There is little excitement to the new IAEA report (19 Feb 2008) on implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement by Iran.  Rather than wait for the absurd US news ‘spin’ on the document, it can be found at the ISIS site.

Baseline summary:

Iran has slowed its enrichment activity.  The latest sampling by the IAEA shows enrichment levels at 3.49% – very low levels.  Iran had produced 839kg of LEU as of November, and an additional 171 Kg of LEU since.

All inventories of nuclear material are accounted for.  There has been no diversion of nuclear material.  All inventories and enrichment facilities under inspection.

Negatives (these will be the focus of Western press articles)

No movement on implementation of Additional Protocol suspended in 2006.

Stalemate on exchange of information re details of legacy possible military research (pre-2003).

Iran has not permitted inspections of the IR-40 research nuclear plant.  Iran claims that the facility has not received any nuclear material.

Basically, since the adoption of the 2007 workplan, the IAEA process has been in a stasis mode.

Advertisements

Omid soars

04Feb09

 By now all the papers are tumbling over each other to report upon Iran’s successful launch of the Omid satellite, mostly from a Western-Israeli perspective.  Is it a threat?  Can it carry a nuclear warhead? Will Iran be able to orbit battle stations able to bombard Israeli cities into submission? And so forth.   

No, not quite.  The most reliable reports (thanks to m.s.) are on the various space hobby wonk blogs that really appreciate the technological feat Iran has managed to display.  It also helps that Iran is demonstrating a high degree of transparency with its satellite program, complete with a cool CGI-generated simulation viewable here.

 According to one report,

 The satellite has a mass of 27 kg (ISA web) or 25 kg (IRINN news agency) and it is a 0.40m cube. It carries an instrument to measure the space environment, and a GPS receiver modified for use in the unstabilized (i.e. tumbling) satellite, according to the Iranian Space Agency web site isa.ir. (Thanks to Reza Farivar for translation). IRNA associates the project with “Saa Iran Industries”, and connects it with the celebrations for the 30th anniversary of the revolution that brought Ayatollah Khomeini to power.

The first Iranian satellite was launched into orbit on Feb 2 at around  1834 UTC +/- 5 min on a southeastern trajectory from an unidentified launch site in Iran. Two objects are in orbits of 245 x 378 km x 55.51 deg and 245 x 439 x 55.6 deg; radio signals picked up by Bob Christy, Sven Grahn and Greg Roberts confirm that 2009-04A is the Omid payload and the 2009-04B is the Safir rocket final stage. Omid’s rbit is close to the announced plan of a 250-350 km altitude. The Iranian Students News Agency calls the launch vehicle Safir-2; it’s not clear if this is represents a different vehicle type from Safir-1, or just a serial number. Pictures of the launch show “Safir – Omid (2) IRILV” painted on the side of the rocket. Based on an Iranian video showing an animation of the launch, it appears that Safir is a two-stage launch vehicle.….

TheSafir-2 resembles a “sounding rocket” more than a true ICBM.  The Omid is about the size of a microwave oven (appx. 18”) and quite a bit heavier, but nowhere approaching a useful military payload.  The Safir-2 has a range that permits strikes anywhere in Israel, but as an Israeli expert grumbled to the New York Times, this is not new.

But hit those alarm bells.  As US defense experts warn (with an eye to larger budget requests):

 
Iran's launch of a domestically made satellite into orbit demonstrates Tehran 

has moved one step closer to eventually building long-range nuclear missiles

that could reach Europe or the United States, experts said on Tuesday.
 

The ability to send a satellite into space -- combined with Tehran's disputed 

nuclear program and uranium enrichment -- raises the threat Iran could ultimately 

have an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) arsenal, US officials and experts 

say.  "In the case of Iran, one of the biggest concerns we've always had is that any 

country that can put a satellite into orbit has thereby demonstrated that they can 

send a nuclear weapon to intercontinental distances," said Rick Lehner, a 

spokesman of the US Missile Defense Agency.


NASA has confirmed a spot-on low earth orbit for the Omid, 
which marks this as a tremendous technological accomplishment 
and introduces Iran into an exclusive club of nations who have launched 
satellites themselves, as opposed to contracting with the 
US, Russia, France or Japan.  

  Omid (centre) and its launch vehicle  (FARS)

There is, of course, something disquieting about the Omid.  It’s the shape – a perfect 
cube.  Now, is this significant?  You bet.  Only one intergalactic species uses the cube 
form of interstellar spaceship – the Borg.  You know, the ones that kidnapped star ship 
Enterprise captain Jon-Luc Picard and threatened to assimilate all humanity.  

