How quickly can Iran get the bomb?

By Sean Carroll | April 12, 2006 5:02 pm

Obviously a lot of smart and well-informed people have been thinking about this. Many, like Juan Cole, think that the Iranians are nowhere close to a bomb; ThinkProgress is slightly less sanguine. They are taking the trouble to make this argument because the US is claiming that it would only take 16 days for Iran to make a bomb. There are all sorts of reasons to disbelieve this particular claim: a history of crying wolf, an apparent misunderstanding of the concept of significant figures… Still, is it more like ten days, or ten years?

Steinn Sigurðsson looks at the problem as a physicist, and isn’t optimistic.

I don’t know Iran; I don’t have access to any classified information on nuclear weapons.
I do know something about physics…

First of all, Iran is clearly been working on putting together a full nuclear cycle for about 20 years

That means they want to be able to do it all in-house: mining, enrichment, burning, plutonium extraction, power generation and bomb production.

It is clear that they did the science in the early-to-mid-90s, they tested centrifuges, built small high neutron flux reactors and got small amounts of plutonium extracted.

So, they learned Pu chemistry, what isotopes you get with different burns, and maybe some metallurgy.

They then set up centrifuge halls and played with an AVLIS (laser isotope separator).

They also ordered a 1GW reactor from the russians, and refined uranium oxide (aka “yellowcake”) into both uranium tetrafluoride, uranium hexafluoride and uranium metal.
Supposedly several tons of uranium oxide were processed.

Now: there are two ways to make bombs, at the basic level.
Get highly refined uranium-235 metal; or, fairly pure plutonium-239. In kilogram quantities.
U-235 bombs are simple and need not be tested. “A grad student could make one of those”.
Pu-239 bombs are notoriously fickle and are said to need testing (although maybe not so much any more…)

Read the whole thing.

Hofstadter’s Law says “It always takes longer than you think, even when taking into account Hofstadter’s Law.” For nuclear weapons, unfortunately, the word “longer” should be replaced by “shorter.” Historically, we always underestimate the proximity of other nations to full nuclear capability (unless we’re trying to cook up reasons to invade them). I don’t know what to do about it, but there’s every reason to believe that, left to its own devices, Iran will have some sort of bomb sooner rather than later.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Science and Society, World
  • http://www.libertypages.com/clark Clark

    I think one has to assume that a lot of the engineering one typically needs has been supplied to them via Pakistani scientists and engineers. If not the Russians. (Not a lot of pay for physics in Russia) I’m sure both Pakistan and the US is trying to prevent this. But there’s only so much one can do.

    So it’s all about the processing. And a small bomb is still a significant weapon. Especially when the President of Iran apparently really likes the idea of bringing back the 12th Mullah in an Islamic version of the apocalypse. I only know about him what I’ve read in Time, Newsweek and so forth. But it’s pretty scary. I’ve met some fundamentalist Christians who get excited by the notion of the apocalypse. It’s a mindset I just can’t fathom. But from that mindset, I’m tremendously scared that its in their best interest to use such a weapon (or at least supply those who would). Especially if Bush or Israel launches, as expected, some kind of attack the next few months.

  • Dumb Biologist

    I seem to remember reading somewhere that simply dropping a good-sized hunk of enriched U onto another from a fairly modest height (perhaps a couple storeys) could generate an explosive critical mass of multi-kiloton power. I don’t know if it’s really that easy, but it’s clear getting the weapons-grade fissionable material is the real hurdle, and crude bomb construction (an old cannon barrel and some gunpowder might do in a pinch) is trivial by comparison.

    I figure even the great majority of Iran’s leadership isn’t crazy enough to allow weapons-grade U or Pu to get loose. Thing is, all it would take is a few improperly supervised nutcases, and suddenly an extraordinarily lethal mass of explosive material is within reach of Islamist extremists. As Iran can get all its U domestically, it’s not clear to me how one could be confident that could safely be avoided if Iran chose to flout all international oversight.

    I hate to side with the hawks, but this is a legitimately troubling scenerio.

  • http://www.libertypages.com/clark Clark

    The problem is that an attack will probably make things worse, not better. i.e. it will give support to the hawks in Iran and potentially radicalize even more people. I’m not sure there is a solution at all. And I have no faith in Bush to do the right thing. (And I say that as a Republican)

  • the one intelligently designed

    “Iran will have some sort of bomb sooner rather than later.”
    So?

  • Dumb Biologist

    It seems if there ever was a time when a military strike made sense, it’s long past. Iran’s nuclear infrastructure is now so dispersed and hardened, making a real dent in their capabilities is tantamount to launching a full-scale air war, and would probably lead to the release of huge amounts of radioisotopes into the atomosphere.

    I guess my point is I don’t think this is Iraq redux. There was no nuke-u-lar threat from Iraq. Iran’s a different story. While attacking Iran is (if we wish to be sane) off the table, it’s not absurd to pressure them to bend over backwards to assure the rest of the world their nuclear program is peaceful, and that their fissle resources are secure, and not weapons grade. The place is a theocratic sponsor of terrorist organizations. There’s no way around it: Militant mullahs with the Bomb can’t be shrugged off.

  • http://spatulated.wordpress.com/ Spatulated

    I guess its really scary to think, but I wonder, what would a nuclear power like the US or anyone else do if they where hit by a terrorist nuke. I tend to not think about these things as visions of the end of the world can be amazingly depressing.

  • http://www.libertypages.com/clark Clark

    I think if there were a US nuclear strike there would be tremendous pressure on the President to pre-emptively attack North Korea and Iran. Whether they would would depend upon who the President is.

  • Elliot

    This is going to require finesse. First of all we need complete policy alignment with the U. S. European nations, Russia, Japan, and other democratic countries around the world. One voice. Secondly we need to acknowledge the right of the Iranians to have nuclear power as fundamental. Then we need to work cooperatively to ensure that they ensure the security of the material. Finally we need to begin an open (and honest) dialogue with the Islamic world and realize that they have as much right to their belief structure as we do and that we cannot impose Western values on them. Perhaps this is naive but I think the alternatives are all the more unpleasant.

    Elliot

  • arnold

    I’m not worried by Iran having nuclear technology.

    I’m worried by the americans (the only ones who ever used a bomb) that could have an excuse to attack them.

  • http://arunsmusings.blogspot.com Arun

    You may want to read this. The opportunity to build bridges was burned a while back.

    http://www.mafhoum.com/press3/108E16.htm

  • http://catdynamics.blogspot.com Steinn Sigurdsson

    Iran sent a lot of people into engineering and physics in the mid-late 70s and early 80s. I know some, including some who went back to Iran.
    They were very good.
    They have enough money to buy any equipment on the open or gray markets.
    If the Iranian government makes it a priority and resists the impulse to micromanage then putting together a fission bomb is not an engineering issue. It is just not that hard to make something that will go boom on kiloton scale.
    IF they get fissile material.

