Thursday, February 14, 2013

Does Iran Already Have the Bomb?

A disturbing article from Lee Smith in Table Magazine:

 If North Korea has the bomb, then for all practical purposes Iran does, too. If that's so, then Obama's policy of prevention has failed, and containment—a policy that the president has repeatedly said is not an option—is in fact all Washington has.

If this sounds hyperbolic, consider the history of extensive North Korean-Iranian cooperationon a host of military and defense issues, including ballistic missiles and nuclear development, that dates back to the 1980s. This cooperation includes North Korean sales of technology and arms, like the BM-25, a missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead and reaching Western Europe; Iran's Shahab 3 missile is based on North Korea's Nodong-1 and is able to reach Israel. Iran has a contigent of Iranian weapons engineers and defense officials stationed in North Korea. Meantime, North Korean scientists visit Iran. And last fall, both countries signed a memorandum of understanding regarding scientific, academic, and technological issues.

Given all this, there's a great deal of concern that, as one senior U.S. official told the New York Times, "the North Koreans are testing for two countries."


For North Korea, the incentive to transfer technology, or an actual bomb, in exchange for money, or whatever else the regime needs, is powerful. The only world power capable of discouraging them from proliferating is China, but the Chinese are not going to push much harder than offering stiff rhetoric. The Chinese don't necessarily want North Korea to have a bomb, but what they fear even more is destabilizing their neighbor such that the regime falls, the Korean peninsula is reunited, and they wind up with a pro-American government hosting 50,000 U.S. troops on their border. Beijing prefers to have a buffer.


"Some of us have been saying this is something to worry about for five or six years," said Henry Sokolski, executive director of the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center in Washington, D.C. "The North Koreans have been cooperating with Iran for about a decade on nuclear and missile issues, and the Iranians have several full-time weapons engineers on site in North Korea. Neither the North Koreans or the Iranians have made a secret of this. The Iranians were reported at North Korea's last nuclear test as well. It's hard to believe they had no access to the most recent test."

North Korea's previous test, its second, in May 2009 yielded an explosion half the size of Tuesday's. The preparatory commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization measured Tuesday's test as 5.0 in magnitude, which according to Sokolski is about half the size of the Hiroshima blast.

The fact that this is the third test, said Sokolski, is significant. "Either the North Koreans want to give the international community a nuclear Bronx cheer, or they're testing something more advanced than they tested the first two times. If you're trying to improve your technology you don't keep testing the same first generation device over and over again."


North Korea will get billions that Iran will happily pay for a bomb or blueprints. Iran, once in possession of the bomb, will see Europe and perhaps even the United States relax their sanctions regimes in the hopes of getting Iran to the negotiating table by playing nice.

If this is the case, Obama will go down in history as the American president who presided over global nuclear proliferation, including rogue regimes. After four years of restraining the Israelis, he may now be going to visit them next month for a good reason: to apologize.

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