 

  Borg ship (not to scale)

 

Have the Iranians been assimilated by the Borg?  You be the judge. 

Check out page 147 of your Star Trek ®

convention notebook.  What?  You left it at home? 


In a move unlikely to endear Iran, the European Union formally agreed on  Monday to remove the People’s Mujahideen Organisation of Iran (PMOI) from a list of terrorist organizations.  The PMOI gained a degree of notoriety in 2002 when it outed Iran’s ongoing enrichment program. 

 

The EU decision on the People’s Mujahideen Organisation of Iran (PMOI) followed a years-long legal row and Iran’s state radio immediately branded it an “irresponsible move”.    Foreign ministers of the 27-nation EU, which has unsuccessfully tried to persuade Iran to curb nuclear activities suspected as part of a bomb programme, approved the removal of the PMOI from a list of terror groups that includes Palestinian Hamas and Sri Lanka’s Tamil Tigers.   The decision follows a number of EU court rulings against its seven-year inclusion on the blacklist.   “What we are doing today is abiding by the resolution of the European court,” EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana, the official leading diplomacy with Tehran, told reporters just before the ministers finalised the decision.

In Tehran, the Iranian Foreign Ministry was quoted as saying removal of the ban amounted to encouragement of terrorism.   “It means becoming friends with terrorists,” the Students news agency quoted a ministry statement as saying. “Iran believes the European Union lacks legitimacy to fight against terrorists.”   The PMOI began as a leftist-Islamist opposition to the late Shah of Iran and has bases in Iraq.

Western analysts say its support is limited in Iran, which denies trying to make a nuclear bomb, because of its collaboration with Iraq during the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war. It remains banned in the United States.  Maryam Rajavi, president-elect of the PMOI’s political wing, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), said the delisting was a “stinging defeat for Europe’s policy of appeasement” of Tehran and urged Washington to follow.

“The most important part of any change in policy by the new (U.S.) president … would be the removal of the terrorist label of the PMOI,” she said in a statement.  An NCRI spokesman said the PMOI had “tens of millions of dollars of assets, including $9 million in France” which have been frozen in Europe and to which it should now have access.

 

This short-sighted decision is likely to have negative consequences for continuing negotiations with Iran over its ongoing enrichment program.

 

Meanwhile, Susan Rice, President Obama’s ambassador to the UN, said that the US would deal direct with Iran, but also qualified her statement by insisting that Iran suspend uranium enrichment before negotiating on the nuclear program.  

 

“The dialogue and diplomacy must go hand in hand with a very firm message from the United States and the international community that Iran needs to meet its obligations as defined by the Security Council. And its continuing refusal to do so will only cause pressure to increase,” she told reporters during a brief question-and-answer session.   Her comments, reflecting Obama’s signals for improved relations with America’s foes after eight years under President George W. Bush, came shortly after meeting with Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on her first day in her new job.

I, robot

One of the most frightening interviews I have ever heard on the airwaves was Terry Gross’ Fresh Air (NPR) interview with the investigative journalist Peter Sanger, whose book on private military contractors, Corporate Warriors, remains the authoritative study on the international security industry.  Sanger’s new book, Wired for War, describes how the Pentagon is moving toward an entirely automated battlefield adapted for a new generation of Xbox-reared soldiers.  What is especially interesting about Sanger is he is one of the few authors who expands his reach to consider the legal and ethical implications of reducing a battlefield to non-human actors, noting that the recent Gaza war was a testbed for Israeli remote technology. 

One of the key issues rarely discussed by most, but contemplated by Sanger, is whether these new technologies may lead to greater ease by First World nations in interventionism since the human cost to the intervenor is reduced.  Likewise, he even touches on the fact that since much of this technology is being developed in the civilian market (and much can be purchased at places like Best Buy), insurrection movements can likewise avail themselves to much of this knowledge, for example, GPS.  It is one of those revelatory discussions akin to the ones we used to have on the roof of our freshman dorm.

The audio is here by following the link.

 


Nuclear things

26Jan09

Today we touch on the state of nuclear matters in the US and Iran.

