Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
January 18, 2012

Nov 19 2011 - Barak: Iran less than a year away from producing nuclear weapon

Iran is less than a year away from being unstoppable in its goal of producing a nuclear weapon, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said in an interview with CNN released on Saturday.

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Jan 18 2012 - Barak: Israel 'very far off' from decision on Iran attack

Defense Minister Ehud Barak said on Wednesday that Israel was "very far off" from a decision about an attack on Iran over its nuclear program.
...
The intelligence assessment Israeli officials will present later this week to Dempsey indicates that Iran has not yet decided whether to make a nuclear bomb.

I have yet to understand what has led to this change of mind. Any ideas?

Posted by b on January 18, 2012 at 18:05 UTC | Permalink

Comments

The peaceful revolution of the good people of the Al-Muslim Qaeda-Brotherhood in Syria has not advanced far enough.

Posted by: k_w | Jan 18 2012 18:24 utc | 1

"You see it repeated in the systems of slavery, of welfare states, of caste-ridden religions, of socializing bureaucracies-in any system which creates and maintains dependencies. Too long a parasite and you cannot exist without a host."
Frank Herbert, God Emperor of Dune

Posted by: Uncle $cam | Jan 18 2012 18:30 utc | 2

I have yet to understand what has led to this change of mind. Any ideas?

Well it could be a form of double bluff, read somewhere that when Israel is making noises/threats its normal, but when they go silent is when you have to worry. Maybe they guess that Iran would really get freaked out if Israel started saying "its a long way off and we are not going to attack".

Could likely be as K_W said, that their Syria project is stalling and they want to wait until Syria falls before gunning for Iran, in which case the "less than 1 year" deadline made in November seems a bit premature, after all it took NATO 7 months of intervention before Gaddaffi died. Syria with a better army and larger population and more support for Assad would take longer than the deadline. Could also be that they were shocked by the US hanging them out to dry on the Scientists murder in Tehran and are taking a concillitory route before General Dempsey arrives in Israel.

Or it could be that Israeli political leaders are full of sh*t.

Posted by: Colm O' Toole | Jan 18 2012 19:27 utc | 3

Well done, b.

Posted by: jawbone | Jan 18 2012 20:41 utc | 4

why is the post partly shadowed? a form of German humor? a secret message? am I missing something?

Posted by: claudio | Jan 18 2012 21:51 utc | 5

also, the page has no title

Posted by: claudio | Jan 18 2012 21:52 utc | 6

why is the post partly shadowed? a form of German humor? a secret message? am I missing something?

claudio, it's in support of the black out protest of sopa and pipa...

Posted by: Uncle $cam | Jan 18 2012 22:21 utc | 7

Nov 19 2011 - Barak: Iran less than a year away from producing nuclear weapon

Iran is less than a year away from being unstoppable in its goal of producing a nuclear weapon, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said in an interview with CNN released on Saturday.

---

Jan 18 2012 - Barak: Israel 'very far off' from decision on Iran attack

Defense Minister Ehud Barak said on Wednesday that Israel was "very far off" from a decision about an attack on Iran over its nuclear program.
...
The intelligence assessment Israeli officials will present later this week to Dempsey indicates that Iran has not yet decided whether to make a nuclear bomb.

I have yet to understand what has led to this change of mind. Any ideas?

Posted by: Uncle $cam | Jan 18 2012 22:27 utc | 8

Iran is less than a year away from being unstoppable in its goal of producing a nuclear weapon...

Dramatic, but vague. Could mean that they are less than a year from hardening their enrichment operation, and could, IF THEY WISHED TO, use these hardened facilities to start the bomb-making process.

Dual-use sucks! I have fierce allergies, but I can no longer buy Sudafed (pseudo-effedrine) because somebody might want to cook up a batch of crystal methamphetamine with it. DANGER! DANGER!

