Foreign Affairs

Obama’s nuclear fantasy, Netanyahu’s nightmare

While the Obama administration begs Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu not to launch a strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities, what does Iran do? It proceeds with weapons-related work—including work on a neutron initiator trigger for an atomic bomb. This was confirmed by satellite surveillance of Iran’s Parchin facility, where trucks were spotted hauling away trash, an apparent effort at site clean-up before U.N. inspectors are permitted to enter Parchin for the first time since 2005.  Iran refuses to allow inspectors to visit its other major nuclear sites.
 
While the Obama administration seeks to engage North Korea in further talks to try to persuade the North to surrender its nuclear weapons and weaponizing infrastructure in return for food aid, what does the North do? It counters with an offer to allow only one of its six nuclear sites—its oldest,Yongbyon—to be inspected; and reportedly the North is working on a road-mobile intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).
 
While the Obama administration tells the Senate that it plans to offer Russia detailed operational data on America’s missile defense systems, what does Russia do? It holds a rigged election and plans to deploy new missiles and ballistic missile submarines. Never mind that our missile defense systems are deployed in numbers far too small to block a Russian nuclear strike. And never mind that our missiles are incapable of intercepting ICBMs (which travel far too fast to be successfully intercepted by present systems).
 
While the Obama administration complains about job out-sourcing to China and that country’s currency manipulation to boost exports, what does China do? It plans a massive upgrade of its nuclear missile force—wholly unnecessary if its arsenal is as small as Western analysts assert it is.
 
And while the Obama administration considers reducing our nuclear weapons deployment to as low as 300 warheads, Pakistan increases its nuclear weapon budget, apparently aiming to double its arsenal.
 
See the pattern?
 
We pursue policies grounded in fantasy, while other countries aggressive nuclear deployment and arsenal upgrades.
 
President Obama told the American-Israeli Public Affairs Committee conference that until Iran pursues a nuclear weapon, a decision he implies they have not made, the U.S. will not act. He asks that Israel give sanctions more time to work. But Israel’s PM summed it up beautifully in his address to the AIPAC attendees:
 
The Jewish state will not allow those seeking our destruction to possess the means to achieve that goal. A nuclear-armed Iran must be stopped. Amazingly, some people refuse to acknowledge that Iran’s goal is to develop nuclear weapons. You see, Iran claims that it’s enriching uranium to develop medical research. Yeah, right. A country that builds underground nuclear facilities, develops intercontinental ballistic missiles, manufactures thousands of centrifuges, and absorbs crippling sanctions – is doing all that in order to advance…medical research. So you see, when that Iranian ICBM is flying through the air to a location near you, you’ve got nothing to worry about. It’s only carrying medical isotopes.
 
If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then what is it?

That’s right, it’s a duck.  But this duck is a nuclear duck.  And it’s time the world started calling a duck a duck.
 
Alas, reality is in short supply at the White House. The White House and its allies could have bypassed Russian and Chinese Security Council vetoes and imposed harsh sanctions back in June 2009. Massive protests after Iran’s fraudulent presidential election had thrown the regime off balance. Sanctions would have had nearly three years to work, instead of at most months now.
 
Also, President Obama ignores how quickly nuclear capability can be transformed into a nuclear device or weapon. It takes roughly 11 months to enrich uranium from its 0.7 percent fissile uranium to 3.5 percent commercial reactor uranium fuel. It takes just over one month to enrich commercial-grade uranium to 19.75 percent medical research reactor grade. And it takes just over one week—eight days—to enrich medical-grade reactor uranium fuel to 90 percent enriched weapons-grade fuel for an atomic bomb. Given unassembled components of a nuclear device or weapon, it takes less than a single day to assemble a bomb; in July 1945 Manhattan Project scientists needed only 26 hours to complete the final stage of assembling the Trinity test A-bomb—including nap time.
 
Put simply, President Obama promises the impossible. From capability to a device or weapon is far too short an interval for us to catch the Iranians (or anyone else) and take pre-emptive action. Surely he has been told this, and thus his bottom line clearly is deterrence and containment of a nuclear Iran.
 
But Israel’s bottom line is different. It was expressed perfectly by PM Netanyahu at AIPAC: “As Prime Minister of Israel, I will never let my people live in the shadow of annihilation.” He added: “When it comes to Israel’s survival, we must always remain the masters of our fate.”
 
Israel knows that President Obama, contrary to his assertion, does not “have Israel’s back.” The president’s 2012 priority is November 6, without rising gas prices or being drawn into a new Mideast war.  Israel is on its own, and will surely be blamed for any adverse consequences if it strikes without American approval.
 
Fantasy reigns at the White House, but Israel must confront reality.

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