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That Such A Thing Exists

Over the last seventy years mankind has accomplished many things, the foremost being the ability to destroy the world. 

Updated: Content correction, 7:08 PM, 04/06/15. (See footnote)

It’s been interesting to watch the various responses to the framework reached between the P5+1 and Iran in Lausanne recently. It’s at times such as these when one is confirmed in their belief that the world is primarily governed by either idiots or individuals that must suffer them so routinely that it’s amazing they’re not in a psych ward because of it.

For example - which is just one of many idiotic examples - US Senator Mark Kirk actually said of the agreement reached in Lausanne…

“Neville Chamberlain got a better deal from Adolf Hitler”.

Surprisingly, Kirk went to Georgetown and the London School of Economics, which would lead one to assume that he’s not a complete moron. That said, his study of history must have ended in high school for him to actually make that comparison.

Iran is, of course, in no way comparable to pre-war Germany, nor is the framework agreement reached between the P5+1 and Iran remotely comparable to history’s castigation of Chamberlain. It’s an entirely fallacious comparison made to evoke fear - nothing more. 

Stoking the fire is precisely what those opposed to the agreement intend to do. It doesn’t matter that Iran doesn’t possess a single nuclear weapon, that the IAEA has confirmed that, or that both US and Israeli intelligence are in agreement that they aren’t attempting to develop one. 

Much of Netanyahu’s own intelligence community does not support the position that he has been promoting for years, most recently in front of the United States Congress at the invitation of the Republicans, that Iran is an immediate threat, one determined to not only develop a weapon, but use it. 

Below are some of the major points of the framework…

  • Iran has agreed to reduce by approximately two-thirds its installed centrifuges. Iran will go from having about 19,000 installed today to 6,104 installed under the deal, with only 5,060 of these enriching uranium for 10 years. All 6,104 centrifuges will be IR-1s, Iran’s first-generation centrifuge.
     
  • Iran has agreed to not enrich uranium over 3.67 percent for at least 15 years.
     
  • Iran has agreed to reduce its current stockpile of about 10,000 kg of low-enriched uranium (LEU) to 300 kg of 3.67 percent LEU for 15 years.
     
  • All excess centrifuges and enrichment infrastructure will be placed in IAEA monitored storage and will be used only as replacements for operating centrifuges and equipment.
     
  • Iran has agreed to not build any new facilities for the purpose of enriching uranium for 15 years.
     
  • Iran will convert its facility at Fordow so that it is no longer used to enrich uranium.
     
  • Iran has agreed to convert its Fordow facility so that it is used for peaceful purposes only into a nuclear, physics, technology, research center.
     
  • Iran has agreed to not conduct research and development associated with uranium enrichment at Fordow for 15 years.

The language within the framework is predicated on Iran’s ability to produce enough fissile material to produce a single weapon at approximately 2 to 3 months, which, as stated above, isn’t actually realistic given the estimates of the US intelligence community. 

But even were that the case, other factors make the matter more complex - from the warhead itself to the delivery system. Such factors are, in truth, vastly more challenging in many ways than producing enough weapons grade material for a single device. It’s the same thing as having a bag full of baseballs but no field, no bats or gloves, and no one else to play with you.

I have, on numerous occasions over the last decade, detailed the realities of what would actually occur were the Iranians stupid enough to use a nuclear weapon. No matter the target, and beyond Israel’s overwhelming capability to respond, the United States would, as the President recently reiterated, defend Israel.

Dr. Chris Bolan, who teaches national security policies, strategy formulation, inter-agency decision making, and Middle Eastern studies at the US Army War College (and served as a strategic intelligence officer and Middle East Foreign Area Officer in Tunisia, Egypt, and Jordan)  wrote rather accurately in a paper entitled “Dealing With Iran: The Iranian Nuclear Debate: More Myths Than Facts” about the common myths surrounding foreign perceptions of the Iranians regarding the nuclear issue…

“This myth is especially popular among those pushing for immediate military action to attack Iran’s nuclear infrastructure. Their argument is that Iranian leaders are crazed, hot-headed, and messianic actors who do not respond to logic or reason; therefore, they cannot be negotiated with or trusted with weapons of mass destruction. These claims are based on cultural ignorance and prejudices that would be routinely dismissed as out of bounds in virtually any context outside US policy debates on Iran.”

