Tag Archives: nuclear proliferation

Dangers, Stakes of North Korean Confrontation, Part 2

The New York Analysis of Policy and Government concludes its examination of the dangers and stakes in responding to North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs. 

In April, The Arms Control Association noted that:

“For years, the United States and the international community have tried to negotiate an end to North Korea’s nuclear and missile development and its export of ballistic missile technology. Those efforts have been replete with periods of crisis, stalemate, and tentative progress towards denuclearization, and North Korea has long been a key challenge for the global nuclear nonproliferation regime.

“The United States has pursued a variety of policy responses to the proliferation challenges posed by North Korea, including military cooperation with U.S. allies in the region, wide-ranging sanctions, and non-proliferation mechanisms such as export controls. The United States also engaged in two major diplomatic initiatives in which North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons efforts in return for aid.

“In 1994, faced with North Korea’s announced intent to withdraw from the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), which requires non-nuclear weapon states to forswear the development and acquisition of nuclear weapons, the United States and North Korea signed the Agreed Framework. Under this agreement, Pyongyang committed to freezing its illicit plutonium weapons program in exchange for aid. Following the collapse of this agreement in 2002, North Korea claimed that it had withdrawn from the NPT in January 2003 and once again began operating its nuclear facilities.

“The second major diplomatic effort were the Six-Party Talks initiated in August of 2003 which involved China, Japan, North Korea, Russia, South Korea, and the United States. In between periods of stalemate and crisis, those talks arrived at critical breakthroughs in 2005, when North Korea pledged to abandon “all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programs” and return to the NPT, and in 2007, when the parties agreed on a series of steps to implement that 2005 agreement. Those talks, however, broke down in 2009 following disagreements over verification and an internationally condemned North Korea rocket launch. Pyongyang has since stated that it would never return to the talks and is no longer bound by their agreements. The other five parties state that they remain committed to the talks, and have called for Pyongyang to recommit to its 2005 denuclearization pledge.”

North Korea is also strongly suspected of proliferating its missile and nuclear technology, particularly to Iran. South Korea’s Yonhap  news agency reported that “ Officials from a North Korean firm on a U.N. sanction list over its suspected arms trade visited Iran earlier this month after the U.N. Security Council imposed tougher punitive measures on the firm, a source said Monday. The Korea Mining Development Trading Corp. (KOMID), known as North Korea’s primary arms dealer and main exporter of goods and equipment related to ballistic missiles and conventional weapons, has been sanctioned by the U.S. and the United Nations since 2009. Ranking officials from the company visited Iran on March 6, which has been long suspected of maintaining ties with North Korea over nuclear and missile programs, according to a source familiar to North Korean affairs. Tehran has denied such speculation.”

A 2010 United Nations report stated that North Korea had exported nuclear and missile technology to both Iran and Syria. A Syrian nuclear plant was said to be based on North Korean blueprints.

As North Korea continues to rapidly move ahead with its nuclear program, and the land and submarine-launched missile capabilities with which to deliver them against targets throughout the world, (as well as the potential to sell or give these weapons to terrorist organizations or the nations that support those terrorist forces) crucial decisions will have to be made.

As North Korea continues to loudly proclaim its willingness to engage in a nuclear attack on other nations, a new concern has now been added.

During the Obama Administration, deep cuts to U.S. defenses included the White House elimination of the American ability to effectively fight a war in two separate theaters at the same time.  Recently, North Korea threatened Israel in response to statements by Israeli officials about Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program. The potential for actions against American allies in other parts of the world, the Middle East being the most likely, exists if the U.S. took action against North Korea’s nuclear program.  This would place the U.S. in the position of having to fight on two diverse fronts, at a time when its military is at an extremely weak state.

Additionally, President Obama’s opposition to U.S. missile defenses has left the U.S. with only minimal protection against a missile attack.  The fact that a signal nuclear blast, detonated at a precise location, could destroy, through an electromagnetic pulse, most continental U.S. electrical facilities, thus devastating the American economy, remains.

Considering that sobering fact, and the ongoing threats from North Korea, means that any attempt to destroy North Korea’s missile and nuclear capabilities would have to be thorough to an extraordinary degree, a feat that may wind up involving the U.S. in conflict with Chinese or Russian interests.

Dangers, Stakes of North Korean Conflict Are Vast

The New York Analysis of Policy and Government takes a two-part look at the enormous dangerous and stakes in responding to North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs. 

The stakes and dangers of the crisis in North Korea are significantly larger than has been discussed in the media so far. Those dangers are not restricted to North Korea’s direct actions.

The realities of the crisis are deeply worrisome.  Hopes that the United Nations could rein in Pyongyang’s missile and nuclear weapons program have been dashed.

In April, the United Nations Security Council issued a statement which noted: “”The members of the Security Council expressed their utmost concern over the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s highly destabilizing behavior and flagrant and provocative defiance of the Security Council by conducting this ballistic missile launch in violation of its international obligations.” The move was ignored by North Korea.

38 North noted in 2016: “The evolution of North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs has created a new strategic reality. In that reality, the current sanctions approach cannot lead to the denuclearization of North Korea and may not do much more to slow it.”

Contrary to public statements, it is evident that neither China nor Russia have exerted the decisive pressure they are capable of against Kim Jong-un.

There is the generally unspoken, but clearly distressing fact that Beijing and Moscow both gain from North Korea’s belligerence. It distracts from China’s unlawful aggression in the South China sea, and from Russia’s occupation of Ukrainian territory and its increased threats toward Eastern Europe. Both of those nations have also embarked on massive weapons programs, which have been jettisoned from the headlines by North Korea’s actions.

