Monthly Archives: June 2007

J Harvey @ NAF

A little while ago, Jeffrey put up a “good post”: about John Harvey’s appearance at a New America Foundation event.

The post points out, correctly, that

bq. Harvey [Director of Policy Planning at NNSA] confirmed that the Moscow Treaty numbers are in fact premised on intelligence estimates of future foreign nuclear deployments.

Meaning, Chinese future nuclear weapons deployments. In other words, we need 1,700-2,200 nuclear weapons to dissuade the Chinese from attempting to achieve parity with the US arsenal.

p=. *SIOP =/= Arsenal Size*

Personally, I was most interested in a closely-related matter: Harvey’s assertion that decisions regarding the number of US nuclear forces are _not_ based on holding a certain number of targets at risk. In fact, according to my notes, Harvey said in response to a question from Daryl Kimball that holding said targets at risk “is a _relatively small_ driver” of the force size.

What, one might ask, are _large_ drivers? According to Harvey, they include dissuading competitors and providing extended deterrence to our allies. I don’t think he mentioned China by name, but I think it would make anyone’s short list.

_Soooooo_ how do these drivers translate into a number? Well, hard to say. In response to a question from Jeffrey, Harvey said that the process of determining the number necessary to assure our allies is a judgment, rather than a calculation.


This morning, I got a phone call from a source who was helping me get some information. He’s a nice person and had earlier apologized to me several times for the fact that the process was taking so long.

Anyway, after informing me that he finally had the relevant material, this source suggested that, should I have any more questions, I ought to “direct them to God, who might get back to you faster.”

The sausage factory of journalism. Happy Friday.

CEIP Conference Hibbs Conversation

These are notes from the conversation that Matt Bunn and Joe Cirincione had with Mark Hibbs. They are by no means comprehensive.

p=. *The Khan Network*

* The network is still operating, or at least something like it. When asked by Joe if the proliferation networks out there are the same as the Khan network, Hibbs pointed out that the network members disappear and reappear, change the companies’ names, etc. Even if they’re convicted, business people can later go underground and restart their enterprises.

* Mark also noted that Pakistan continues to use its network to procure stuff for its nuclear program.

* More generally, he cautioned that we don’t know enough about proliferation networks and we need to learn more.

* Asked why no one outside of Pakistan has been allowed to debrief AQ Khan, Hibbs said that he was told by a Pakistani official responsible for debriefing Khan that Islamabad could never allow Khan to be interrogated by a foreign government because he knew too many of Pakistan’s nuclear secrets. The official also said that the Pakistanis told the IAEA that they’re still using at least part of the network to procure stuff for themselves – the implication being that they don’t wanna jeopardize it.

p=. *Nork HEU Program*

* Joe pointed out that Hibbs reported in October 20002 that NK may have terminated the program after having reached a technical impasse. Jeffrey has the quote “here.”:

* Hibbs said that one reason for his skepticism about North Korea’s progress was that, although there was evidence that Pyongyang was trying to obtain materials for centrifuges, there was no good evidence that the Norks had obtained materials for centrifuge rotors. For example, the NSG found out that North Korea was trying to procure a large amount of cobalt powder, as well as aluminum tubes, but neither of those could be used in or for rotors.

* I “blogged a while back”: about a similar story that Mark wrote about intelligence estimates regarding the program.

p=. *IAEA Safeguards Committee*

* Hibbs also talked about the end of the IAEA’s Advisory Committee on Safeguards and Verification. The committee, which was formed in June 2005, ended its work earlier this month – a fact which got a very brief mention during the last IAEA BoG meeting, he said.

* My understanding is that the committee produced no recommendations. I have an article coming out which talks about that subject in the forthcoming issue of _ACT_. I wrote an earlier piece about it “here.”:]

p=. *How Far Open is the Technology Barn Door?*

* In response to a question from Jeffrey about which nuclear technologies are truly out of the bag, Hibbs said that the Khan network has demonstrated that once information is stolen, it’s “not possible to get the genie back in the bottle.”

* Mark acknowledged that making improvements on stolen designs is difficult and requires serious engineering expertise.

* He also agreed with Matt (I think it was him) that actually implementing an enrichment program is hard, even if one does have the appropriate designs and technology.

p=. *Pakistan’s Centrifuge Program*

* Jeffrey, drawing on (I believe) “this post,”: also asked about an article Mark wrote about Pakistan’s P3 and P4 centrifuges. After noting that Pakistan is apparently using maraging steel, rather than carbon fiber, for the centrifuge rotors, Jeffrey asked Mark to expand on his claim that “procurement breakthroughs” have enabled Pakistan to obtain maraging steel of sufficient strength for its newest centrifuges.

Hibbs made two points:

* After noting that the Pakistanis have been using maraging steel since early 1980s, Mark explained that sources he ahd spoken with said that maraging steel is something that the Pakistanis know how to work with; they’ve done a lot of work on it over the last 15-20 years and carbon fiber would require them to retool the way they do things.

