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Thread: Iranian nukes

  1. #1
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    [Gordon] Brown devoted only a few sentences to Iran and they were sober ones, shorn of all rhetoric. Nevertheless, they did manage to contain the three strands of current thinking on how to deal with Tehran and its nuclear ambitions, artfully keeping each option - carrots, sticks and sharper sticks - in play.

    Initially, he established that there is indeed a problem to solve. In defiance of those who insist there is no evidence that Iran wants anything more than a civil nuclear capability - a view well represented in the blogosphere, not least among commenters on the Guardian website - Brown drew attention to the fact that Iranian nuclear activity had been "hidden from the world" for many years. It is this record of evasion, "of lying and cheating to the International Atomic Energy Agency", according to Charles Grant of the Centre for European Reform, that has persuaded many otherwise doveish European governments that Tehran is up to something. Grant cites secret nuclear facilities in Iran whose existence was only admitted once dissident groups had revealed them.

    That is not the only source of suspicion. Those watching are also puzzled as to why the Iranians had documents showing how to cast uranium in hemispheres, a step only required for making warheads. They also ask why, if civil nuclear power is all the Iranians want, they don't simply import enriched uranium from abroad.

    These signals, and several others, have persuaded governments - and not only those in Washington and Jerusalem - that, even if there is not definitive, fizzing-fuse proof of an Iranian bomb, this is the direction in which the Iranians are heading.

    Why is that a problem? Israelis would offer an existential answer - "Because an Iranian nuke would wipe us off the map" - but Europeans have a different reply. They fear a nuclear Tehran would trigger a nuclear arms race in the Middle East, the most volatile region in the world. Even if you accept that Iran has more justification than most for wanting a deterrent, sandwiched between US forces in both Iraq and Afghanistan and with nuclear Pakistan next door, the danger of proliferation is a real one. Already, several Arab states are showing a sudden interest in "civil nuclear" programmes - rather puzzling given their abundance of oil - stirred into action by the mere prospect of an Iranian bomb. It is worth noting that, even though they have been convinced for 40 years that Israel is a nuclear power, Egypt or Saudi Arabia never showed the interest in nukes they're showing now.

    Unless Iran manages to allay some of these fears in reports due imminently from the EU's Javier Solana and from the IAEA, then the debate will remain fixed not on whether there is a problem, but on solutions. Start with the scariest: military action. Brown was careful not to rule it out - indeed, he even hinted at it: "Iran should be in no doubt about our seriousness of purpose." But is it really possible?

    No one, not even the wildest neocon crazy, is imagining an Iraq-style invasion: America is too stretched, if nothing else. But a series of air strikes on selected targets, as in 1998's Desert Fox assault on Iraq, is at least under discussion. I'm told that American military planners have drafted fairly detailed sketches of just such an operation. The leading presidential candidates have all stressed that they will not tolerate a nuclear Iran. One US commentator wrote recently that George Bush and Dick Cheney do not look like men about to leave office without getting this done. In this version, Bush believes - incredibly - that the best way to safeguard his legacy is by sorting out Iran before he goes. And Cheney wouldn't trust some future Democrat to do it.

    But the plain fact is that Bush lacks the political strength, especially in Congress, to act. Those same military planners are counselling against it, while it's widely believed that Bush's defence secretary, Robert Gates, would quit rather than attack Iran. The reasons are obvious: Iran would hit back, through its militias at US troops in Iraq, and through terrorist sleeper cells abroad. What's more, a US-led attack would only entrench the Iranian regime still deeper, not merely prompting it to accelerate its nuclear efforts but crowning it the lead Muslim victim of a western war against Islam. For now, thankfully, these arguments seem to be prevailing in Washington.

    Which means the next 12 months could see the status quo hold, as the international community hopes that the stick of sanctions will make unnecessary the sharper stick of force. So far, their defenders say, sanctions are having an effect. The first two rounds, agreed by a 15-0 vote in the UN security council, sent a unified message to Tehran that the world was united against it - a position the Iranian elite cannot stand.

    The trick is to learn from the disaster of sanctions against Iraq and to ensure they hit the right target. That's why Brown promised to tighten the screw on Iran's oil and gas industry and its financial sector. Sanctions are fraught, though. Russia and China gave their approval to the earlier, milder rounds but are foot-dragging now. Beijing has lucrative contracts with Iran and needs its oil; Moscow is in no hurry to avert a war that it believes would heavily reduce America's power in the world. The European focus now is on Germany: if it comes on board, then a joint US-EU raft of sanctions becomes possible.

