A nuclear Middle East

Listened to a fascinating programme on Iran's efforts to go nuclear and the possible ramifications.

Start the week

It's well worth a listen and shed a lot of light on the subject for me. Start the week is also a great podcast but the episodes are (or were) only available for a week or so after broadcast.

D you think Iran will be bombed and is it a sensible idea? As far as I can see, as stated in the programme, it could solidify the Iranian regimes position, cut off our oil supplies and send us into a second recession.

I didn't think Iran was a primary supplier of oil for the US?

I dunno, I just worry about the idea of telling another soverign nation what they can and cannot do when it comes to their own security... would they even have the capabilities to launch this somewhere meaninful?

It might be a primary supplier for the Brits? I don't know, though.

Interestingly, with frakking having the net effect of making the United States a net petrochemical exporter sometime in the next few years, there may actually be an economic disincentive to America paying the price (both financial and political) for Middle Eastern political stability. If we go even further and start instituting common sense measures to move away from ubiquitous fossil fuel use (e.g. modernizing our power grid, more use of alternative fuels, taxing carbon emissions), the Middle East would matter even less.

Then, if the Jews and the Arabs want to duke it out with nukes, we can tell them to grow up.

Demosthenes wrote:

I didn't think Iran was a primary supplier of oil for the US?

I dunno, I just worry about the idea of telling another soverign nation what they can and cannot do when it comes to their own security... would they even have the capabilities to launch this somewhere meaninful?

The Iran borders the Strait of Hormuz through which a fifth of the worlds oil supply passes. There is at least one pipeline that avoids the area though.

It sounds like they are a long way off nuclear weapons but an attack would a) likely not work b) kill many innocent people with fall out from nuclear material stored at the sites and c) cement their resolve. I don't see anything wrong with talking to that nation about the attack though if the out come is going to be disastrous for more than them alone.

The way it was described on the programme (a fantastic listen) there are two timers running. One is the time to Iran having the capability to build nuclear weapons the other is the time the large pro-western pro-American parts of the populace (mainly the young Iranians) displacing the mullahs.

Paleocon wrote:

If we go even further and start instituting common sense measures to move away from ubiquitous fossil fuel use (e.g. modernizing our power grid, more use of alternative fuels, taxing carbon emissions), the Middle East would matter even less.

I wish. But like my grandmother used to say, people in hell want ice water, too...

With all that talk about "crazies" in Iran getting hold of nukes and launching an attack at everyone (read: Israel and/or Saudi Arabia), I just can't imagine that happening. On the other hand, I would absolutely not be surprised if, conversely, Israel nukes Iran first. Either so as not to let Iran have the nukes, or just because. With that in mind, proliferation of nuclear weapons in Middle East should actually have a sombering, stabilizing effect on the region as a whole.

And even if not... We end up paying SO much for the "security" in the Middle East (read: de-facto Israeli racket, as Niseg describes it straight), that at this point it might be cheaper in the long run just to let everyone there who wants to have their pretty little holy war already.

Paleocon wrote:

Then, if the Jews and the Arabs want to duke it out with nukes, we can tell them to grow up.

Or, get rich selling them pallets of Rad-X and old car parts refurbished into body armor.

How to Kill a Rad Scorpion for Dummies

Nikola Tesla and You.

Scorpion King IV

Seems pretty clear that Iran is a rational actor who wants nukes for the purpose of joining the big-boys table; it's effectively going to be a giant middle finger at the U.S. and Israel. I can't imagine for a minute they'd be insane enough to launch a nuclear attack as it would lead to their immediate annihilation, and I also don't think they're going to be a sponsor of nuclear terrorism. Production of nuclear weapons is astoundingly expensive, and they just don't have the economic strength to hand them out like candy (plus, again, could lead to their nation being destroyed in a retaliatory strike).

If people want to be scared of nukes (and they should be), they should be scared of all those old Soviet nuclear weapons sitting around. A badly maintained military in a bad economy in a country whose leadership is apparently pretty cozy with their own version of the mafia? That should scare the crap out of people. When the first mushroom cloud rises over a city based on a terrorist attack it's not going to be anything to do with Iran or even North Korea; they can't afford to give the nukes away. It's going to be some nuke sold out of a storage site by a pissed off, underpaid Russian colonel.

Stepping back from the personal dislike between the US/Israel and Iran, does Iran getting a few nukes change anything (other than Sen. McCain's dream to invade)? They won't be the first in that region to have them, Iran is not really an irrational actor, and they know that they will be immediately vitrified by the US nukes if they attack with them. So, what is the real concern? Like MD above, I guess I just don't see what we have to be concerned with of here.

Kraint wrote:

Stepping back from the personal dislike between the US/Israel and Iran, does Iran getting a few nukes change anything (other than Sen. McCain's dream to invade)? They won't be the first in that region to have them, Iran is not really an irrational actor, and they know that they will be immediately vitrified by the US nukes if they attack with them. So, what is the real concern? Like MD above, I guess I just don't see what we have to be concerned with of here.

It radically changes the power dynamics of the region (for the good, IMO). Notice how we don't ever invade anyone that has nukes? If we can accept that Pakistan has The Bomb, then Iran shouldn't be a problem.

Paleocon wrote:

Interestingly, with frakking having the net effect of making the United States a net petrochemical exporter sometime in the next few years, there may actually be an economic disincentive to America paying the price (both financial and political) for Middle Eastern political stability. If we go even further and start instituting common sense measures to move away from ubiquitous fossil fuel use (e.g. modernizing our power grid, more use of alternative fuels, taxing carbon emissions), the Middle East would matter even less.

Then, if the Jews and the Arabs want to duke it out with nukes, we can tell them to grow up.

Looks at all the oil in the Canadian Tar Sands.

Yeah, there is even a lesser need for Middle East Oil.

MilkmanDanimal wrote:

Seems pretty clear that Iran is a rational actor who wants nukes for the purpose of joining the big-boys table; it's effectively going to be a giant middle finger at the U.S. and Israel. I can't imagine for a minute they'd be insane enough to launch a nuclear attack as it would lead to their immediate annihilation, and I also don't think they're going to be a sponsor of nuclear terrorism. Production of nuclear weapons is astoundingly expensive, and they just don't have the economic strength to hand them out like candy (plus, again, could lead to their nation being destroyed in a retaliatory strike).

If people want to be scared of nukes (and they should be), they should be scared of all those old Soviet nuclear weapons sitting around. A badly maintained military in a bad economy in a country whose leadership is apparently pretty cozy with their own version of the mafia? That should scare the crap out of people. When the first mushroom cloud rises over a city based on a terrorist attack it's not going to be anything to do with Iran or even North Korea; they can't afford to give the nukes away. It's going to be some nuke sold out of a storage site by a pissed off, underpaid Russian colonel.

Which Bond movie was this again?

Not that I necessarily disagree but at the same time I put the odds so damn low I never think about this.

If people want to be scared of nukes (and they should be), they should be scared of all those old Soviet nuclear weapons sitting around. A badly maintained military in a bad economy in a country whose leadership is apparently pretty cozy with their own version of the mafia? That should scare the crap out of people. When the first mushroom cloud rises over a city based on a terrorist attack it's not going to be anything to do with Iran or even North Korea; they can't afford to give the nukes away. It's going to be some nuke sold out of a storage site by a pissed off, underpaid Russian colonel.

Definitely right to be worried about the ~10,000 Russian nukes that each need to be perfectly babysitted to prevent disaster. Definitely right that a nuclear Iran is nowhere near that scary.

But I think Pakistan is scarier, because its geopolitical situation is constantly threatened, its government has fallen every like 8 years for decades, and both the populace and the military elites dislike America, which is now waging an undeclared war not exactly against it but in its territory against its wishes.

jowner wrote:

Not that I necessarily disagree but at the same time I put the odds so damn low I never think about this.

After the Cold War ended, the US government literally paid the salaries of thousands of physicists and other scientists that worked on the Soviets nuclear weapons program. We also sent teams over to secure and bring back a sh*t ton of weapons grade nuclear materials that we recycled in our nuclear reactors. There's a boatload of Soviet nukes that we don't know where they are.

OG_slinger wrote:
jowner wrote:

Not that I necessarily disagree but at the same time I put the odds so damn low I never think about this.

After the Cold War ended, the US government literally paid the salaries of thousands of physicists and other scientists that worked on the Soviets nuclear weapons program. We also sent teams over to secure and bring back a sh*t ton of weapons grade nuclear materials that we recycled in our nuclear reactors. There's a boatload of Soviet nukes that we don't know where they are.

Lots of smallpox too, but at least that's probably mostly gone off by now.

The site logged me off when I posted the comment so it got wiped.

In brief I've heard the whole thing and generally agree about the "Mexican showdown " scenario but Israel is the one wearing the bullet proof vest (in form of anti ballistic missile systems). In 1973 some people think there was a risk that Israel would use nuclear weapons and Saadat talked about it as the reason for signing the peace treaty. The risk still exist so all the poking Israel is experiencing is fairly negative effect (being attacked by our neighbors) on the world's security.

I want to comment about "nuclear terrorism" . It's not likely to happen unless you are talking about "dirty bombs" . You can get a similar effect with chemical weapons like VX gas but those are rarely used in terror attack (Sarin was used in the Tokyo 1995)

Who does and who doesn't have the right to own Nuclear weapons?

strangederby wrote:

Who does and who doesn't have the right to own Nuclear weapons?

That's a pretty silly question.

The "right" is defined by facts on the ground. North Korea has the right to have them because they have them. Israel has the right to have them because they have them. Iran doesn't yet and we don't want them to have them so no such "right" exists.

Just as a country's "right to exist" is defined by existence.

All this moralizing about "rights" is all just window dressing for geopolitics.

If I remember correctly NPT actually define who has the right to have nuclear weapons - countries who developed them before the NPT was signed. I wonder does the US,Russia,China get inspected.

I believe the US gets it's arsenal inspected. I know in the past we did verification like opening missile silo covers for satellite passes, for the Soviets.

Robear wrote:

I believe the US gets it's arsenal inspected. I know in the past we did verification like opening missile silo covers for satellite passes, for the Soviets.

Isn't that a part of the Nuclear Disarmament treaty that ended the cold war? I know the USA withdrew from the ABM treaty about 10 years ago.

An Anti Ballistic missile systems enables a first strike and discourages rogue states from attacking the country. I think the USA funded the Israeli programs mainly so it has the technology once it decides to withdraw from the treaty. The Patriot didn't perform well in the gulf war and it costs as much as the Arrow missile which is way more effective against ballistic missiles(the 100kg warhead helps).

Niseg wrote:

If I remember correctly NPT actually define who has the right to have nuclear weapons - countries who developed them before the NPT was signed. I wonder does the US,Russia,China get inspected.

So that means Israel is technically just as much as a rogue nuclear state as Iran is...

OG_slinger wrote:
Niseg wrote:

If I remember correctly NPT actually define who has the right to have nuclear weapons - countries who developed them before the NPT was signed. I wonder does the US,Russia,China get inspected.

So that means Israel is technically just as much as a rogue nuclear state as Iran is...

Yeah, they're just trying to stick with the plausible deniability thing instead of arguing about it like Iran.

strangederby wrote:

Who does and who doesn't have the right to own Nuclear weapons?

According to the non-proliferation treaty no one who doesn't have them should be trying to acquire them but, apparently, during the George W, Bush administration, India was allowed to step outside the treaty making one more of our allies who gets to ignore the rules and weakening the treaty further.

Higgledy wrote:

According to the non-proliferation treaty no one who doesn't have them should be trying to acquire them but, apparently, during the George W, Bush administration, India was allowed to step outside the treaty making one more of our allies who gets to ignore the rules and weakening the treaty further.

India detonated it's first nuke way back in 1974. It's second test was five nukes in May 1998, which was followed by later that month by Pakistan testing five nukes. IIRC, at the time there was talk about those initial Pakistani tests being fizzles as they didn't register that high on seismic sensors.

I confess I did very little to no research before making that post. It's something that came up in the programme. I think I've found what they were refering to. It's under the heading U.S.–India Civil Nuclear Agreement on Wikipedia (for some reason the link doesn't work.)

Specifically this part:

The 45-nation NSG granted the waiver to India on September 6, 2008 allowing it to access civilian nuclear technology and fuel from other countries.[10] The implementation of this waiver made India the only known country with nuclear weapons which is not a party to the Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT) but is still allowed to carry out nuclear commerce with the rest of the world.

It sounds Like George. W didn't exactly do it on his own.

I found this site in my travels. Looks interesting: Arms Control Association

I think a nuclear Iran could be a stabilizing factor, because I don't think they're stupid enough to actually use nukes as anything more than a deterrent. As for a matter of "rights," Iran is a sovereign nation that feels threatened by Israel. Regardless of who we support and who we think is right, it is a fact that Iran believes that. If Iran had a nuclear arsenal, Israel might be more hesitant to attack. Isn't that a good thing?

I agree that we really ought to be worried about Pakistan, an unstable state of questionable alleigance that already has a nuclear arsenal and is under pressure from India's rapid military modernization.