The unfortunate but all too relevant fact is that China, (while potentially suffering from a significant influx of refugees if fighting were to break out on the Korean Peninsula, and would not welcome a potential South Korean-led reunited Korean nation if in fact a U.S. led military action (or coup) successfully took place) would make major geopolitical gains if North Korea initiated a major military strike against American, Japanese, or South Korean forces in the region. Even if a U.S. led retaliation proved ultimately successful, the wearing down of those allied forces, and the inevitable exhaustion of their civilian populations, would clearly allow Beijing to fulfill its goal of becoming the nearly undisputed regional hegemon.

In the past, Russia has objected to some U.N. Security Council resolutions. China, while supporting some measures, has done so only after insisting they be watered down, rendering them useless.

While there are no direct links between Russia and China with the North Korean nuclear-capable missile program, there are disturbing ties. In February, the National Interest stated that:

“President Trump …said the U.S. has “a big, big problem” with North Korea. In fact, America may have a big, big problem with China…he needs to know where the [North Korean missile] Pukguksong-2 came from…Last August, two leading analysts—Tal Inbar, of Israel’s Fisher Institute for Air and Space Strategic Studies, and Bruce Bechtol, of Angelo State University in Texas—noted the missile tested then looked like it was modeled on China’s JL-1 submarine-launched ballistic missile. Richard Fisher of the Virginia-based International Assessment and Strategy Center, in comments to the National Interest, also points out the similarities between China’s and North Korea’s SLBMs, as sub-launched missiles are known.”

The analysts quoted by the National Interest note that there is no specific evidence that either the Kremlin or Beijing directly provided the technology. They maintain that other nations that were the recipients of Russian or Chinese tech, including Iran and Pakistan, could also have provided the transfer.

That potential increases worries that North Korea could, in return, provide its nuclear technology to those nations, and, particularly in the case of Iran, to terrorist forces they support.

Several factors have become readily apparent. Diplomatic solutions have proven ineffective. North Korea is rapidly nearing the ability to blackmail any nation it chooses to with its nuclear capabilities. Pyongyang may also enable other forces wishing to harm the United States and other western nations by providing them with the weapons of mass destruction to do so.

The Report concludes tomorrow.

North Korean Threat, Part 2

The New York Analysis of Policy and Government concludes its report on North Korean threats

Hwang Sunghee, writing in the authoritative Spacewars site  notes that “A senior US defense official said last month that the North has developed the capability to pair a nuclear warhead with a missile and launch it.” According to the report, targeting appears to be the only remaining obstacle.

The danger posed by North Korea is magnified by the deep nuclear and technological relationship it possesses with Iran, and Pyongyang’s willingness to transfer its military assets to unsavory forces throughout the world.

North Korea has been under United Nations sanctions since 2006 because of its nuclear program. It has reneged on arrangements similar to those reached with Iran by the Obama Administration.

In May, Michael Elleman and Emily Werk noted this for the Arms Control Association:

“In January 2011, U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates mused that “North Korea will have developed” an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) by 2016, with the caveat that the arsenal would be small with limited operational capability. Five years later, in 2016, there still is hope that the United States and its Asian allies can prevent North Korea from developing a nuclear-capable ICBM. Pyongyang, however, is not cooperating. North Korea conducted its fourth nuclear test in January, with Kim Jong Un boasting that it had exploded a hydrogen bomb. A month later, it successfully lofted a satellite into orbit using a large, long-range rocket. Then in March, North Korea unveiled a mock-up of a miniaturized nuclear bomb and performed two separate missile-related ground tests. The first test simulated the conditions a warhead would experience during re-entry into the atmosphere to evaluate the thermal protection technologies. The other was a stationary firing of a large, solid-fueled rocket motor.”

Last March, reports Bill Gertz in the Free beacon, “North Korea ..developed a new long-range mobile intercontinental ballistic … The new missile is called the KN-14 by the Pentagon…Rick Fisher, a senior fellow at the International Assessment and Strategy Center who has studied the two missiles’ Chinese launchers, said Russia has estimated the KN-14 could have a range between 5,000 and 6,200 miles.

According to a Washington Times  article by former CIA chief James Woolsey James Woolsey,  former and  Peter Vincent Pry executive director of the Task Force on National and Homeland Security, “The public is being misled by the White House, some so-called ‘experts’ and mainstream media casting doubt” on the extent of the North Korean threat.

Woolsey and Pry report that “defense and intelligence community officials warn North Korea probably already has nuclear armed missiles. The Defense Department’s 2016 report “Military and Security Developments Involving the Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea” warns that, in addition to medium-range missiles, they have six KN-08 mobile nuclear-armed intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) that can strike the U.S. mainland.Recently, the Pentagon warned North Korea rolled out a new longer-range ICBM, the KN-14, that can probably deliver a nuclear warhead to Chicago.

