AIR DEFENSE BALLISTIC MISSILE DEFENSE CIVIL DEFENSE
AMERICAN STRATEGIC DEFENSE ASSOCIATION
"I would hope that the Iranians would not take a unilateral decision to initiate any activities that now are currently suspended."
Mohamed ElBaradei, head of IAEA, May 1, 2005
In This Issue:
The surprising outcome of the Iranian presidential election has lent a feeling of crisis to the long-running standoff over the Iranian nuclear program. Of course, President Bush and his State Department had dismissed the election before it occurred as a rigged procedure because over a thousand proposed contestants were thrown off the ballot by the unelected mullahs who really run Iran. Yet, the upset nature of the election result has shaken up diplomats and UN bureaucrats alike.
Of the half-dozen candidates allowed on the ballot by the mullahs, the only one well known outside Iran was Hashemi Rafsanjani, a former two-term President and pillar of the Iranian political establishment. Rafsanjani led in the election in mid-June but did not receive a majority of the votes cast. He was forced into a runoff against the No. 2 vote-getter, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the mayor of Tehran. To everyone’s surprise, Ahmadinejad won in a landslide. He turns out to be a hardline Islamist who focused on domestic issues during his campaign and possibly won on those issues. So, even though the Bush administration warns that supreme mullah Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is still
in charge, there is much foreboding about this relatively unknown injected into the negotiations concerning the Iranian nuclear program.
For the international community, the most urgent issue is a permanent deal to ensure that Iran cannot use its peaceful energy program to develop a nuclear weapon, according to Robin Wright of the Washington Post. The Bush administration and a European team from Britain, France and Germany had hoped the new government would be powerful enough to wrap up negotiations this summer. The talks had stalled in part to await the outcome of the election. According to Wright, the tone of the next administration was reflected in a recent law passed by a parliamentary faction aligned with Ahmaninejad and in defiance of a temporary deal brokered last November suspending Iran’s uranium enrichment. Parliament ordered the government to resume the enrichment, the process that might be used to produce weapons-grade uranium.
Ahmadinejad also has criticized Iranian negotiators for being weak with the West. "Nuclear energy is a result of Iranian people’s scientific development," he said in his campaign. "This right of the Iranian people will soon be recognized by those who have so far denied it." Hadi Semati, an Iranian political scientist now at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, termed the Ahmadinejad victory "an earthquake." But he said, "The impact of this election will be felt more outside Iran than inside. Based on his statements during the campaign, he’s going to be a very tough partner for negotiations."
One could sense this concern in the statements from the European negotiators, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said, "I hope that under Mr. Ahmadinejad’s presidency, Iran will take early steps to address international concerns about its nuclear program and policies towards terrorism, human rights and the Middle East peace process." German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer Said the Europeans expect Iran to honor the terms of the temporary deal to halt uranium enrichment. A comment from the chief of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), UN watchdog over the Non-Proliferation Treaty, is this issue’s quotable quote.
What comes next? According to the Bush administration, nothing has really changed and Ayatollah Khamenei will continue to try to sneak his way to having nuclear weapons. His wiggle room is now constricted by the agreement between the US and the Europeans that failure to get a permanent cessation of enrichment will result in referral to the UN Security Council. The UN will likely impose sanctions on Iran and the goodies offered in the negotiations will be withdrawn.
The six-nation talks in Beijing on North Korea’s nuclear program ended on June 26 a full year ago with North Korea’s refusal to agree to a resumption of talks. The North has engaged in saber rattling (nuke rattling) as well as weekly messages suggesting a change of heart in its interchanges with South Korea, whose government policy is reuni-fication with the North. North Korea is so impoverished that the US joined South Korea, China, and Japan in sending in food for the starving population.
Underneath this humanitarian effort is now a much tougher line. In May, Stephen Hadley, Bush’s national security advisor, warned North Korea for the first time that a nuclear test would provoke "punitive action" by the US and "several Pacific powers." Hadley left unsaid what the punitive action might be but Shinzo Abe, secretary-general of Japan’s ruling party, the Liberal Democratic Party, stated that "if North Korea’s possession of nuclear weapons becomes definite" and North Korea "conducts nuclear testing, for instance, Japan will naturally bring the issue to the UN and call for sanctions."
North Korea has repeatedly declared that it would consider any UN sanctions to be an act of war. Exactly who the enemy might be (the UN?) has not been made clear nor is it obvious whether the North would respond militarily. The issue of whether to bring North Korea before the UN Security Council was discussed at an Asian security conference in Singapore the first week in June, which was attended by Secretary of Defense Donald H. Runsfeld. According to officials traveling with Runsfeld, the US was intent on deciding by the end of June what to do next about North Korea. One official said the Bush administration was seriously considering the idea of referring the matter to the Security Council.
