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January 31, 2015 / 11 Shevat, 5775
 
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Posts Tagged ‘nuclear weapons’

US, West, Ignoring Pakistan’s Nuclear Threat

Monday, February 4th, 2013

For more than two decades now, the West has been occupied with nuclear 
programs of classic anti-Western forces, such as Iran, the now-toppled
 Gaddafi regime of Libya and North Korea. Nonetheless, the West has
 been overlooking an Islamic country that already has nuclear arms 
rather than nuclear ambitions: Pakistan.

Pakistan is a nuclear power that might swiftly fall into the hands of Islamists.  If that happens, Pakistan might well be the most dangerous country in the world.  That is so because if the Islamists take control of Pakistan, they will not worry about the consequences of launching a nuclear attack even on other nuclear powers.

In fact, the prospect of retaliation action might feed into their sense of being on a martyrdom mission.   They would consider a global nuclear catastrophe as saving the world from its sins.

American diplomacy is indeed concerned with Pakistan’s nuclear power falling into the wrong hands.  A U.S. embassy cable –made public by Wikileaks–discussed the possibility of Islamists gaining power in Pakistan, leading to a tense nuclear stand-off with India. This reveals, however, that the U.S. concern for Pakistan’s nuclear power is still limited to the
 regional level.

That is naïve.

Pakistan is already developing a long-range delivery system for its nuclear weapons, particularly the Hatf-7 – a missile with an estimated range of 1,500 miles. The missiles name translates as “Doom” in both Arabic and Urdu.  The Pakistani Air Force also operates state of the art F-16 fighters; Pakistan’s F-16Cs are very advanced and are capable of carrying and delivering nuclear missiles.

So, will Pakistan’s Islamists actually come to power? Is there much the world can do to prevent to prevent it?

The biggest difference between Pakistan and most Muslim states is that Pakistan has a functional electoral system that actually works. That also means it could bring the Islamists to power. Luckily, thus far, the Islamists have not yet been able to control the Pakistani electoral scene.  A 2008 poll showed a minority of Pakistanis supported Islamist militants, were critical of the U.S. and sought a “moderate Islamic state.” That minority, however, is window for the Islamists waiting to be opened.

Another warning sign is that Pakistan’s Taliban is considered a unified entity with Afghanistan’s Taliban and is not by any stretch less active.

On the other hand, Pakistan has a strong military institution that seems to control the country’s politics.  In 2008, Al-Jazeera aired a documentary about Pakistan titled, “An Army That Owns a State,” in which it argued that the entire Pakistani state is just a façade for the
 military institution which actually has the final say on the country’s politics.  True or not, the Pakistani army has been successful at keeping the Islamists out of controlling the government as well as a serious partner of the West in its war on terrorism.

Nonetheless, some say the Pakistani military has also been supporting the Islamists at the same time.  For example, the former commander of the British forces in Afghanistan, Col. Richard Kemp, told this author that both the Pakistani Army and the Pakistani
 Intelligence– better known as the Inter-Services Intelligence — had been supporting the Islamists at the same time they were supporting NATO operations against them.

 There seems to be much to support General Kemps’ views.  Countless reports seem to confirm Pakistan’s involvement in supporting the Taliban, including a U.S. cable made public by Wikileaks, which was circulated by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Last May, the killing of Osama Bin Laden, for example raised more questions regarding Pakistan’s true stance on terror. Bin Laden was located in an suburban area barely 30 miles away from Pakistan’s capital, and only a few hundred yards away from Pakistan’s top military academy, the Pakistani version of West Point.

At the time, some U.S. officials said the Pakistani government will have a lot
 of explaining to do, though no serious questioning or explaining it seems was ever done. The U.S. and NATO apparently feel that Pakistan was too important of an ally in its war on terror to offend.

It is safe to assume that the Pakistani military and intelligence officers realize their importance to the U.S. in its war on terror, and are not afraid to push the envelope in both aiding the terrorists and joining the war on terror at the same time in order to gain more significance to the U.S.