Posted by: Dr. Wellington Yueh | Jan 18 2012 23:01 utc | 9

thanks, Uncle $cam

Posted by: claudio | Jan 18 2012 23:34 utc | 10

Addendum

I was in a hurry when posting their link above, what ABC and most ALL main stream media leaves out is that they themselves support the legislation and conveniently forget to explain about how these bills will allow ANYONE who complains to take down or just destroy any site that they want WITHOUT any due process or proving their claims, no over-site no objection process, no readdress. Sound familiar?

Read alienth's blog post on why these acts are bad for business...

via...

Posted by: Uncle $cam | Jan 19 2012 1:01 utc | 11

Ars Technica has a good round-up. Top article at the moment says senators are running for the exits! Did someone turn up the heat? (rhetorica question, of course!)

BTW, Uncle, didn't Herbert postulate that Leto's program of hydraulic despotism would take about 4,000 years to work?

Posted by: Dr. Wellington Yueh | Jan 19 2012 1:21 utc | 12

b,
In your opinion, how long it would take Iran to build one deliverable bomb if they decided to do so as fast as possible? Assuming (hypothetically) there was no intervention to stop them.

Because I'm thinking that Iran has already passed the so called "point of no return" and no one wants to admit it. The Iranians are enriching to 20% for medical isotopes in an underground fortress. How easy is it to bomb? Once Iran has a substantial amount of 20% enriched uranium, how long would it take to go all they way to 90% if they wanted to? I know there are other factors such as a detonator and how to fit a bomb onto a missile. But I imagine those are all problems well within Iran's capability to solve.

None of this is to suggest Iran intends to build a nuke. Only that events might have already overtaken the anti-Iran rhetoric. If it has, the last thing the west would want to do is openly admit that Iran can build a bomb if it wanted to and there really isn't much they can do about it.

Posted by: Lysander | Jan 19 2012 1:48 utc | 13

Nice redaction b, hope the protests across the web have a real impact. Time will tell.

I see Obama has, for the short term, rejected the building of the pipeline from Canada to the Gulf. This is an election year, so, we'll see down the road if the ban holds.

Posted by: ben | Jan 19 2012 2:04 utc | 14

Obama is not revealing any sincerity or offering an indication of his convictions with this tactical decision. It's about holding on to power, if he can. He likes to remain a political cipher until the last possible moment. This XL candle-snuffer of the environment doesn't terrify him in the least.

I don't think much has changed in the mindset of the ruling US elite. Kurt Vonnegut, Jr wrote in "A Man Without a Country" (2007) about urgent consultations that prominent scientists undertook with the Bush Junior administration, when the Bushies were mulling the use of a new generation of mini-nukes, the "tactical type". Scientists were trying to convince them that even the most modest nuclear exchange would have awful and irreversible effects upon human life in this world. But Vonnegut wrote that the policy folks were happy to put the science aside, and were operating "on guesswork" strictly. It was their best guess that the worst would not come to pass.

Posted by: Copeland | Jan 19 2012 4:20 utc | 15

@13 Lysander--

There is so much wrong with the entire Iran-bomb-building scenerio that one does not know where to begin. Just a few points:

Enriching uranium is not so much hard as it is intensive and tedious. You need good technicians and good industrial plant, but it is in no way high tech. It was all doable and done in the first half of the twentieth century, and not just by the US. BUT . . .

Enriching uranium is tedious and very energy intensive. Modern centrifuges are a real improvement over gaseous diffusion but still do not change the basic situation. And enriching from 20% to 90% is much more tedious and intensive than enriching to 20%. This is why no one takes this approach to building bombs: Creating plutonium is much easier and cheaper. The US built the uranium bomb--the gun-triggered Little Boy--in 1945 because at the time nobody was sure that the more intricate implosion-trigger required for a plutonium bomb would work. By the summer of 1945 the US knew that the implosion-trigger would indeed work (that is what the Los Alamos "Trinity" test was about--the uranium bomb was never tested before deployment, and didn't need to be), and never looked back. Neither did anyone else. This is one reason why all this talk about uranium bombs is so absurd: Plutonium made uranium obsolete for fission bombs over sixty (60) years ago.

