Friday, November 22, 2013

Matt 24 watch, 229d: You can't make this up dept. -- a top Obama administration official says Israel's position on the Iran nuke talks would "essentially lead to war" . . .

AS7 News, Israel reports:
U.S. Official: Israel's Position on Iran Could Lead to War
Top White House official warns that Israel’s proposal that Iran totally dismantle its nuclear capacity would likely lead to war.
By Elad Benari
First Publish: 11/22/2013, 1:15 AM
. . . . the unnamed official made the comments in a conference call on Wednesday with think tanks and advocacy groups sympathetic to the Obama administration’s Iran strategy. 
A think tank participant on the call said that Israel’s posture, demanding a total halt to enrichment and the dismantling of all of Iran’s centrifuges, was a path to war.

Agreeing that such reasoning was “sound,” the White House official said that given a choice between “total capitulation” and advancing toward a nuclear weapon, Iran would choose the weapon.

That posture would “close the door on diplomacy” and would “essentially lead to war,” the official said, according to JTA, which obtained a recording of the call on condition that it not name the participants or fully quote them.

The official sounded frustration with Israel’s pushback against the U.S. proposal for a “first step” deal that would exchange some sanctions relief for some rollback of Iran’s nuclear program, saying it would provide Israel with a six-month window to influence the shape of a final deal . . .
 This needs to be answered in steps of thought, starting with the backdrop of the 1950's Atoms for Peace initiative and culminating in the international Non-Proliferation Treaty from the 1970's on:
A simple view of the Atom (Cf. here)

1 --> In 1939, nuclear fission was discovered, by which when heavy atomic nuclei split, they release large amounts of energy 10 - 100 million times as much as in typical chemical reactions.  This is in accord with Einstein's famous 1905 result that mass and energy are inter-convertible. As the binding energy per nucleon (protons or neutrons) shows:

2 --> So, very soon a nuclear bomb development race was underway in World War II, won by the Americans and British. Stalin's spies put him on the fast track and by the late 1940's the world was divided by a nuke-armed cold war, with several other countries seeking nuclear weapons. The fate of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was not very far from our minds in those days:

Devastation at Hiroshima (Cf. here, warning, graphic and horrific)

3 --> By the 1950's, fusion weapons had also been made, which have unlimited potential: just like in the sun, light elements release energy when their nuclei fuse. (With fission weapons, beyond a certain size they start to disintegrate before full fission. And, by putting a jacket of fissionable materials on a fusion bomb, you get a huge additional fission yield.)

4 --> The world was on track to a very dangerous and unstable state, especially as the simplest weapon, the gun-type nuke, is so simple and reliable that the Americans didn't bother to test it before use at Hiroshima: set up a [modified] 4" howitzer barrel to fire a chunk of highly enriched uranium into a waiting chunk at the end of the barrel, making a super-critical mass. Boom, a city-buster, just fuse to go off at 2,000 ft above ground for maximum effect. For instance:

A gun-type fission bomb, essentially as used at Hiroshima (HT: Wiki)

5 --> But also, across the 1950's, the first nuclear power reactors had been developed. These used the energy from moderated, controlled fission to generate heat that could be used to make steam and turn turbines and shafts tied to electricity generators. It was at first thought that it could make electricity too cheap to meter, houses would just be hooked up and charged a flat rate (just like for cable TV). For instance:

A boiling water reactor. Steam is led out to turn a turbine that drives an electricity generator

6 --> So, the idea was to restrain proliferation of weapons, while promoting peaceful research, medical uses and electricity generation. Thus atoms for peace (and development). 

7 --> By 1968 when the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) was first signed under UN auspices (and when it entered into force in 1970), there were five known nuke powers with bombs [USA, Russia, Britain, France and Red China], and dozens of states that could easily enough go nuclear. As Wiki aptly points out, the treaty aimed to counter this by balanced emphasis on:
  1. non-proliferation,
  2. disarmament, and
  3. the right to peacefully use nuclear technology
 8 --> As the treaty says, in regards to non-nuclear weapons states:
Article II

Each non-nuclear-weapon State Party to the Treaty undertakes not to receive the transfer from any transferor whatsoever of nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices or of control over such weapons or explosive devices directly, or indirectly; not to manufacture or otherwise acquire nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices; and not to seek or receive any assistance in the manufacture of nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.