    Soon as Bushehr-1 core is loaded they can do short burn runs, and start extracting Pu-239 in multi-kg amounts on 3-6 month time scale. Enough for 3-10 bombs per burn cycle, or the apocryphal “30 per year”.
    They’d have to boot the IAEA and either boot the Russians or have their passive acquiesence, since for electricity production you burn the HEU longer and the Pu goes to Pu240/241, bad for bombs. Anyone there would notice that rods were being pulled too soon for reprocessing if the run is for power.

    Direct enrichment of uranium ore is not really that good for bomb production, except maybe to rush 1-2 small bombs off the front end of the run; you enrich uranium to get the Pu cycle going. Then you make lots of bombs.

    Someone in DC is probably very worried about whether they could have built a 10+MW heavy water reactor running on unenriched uranium, and hidden it completely somewhere. It is conceivable. They could pull out enough Pu-239 for a bomb maybe every six months to a year depending on how clever they are in managing the neutron flux and reprocessing. If they did that sometime between 1997 and 2003 they could have extracted enough Pu239 for a few bombs. But they won’t be absolutely sure they’d work, and they won’t want to reveal their hand by testing until it suits them.

  • SteveM

    I would say the “Hoftstader law” you quote is spot on. If they are determined enough they will do it. The Soviet Union was never far behind the US and set off their first A-bomb (“Joe 1″) in the late 40s, much to the shock of the US. Truman was shocked and astonished that “those asiatics”, the Russians, were actually capable of constructing something as complex as an A-bomb. One should not underestimate Iran either. To stay ahead Truman then initiated a race for a superbomb or hydrogen bomb, a weapon of virtually unlimited power. Again, just a few years, after the Castle Bravo hydrogen bomb tests in the Pacific, the Soviets had the hydrogen bomb too. Spying may have been involved (via Klaus Fuchs). However, Sakharov in his memoirs says they worked it out for themselves and I would bet Iran can too if they have some smart people working on it.

  • Dumb Biologist

    Dr. Sigurdsson,

    Thanks so much for your highly topical discussion and for sharing your personal experiences related to Iranian nuclear capabilities. I have a question, if you don’t mind.

    What makes Pu bombs so “fickle” and challenging to build reliably? I guess I’m kind of pinning some of my hopes on that statement…

  • Haelfix

    I dont think anyone really expects Iran never to have the bomb. Its always been more a question of when.

    Otoh, Israels bombing in the 80s did set them back awhile, and arguably this was a good thing (Khomeini wasn’t exactly the most rational player on the block). I’m not so sure if their current president is as bad (he seems to try to make himself out like that), but regardless we might have to intervene just for the delay factor (again) hoping that when next this problem arises a more favorable and rational government is in place. Wishful thinking maybe, but I haven’t heard a better alternative yet outside of diplomatic means (which are quickly exhausting)

    I’m more or less in favor of going down this route, b/c frankly as it stands, Iran is still a nation that funds terrorism and im not exactly pro regional arms races for security purposes, especially in this climate.

  • Brad Schuman

    It would have been interesting to see what would have come of Iran if anyone other than Jimmy Carter was President when the Shah was overthrown.

  • Moshe

    Personally it is hard for me to have such discussion without asking the obvious question of who wants me to have this discussion and for what purpose…now when I really want to be scared I recall previous instances when the usual murmur of fear-mongering was suddnely dramatically increased in volume, usually this does not end well…

  • Gary

    shouldn’t the world be wary of fascist leaders that threaten to wipe out millions of Jews? It usually ends up bad, not just for the Jews, but for all of us.

  • http://golem.ph.utexas.edu/~distler/blog/ Jacques Distler

    Otoh, Israels bombing in the 80s did set them back awhile, and arguably this was a good thing (Khomeini wasn’t exactly the most rational player on the block).

    Umh … That was Iraq, not Iran, whose Osiraq reactor facility was bombed by the Israelis in 1981.

    Not confusing Iraq and Iran is probably a good start in figuring out how to deal with the current situation.

  • http://crypticuniverse.blogspot.com/ Mostafa

    1- If our crazy president (Ahmadi-Nejhad) makes some dangerous fault, is your crazy president (Bush) in the position to punish him? If you think so, what’s your reason? Who gave him that right? If you don’t, then why you all (not just Sean) take this as a valid statement in your arguments?
    2- For nearly 4 years, this has been (and continues to be) an advertised public law in Iran that the government neither wants, nor has the right to make any nuclear weapon. As an Iranian, I’ve never met someone here (in Iran) who thinks that we should have nuclear weapons. Now if the Iranian government says or performs something toward nuclear weapons, would the nation protect it? Noway. You can’t even think of what may happen then. People will not bear it and it would be an endpoint to the life of this regime. Making such weapons is manifestly against our religion and culture.
    3- The most simple question: If nuclear weapon is really bad, why countries like US, Russia, India and Israel can have it and there’s no problem, but Iran should not even get close to it? (especially regarding the fact that our neighbor countries have it) I say again that we don’t want it, but even if we did, this would be some “reason” for it.
    4- All Iran’s nuclear facilities and laboratories are under tight control of IAEA. Is there a chance of enriching uranium up to more than 90 percent instead of just 3.5 to 5 percent before their cameras? You say we may do it underground? Then what’s the use of all military satellites that your country has?
    No. We Iranians don’t need it.

  • Cynthia

    Accuse me of being especially naive on the motivations behind Iran’s plan for nuclear buildup. As a momentary means to counter these universal thoughts on global destruction, I will pause and put forth a trivial antidote to offset this bit of global angst among us all. If the Iranian nuclear program is merely intended for purely civil/peaceful purposes, then at least Iran is playing an active role in producing carbon-free energy, in turn, putting a slight damper upon the world’s carbon dioxide emissions. Paraphrasing Nathan Lewis in a webcast talk at Caltech (5/25/2005): we ought to credit Iran for doing its part to curb its fossil fuel consumption, in turn, to mitigate global climate change. Is this as actual glimpse of optimism in a sea of pessimism? Probably not. If the human-produced nukes of war do not wipe out complex life on Earth, the Venusian Inferno/Snowball Earth resulting from human-induced climate change will.

  • http://arunsmusings.blogspot.com Arun

    I really think that the way the world works has to change. In order to resolve something diplomatically, the parties need to have diplomatic relations with each other.

  • Torbjörn Larsson

    I’ll agree with Mostafa on the point of nuclear politics bigotry. OTOH we want to restrict the number of hasardous players if possible. I’m not sure playing the hasardous game itself is the best solution.