The refusal by the Obama Administration and others to acknowledge the extraordinary danger posed by North Korea has many deeply concerned.  Joshua Pollack, writing in Arms Control Wonk  writes: “If there’s one thing in the public discussion of proliferation that troubles me the most, it might be this: the systematic minimization of North Korea’s nuclear and missile capabilities in the American news media…News reports persistently describe North Korea’s three-stage space launcher, the Taepodong-2 (TD-2), as capable of delivering a reasonably sized warhead to Alaska or maybe to the western continental United States. But at least if we go by the official, unclassified, publicly released estimate of the U.S. government, that’s wrong! The TD-2 can range all of the USA, from sea to shining sea. Here it is in black-and-white from the National Intelligence Council’s September 1999 paper, ‘Foreign Missile Developments and the Ballistic Missile Threat to the United States Through 2015:’‘A two-stage Taepo Dong-2 could deliver a several-hundred kilogram payload to Alaska and Hawaii, and a lighter payload to the western half of the United States. A three-stage Taepo Dong-2 could deliver a several-hundred kilogram payload anywhere in the United States.”

An electromagnetic pulse unleashed by even a single nuclear explosion could permanently disable all electrical and computer systems within a very wide area. The danger is clear: just one or two North Korean nuclear weapons detonated over the midsection of the United States could send America back to the 1800’s, incapacitating the nation’s infrastructure with the resulting death of the majority of the population through lack of food, water, medicine, and transportation.

A Federalist review of that issue outlined the challenge:

“Many people complacently ignore the threats posed by the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea (DPRK]…What kind of an attack could Kim hurl at us? One that could kill between 75 percent and 90 percent of our population, relegating Americans to endangered society status and transporting those surviving back in time to the mid-1800s—if we’re lucky…We are all deeply concerned about the horrendous potential for Kim Jong Un to use just one device—one which poses a threat far more devastating than a full-on Russian nuclear attack…the DPRK isn’t interested in making several of our cities glow. They want to take us out “all at once.” After the January test came this from North Korea’s news service, KCNA: “The scientists and technicians of the DPRK are in high spirit to detonate H-bombs of hundreds of Kt (kiloton) and Mt (megaton) level capable of wiping out the whole territory of the U.S. all at once…”

According to reports in the Daily Mail, President-elect Trump has requested a special classified intelligence briefing on the issue.

North Korea’s Ruling Party Prioritizes Nuclear Weapons

For the first time in 40 years, North Korea’s Worker’s Party, wholly subservient to Kim Jong-Un, has met. Rather than address the desperately impoverished state of the nation’s population, it concentrated on support for Kim’s policy of expanding the military’s nuclear weapons program. While the party proclaimed that it would not use atomic weapons unless “threatened,” the regime has employed that very term repeatedly over incidents that it has essentially initiated and in some cases fabricated.

Enormous strides have been made in North Korea’s nuclear weapons capabilities, including recent step forwards in launching submarine based nuclear missiles. Equally as worrisome, Pyongyang has engaged in proliferation of its advanced nuclear and missile technology, notably with Iran, which now, according to state organs, possesses the capability of reaching Israel and key U.S. bases with its missiles.

The U.S. Department of Defense has conveyed to Congress a report on North Korea’s military.  Of particular interest is North Korea’s heavy investment in weapons of mass destruction.  Here are the highlights:

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK or North Korea) remains one of the most critical security challenges for the United States and the broader international community. In particular, North Korea’s willingness to undertake provocative and destabilizing behavior, including attacks on the Republic of Korea (ROK), its continued development of nuclear weapons and long-range ballistic missiles, and its proliferation of weapons in contravention of United Nations Security Council resolutions (UNSCRs) pose a serious threat to the United States, the region, and the world.

Since assuming control in December 2011, Kim Jong Un has solidified his grip on power by embracing the coercive tools used by his father and grandfather. His regime has used force and the threat of force combined with inducements to quell domestic dissent and strengthen internal security; co-opt the North Korean military and elites; develop strategic military capabilities to deter external attack; and challenge the ROK and the U.S.-ROK Alliance. In April 2013, Kim announced the “byungjin” policy, which emphasizes the parallel development of the country’s economy and nuclear weapons program, to reinforce his regime’s domestic, diplomatic, economic, and security interests.

North Korea fields a large, conventional, forward-deployed military that retains the capability to inflict serious damage on the ROK, despite significant resource shortfalls and aging hardware. The U.S.-ROK Alliance has deterred large-scale conventional attacks by maintaining a robust combined defense posture and strong military readiness. On a smaller scale, however, the DPRK has demonstrated a willingness to use military provocation to achieve national goals. In August 2015, two North Korean landmines exploded in the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), which seriously wounded two ROK soldiers, raised tensions on the Korean Peninsula for several weeks, and was resolved through high-level inter-Korean talks.

North Korea’s continued pursuit of nuclear technology and capabilities and development of intermediate- and long-range ballistic missile programs underscore the growing threat it poses to regional stability and U.S. national security. North Korea’s pursuit of a submarine-launched ballistic missile capability also highlights the regime’s commitment to diversifying its missile force, strengthening the missile force’s survivability, and finding new ways to coerce its neighbors. Furthermore, North Korea continues to proliferate ballistic missile technology prohibited under UNSCRs 1718, 1874, 2087, and 2094, exacerbating the security challenge for the United States and the international community.

Weapons of Mass Destruction

Nuclear Weapons. North Korea continues to pursue a nuclear weapons program, having conducted nuclear tests in 2006, 2009, and 2013. In April 2013, less than two months after its third nuclear test, North Korea promulgated a domestic “Law on Consolidating Position as a Nuclear Weapons State” to provide a legal basis for its nuclear program and another signal that it does not intend to give up its pursuit of nuclear development. The law states “the nuclear weapons of the DPRK can only be used by a final order of the Supreme Commander of the Korean’s People’s Army (Kim Jong Un) to repel invasion or attack from a hostile nuclear weapons state and make retaliatory strikes.” North Korea continues to invest in its nuclear infrastructure and could conduct additional nuclear tests at any time. In 2010, North Korea revealed a uranium enrichment facility at Yongbyon that it claims is for producing fuel for a light water reactor under construction. In April 2013, North Korea announced its intent to restart and refurbish the nuclear facilities at Yongbyon, including the nuclear reactor that had been shut down since 2007 and the uranium enrichment facility.

