A show of force in the Gulf

No matter how much one tries to focus on the non-security bits of international relations, anyone who reads the news and is concerned about the world will get exposed to it pretty regularly. Yesterday, for instance, nine American warships carrying 17,000 military personnel were sent into the Persian Gulf. Some speculate that this was intended as a corollary to an announcement from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) about Iran’s ongoing nuclear program. The strike group included two Nimitz carrier battle groups and 2,100 marines in landing ships. The ongoing war games will apparently “culminate in an amphibious landing exercise in Kuwait, just a few miles from Iran.”

According to the IAEA, Iran has about 1,300 centrifuges online at Natanz, with another 600 likely to become available over the summer. Having 3,000 operational centrifuges would produce enough weapons-grade uranium for one bomb per year.

The question of how to deal with challenges to the existing non-proliferation regime is an acute one. More and more states will gain the technical capacity to make bombs in the next few decades. Many will be in dangerous parts of the world, with hostile neighbours who can be plausibly expected to be building bombs of their own. Furthermore, the inability of the current regime to prevent the North Korean test raises the question of how much influence the international community really has, especially when some states are willing to become pariahs.

Author: Milan

In the spring of 2005, I graduated from the University of British Columbia with a degree in International Relations and a general focus in the area of environmental politics. In the fall of 2005, I began reading for an M.Phil in IR at Wadham College, Oxford. Outside school, I am very interested in photography, writing, and the outdoors. I am writing this blog to keep in touch with friends and family around the world, provide a more personal view of graduate student life in Oxford, and pass on some lessons I've learned here.

10 thoughts on “A show of force in the Gulf”

  1. I would have said a problem with the existing regime as grave as the one you mentioned would be nuclear weapons states’ failure to adhere to their Article Six obligations. The planned expiration of START without any hard limit follow-on in addition to the pretty weak provisions of the Moscow Treaty are evidence of this. Not to sound too much like Michael Wallace or anything…

  2. Good faith participation in international negotiation on nuclear disarmament—including participation in the CTBT—is a legal and political obligation of all parties to the NPT that entered into force in 1970 and was extended indefinitely in 1995. The Bush administration’s nuclear program, alongside its refusal to ratify the CTBT, will be viewed, with reason, by many nations as equivalent to a U.S. break from the treaty. It says to the nonnuclear weapons nations, “We, with the strongest conventional military force in the world, require nuclear weapons in perpetuity, but you, facing potentially well-armed opponents, are never to be allowed even one nuclear weapon.”

  3. UN warns on Iran nuclear schedule

    Mohamed ElBaradei, the head of the UN’s atomic agency, has said Iran could develop a nuclear weapon in three to eight years if it so chooses.

    Mr ElBaradei said he wanted to prevent Iran from enriching uranium on an industrial scale and to use talks to ease tensions over its nuclear work.

  4. Not all ongoing operations are so overt:

    “The CIA has received secret presidential approval to mount a covert “black” operation to destabilize the Iranian government, current and former officials in the intelligence community tell the Blotter on ABCNews.com.

    The sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the subject, say President Bush has signed a “nonlethal presidential finding” that puts into motion a CIA plan that reportedly includes a coordinated campaign of propaganda, disinformation and manipulation of Iran’s currency and international financial transactions.”

    Via ABC News

  5. Incidentally, the comments below that post are illuminating in and of themselves. It is surprising how many people are willing to accuse you of treason, but who cannot spell ‘treason,’ ‘treasonous’, or ‘traitor.’

  6. Tristan,

    This goes back to the earlier post on conspiracy theories. That is not to say the GM issue is a conspiracy – only that most people can only evaluate these kind of stories based on intuitive reactions. For instance:

    1) How trustworthy is the source of the claim you are looking at?
    2) What previous general conclusions did you reach about the safety of GM foods of the suspiciousness of the World Trade Centre collapse.

    In this case, my previous conclusions that GM foods probably have more benefits than flaws is not really challenged by the source you link. I don’t doubt that GM food will sometimes have harmful effects, but I think that it can generally be a source of human welfare.

    As for the physicist questioning the WTC collapse, I am satisfied with the information I have seen suggesting that the controlled demolition hypothesis is nonsense. Jet fuel certainly burns hot enough to weaken steel to the point where a structure like the WTC towers could no longer retain structural integrity.

  7. U.S.: To Kill a Carrier
    July 2, 2008

    Nevertheless, the rise of the latest generation of supersonic anti-ship missiles is unmistakably under way. Since the advent of the first anti-ship missiles, the United States has fought to defend its carriers. This was the proximate motivation for Aegis — the battle control system of Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruisers and Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers. Designed to coordinate the defenses of a carrier battle group and defeat dozens and dozens of incoming Soviet anti-ship missiles (a mission for which it has never been tested in combat), Aegis is the embodiment of the fundamental vulnerability of the aircraft carrier.

    One of the great technological achievements of the Cold War, Aegis symbolized the cutting edge of naval technology. To this day, it stands as perhaps the essential link in the U.S. Navy’s competitive technological advantage in battle. Nevertheless, it took this revolutionary development to attempt to defend against the already-extant threat of Soviet anti-ship missiles. Such technology has been around for decades now, and will only continue to proliferate and improve.

  8. The latest media reports on an anomalous United Arab Emirates air force (UAEAF) C-130 Hercules heading for China suggest the cargo was a small shipment of Harpoon anti-ship missiles. This new detail was published on Sept. 10 by The Times of India, citing defense sources. STRATFOR has yet to confirm the report, and discussion of this particular flight remains rife with speculation. The matter does warrant further examination, though at this point it continues to raise more questions than answers.

    The UAEAF C-130 in question had been detained since Sept. 6 in Calcutta, at the Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose International Airport, following an inspection during a scheduled stopover. The flight was reportedly cleared for departure and left the airport early on Sept. 10 to continue on to China (it was originally scheduled to leave days before).

    The most important question concerns the inspection in Calcutta. The idea that a clandestine shipment of weapons on a scheduled flight would be intercepted by standard inspection procedures on the ground at a civilian airport seems odd. Most reports suggest that the cargo consisted of three long boxes that could contain anything from spare parts to ordnance. Even if a local inspector became suspicious, a small bribe would not have been out of the question in this part of the world. Instead, reports suggest that the crew was interrogated until one pilot admitted there were weapons aboard.

  9. “These are, in other words, the Harpoons that would be fired at Chinese ships in a naval confrontation. So the most important thing China could learn from them might well be the means to improve its own shipboard defensive weapons and countermeasures.”

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