South Korea has been against referring the North to the UN, arguing instead for more time to persuade North Korea to resume negotiations. A South Korean delegation was scheduled to visit Pyong-yang in the middle of June. The delegation was led by South Korean Unification Minister Chung Dong-young. They met with their opposite numbers in the North Korean Unification Ministry. Then, on Friday, June 17, Kim Jong Il himself showed up and told the astonished South Koreans his communist regime could rejoin the six-party nuclear talks as early as July "if the United States respects North Korea as a partner." The next day South Korean diplomats were fanning out to Washington, Beijing, Moscow and Tokyo looking for expressions of respect.
No agreement on resuming the six-nation talks has been announced as yet. Even if talks are resumed, it is questionable whether any progress will be made. Recent reports make clear that Kim’s motivation for possessing nuclear weapons is regime survival. The Bush administration has been unclear as to whether it intends regime change or only wants to change the behavior of the current regime. Past actions and policy statements can be interpreted both ways.
North Korea has shown itself to be far more durable than anyone expected despite economic collapse and famine. Negotiations cannot be based on the assumption that the current regime will collapse. It may be unpalatable, but the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula may depend on credible assurances from the US that the regime itself is not in danger.
On Tuesday, May 3, The Washington Post, one of America’s leading newspapers, announced in a Page One story that the US was unprepared for nuclear terrorism. Despite the fact that both George W. Bush and John Kerry said during their campaigns that a nuclear device in the hands of terrorists is the gravest danger facing the United States, our preparedness for dealing with a nuclear explosion is worse than in the 1950’s, as a visit to the official Department of Homeland Security website—www.ready.gov—will show. As Jane Orient says in her Civil Defense Perspectives newsletter, "It is as if billions of dollars of research on nuclear weapons effects and civil defense had never been done."
The Post article alleges that nearly four years after 9/11, "the US government has failed to adequately prepare first responders and the public for a nuclear strike, according to emergency preparedness and nuclear experts and federal reports." Among the federal reports cited are one by the White House’s Homeland Security Council (HSC) and one by the Energy Department’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA). Both reports spend a good deal of space describing the effects of a possible nuclear terrorist attack in the Washington, DC area. It is no surprise that they conclude that the radioactive fallout threat provides the opportunity to save lives if emergency operations are effective. Unfortunately, though not mentioned in the reports, the federal government is buying radiation detection equipment for first responders that will be useless.
This equipment can’t measure a dose-rate higher than 15 millirads per hour. It is worse than that. First responders apparently are being trained to establish a perimeter at a level of 2 millirads per hour, above which rescue efforts would be barred. This assures that no lifesaving will occur. Contrast this with the civil defense policies of the 1950s and 1960s in which the outer perimeter would be at 500 millirads per hour, with rescue efforts inwards to 50,000 millirads per hour.
The current guidance for citizens will be found at the official ready.gov. One example cited in the Post article is a graphic showing that someone a city block from a nuclear explosion could save his life by walking around the corner. "Ready.gov treats a nuclear weapon in this case as if it were a big truck bomb, which it is not," Ivan Oelrich of the Federation of American Scientists told the Post reporter. "There is no information in ready.gov that would help your chances of surviving a nuclear blast or the resulting mushroom cloud," he continued. On the other hand, nuclear survival is not a do-it-yourself thing for the most part.
The NNSA report issued in 2003 says that the government lacks rules and standards for sending first responders into fallout areas to save people. This would include standards for radiation exposure for first responders. But these rules and standards now seem to be in the grasp of the Environmental Protection Agency with supersensitive radiation meters and supersafe rules to match.
ASDAite Jane Orient, President of Physicians for Civil Defense, thinks she has the solution, an ingeneous radiation meter called NukAlert. The device is small and solid, suitable to put on your key ring. It is always on. If it sees enough gamma radiation, it will "chirp" every 30 seconds or so. One chirp indicates 100 millirads per hour (0.1 r/hr);two chirps, 200 millirads; three chirps, 400 millirads; on up to nine chirps at 25 rads per hour. The device goes off-chirp at about 50 r/hr, a little low but very much better than what the government is providing now. Jane Orient wants to give all first responders a NukAlert. Then, if we can get the rules to call for three chirps at the outer perimeter and nine chirps at the inner perimeter, we might save a lot of lives. For more details, go to the website—www.nukalert.com. The device costs $160 and the website says it qualifies for government funding through grants by the Office for Domestic Preparedness.
If you are interested in a strategic world view that ties the war on terror to everything else going on, try "The Pentagon’s New Map" by Thomas P. M. Barnett, Putnam 2004. It is a must-read in global-security quarters.
With permission, we reprint a short paper by Jeff Kueter, President of the George C. Marshall Institute, a good source of strategic defense information. IAEA to refer the matter to the UN Security Council, which could impose sanctions on Iran as it did Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.
Time for a Missile Defense