Archive for the ‘Nukes’ Category


Seriously, Iron Koala is the name of a nuclear proliferation exercise chaired by the Australian government:

Ever since the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington DC in 2010 and the follow up in Seoul, South Korea earlier this year, nuclear security has been top of the agenda for world leaders.

Australia has a strong presence in this arena, as exemplified by ANSTO’s recent hosting of a well-attended Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism (GICNT) activity here in Sydney. Known as Iron Koala, the exercise was organised by the GICNT Nuclear Forensic Working Group of which Australia is the Chair. Iron Koala participants (pictured outside the ANSTO Discovery Centre) came from many professions and included: governmental policy makers, law enforcement officers, nuclear regulators and nuclear forensics technical experts

The purpose of the event was to increase awareness that there needs to be legislated, regulated and practiced information sharing between countries and professions, in order to successfully combat nuclear trafficking.

Iron Koala was hailed as extremely successful by the attendees and its timeliness was demonstrated by the fact that it attracted 79 delegates from 24 nations with strong participation from countries in our region.

Iron Koala participants came from many professions and included: governmental policy makers, law enforcement officers, nuclear regulators and nuclear forensics technical experts. This breadth of expertise allowed the participants to better understand each other’s requirements and language, and to forge new communication networks.

Two must-reads about recent developments in Iran… Both articles are analytical/speculative, but still worth reading and considering.

First, Danger Room’s skeptical take on Iran’s claim at having forced down an RQ-170 drone flying over western Afghanistan.

Second is this report in the L.A. Times connecting several events on the ground in Iran as evidence of possible covert actions against the regime to sabotage its nuclear weapons and missile programs.

Although both articles are largely based on analysis and interpretation of events, they are well worth reading.

A.Q. Khan has launched a website. Maybe an address like nukesforsale.com would have been too obvious? I noticed that it’s very heavy on emphasizing his charitable and humanitarian efforts regarding schools, mosques, health clinics and NGOs. I’ll be keeping an eye out if he creates a Facebook and/or Twitter account.

I recently finished reading “Meltdown: The Inside Story of the North Korean Nuclear Crisis” by former CNN correspondent Mike Chinoy. Before I go any further with this, I should note in the interest of full disclosure that Mike was a teacher of mine at USC, and that I transcribed several interviews and contributed some research for this book.

It’s an excellent read, although the nuances of nuclear proliferation policy may be a bit complicated for a person unfamiliar with the issues surrounding America’s complicated relationship with North Korea. Mike does a good job documenting some of the behind-the-scenes power struggles within the Bush administration. There’s enough duplicity and backstabbing going on to rival any reality TV show, only that there are real world consequences as a result.

The major characters in this book – secretaries of State Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice, nonproliferation chief John Bolton, North Korea negotiator Christopher Hill, and others – come across as dedicated public servants regardless of their position on the ideological and diplomatic spectrum in handling the North Korea issue, even when they are at each others’ throats.

Mike also does a good job at analyzing the M.O. of the North Koreans, parsing through the public and private statements of government officials as well as the official reports from the North Korean news agency to put developments and events into context, and how these comments often foretold of positive or negative developments in the U.S.-North Korea relationship. It’s easy and tempting to try and dismiss the North Koreans for their behavior, and wonder about how accurate the caricature of Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s Kim Jong Il really is (I’ve been guilty of that), but they certainly do not come across this way in the book.

If there is such a thing as being able to figure out what makes North Korea and Dear Leader tick, Mike is probably pretty close to it. He once said to me words to the effect that Kim Jong Il was as rational as a person could be in an irrational environment. Some of the words and actions of the North Korean government do seem irrational, and even childish at times. Their nuclear test in October of 2006 was neither of these, but rather something akin to Glenn Close’s famous line in the movie Fatal Attraction: “I’m not gonna be ignored.”

There are no bombshells in this book like George Tenet’s infamous slam dunk comment, but Washington Post diplomatic correspondent Glenn Kessler reviewed Meltdown and has a far better understanding of the news value and significance of what Mike uncovered in the course of his reporting for this book.