 

MSM-stalwart Time leads forth with an article suggesting that President Obama is at loggerheads with his Bush-holdover Defense Secretary, Robert Gates, as to whether to proceed with the Reliable Replacement Warhead (RRW).  The Pentagon and the Department of Energy’s nuclear weapons laboratories have been lobbying for years to replace what they consider an aging stockpile of nuclear warheads with more “safer” and “reliable” modern warheads.  The RRW has been nearly killed off several times in Congress but rises, lazarus-like, to haunt each new defense budget.  It is a favorite of the arms control establishment who argue that unless new warheads are designed and built (an activity principally conducted now at the weapons labs), we cannot meet our SORT treaty commitments to reduce to 2200 deployed warheads by 2012 without jeopardizing our “nuclear deterrent.”

 

The latest U.S. nuclear showdown doesn’t involve a foreign enemy. Instead it pits President Barack Obama against his Defense Secretary, Robert Gates, and concerns the question of whether America needs a new generation of nuclear warheads. While serving under former President George W. Bush, Gates had repeatedly called for the Reliable Replacement Warhead (RRW) program to be put into operation, because the nation’s current nukes — mostly produced in the 1970s and ’80s — are growing so old that their destructive power may be in question.

 

The Reliable Replacement Warhead is not about new capabilities but about safety, reliability and security,” Gates said in a speech in the week before last November’s election. In an article in the current issue of Foreign Affairs, released in early December after Gates was tapped by Obama to stay on at the Pentagon, Gates repeated that refrain. “Even though the days of hair-trigger superpower confrontation are over, as long as other nations possess the bomb and the means to deliver it, the United States must maintain a credible strategic deterrent,” he wrote. “Congress needs to do its part by funding the Reliable Replacement Warhead program — for safety, for security and for a more reliable deterrent.” RRW basically trades explosive force for greater assurance that new warheads would work predictably in the absence of tests, which the U.S. has refrained from conducting for nearly two decades to help advance nonproliferation goals.

 

But Obama doesn’t buy that logic. Shortly after taking the oath of office on Tuesday, he turned what had been a campaign promise into an official presidential commitment: the new Administration “will stop the development of new nuclear weapons,” the White House declared flatly on its website, with no equivocation, asterisks or caveats.

 

Obama and Gates are “at loggerheads on this,” says Michael O’Hanlon, a military expert at the Brookings Institution who has specialized in nuclear issues. A senior Pentagon official says talk of a resolution is “premature” because he doesn’t believe Gates and Obama have discussed the matter.

 

O’Hanlon and other nuclear thinkers have suggested retooling existing weapons to improve reliability as an option. But the Energy Department’s National Nuclear Security Administration, which develops America’s nuclear weapons, has said it cannot meet the goals set for RRW by modifying existing weapons. Obama’s position has backing in Congress, which has repeatedly refused to fund the program.

 

Obama would have a difficult time reversing course on what is now a stated policy of his Administration instead of simply a campaign promise. And any move to produce new nuclear weapons will be read by other nations as a U.S. push for nuclear supremacy, even as Washington urges the rest of the world — Tehran, are you listening? — to do without the weapons. Russia would very likely respond by upgrading its own arsenal.

 

It’s easy to get too excited about this, since an enormous amount of momentum has developed behind “modernization” of the US nuclear force.  Tens of billions has been sunk into nuclear weapons research and infrastructure so that a breakout of new weapons could occur reasonably quickly.  Production has been upgraded, and these programs includes not only new warheads, but delivery systems (many dual use), guidance, and missions.  A victory over the RRW may simply be a victory over a three letter combination, since these matters have a habit of reappearing as something else.

 

Is Iran running low on nuclear fuel?

 

            Another nuclear story which cannot be deemed fully reliable is making the rounds, this time about Iran.  One indicator of its unreliability is that it originated with the Murdoch-owned London Times, which has, in recent years, published all sorts of nonsense about Iran and Israel.   As re-circulated by the Global Security “newswire”, Iran is running short of uranium yellowcake to process through its conversion and enrichment facilities.  The Times claimed that Iran has converted 70% of its stock of yellowcake into uranium hexafluoride, and is looking for more despite the Western embargo. 

 

            What caught my eye was an amazing statement:

 

Iran possesses enough uranium hexafluoride for up to 35 bombs, but it could use up its stocks of yellowcake uranium by the end of 2009, said David Albright, head of the Institute for Science and International Security.

 

What? Albright said that??  Up until now the debate has been whether Iran can make a bomb, but not thirty-five.  To get from all of its UF6 to highly enriched uranium for that many bombs would require a fantastic engineering feat, recalling that to date, all of the enriched uranium produced at Bushehr has been inspected by the IAEA and is less than 5% enriched. 