    Cynthia,
    You seem unduly pessimistic. IIRC, the Earth has survived massively larger amounts of greenhouse gases than the current antropomorphic projections without going hothouse. The known catastrophe is that we now live in what I think is believed to be the fastest dieout ever, a large part of which is caused by climate effects.

    Every species is unique, so I mourn it on this principle as much as loosing any individual person. Hopefully it will get back to low enough species turnaround when global population stabilises so this situation stabilises too. Otherwise we will continue lower potential ecological economical outputs and safety margins.

  • http://arunsmusings.blogspot.com Arun

    Cynthia, Iran would be doing its part to curb CO2 if it ended its internal gasoline subsidies. The retail price is roughly 40 cents a gallon. (e.g., http://www.gasandoil.com/goc/news/ntm54944.htm). Current world (wholesale?) prices are between 180 and 200 cents a gallon – see http://www.eia.doe.gov/emeu/international/gas2.html

  • Cynthia

    Torbjorn, you make a legitimate point. However, there is one subtle difference between Present Earth and Past Earth. Unlike Present Earth, Past Earth had an overall greater capacity for ecological recovery. This past youthful resilience enabled Earth to successfully recuperate from past assaults of extreme hot and extreme cold. More to the point, when Earth had more youthful vigor, the planet was better able to survive as a complex-life-sustaining planet by thriving on the great elasticity of its “geologically-active” status. Therefore, one must have slight respect for Iran’s efforts to produce carbon-free energy, in turn, to mitigate global climate change.

  • http://countiblis.blogspot.com Count Iblis

    The real danger is not an Iranian atomic bomb, because they won’t be able to use it. The US and Israel are afraid that Iran could use nukes against Israel. But in that hypothetical case, despite an enormous amount of death and destruction , Israel’s nuclear deterrent would not be affected at all.

    The real danger is an escalation of the so-called ”crises” about the Iranian nuclear programs leading to war. Dr. Rice has said yesterday that the UN has to act to protect its credibility. So, we are already moving away from the original nuclear issue just like in case of Iraq.

    If this comes to war, then Iran has a ”nuclear option”. They can take out almost all of the oil installations in the Mid East using their missiles. You could imagine that in the run up to a war, Iran would demand that its neighbors stop supplying the West with oil. They would most likely refuse to do that and then Iran would have to destroy the oil installations in response to a US strike.

    The economic consequences of such a strike would be so devastating for the US that it would effectively be ”game over” for Bush.

    Iran’s capability of destroying the oil installations is actually far more powerful weapon (from a military/strategic p.o.v.)than any atomic weapon. The Iranians are thus likely to invest in their missiles, improving the accuracy of their missiles etc. Any investment in an atomic bomb project is just a waste of money for Iran.

  • Cynthia

    Arun, you are right! Regardless of the crazy politics behind an Iranian bomb, subsidizing oil is a bad idea, especially under the present circumstances.

  • http://golem.ph.utexas.edu/~distler/blog/ Jacques Distler

    Under the current conditions, you can understand why Iran would pursue enrichment technology, if only for their civilian nuclear program. They are investing billions in a civilian nuclear energy program. They hope to convert a significant fraction of their power grid to nuclear energy.

    But their would-be supplier of reactor-grade enriched uranium appears to be implacably hostile, and is easily in a position to enforce an embargo. The only way (from their point of view) to ensure a continued supply is to build their own enrichment facilities.

    The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty is a 2-way street. The signatories agree to forgo the development of nuclear weapons (and nuclear weapons technology) and submit it IAEA inspections. In return they gain access to civilian nuclear technology and fuel from the existing nuclear powers.

    That is, Iran (a signatory) agrees to forgo the ability to produce weapons-grade enriched uranium; in return, the US (and the other nuclear powers) agree to sell them all the reactor grade uranium they need. The Iranians, justified or not, have serious doubts as to whether the US will live up to its end of the bargain.

    That’s not to say that I am convinced that the Iranians are not also pursuing nuclear weapons. Perhaps they are. But their behaviour is perfectly explicable, even if they are not.

    That doesn’t seem to phase (or even impinge on the consciousness of) the hawks, inside and outside the Administration, who are willing to start a nuclear war over the matter.

  • Cynthia

    During these high stake games of nuclear chance, I will remain a steadfast dove.

  • Belizean

    This is the most important issue facing the world today. I’d make these points:

    1. The current Iranian president is a true believer (thinks a halo appeared on his head as he addressed the U.N.) in a millenarian apocalyptic vision (return of the 12th Imam) in which he and Iran will play a pivotal role.

    2. An Iranian nuke is therefore far more dangerous than a North Korean (ordinary Stalinist) one.

    3. An attack that does not displace the current leadership will make things worse.

    4. Not attacking will likely result in the nuking of Israel and at least one American city (through the Iranian sponsored terrorist network).

    6. There is no credible argument that there is not at least a 20% chance of an Iranian nuke within a year.

    7. A 20% chance of an American city being nuked (or dirty bombed) requires the President to act pursuant to his oath of office.

    8. The ongoing threat posed by an existing Iranian nuke will result in Western legislatures enacting special laws to protect Muslim sensibilities (e.g. honor killings will be tolerated, 14th amendment of the U.S. constitution will be ignored, pop culture censored), thus unraveling Western culture as we know it. [If you think the West was unduly obsequious over the Mohamed cartoons in fear of Muslim violence, imagine how it'll act in fear of Iranian nukes.]

    9. Best strategy in my opinion is to act immediately to foment a revolution and to assist it:

    a) Obtain maximal world support for enforcement of U.N. resolutions. [Bribe Russia and China as needed.]

    b) Fully fund the underground Iranian freedom movement.

    c) Massively fund Persian-run pro-freedom radio and TV [Do not involve Reza Palavi (the Shah's son)]. [Minimize preaching. Show them with entertaining programs (sitcoms etc.) what life in free Iran could be like. Drench them in pop music.]

    d) Massively arm the underground Iranian freedom movement.

    e) Coordinate a military strike with the Iranian freedom movement. [U.S. role: bomb weapons labs, police stations, military facilities, TV stations, living quarters of the ruling clerics, disrupt government communications, transmit radio & TV broadcasts of Iranian freedom forces on all Iranian state channels, maintain air superiority]

    f) Arm the Iranian populace. [Air drop weapons.]

    g) Contain the ensuing civil war within Iranian borders, while continuing to fund and support pro-freedom forces (with money, weapons, satellite intel).

    f) Recognize the new Free Republic of Iran, and assist them with post-civil war reconstruction funds.