Article III

1. Each non-nuclear-weapon State Party to the Treaty undertakes to accept safeguards, as set forth in an agreement to be negotiated and concluded with the International Atomic Energy Agency in accordance with the Statute of the International Atomic Energy Agency and the Agencys safeguards system, for the exclusive purpose of verification of the fulfillment of its obligations assumed under this Treaty with a view to preventing diversion of nuclear energy from peaceful uses to nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices. Procedures for the safeguards required by this article shall be followed with respect to source or special fissionable material whether it is being produced, processed or used in any principal nuclear facility or is outside any such facility. The safeguards required by this article shall be applied to all source or special fissionable material in all peaceful nuclear activities within the territory of such State, under its jurisdiction, or carried out under its control anywhere.

2. Each State Party to the Treaty undertakes not to provide: (a) source or special fissionable material, or (b) equipment or material especially designed or prepared for the processing, use or production of special fissionable material, to any non-nuclear-weapon State for peaceful purposes, unless the source or special fissionable material shall be subject to the safeguards required by this article . . .
 9 --> Iran is such a signatory, Israel -- which partnered with France in the development of nuclear capacity in the 1950's [to the point where the first French nuke bomb tests were probably French-Israeli tests] -- is not. Iran (since 1979)  is also a dictatorship with a track record of genocidal declarations and global sponsorship of terrorism. Israel is a robust democracy unlikely to use nuke weapons save as a deterrent to several states with hostile intent towards it. (It is a safe assumption that Israel has such weapons, especially since 1973, a subtle context behind the cessation of attempts to wipe it out by direct invasion.)

10 --> Also, for at least a decade, Iran (which had at least one research reactor at Tehran University in the 1970's) has led the international organisations and powers acting on behalf of the NPT on a merry dance of deception, concealment, hidden installations and credible attempts to acquire weapons grade materials, other weapons components and the ballistic missiles to deliver them. It has patently spent well in excess of of US$ 100 billions in that pursuit, funded of course by oil exports. (Hence, the major target of sanctions.)

11 --> In short, Iran is patently in persistent material breach and the Israeli complaints that it is moving ever closer to the nuke weapons threshold in a context of dangerous instability and declared genocidal intent are obviously on target. Why else would Iran have built a reported 19,000 centrifuges for Uranium enrichment? Why else would it be working on ballistic missiles of 1,000 - 2,000 miles range? Why else all the subterfuges, lies and concealment? Why else the repeatedly declared genocidal intent?

12 --> Under these circumstances, the White House official's remarks boil down to irresponsibly blaming the designated intended victim for crying out in warning. In a context where genocidal intent multiplied by moving to the means of carrying such out are indisputably causus belli.

13 --> Instead, what has clearly happened is that especially over the past year or so, sanctions have begun to bite, and Iran -- with a duly hand picked new presidential face card -- has gone on a charm offensive to buy time to finish the job.

14 --> The US Administration must know all of this, and much more, so there is no excuse  whatsoever for a top official to speak as cited above.

15 --> If anything, sanctions should be tightened until Iran agrees to return to the NPT's letter and spirit, declaring its facilities, programs etc and allowing inspection controls. There is no shortage of reactor grade materials or refining capacity, so legitimate research, medical uses and energy production can easily be accommodated in a non-threatening way. 

16 --> In short, on simple common sense, the ONLY reason for what we have seen instead is intent to get the nukes that are the means of genocide.

17 --> In such a context of an unaccountable and unstable dictatorship, we can only get progress to genuine peace if the Mullahs realise that the world's leading powers, especially the USA, are serious and Iran faces either crippling sanctions or beyond a tripwire threshold, targetted bombing that will reduce its hundreds of billions worth of investments in nuke-powered genocide to rubble in short order.

18 --> It is clear that the Mullahs are gambling that the global powers will back down, and Israel cannot really do the job.

19 --> So far, the Obama administration has sent a clear we surrender message, and now we see a blame the intended victim message.