The director of the DPRK Atomic Energy Institute confirmed in September 2015 that all of the nuclear facilities in Yongbyon, including the uranium enrichment plant and reactor, were “adjusted and altered” following the April 2013 announcement and restarted for the purpose of building its nuclear force. The director also claimed that scientists and technicians were enhancing the levels of various nuclear weapons in quality and quantity.

These activities violate North Korea’s obligations under UNSCRs 1718, 1874, 2087, and 2094, contravene its commitments under the September 19, 2005 Six-Party Talks Joint Statement, and increase the risk of proliferation.

Biological Weapons. DoD assesses that North Korea may consider the use of biological weapons as an option, contrary to its obligations under the Biological and Toxins Weapons Convention (BWC). North Korea continues to develop its biological research and development capabilities, but has yet to declare any relevant developments and has failed to provide a BWC Confidence-Building Measure declaration since 1990.

Chemical Weapons. North Korea probably has had a longstanding chemical weapons (CW) program with the capability to produce nerve, blister, blood, and choking agents and likely possesses a CW stockpile. North Korea probably could employ CW agents by modifying a variety of conventional munitions, including artillery and ballistic missiles. In addition, North Korean forces are prepared to operate in a contaminated environment; they train regularly in chemical defense operations. North Korea is not a party to the Chemical Weapons Convention.

Why Did Russia Boycott the Nuclear Summit?

Russia’s absence from the Washington Nuclear Summit has raised eyebrows across the planet.

The Hans India newspaper  reported:

“The absence of Vladimir Putin at the Nuclear Security Summit creates a chill between Moscow and Washington…Barack Obama’s administration described this move as ‘self-isolation.”

The meeting was the largest of its kind since 1945, featuring 52 national delegations, including numerous world leaders, and four international agencies. According to the White House , “Not since 1945 has a U.S. President hosted a gathering of so many Heads of State and Government.”

The issue was one which directly affects the safety of civilian populations across the globe, and Russia in particular, due to its history of victimization at the hands of extremists. The goal of the gathering was to keep terrorists and criminals from getting nuclear weapons and material. According to the U.S. Government,

“Over 2000 tons of plutonium and highly enriched uranium exist in dozens of countries with a variety of peaceful as well as military uses. There have been 18 documented cases of theft or loss of highly enriched uranium or plutonium, and perhaps others not yet discovered. We know that al-Qa’ida, and possibly other terrorist or criminal groups, are seeking nuclear weapons –as well as the materials and expertise needed to make them. The consequences of a nuclear detonation, or even an attempted detonation, perpetrated by a terrorist or criminal group anywhere in the world would be devastating. Any country could be a target, and all countries would feel the effects.”

Unlike a host of other contentious issues, it would appear that the prevention of the acquisition of nuclear materials by violent non-state actors would be of unanimous interests to every government. Why did Moscow choose to not attend?

In an interview with the news source Russia Direct  Russia’s Permanent Representative to the International Organizations in Vienna, Ambassador Vladimir Voronkov noted that Moscow had already attended several prior meetings, including gatherings in Washington in 2010, Seoul in 2012, and the Hague in 2014. Voronkov noted, “even before those meetings, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) had consistently worked to attain this goal. However, for a long time, member states had a heated debate about whether nuclear security is part of the IAEA’s portfolio, since this term is absent from the Statute of the IAEA. Some developing nations considered any attempts to approach nuclear security within the context of the IAEA as an attempt to limit their access to the benefits of nuclear energy. One can hear statements to this effect till this day, but they have become much quieter.”

The authoritative Jamestown Foundation notes: “Russia’s absence from the nuclear summit in Washington, DC, last week was entirely predictable and yet baffling…The Kremlin was irked by the description of its behavior by US officials as “self-isolation” but could not invent a convincing explanation for why it was boycotting the high-profile event attended by more than 50 world leaders (Kommersant, March 30). The official statements emphasized the “deficit of cooperation” in the US-organized summit, and Putin perhaps believes that Russia should have been accorded some entitled special status by virtue of being the world’s second-largest nuclear power, on par with the US. Alexei Arbatov, one of the leading Russian experts in nuclear arms control, argues that the demonstrative refusal to partake betrays a fear in the Kremlin of showing any weakness, which overrides any obvious interest in enhancing Russia’s and the world’s nuclear security (Carnegie.ru, March 30).”

The results of the Summit were listed in the closing communiqué:

“The threat of nuclear and radiological terrorism remains one of the greatest challenges to international security, and the threat is constantly evolving…We reaffirm our commitment to our shared goals of nuclear disarmament, nuclear non-proliferation and peaceful use of nuclear energy.  We also reaffirm that measures to strengthen nuclear security will not hamper the rights of States to develop and use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.  We reaffirm the fundamental responsibility of States, in accordance with their respective obligations, to maintain at all times effective security of all nuclear and other radioactive material, including nuclear materials used in nuclear weapons, and nuclear facilities under their control.

