Nuclear Mangos

This blog is intended to provide reliable technical analysis of nuclear issues with non-state actors and nuclear beginner states. Some technical issues have important policy implications that citizens in a democracy should be able to make informed decisions about. The motivation for the blog has been the incredible amount of lies & hyperbole on the Iran situation of early 2006. The blog title is to remind you constantly of the quality of minds in charge of our nuclear security today.

Location: MA

Until recently I was a physics professor at Harvard, where I taught the nuclear and particle physics course, among others. I've recently left that position to work as an R&D physicist in security applications. I have never done classified weapons work.

Saturday, February 24, 2007


The UK Telegraph has an article today entitled "American Armada Prepares to Take on Iran". (There are also a nice collection of related links at the top of the article) I'm a little ambivalent whether the reporting justifies the headline:

The quiet-spoken Capt Cloyd embraced the suggestion that the dual deployment is at the forefront of efforts to stop Iran getting a nuclear bomb, pointing out that his maritime assets have been tasked to quash any challenge to global security.

Being "tasked to quash a challenge to global security", to me, is a pretty anodyne statement. Similarly,

Vice Admiral Patrick Walsh, the commander of the Fifth Fleet, issued a stark warning that Iran risks triggering an "accidental war" during aggressive military maneuvres.

During the Great Prophet 2 missile test in November, the Islamic Republic fired a Shabab missile into the six mile corridor of shipping lanes in the Straits of Hormuz. In such a constricted corridor, the results could have been disastrous.

With Teheran's real strategic intentions unclear, the US takes the threats it has made very seriously.

"They threaten to use oil as a weapon. They threaten to close the Strait of Hormuz," Adml Walsh said.

"And so it is the combination of the rhetoric, the tone, and the aggressive exercises in very constrained waters that gives us concern."

US commanders ascribe the increase in instability to increasingly aggressive actions by Teheran. For that reason the deployment of the carriers in the region is designed to intensify the pressure on Iran to step back from the brink.

"In the past year and a half it [Iran] has become much more strident, more vocal and in your face," said Walsh. "What concerns me is miscalculation."

Again, the statement "the deployment of the carriers in the region is designed to intensify the pressure on Iran to step back from the brink" is unattributed; sourced comments all seem to stop well short of saying they are arrayed explicitly against Iran.

On the other hand, they do seem to be pushing the accident/miscalculation angle hard, don't they? Let me finish your sentence for you, Admiral: "and that's a risk we've decided to accept." Do you care to explain to us why you've decided to accept that risk? What do we need so badly that we'll run this risk?

Because one might be tempted to think that, if the odds of miscalculation are so high with our navy there, it might be in our national interest to move it.


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