How long would it take for the Iranians to utilize uranium in a bomb? (Assuming that they, unlike everyone else, would want to!) Well, if people are right brandishing enrichments of 20% by this date, it will take them several times longer to reach bomb-grade uranium than they have already spent.

Did I mention plutonium is faster and cheaper? Did I mention that it allows higher production rates? (It does.) When the Iranians start working with plutonium then you will be able wonder if a bomb is immanent. Until then, it either lies far in the future, or not at all.

--Gaianne

Posted by: Gaianne | Jan 19 2012 4:33 utc | 16

Xymphora's latest post includes a link to a CFR article penned by that shit-for-brains crank, Abrams, about Iran's "provocaations" of a US Navy vessel in Hormuz Strait (Iranian territorial waters).

Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Jan 19 2012 5:37 utc | 17

Very amazing analysis of Iran and the rest of the world ...

The myth of an "isolated' Iran
By Pepe Escobar
http://atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/NA19Ak03.html

Sinking the Petrodollar in the Persian Gulf ...

Posted by: Kim Sky | Jan 19 2012 5:52 utc | 18

Kim Sky,

I particularly like the way Pepe Escobar presents this ongoing conflict between the US and Iran on a global stage with oil and banking being at the center of it. He emphasizes, and rightfully so, that the US's primary purpose for imposing sanctions on Iran is to destroy Iran's Central bank. Only seven countries in the world had a Central Bank that could not be considered "privately owned." Three of them were Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya. This has since been "corrected." One of the first moves by the Libyan Rebels was to privatize their country's Central Bank. Others on the list are Iran (the only other oil exporting country on said list), Sudan, Cuba and North Korea.

Keep in mind that Iran and China are already using their own currencies for commerce. China and Japan just made a similar agreement to bypass the dollar. Russia is doing the same with its energy sales. Other Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) members will also begin to bypass the dollar this year. And Chavez's Bank of the South and South America's trade bloc will soon do the same. OPEC will soon require oil purchases be made with a basket of currencies.

And even though OPEC is looking to adopt a basket of currencies that'll include the dollar, that's not enough to keep the dollar on top. This move by OPEC will eventually spell the end of the Petrodollar and Dollar Hegemony. How long it'll take for the dollar to fall from power is unknown. But as fewer countries buy US debt and reject the dollar for commerce, at some point US interest rates must rise for it to get buyers for its debt--even if it's just the FED, as has increasingly been the case at Treasury Auctions. Rising rates coupled with deflating wages will mark the beginning of the end of the American Empire.

It's also safe to say that Japan isn't going to wean itself off of Iranian oil any time soon given the dire straits it's in energy-wise after Fukushima. India has also stated it will continue to purchase Iranian crude, too. And if the EU wishes to self-destruct, it can attempt to embargo Iranian oil and witness many of its members fleeing. I would say that the US Empire is very close to being checkmated by China and its burgeoning Empire but doesn't know it yet.

This is the real reason why the US and Israel have been waging a covert war against Iran for years, and why they are ramping up sanctions on Iran, which represent a de-facto act of war. They are doing this to prevent the Iranians from expanding their oil market (that is not priced in US dollars). From the US-Israeli perspective, the dollar must remain the only currency in the international petroleum market. If the USD ceases to be the reserve currency, the American Empire is finished. Unless Iran cooperates with banking, finance and oil markets, it'll be bombed backed into the Stone Age.

In the meantime, the US will continue to use reckless and desperate military aggression to prop up the last vestiges of the dollar system. And if history is any guide, which it usually is, Israel will launch a false flag attack against a US warship (disguised as the Iranians) and the US is presented with an excuse for war on a silver platter. I hope this doesn't trigger a third world war. My hope is that cooler heads will prevail and soon everything will calm down. But whatever hope I do have is being dashed by the mere fact that the bloodthirsty oligarchs have an incredible knack for creating widespread death and destruction without getting a single drop of blood under their fingernails.