“…We commit to fostering a peaceful and stable international environment by reducing the threat of nuclear terrorism and strengthening nuclear security.

“…we pledge that our countries will continue to make nuclear security an enduring priority.  We, as leaders, are conscious of our responsibility…

“We reaffirm the essential responsibility and the central role of the International Atomic Energy Agency in strengthening the global nuclear security architecture and in developing international guidance, and its leading role in facilitating and coordinating nuclear security activities among international organizations and initiatives and supporting the efforts of States to fulfill their nuclear security responsibilities.  We welcome and support the Agency in convening regular high-level international conferences, such as the December 2016 international conference on nuclear security including its Ministerial segment, to maintain political momentum and continue to raise awareness of nuclear security among all stakeholders… we resolve to implement the …Action Plans, in support of the international organizations and initiatives to which we respectively belong (the United Nations, the International Atomic Energy Agency, INTERPOL, the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism, and the Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction), to be carried out on a voluntary basis and consistent with national laws and respective international obligations.”

The Crisis that the White House Pretends Doesn’t Exist

From one end of the globe to the other, powers overtly unfriendly to the United States and its allies are substantially and rapidly building their military might.  It is a clear indication that the White House policy of unilateral reduction in defense spending combined with appeasement diplomacy has been a dismal failure.

North Korea has placed its nuclear arsenal on “standby,” and Kim Jong Un has ordered his substantial armed forces into a “pre-emptive attack mode,” according to reports by the Korean Central News Agency first as reported by the Financial Times.

In February, the White House stated, in response to North Korea’s recent nuclear threat,  that:

“This is a highly provocative act that, following its December 12 ballistic missile launch, undermines regional stability, violates North Korea’s obligations under numerous United Nations Security Council resolutions, contravenes its commitments under the September 19, 2005 Joint Statement of the Six-Party Talks, and increases the risk of proliferation.  North Korea’s nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs constitute a threat to U.S. national security and to international peace and security. The United States remains vigilant in the face of North Korean provocations and steadfast in our defense commitments to allies in the region…The danger posed by North Korea’s threatening activities warrants further swift and credible action by the international community.  The United States will also continue to take steps necessary to defend ourselves and our allies. We will strengthen close coordination with allies and partners and work with our Six-Party partners, the United Nations Security Council, and other UN member states to pursue firm action.”

The President’s analysis of the situation was correct, and his plans to increase cooperation with regional allies is appropriate.  However, there is a problem with the approach:  The United States lacks the actual power-in-being to actually address the crisis.  The slashing of the defense budget during the course of the Obama Administration, and the Oval Office decision not to have an armed forces capable of fighting a two-front war renders his response little more than words.  Sanctions have failed to halt North Korea’s belligerence or nuclear progress in the past and there is no reason to assume they will do so in the future.

The President speaks of a “pivot” to Asia, which if it were real, could give Pyongyang pause.  But the pivot is just verbiage with nothing much behind it.  The diminished U.S. Navy, at less than half the strength it posed in 1990 and at its smallest level since World War I, doesn’t intimidate North Korea which rests with the Chinese sphere of influence.  China already has more submarines than the U.S., along with greater regional forces and a growing bluewater fleet that will outnumber America’s by 2020.

There is another factor, as well.  The White House’s practice of tough words followed by a lack of action demonstrates that it lacks the willpower to follow through. Think of the abandoned Red Line in Syria. The failure to avenge the Benghazi attack. The weak response to Russia’s Ukrainian invasion. The lack of action in response to Moscow’s growing presence in the Western Hemisphere.  The failure to even lodge a diplomatic protest in response to Beijing’s invasion of the Philippine Exclusive Economic Zone.

On the other side of the Eurasian landmass, Iran has conducted  number of forbidden ballistic missile tests, openly making  mockery of the nuclear weapons agreement before the ink has even dried on the document.  The Iranians are fully aware that North Korea cut a deal with President Clinton in the 1990’s in which $4 billion in aid was provided in response to Pyongyang’s solemn promise not to build nukes.  President Clinton did nothing in response to the violation, just as President Obama has no credible plans to respond to Tehran’s violation.

Indeed, Mr. Obama’s response to military provocations has been more appeasement. His response to Russia’s return to cold war era bases in Cuba was, strangely, to restore diplomatic relations with Havana.  He has done nothing in response to Moscow’s move to use Nicaragua as a refueling base for its nuclear Tupolev bombers.

The President doesn’t even discuss the fact that Russia, after signing the New Start treaty in 2009, now, for the first time in history, has become the world’s preeminent nuclear power. The skyrocketing growth of China’s military is also a non-topic in the Oval office.

Mr. Obama is well known for his absolute refusal to use the phrase “Islamic terrorism.” Unfortunately, his flight from reality also includes every threat to the safety of the United States, as well.  In the past, some presidents have emphasized national security more than others.  However, we have never before had a Commander in Chief who completely neglects the entire topic.

North Korean, Iranian nuclear weapons assist Russia & China

Within roughly the same time period, the two nations who have consistently produced the most violent anti-American rhetoric have made major strides in their ability to strike the U.S. homeland.

Iran’s defense minister Hossein Dehqan announced this month that a long-range surface-to-surface missile named ‘Emad,’ (Pillar) a new generation of ballistic missile built within Iran was test-fired successfully. The test is in violation of United Nations Resolution 1929, which forbids Tehran from ballistic missile testing. An additional resolution connected to the nuclear deal also forbids this activity.

