November - December 2005

P.O. Box 190, Mount Holly, Virginia 2252
Volume 35, Number 6, Jerry Strope, Editor

  “We’re relying upon others because we’ve sanctioned ourselves out of influence with Iran. In other words, we don’t have much leverage with the Iranians right now."

                                                President George W. Bush, December 20, 2004

In This Issue:

What Will Iran Do Next
Hopeful About North Korea
Missile Defense One Year Later
Katrina and FEMA
(Click on Link)

What Will Iran Do Next?

  As the year 2005 comes to a close, a careful review of the five ASDA Newsletters issued so far this year leads us to conclude that President Bush’s “quotable quote”  of a year ago is still valid. So there it is at the top of the page.

   The European Union and, specifically, Britain, France, and Germany, are still attempting to negotiate with Iran some arrangement that will assure the world that Tehran will not develop nuclear weapons. The Bush Administration still insists that it is not a party to these negotiations. On November 10, en route to the Middle East and Asia, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice differed with an article in the New York Times that reported that the US and its European allies had approved a new offer to Iran. “There is no US-European proposal to the Iranians. I want to say that categorically. There isn’t and there won’t be.” Just why it is important to keep the US out of these negotiations when it is widely acknowledged that the US is working closely with the Europeans is not very clear. The Times obviously doesn’t understand it either.

   The new development in the negotiations with the Iranian mullahs is that Russia has offered or proposed to have the uranium enrichment for Iran’s proposed nuclear reactors done in a Russian facility. If one can trust Russia to exert strict controls over the degree of enrichment, moving the process to Russia would allay the concerns over the Iranian nuclear program. Iran has insisted that it needs a peaceful nuclear power capability. The US and EU suspect that the Iranian government really wants to obtain a nuclear weapon capability. The opportunity to cheat lies in the enrichment process, as weapons-grade uranium must be much more highly enriched than is needed for nuclear power plant fuel. On November 18, only a week after Condoleezza Rice put distance between the US and the negotiations, Presidents Bush and Putin met in South Korea to discuss the Russian offer. The two leaders were there to attend the annual Asian economic summit. After discussing the issue, Bush gave his approval to the

  We mourn the passing of Sam Wilson, Pat Chipman and Lew Spencer.

Russian proposal. “We hope that over time Iran will see the virtue of this approach, and it may provide a way out,” Stephen Hadley, Bush’s national security advisor, told reporters.

   Meanwhile, in Vienna the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) issued a new report to its board on Iran’s relationship with the Abdul Qadeer Khan network in Pakistan. Khan had built the Pakistani nukes and peddled weapon materials and plans to Libya and other rogue states. The report was to be taken up at the board meeting on November 24 amid talk of referring Iran to the UN Security Council for sanctions. The next day, lawmakers in the Iranian parliament approved a bill requiring the government to kick the IAEA out of Iran if a referral should take place.

  According to one lawmaker, the bill says, “If Iran’s nuclear file is referred or reported to the UN Security Council, the government will be required to cancel all voluntary measures it has taken and implement all scientific research and executive programs to enable the rights of the nation under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.” In other words, stop allowing inspections and resume uranium enrichment. The bill has gone to the mullahs’ Guardian Council for ratification, which is expected.

   Of course, the confrontation never happened as the US and EU decided to give Russia more time to persuade Iran to give up control of the uranium enrichment process. Several new items hit the newspapers in late November. It seems that the Russian proposal had been made to Iran several months earlier and had been turned down. Also, China as well as Russia was backing the proposal. It was believed that their backing added to that of the US and its European allies would cause Iran to accept the proposal. On November 24, the day of the IAEA board meeting in Vienna, Russia formally proposed to Iran that it move its uranium enrichment facilities to Russian territory. In a note to the Iranian government, Russia’s Foreign Minister said that “an earlier Russian offer to Iran to establish a joint Russian-Iranian enrichment venture in Russia remains valid.” Iran responded initially by claiming not to have received the proposal. After several days, receipt was admitted. While noncommittal, Iran agreed to renew negotiations.

  Iranian diplomats met with their European counterparts in Vienna on December 21 to discuss the Russian proposal. The word to reporters was that there were no breakthroughs. The two sides agreed to meet again in January, same as last year. 

Hopeful About North Korea

 “I believe they have made the fundamental decision to give up nuclear weapons,” said Bill Richardson, New Mexico’s Democratic governor, upon his return from a visit to North Korea as an unofficial envoy of the Bush Administration.  Richardson told reporters that North Korea wants improved ties with the West although the angry fulminations of the state-controlled press makes that hard to believe. However, in the next round of six-nation talks in Beijing, expected to occur in January or February, the US intends to set up separate working panels to deal with specific issues, such as abandonment of North Korea’s nuclear capability, creation of a peace treaty to replace the cease-fire agreement that ended the Korean War, and economic assistance matters.

