The new commander of US Strategic Command, USAF General Anthony Cotton, is now commander of USAF Global Strike Command. On September 15, 2022, he warned Congress and the country in Senate testimony that the United States faces serious and growing nuclear challenges.
As the current Commander of US Strategic Command Admiral Richard pointed out, General Cotton also pointed to the emergence of China (above Russia) as another peer competitor in the nuclear arena. . China engaged in what Admiral Richard described as a “breathtaking” rapid buildup of nuclear forces, the sheer size of which surprised the intelligence community long convinced that China’s emergence on the world stage would be a “peaceful ascent”.
Unfortunately, China’s nuclear growth is not the only serious and deadly nuclear challenge that General Cotton will face. Just as US analysts, including those in academia and the intelligence community, have for years downplayed the possible future growth of Chinese nuclear forces (imitating Chinese propaganda), they have also downplayed the Iranian nuclear challenge.
Last week, Congress and the country learned that Iran’s nuclear activities have accelerated even as prospects for a new deal to reign in Iran’s potential sprint to a nuclear bomb have dimmed dramatically. , described by an analyst as being on life support.
For years, a debate raged in Washington over whether the Islamic Republic of Iran was even pursuing a nuclear weapon. Israel has repeatedly warned that Iran is close to being able to produce nuclear fuel for at least one nuclear weapon even in 2021, but has been largely ignored.
Six bombs in six weeks
On September 9, the former assistant secretary general of the International Atomic Energy Administration (IAEA), Ollie Heinonen, told my nuclear seminar at the Hudson Institute that the current head of the IAEA had made the decision not to approve any new “nuclear deal” unless Iran allows it. full access to facilities where nuclear weapons and military work were or were suspected to be undertaken.
Heinonen also revealed that Iran had refused to discuss its violations of the 2015 agreement because Iran had warned that it would affect its cooperation on previous agreements, effectively using a round of negotiations to deflect questions about another similar negotiation!
But thankfully, the IAEA reversed its 2015 decision to ignore Iran’s illegal nuclear weapons work, an earlier bad decision that allowed Iran’s nuclear program to continue and thus become more powerful, precisely the opposite outcome to what proponents of the 2015 deal were telling Congress.
How much more powerful? Heinonen revealed that even under the 2015 deal, Iran’s new authorized centrifuges performed far better than previous centrifuges. His explosive announcement was that Iran can now produce six bombs of nuclear material in six weeks. And that’s even after about seven years under the “restrictions” of the 2015 nuclear deal.
The nuclear energy front
The 2015 deal was deemed workable because the U.S. intelligence community had concluded (erroneously as it turned out) that all nuclear weapons work by Iran had been halted in 2003 and that all work done since was to develop nuclear energy.
Iran claims that its interest in nuclear technology is for nuclear power. What is often misunderstood is that every revelation of Iran’s illicit work on nuclear weapons has come to light, not by the Iranian government, but by dissident groups in Iran or by the Israelis.
The Iranian subterfuge has been around for a long time. For example, Alan Simons on his September 8 blog points out that in 2006 Iran’s Minister of Research and Technology told his Indonesian hosts that Iran was ready to help any Islamic country with technology. nuclear. In 2008, Iran’s ambassador to Syria made a similar offer to that country, an offer repeated to the Gulf States later the same year.
In July, the Library of Congress’ Congressional Research Service completed an excellent report that clarified what Iran meant when it spoke of nuclear technology: “Tehran also conducts prohibited research and development, production illicit uranium metal, as well as the manufacture and installation of centrifuges.
In April, the US State Department agreed that “the expansion of Iran’s uranium enrichment activities…allows [sic] Iran needs to enrich more uranium faster and to higher levels” (while there is obviously no rush to fuel a non-existent nuclear energy program.)
A State Department official warned in March 2022 that Iran currently needs as little as one week produce enough weapons-grade HEU for a nuclear weapon, per Heinonen’s latest warning.
As for deterrence, Ken Timmerman wrote in “Preparing for a Nuclear-Ready Iran” in 2005, Iran’s interest in nuclear technology is genocidal. As former Iranian President Ali Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani has declared, Iran would emerge victorious from a nuclear duel in the region. “Israel could kill 100 million Muslims,” Rafsanjani said. “Muslims can suffer such losses, knowing that in exchange there would be no Israel on the map.”
The UN convened this week on Iran and, contrary to its previous decision of 2015-6, concluded that Iran had violated its obligations under international law and the 2015 nuclear deal. The UN will no longer accept Iranian threats not to cooperate with the UN if pressed on its wrongful behavior, whether over the 2015 agreement or the 1969 UN proliferation treaty. . Leading EU countries echoed the UN findings.
And without the UN’s support and seal of nuclear stewardship, the old accord cannot be revived, especially as Iran violates the terms of all three related agreements – the 1969 NPT, the safeguards of 2003 and the nuclear agreement of 2015.
For decades, the US intelligence community refused to believe that Iran was seeking nuclear weapons. Just as in 1991, as recounted by Michael O’Hanlon, the United States was stunned to discover that Saddam was months away from having a nuclear weapons capability.
Unconscious too, writes Tom Reed in the “Nuclear Express”, when China in 1981 made the conscious decision to spread nuclear weapons technology to its friends, including Pakistan, Iraq, Iran, Libya and the North Korea. It is no coincidence, national centers of nuclear mischief and chaos.