  • http://catdynamics.blogspot.com Steinn Sigurdsson

    Few more comments:

    the Russians supply Iran with their technology, under the NPT.
    The Bushehr reactor dates back to the Shah’s rule. It is late in part because
    the Iraqis bombed it in 1984 (if I recall).
    The fuel for Bushehr is supposed to be returned to Russia for reprocessing
    to prevent plutonium extraction and is supposed to stay in the core for a year or longer to make sure the Pu-239 is contaminated with Pu-240 and Pu-241.

    If Bushehr-1 is fueled and turned on, and the Iranians then block or expel the IAEA, with the acquiesence of expulsion of the Russians, then they can have bomb grade Pu-239 in 3-4 months by doing a short burn which creates minimal Pu-240/241. This is inefficient for power production, good for bomb making.
    Depending on how good their design is, a 4 month run could make enough Pu-239 for 3-10 bombs, and same again every 4 months until they run out of fuel. If they can do their own enrichment, or if they build heavy water reactors, then they never run out of fuel to breed plutonium.

    If they learned the plutonium chemistry from their lab experiments in the 90s, then they can get metallic Pu extracted, cast and machined very quickly. Weeks.

    This is why the situation is escalating, Bushehr is supposed to go on the grid in 6 months. That means they must load the fuel now, and start test runs.

    It would mean open defiance of IAEA and the UN, but that is right where they are headed now.

    U-235 fission bombs, with yields up to some tens of kilotons of TNT equivalent are easy; you make 2-3 sphere segments, keep them apart and shoot them at each other inside a metal tube when you’re ready. Boom.

    If you try that with Pu-239, according to reliable sources, it squibs. It goes partly critical faster than it can assemble into a sphere, and the heat pushes the plutonium a part. You get a very incomplete explosion, with bits of melted and burned plutonium metal. Messy and mostly useless.
    Similarly too much Pu-240 or Pu-241 in you plutonium and it can’t be assembled without going critical prematurely, possibly spontaneously.

    The way around that is to have a small plutonium core, with the remaining segments in spherical shell, like the skin of a soccer ball. Then you implode the segments onto the core using high velocity explosive in a simultaneous and very symmetric implosion. Tricky, but straighforward. Require fast detonation, high velocity, pure explosive (which can be bought); and fast switches (which can be bought) – this is 1940s tech.
    This gives you controllable yield over maybe a factor of 10-100 without much fuss.

    If you want much broader yield range, or very light compact warheads, or something that will trigger thermonuclear fusion reactions, then you need good engineers and some experiments (or experience for hire). 1950s tech.

    If you want something that will make a very big boom as deterrent to attack or invasion, which can be installed as a mine, or in truck/ship, and you don’t care if it is dirty due to incomplete burn or “only” 10 kilotons instead of 30 kT, then you’re done.
    Just churn them out one or two per month as long as the reactor runs and the labs are open.

  • http://arunsmusings.blogspot.com Arun

    The current situation in Iran is a result of the last 50 years of policy, which from the US side started with the overthrow of Mossadegh, continuing with the propping up of the Shah of Iran, the implicit support to Saddam to attack Iran, rebuff of all overtures by Iran during the 90s. A war against Iran will simply add to the bad karma.

    I will probably make myself persona non grata – but the Israelis and Palestinians receive aid of the order of $100 – $1000 per capita per annum from the rest ofthe world (which is huge compared to any other peoples), total number between 10-12 million, and their conflict holds the world hostage. 10 million of them versus 5990 million of us. If the use of force anywhere is justified, IMO, forcing the two to make nice is it, IMO.

  • http://arunsmusings.blogspot.com Arun

    I suppose “Bushehr” is something like “Bu-” + “-shehr” (city); but it might end up as Bush’s error.

  • http://countiblis.blogspot.com Count Iblis

    Belizean, Bin Laden and Zarqawi would be very happy with these plans. :)

    1. The current Iranian president is a true believer (thinks a halo appeared on his head as he addressed the U.N.) in a millenarian apocalyptic vision (return of the 12th Imam) in which he and Iran will play a pivotal role.

    2. An Iranian nuke is therefore far more dangerous than a North Korean (ordinary Stalinist) one.

    Kim is also a true believer in the communist system. Millions of his people have starved to death because of that ideology.

    Both Kim and Ahmadinejad are rational enough not to start a nuclear war. If Afhanistan under the Taleban regime were enriching uranium then it would have been a different matter.

  • S. Manning

    Didn’t the latest National Intelligence Estimate estimate that Iran was about ten years from developing nuclear weapons, up from the previous estimate of about five years? If so, we have plenty of time to work out a response. Somebody cited the Soviet- but the Soviets had a very extensive network of spies giving them information from the American research, and some people did estimate that they would develop nuclear weapons by 1950.

    I really don’t see why this is producing such a fuss. Iran has an unpleasant, moderately unpredictable government, but I have seen no evidence that they are so irrational as to shoot a nuclear weapon at the nearest target as soon as they get one in order to bring on the Apocalypse. For Iran to get nuclear weapons would be bad, and we should try to prevent it by peaceful means if possible, but it would hardly threaten civilization.

    Any American military action against Iran would be disastrous. Holding Iraq would become much more difficult, the growing forces of moderation inside Iran would be silenced, and a lot of people would die.

  • Belizean

    Kim is also a true believer in the communist system. Millions of his people have starved to death because of that ideology.

    Kim is just another Stalinist. His concern is merely with retaining power. He wants his nukes so that he can arbitrarily oppress (even to the point of mass starvation) the North Korean population without fear of being attacked. The dream of global communism is dead, even within Kim.

    Both Kim and Ahmadinejad are rational enough not to start a nuclear war.

    You could not be more wrong about Ahmadinejad. He would be perfectly willing to “martyr” himself and millions of Muslims to destroy Israel and cripple the “Great Satan.” According to Time (via Wikipedia)

    “[H]e is a fervent believer in the imminent reappearance of the 12th Imam, Shi’ism’s version of the Messiah. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has been reported as saying in official meetings that the end of history is only two or three years away. He reportedly told an associate that on the podium of the General Assembly last September, he felt a halo around him and for “those 27 or 28 minutes, the leaders of the world did not blink … as if a hand was holding them there and it opened their eyes to receive” his message. He believes that the Islamic revolution’s raison d’être is to prepare the way for the messianic redemption, which in his eschatology is preceded by worldwide upheaval and chaos.” –Time Magazine: “Today Tehran, Tomorrow the World” March 2006

    or

    “One of the main reasons why the big powers oppose Iran on the nuclear issue is for the sake of the Zionist regime, so as to let this regime live on. But they are unaware that not only will the Iranian nation continue in the path of obtaining nuclear energy till the end, it will not even for one instant divert its attention from the issue of Palestine”. –Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, 3-15-06

    To Ahmadinejad it would be perfectly rational to start a nuclear war, if this would serve Allah by destroying or crippling His enemies.

