Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Iran Nuke Threat: Phantom Menace

Brave New World/CounterPunch/Dissident Voice 
by Ben Schreiner

They say you can’t kill that which has never lived.  It’s useful advice when analyzing the persistence of the so-called “Iranian nuclear threat.” 

According to a report in McClatchy, “Israeli intelligence officials now estimate that Iran won’t be able to build a nuclear weapon before 2015 or 2016.”   

Recall that just this past September Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was theatrically warning that Iran would achieve nuclear weapons capability by "next spring, at most by next summer."

Of course, Netanyahu has made a career out of warning that Iran is about to go nuclear – claiming as early as 1992 that Iran was 3 to 5 years away from being able to produce a bomb.

As one Israeli official justifiably lamented to McClatchy, “Did we cry wolf too early?”  Yes – early and often, to be precise.

"There has not been the run towards a nuclear bomb that some people feared,” the Israeli official went on to note.  “There is a deliberate slowing on their [Iran’s] end."

The fact that Iran has made no run towards a bomb should come as no surprise.  After all, both U.S. and Israeli intelligence estimates have repeatedly found that Iran is not pursuing a bomb.

Moreover, it’s been nearly a year now since Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei first issued a fatwa against nuclear weapons.

“The Islamic Republic,” Khamenei declared back in early 2012, “logically, religiously and theoretically, considers the possession of nuclear weapons a grave sin and believes the proliferation of such weapons is senseless, destructive and dangerous.”

Speaking earlier this month, Iran's Foreign Ministry Spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast reiterated that Khamenei’s fatwa is binding. 

“There is nothing more important in defining the framework for our nuclear activities than the Leader's fatwa,” Mehmanparast stated. “This fatwa is our operational instruction.”

Contrast, then, the Iranian nuclear posture with that of the U.S. and Israel – the two supposedly threatened parties. 

Israel has perhaps as many as 200 nuclear weapons.  It is unknown precisely just how many bombs Israel possesses because it refuses to sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty (which Iran has done), or allow in international inspectors (which Iran continues to do).

Meanwhile, the U.S. – the only nation to actually deploy nuclear weapons in combat – is currently in the midst of upgrading its arsenal of 5,113 nuclear warheads.  With conservative estimates approaching $400 billion, the Washington Post reports, it will be the “costliest overhaul in its history.”

And yet, it is Iran that poses the nuclear threat.   

In fact, Netanyahu, in defiance of his country’s own intelligence, continues to this day to warn of “Iran’s race to achieve nuclear capability." 

The Iranian nuclear threat simply cannot be killed.  And as it is permitted to linger, the U.S. military planning against Iran continues its acceleration.

As former Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barack revealed in a recent interview with the Daily Beast, the Pentagon has drawn up detailed plans for a “surgical operation” against Iran – what Barack deemed “scalpels.” 

It’s worth noting, however, that much of the speculation on a possible U.S. strike against Iran has centered on the use of the Pentagon's Massive Ordnance Air Blast weapon.  At 30,000 pounds, the “mother of all bombs,” as it is known, is the “largest non-nuclear weapon in the U.S. military arsenal.” 

Clearly, the definition of what constitutes a “surgical operation” is becoming ever more flexed.

The Israeli daily Haaretz, meanwhile, reports that the Pentagon has just deployed six F-22 Raptor fighters to the Al-Dhafra Airbase in the United Arab Emirates. 

The F-22, as Haaretz notes, is the “most advanced fighter currently in operational use by the United States Air Force and the only operational ‘stealth’ fighter in use around the world with the capability to evade enemy radar systems.” 

The Pentagon originally deployed the F-22s to its UAE airbase last April, but claimed at the time that their deployment was to be temporary.  But after nine months, and a reinforcement of the warplanes, the deployment appears to be quite permanent.

It is again useful to compare Washington’s military posture in the Gulf to that of Tehran. 

As an April Pentagon report found, Iran’s defense doctrine remains one of self-defense.  Iran’s military capacity, the report notes, is designed specifically to “slow an invasion” and “force a diplomatic solution to hostilities.”   