Tehran’s advance was matched by North Korea’s recent announcement that a new version of its KN-08 missile is fully capable of striking the American mainland.

It has long been known that the Iran and North Korea have shared military technology.

The basic news about the two tests are worrisome in and of themselves, but there is an even greater danger posed by the fact that Russia and China appear to be intimately involved in Iran’s growing power, and neither have taken steps to rein in North Korea, which is heavily dependent on Beijing.

In August, it was reported  that a meeting between Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and visiting Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif resulted in an agreement to expand military cooperation between the two nations, including Russian delivery of anti-aircraft S-300 missiles to Iran. It has long been known that Moscow has supplied nuclear technology to Tehran.

The Iranian government is also benefiting from close ties with China. The Iranian News Agency reported that China has stated that Iran is a “strategic partner for international cooperation.”

A Stanford study on Russian-Iranian relations notes that

“geopolitics and the desire for hegemony constitute another of the connective threads in Russian-Iranian relations…while the Islamic Republic of Iran was engaged in negotiations with the European Union and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on the fate of Iran’s nuclear enrichment program, it was Russia (usually helped by China) that successfully blocked development of a joint policy and the passage of a United Nations resolution against Iran…

“Nuclear power is not the only element of the new relationship between Iran and Russia…Russia and Iran are especially interested in a US attempt to build a pipeline that would connect Central Asian gas fields to Europe.  The pipeline would end the Russian monopoly hold on Europe’s gas markets—a monopoly hold that Putin has been increasingly willing to use for politicial purposes.  Furthermore, US plans for the pipeline stipulate that it bypass Iran. As a result, the Islamic Republic and Russia have become inadvertent allies in averting the construction of the pipeline.  The two countries have even begun talking about creating, together with Algeria, an OPEC-like cartel of gas-producing countries of the world.”

China’s role in the new four-power alliance is vital. Douglas Schoen and Melik Kaylan, in their book “The Russia-China Axis,” report that:

“China does business with Iran [and] singlehandedly props up a North Korean regime that seems to be ever more volatile and dangerous. The Chinese have refused to discourage Pyongyang from building up its stockpile of nuclear warheads or from developing even more sophisticated and deadly nuclear weapons…While China positions itself as a supporter of sanctions against North Korea, it does nothing to help enforce them.  At heart, China doesn’t want the North Korean problem resolved. An intimidating, unpredictable North Korea keeps South Korea in check and the Americans off-balance in the Far East, while terrifying such staunch American allies as Japan and the Philippines.  This is all to the good, from the Chinese perspective…China’s facilitation is also essential to perhaps the most disturbing alliance of all:  the long-running Iran-North Korea ‘axis of proliferation’…All of these efforts are part of a broader Russian-Chinese goal: to build a counter-Western alliance of antidemocratic nations.”

Both Iran and North Korea, who profit economically and militarily from their relationships with Moscow and Beijing, are gaining the military technology, both conventional and nuclear, to engage in acts which distract the United States and its allies, and that deters western powers from countering Russian and Chinese aggression. There is a distinct possibility that Tehran and Pyongyang could at some point act as surrogates for Moscow and Beijing should those two decide to engage in direct assaults on western interests without taking the blame for their actions.

Worrisome Deficiencies in Iran “Deal”

The U.S. State Department has released the “Parameters for a Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action Regarding the Islamic Republic of Iran’s Nuclear Program.” This is not actually a deal. It is the basis of a deal that is supposed to be concluded by June 30, three months from now.  That time frame must be kept in mind, since it is precisely the time Iran needs to have sufficient fissile material for the development of a nuclear weapon.

Beyond the next several months, other time frames are worrisome.  Iran’s agreement to suspend operations for the majority of its centrifuges is only for ten years, and its agreement not to enrich uranium up to weapons grade lasts for 15 years. Also of concern is the nation’s past record of deceit on abiding by agreements, as well as its ongoing development of intercontinental missiles capable of delivering nuclear warheads.

The agreement does not conform to President Obama’s prior goal of eliminating Iran’s nuclear capability.  A remaining question: Since Iran is rich in oil, which is currently more available and less expensive than nuclear power for that nation, why is it continuing to pursue nuclear technology at all?

The U.S. State Department provided the attached summary of the agreement:

Enrichment

  • 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’s breakout timeline – the time that it would take for Iran to acquire enough fissile material for one weapon – is currently assessed to be 2 to 3 months. That timeline will be extended to at least one year, for a duration of at least ten years, under this framework.

Iran will convert its facility at Fordow so that it is no longer used to enrich uranium

  • Iran has agreed to not enrich uranium at its Fordow facility for at least 15 years.
  • 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.
  • Iran will not have any fissile material at Fordow for 15 years.
  • Almost two-thirds of Fordow’s centrifuges and infrastructure will be removed. The remaining centrifuges will not enrich uranium. All centrifuges and related infrastructure will be placed under IAEA monitoring.

Iran will only enrich uranium at the Natanz facility, with only 5,060 IR-1 first-generation centrifuges for ten years.

  • Iran has agreed to only enrich uranium using its first generation (IR-1 models) centrifuges at Natanz for ten years, removing its more advanced centrifuges.
  • Iran will remove the 1,000 IR-2M centrifuges currently installed at Natanz and place them in IAEA monitored storage for ten years.
  • Iran will not use its IR-2, IR-4, IR-5, IR-6, or IR-8 models to produce enriched uranium for at least ten years. Iran will engage in limited research and development with its advanced centrifuges, according to a schedule and parameters which have been agreed to by the P5+1.
  • For ten years, enrichment and enrichment research and development will be limited to ensure a breakout timeline of at least 1 year. Beyond 10 years, Iran will abide by its enrichment and enrichment R&D plan submitted to the IAEA, and pursuant to the JCPOA, under the Additional Protocol resulting in certain limitations on enrichment capacity.

Inspections and Transparency

  • The IAEA will have regular access to all of Iran’s nuclear facilities, including to Iran’s enrichment facility at Natanz and its former enrichment facility at Fordow, and including the use of the most up-to-date, modern monitoring technologies.
  • Inspectors will have access to the supply chain that supports Iran’s nuclear program. The new transparency and inspections mechanisms will closely monitor materials and/or components to prevent diversion to a secret program.
  • Inspectors will have access to uranium mines and continuous surveillance at uranium mills, where Iran produces yellowcake, for 25 years.
  • Inspectors will have continuous surveillance of Iran’s centrifuge rotors and bellows production and storage facilities for 20 years. Iran’s centrifuge manufacturing base will be frozen and under continuous surveillance.
  • All centrifuges and enrichment infrastructure removed from Fordow and Natanz will be placed under continuous monitoring by the IAEA.
  • A dedicated procurement channel for Iran’s nuclear program will be established to monitor and approve, on a case by case basis, the supply, sale, or transfer to Iran of certain nuclear-related and dual use materials and technology – an additional transparency measure.
  • Iran has agreed to implement the Additional Protocol of the IAEA, providing the IAEA much greater access and information regarding Iran’s nuclear program, including both declared and undeclared facilities.
  • Iran will be required to grant access to the IAEA to investigate suspicious sites or allegations of a covert enrichment facility, conversion facility, centrifuge production facility, or yellowcake production facility anywhere in the country.
  • Iran has agreed to implement Modified Code 3.1 requiring early notification of construction of new facilities.
  • Iran will implement an agreed set of measures to address the IAEA’s concerns regarding the Possible Military Dimensions (PMD) of its program.

Reactors and Reprocessing

  • Iran has agreed to redesign and rebuild a heavy water research reactor in Arak, based on a design that is agreed to by the P5+1, which will not produce weapons grade plutonium, and which will support peaceful nuclear research and radioisotope production.
  • The original core of the reactor, which would have enabled the production of significant quantities of weapons-grade plutonium, will be destroyed or removed from the country.
  • Iran will ship all of its spent fuel from the reactor out of the country for the reactor’s lifetime.
  • Iran has committed indefinitely to not conduct reprocessing or reprocessing research and development on spent nuclear fuel.
  • Iran will not accumulate heavy water in excess of the needs of the modified Arak reactor, and will sell any remaining heavy water on the international market for 15 years.
  • Iran will not build any additional heavy water reactors for 15 years.

Sanctions

  • Iran will receive sanctions relief, if it verifiably abides by its commitments.
  • S. and E.U. nuclear-related sanctions will be suspended after the IAEA has verified that Iran has taken all of its key nuclear-related steps. If at any time Iran fails to fulfill its commitments, these sanctions will snap back into place.
  • The architecture of U.S. nuclear-related sanctions on Iran will be retained for much of the duration of the deal and allow for snap-back of sanctions in the event of significant non-performance.
  • All past UN Security Council resolutions on the Iran nuclear issue will be lifted simultaneous with the completion, by Iran, of nuclear-related actions addressing all key concerns (enrichment, Fordow, Arak, PMD, and transparency).
  • However, core provisions in the UN Security Council resolutions – those that deal with transfers of sensitive technologies and activities – will be re-established by a new UN Security Council resolution that will endorse the JCPOA and urge its full implementation. It will also create the procurement channel mentioned above, which will serve as a key transparency measure. Important restrictions on conventional arms and ballistic missiles, as well as provisions that allow for related cargo inspections and asset freezes, will also be incorporated by this new resolution.
  • A dispute resolution process will be specified, which enables any JCPOA participant, to seek to resolve disagreements about the performance of JCPOA commitments.
  • If an issue of significant non-performance cannot be resolved through that process, then all previous UN sanctions could be re-imposed.
  • S. sanctions on Iran for terrorism, human rights abuses, and ballistic missiles will remain in place under the deal.

Phasing

  • For ten years, Iran will limit domestic enrichment capacity and research and development – ensuring a breakout timeline of at least one year. Beyond that, Iran will be bound by its longer-term enrichment and enrichment research and development plan it shared with the P5+1.
  • For fifteen years, Iran will limit additional elements of its program. For instance, Iran will not build new enrichment facilities or heavy water reactors and will limit its stockpile of enriched uranium and accept enhanced transparency procedures.
  • Important inspections and transparency measures will continue well beyond 15 years. Iran’s adherence to the Additional Protocol of the IAEA is permanent, including its significant access and transparency obligations. The robust inspections of Iran’s uranium supply chain will last for 25 years.
  • Even after the period of the most stringent limitations on Iran’s nuclear program, Iran will remain a party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which prohibits Iran’s development or acquisition of nuclear weapons and requires IAEA safeguards on its nuclear program.

Will 2015 be the year Iran gets the bomb?

Will 2015 be the year that Iran gets the nuclear bomb?

Negotiations that were supposed to end in November have been extended until next summer, giving Tehran the time it needs to complete work on its atomic weapons project. Combined with the nation’s advanced missile technology, most clearly seen in its Shahab-3 missiles that have a range of 1,300 miles and its rapidly progressing space program  which will give the nation an ICBM capability,  that spells great danger for the world.

