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Daily Briefing: SPECIAL ISSUE NUCLEAR WARFARE: SOUNDING THE ALARM (February 18,2021)

Table of Contents:

Iran’s Nuclear Program: How Close Is Tehran to Developing Nuclear Weapons?: Sune Engel Rasmussen and Laurence Norman, WSJ, Feb. 10, 2021

“That crossed a red line previously set by European powers that are still party to the accord.”
 
Iran has in recent months repeatedly violated the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, reducing the time it would need to produce a nuclear weapon. The violations, a response to U.S. sanctions imposed after former President Donald Trump withdrew the U.S. from the pact in 2018, have put at risk the survival of an agreement that helped remove sanctions on Iran and open it to business with the West.
 
The latest development was revealed on Feb. 10 when the International Atomic Energy Agency told member states in a confidential report that Iran had begun producing uranium metal, a material vital for nuclear weapons. Iran had told the agency in mid-December that it planned to produce uranium metal, but that production would require four to five months to install the equipment to produce the powder from which uranium metal is made. Iran has said it would produce uranium metal for civilian purposes, though the uranium metal produced this month might not be related to this work.

The Case Against the Iran Deal: Michael Oren and Yossi Klein Halevi, The Atlantic, Jan. 21, 2021

“Why, then, aren’t Israelis and Arabs—those with the most to lose from Iranian nuclearization—also demanding a return to the JCPOA?”
 
Proponents of the Iran nuclear agreement are sounding the alarm. In 2018, the United States withdrew from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, and since then, Iran has increased the quality and quantity of its uranium enrichment well beyond what the deal allows. Recently, it has even begun enriching uranium to 20 percent, a short distance away from weapons-grade. Iran, JCPOA advocates say, is closer today to producing a bomb than it was in 2015, when the deal was concluded. Only the deal’s renewal, they insist, can prevent the nightmare of a nuclear Iran.
 
“Five years ago, American-led diplomacy produced a deal that ensured it would take Iran at least a year to produce enough fissile material for one bomb,” Joe Biden wrote in September. “Now—because Trump let Iran off the hook from its obligations under the nuclear deal—Tehran’s ‘breakout time’ is down to just a few months.” More recently, he warned that if Iran gets the bomb, then Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Egypt will follow.


Make No Mistake: China Would Destroy U.S. Cities In A Nuclear War: Lyle J. Goldstein, The National Interest, Dec. 30, 2021

“That makes the North Korean “threat” look fairly insignificant by comparison, doesn’t it?”
 
When one reads enough Chinese naval literature, diagrams of multi-axial cruise missile saturation attacks against aircraft carrier groups may begin to seem normal. However, one particular graphic from the October 2015 issue (p. 32) of the naval journal Naval & Merchant Ships [舰船知识] stands out as both unusual and singularly disturbing. It purports to map the impact of a Chinese intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) strike by twenty nuclear-armed rockets against the United States.


Exclusive: Inside The Military’s Top Secret Plans If Coronavirus Cripples the Government: William M. Arkin, Newsweek, Mar. 18, 2020

“We’re in territory we’ve never been in before”
 
Even as President Trump says he tested negative for coronavirus, the COVID-19 pandemic raises the fear that huge swaths of the executive branch or even Congress and the Supreme Court could also be disabled, forcing the implementation of “continuity of government” plans that include evacuating Washington and “devolving” leadership to second-tier officials in remote and quarantined locations.
 
But Coronavirus is also new territory, where the military itself is vulnerable and the disaster scenarios being contemplated — including the possibility of widespread domestic violence as a result of food shortages — are forcing planners to look at what are called “extraordinary circumstances”.
 
Above-Top Secret contingency plans already exist for what the military is supposed to do if all the Constitutional successors are incapacitated. Standby orders were issued more than three weeks ago to ready these plans, not just to protect Washington but also to prepare for the possibility of some form of martial law.

____________________________________________________________________

For Further Reference:

The Biden Administration and the Challenge of a Rogue Iran – Mark Dubowitz:  AIJAC, Nov. 24, 2020 — Mark is an expert on Iran’s nuclear program and global threat network, and is widely recognised as one of the key influencers in shaping policies to counter the threats from the Iranian regime. He also contributes to FDD’s China Program drawing on his academic background in China studies and his private sector work in the Indo-Pacific.
 
Why Iran’s nuclear facilities are still vulnerable to attack:  Frank Gardner, BBC, Jan. 19, 2021 — The end of the Trump era has caused a collective but cautious sigh of relief in Iran. Some in the Gulf region feared that in the dying days of his presidency Donald Trump might choose to double down on his policy of “maximum pressure” on Iran and launch a military strike on its civilian nuclear plants and other targets.

Declassified: How an Israeli operation derailed Syria’s nuclear weapons drive:  Barbara Opall-Rome, Defense News, Mar. 20, 2018 — Israel’s pre-emptive attack a decade ago on a plutonium reactor in the Syrian desert not only derailed Damascus’ drive for nuclear weapons, but spared the world the specter of mass destruction capabilities falling into the hands of the Islamic State group.

With New START Extended, What Is Future of US-Russian Arms Control:  RM Staff, Russia Matters, Feb. 5, 2021 — Not so long ago, as the U.S. prepared to withdraw from the INF Treaty after 30-plus years over Russia’s alleged violations of that accord, the future of nuclear arms control in general and U.S.-Russian arms control in particular looked so dim that we at Russia Matters asked leading experts whether arms control was dead.
 
How a small nuclear war would transform the entire planet:  Alexandra Witze, Nature, Mar. 16, 2020 — It all starts in 2025, as tensions between India and Pakistan escalate over the contested region of Kashmir.
 
North Korea’s missile and nuclear programme:  BBC, Jan. 18, 2021 — Pyongyang started 2021 off with a bang, unveiling what state media has described as “the world’s most powerful weapon”.

Trump tells Israel Iran will never have nuclear weapons:  BBC News, May 22, 2017 — He suggested the Iranians thought they could “do what they want” since negotiating a nuclear deal with world powers in 2015.

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A small selection of Prof. Louis René Beres’ articles on this subject:

 Nuclear Weapons Are Not Always Bad: Why Israel is Not the Same as North Korea. Opinion: Israel Defense, Dec. 27, 2017                                                                                                                                     

Can Israel and a Nuclear Iran Coexist?: Two scorpions in a bottle? Arutz Sheva, 2020. This article first appeared in the Israel Journal of Foreign Affairs,  

 Israeli Nuclear Deterrence in Context: Effects of the US-Russian Rivalry                                                    BESA, Mideast Security and Policy Studies No. 162, June 2019

Prof. Louis René Beres

 The writer (Ph.D, Princeton, 1971) is emeritus professor of Political Science and International Law at Purdue University. He is the author of many books, monographs, and articles dealing with Israeli security matters, nuclear strategy and nuclear war.

 

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