It’s here that all one need do is outline the reality of what a single American Ohio Class nuclear submarine could do in response to any Iranian attempt at using a nuclear weapon from up to 4,500 miles away.

Of course, various treaties have limited warhead capabilities, but on paper a single SSBN-734 can accommodate 24 Trident II D5 SLBM’s each with a maximum payload of 12 MIRVed W88’s or W76’s. Each of those warheads has a yield of between 300 and 475 kilotons. In total, that’s 24 missiles each capable of carrying 12 MIRVed warheads. That’s 288 warheads ranging between 300 and 475 kilotons. Rounding all of them down to a yield of 300 kilotons, were that entire payload targeted on a single location it would produce a 86,400 kiloton nuclear event. 

The bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945 was 16 kilotons. The initial blast and firestorm killed some 80,000 people and injured more than 70,000. In the years following it, in both Hiroshima and Nagasaki, tens of thousands more would die from radiation poisoning, deformities, and so on.

Put into perspective, a single US SSBN-734 could, at full capacity, produce a nuclear event 5,400 times that of Hiroshima.

In short, and while it’s entirely unlikely that a boat would unleash its entire compliment on a single target, an event of that magnitude would instantly kill every single living thing in Tehran and beyond. In roughly 1 to 2 minutes over 7 million people would simply cease to exist.

That is nuclear reality at its most horrific. 

That such a thing even exists speaks more to the madness of those in possession of it and their judgement of who is and is not responsible enough to play with such fire than anything else.

When it comes to the nuclear question, there is no such thing as an infallible chain of command. There simply isn’t such thing as a nation so crazed and so fanatical that it would invite upon itself its own ensured destruction. Political and religious ideology are powerful things - but they do not, in this case, supersede that which would ultimately be faced.

There are those that claim the Iranians could furnish someone else with a device. The flaw in that argument is that no matter which group were to employ it, Iran would still be targeted. Further, were the Iranians to produce a linear-based tactical weapon or a tactical artillery shell, such as the W79 which could be fired from a 203mm Howitzer, the response would still be vastly greater, and, again, Iran would still be included in, at the very least, Israeli’s response package.

The same logic applies universally. No matter how “crazy” we might think a nation or group might be, any nation that chose to employ a nuclear device would face its own destruction, just as any group that was furnished a device that then used it would ensure that a direct response was made against those that had given them the weapon. Because unlike AK-47’s, nuclear devices aren’t bandied about the globe in wooden crates by the truckload. Put a group of 8th graders in a room with enough intelligence and they’d be able to connect the dots.

And then there’s the “dirty bomb” thing, which is a conventional explosion that disperses radioactive material. There is no nuclear fission, fusion, or a cascading of the two involved. That means no rapid release of energy from a nuclear reaction, therefore no nuclear event. Beyond that, what would happen were one employed is, at present, entirely speculative given that one has never been used. 

But what of Iran’s threat to “wipe Israel off the face of the map”? Well, again, the actual story and what it has since been turned into are two different things.

It started in 2005 when Nazlia Fathi, who was at the time the New York Times Tehran correspondent, filed a story entitled “Wipe Israel Off The Map”. In that article, Fathi attributed then President Ahmadinejad’s statement to a report made by the ISNA press agency…

“Iran's conservative new president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, said Wednesday that Israel must be "wiped off the map" and that attacks by Palestinians would destroy it, the ISNA press agency reported.”

That statement has since become “fact”. The only problem is that, in Farsi, the words “wipe off the face of the map” were never spoken. What Ahmadinejad said was a misquote of something that Khomeini said in the 80’s: “This occupation regime over Jerusalem must vanish from the arena of time.” The difference between the two quotes is that Ahmadinejad said “arena of time” and Khomeini said “page of time”. Now, there’s no question that both statements are unsettling with regards to Israel, but neither of them include the phrase “wipe off the face of the map”.

