Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Dancing in the Nuclear Dark



Dancing in the Nuclear Dark:
How Will We Know When Iran Sprints toward a Bomb?

- Bret Stephens
  • Last month the Pentagon's Defense Science Board published an "Assessment of Nuclear Monitoring and Verification Technologies," which reported that our ability to detect a nuclear breakout is not good.
  • According to the report, "The pathways to proliferation are expanding. Networks of cooperation among countries that would otherwise have little reason to do so, such as the A.Q. Khan network or the Syria-North Korea and Iran-North Korea collaborations, cannot be considered isolated events."
  • In his 2012 debate with Paul Ryan, Joe Biden insisted that the Iranians "are a good way away" from a bomb and that "we'll know if they start the process of building a weapon." The report junks that claim.
  • Now the administration is pressing for an agreement with Iran based on the conceit that the intelligence community will give policy makers ample warning before the mullahs sprint for a nuclear weapon.
  • That is not true. We are dancing in the nuclear dark.
(Wall Street Journal)
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3 comments:

LHwrites said...

If you read the report you'll see it was not quite as the WSJ interpreted it. They were supposed to assess current capabilities but realized a meaningful report would have to look at the changing landscape and made it a broad referendum on where we need to go. In the article, and cited on this fine blog, Finally, there is the matter of nuclear detection. In his 2012 debate with Paul Ryan, Joe Biden insisted that the Iranians "are a good way away" from a bomb and that "we'll know if they start the process of building a weapon."

The report junks that claim. "The observables are limited, typically ambiguous, and part of a high-clutter environment of unrelated activities," it notes. "At low levels associated with small or nascent [nuclear] programs, key observables are easily masked."

Actually, it was speaking about finding the very early programs that may be starting in nations currently feeling the need to arm based on either, if Iran gets the bomb, or America reduces its nuclear arsenal in the future to the point where it is not perceived we can credibly protect all of our widespread allies. We already know about the programs in Iran, North Korea and Pakistan and this particular segment was not directly referencing known programs. It is clear from the report that going forward we need new methods and technology, as has always been the case with evolving threats. This was not an alarmist report, it was made as a blueprint for how to proceed. The press is right to point out the current deficiencies in abilities to detect nascent nuclear programs but this was not an indictment on current policy or Biden's claim. Here is a link to the actual report for those interested: http://www.acq.osd.mil/dsb/reports/NuclearMonitoringAndVerificationTechnologies.pdf

Bruce said...

Thankx for that.

Obama seems to be punting the problem to the next US president.

John Vagabond said...

"Clutter" is absolutely the right word, characteristic of a regime which seeks to cloud its true intentions. To assess if danger is both real and present, we have to look back at least to the Iranian revolution and evaluate and track the societal changes which took place then and subsequently. Iran will not act out of desperation but rather out of decades of planning, much as Nazi Germany did between the wars.