The stationing of the stealth fighters in the UAE, along with a naval armada in the waters of the Persian Gulf, makes it abundantly clear what the U.S. defense doctrine is designed for.

It’s clear, then, the Iranian nuclear threat is but a phantom menace.  And that in part explains its enduring presence.  You can’t kill that which has never lived.

Read at Brave New World, CounterPunch, and Dissident Voice.


  1. Phantom Menace: Nuking FUTS!

  2. I always appreciate views from the other side. I think looking at both sides of an argument is required to bring a healthy and objective judgement. I hope you will look at my prospective to expand your opinion of the other side.

    Response to Paragraph 2 and 3
    I love reporters but, this story is complicated and its not that they are lieing but there are many dates and they keep moving and the reporters are not reporting in a way that fully allows the reader to follow whats going on. Let me explain.

    Buy - Say from North Korea – could already have enough for a handful.
    Steal – May have done this already as well.
    Build - Uranium and Plutonium
    For Uranium:
    Breakout Date 1 bomb – About 20-30 days (Iran keeps this date at this level) This means attempt to break out at facilities monitored by IAEA
    Breakout Date 3 bombs - They likely want more then 1 but 1 may be enough… 90 days but dropping as 5% stocks grow.
    Sneak Out – currently short estimate is 6 months long is 1 year. But No one knows, but history suggests this is an active process.

    Plutonium – I am less of an expert here but they did just empty spent fuel (the raw material) into a holding pond… Russia is supposed to get the raw material but as of today this has not happened. I have no date to offer here.

    Delivery System – (to threaten the US) requires proper bomb design and rocket. To use it as a detureant.
    Bomb design – they have it and its proven to work. China gave it to Pakistan and a company in Pakistan gave it to Iran and a few other countries.
    Able to build - The one part that is hard to make seems to have been mastered. Tested at the Parchin facility.
    Missile – Liquid Yes but would be detected. Solid maybe. Shab-3
    Re-Entry If monkey test was legit, is also achievable.

    Centrifuge efficiency - Sa2 designs = 3-5 times less time to above estimates.
    Stock of pre-enriched material (3.5 /5/20) Iran keeps the amount of 20% constant by converting it to a less usable form called uranium oxide.
    Installing new units and getting them to the point of a flip of a switch from being turned on etc.

    So depending on what you look at as nuclear weapon can hugely change.

    There is a window to still work on diplomacy, depending on what Iran does we are looking at military action as soon as this hour to at most 5 months… beyond 5 months would start to gravely risk missing a Sneak out attempt. Because the threshold for action of the US is enough material for 1 weapon in a time too short to stop them for sure.

    Don’t be fooled, Iran has gotten the attention it has because it is systemically building a redundant distributed and multifaceted approach to achieve a nuclear ICBM capability with investment that is not logical in scale, cost, need, etc for any reason other then a military demention.

    On another note it is the MOP that was designed for Iran not the MOAB.

    Beyond the nuclear issue there are many other areas of justification. Terror operations abroad. Funding terrorist groups. Killing our troops in Iraq, fueling ethnic tension across the region. Supporting Syria and fueling the death there. Killing their own citizens for stupid stuff.

    The biggest shame is that the people of Iran are great they could have a great economy and be a force for good and stability in the middle east but the regime's agenda is going just as fast in the other direction and it is going to bring us to war.

    1. I appreciate the comment. What you have to say, though, is garbage.

      First, Iran is nowhere as close as you claim it is to achieving nuclear weapons capability. I suggest you read the McClatchy piece I linked to.

      Second, your claim of an undisputed Iranian nuclear weapons program is in fact very much in dispute. Just today, Leon Panetta reiterated on “Meet the Press” that Iran 1) has no nuclear weapons program and 2) has not even made a decision on whether or not to pursue nuclear weapons.

      Third, you rather absurdly claim that – regardless of the nuclear issue – Iran makes a deserving target. I don’t want to take the time addressing each of your “other areas of justification,” but suffice it to say that using your own criteria, the U.S. ought to be targeted as well.

      I could go on, but to be quite honest, all you're doing is regurgitating stale propaganda.