January-February  2006

P.O. Box 190, Mount Holly, Virginia 2252
Volume 36, Number 1, Jerry Strope, Editor

"We want to prevent the production of Iranian nuclear weapons, and we must. Iranís nuclear program prompts the justified suspicion, the justified concern, the justified fear that its goal is not the peaceful utilization of nuclear energy, but that military consider-ations are also in play."

German Chancellor Angela Merkel Feb. 10, 2006

In This Issue:


Is Iran For Real?

The mass media discovered the Iran threat last month. After years of displaying only passing interest, Iranís nuclear program became Page One news. "How Dangerous is Iran?" screamed the cover of Newsweek. "Going Nuclear!" echoed U.S. News and World Report. Op-ed pages filled with commentary like Frank Gaffneyís "Four steps the U.S. should take now against Iran." Fareed Zakaria did a full page on "Time to Face Reality on Iran." World leaders, such as the new German Chancellor in our "quotable quote" this issue, took strong positions on the Iranian nuclear program.

The change in treatment by the media was matched by changes in the diplomatic pace. As the new year began, Iran was up to its usual delaying tactics. The government announced it planned to restart its nuclear "research," a code word for enrichment of uranium. A high-level meeting was scheduled in Vienna on January 5 at which Iran was to explain to the IAEA details of its formal decision. Without warning, Iran abuptly cancelled the meeting without explan-ation. A few days later, Iran invited the IAEA inspectors to watch while wire cutters were used to remove UN seals from the equipment at the uranium en-richment plant at Natanz. On January 12, the foreign ministers of Britain, France and Germany called for Iran to be referred to the UN Security Council for violating its obligations under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. They said more than two years of negotiations with Iran reached a dead end on January 8 when the Iranians resumed uranium enrichment activities. They called for an emergency meeting of the IAEA board to act on the matter.

Iran immediately threatened to block any inspections if the matter was referred to the Security Council and attempted to continue its dilatory tactics by seeming to accept a Russian offer to jointly accomplish the uranium enrichment on Russian soil where presumably enrichment could be monitored and limited to creating reactor fuel. On January 26, Ali Larijani, Iranís top nuclear negotiator, announced that the Russian propsal needed more work before it would be acceptable. The tactic didnít work. On January 30, both China and Russia signed on to a statement that called on the IAEA to transfer the Iran matter to the Security Council. Previously, China and Russia had been on Iranís side but they had had enough. As part of the bargain, the five permanent members of the Security Council, each of which has veto power, agreed that the IAEA should wait until March to make the referral, along with a formal report. This delay would leave a little room for continued negotiation on the Russian proposal. All this was agreed to by the IAEA board at an emergency meeting on February 2.

The 27 to 3 vote to bring Iran before the Security Council was a diplomatic victory for the United States amid growing international frustration at Iran, which insists on enriching uranium while exhibiting an obvious intent to build nuclear weapons. China and Russia may have been persuaded by the recent discovery in Iran of a set of blueprints that show how to mold enriched uranium into nuclear weapon cores. IAEA director Mohamed ElBaradei said the blueprints were clearly "related to the fabrication of nuclear weapon components." Iranís recently elected president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, said the Security Council was infringing on his countryís right to develop peaceful nuclear power and told the IAEA to remove all seals and surveillance cameras from Iranian soil. "You can issue as many resolutions as you like and have fun with it," said Ahmadinejad, "but you cannot prevent Iranís progress."

How did all this come about? Most observers point to the behavior of President Ahmadinejad as what got the world "serious at last." According to the New York Daily News, "Showdown, Iran wanted. Showdown, Iranís got." In her newsletter, Civil Defense Perspectives ASDAite Jane Orient says, "Last fall, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadin-ejadís speech calling for Israel to be wiped off the face of the earth got a lot of international media coverage. Less noted was his question: ĎIs it possible for us to witness a world without America and Zionism?í And his answer: ĎBut you had best know that this slogan and goal are attainable.í Iranís strategic war preparation plan is said to call for the Ďdestruction of Anglo-Saxon civilization.í According to its chief architect, Hassan Abbasi, it involves making use of Ďeverything we have to strike at this front by means of our suicide operations or by means of our missiles.í He claims to have spied on 29 sensitive sites in the United States and the West and to know how to attack them."

The UNís get-tough stance will soon dissolve, wrote Valerie Lincy and Gary Milhollin in the New York Times. Russia and China plan to reintroduce a proposal that Iran shift its uranium enrichment program to Russia so it can be monitored. Iran rejected this idea last month, but now may change its mind. Acceptance would "shatter the coalition of states" against Iran. Not necessarily, according to a column in the Washington Post by Levine, Turkeltaub and Gorbansky. Itís a myth that Russians are only pretending to oppose Iranís nuclear program. Despite historical and economic ties to Iran, the last thing Russia wants is a nuclear-armed Tehran backing Muslim fundamentalists in central Asia. If Russiaís efforts to find a face-saving compromise fail, it is "unlikely to support Iran to the bitter end." Iran is still a hot topic in the media.