* Furthermore, Pakistan is confident that it can continue to procure this material.

Lastly, Joe mentioned a 1996 PBS Frontline interview with Mark that I didn’t know about. “Here it is.”:

As an aside, it made me feel better to hear Mark say that he had to miss some sessions at the conference because he was working on an article. I was in the same boat on day one. And kind of on day two.

Russian Confiirms Iranian 2,000 km Missile?

In all of the recent discussion about the Gabala radar (the one that Russia leases in Azerbaijan), one bit of news crept out a little while back that I think is worth highlighting.

Apparently a Russian TV crew was allowed to film at the radar station. According to the 10 June broadcast, the station used to track Iranian and Iraqi missile launches back in the day:

bq. The station proved its efficiency back in the time of the Iran-Iraq war. *The Soviet intelligence service received live data on the two warring sides’ missile strikes: the missiles would still be in the air, but the Soviet Union would already know where they were flying, at what speed, and whether they were going to hit the target.*

The radar, it seems, still does this.

According to Sergey Starostin, the Qabala radar station commander,

bq. In January 2007, *a test launch of a Shihab-3 operational-tactical missile from the territory of Iran to the Arabian Sea was spotted.*

According to the announcer, the missile had “*a range of no more than 2,000 km.*”

This is, I think, the first official source I’ve seen which independently confirms that Iran has flight-tested a missile with such a range. The reporting on the subject that I’ve seen cites what the Iranians _say_ about the missile.

For example, I wrote in a “recent _ACT_ article”: that

bq. During a Nov. 12 television interview, Major General Yahya Rahim-Safavi, commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps indicated that Iran tested a Shahab-3 capable of traveling 2,000 kilometers. Tehran has previously claimed to possess a missile with such a range.

The “2006 NASIC report”: says that Iran has a missile with a range of about 2,000 km. But that estimate is itself based on “statements by Iranian officials.”

Please do something less dorky now, if you can.

Ed Ifft On Arms Control

While listening to a great panel at the Carnegie conference about the US and Russian nuclear options, I was reminded of a great quote from Ed Ifft illustrating the value of legally-binding arms control agreements.

During a recent “ACA event,”: Ifft argued that such agreements help nations avoid defense planning based on worst-case scenarios. He did so by illustrating the absurdity of current US-Russian tensions over the Bush administration’s missile defense plans for Europe:

bq. If you think about it, *the Americans are trying to build a system to counter an Iranian ICBM which does not exist. The Russians are developing systems to penetrate a U.S. ABM system which does not exist.* There’s a certain parallel there. The point is that this is *one of the great virtues of legally binding arms control agreements is that people then do not have to make worst-case assumptions about what the world will look like ten or fifteen years in the future.*

FYI, Jeffrey had a “good post”: about the event that you should also read.

N Korea Redux

Sorry for the light blogging as of late. Deadlines and all that…

Carol Giacomo “got a great quote”: from Jack Pritchard that well sums up the recent developments regarding the BDA issue, the IAEA’s upcoming visit, and Hill’s visit to North Korea:

bq. “You’ve got to gauge Hill’s trip by saying *finally U.S. diplomacy is rational.* He should have been doing this long ago,” said Charles Pritchard, former senior U.S. negotiator with North Korea during Bush’s first term.

Pretty much.

See some of you at the Carnegie conference.

How Blogging Works

People occasionally ask me about blogging, almost certainly because of the amount of cash I am raking in.

Therefore, I present “Tbogg’s summary”: of how -part of- the right-wing blogosphere works:

Campaigns should bypass the EmEssEm and go straight to the alpha bloggers who will uncritically repackage the campaigns bullshit.

*Secondary bloggers, also known as lampreys, will link to the alpha bloggers in hopes of getting a reciprocating link boosting their hit counts which they will then use to convince their significant others/parents/imaginary girlfriends/cats that they are indeed “citizen journalists” and don’t need to get “a real job”, “out of the basement”, or “enlist”.*

*This swarming of bloggers, also known as a “circle jerk”, will be picked up by Matt Drudge who will link to the topic if there isn’t any news about the royal family (Lady Di/Prince Harry/Madonna) that day*

The Politico will link to Matt Drudge because he “rocks their world”.

Left wing blogs will mock the Politico

Joe Klein will think they are talking about him and blame Atrios

There will be calls for civility

Lather rinse repeat

Keep those in mind.

Full disclosure: I live in a basement, but it is not owned by my parents.

N. Burns on Iran and Afghanistan Weapons

A few days ago, Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns “told CNN”: that there is “irrefutable evidence” that Iran is supplying weapons to the Taliban.

Burns asserted that the weapons are

bq. “certainly coming from the government of Iran. It’s coming from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard corps command, which is a basic unit of the Iranian government.”