  • Dumb Biologist

    Thanks for your very straightforward and excellent responses, Dr. Sigurdsson.

  • Torbjörn Larsson

    Cynthia, this is OT so I’ll make it short. I don’t think there are essential geological differences past-present, but IIRC todays ecological complexity is largest ever. Ecological complexity confer stability. (Which is one reason why lowering it confer more risks.) But I agree on the matter of respect for diversifying energy production.

  • http://golem.ph.utexas.edu/~distler/blog/ Jacques Distler

    If Bushehr-1 is fueled and turned on, and the Iranians then block or expel the IAEA, with the acquiesence of expulsion of the Russians, then they can have bomb grade Pu-239 in 3-4 months by doing a short burn which creates minimal Pu-240/241. This is inefficient for power production, good for bomb making.

    To play devil’s advocate, isn’t essentially the same statement true of every civilian reactor operated in an NPT signatory country? They could always time dropping out of the NPT with a delivery of new fuel rods for their reactor facility.

    But getting from there to a (working) Pu-239 device is nontrivial.

    Iran’s been hard at work at uranium enrichment. But there’s no evidence that they have or are developing the capability to reprocess fuel rods. (I’ll set aside the problems, given the plutonium, of engineering a working device.) Absent such facilities, diverting fuel rods
    a) will not buy them very much
    b) will not go undetected for long.

    Iran’s enrichment program is more worrisome than the thought that they are somehow going to start plutonium production. But I don’t see how it rises to the level of concern that would warrant starting a nuclear war over.

  • http://elainemeinelsupkis.typepad.com/ antilepton

    All this discussion assumes Russia and China will just sit quietly while US (and Isreal?) rain bombs, perhaps even nuclear “bunker busters”, on Iran.

    Who owns much of the enormous US debt? If they stop buying or start dumping US treasuries, it could cause a serious financial meltdown. China has recently signed contracts with Iran on oil exploration. The oil market will react if there is major escalation, which will be ruinous.

    World wars get started over smaller matters. Unfortunately, unlike previous times, the danger of miscalculation is instant annihilation.

  • Belizean

    Iran’s enrichment program is more worrisome than the thought that they are somehow going to start plutonium production. But I don’t see how it rises to the level of concern that would warrant starting a nuclear war over.

    The point is that near-term aerial attacks in support of Iranian revolutionaries need not not be nuclear if this incapacitates the current leadership.

    If the leadership retains power, it can nuke the U.S. with impunity (or extort and blackmail by credibly threatening to do so). All it need do is pass bombs to terrorist operatives that are not clearly connected to Iran.

    To properly calibrate your concern meter, imagine a uranium enrichment program being run by a Christian fundamentalist sect in Montana that firmly believes in the apocalyptic second coming of Christ. This is would be frightening. But, given the demonstrated violence of Muslim extremism as compared to any Christian counterpart, it’s not nearly as frightening as the program in Iran.

  • http://golem.ph.utexas.edu/~distler/blog/ Jacques Distler

    9. Best strategy in my opinion is to act immediately to foment a revolution and to assist it:

    a) Obtain maximal world support for enforcement of U.N. resolutions. [Bribe Russia and China as needed.]

    b) Fully fund the underground Iranian freedom movement.

    c) Massively fund Persian-run pro-freedom radio and TV [Do not involve Reza Palavi (the Shah's son)]. [Minimize preaching. Show them with entertaining programs (sitcoms etc.) what life in free Iran could be like. Drench them in pop music.]

    d) Massively arm the underground Iranian freedom movement.

    e) Coordinate a military strike with the Iranian freedom movement. [U.S. role: bomb weapons labs, police stations, military facilities, TV stations, living quarters of the ruling clerics, disrupt government communications, transmit radio & TV broadcasts of Iranian freedom forces on all Iranian state channels, maintain air superiority]

    f) Arm the Iranian populace. [Air drop weapons.]

    g) Contain the ensuing civil war within Iranian borders, while continuing to fund and support pro-freedom forces (with money, weapons, satellite intel).

    f) Recognize the new Free Republic of Iran, and assist them with post-civil war reconstruction funds.

    The point is that near-term aerial attacks in support of Iranian revolutionaries need not not be nuclear if this incapacitates the current leadership.

    One might have thought that those advocating regime-change in Iran would be slightly humbled by the debacle of their previous attempt at regime-change in Iraq.

    Evidently not ….

  • NoJoy

    Belizean, the antecedent in your point #7

    A 20% chance of an American city being nuked (or dirty bombed)

    does not follow from your points #4 and #6 (by the way, you have no point #5).

    With regards to your policy proposals in point #9 f), g), and f) [sic], that ought to be a cakewalk. Let’s get the label on the door of Bush’s Iraq planning team changed, and they can start on it right away.

  • Paul Valletta

    My own personal opinion is the Iranian Government has Nuclear Arms allready! They have imported weapons from another “Islamic” state, but cannot anounce to the world they have joined the Nuclear “arms” club of nations, without the obvious admission of external help. The current rhetoric and “hawks_doves” exhibition that is being played out, is following similar monouvers that occured between “Pakistan_India” in the late 90′s.

    Open your eyes!, India did not get Nuclear weapons independantly, they relied on allies. Iran is following up with the “tit for tat” scenario.

    Iran has the problem of “announcing” its nuclear capability to the world, therefore it is “Going_through_motions” of Energy/Nuclear needs, and rights, purely to deviate their “actual” source of weapons.

    Make no bones about it, if Iran had Nuclear capability during the Iran/Iraq war, we would not be sitting here now,online..discussing scientific issues (and the odd political/religious issue).

    Since Sept 11th 01, things have changed drastically, for instance Pakistan are basically on their final “un-written” warning, if the American president, present or future, gains knowledge of one nuclear nation “arming” another , especially a nation that harbours , hatred on a Grand Universal Scale?

    As a P.S, Bin Laden is recently thought to have evaded capture by leaving the borders of Pakistan/Afghanastan, and is thought to be sheilded within country bordering Iraq and Afghanastan, you guessed it Iran.

  • Paul Valletta

    On a note of detonation of devices of certain height/impact?

    Take SEPTEMBER 11th 2001, five planes containing five “primed” neuclear weapons?

    This did not happen, but it does not take much thinking that this is a grave probability of the future?