If all diplomacy fails, will Israel attack Iranian nuclear sites rather than permit Iran to go nuclear? We offer the view of Michael Karpin, a veteran Israeli reporter and author of the new book, The Bomb in the Basement, in the attached commentary, which is reprinted from the March issue of The American Enterprise.

The UN Security Council is scheduled to meet March 6 when IAEA chief ElBaradei will give a report on the Iran matter. After Iranís action to remove the IAEAís surveillance equipment, we more or less know what he has to report.

More on Katrina

Six months after Hurricane Katrina laid waste to the Gulf coast and flooded New Orleans, much of the destroyed area remains destroyed and there is little agreement about what to do about it. In New Orleans, a cut-back Mardi Gras festival was staged but it couldnít hide the fact that less than half the cityís population has returned. In Washington, hearings have been held and reports are being issued on the response to the hurricane. By and large, these hearings and reports conclude that the response at all levels of government was slow and inadequate.

While the media focused on government failures, the fact remains that one of the largest rescue operations on record apparently saved more than 50,000 lives by boat and helicopter. The Coast Guard claimed more than 24,000 rescues. Local first responders launched 100 to 200 boats within the first 24 hours after landfall. The National Guard, Wildlife and Fisheries and many others worked heroically and without press or central command and control. Perhaps some of the ensuing difficulties emerged because of the extraordinary rescue effort. This vital success was largely ignored in the hearings and reports.

There were hearings in both House and Senate. Additionally, the Homeland Security Advisor did an evaluation for the Bush Administration. The media described the congressional probes as "harsh criticism" of the administration and the administration evaluation as a "whitewash." Actually, the Homeland Security evaluation was so larded with bureaucratese that it was hard to determine what it was trying to say. Entitled, "The Federal Response to Hurricane Katrina: Lessons Learned," the report claims to present 17 lessons learned, 125 specific recommendations to the president and 11 critical actions to be completed before the first day of the next hurricane seasonóabout three months from now. Critical action number 10, for example, is "Improve the delivery of assistance to disaster victims by streamlining registration, expediting eligibility decisions, tracking movements of displaced victims, and incorporating safeguards against fraud." I sure hope that FEMA gets that done before the next hurricane!

The House investigation and report was an all-Republican effort led by Tom Davis (R-VA). Careful reading of the report finds "Mandatory evacuations ordered in Alabama and Mississippi and for the general population in Louisiana went relatively well." The governor and mayor delayed mandatory evacuation of New Orleans until 19 hours before landfall. This investigation concluded that this "led to preventable deaths, great suffering and further delays in relief." One more thoughtful conclusion is: FEMAís "contract staffing was inadequate given the size of the disaster. At least 1000 FEMA workers set to arrive in New Orleans on Aug. 31 were turned away because of security concerns." This latter finding was echoed by "As the lead relief agency, the Red Cross was aware of crowding at the Superdome but was unable to staff that and other locally operated shelters because its workers were denied access." Who was denying access was not determined.

The Senate hearing turned into a "who struck John" exchange between Michael Brown, FEMA chief at the time of disaster, and his boss, Michael Chertoff, Secretary of Homeland Security. Brown testified he communicated directly with the White House staff because he had learned that information sent to Chertoff never went anywhere. Chertoff said his big mistake was trusting Brown but his defense was compromised when it was noted he attended a conference on bird flu while New Orleans was flooding.

Knight Ridder conducted some interviews with the following results:

Asdaite Gen. Julius Becton, FEMA director under President Reagan: "Iím more prone to believe Brown. When you make the director of FEMA have to report to several layers before you get to the guy in charge, thatís not good business."

James Lee Witt, FEMA director under President Clinton: "I believe Brown. Look what he tried to warn them of, and nobody listened. I donít think DHS is ready to be in that coordinating role."

Beverly Cigler, co-chair of a Katrina task force of public administration professionals: I donít think Chertoff knew he had a National Response Plan, and if he did, he didnít know what was in it or how to use it."

For more, see the attached Pigeon commentary.

Radiation Hazards Guidance

. The DHS has issued new guidance for comment intended for use in terrorist incidents involving radiological dispersal devices (RDD or dirty bombs) and improvised nuclear devices (IND or the real thing.) The comment period is over but Asdaite Jane Orient got comments in on behalf of Physicians for Civil Defense (PCD) that reflect our views. PCD comments are posted on The guidance is still based on EPAís nonobservable "projected action dose" and the discredited linear no-theshold hypothesis. By decreeing 5 rem as the maximum that an emergency worker can receive, the guidance "could significantly increase casualties among people who could otherwise be rescued." Additionally, Jane points out such inappropriate criteria does more harm than good: "The dangers of panic, the shutdown of essential services, disruption of the economy and social arrangements could vastly outweigh the supposed dangers of an increased exposure to radiation, particularly in the event of use of an RDD.