, it is justifiable to use the threat to encourage diplomacy. ”

Ok, so even if it would be legal to bomb Indian Reservations, it might be justifiable if it would encourage a group of first nations engaged in an armed blockade of a mine development to diplomatically allow Victoria or Ottawa to destroy their hunting and fishing grounds.

Tristan September 3, 2010 at 4:37 pm

what I should have said:

Even if it would be illegal to bomb Indian Reservations, it might be justifiable if it would encourage a group of first nations who might potentially engaged in an armed blockade of a mine development to diplomatically allow Victoria or Ottawa to destroy their hunting and fishing grounds.

Milan September 3, 2010 at 4:40 pm

Avoiding a nuclear arms race is a laudable goal. Destroying hunting and fishing grounds is not.

Tristan September 3, 2010 at 11:35 pm

Ok – so what means by which could the US and Britain pursue avoiding a nuclear arms race in the middle east? The best option is one they are already committed to through international agreements – a nuclear weapons free zone. The US’s official position is this cannot be pursued until the Palestinian question is solved.

So, while I think the current peace talks are very problematic – if they could produce a solution tenable even in the short term, that could open the door to US pressure on Israel and Pakistan to institute a NWFZ.

I think the problematic nature of the current peace talks is far less problematic than bombing Iranian scientists. Although, if Israel does not withdraw from Gaza, these peace talks will be remembered as the “peace talk war”.

Tristan September 3, 2010 at 11:40 pm

Other Oxford scholars are considerable less ready to call for agression:

“Avoiding Military Confrontation with Iran

Given the risk of a major military confrontation between the United States and Iran, and the possible involvement of Israel in military action, ORG is engaged in a substantial programme of analysis of the risks of war and its likely consequences.

Following a similar programme prior to the start of the Iraq War in 2003, which turned out to be remarkably prescient in its assessment of the consequences of that war, ORG has held a series of roundtables and meetings with government, and published several reports, including Iran: Consequences of a War and Would Airstrikes Work?

ORG plans to extend its work to a study of alternatives to military action. We are also planning various US-Israeli-Iranian Track II meetings. In March 2007, we hosted Iran’s Permanent Representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Dr. Ali-Asghar Soltanieh, for a series of off-the-record consultations, meetings with NGOs and press interviews in the UK.

We are coordinating much of our work on Iran with other partner NGOs, aid groups and religious organisations through Crisis Action and the Iran Action Group. One of the main aims of ORG and the Iran Action Group has been to make it politically unacceptable for the British government to support military strikes against Iran. In February 2007, Crisis Action published Time to Talk: The Case for Diplomatic Solutions on Iran, a joint report from 15 organisations, including ORG.”

http://www.oxfordresearchgroup.org.uk/projects/human_security_and_middle_east/avoiding_military_confrontation_with_iran

Milan September 3, 2010 at 11:47 pm

Referring to me as an Oxford ‘scholar’ does a disservice to those who didn’t just briefly pass through.

. November 11, 2010 at 10:09 am

US, Israel seek regime change in Iran – Former CIA officer

“Iranian claims a man it identified as a missing nuclear scientist had been abducted and taken to the United States by the CIA.

Shahram Amiri disappeared while on a pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia in June 2009.
At the time it was reported by US media that Amiri had defected to the US and was assisting the CIA undermine Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Iran contended that he was abducted by the US. Amiri is reportedly living in the US state of Arizona.

“It’s quite possible that both [stories] have a grain of truth,” said retired CIA officer and political activist Raymond McGovern.

Amiri made video transmissions stating at different times that he was happy in Arizona and another saying he was tortured. In the past, the CIA has been found guilty of kidnapping individuals.”

http://rt.com/usa/news/us-regime-change-iran/

Tristan December 2, 2010 at 2:16 pm

The Charade of Israeli-Palestinian Talks
By NOAM CHOMSKY

http://www.inthesetimes.com/article/6715/the_charade_of_israeli-palestinian_talks/

“…the Iranian threat is not military, as the Pentagon and U.S. intelligence have emphasized. Were Iran to develop a nuclear weapons capacity, the purpose would be deterrent—presumably to ward off a U.S.-Israeli attack.

The real threat, in Washington’s view, is that Iran is seeking to expand its influence in neighboring countries “stabilized” by U.S. invasion and occupation.”

. January 7, 2011 at 1:19 pm

TO JUDGE by the way his bluff has just been called over Israeli settlements in the West Bank, Barack Obama is not a natural poker player. His dealings with Iran suggest that he may be rather better at chess. For the first time in more than a year, diplomats from Iran met in Geneva this week with the sextet of America, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany to discuss its nuclear programme. The meeting broke up after two days having apparently achieved nothing more than a bad-tempered agreement to meet again in January. From a chess-player’s point of view, that is not necessarily a bad outcome for the Americans.

To understand why, recall the history. Mr Obama entered office promising not to let Iran build the bomb. Since then his administration has worked methodically to weaken and encircle the regime in Tehran. This led last June to yet another UN Security Council sanctions resolution—the fourth—calling on Iran to stop enriching uranium. Although Iran ignored this resolution, the severity of this round of sanctions seems to have taken the regime by surprise and may have encouraged its return to the table. For America, such moments are a danger as much as an opportunity, because periods of negotiation give waverers such as Russia and China an excuse to relax their squeeze. So far, however, there is no sign of this happening as a result of the inconclusive meeting in Geneva. In some cable not yet acquired by WikiLeaks American diplomats may well be breathing a sigh of relief.

. February 17, 2011 at 10:38 pm

AP sources: US sees Iran’s leaders split on nukes
By MATTHEW LEE –
By The Associated Press

ASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. intelligence agencies believe Iran’s leaders are divided over the question of whether to use its nuclear program to develop atomic weapons and is immersed in a serious internal debate about how to proceed in the face of international sanctions, American officials said Wednesday.