  Although no negotiations have taken place in the past two months, there has been quite a bit of diplomatic activity in connection with President Bush’s Asian trip. We learn from Bill Gertz of the Washington Times that Mongolia, a fledgling democracy, has developed close ties with North Korea over the years and is working quietly to encourage the beginnings of democracy in the isolated Stalinist state. President Bush and Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld have both visited Mongolia in the past few months. Surely, some discussion of Mongolia’s ability to influence Pyongyang must have  occurred. Kim Jong Il may be willing to listen to quiet suggestions from Nambaryn Enkhbayar, Mongolia’s president. He won’t listen to Alexander Vershbow, US ambassador to South Korea, who made the mistake of calling Pyongyang a “criminal regime” while citing alleged arms dealings, money laundering and counterfeiting. Since then, the North has repeatedly called on the South to expel Vershbow, calling him, yes, a “tyrant.”

 Missile Defense One Year Later

 One will never know to what extent the National Missile Defense System, which went operational a year ago, has influenced North Korea’s decision to give up its nuclear program. After all, it has been damned by faint praise by those who favor an all-out effort to make missile attack obsolete. But some positions are hard to understand. For instance, the November issue of the Marshall Institute News carries a headline: Funding for Missile Defense Threatened in Senate. The lead sentence of the article goes, “After a three-month delay, the Senate resumed debate on the $491.6 billion defense authorization bill, including a provision to cut missile defense funding and spend the money on arms control efforts, in early November.”  

  Oh, oh, you might say, here we go again. But wait! It turns out that the provision is an amendment that would cut $50 million from the proposed $7.8 billion budget for missile defense in 2006. That cut is less than one percent of the missile defense budget. I’m against any cuts in missile defense spending but this proposed cut hardly justifies a headline that missile defense funding is threatened.                 

   The Marshall Institute article does note that Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) called the missile defense program a “rush to failure” and cited a string of test failures as a strong rationale for the cut. Senator Wayne Allard (R-CO) properly pointed out that the so-called test failures were the result of faulty test equipment or other problems with the manufacturing of missile components, not the technology being tested. These glitches in the test program have generated a variety of reactions, of which one is worthy of attention. It comes from Dr. Arthur B. Robinson, an ASDA member, and is reprinted on page 5.   

Katrina and FEMA

  It has been about a year (January 2005) since the Senate confirmed Michael Chertoff  as Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), replacing Tom Ridge. The Senate seemed dumbfounded that Chertoff would give up a lifetime seat on the Federal bench to take that job. Looking back on 2005, Chertoff himself may be dumbfounded that he took that job.

  DHS was considered a “troubled agency” when Chertoff took over. It is widely considered even a worse failure as we enter 2006. Most of the blame is centered on the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which has been castigated for its inadequate response to Hurricane Katrina’s strike at New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. The mainstream media was full of horrific stories during September and October—people dead in the streets, rapes in the Superdome, gunbattles, firings on rescuers. We believed all this and the last ASDA Newsletter reported much of it. These incidents turned out not to be true. They were rumors repeated with gusto  by hysterical news reporters. A month later the New York Times reported that “the most alarming stories that coursed through the city appear to be little more than figments of frightened imaginations.” There weren’t any murders in the superdome. The Convention Center was a miserable place but the gang fights didn’t happen. Troops were sent when a deputy sheriff radioed he was under sniper fire. The shots turned out to be a popping relief valve on a gas tank.

  The worst of it was that the cascade of negative news drowned out the news of what went right. Former reporter Lou Dolinar, noting a Louisiana death toll of about 1,000 rather than the 10,000 or more Mayor Nagin had predicted for New Orleans alone, presented the “first responder” story in the National Review. We have excerpted the best part of his longer article and present it with permission on page 7.

  Katrina blame also extends to you and me. FEMA’s comprehensive plan tells local and state officials not to expect federal aid for 72 to 96 hours. Up to then, residents must fend for themselves or be aided by local resources including a disciplined police force to prevent looting and assault. After Katrina, survivors arrived at the Superdome and the Convention Center with no food or water despite advisories before the storm to lay in 72 hours worth. Governor Jeb Bush complained about Floridians who failed to evacuate or prepare with a week’s notice of Hurricane Wilma. “It isn’t that hard to get 72 hours worth of food and water, he said. Added Michael Chertoff, “The failure of people to accept responsibility for themselves has a cascading effect.” FEMA met its 72-96 hour deadline for the most part but the cascading effect of poor local preparedness and the saving of all those lives by first responders made the agency look like a fall guy.

  Secretary Chertoff issued a memorandum to all DHS employees on November 14, 2005, announcing organizational changes resulting from his review during his first year. He listed a substantial number of changes, details of which are in the DHS appropriations bill. Of interest to ASDA is to learn that the Federal Emergency Management Agency is to report directly to the Secretary.