 

Albright and Shire’s report for their Institute for Science and International Security dated 12 January 2009 advocates that Obama adopt a European-style approach to Iran involving direct negotiations, increased sanctions and incentives.  They otherwise warn that “The year 2009 will likely mark Iran’s development of a nuclear weapons capability.”   Albright if its existing centrifuges are run at full capacity, Iran could produce enough bomb-grade uranium for one to two devices a year.  What worries Albright is that the Iranian enrichment program is too small to support a civilian reactor, but more than enough for an indigenous weapons program.  As for thirty-five bombs, Albroght actually says:

 

From the perspective of nuclear weapons, its existing stock of uranium hexafluoride is enormous. Given that between five and ten tonnes of uranium in the form of uranium hexafluoride are needed to feed into cascades to make enough HEU for a nuclear weapon, Iran has accumulated enough uranium hexafluoride for over 35 nuclear weapons. All of the uranium hexafluoride is safeguarded by the IAEA.

 

Well, that part about being safeguarded by the IAEA is a bit of a catch, isn’t it?

 

 

 


In early January, Norwegian doctors working at Shifa Hospital in the Gaza strip began noticing that survivors of Israeli attacks were suffering odd patterns of massive amputations and shredded soft tissue and bones, but without tell-tale signs of shrapnel penetrations.   They reported to the UN and outside agencies that they believed the injuries were caused by a very new class of weapons known as DIME, short for “dense Inert Metal Explosives.”   Dr. Mads Gilbert told outside media that:

 

“This is a new generation of very powerful small explosives that detonates with an extreme power and dissipates its power within a range of five to 10 meters (16-98 feet),” said Gilbert.

“We have not seen the casualties affected directly by the bomb because they are normally torn to pieces and do not survive, but we have seen a number of very brutal amputations… without shrapnel injuries which we strongly suspect must have been caused by the DIME weapons,” he added.

The weapon “causes the tissue to be torn from the flesh. It looks very different (from a shrapnel injury). I have seen and treated a lot of different injuries for the last 30 years in different war zones, and this looks completely different.  If you are in the immediate (vicinity of) a DIME weapon, it’s like your legs get torn off. It’s an enormous pressure wave and there is no shrapnel.”

 

DIME weapons use a carbon fiber casing that turns to dust upon detonation so that no large pieces of shrapnel are generated, as with conventional metal-encased bombs. Instead, DIME munitions contain a powder consisting of a dense alloy of tungsten with small amounts of nickel and either cobalt or iron. Tungsten is used because it is chemically inert and does not become part of the explosive reaction..  However, military scientists acknowledged in a 2005 study that the powderized tungsten was highly carcinogenic.  So much so, that of the lab rats implanted with the tungsten alloy pellets, 100% developed tumors for both low-dose and high dose tungsten alloy groups.  What the researchers call “tumor yield” was 100% in both the low- and high-dose tungsten alloy groups. All of the rats implanted with tungsten alloy acquired a relatively rare cancer of the skeletal muscle cells called rhabdomyosarcoma that quickly spread to the animals’ lungs.

The researchers also observed significant changes in the blood of the high-dose tungsten alloy-implanted rats that indicated polycythemia, a surplus of red blood cells. The blood changes take place as early as one month after the rats received the tungsten alloy implants, well before any signs of a tumor.

 

Livermore’s role

 

The DIME munition is an all-American design.  Simple research dislcoses that it was developed as a partnership between the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) based right out here in sunny California.  According to various sources, the DIME was developed as a “focused lethality munition” intended to maximize damage at the point of impact but produce little or no high blast effect or shrapnal damage at longer ranges.  According to the GlobalSecurty website:

 

AFRL is currently utilizing high-fidelity physics-based simulations to aid in the design and testing of low-collateral-damage (LCD) munitions. LCD munitions will benefit the warfighter during urban conflicts where standard munitions would inflict unacceptable collateral damage levels. AFRL partnered with Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory to employ a physics-based code in the design and evaluation of the munitions, which are based on a dense inert metal explosive (DIME) technology. The code requires a DIME-specific multiphase flow capability to accurately simulate the DIME-type munitions. The laboratory is continually validating this new capability as the program progresses.