According to the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies,  the problem is that Iran will only agree to restrictions on its nuclear activities as long as they do not ultimately bar its path to a bomb. In the 12 months of negotiations conducted under the interim agreement, Iran won one major policy victory and gained four major concessions in the nuclear domain.

In addition to softening sanctions, Omri Ceren, writing for Commentary, notes that Washington has given up all its bargaining chips. “Gone is the demand that Iran dismantle its centrifuges…Gone is the demand that Iran cease all enrichment. The deal widely believed to be on the table would leave them spinning thousands of centrifuges.  Gone is the demand that Iran downgrade its plutonium reactor…Gone is the demand that Iran halt its proliferation-sensitive missile activity.”

Combined with North Korea’s nuclear program, 2015 may present the most dangerous nuclear threats the world has seen in decades.

What Needs to be Said about Iran

In the arcane world of diplomacy, the most vital and obvious statements are often left unsaid. All too frequently, the media reflects, without careful analysis, that same opaque semantic habit.

This has been particularly true in the ongoing nuclear weapons discussions with Iran.  What needs to be said, understood, and acted upon is this: Iran is a nation ruled by fanatical men who do evil things to their own population, especially females, and seek the ability to do equally evil acts upon the rest of the world. The route they have chosen to accomplish this goal is through the acquisition of nuclear weapons, which they can mount on their already potent rockets.

Tehran has not negotiated in good faith.  Therefore, the softening of sanctions and the extending of deadlines only serves to assist that nation in the pursuit of its unacceptable objectives.

As noted by Haleh Esfandiari and Robert S. Litwak, writing for the Wilson Center,

“Already, the extension of nuclear talks announced Monday is being portrayed in Iran as a victory for its negotiating team. In a televised interview Monday night, President Hasan Rouhani made clear that Iran would not stop its centrifuges or give up its technology. What’s been agreed to is, indeed, a bonus for Tehran as its government continues to access about $700 million a month from its frozen assets.”

Testifying before the Senate foreign Relations Committee on December 3, David Albright, President of the Institute for Science and International Security  stated that  “Iran is more likely today to choose a safe route [rather than a purely clandestine one] to preserving and further developing a capability to produce fissile material for a nuclear weapon. In the case of gas centrifuges, it is likely to seek to maintain and increase its capabilities at declared centrifuge sites, the associated centrifuge manufacturing complex, and centrifuge R&D facilities. It would view this path as the preferred one, because it can simply and legitimately claim that all its activities are civil in nature, even if it is actually hiding the goal of eventually seeking nuclear weapons.”

The Obama Administration had knowledge of the fact that Russia was aiding Iran’s nuclear aims, yet neither disclosed that fact to Congress nor responded to it by amending its discredited “reset” policy with Russia. Bret Stephens recently wrote in the Wall Street Journal that “Because the Administration lacks the political courage of its real convictions or the martial courage of its ones—we are wedded to this sham process of negotiation.”

In its quixotic (or worse) attempt to appease Iran, the White House has also not been honest with the American public about Tehran’s growing military/terrorist presence in Latin America, particularly in Venezuela and Bolivia.

In 2012, the New York Analysis of Policy & Government examined Tehran’s expanding Latin American involvement:

“Iran has actively been developing Latin America as a base from which to launch military and terrorist assaults on the United States. There is bipartisan concern in Congress that the White House has not responded to the threat, although the problem is recognized. Before departing to a visit to Columbia, Defense Secretary Panetta noted that “We always have a concern about, in particular, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps and [their] efforts to expand their influence not only throughout the Middle East but also into this region…that relates to expanding terrorism.”

Reports from around the world have noted Tehran’s growing military presence in the Western Hemisphere. Germany’s Die Welt newspaper described the Islamic Republic’s construction of intermediate range missile launch pads on Venezuela’s Paraguana Peninsula.

The threat is not confined to low-level tactics. There is mounting concern that both nuclear and ballistic missile threats are emerging from Venezuelan-Iranian cooperation. The Tehran/Caracas axis, encouraged by Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez, is particularly troubling. According to The Heritage Foundation’s Peter Brooks, the two nations have a Memorandum of Understanding “pledging full military support and cooperation…”

Robert F. Noriega, the former ambassador to the Organization of American States and former Assistant secretary of State, notes that “Iranian officials have made no secret of the regime’s intention to carry its asymmetrical struggle to the streets of the United States and Europe.” Noriega is concerned that the White House is not adequately concerned about these developments, and in fact has “misinformed” Congress as to their seriousness.

Congress has been attempting to get the White House to focus on the problem for some time. Many members, both democrat and Republican, were distressed by the Administration’s cutting $13 million annually from its Southern Command military budget (which has responsibility for the region) and its refusal to beef up intelligence assets in the vicinity. Last July, Rep. Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) along with several colleagues submitted a letter to the State Department expressing concern on Iran’s hostile acts in South America.

According to Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-SC) Iran has used its terrorist Hezbollah proxy force in the tri-border area of Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay, to gain influence and power; built numerous “cultural centers” and overstaffed embassies to assist its covert goals; and supported the activities of the terrorist group Hamas in South America.”

As the Obama Administration grants yet another move softening its position on Iran’s growing nuclear capabilities, it considers initiating sanctions on Israel due to that nation’s construction of new housing in Jerusalem. The move highlights the White House’s bizarre foreign policy choices.