Interestingly, _AP_ reported “the same day”:;_ylt=Avxkb5oRcBl4DMklCLsWYQRbbBAF that the DOS backed off Burns’ accusations a bit. State Dept. spokesperson Sean McCormack said that “[w]e absolutely are certain that there are Iranian-origin weapons flowing into Afghanistan to the Taliban,” but added that

bq. We do not know the extent of any Iranian government involvement at this point.

[As an aside, Spencer Ackerman “noted”: that SecDef Bob Gates has changed his mind a bit regarding the Iranian government’s involvement in shipping weapons to Afghanistan.]

I don’t want to get into the veracity of these claims, but I would like to point out that such allegations could well be used by the US (or others) to push for more stringent UNSC sanctions on Iran.

p=. *The Resolution Says So*

“UNSC resolution 1747”: says that

bq. Iran shall not supply, sell or transfer directly or indirectly from its territory or by its nationals or using its flag vessels or aircraft any arms or related materiel

I “wrote in April”: that UNSC resolution 1737 “targeted Iran ‘s nuclear and missile programs,” but the latest one, according to a “European diplomat,” brought more “political” pressure on Tehran. That official, however, “emphasized that ‘all we want is for Iran to end its proliferation-sensitive nuclear activities.'” That suggests to me that at least some countries might oppose using the weapons issue as a pretext for imposing new sanctions on Iran.

I bet that the US, however, might embrace such an action with enthusiasm. “Burns said 24 March”: that the weapons ban does not simply address the nuclear question, but is part of an effort to

bq. block and contain and limit Iranian power in the Middle East….blocking their ability and now making illegal their ability to export arms to anybody, that’s a significant step forward.

Lest you think that Burns has forgotten about this, he told CNN that Iran is “in outright violation” of resolution 1747 because Tehran is transferring weapons to Afghanistan, as well as places like Lebanon and Iraq.

It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out.

On a louder note, watch Ministry doing Skinny Puppy 17 years ago:

Iran: How’s That Centrifuge Program?

Short answer: Dunno.

Since that answer wouldn’t have cut it with Miles (Pomper, _ACT_ editor), I “wrote a bit more”: for the most recent issue of _ACT_.

p=. *The Cascades*

This is obvious, but one “European diplomat” told me that Iran has _not_ demonstrated that it can run its centrifuges for an extended period of time. The 8 cascades in the commercial Natanz facility are _not_ linked together, another such diplomat told me. [The IAEA DG Mohamed ElBaradei’s “last report”: implies this, but doesn’t say so explicitly. I wrote about the report “here”: and “here.”: ]

We know that the Iranians missed their target date of installing 3,000 centrifuges by the end of May, but they may yet complete the task in short order. Unless they don’t.

I wrote that

bq. a diplomatic source in Vienna close to the IAEA told _Arms Control Today_ -April- May 25 that *Iran is able to build one 164-centrifuge cascade every 10 days. At that rate, Iran will be able to install approximately 3,000 centrifuges by the end of June,* the source said.

More recently, ElBaradei “told reporters”:;_ylt=AtPjTy3FawLY6oJ7olTApRBbbBAF that Iran “could have *just under 3,000 uranium-enriching centrifuges running in series by the end of July,”* _AP_ reported.

[ Jeffrey has a good “post”: up about this subject, which includes a link to the audio file of ElBaradei’s remarks. Also, check out “this post”: from Andreas Persbo. He has two pretty cool tables illustrating Iran’s possible future progress in installing centrifuges. ]

Incidentally, Gholamreza Aghazadeh, the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, said in April that Tehran will take up to 4 years to install all 50,000+ centrifuges in the facility.

p=. *So How Good Are Those Centrifuges?*

Some of us have wondered about Iran’s ability to make centrifuges of sufficient quality and quantity. Unfortunately, there’s not a lot of clarity on this subject either. I wrote that

[A] Vienna diplomat said that *Tehran can produce enough centrifuge components for its projected enrichment needs.* But a knowledgeable source told _Arms Control Today_ that *Iran may not be “fully independent” in making such components.*

Asked about the quality of Iran’s centrifuges, the Vienna source added that *Iran “can make functional machines.”* Separately, a European diplomat said that *it is not clear that Iran can do so, explaining that “quite a high number” of centrifuges have crashed at rates “higher than one would expect.”*

p=. *The UF6*

There have also been “questions about”: the quality of Iran’s UF6.

That’s still the case. I wrote that:

bq. Whether Iran’s uranium hexafluoride is of sufficient purity is unclear. The Vienna diplomat said that *Iran is using its own feedstock, noting that the material is “good enough” to produce enriched uranium.* But the two other European diplomats told _Arms Control Today_ that *Iran is probably using uranium hexafluoride obtained from China more than a decade ago.*

Helpful, I know.

One interesting sidenote: I also found out that, according to “one diplomat,” Iran is currently attempting to convert its own uranium oxide into UF6. The process, however, “has not been perfected,” the diplomat said. Iran had previously been converting uranium oxide acquired from South Africa, he added.

Anyway, it’s Friday. Go home.