Hagel’s “Global Zero” Plan

Monday, January 14th, 2013

Former Senator Chuck Hagel, nominated to be Secretary of Defense, is also a signatory of what is known as the “Global Zero” plan. It calls for the United States and Russia to begin comprehensive nuclear arms negotiations in early 2013 to achieve zero nuclear weapons worldwide by 2030 in four phases.

The first phase would be a reduction of the U.S. nuclear arsenal to 1,000 weapons from its current level — some number slightly less than 5,000 warheads. While the U.S. has now deployed 1,550 strategic nuclear weapons, the new total would include stored and reserve weapons, as well as warheads considered tactical and deployed in Europe, and therefore not regulated by current arms control agreements. By way of comparison, the former head of the U.S. Strategic Command laid out in a summer 2012 essay the comparable Russian arsenal, which he estimated was probably in excess of 10,000 nuclear warheads — a number considerably higher than many current and previous estimates of the Russian nuclear arsenal, and nearly twice that of the United States.

The Global Zero plan first would remove all U.S. tactical nuclear weapons from U.S. combat bases in Europe to storage facilities in the United States. However, while these tactical U.S. weapons would no longer be able to defend Europe and NATO, Russians weapons would be able to attack all of Europe in a relatively short time — launching weapons from bases in Russia, where they would be stored, reconstituted and redeployed. Given the nature of such weapons systems, the verification of such efforts would be extremely difficult, if not impossible.

The real eye-opener is that the 1,000 ceiling for the U.S. would include our tactical nuclear weapons and stored weapons for reserve emergencies, and the currently deployed 1,550 weapons. The implication is that Hagel is pushing an 80% cut in overall U.S. deployed weapons. If done proportionately, that would involve a reduction to fewer than roughly 300 total deployed strategic nuclear warheads, a level less than China, and less than India and Pakistan combined.

This further signals the elimination of the U.S. strategic nuclear Triad (air, sea and land) — 300 accountable warheads would enable the deployment of a limited bomber or submarine or IBM leg of our nuclear deterrent, but certainly not all three legs. This would have the effect, by virtually eliminating all serious deterrent capability to our adversaries, of massively increasing the instability of the international security environment — a dramatic reversal of the promises made within the New START Treaty ratification process, in which enhancing and maintaining strategic stability was one of the cornerstones of the U.S. Nuclear Posture Review.

By quickly withdrawing our tactical nuclear weapons from Europe, we would be emasculating the extended deterrent umbrella which now covers Europe, and as a result seriously weaken the defense ties to our allies and friends across the Atlantic. There would also be a corresponding weakening of our deterrent umbrella over the Republic of Korea, Taiwan, and Japan, just at a time when these three nations, and others, are threatened by an expanding North Korean missile and nuclear weapons capability and a major modernization program by China of its nuclear weapons. The result, based on reasonable mid-point estimates of the current PRC arsenal, would be a Chinese deployed nuclear arsenal in excess of that deployed by the United States, to say nothing of what Peking could deploy in the near and intermediate future.

The Global Zero plan also calls for “de-alerting” our nuclear weapons. That would mean any number of things, but generally it means even the severely reduced number of warheads in our deployed arsenal would not, in a crisis, be available for use if they were needed. The warheads might be removed from their missiles or bombers; they might be disabled and stored remotely — requiring many hours, days, or longer to be redeployed.

Previous administrations, as well as the current government, have in various ways discussed and considered such a move. In every instance, de-alerting has been firmly rejected. First, the proposal is totally unverifiable. Second, it is highly destabilizing: in a crisis, there would be a race to re-alert and rearm, making the first and sudden use of nuclear weapons a greater or more likely possibility. Third, de-alerting solves no “nuclear” problem, whether in concerns abut proliferation, threats of an electro-magnetic pulse [EMP] attack, or any other deterrent or arms control requirement.

Next Stop: Obama Puts his Trust in Negotiations with Iran

Tuesday, November 13th, 2012

Originally published by Rubin Reports.

