Saturday, April 8, 2017

The Time Has Come to Deal With Iran and North Korea

Both of these rogue nations are pursuing ballistic missiles tipped with atomic weapons.  They have made enough progress that we should be seriously concerned,  especially in the case of North Korea.  Action is required now with North Korea,  and very,  very soon with Iran.

North Korean Progress

North Korea has made enough progress toward atomic weapons that they have been testing such weapons underground for several recent years.  They have been doing this for enough years to have at least begun (and possibly completed) the necessary miniaturization of the atomic weapons,  so as to fit a more ordinary-sized rocket.  It is the rocket that is still giving them problems,  so that many rocket flight tests have been made recently. 

There are 4 things the North Koreans require,  in order to strike a mainland US city with a blast weapon:  (1) a miniaturized atomic bomb,  (2) a reliable launch rocket,  (3) a heat shield for the warhead to survive re-entry,  and (4) guidance precise enough to actually hit fairly close to the intended target (both detonation altitude and miss distance are important). 

There are only two of these needed to damage us severely with the electromagnetic pulse (EMP) of a nuclear explosion in near space.  To do that requires only the bomb and the rocket;  the precision guidance and a heat shield are unnecessary. 

If they have not successfully miniaturized their atomic bomb yet,  they will within a year or two at most.  By then,  their rocket should also be flying reliably.  That means we are credibly at risk “right now”,  and very most certainly within a year or two.   It is now past time to put an end to their efforts.

Iranian Progress

Iran already has the rocket “in hand”:  they have launched satellites into orbit.  Our own history shows that any satellite launcher can fly sub-orbitally with a larger payload.  That payload can easily be a miniaturized atomic weapon. 

That is why Iran’s main effort in recent years was toward those atomic weapons.  Like North Korea,  they could do us great damage with only the rocket and bomb as an EMP attack.  With a heat shield and precision guidance,  they could also do a blast weapon attack.  Those last two components are easier to do,  than the miniaturized bomb and the rocket,  and easier to conceal. 

The nuclear “deal” with Iran has temporarily slowed (perhaps even halted,  but I really doubt that) Iran’s uranium fuel program.  We have already seen them highly-enrich uranium,  something unnecessary to run a power reactor.  Highly-enriched uranium is only bomb material,  simple as that. 

However,  not often considered in the news reports is the fact that even low-enriched uranium can be used in a modified reactor design that breeds plutonium from the non-fissionable leftovers from the uranium enrichment process.  Plutonium makes even better bomb material,  although how you set it off is different from highly-enriched uranium.  But,  how you set off either is publicly-available knowledge! 

The upshot of that is that any country who can build reactors that use low-enriched uranium,  can also breed plutonium and make plutonium-based atomic bombs!  The Iran nuclear deal does NOT prevent that from happening!  From that point,  all that is required is miniaturization of the atomic bomb to fit the rocket.  And Iran already has the rocket!

It might take Iran a single-handful of years to build plutonium bombs and get them miniaturized successfully.  At that point,  they can successfully strike us with atomic bombs.  It is therefore pretty-much time to put an end to their efforts,  too. 

What Could We Do About North Korea?

North Korea has a weakness we can exploit as a unilateral action:  their rocket is still unready to fly their atomic bombs.   Stop the rocket tests,  and you can still stop their capability to hurt us,  at least for a while.  Longer-term,  there must be regime change in North Korea,  or else this threat will never go away.   

We have various battlefield and longer-range anti-missile and anti-satellite weapons.  Some of these seem to work,  at least under restricted circumstances.  With all of them,  there is still credible doubt about their efficacy during general warfare.   But what we need here is only efficacy in a restricted circumstance:  shooting down every test rocket launch conducted by North Korea,  for the forseeable future. 

That is exactly what I propose as the initial step against North Korea:  shoot down every single test missile they launch.  This has two effects:  (1) North Korea cannot verify their rocket to be reliable,  at least for the short term,  and (2) it shows China we are very,  very serious about taking unilateral action if they do not rein in their protégé state. 

In the longer term,  we will need the help of China to resolve this situation.  They are the source of imports and support that actually keeps the rogue state of North Korea alive and functional.  It is in China’s interest as well as ours that there not be a failed state in North Korea.  Further,  there is some reason to believe that the Kim dynasty in North Korea has limited days left.  When it ends,  chaos is the most likely result,  unless a major power steps in. 

But,  I rather doubt that China might support reunification of the Koreas under the government of South Korea,  even though that would be a favorable outcome for them and for us.   So,  the realistic prospect is that there will still be two Koreas indefinitely into the future.  The “trick” is getting China itself to replace the paranoid Kim dynasty with something more sane and more tolerable,  to us and to them.   

What Could We Do About Iran?

This is by far the tougher problem to solve. 

Iran has the rocket,  but they do not yet have the bomb to ride that rocket.  It is only a matter of a very few years before they do have the miniaturized bomb,  despite the nuclear deal.   Whether they cheat on the deal,  or not,  makes no real difference. 

The exact locations of all their nuclear facilities are too uncertain for us to strike,  and those we do know precisely,  are buried deep underground.  Conventional weapons simply cannot take them out;  only a ground-penetrating nuclear strike could do this job.  The world will not condone that. 

Like North Korea,  Iran is ruled by extremists who policy objectives are demonstrably insane by any standards that we in the west understand.  In that respect,  they differ in no practical way from ISIS,  Al Qaeda,  or the Taliban. 

Unlike North Korea,  Iran has no major power as a “sponsor” to keep them functional.  In point of fact,  Iran is a major regional power all on its own,  complete with proxy armies (Hezbollah,  Hamas,  and some others) to do its bidding to spread chaos everywhere. 

Diplomacy (the nuclear deal) has slowed the problem only a little,  but definitely has not stopped it.  Short of nuclear genocide,  there is little we the US can unilaterally do,  or even do with multiple allies.  Yet something must be done,  and all the Iranians’ neighbors agree.  The people of Iran are actually good and decent folk;  they do not deserve nuclear extinction.  But their government certainly does!

This one is a real “rock-and-a-hard-place” problem.  About the only hope I can offer is that diplomacy with Iran might be more effective,  if we have already made an example of North Korea.  And also perhaps of their co-supported (with Russia) puppet:  Assad in Syria. 

To that end:  put an end to Kim Jong Un in North Korea,  then make sure Bashar Assad in Syria dies for conducting chemical warfare attacks.  Target him (instead of airfields) with cruise missiles.  Let the Russians install whomever they want in Syria to replace him,  but we must be sure Assad dies.  Period. 

That is a very difficult prescription indeed,  but it must be done!  After it is done,  both us and the Russians may actually benefit.  And those extremists ruling Iran may be more tractable. 

Maybe.  Maybe not.  No guarantees. 

GW

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