Posted by: Cynthia | Jan 19 2012 14:29 utc | 19

Gainne, isn't Plutonium obtained from Uranium refinement?

Imagine how easy it is to get anything to a state of 20% purity and then to redouble your efforts 3 more times. Each redoubling is at least twice as hard as the first. Finally, we say "90%" though I think it is more like 95%--twice as pure as 90%

Posted by: scottindallas | Jan 19 2012 14:32 utc | 20

To answer the question, why the change in Barak's public pronouncements; I say that there was a better opportunity to sell war with Iran a year ago than today. That said, I think many Neo-con hardliners see the opportunity (for attack) window closing. The Penatagon wasn't so negative war with Iran prospects a year ago. We heard some dissent for going to war from the top brass, but those voices have only grown. The Neo-cons have ratcheted up the pressure, but again, this is them pressing hard to beat the slamming door. Meir Dagan's condemnation of the prospects of an attack on Iran have come out in that time window as well. So, what we see is a real rift. I believe the top brass in Israel is less than sanguine about the prospects of an attack on Iran, though that doesn't stop the Bibis and Liberman's from advocating for war. It's like getting a big gov't grant for some project that a city or state are less enthusiastic about. The lawmakers have a hard time passing on free grant money, so they'll often pass laws they don't fully support, for the free money.

If the US is willing to back-up an Israeli attack, that is free money for Israel. The hardliners will take whatever (temporary) set back it might cause the Iran, even if it doesn't destroy their program or aspirations.

Posted by: scottindallas | Jan 19 2012 14:56 utc | 21

Cynthia @ 19: Very thoughtful, great post! I think the oligarchs that drive this thing "Globalization" are diversified enough to withstand any change in the dollars hegemony,but, I'm with you in hoping the coming change doesn't cause WWIII. These people will stop at nothing to implement their lust for power and control globally.

Posted by: ben | Jan 19 2012 15:24 utc | 22

December 2, 1942 was the first man-made sustained nuclear reaction (ie, it 'went critical'). This proved that a bomb was possible. In two and a half years, with 1940's tech, a country was able to prototype, design, build and detonate at three nukes (Trinity, Hiroshima, and Nagasaki). I can also remember, about a quarter century ago, a few high-school students designing atomic bombs for their science projects, with prompt TOP SECRET labels applied by the gov at the time. Also, it wasn't that long ago that Iran was being accused of being ten years away from bomb-building.

WAR IS PEACE.

Posted by: no6ody | Jan 19 2012 17:53 utc | 23

It may very well be that Israel has other fish to fry in the immediate future, before getting back to Iran: a surprise attack on Egypt, to take the Sinai with its rich natural gas and mineral resources while Egypt's military and political leadership are weak and in disarray. I think all the current noise about Iran, Syria and Gaza is misdirection. Israel is mobilizing on the Gaza border, which happens to be where the Egyptian border is. For the first time in 13 years, Israel is holding paratrooper exercises. It is receiving more and more powerful weapons from the US than ever before, and explaining this build-up by vastly, to a ridiculous extent, exaggerating Hamas' military capabilities.

Posted by: Ines | Jan 19 2012 19:00 utc | 24

@23 - check out Operation Merlin

Posted by: Proton Soup | Jan 20 2012 1:23 utc | 25

Kim Sky,

An excellent article, thanks.

Posted by: sleepy | Jan 20 2012 12:24 utc | 26

@ 20--scottindallas

"Gainne, isn't Plutonium obtained from Uranium refinement?"

No. It goes like this: Once you have refined the uranium to a sufficiently high percentage of U-235 to get fission in a nuclear reactor (which is far below the purity you need for a uranium bomb) you build a power or weapons reactor. There is no fundamental difference between a power reactor and a weapons reactor--both produce power and both produce plutonium (as a waste product or by-product formed when neutrons react with U-238), it is only a matter of emphasis. You take the spent fuel from the reactor and separate out the plutonium--This is a chemical process and is technically very easy though environmentally horrible. The plutonium is converted by another chemical (technically easy) process into the pure metal and you have the material for your bomb.