20 --> Israel is obviously pretty much on its own and faces a choice of (a) limited war now by striking the facilities in the teeth of global opinions and implied threats of retaliatory sanctions, or if it waits too long (b) war with a nuke armed, genocidal and frankly fanatical enemy not amenable to normal deterrence. But, I think Israel is in fact capable of knocking back the Iranian nuke programme for a very long time, and it will err on the side of a rather than b especially now that it is clear that it is unlikely that the Obama administration will stand up to Iran. On Israel's potential capability:

. . . I would see (I) a sub-launched Persian Gulf cruise missile strike.

I would also reckon with (II) the possibility of surface ships carrying containers that launch weapons from out in the Indian Ocean in much larger numbers than might be recognised, once an initial wave of sub launched missiles knocks out Iran's air defence capability. With proper intelligence driven, GPS "in the right window" precision targetting, a lot of precise damage can be done to Iran's nuke programme. 

Before (III), a follow-up wave of low-flying supersonic aircraft wearing blue stars of David arrive to clean up the job, and maybe from unexpected directions, too. (Remember at Entebbe, in 1976, the actual final stage of the rescue came out of Kenya. Frankly, it would not astonish me under the emerging threat of an Iranian nuke attack, to hear -- after the fact of course -- that Israeli aircraft operated from bases in even Saudi Arabia or Iraq or other countries not even on our radar screens now; so worried must the Arab governments be. [Cf. here on what such a strike could credibly do.])

 Such a blow would not eliminate the Iranian capability to get back on its programme, but it would buy precious time for good sense to prevail. But, will good sense prevail in the ever polarised Middle East?
{U/D Nov 23:} Let's add a known sites/targets list:

{U/D 2, Nov 23} Let me add some more, from Gemany's Der Spiegel:

Der Spiegel envisions Popeye variant cruise missiles being launched from the Persian Gulf or the Mediterranean,
where there are believed to be variants of the Popeye missile with a range of 1,500 km. I believe a third possible site
is the Arabian Sea, and as a cruise missile runs on a small jet engine (it is effectively a small pilotless drone aircraft with
a warhead and a guidance system), range is mainly set by the fuel tank. 1600 km, 1,000 miles is very feasible.
Der Spiegel comments, in a context of envisioning nuclear warheads mounted on the missiles:
Insiders say that the Israeli defense technology company Rafael built the [cruise] missiles for the nuclear weapons option. Apparently it involves a further development of cruise missiles of the Popeye Turbo SLCM type, which are supposed to have a range of around 1,500 kilometers (940 miles) and which could reach Iran with a warhead weighing up to 200 kilograms (440 pounds) . . . . The question of how developed the Israeli cruise missiles are is a matter of debate. Their development is a complex project, and the missiles' only public manifestation was a single test that the Israelis conducted off the coast of Sri Lanka.

The submarines are the military response to the threat in a region "where there is no mercy for the weak," Defense Minister Ehud Barak says. They are an insurance policy against the Israelis' fundamental fear that "the Arabs could slaughter us tomorrow," as David Ben-Gurion, the founder of the State of Israel, once said. "We shall never again be led as lambs to the slaughter," was the lesson Ben-Gurion and others drew from Auschwitz . . . . 

Is Berlin recklessly promoting an arms race in the Middle East? Or should Germany, as its historic obligation stemming from the crimes of the Nazis, assume a responsibility that has become "part of Germany's reason of state," as Chancellor Merkel said in a speech to the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, in March 2008? "It means that for me, as a German chancellor, Israel's security is never negotiable," Merkel told the lawmakers . . . . The German government has always pursued an unwritten rule on its Israel policy, which has already lasted half a century and survived all changes of administrations, and that former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder summarized in 2002 when he said: "I want to be very clear: Israel receives what it needs to maintain its security."

And, HT Wiki, the Popeye:

i-HLS shows what seems to be a cruise version in flight:

 The same Israeli site observes:
The Israeli cruise missile ‘Popeye Turbo’ designed as a Submarine-Launched Cruise Missile (SLCM) is a stretched and advanced model of the “Popeye” Israeli air missile designed for bomber planes. According to a report by the Federation of American Scientists (FAS) in 2002 an experiment was conducted in which an early model of the missile was launched from a Dolphin submarine in the Indian Ocean off the coast of Sri Lanka. The test was viewed at the time by members of the U.S. Navy’s intelligence. According to the report the missile was capable of reaching a range of 1,500 km and could carry a nuclear powered plutonium based warhead, weighing 200 Kg.
 The Turbo SLCM cruise-missile uses a jet engine powered by liquid fuel. The missile’s length is 6.25 meters and its diameter is about 52 cm. According to what was reported by the FAS about the Sri Lanka test – the missile hit the target 1500 km from the launch pad. It is estimated that the cruise missile is the main weapon for Israel’s ‘second strike’ ability, launched from submarines.