    Which brings us to the carrots. Some, though none now in government, reckon the way to deal with Iran is to shower it with carrots, to hug it into submission. One diplomat speculates that had Jack Straw remained as foreign secretary, he would have been to Tehran by now. His aim would have been to appeal to Tehran's wealthy, to have built up the pragmatists around former president Hashemi Rafsanjani and dangle the prospect of an Iranian return to the international fold. If that policy was pursued, runs the logic, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad would soon see his power drain away and he, along with George Bush, would be out of office by 2009.

    No one in power is arguing for an all-hug strategy just now. Instead, it's promised as the reward for good behaviour. Note Brown's offer of "a transformed relationship with the world".

    It all adds up to a delicate geometry, in which every element is connected: sanctions, the possibility of force, and the rewards that will come with compliance. The aim is to alter the Iranian calculus so that pursuing nukes becomes too costly, and giving them up too advantageous, to continue. It's subtle, tricky work - and as big a test of Brown's political agility as there will be. Unless something even harder comes along.
    I liked the above article as i think it clearly articulates my viewpoint on the current Iran nuke situation.
    Personally i'm confident that Iran is at least making sure they have the technological capability and materiel to produce nukes, whether they'll actually go as far as making and detonating one is a different matter and i don't think they would in the current geopolit situation.As to what the world should do, I think i like the carrot and stick solution, i.e. offer them a way out, or something to work towards for giving up their nuke ambitions. Threatening them and offering nothing (except a return to the previous status quo) won't end well imo, and actual air strikes would be even worse, but if all else fails...

  2. The Drawing Room   -   #2
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    They also ask why, if civil nuclear power is all the Iranians want, they don't simply import enriched uranium from abroad.
    I think that must be the most telling piece if disinformation of the lot.

    When you consider the hold the USA has over most of the production of enriched uranium and its disposition, and at the same time take into account the prevailing attitude of the USA towards Iran, it is hardly surprising that Iran does not wish to take that option. Sanctions are currently in place against Iran. Who would be surprised if, should they take the option of importing enriched uranium, future threats of sanctions included the withholding of such material.

    Coupled with the other part of that same paragraph this is clearly mischief making.
    Those watching are also puzzled as to why the Iranians had documents showing how to cast uranium in hemispheres, a step only required for making warheads.
    The type of document discussed were widely available, even on the internet, until recently. I assume they are still available, but it is now an offence under UK law to possess such documents, and I imagine even searching for them would attract unwanted attention. So much for freedom.
    .
    Political correctness is based on the principle that it's possible to pick up a turd by the clean end.

  3. The Drawing Room   -   #3
    This is purely from memory/general knowledge so it could be wrong but:

    i think a deal was on the table for russia to provide Iran with enriched uranium, and i wouldn't think they would need much of it, I think in the uk we've only actually used about a swimming pool full in 40 years of power generation. Also Iran has been pursuing spent uranium reprocessing technology at a time when every other nation with that capability has decided that it is totally uneconomic and only useful for creating plutonium for warheads...

    As for documents to create hemispheres being on the internet, I don't really believe that but happy to be proven wrong (link to a news story or any reasonable documentary evidence?)

    Edit:
    And all this isn't even mentioning the fact that Iran is sitting on 10% of the worlds proven oil reserves and has more natural gas than russia. Both of which are a far far easier & cheaper source of energy for producing electricity (or maybe Iran is just trying to be really environmentally friendly?)
    Last edited by ilw; 11-15-2007 at 09:44 PM.

  4. The Drawing Room   -   #4
    100%'s Avatar ╚════╩═╬════╝
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    sorry must add this


    Iran hasn't quite understood the phrase "Nuclear Arms"

  5. The Drawing Room   -   #5
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    http://nuclearweaponarchive.org/Nwfaq/Nfaq4.html
    Took about 10 seconds to find that one.

    I almost added the following to my original post.
    Damn me for deciding to leave it out.

    It is absolutely no good sitting on top of vast quantities of oil and gas if you can't get it out of the ground. The problem is that the equipment and particularly the control systems used for modern gas/oil production is very specialised because of the way the wells are networked together.

    The manufacturers of this sort of equipment are based in the West, and the export of such to Iran is already the subject of sanctions. Although minor repairs can be carried out by local experts, major repairs and replacements are impossible at the current time. Additionally, the equipment is often specifically designed for a particular job so moving things around isn't possible, or so I'm told by someone who designs control circuits for pipelines.

    The consequence is that oil/gas production in Iran will slowly diminish as equipment breaks and wells run dry; adding new wells to the network without integrating the control gear isn't possible without risk to the entire network.