“We continue to assess Iran is keeping the option open to develop nuclear weapons in part by developing various nuclear capabilities that better position it to produce such weapons should it choose to do so,” National Intelligence Director James Clapper told Congress. “We do not know, however, if Iran will eventually decide to build nuclear weapons.”

Two officials told The Associated Press that the United States believes Iran’s government is fragmented on the matter and beset by divisions. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the findings of a new classified assessment of Iran that Clapper told lawmakers on Wednesday had been completed recently.

The key finding of the new NIE — that Iran’s leaders remain divided over whether to go forward with a bomb — was first reported by the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday.

The new National Intelligence Estimate replaces a 2007 version that controversially concluded Iran had abandoned attempts to develop nuclear weapons in 2003. That report was disputed by Israel and several European intelligence services.

Discussing the broad outlines of the findings, Clapper told the Senate Intelligence Committee that Iran remained a challenge and a potential threat despite the internal debate.

. March 30, 2014 at 5:07 pm

Even training for combat itself can be helped with dice and cards. Harpoon, a game about naval warfare, has proved so accurate in the past that hundreds of Pentagon officials will play it when the next version comes out in a couple of years, says Mr Patch. One of its designers, Chris Carlson, is also responsible for the “kinetic” aspects of Persian Incursion (ie, the bits that involve shooting). Mr Carlson is a former Defence Intelligence Agency analyst; Persian Incursion’s data on the nuts and bolts of assembling and commanding bomber, escort, and refuelling aircraft “strike packages” for destroying Iran’s nuclear sites is so precise that on at least two occasions intelligence officials have suggested that he is breaking the law by publishing it.

. July 9, 2016 at 2:18 pm

For a start, North Korea was a lot further down the road to a nuclear-weapons capability than Iran, which had remained within the NPT and was still a few years from being able to test a device. And Mr Obama realised there was also much more leverage to be had over Iran than North Korea. Bill Clinton had come close to authorising an air strike on Yongbyon in 1994, but pulled back in the belief it would trigger a new war on the peninsula that, by some estimates, could cost a million lives. After the nuclear test in 2006 the military option was off the table for good. That was never true of Iran. The Iranian leadership could not fully discount the threat of a pre-emptive strike by either Israel or America.

Lastly, Iran always (if implausibly) denied that it was seeking the capability to make nuclear weapons—the supreme leader Ali Khamenei even issued a fatwa that described possessing nuclear weapons as a “grave sin”. Mr Kim believes that nuclear weapons are essential. Like his father before him he has built them into the national narrative and iconography, seeing them as fundamental to the dynasty’s survival. Even without nuclear weapons, Iran is a regional power that America has to take seriously. North Korea has no other claim to fame except its nastiness. Its ruler sees nuclear weapons as the key to gaining the respect he demands from the outside world. They are not bargaining chips to be traded for other benefits.

The next issue is whether the North Koreans have graduated from devices that can be tested to devices that can be fitted onto either its existing medium-range Nodong missile (developed from the Soviet-era Scud C) or its two missiles under development, the Musudan intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM) and the KN-08 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). Mr Schilling thinks that they would not have carried out four nuclear tests on something they did not think they could deliver. On March 9th, Mr Kim was photographed paying a visit to what may have been the Chamjin missile factory outside Pyongyang. In a hall packed with several ballistic missiles, Mr Kim posed beside a plausible-looking re-entry vehicle that would be consistent in size with a fission device about 60cm in diameter and weighing up to 300 kilograms. Both American and South Korean officials are convinced that North Korea can indeed make a warhead small enough to fit on the Nodong, which can reach targets in Japan, including American bases.

Another ground test on April 9th has, according to Mr Schilling, put to rest any doubts about North Korea’s ability to build an ICBM sooner rather than later. Two engines from Soviet-era R-27 submarine-launched ballistic missiles were coupled together to provide the propulsive power and range for a warhead carried by a KN-08 to hit the east coast of the United States. It is not known how many R-27s North Korea has, but up to 150 went missing from Russia in the post-Soviet 1990s. Mr Schilling reckons flight testing of a KN-08 enhanced in this way could begin soon, leading to a “limited operational capability by 2020”.

Mr Pollack says that if Mr Kim wants the sort of bells-and-whistles deterrent deployed by the large nuclear powers, with submarine-launched and mobile missiles, the ruinous expense would make such a policy impossible. If, on the other hand, Mr Kim just wants what Mr Pollack calls a “don’t fuck with us” deterrent—one that keeps outside powers from interfering with his regime—he probably has one now.

Mr Elleman has calculated that, faced with 50-missile salvoes, a layered defence consisting of two THAAD batteries and South Korea’s existing Patriot systems would be able to stop all but 10% of what was fired. He and Michael Zagurek, in a paper for 38 North, base their calculations on what is known in the jargon as “single-shot probability of kill” (SSPK). With two layers of defence, the SSPK of each interceptor need only be a bit over 0.7 for 90% of the incoming missiles to be destroyed.

That would be an impressively effective defence against conventionally armed missiles. But only one or two nuclear warheads need to get through for the casualties to be immense (420,000 killed and injured in Seoul for each 20 kiloton warhead, reckon Mr Elleman and Mr Zagurek). And if nuclear-tipped missiles were launched alongside or behind conventional decoys the system would be clueless as to which was which. If Mr Kim were to add submarine-launched missiles to his arsenal, defence would be harder still; they could be fired out of sight of THAAD’s radar.

http://www.economist.com/news/briefing/21699449-kim-jong-un-home-straight-making-his-country-serious-nuclear-power-nobody-knows

Leave a Comment

You can use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

{ 1 trackback }

Previous post:

Next post: