The Iran nuclear deal has generated an abundance of extraordinary insights. Here’s a sampling.
The Iran nuclear deal not only opened the door to improved relations with Iran, but to an outpouring of keen observations. Pictured: Lead U.S. nuclear negotiator Secretary of State John Kerry. (Photo: Ralph Alswang / Flickr Commons)
We shall start with a headline which, for me, sums up all the excruciating years of accusations, pre-negotiations, and negotiations, as well as the deal itself (which, as I observed yesterday, has no name, but which, I’ve since learned, goes by the singularly undistinctive name Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action).
Iran Won the Vienna Accords By Agreeing to Stop What It Never Was Doing
That the title of a piece at New American Media by William O. Beeman, who noted:
It was … easy for Iran to give up a nuclear weapons program that never existed, and that it never intended to implement. As a bargaining position this is unassailable as your counterpart at the table insists and insists on something that has no value, it is possible to use giving way on such an empty demand to extract other concessions. Continue reading
There are rising concerns that the Ukraine crisis could lead to nuclear war between the U.S. and Russia.
The Ukraine crisis has renewed calls by retired Gen. James Cartwright, former U.S. nukes commander, to wean the United States and Russia from launch on warning. (Photo: D. Miles Cullen / U.S. Dept. of Defense)
Marine Gen. James Cartwright, whose last job was Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, served as the commander of the U.S. Strategic Command (nukes, et al) from 2004 to 2007. In recent years, he’s served in capacities as, uh, as diverse board member of Raytheon and chairman of the Global Zero Commission on Nuclear Risk Reduction. Those of you who follow nuclear weapons news may recall that, in the latter capacity, he called for reducing the U.S. nuclear-weapons arsenal to 900 warheads with none of them set to launch on warning. Continue reading
Can nuclear weapons be justified if arsenals are kept small enough to prevent the threat of nuclear winter if used?
Nuclear winter occurs when smoke from fires set by nuclear bombs rises to the upper atmosphere. (Photo: Josh Thoresen / Flickr Commons)
Nuclear war, like a nuclear warhead, is actually multiple threats in one. Of the three greatest, the first is instantaneous — death and destruction from the blast — the second two, time-released: radiation and, later, nuclear winter.
Nuclear winter, as you may know, occurs when smoke from fire set off by nuclear detonations (especially in cities, with their concentration of flammable material) rises to the upper atmosphere. The result, as American and Russian scientists learned in the early eighties, was that the atmosphere would heat up and the earth would cool. More specifically, the smoke burns nitrogen causing ozone depletion, which, even worse than causing skin cancer, interferes with photosynthesis, thus drastically lowers crop yields. Millions will starve (just another way that nuclear weapons give new meaning to the phrase “adding insult to injury”) — not to mention all those who may to a depression induced by the cold and the perpetual dirty gray clouds looming over them. Continue reading
Many are aghast at the treasonous nature of the open letter to Iran signed by 47 Republican senators.
It’s astonishing that U.S. senators would try to pull the rug out from a presidency in the midst of sensitive negotiations with another state. (Photo: Mike Myers / Flickr Commons)
As you have no doubt heard by now, 47 Republican senators wrote an open letter directed at Iran’s leadership. Its main message:
We will consider any agreement regarding your nuclear-weapons program that is not approved by the Congress as nothing more than an executive agreement between President Obama and Ayatollah Khamenei. … The next president could revoke such an executive agreement with the stroke of a pen and future Congresses could modify the terms of an agreement at any time. Continue reading
Bet you never heard of nuclear gerontology.
In 2004 anthropologist Joseph Masco wrote a seminal article for the August issue of American Ethnologist titled Nuclear technoaesthetics. He followed that up with a book titled The Nuclear Borderlands: The Manhattan Project in Post-Cold War New Mexico (Princeton University Press, 2006). In his article, which addresses, among other things, the effects on the mentality of nuclear scientists after nuclear testing was banned, he reproduces the thoughts of a former deputy director of nuclear weapons technologies at Los Alamos National Laboratory. Continue reading
Was Reagan’s conduct with Gorbachev at the Reykjavik summit ― soon to be a major motion picture ― in fact, disingenuous?
On May 13 Variety reported on a movie that’s been long in development, in part because it’s been in want of a director: “Baltasar Kormakur, an Icelandic helmer-producer who’s become one of Hollywood’s hottest film directors, is in discussions to direct “Reykjavik,” a historical drama chronicling the 1986 Reykjavik Summit which took place during the Cold War. Michael Douglas is attached to star as President Ronald Reagan.” Continue reading
The supply of nuclear weapons can seem endless.
Remember the story in the Gospel of John from the Bible’s New Testament about the first miracle of Jesus Christ? To refresh your memory, Jesus attended a wedding with his mother and disciples (what, he couldn’t get a date?), in a village called Cana, which may have been in Galilee in northern Israel. When the wine ran out, he converted containers of water into wine. John also told us about the miracle of the loaves and fishes, which entailed Jesus feeding thousands with five barley loaves and two small fish. Continue reading
Israel and Iran: It takes one to know one ― or think it knows one.
Negev Nuclear Research Center in Israel
In a story that seems to have gone unremarked upon by other journalists, on March 31 at Inter Press Service, Gareth Porter reported:
The Barack Obama administration appears to have rejected a deal-breaking demand by Israel for an Iranian confession to having had a covert nuclear weapons programme as a condition for completing the comprehensive nuclear agreement. Continue reading
How an Iranian nuclear-weapons program became accepted wisdom.
Arak nuclear reactor in Iran
More and more men and women are either born with a talent for, or are developing skill in, technical matters, especially computer hardware and software. With those capabilities now widespread, it’s odd that more people don’t take the time to acquaint themselves with the technical issues surrounding Iran’s alleged nuclear-weapons program. While the issues may be somewhat daunting to non-technical types such as this author ― though certainly not beyond our capacity to understand with a little effort ― they’re easy for the technically gifted. True, they’re on the dry side, but it can’t be any more tedious than trying to figure out how to draw more clicks to an ad. Continue reading
Their perception that they’ve been relegated to an armed-forces version of Siberia is only the tip of the iceberg.
Robert Burns of the Associated Press has been the point man on the ongoing story of the U.S. nuclear launch force’s shortcomings. In one recent development, “missileers” at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana are alleged to have cheated on a proficiency exam. Subsequently, reports Global Security Newswire, about half of them
… have had their launch certifications taken away and been pulled off alert duty.… Of the more than 90 launch officers currently implicated in the cheating scandal, 40 missileers were believed directly involved in the misconduct, which involved sharing exam answers by text message. Others allegedly tolerated or facilitated the incidents. Continue reading
Hint: it’s not just the Israel lobby.
Israel’s Dimona nuclear reactor, c. 1968. Image Wikimedia Commons
In a piece titled The truth about Israel’s secret nuclear arsenal at the Guardian, Julian Borger writes about how Israel began its nuclear-weapons program.
The list of nations that secretly sold Israel the material and expertise to make nuclear warheads, or who turned a blind eye to its theft [more on that down-post ― RW], include today’s staunchest campaigners against proliferation: the US, France, Germany, Britain and even Norway. Continue reading
The United States nuclear missile force has been beset by a series of issues that Robert Burns of the Associated Press, who has been the lead dog on this ongoing story, describes as the “deliberate violations of safety rules, failures of inspections,” and “breakdowns in training.” The latest, as you may have heard, is cheating by the “missileers” on proficiency exams. There’s been much handwringing on the part of the command, including Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, who wondered aloud: “Do they get bored?” he asked. No doubt; also, as Burns explains:
Nuclear missile duty has lost its luster in an era dominated by other security threats. It’s rarely the career path of first choice for young officers.
They can see the writing on the wall. Nuclear weapons may be a century away from being abolished. But in this year’s Omnibus Spending Bill, six percent of funding was cut from what the National Nuclear Security Administration asked for warhead research, development, production, and related activities. Continue reading
Gareth Porter reveals how Western intelligence believed the procurements of an Iranian university were proof of nuclear-weapons research.
Arak nuclear facility. Image Wikimedia Commons
The sources of enmity between Iran and the United States are legion. In 1953, when Prime Minister of Iran Mohammad Mosaddegh (also spelled Mossadegh) sought to make Iran a democracy and nationalize the oil industry, which was owned by British corporations, the United States helped plan and execute a coup. Then, in 1979, when President Jimmy Carter allowed the just-deposed Shah into the United States for medical treatment, Iranian revolutionaries took U.S. embassy staff hostage. But, after 9/11, in a gesture of good will, Iran collected hundreds of Arabs who crossed the border from Afghanistan, deported them, and supplied copies of their passports to the United States. Iran also provided assistance overthrowing the Taliban and establishing the Karzai government in Afghanistan. Continue reading
Iran’s Arak nuclear enrichment facility
It was only supposed to be Iran’s uranium enrichment progress that was frozen after talks with Iran last month. But now, acting in bad faith by violating the spirit of the Geneva deal between the G5+1 (the five permanent UN Security Council members plus Germany) and Iran, the United States seems to be doing its level best to re-freeze the recent thaw in relations between the G5+1 and Iran. If you’ll bear with me for a final sub-Arctic-temperature metaphor, the United States has frozen the assets of (reports the Jerusalem Post) “companies and individuals engaged in transactions on behalf of other companies that the United States previously designated under the sanctions.” Continue reading
They alternately disdain and demand them.
In a new report for the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, Usha Sahay and Kingston Reif cite President Obama’s June 19 speech in Berlin. The President announced his intentions to reduce the U.S. nuclear arsenal an additional 1,000 or more warheads below the level required by the New START treaty. When he stated that these cuts could either be “pursued through formal agreements” ― treaties ― or “parallel voluntary measures,” 24 Republican senators immediately wrote him to the effect that “any further reductions in the U.S. nuclear arsenal should only be conducted through a treaty subject to the advice and consent of the Senate.” Continue reading
A prominent psychiatrist and author unearthed yet another flaw in the principle of nuclear deterrence.
I posted recently about a 1985 article in Political Psychology titled “Toward a Collective Psychopathology of the Nuclear Arms Competition” by John E. Mack, the American psychiatrist and Harvard Medical professor.* Another insight of his runs something like this.
To make “the intention to kill off the bulk of the population” of the enemy in nuclear war morally able, the enemy that’s “created” (or demonized, as we might call it today) by the acceptable, the United States must be ― drum roll, please ― “monstrous to a degree virtually not experienced among the peoples of the human race.” Whether or not deterrence worked in preventing another world war, it’s apparent that many in the Soviet Union perceived the United States as ready and able to launch a first strike as it had in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Continue reading
Apparently Hitler seems to have forgotten that eliminating Jews would cause a crippling brain drain from Germany.
Albert Einstein and Robert Oppenheimer, director of the Manhattan Project.
There are many parallels between Hitler and Stalin. On the personal level, they both liked to conduct all-night meetings. On a more critical level, the purge of the Red Army command that Stalin carried out before World War II in order to consolidate his hold on power left the Red Army ill equipped to handle Hitler’s invasion.
While Hitler didn’t order his army command, aside from those who tried to assassinate him, executed, he regularly demoted generals (only later to often promote them again). Continue reading
Courtesy DIA Historical Collection
Nuclear war hawks forget to factor human error into their national-security equation.
In a blog post for his site Defusing the Nuclear Threat, Martin Hellman quoted from Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel’s recent speech honoring Gen. Robert Kehler, the outgoing chief of STRATCOM, the military command in charge of nuclear weapons, and cyber- and space warfare. “Perfection must be the standard for our nuclear forces,” Hagel said at one point. At another: “there is no room for error.”
Hellman is a professor emeritus of electrical engineering at Stanford and one of the inventors of the technology that secures credit card transactions on the Internet. Continue reading
As a principle and practice, deterrence existed long before nuclear weapons.
Courtesy Wikimedia Commons
The logic of deterrence is irrefutable to most, especially when applied to nuclear weapons. Nevertheless, its effectiveness is questioned by everyone from disarmament activists to revisionist historians ― some of whom maintain that other factors constrained the United States and the U.S.S.R. from attacking each other during the Cold War ― to nuclear-weapons advocates. Among the last are those who assert that deterrence is of little value against a state such as Iran in the event that it were to acquire nuclear weapons. Apocalyptic clerics, they allege, would supposedly martyr their country rather than back down from a nuclear standoff, thus necessitating, at some point, a preemptive strike. Continue reading
Just because something is embedded doesn’t mean it can’t be excised.
“Omne trium perfectum” goes the Latin saying — “everything which comes in threes is perfect.” Let’s see: the spiritual perfection of the Holy Trinity, the cinematic perfection of the Three Stooges, and … the nuclear triad. Those dubious that the Three Stooges help prove the rule are advised to reserve the bulk of their doubt for that third leg.
In September the Cato Institute (a year after wresting some measure of independence from key founders the Koch brothers) issued a report written by Benjamin H. Friedman, Christopher A. Preble and Matt Fay titled The End of Overkill? Reassessing U.S. Nuclear Weapons Policy. Continue reading