    Should keep Bush's pals happy though, a shortage of Iranian oil will push the price up even further.
    .
    Political correctness is based on the principle that it's possible to pick up a turd by the clean end.

  6. The Drawing Room   -   #6
    Nuke em now

  7. The Drawing Room   -   #7
    Quote Originally Posted by lynx View Post

    It is absolutely no good sitting on top of vast quantities of oil and gas if you can't get it out of the ground. The problem is that the equipment and particularly the control systems used for modern gas/oil production is very specialised because of the way the wells are networked together.

    The manufacturers of this sort of equipment are based in the West, and the export of such to Iran is already the subject of sanctions. Although minor repairs can be carried out by local experts, major repairs and replacements are impossible at the current time. Additionally, the equipment is often specifically designed for a particular job so moving things around isn't possible, or so I'm told by someone who designs control circuits for pipelines.
    Are you seriously suggesting that Iran doesn't have the capability to extract oil/gas from its wells and that sanctions are preventing Russia or China from providing equipment/expertise to help? Or are you suggesting that Gazprom or the Chinese equivalent are no good at extracting these substances

    And are you additionally suggesting that oil extraction technology is harder to acquire than nuclear fission tech?

  8. The Drawing Room   -   #8
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    Did I suggest that the Russians or Chinese couldn't supply this sort of equipment? What I said was that the export of this equipment to Iran is the subject of UN sanctions.

    Though it may interest you to know that the company who employ the designer I talked about is just now delivering an order for control circuits - to Gazprom.

    Nor am I saying that the technology is harder to acquire, just that they don't currently have it. I'm simply saying that they may be taking the view of not putting all their eggs in one basket.

    The other thing to remember is that the higher the level of enrichment you aim for, the harder it is to achieve. 1500 centrifuges is sufficient to produce enough enriched uranium (at about 5%) for a single low yield nuclear device in one year, but there wouldn't be enough left over to power even a small nuclear plant. 3000 centrifuges is about the right number to supply a reasonable sized nuclear plant, probably with a little left over for stockpiling.

    If you were to use all 3000 centrifuges to create a higher level of enrichment you would only achieve about 7%, which hardly seems worth the effort given that you would still only have a single low yield device. You would also have no nuclear plant, which would be something of a giveaway as to what you were actually doing. The gun would be smoking long before you had a "bullet" to put in it.
    .
    Political correctness is based on the principle that it's possible to pick up a turd by the clean end.

  9. The Drawing Room   -   #9
    I find the U.S. stance on Iran quite nonreflective and somewhat hypocritical, considering [the U.S.] has biological, chemical and nuclear weapons itself and it was the nation to overthrow the democratic government of Iran in 1954 after having been persuaded to by the British. What goes 'round, comes 'round.

    I'm not quite sure what I think about this. I'm in favor of overall disarmament.

    I'm not sure whether I approve of Iran having nuclear technology or not. I'm in favor of (peace) talks, but they really can only start once Bush is out of office. Implying that his successor is not as stupid and ignorant as him.

    I guess it was just a matter of time, until the jingoist U.S. found an antagonist.
    Quote Originally Posted by 100% View Post

    Iran hasn't quite understood the phrase "Nuclear Arms"
    Actually that appears to be from a German demonstration parodying the Bush administration. "Achsel das Bösen" means "armpit of evil". It's actually a wordplay on "Achse des Bösen", which means "axis of evil".
    Last edited by p-h-x; 11-18-2007 at 01:30 AM.

  10. The Drawing Room   -   #10
    Quote Originally Posted by lynx View Post
    Did I suggest that the Russians or Chinese couldn't supply this sort of equipment? What I said was that the export of this equipment to Iran is the subject of UN sanctions.
    I originally read your previous post and got the impression that you were saying western companies (i.e. the big oil companies) were the only ones with the technology and were being restricted by the sanctions that the US government has placed on American companies dealing with Iran.

    Now what you're saying is that non-western countries (china, russia and probably some others) have the technology but are banned by UN sanctions from providing technology or equipment for the transmission and extraction of oil and gas. This seems a little odd to me, can you provide any links with more details or the number of the UN resolution, because all hte ones i've seen discussed on the web don't seem to say anything of this sort.


    As for Iran not having the technology i also find that slightly strange reasoning, oil and gas extractino & transmission has been around for about a century or more, i'm sure much of the latest technology is proprietary to various companies, but if you're willing to accept a more wasteful / dangerous approach then i think nearly every country has the ability.

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