    Without America and its united allies involvment in securing a general concensus of order, I honestly think I would not be expressing freedom of opinions at this very moment. Whilst I do not agree with certain (american) factors, I never take world events at face value. Truth is really stranger than fiction, and when it comes to nuclear weapons, it is better to ask of a nation:Show us you do not have nuclear weapons?..than to pthe headlines of Boom..they DID had nuclear weapons!

  • http://countiblis.blogspot.com Count Iblis

    Belizian, a few nuclear bombs would not destroy ”the enemy”. The Iranians know this and I don’t understand why the US doesn’t see this.

    As I wrote earlier, the Iranians can win any war against the US by destroying the oil installations in Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Bahrain using their missiles. That would take just 15 minutes.

  • Cynthia

    Count Iblis, you make a most insightful point. Furthermore, I would like to build upon this point and boldly make the following comment. Our real enemy is not Iran. Our real enemy is our addiction to Middle East Oil. As a nation, we are most definitely behaving like petroleum addicts. Perhaps a twelve-step-plan especially designed for petro-addicts might be of some help.

  • Belizean

    Count Iblis,

    Belizian, a few nuclear bombs would not destroy ”the enemy”.

    Correct. That is why 1) I don’t recommend nuclear bunker busters. 2) I hold regime change via fomented and air-supported internal revolution to be essential. [If the changed regime is sufficiently sane, its possession of nukes will not necessarily be a problem.]

    No Joy,

    While it is technically true that Iran’s possession of a nuke does not mean that there is a 100% chance that they will use it against us, the President would be unwise not to assume that they will. Ahmadinejad’s head genuinely appears to be full of millenarian visions of a glorious apocalypse that will usher the return of the 12th Imam. It truly seems that he sees himself as the instrument of Allah that will bring this about. Sure, there’s a chance that it’s all an act. But do you want to bet New York City, Washington D.C, or Los Angeles on that? Let’s be conservative and suppose that there’s only a 10% that they’ll “clandestinely” nuke a U.S. city (by passing the bomb to terrorist surrogates). The corresponding 2% chance that an American city will be destroyed and rendered uninhabitable for decades (if not hundreds of years) is too huge to be ignored. [If there was a 2% chance that your car would explode within a year, I don't think that you'd blithely continue to drive it.] [Sorry about the incompetent numbering and lettering of my hasty previous post.]

    Jacques Distler,

    One might have thought that those advocating regime-change in Iran would be slightly humbled by the debacle of their previous attempt at regime-change in Iraq.

    The regime in Iraq has been changed successfully. As a consequence freedom has risen there. Perennially hostile factions are now free to attack each other. We saw this before, when oppression was reduced in Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union. Eventually, one faction will win (almost certainly the side that we support). Please remember that even relatively homogeneous countries like the United States and England experienced all out civil wars — far greater strife than the current situation in Iraq. [Iraq seems most problematic from the frame of reference offered by the Western news media, which is sensationalist, ahistorical, selective by agenda, focused on the moment, plagued by a herd mentality, and obviously biased.]

  • http://catdynamics.blogspot.com Steinn Sigurdsson

    Jacques – the statement does apply to the other NPT signatories with substantial
    programs, and that is the problem. The US has effectively destroyed the NPT by
    backing Iran into a corner and rewarding India.
    And with the threats against Iran the “negative security assurance” of the NPT is gone, so there is no point in staying in the NPT.

    My reading of the globalsecurity.org summary is that Iran has done lab tests of extracting Pu from irradiated uranium using their small lab reactors, so they have in fact closed the cycle, as they announced.

    The Pu metal engineering is just not that hard, it is not trivial, but it is solved, with lots of hints in the literature, and probably some hard advice available for a price.

    Main point of my original post was to seek a distinction between the long term issue, that Iran is within ~ 10 years of having a full fuel cycle without nuclear power input at some stage, which can lead to a steady bomb production line if desired; and on the other hand Iran’s fairly evident urgent desire for deterrent, which they have a window for doing right now, at the expense of open break with the IAEA and probably the Russians. But they won’t need them any more.

    And Iran’s original ambition to sell their oil and have nuclear for baseline main electricity is very sensible, but they by now will resent not being trusted, and with the “axis-of-evil” speech will figure that getting a bomb is an overriding imperative. Trying to influence the Iranian elections was also dumb.

  • http://golem.ph.utexas.edu/~distler/blog/ Jacques Distler

    Steinn Sigurdsson wrote:

    Jacques – the statement does apply to the other NPT signatories with substantial programs, and that is the problem. The US has effectively destroyed the NPT by backing Iran into a corner and rewarding India.

    We certainly agree on that.

    We probably also agree that they screwed up the NPT, without first having found a workable alternative.

    And Iran’s original ambition to sell their oil and have nuclear for baseline main electricity is very sensible, but they by now will resent not being trusted, and with the “axis-of-evil” speech will figure that getting a bomb is an overriding imperative. Trying to influence the Iranian elections was also dumb.

    Iran was (and, in more competent hands, maybe still would be) a manageable problem.

    I generally agree that, over a 10 year time-frame, Iran easily has the capability of developing nuclear weapons. In the short term, however, I’m a lot more dubious about the scenario (outlined in your post) by which Iran could obtain a bomb (or two) rather quickly. A lot of iffy propositions have to be true in order to succeed, and they won’t get a second chance.

    Belizean wrote:

    The regime in Iraq has been changed successfully. As a consequence freedom has risen there. Perennially hostile factions are now free to attack each other.

    Freedom is truly on the March!

    And, flush from our resounding success in Iraq, we can go and spread the good fortune to their neighbour to the East!

    Eventually, one faction will win (almost certainly the side that we support).

    Actually, since you seem to have forgotten, it is the faction closely allied with Iran that is on top of the political pyramid. And, without Iran’s tacit support, Iraq’s descent into chaos would be even more swift and bloody than it already is.

  • http://arunsmusings.blogspot.com Arun

    From a lot of perspectives, the US-India deal is not a “reward” to India.
    Here is one such:
    http://www.asianage.com/viewarticle2.asp?newsid=144777

  • http://arunsmusings.blogspot.com Arun

    Quoting from another forum:

    The NPT is a truly moronic piece of legislation. At least two of the P-5, who were crowned rulers of the world via this legislation, did not even bother to sign it until 1992 i.e. China signed the NPT only in 1992. France also did it at about the same time. Reagan as such by proposing nuclear cooperation with China in 1985, proposed giving nuclear technology to a country which had not even signed the NPT as of on that date. The BJP’s position appears to be that if Reagan chose to push for an exception in the Chinese case, based on a demonstration of nuclear power ( a nuke detonation as ratified by the NPT), why cant Bush do a similar exception for India based on certain knowledge that the US had as early as the early 1960s that India had the capability to detonate a nuke. The difference ofcourse is that while the NPT is an international agreement which has crowned the Chinese “rulers of the world”, the India exception will have to rely on the US’s own determination (via its historical intelligence estimates) that India was indeed a defacto nuclear weapons state prior to NPT cut off date of mid 1967 and based on that the US will unilaterally crown India as a ruler of the world.