Wiki notes on the Popeye family of missiles:
  • Popeye (also known as Have Nap) - this is the standard solid-rocket–powered stand off missile, 4.82 m (15 ft 10 in) long and weighing 1,360 kg (3,000 lb) with a 340 kg (750 lb) blast fragmentation or 360 kg (800 lb) I-800 penetrating warhead, inertial and imaging infrared or TV guidance.[3]

  • Popeye II or Popeye Lite (also known as Have Lite) - this is a reduced size (shortened to 424 cm/167 in) and weight version (weight is now 1125 kg/2500 lb) of the Popeye to give light aircraft such as the F-16I Sufa a precision standoff strike capability.[4]

  • Popeye Turbo ALCM - The air-launched Popeye Turbo which uses a jet engine and liquid fuel is approx 6.25 m (20.5 ft) long, it is reported to have a range of more than 320 km (200 mi).[5]

  • Popeye Turbo SLCM - A suspected stretched version of the Popeye Turbo developed primarily for use as a submarine-launched cruise missile (SLCM) was widely reported in a US Navy observed 2002 test in the Indian Ocean to have hit a target at 1500 km, it can allegedly carry a 200 kg nuclear warhead. It is suspected that the stretched Popeye Turbo is the primary strategic second strike nuclear deterrent weapon which can be fired from the 650mm secondary torpedo tubes of the Israeli Dolphin class submarines.[1] It is believed that the SLCM version of the Popeye was developed by Israel after the US Clinton administration refused an Israeli request in 2000 to purchase Tomahawk long range SLCM's because of international MTCR proliferation rules.[6] While the standard Popeye is 533mm the Dolphin class submarines have four 650mm torpedo tubes in addition to the six standard 533mm tubes allowing for the possibility that a SLCM Popeye derivative may be a larger diameter.[7]

  • Have Rain - A 2004 report indicated that Rafael was developing a new anti-ship version known as the “Have Rain.” The new missile is believed to have a launch weight of 900 kg, for deployment aboard P-3 Orion aircraft.[8]

  • Spice - Spice (guidance kit) In 2000, Rafael promoted a "Smart Precise Impact Cost Effective" (SPICE) add-on "smart bomb" guidance kit for Mk 84 bombs, this system was based on the Popeye seekers.[3]
I add:

a: The stretched 1500+ mile range cruise version of such a missile could easily be adapted to launch from a container ship or a similar vessel, which could host a very large number of the missiles. 

b: Given the ~ 1 metre precision possible with GPS technology, Israel's known satellite reconnaissance capacity and the effectiveness of Mossad, Israel is in a position to target and cripple vulnerable points of nuclear facilities using conventional warheads, WITHOUT having to overfly the countries between Israel and Iran.  

c: And even if Israel does use an air strike, the standoff, precision attack capability described for some variants is significant.

d: If bunker-busting is necessary, we should note that the first precision bunker-busters were improvised at the beginning of the 1991 Persian Gulf campaign by filling howitzer barrels with explosives and putting on a guidance and fuze pack. 

e: Israel's claim that it could hit the Iranian nuke programme hard and set it back for a long time is credible.

21 --> Were I in the Mullah's shoes, I would not bet against Israel on this. But, after spending an insane amount of money that could instead have done a lot of good, I frankly doubt that they are going to back down, save when they are staring down the abyss and scrambling to get back on safer ground. By which time, it's odds on it will be too late.

That's not a pretty choice, but obviously it is what we have come to, with the Obama administration pulling out the rug from under Israel's feet.

Absent a miracle, the issue now is, when we will have war, and whether it will be before Iran sprints across the finish line to nukes and the missiles to carry them. Which goal is probably not very far off, judging by Iran's willingness to negotiate for six month windows.

Instead of such horrific alternatives, let us pray for a miracle of deliverance, even as the Jews of the Persian Empire once did under Mordecai and Queen Esther when Haman threatened genocide. END