This is the approach that every nuclear and would-be nuclear power has taken since 1945.

"Imagine how easy it is to get anything to a state of 20% purity and then to redouble your efforts 3 more times."

No: It gets harder and harder. That is why you would never do it this way. It's not impossible, just hard, and absurd when you have easy alternatives.

Which brings me back to my original point: Whatever the Iranians may be doing, the US-fabricated story that they are building a (uranium) nuclear bomb is utterly absurd on its face.

The fact that the US cannot come up with a better excuse for attacking Iran tells you all you really need to know.

--Gaianne

Posted by: Gaianne | Jan 20 2012 20:52 utc | 27

@Gainne: It is much harder to go from <1% to 20% than it is to go from 20% to 90%. The reason is because you need to remove a lot less material the more it is enriched. ACW has a good explanation of this in lay terms.

I also wouldn't underestimate the difficulty in reprocessing plutonium. It's not something you can do in your basement. It's not off-the-shelf technology. That doesn't mean it's impossible... but it's not quite as easy as you make it sound. It requires the marshaling of significant scientific and technological resources to put together a reprocessing plant.

If you can enrich to 20%, you can probably enrich to 90%. We know that the types of centrifuges the Iranians have can be used to enrich to weapons-grade HEU. That doesn't mean that Iran is doing that. But let's not obscure this technical reality.

"This is the approach that every nuclear and would-be nuclear power has taken since 1945."

China, Pakistan, and South Africa all developed HEU bombs first, before developing Pu bombs (excepting South Africa, which never developed a Pu cycle, for a variety of reasons). The US developed the HEU and Pu routes concurrently. There's no reason to suspect that Pu would be the first choice, historically, and certainly even less reason in the age of the gas centrifuge. Centrifuges reduce all of the difficulties of an HEU route considerably.

Posted by: RD | Jan 20 2012 23:31 utc | 28

@ 28 RD--

The ACW site is wrong to imply that centrifuging is a matter of removing the unwanted atoms in a subtractive process. They further imply that the final stages involve removing just a few unwanted atoms and is therefore easy. Both implications are false. Both implications are misleading.

Separation is not a subtractive process but a multiplicative one.

If it takes a certain amount of work to go from 10% to 20%, then how much work does it take to go from 10% to 90%? That is, if it takes a certain amount of work to go from and impurity of 90% to an impurity of 80%, how much work does it take to go from an impurity of 90% to an impurity of 10%? The ACW article looks at the question subtractively: It imagines you are removing 10% of the unwanted material each time, and that would be eight times more work.

But centrifuges don't work like that. When two materials weigh nearly the same--as is the case with U-235 and U-238--the heavier material is not all at the bottom and the lighter material is not all at the top. Separation is imperfect. What you are really doing is altering the proportion of light material in the upper versus lower part of the centrifuge.

Proportion demands a multiplicative approach. It looks like this: To go from 90% impurity to 80% impurity is a factor of 0.8889. (90% x 0.8889 = 80%) To go from 90% impurity to 10% impurity is a factor of 0.1067-- 90% x 0.1067 = 9.6% where 0.1067 is 0.8889 to the 19th power. So rather than thinking it is eight times more work, we see it is really 19 times more work.

Of course, I am not arguing it is impossible. Just that using plutonium is easier. How easy? Well, you warn us not to try it in your basement--agreed! Bad for your health and bad for public safety! But uranium is not much easier to work with than plutonium, and the way they did it at Los Alamos was to build their own chemistry equipment and work with it inside glove boxes and isolation equipment. A separation plant in their equivalent of a well-stocked basement, as it were.

--Gaianne

Posted by: Gaianne | Jan 23 2012 4:56 utc | 29

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