    (Re: China/US nuclear agreements, see e.g., http://www.nci.org/d/dh102497.htm)

    The NPT is damaged by current events only to the extent that no one has a memory horizon beyond that last two years. Raising the “Bush admin led damage to the NPT” is political spin, and nothing more.

  • Adam

    The problem with this whole ‘bomb the crap out of them to let the internal resistance take the government down’ thing is that it appears to be based on hope. If the Iranians pull together in response to an attack (which is hardly impossible) then we strengthen the position of Ahmadinejad (who, don’t forget, isn’t actually in charge of the country in any case). It appears to be the case that even moderate Iranians, who aren’t friends of the current regime, think that Iran has a right to nuclear weapons, and certainly a right to nuclear energy. Whether or not you think that they’ve been hoodwinked or misled or are carried away on a jingoistic wave doesn’t change how they feel, and it is these underlying feelings that will guide their reaction to our actions. Israel and Pakistan, who aren’t what Iranians would describe as ‘friends’, both have nuclear weapons; in that context, it’s not surprising that many Iranians would want to be similarly armed.

  • http://countiblis.blogspot.com Count Iblis

    Cynthia, that’s one of the few sensible things Bush has said :)

    Belizean, giving nukes to terrorists to attack the US is just not practical. You also have to look at the cost vs. ”benefit”. You need many billions of dollars to produce just a few nukes…

    If Iran’s mindset was really like Bin Laden they would spend their money differently.

    E.g. you could think of sending agents to Africa when there is an outbreak of ebola. The ebola virus survives up to two weeks in dead bodies, so it’s possible to collect samples containing the virus and move them to Iran. Their they could let the virus multiply in secret biological laboratories.

    An attack with ebola could wipe out a significant fraction of the US population at a fraction of the cost to develop an atomic bomb.

  • Belizean

    Belizean, giving nukes to terrorists to attack the US is just not practical. You also have to look at the cost vs. ”benefit”.

    Count Iblis,

    With all due respect, you still don’t get it. Ahmadinejad is not the sort of guy who’s going to dispassionately perform a cost-benefit analysis. Being fundamentally medieval in his thinking, he is likely fixated on particular vision of the apocalypse that involves dramatic explosions and a cleansing holy fire (or whatever picture the Koran might paint). He is also likely to believe that no price is too high to ensure that Allah’s will be done.

    Even if he were a rational cost-benefit analyzer, he’d probably decide against ebola. It’s just too hard to ensure that the millions of people that you’ve infected do not spread the contagion to unintended places, such as other Muslim countries including your own.

    The problem with this whole ‘bomb the crap out of them to let the internal resistance take the government down’ thing is that it appears to be based on hope. If the Iranians pull together in response to an attack (which is hardly impossible) then we strengthen the position of Ahmadinejad (who, don’t forget, isn’t actually in charge of the country in any case).

    Adam,

    The proposal is a revolution supported by bombing, not bombing that is hoped to induce a revolution. There are two possibilities: either most Iranians support the current clerical rulers, or most do not. Judging by the extraordinary degree of oppression to which the clerics must resort in order to retain their power, the latter possibility is far more likely. If true, a revolution will be supported by most. If the revolutionaries make it known that the precision bombing is in support of their efforts and directed by them, it is less likely to cause the backlash that you predict.

    …moderate Iranians, who aren’t friends of the current regime, think that Iran has a right to nuclear weapons, and certainly a right to nuclear energy.

    No one is attempting to prevent Iranians from obtaining nuclear weapons. The effort is to prevent oppressive, terrorist supporting, hatred driven regimes from possessing them. If Iran becomes Belgium or even Cost Rica, few will be concerned about their acquisition of nuclear weaponry.

  • http://glasstone.blogspot.com/ Science

    It’s a mistake of the Federation of American Scientists to host free downloads of all the available bomb-making Los Alamos scientific reports at http://www.fas.org/sgp/othergov/doe/lanl/index1.html

    Los Alamos removed them from the internet and from the wayback machine when China got the blueprint for the W88.

    While the science should not be secret, the Los Alamos chemical progesses and technical programs for making WWII type bombs should not be so readily available.

    While I agree that proliferation should be averted by physical means, and not by head-in-the-sand ‘scientific secrecy’, there is something absurd in having documents like http://www.fas.org/sgp/othergov/doe/lanl/docs1/00349710.pdf

    freely downloadable by anybody. Not all those reports are would speed up Iran’s bomb making, however. For example http://www.fas.org/sgp/othergov/doe/lanl/lib-www/la-pubs/00315644.pdf is just fascinating physics everyone should be aware of (the natural nuclear reactor at Gabon safely confined radioactive fission products for a billion years), and the reports on nuclear weapons effects like EMP are vital for civil defence to be taken seriously against nuclear terrorists, see http://www.fas.org/sgp/othergov/doe/lanl/docs1/00322994.pdf for EMP from 1962 tests and http://www.fas.org/sgp/othergov/doe/lanl/lib-www/la-pubs/00317067.pdf for computer simulation of the effects of a megaton near surface burst. I think effects and scientific civil defence data should be openly available, not the chemistry of plutonium separation, etc.

  • http://arunsmusings.blogspot.com Arun

    http://www.tpmcafe.com/node/28926

    A deal may be possible.

  • Belizean

    Arun,

    That approach worked out really well in North Korea.

  • http://arunsmusings.blogspot.com Arun

    Iran is an infinitely more open society than North Korea.

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  • http://dignifieddevil.wordpress.com andrew jones

    “shouldn’t the world be wary of fascist leaders that threaten to wipe out millions of Jews? It usually ends up bad, not just for the Jews, but for all of us.”

    Well the holocaust denying president of Iran isn’t the actual leadder, the current ayatollah is. Iran consists of an elected congress and president who then elect the supreme leader (usually an ayatollah) and an islamic guidance counsel. Iran’s democracy or government has proven to be problematic, becuase it’s congress actually didn’t want to elect the current supreme leader of Iran and favored a more moderate Islamic leader. The political problems of Iran aside, the ayatollah has issued a law against the development of nuclear weapons. The question here is, is Iran’s government undermining the supreme leader by covertly developing nuclear weapons? or is this as they claim an actual attempt at just nuclear power? Regardless, Iran is a modernized nation with a government that isn’t quite represenative (although most Iranians support nuclear power as a means of weaning Iran from oil based power), but then again neither is the U.S. government right now, but one in which popular support has a say. Iran has the possibility of being a responsible nuclear power, and also with it’s current government, the possibility of being the second country in 100 years to attempt to annihilate the jews. I’m not betting on the later, chances are Iran’s political system will eventually become more moderate especially if their largest trade partners (south korea and japan) put pressure on them.