The most important foreign policy effort President Barack Obama will be making over the next year is negotiating with Iran. The terms of the U.S. offer are clear: if Iran agrees not to build nuclear weapons, it will be allowed to enrich a certain amount of uranium, supposedly for purposes of generating nuclear energy (which Iran doesn’t need) and other benefits, supposedly under strict safeguards.

Will Iran accept such a deal? The Obama Administration and others argue as follow: Sanctions have taken a deep bite out of Iran’s economy and frightened the regime with the prospect of instability. Iranian leaders are concluding that nuclear weapons aren’t worth all of this trouble. They are interested in becoming wealthy not spreading revolution and this includes even the once-fanatical Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) which is steadily gaining power in the country.

In a few months, June 2013, Iran will have elections to choose a new president to replace Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Perhaps, goes the argument, they will pick someone more flexible and less provocative, a signal that they want to stand down from the current confrontation. Thus, a deal is really possible and it could be implemented.

I won’t dismiss this altogether. The truth is that despite extremist statements and radical tactics, the Iranian regime is by no means ideologically or theologically mad. The rulers want to stay in power and they have been far more cautious in practice than they have in rhetoric. Despite the claims that the Iranian regime just wants to get nuclear weapons to attack Israel as soon as possible, a serious analysis of this government’s history, its leaders and factions, indicates otherwise.

A key factor here is that Iran wants nuclear weapons for “defensive” purposes. By this I do not mean that a poor Tehran regime is afraid that it will be attacked for no reason at all and thus needs to protect itself. Not at all. It is Iran’s aggressive, subversive, and terrorist-sponsoring positions that jeopardize the regime. Like it or not, if the Tehran government got on with the business of repressing its own people without threatening its neighbors the world would be little concerned with its behavior. But it has refused to take that easy and profitable choice.

Rather, Iran wants nuclear weapons so it can continue both regime and behavior without having to worry about paying any price for the things it does. The situation has, however, changed in two respects. First, the “Arab Spring” has put an end to any serious hope by the regime of gaining leadership in the Middle East or in the Muslim world. Two years ago it was possible that Arabs would dance in the street and cheer Iran having a nuclear weapon as the great hope of radical Islam. Today, though, the Sunni Islamists are on the march and have no use for rival Shias, much less ethnic Persians.

They want to make their own revolutions, destroy Israel, expel the West, and seize control of the Middle East for Sunni Arabs and not under the leadership of Persian Shias. Iran’s sphere of influence has been whittled down to merely Lebanon, Iraq, and a rapidly failing Syrian regime. Under these conditions, getting nuclear weapons will not bring Iran any great strategic gain.

Second, sanctions have indeed been costly for Iran, though one could exaggerate the extent of this suffering. Additional internal problems have been brought on by the rulers own mismanagement and awesome levels of corruption. In other words, to stay in power and get even richer Iran’s leaders, along with disposing of Ahmadinejad, might seek a way out of their ten-year-long drive for nuclear weapons.

Thus, it is not impossible that Iran would take up the Obama Administration on the proposed deal either because the leaders now seek riches rather than revolution or because they intend to cheat or move far more gradually toward getting nuclear weapons or at least the capability to obtain them quickly if and when they decide to do so.

It is, however, equally or more possible that Iran would use the negotiations to wrest concessions from the West without giving anything in return and to stall for time as it steadily advances toward its nuclear goal. As this happens, Israeli concerns will be dismissed by the administration and the mass media. The kinder ones will say that Israel is being unnecessarily concerned; the more hostile that it is acting as a warmonger when everything can be settled through compromise.

NPT Meeting Canceled Due to Israel Nonparticipation

Sunday, November 11th, 2012

AP reports that Western diplomats announced that the long planned meeting of the NPT (Non Proliferation Treaty) countries has been cancelled because Israel, not a signatory on the NPT treaty, has declined to show up.

The Arab states and Iran (yes, that’s right), all signatories of the NPT want Israel to sign the NPT and reveal and give up its supposed nuclear weapons stockpile. Israel says it will be prepared to sign the NPT treaty only when the Middle East countries sign a peace treaty with her, making nuclear weapons unnecessary.

The meeting was sponsored by the US, Russia and the U.K.

What Obama Should Have Done in the Last Four Years and Won’t Do in the Next Four Years

Thursday, November 8th, 2012

Originally published at Rubin Reports.

Over and over again I’ve written about what President Barack Obama should do. Now the voters have given him a whole new chance. He could take it and change his policy. I don’t believe he will do that but let me lay out both what he’s been wrong and what he should do, just in case Obama is seeking a different approach.

What he did in the first and will do in the second term: Foster revolutionary Islamism in Egypt, the Gaza Strip, Syria, Tunisia, and Turkey.

What he should have done and should do now: Do what Franklin Roosevelt did in 1941 and Harry Truman in 1947 and George Bush in 1990. Lead an international coalition that will systematically fight against a totalitarian enemy. Today, that means revolutionary Islamism. The loose coalition should include Europe, anti-Islamist Arab regimes (Morocco, Algeria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and the Gulf Arab states) and pro-democratic opposition movements (Turkey, Lebanon, Iran, and Syria).

What he did….: Support Islamist opposition groups.

What he should have done….: Support anti-Islamist and moderate opposition groups.

What he did….: Pressed Israel to reduce pressure on the Hamas regime in the Gaza Strip and helped bring an Egyptian regime that backed Hamas.

What he should have done….: Supported a reformed—not overthrown—Egyptian regime and Israel in opposing Hamas and subverting its rule.

What he did….: Gave support and aid to the Muslim Brotherhood regime in Egypt despite lip service to defending women’s and Christian rights and the Egypt-Israel peace treaty.

What he should have done….: Clearly condition aid on Egypt to protecting women, Christians, and moderates; take a strong stand on the regime’s permitting cross-border attacks on Israel and gutting the peace treaty. The Obama Administration has, and will have, no credibility with an anti-American extremist and antisemitic Egyptian government.

What he did: Celebrate the Turkish regime as a great example of democracy and moderate Islam. Did nothing as that regime went into a non-shooting war with Israel, backing Hamas, Hizballah, and Iran; rewarded Ankara with special treatment, including letting it organize the Syrian opposition.

What he should have done….: Without provoking a conflict, use U.S. leverage to press Turkey’s rulers to change their policies. No rewards without their help in promoting U.S. goals. Be suspicious of the regime’s intentions and note its suppression of democracy within Turkey.

What he did….: Accepted the Lebanese government dominated by Hizballah and backed by Iran and Syria.

What he should have done….: Back the moderate Lebanese opposition that opposed the regime in order to combat the Iran-Syria bloc.

What he did….: Backed the Muslim Brotherhood in Syria’s civil war and did not interfere with weapons going to Salafist groups as long as they were not al-Qaida affiliates.

What he should have done….Support moderates and anti-Islamists in Syria against both the Islamists and the regime.

What he did….: Acted as if all of Libya’s problems had been solved; tried to please the regime and show his niceness by not intervening to save Americans in the September 11 Benghazi attacks.

What he should have done: Know that the U.S. is involved in an ongoing conflict in Libya and there will be more attacks in future.

What he did: Nothing.

What he should have done: Investigate the Benghazi incident seriously and honestly (his choice for chief investigator, former State Department hack Thomas Pickering, is an opportunist who will write whatever the White House wants), get those responsible and make sure that nothing like that has ever happened again. Perhaps an apology to the families of those killed would be in order.

What he did….: Pushed the “peace process” for two years though then he did get the idea it wouldn’t work. He also opposed, albeit starting far too late, Palestinian Authority (PA) unilateral statehood bids. But will he continue that revised policy into a second term?

What he should have done: Realize the peace process isn’t going anywhere and understand that’s because PA intransigence and the Hamas challenge that is radicalizing even further Palestinian policy. When the P.A. subverts U.S. policies be willing to pressure and criticize it.

What he did….: Said he supported the rights of Christians and women from (Islamist) repression. But he never did anything about it, zero. Cozied up to Syria and Iran at the very moment they were violently suppressing dissidents at home and opponents abroad.

Nuclear Posture And Israel’s Survival

Thursday, November 1st, 2012

Nuclear weapons and nuclear war. This is not a new subject for my column in The Jewish Press. What is new is the urgent need to confront, head on, an expanding international movement to eviscerate Israel’s nuclear posture – and at precisely the precarious moment when this critical posture should actually be made more visible, and hence, more compelling.

Si vis pacem, para bellum atomicum. “If you want peace, prepare for atomic war.” At first glance it would seem an odd maxim for Israel, perhaps a misconceived admission of belligerence, or even an embarrassingly empty witticism.

Still, however reluctantly, this maxim must become Israel’s core strategic mantra in the years just ahead. This is not because a nuclear war is necessarily likely, but rather because Israel’s nuclear deterrent will remain utterly indispensable for the prevention of large-scale conventional conflict.

Nonetheless, the myriad threats facing Israel are not mutually exclusive. With Iran’s steady and unhindered nuclearization, an eventual nuclear war, or even a “bolt-from-the-blue” nuclear attack, cannot be ruled out. Considered together with the plausible understanding that an Iranian nuclear enemy could be driven by apocalyptic visions of jihad, this means Israel’s military planners will need to augment credible strategic deterrence with apt forms of diplomacy, ballistic missile defense, and (possibly) preemption.

At the moment, this last option might already be limited to cyber-attacks, assassinations and/or regime-change interventions, and/or to certain more traditional sorts of defensive physical harms. Jurisprudentially, all of these kinds of preemption could be considered as entirely proper expressions of “anticipatory self-defense.

Now, Israel must simultaneously examine the strongly related and inter-penetrating issue of a Palestinian state. If President Obama or his successor should persist with the so-called Road Map To Peace in the Middle East, an independent state of Palestine could still be carved out of Israel. Palestine would then become an additional and largely optimal platform for launching future war and terror.

President Obama still seeks “a world free of nuclear weapons.” However, the existential threat posed by a Palestinian state would require some forms of prior Israeli nuclear disarmament. Once a new enemy state and its allies believed that Israel had been bent sufficiently to their nicely-phrased “nonproliferation” demands, an adversarial military strategy could progress rapidly from terror to war, and subsequently from attrition to annihilation.

Any discernible movement toward Israeli denuclearization could remove the tiny country’s last stage barrier to national survival.

To be sure, Israel’s unilateral nuclear disarmament is improbable. But it is not entirely out of the question. For whatever reason, certain of the country’s leading academic strategists continue to advance this plainly insupportable recommendation. I have debated these strategists myself, most recently on the pages of Harvard University’s leading journal, International Security.

True, it is generally difficult to imagine nuclear weapons as anything other than implements of evil. Still, there are circumstances wherein a particular state’s possession of such weapons may be all that protects it from catastrophic war or genocide. Moreover, because such weapons may most effectively deter international aggression, at least in those cases where the prospective aggressor remains rational, their possession could also protect neighboring states (both friends and foes) from war-related, or even nuclear-inflicted harms.

Not all members of the Nuclear Club must necessarily represent a security threat. Some such members may even offer a distinct benefit to world peace and security. This point should already be clear to anyone who can remember the Cold War.

Should Israel ever be deprived of its nuclear forces because of naive hopes for peace, it could become vulnerable to overwhelming attacks from enemy states. Though such an existential vulnerability might be prevented, in principle, by simultaneously instituting parallel forms of chemical/biological weapons disarmament among these enemies, such parallel steps would never actually be undertaken. Meaningful verification of compliance in these complex matters is very difficult. Further, any such verification would become even more problematic in those conceivable cases wherein several enemy states might be involved.

It is time to be clear. Nuclear weapons are not the problem per se. In the volatile Middle East, the core threat to peace remains a far-reaching and unreconstructed jihadist commitment to “excise the Jewish cancer.”