 

The Air Force and LLNL are proud of their work on the DIME, since it is considered a”low collateral damage” weapon which makes it suitable for densly populated urban environments – such as Gaza.  Of course, the “collateral damage” element really doesn’t apply if the immediate target point includes civilians.  Weapons such as DIME, combined with state-of-the-art guided missiles and bombs, opens new vistas for the US and Israeli military to use large munitions in urban areas with impunity.

 

“Servicing targets” in Gaza

 

Boeing Corporation won the contract in the US for production of the GBU-39, or “Small Diameter Bomb”, not because it is particularly small, but because it uses DIME technology to create a small collateral “footprint.”  The first weapons were delivered in 2006 and immediately employed in Iraq.   Here is some Air Force commentary in a trade jounal, Precision Strike (no, I do not subscribe):

 

“The SDB is a very precise coordinate- seeking weapon,” said Lt. Col. Mark Pierce, deputy chief of the ACC Advanced Weapons Requirements Branch. “Because of its precision, it doesn’t have to carry a lot of explosive material to achieve weapons effects against the specified target. Therefore, targets can be serviced without the excessive blast and fragmentation of a larger weapon. The result should be less collateral damage.”

 

Furthermore, its small size enables aircraft to carry more weapons, allowing commanders “to service more targets on a single pass.” Its mounting carriage, the BRU-61/A, fits four bombs on one weapon pylon.  It is also a versatile weapon. The SDB range is more than 50 nautical miles when launched at 40,000 feet at Mach .95. This enables an aircraft to launch SDBs to multiple targets, while beyond the range of many anti-aircraft systems. Additionally, it is an all-weather weapon, effective day or night and can be fired at targets in front of, to the sides, and behind the employing aircraft. It is effective on stationary targets within 1.2 meters. Typical targets include hardened aircraft bunkers, early-warning radar, stationary SCUD missile launchers, stationary artillery and more, said Colonel Pierce.

 

The Israelis apparently signed up, since they had a lot of targets to “service” in Gaza.

This is a serious issue, folks.  Once again, the dazzlers at Lawrence Livermore are showing their adaptability in developing their weaponeering skills beyond just your garden variety nuclear weapons.  This new weapons has international health implications, but beyond that, it has elevated urban warfare to new highs – or lows, as the case may be.

 


Occasionally, someone in the media finally lets go and rightously blows off steam.  I read the Daily Kos every so often, and have seen its editor, Markos Moulitsas, on various talk shows as well as the Daily Show.  He is an articulate left-liberal, and certainly no radical (except relative to the great mass of Wallmart shppers constituting the American electorate), but since his emphasis is electoral politics and domestic issues, he avoids offense more than some of the AIPAC denizens of the left-barely-leaning Huffington Post

The occasion was the latest column by the ever-so-moderate, prim and condescendingly “centrist” Washington Post columnist, David Ignatius, who contrasted Obama’s “post-partisan” approach with Limbaugh on the far right, or the Daily Kos on the left.  This was utter crap, and Markos rightly called Ignatius on it.  Ordinarily I would not get excited about such exchanges, but the Daily Kos’ viceral response echoes what we in the United States have had to put up with by the hordes of “centrists”, so-called “Iran experts”, members of the “arms control community”, and politicians who equate 4 Israeli deaths with 1300 Palestinians. 

I include the Daily Kos’ fully justified screed in full.  The blog is a recognized voice for the “establishment” left (such as it is – I’m thinking here, people like Barney Frank or the soon-to-be Senator Al Franken.  It’s a far cry from Europe.)   You may avert your eyes at the invocation of the f— word.  Go get ‘em, Markos:   

Hmm. The extremes, according to David Ignatius: us. And Rush Limbaugh.

I would feel better about these pointed words towards us (and by direct extension, me) if I knew which things counted as the “petty grievances” that a radical voice like mine should be “reflecting” upon. Which were they? Was it speaking too loudly of the devolution of the United States into unapologetic torture? Was it complaining of the lives lost in Iraq, or making petty noises that even the president should follow the Constitution when it came to spying upon certain Americans, or making the case for their internment?

When I put up that picture of the Iraqi girl who had just seen her parents shot to death at a checkpoint while Iraq descended into chaos, was that the petty one? When I complained at a presidency that declared patriotism synonymous with support for White House policies, and nationalism synonymous with both? Where was that line, what were the things I am supposed to keep my mouth shut about, in the future? When Rush Limbaugh was playing “Barack the Magic Negro”, all in good fun, of course, what abominable slight was it precisely that makes David Ignatius think of him and me as cut from the same cloth?

