Petri dish art by Klari Reis. Much more here.
1. What is a “red line?”
What is a “red line,” anyway? A subway line to Quincy on the “T?” Is Bibi’s “red line” what we used to call a “line in the dirt?” These were never red . . . until after they were crossed.
When I was a kid, you took a stick; you scratched a line in the dirt; you said to your (smaller) enemy: “Step across that line and I’ll bloody your nose.” If your enemy was bigger than you, there were problems. If he stepped across the line, then you drew another line and said: “OK, tough guy, eh? Well, step across that line and I won’t like you anymore.”
Of course, if you were a skinny kid with glasses, like me, you could still draw lines in the dirt as long as your big brother was 210 lb and the varsity full-back. And this pretty well sums up the current situation with Israel. More precisely, Bibi, as always, would rather talk his big brother into drawing the line and he [Bibi] will just sit the whole thing out, as he’s done in Iraq and Afghanistan. When the big brother was Geo. Bush and his gaggle of neocons, it was easy for Israel to get lines drawn and Americans killed. Now – finally – the big brother has some brains and is even thinking about getting a paternity test.
Jeffrey Lewis at Arms Control Wonk has a very interesting analysis of this “red line” situation. Also check the comments. These guys are non-proliferation engineers. They go through the calculations of how much stuff Iran really has available to build a nuke and how many nukes they’ll be able to build when they enrich what they have, etc. etc. It seems like most of the technical issues are resolved. The limiting factor is U-235.
Lewis concludes that Iran is already there. Based on IAEA reports, Lewis thinks Iran has 20 kg of fissile U-235 at or near bomb-grade; i.e., what they need to be in a “break-out” position. So if that is Bibi’s “red line,” too late. link to lewis.armscontrolwonk.com
On Sep13 Landler and Cooper at NYT reported on a “one hour” conversation w/ an Obama official who insists that the administration’s “red line” is constructing an actual nuke. This seems pretty consistent with what BO has been saying all along. Along this topic of a timeline for assembling a bomb, the Lewis wonks discuss what are the chances of an untested nuke actually working the first time. Answer: pretty durn high. If an actual bomb is BO’s line in the dirt, then Iran will obviously just sit on its pile of fissile stuff, and dig it deeper into the mountain while tweaking its ICBMs. I guess this would be sort of a soft deterrence position. Israel would know that an attack on Iran would be reciprocated not in seconds or minutes, but by the weekend, for sure. link to nytimes.com
It is very difficult to envision a way out of this morass that doesn’t involve thousands of dead people, virtually none of whom will know the difference between U-235 and U2. If I was in a Palestinian refugee camp in Jordan, I think I’d just sit tight a while longer.
2. U.S. non-defense domestic agencies continue to arm themselves
This poor guy Alex Jones at InfoWars.com is peeing his pants just about every week anymore. As I reported earlier Jones has been tracking some really weird purchase orders for US domestic agencies like Social Security and NOAA — they are buying ammo like it was gold at 1980 prices. And not just target ammo — included in the billions of rounds of ammo bought this year are millions of rounds of hollow-point bullets, which is used for one thing only: to kill people.
Yesterday Jones posted the latest order information for what he says is even more ammo, although I’m not so sure about this part. I mean, 25,000 of these rounds are blanks. Order #1. That makes for a lot of noise but not much blood. OTOH, 176,000 rounds of this “new” order are .308 hollow-points. Order #2. What’s .308? Here’s Wiki:
the most popular short-action, big-game hunting cartridge worldwide. It is also commonly used for civilian target shooting, military sniping, and police sharpshooting.
And I’m not sure this is something that has come up as suddenly as Jones seems to be hyperventilating about. On Order #2 you can find a link to further vendor information, and on that document yet another link to a table showing where the rounds are to be sent to. That last document is dated 2011, suggesting this is not a sudden arming of the Social Security secretaries to fight of geriatric, extremist Muslims. But who knows what’s up. I mean, even if these rounds are being delivered all through this year, why do these non-defense agencies need enough ammo to shoot every person in America 5 times?
The other issue I don’t see being addressed by Jones is the guns. Ammo almost always needs a gun to get fired. Has there not been a commensurate increase in the number of guns being shipped to US domestic agencies, or have those SS secretaries been armed all these years?
Finally, if Jones would do some homework maybe he could tell us whether the military, particularly the National Guard units, are being supplied with unusual mountains of ammo. The ammo Jones has been reporting on is just the stuff ordered by Homeland Security.
3. “Peace loving” Israel: Discussions of nuke-free Middle East are unthinkable as long as we are the only one with a nuke. Shalom.
A Reuters article dated today that does not identify its authors, reports that Israel plain, flat rejects any assertions that the Middle East is more dangerous because it [Israel] has nukes.
In a nicely timed Harretz article by Amir Oren, Israel is also reported as expressing “strong opposition” to a joint initiative between Arab countries and Obama for a meeting to get a nuke-free Middle East debate going. Now, that’s consistency. Here is Oren’s article, as it can be hard to open at Harretz.
Israel expressed its strong opposition on Wednesday to an Arab initiative, supported by the Obama administration, to hold a conference that would debate the possibility of a nuclear-free Middle East.
The conference would take place in Helsinki toward the end of 2012, or early in 2013. Brig.Gen. (Res.) Shaul Horev, director of the Israeli Nuclear Energy Committee, who reports directly to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, immediately trashed the idea.
President Barack Obama had promised to promote the move at the 2010 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.
Horev expressed Israeli opposition at the 56th general convention of the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna, saying that the idea of a nuclear arms-free Middle East, which been met with reservations by Israel, was now even less possible, due to the “volatile and hostile situation” in the area.
“In order to realize this idea there is need for prior conditions and a complete reversal of the current trend in the area,” Horev said. “This is an idea born in other areas and alien to the reality and political culture of the area. Nuclear demilitarization in the Middle East, according to the Israeli position, will be possible only after the establishment of peace and trust among the states of the area, as a result of a local initiative, not of external coercion.”
Horev began his address by criticizing Iran and Syria, whom he described as the centers of negative processes in the area, due to their covert moves to obtain nuclear arms and weapons of mass destruction. He added that Iran is creating a “hollow impression” that it intends to cooperate, but the international community’s moves actually have had no effect on the Iranian nuclear plan. Moreover, “Iran might be searching for an excuse to withdraw from the Non-Proliferation Treaty,” Horev said.
According to Horev, Israel is not indifferent to Iran’s direct and vitriolic threats on its existence, and warned that the Assad regime in Syria might use chemical arms against the rebels, or transfer it to Hezbollah. Horev added that Israel supported Jordanian use of nuclear power for civilian use.