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, July 12, 2008

Quick Hits

There's been a boatload of news of late. Doubtless readers are acutely aware, but I like to (try) to keep a record. Also, a few of the items are interesting to look at together, rather than one-by-one as they dribble in. I think 1,4,8, and 9 are particularly interesting to put together.

So below I link the big stories, and a money quote...

  • BREAKING Amber Light 7/13/08 (Times)

President George W Bush has told the Israeli government that he may be prepared to approve a future military strike on Iranian nuclear facilities if negotiations with Tehran break down, according to a senior Pentagon official.

Despite the opposition of his own generals and widespread scepticism that America is ready to risk the military, political and economic consequences of an airborne strike on Iran, the president has given an “amber light” to an Israeli plan to attack Iran’s main nuclear sites with long-range bombing sorties, the official told The Sunday Times.

In other words, some members of the Democratic leadership—Congress has been under Democratic control since the 2006 elections—were willing, in secret, to go along with the Administration in expanding covert activities directed at Iran, while the Party’s presumptive candidate for President, Barack Obama, has said that he favors direct talks and diplomacy.

For what it's worth, I think it's charming that Hersh feels he needs to remind his readers that Congress has been under Democratic control for the past two years.

demands that the President initiate an international effort to immediately and dramatically increase the economic, political, and diplomatic pressure on Iran to verifiably suspend its nuclear enrichment activities by, inter alia, prohibiting the export to Iran of all refined petroleum products; imposing stringent inspection requirements on all persons, vehicles, ships, planes, trains, and cargo entering or departing Iran;

The official identified two "red lines" that could trigger an Israeli offensive. The first is tied to when Iran's Natanz nuclear facility produces enough highly enriched uranium to make a nuclear weapon... The second red line is connected to when Iran acquires the SA-20 air defense system it is buying from Russia.

[T]he difference between acquiring knowledge and having a bomb is at least five to ten years away. And that´s why I said the intelligence, the British, intelligence, the American intelligence, is saying that Iran is still years, five to ten years away from developing a weapon.

But the designs in Switzerland included ones for smaller, more sophisticated nuclear weapons than the one found in Libya. These would have been ideal for two of Khan’s other major customers, Iran and North Korea. They both faced struggles in building a nuclear warhead small enough to fit atop their ballistic missiles, and these designs were for a warhead that would fit.

  • Operation Merlin (2000) (EW)

If this does pertain to Iran, then the event that precipitated Doe's troubles with the CIA was his report, in 2000, that Iran wasn't pursuing a nuclear program, at precisely the same time as the CIA was having a Russian plant nuclear blueprints with Iran.

  • Israeli exercises (~6/1/08) (NYT)

Israel carried out a major military exercise earlier this month that American officials say appeared to be a rehearsal for a potential bombing attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities.

  • Admiral Mullen Waves Israel Off (7/1/08) (Haaretz, ACW)

Cordesman said Mullen came to Israel to deliver a message – that Israel did not have a green light to attack Iran and that it would not receive U.S. support for such a move.

According to Cordesman, Mullen was expressing the official opinion of the U.S. administration, including that of President George W. Bush and the National Security Council.

Iran has test fired a long-range Shahab-3 missile following warnings from Tehran that it would retaliate against any strike against its nuclear facilities by Israel or the United States.


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