What were the worn out dogmas, the ones I should avoid? The insistence that energy policy be rational, or scientific fact be given plain acknowledgement regardless of ideological convenience? The constant, annoying observations of each time that conservative rhetoric was proven utterly false by conservative action? The staggering assertion that competence should be not only be expected of government, but that it could and should be judged? The insistence that if “every life” is sacred, that even those that conservatives did not like might count too? Is it my fury at the plainness with which powerful men can avoid the law, was that the bridge too far, the tired ? So tell me, poster child of the press guarding our democracy, since you have read our site enough to compare it as equivalently distasteful to one of the most hateful, politically blindfolded propagandists in the nation, a man who has truly been nothing but a suckling pig, devoted and supine, at the teat of whatever war against half the nation the policymakers could devise — which were the complaints I had that crossed that line?


This is why I have come, in these recent years, to despise these people. There is no abomination on this earth worth an emotional outburst, in their minds — no conflict worth a raised voice. There is only the mushy, cowardly middle, one that never stands for anything too much or critiques anything too loudly. They all stink like fish, they have been praising the status quo for so long and so colorlessly — and yet they fancy themselves intellectuals for it, and even presume themselves courageous for it.

Throughout a near-decade of partisan demonization from the White House, through constant assertions that fighting against conservative assertions was nothing more or less than treasonous, through incompetence that, at long last, has proved absolutely staggering in every possible arena, from military tactics to disaster preparedness to economic guidance to the most basic acts of government — setting its own budget and ensuring its own financial stability — Never — never — did I hear from the majority of our national supposed watchdogs more than petty fucking odes to a faux-centrist position in which fantasy and reality must be given equal weight, and that legality be not judged to pedantically, or ineptitude too keenly, or partisan viciousness too forcefully, lest anyone get too pissed off or lest the vaunted “centrist” teacup be jarred even slightly by the plain actions of the both parties, out there for all the world to see.

What’s that saying — in easy times, everyone is a patriot? I won’t soon forget Bush and his band of incompetent, bullying, self-absorbed, ideologically obsessed buffoons — an administration so bereft of value that even the Economist wrote its obituary using examples, comparisons and words (incompetent included) that had appeared on this site for most of Bush’s time in office. But I also won’t forget those who, in service to their own coddled hierarchies or fear of sounding ‘petty’ or ‘dogmatic’, weren’t willing to lift their voices too loudly or too energetically against one damn bit of it. They are as much to blame as anyone in the Bush administration, and while it would be As Convenient As All Fucking Hell for the world to forget that it was their own deregulation odes that led to catastrophe, that their own military-playtime assertions were proved concretely to be nothing short of moronic, and their own papers hemmed and hawed over whether or not blind inhumanity towards our fellow man — in the form of torture — was really condemnable, or merely gauche, or whether or not government figures spreading now-proven-absolutely-no-question-about-it-false assertions to goad a democracy into war count as something that should be held against someone, or merely the stuff of past history, nobody’s fault really — while it would be astonishingly convenient for all of us mere peons to forget all of that, and cast recriminations against no one, and go on with our lives like good little shoes and thimbles in someone else’s damned board game — I think I will probably not forget. I am fairly certain, in fact.

But no, these are the people who protect our democracy, our first and only true line of defense against a government that acts against the interests of its own people. These are the people who are paid to pass judgment, and yet have made careers out of never passing judgment, at least not in any way that would provide more than the slightest inconvenience to those in power, and if we were to look into our rear-view mirrors at this past Bush administration, failed and mean-spirited, we would see their faces there too, shaking the same damn hands and mouthing the same damn words as they have always said, year after year after goddamned year, while all of this unfolded on their own television stations and in the pages of their own damn newspapers. And so everything I or anyone else in opposition has ever given voice too can be dismissed, because it was all the stuff of — what was that phrase again? — ah, yes, petty grievances.

Perish the fucking thought.

May Allah bless you, too. 


  Today’s Wall Street Journal leads with a “scoop” concerning Iranian efforts to acquire high-tech components for “nuclear missiles.”  While I am in no position to contest the factual elements of the story, it is interesting to observe the spin the conservative paper puts on these details.  This starts with the very first paragraph:

 

U.S. security and law-enforcement officials say they have fresh evidence of recent efforts by Iran to evade sanctions and acquire metals from China used in high-tech weaponry, including long-range nuclear missiles.