    -
    A

  • El Jamón Misterioso

    Did Iran get the US W88 miniaturized warhead design, either directly from China, who “acquired” it in the 1990s, or indirectly through North Korea or elsewhere?

    Why it would matter:

    The W88 can yield 475 kilotons, making an attack much easier.

    For example, you put your warhead on a ship. If the ship gets into New York harbor, Port of Los Angeles, wherever, you can set it off and be assured of destroying most of the city and killing millions.

    There’s no worry about getting it through security or positioning it precisely for the desired effect. Plus or minus a mile or two is good enough to stab at the heart of the Great Satan.

    With or without the W88, I’m guessing Iran has received modern, sophisticated bomb design, much better than a grad student’s hobby bomb, and may be capable of producing a megaton-range warhead.

    Is Israel or the US – Little Satan or Big Satan – the more likely first target?

    A nuclear attack may be like that great magic trick, the one so astounding you can only perform it once.

    If Mamoud is smart enough to realize he may have to CHOOSE between the two Satans, will he prefer to attack Tel-Aviv or New York?

    Personally, I think the question of will Iran get the bomb, or how soon, or even “will they use it?” has become a bit silly. What is going to stop them, or even slow them down?

    We just got through showing His Majesty Hu Jintao that we love and adore him, and would never do anything to cause him to “lose face.”

    He is completely free, along with Russia, to provide Iran unlimited technical guidance and material assistance – for “peaceful purposes” only, of course.

    With the assistance they’ve already received from A. Q. Khan, the “father” of the Pakistani bomb, plus two nuclear superpowers helping out, what will stop Iran from developing a first-rate nuclear weapons program?

    It’s now only a question of, will they do what they’ve promised to do?

    If you believe their nuke weapons program is only to make them feel like big players on the world stage, appease their Khomeini-ist Islamists at home, and increase their fortunes by driving up the price of crude oil, well then…

    What, me worry?

    On the other hand, if you believe they’ll soon be holding a lottery to choose which martyr gets the high honor of driving the holy van into Tel Aviv, or sailing the sacred ship into the port of New York, you have to wonder, aside from $10 per gallon gasoline, what other “fallout” will there be, when another mad regime does exactly what it said it would do.

  • http://vacua.blgospot.com Jim Harrison

    The Iranians have never threatened to blow up Tel Aviv. Such an attack would be suicidal and would kill thousands or millions of Muslims. Promoting the notion that your enemies are drooling maniacs is simply stupid…and cowardly to boot. I hope you guys change your shorts now and then after you scare yourselves to death.

    The Iranian “crisis” is largely manufactured

    1. The Iranians are not very close to having a bomb

    2. The Iranians have no national interest in attacking anybody and every reason to expect to be attacked

    3. The Pakistanis and the Israelis, both of whom already have the bomb, are obviously more dangerous to the peace of the world than Iran since both have plenty of religious fanatics one election or one coup away from power.

    4. The domestic political advantage of creating an Iranian war is obvious as is the way in which it serves the interests of the right-wing parties in Israel. The people who are promoting confrontation have a long track record of cynicism and dishonesty.

  • http://countiblis.blogspot.com Count Iblis

    Jim I agree 100%. One should also note that a war against Iran to destroy their nuclear installations could escalate into a regional war killing hundred thousand or more people. That would be similar to exploding a nuke in a city.

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  • Isleno

    Do the Hawks read the News or do they just play video games before writing onto this forum….

    The real problem isn’t Iran’s nuclear ambitions or whether it’s leadership is hell bent on destroying Israel. The key players in our run-up to World War 3 is China, Russia, and whether Petrol is sold in Euros or Dollars..

    For China to sustain it’s incredible rate of growth, it will need many times more oil than it is receiving today. China’s addiction to oil is second only to the US, and will soon surpass it. This is why China has been busy getting in good with oil producing nations around the world, including Iran and those in South America.

    The point here is that China is not going to sit idly by while America tries to institute regime change in Iran and thereby control China’s Oil Faucet. The missles sold to Iran by China had a purpose. The Nuclear reactor from Russia has the same intention…. But the question is WHCH IS IT? Are they vielded threats to the US to back off, or are they in actuality lures to bog the the US into another quagmire.. nice and ripe for an attack…. Such a case might leave Taiwan open for Chinese invasion, and other US interests in Asia fair game for Chinese bullying….

    For the hawks out there who keep screaming ‘regime change’ in Iran….. WAKE UP!! Afghanistan was suppose to be the easy one… and yet, the Taliban still have enough of a voice to be welcomed to the negotiating table. Need I mention our report card in Iraq.. I wish more of you were on the ground, so you could see what happens to kids – when suicide bombers drive into schools or when Tomahwk missiles miss their target…. Please don’t bring Playstation talk to this forum when there are real lives, real people, real babies who DIE in real wars…

    The truth is regardless of what the US does now, war is imminent…… A nuclear Iran is inevitalbe (if not already a fact) is completely unacceptable to the West, and Israel will act unilaterally when she’s ready….dragging the US into it whether it likes it or not… IF the US attacks Iran, it’s instant Mid-East Regional war – It’ll be just like the World Cup, except instead of referee, the US will be the soccer ball…… . If the US DOES NOT attack Iran, then Iran will start trading Oil in Euros instead of Dollars.. a SEVERE blow to US economics – so much so that, we are willing to risk WWIII to prevent it from happening… http://www.globalresearch.ca/articles/HEA306B.html … That’s right it’s not about Iraqi Freedom, and not really about OIL.. but rather about Dollars versus Euros….. [noticed China's unpegging of the Yan to the dollar.... and current talk of pegging it the Euro....] …. There will be a regime change in the next few years, but the regime in question isn’t Iran…. its the US….

    I don’t have the answer… but I do know that starting a regime change in Iran is a suicide mission for our soldiers that will also irrevocably kill half million innocent Iraninans in the process… and yet, won’t do a darn thing to prevent WWIII ….

    too….

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Cosmic Variance

Random samplings from a universe of ideas.

About Sean Carroll

Sean Carroll is a Senior Research Associate in the Department of Physics at the California Institute of Technology. His research interests include theoretical aspects of cosmology, field theory, and gravitation. His most recent book is The Particle at the End of the Universe, about the Large Hadron Collider and the search for the Higgs boson. Here are some of his favorite blog posts, home page, and email: carroll [at] cosmicvariance.com .

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