Jerusalem should finally understand that the Road Map, like the prior Oslo agreements, is merely a convenient enemy expedient. Taken seriously in Jerusalem, it could easily become a cartographic detour to national oblivion.

Defining The Candidates’ Differences On Iran

Wednesday, October 17th, 2012

WASHINGTON – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made headlines last month with this question: What are the U.S. red lines when it comes to Iran’s suspected nuclear weapons program?

The two presidential campaigns are offering two different answers.

“Recently, President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden have talked about weaponization and Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan talk about nuclear weapons capability,” said Michael Makovsky, a Bush administration Pentagon official who now directs the National Security Project at the Bipartisan Policy Center.

So what do the terms weaponization and capability mean as red lines?

The issue of red lines was lent urgency on Sept. 11, when at a blistering news conference, Netanyahu seemed to warn that a failure to set red lines for Iran could trigger a strike by Israel – an action the Obama administration has tried mightily to prevent.

“Those in the international community who refuse to put red lines before Iran don’t have a moral right to place a red light before Israel,” Netanyahu said at the time. The term “red lines” refers to actions that could trigger military action to stop Iran from progressing further.

In the Oct. 11 vice-presidential debate, the differences between the two U.S. presidential tickets on the Iranian nuclear issue were apparent.

Ryan, Romney’s running mate on the Republican Party ticket, cast the Iranian threat as one predicated on the degree of its enrichment.

“We cannot allow Iran to gain a nuclear weapons capability,” Ryan said, using a threshold that Romney has embraced.

The Netanyahu government has long employed the term “capability” to define a bridge too far in Iran’s nuclear program, and the term has been picked up in a number of recent bipartisan congressional measures.

“Now let’s take a look at where we’ve gone – come from. When Barack Obama was elected, they had enough fissile material – nuclear material to make one bomb,” the Wisconsin congressman continued. “Now they have enough for five. They’re racing toward a nuclear weapon. They’re four years closer toward a nuclear weapons capability.”

Biden pushed back, seeming to suggest that the proper measure should be how close Iran is to achieving a weapon.

“When my friend talks about fissile material, they have to take this highly enriched uranium, get it from 20 percent up, then they have to be able to have something to put it in,” Biden said.

“There is no weapon that the Iranians have at this point. Both the Israelis and we know – we’ll know if they start the process of building a weapon.”

But Israeli officials repeatedly have expressed the concern that Western intelligence agencies have failed to detect weaponization in time in the cases of Pakistan, India and North Korea.

Makovsky said the problem was especially acute in Iran because the regime there, which denies an interest in building a nuclear weapon, has denied access to inspectors at key sites.

“It’s a very hard thing to know, and we haven’t been able to detect it before,” he said.

The question is whether enrichment defines “capability,” and if so, at what level of enrichment is a country nuclear-capable.

The Iranians, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN nuclear watchdog, already have achieved enrichment up to 20 percent – the level cited by Biden. Israel’s concern, outlined last month by Netanyahu in his speech to the UN General Assembly, is when they will get to the “and up” mentioned by the vice president.

Uranium is weapons-capable when it is enriched to above 90 percent.

“By next spring, next summer at most,” Iran will have finished the “medium enrichment” stage, Netanyahu said. “From there it’s less than a few months, possibly a few weeks, until they get enough uranium for an enriched bomb. The relevant question is not when will Iran get the bomb; the question is at what stage can we stop Iran?”

Michael Adler, an Iran expert at the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars in Washington, said that Netanyahu effectively aligned himself with the Obama administration’s red line with that speech.

“Netanyahu has walked capability back a lot saying it won’t come until next year,” Adler said.

That may have been in part because Netanyahu and Obama had spoken extensively between Netanyahu’s Sept. 11 news conference and his UN speech. U.S. and Israeli officials have said subsequently that the two leaders better understood each other on the Iran issue.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/us-news/defining-the-candidates-differences-on-iran/2012/10/17/

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