 

 Long-range yes, but what makes them necessarily “nuclear?”  Recalling that the US is presently planning to retrofit Trident missiles to carry conventional warheads, any leap to conclude that these missiles are intended for nuclear warheads seems premature.  The WSJ article by Simpson and Solomon continues:

Iran‘s efforts are detailed in a series of recent emails and letters between Iranian companies and foreign suppliers seen by The Wall Street Journal. Business records show one Iranian company, ABAN Commercial & Industrial Ltd., has contracted through an intermediary for more than 30,000 kilograms (about 66,000 pounds) of tungsten copper — which can be used in missile guidance systems — from Advanced Technology & Materials Co. Ltd. of Beijing. One March 2008 email between the firms mentions shipping 215 ingots, with more planned.

The United Arab Emirates has informed the U.S. that in September it intercepted a Chinese shipment headed to Iran of specialized aluminum sheets that can be used to make ballistic missiles. A month earlier, UAE officials also intercepted an Iran-bound shipment of titanium sheets that can be used in long-range missiles, according to a recent letter to the U.S. Commerce Department from the UAE’s Washington ambassador.

This brings to mind the aluminum-tube intelligence fiasco that preceded the 2003 Iraq war (photo above).   These materials can be used for all sorts of things, much like a shampoo bottle can be used to transport dangerous explosive chemicals or – well – shampoo.  This is all what attorneys refer to as very indirect circumstantial evidence of something, but let’s assume the worst, as the WSJ does.

All of the high-performance metals Iran has been acquiring also have industrial uses such as commercial aviation and manufacturing, making it difficult for intelligence agencies to be absolutely certain how the materials are being used. “We can’t say we know it would, or would not, be used for military purposes,” said proliferation expert Gary Milholland of the nonprofit Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms Control, noting that broad economic sanctions on Tehran led by the U.S. mean Iran has to go to unusual lengths to find high-grade materials for industrial use as well as weapons.

Still, he added, “There doesn’t seem to be any real doubt or debate whether Iran is going for the bomb or whether Iran is using front companies to import things. Everyone agrees on that around the world.”

And just who is “proliferation expert” Gary Milholland?  Milholland is the “Wisconsin Project”, a small K Street institute (one of hundreds) that churns out statements on nonproliferation and nuclear weapons, an associated with IranWatch, a conservative group which has been sounding war chants on Iran for years, as well as AIPAC.  It’s comforting to know there is “no debate” on Iran’s push for the bomb, which explains why the IAEA has yet to find any evidence of a weapons programme.   Russia is unenthusiastic about these charges, as reflected in yesterday’s remarks by Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov:

Lavrov also said he hoped that once Obama assumes office the Iran Six group of world powers will resume contact with Tehran on the resolution of its controversial nuclear program. “Our position is that Iran, which has answered many questions from the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency], should continue its active cooperation with this agency to resolve remaining problems that are still in the Iranian [nuclear] dossier,” Lavrov said.

Russia has repeatedly called on the Iran Six group, which also involves the United States, China, France, Britain and Germany, to support the work of the UN nuclear watchdog, while the United States wants to strengthen sanctions against Iran.

Tehran is under three sets of relatively mild UN Security Council sanctions over its refusal to suspend its nuclear program, which many Western powers led by the United States say is a covert nuclear weapons program, a claim that Iran has dismissed.

Our nuclear friends

            Of course, to the US, nuclear proliferation is a good thing if the recipient of the nuclear technology happens to be a conservative US ally, like the United Arab Emirates.  Today the US signed a nuclear cooperation deal with the UAE, the first in the Middle East (leaving aside whatever covert aid given the Israelis, ahem).

The deal, named the “123 Agreement” after Section 123 of the US Atomic Energy Act, was signed in Washington by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and her UAE counterpart, Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nayhan.

After signing the deal, bin Zayed said that the agreement benefits both countries, adding that it reflects the strong relationship between the US and the UAE.

“Under the terms of this agreement, the UAE will gain access to significant capabilities and experience in the peaceful use of nuclear energy. This will allow the UAE to develop its civilian nuclear program to the highest standards of safety, security and non-proliferation. The agreement will also open opportunities for US firms to be active participants in the UAE nuclear energy program,” he added.

The deal is a part of UAE’s plans to invest in nuclear energy, and the oil-rich nation has already signed deals to build several nuclear power plants in the country.

No inconsistencies there, no sir.