Ahmadinejad was a mouth piece put into play given the occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan. He was eventually frozen out when he fell out of favour with Khamenei, primarily because he had become a liability. That said, it’s important to remember that the President that preceded him, Mohammad Khatami, was a reformist that attempted to have elements of the Iranian constitution amended and that favoured open communication with the West. He was also a staunch advocate of freedom of expression as well. He, too, fell out of favour given his ambitions regarding amending the constitution and the fact that, by 2004, the United States occupied nations on two of Iran’s borders and rhetoric against the Iranians had escalated. In short, they needed someone in office to act as their Valerian Zorin - enter the firebrand Mayor of Tehran, Ahmadinejad.

Hassan Rouhani, the current President, is a moderate with an extensive background in diplomacy. His election to the Presidency was, without doubt, an indication of Khamenei’s desire to begin defusing tensions with the West given changes in the region. For example, it should be noted that during ISIS’s rampage in Iraq the Iranians offered to work with the United States to counteract them. That offer was eventually declined despite the fact that the Iranians represent the most qualified military option to the problem in the region. So the Iranians have done what the US, and numerous others, would do, supplied Iraqi Shia militias with arms to fight ISIS.

Despite ridiculous Op-Ed’s applauding recent meetings held between the Kings or Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and the “President” of Egypt to seriously confront the dangers of both Iran and ISIS, the fact remains that, in addition to others in the region, all of them have histories of their nationals fighting in jihadist groups - be it as far away as the Balkans or Afghanistan in the past, to al-Qaeda in Iraq during the occupation, the Libyan Civil War, to ISIS itself. And while there’s certainly no questioning the fact that Iran has involved itself covertly with regards to Iraq’s Shia militias, during the occupation the foreign composition of al-Qaeda in Iraq was replete with Saudi nationals. Further, that Saudi Arabia covertly funded elements of the Sunni insurgency in Iraq during the occupation as part of a proxy policy to combat Iranian influence, meaning that despite being a US ally and client state, they funded Sunni groups and militias that were responsible for taking American lives. At the time, and amidst the confusion of it all, it wasn’t something the Americans were prepared to openly deal with. In fact, they went to great lengths not to deal with it, allowing the Saudis off the hook by promoting the Saudi government’s line of absolute intolerance of terrorist activities and affiliations. Meanwhile, the Saudi General Intelligence Presidency continued playing dirty pool behind the scenes. 

The Saudis are currently carrying out operations against the Houthis in Yemen, with whom they’ve clashed before, and Washington is, as always, fully in their corner. Again, the Houthis are Shia, Iran is believed to be their primary backer, so its entirely about combating the spread of Iranian influence and ensuring that a pro-Saudi government is ultimately installed.

As far as Egypt is concerned, the travesty that has taken place with regards to the nullification of its political transformation has also been conveniently forgotten. Abdel Fatah al Sisi is simply the new Mubarak, and with his seizure of power has come the reconstitution of US military aid. 

Finally, there’s the matter of Israeli nuclear opacity, the fact that its program has been shrouded in secrecy for decades, that it possess a nuclear triad consisting of up to 300 weapons, that it outright refuses to allow any of its facilities to be inspected by the IAEA - the same organization that it demands has full access to Iran’s entire nuclear program - and that, unlike Iran, is not party to the Non-Proliferation Treaty. 

Like the United States, Iran is a ratified signatory of the NPT. That said, whenever a motion has been brought at the UN to have the IAEA granted access to Israel’s nuclear facilities, the US is one of the nations that immediately opposes it. 

The thing about nuclear weapons is that they are, by definition, the embodiment of madness. From the only two dropped in history to the almost inconceivable destructive power of those in existence today - they remain a steadfast reminder of the depths of our collective imbecility.


Footnote:

1) I incorrectly listed the Soviet Tsar Bomba as producing a 50 to 58 kiloton yield when, in fact, it was between 50 and 50 megatons.

  • 1 kiloton = 4.184×10/6 J or 4.184 megajoules.
  • 1 megaton = 4.184×10/9 J or 4.184 gigajoules.