Regardless of who wins the election next week, the next president will have to figure out how to continue dealing with North Korea and make sure that the relationship does not deteriorate the way it did during the past eight years.

If the daily campaign narrative weren’t dominated by silly stories to fight and win the daily spin war, this story would be getting a lot more attention.

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — President Asif Ali Zardari returned from China late Friday without a commitment for hard cash needed to shore up Pakistan’s crumbling economy, leaving him with the politically unpopular prospect of having to ask the International Monetary Fund for help.

Pakistan was seeking the aid from China, an important ally, as it faces the possibility of defaulting on its current account payments. With the United States and other nations preoccupied with a financial crisis, and Saudi Arabia, another traditional ally, refusing to offer concessions on oil, China was seen as the last port of call before the I.M.F.

Accepting a rescue package from the I.M.F. would be seen as a humiliating step for Mr. Zardari’s government, which took office earlier this year. An I.M.F.-backed plan would require the government to cut spending and raise taxes, among other measures, which could hurt the poor, officials said.

The Bush administration is concerned that Pakistan’s economic meltdown will provide an opportunity for Islamic militants to capitalize on rising poverty and frustration.

The Pakistanis have not been shy in exploiting the terrorist threat as way of trying to win financial support, a senior official at the I.M.F. said. But because of the dire global financial situation, and the reluctance of donor nations to provide money without strict economic reforms by Pakistan, the terrorist argument has not been fully persuasive, he said.

“A selling point to us even has been, if the economy really collapses this is going to mean civil strife, and strikes, and put the war on terror in jeopardy,” said the official, who declined to be identified because he was not authorized to speak to the news media. “They are saying, ‘We are a strategic country, the world needs to come to our aid.’ ”

People focus too much on the terrorist argument, which although serious, pales in comparison to the nuclear weapons issue. It may be politically unpopular to go to the IMF but Pakistan realistically has no good options at this point. Normally Washington would probably bail them out but given the domestic economic problems, they can’t do that now without stirring a huge domestic political argument on the eve of a presidential election that the incumbent party is on course to lose.

If the Pakistani state collapses because of the economic situation, it will probably be the next president’s first foreign policy crisis. And at or near the top of that crisis will be what to do about Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal. They are under the control of the military, which is one of the most powerful political constituencies in the country. But if their paychecks stop coming in, my guess is all bets are off.

Pakistan, which has one of the largest military forces in the world, is a declared nuclear power, and has Osama bin Laden, Al Qaeda, and the Taliban running around in their backyard is on the verge of bankruptcy, unless the international community provides the cash to get them out of this mess.

This will make me sleep better at night.

Interesting comments from CIA Director Michael Hayden during an interview with Fox News on what he sees as the potential national security threats to the next administration. The key graphs in the article:

While the increasingly fragile status of impoverished North Korea renders it a special threat, the flood of petrodollars coming from the so-called “Axis of Oil” — Iran, Venezuela and Russia — poses another threat to American security.

Hayden said oil prices, which are still hovering around $100 per barrel, have emboldened these oil-rich nations. “Oil, at its current price … gives the Russian state a degree of influence and power that it would have not otherwise had,” he said.

Russia’s invasion of Georgian territory in August and Iran’s continued work on acquiring nuclear weapons only compound the threat.


Would you want one of these in your congressional district?

D’oh!

Schmidt considers nuke waste
BY HOWARD WILKINSON | ENQUIRER STAFF WRITER

This doesn’t happen every day: An incumbent member of Congress, in the middle of a re-election battle, says that storing nuclear waste shipments from around the world in her district may be a good idea.

U.S. Rep. Jean Schmidt does say that, and her support for studying the idea has become an issue in her re-election campaign, especially in rural Pike County, in the far eastern end of her sprawling Southern Ohio District, where the nuclear wastes would be stored.

“I’m not advocating for it one way or the other,” Schmidt told The Enquirer. “I’m saying it is something we need to look at.”

Schmidt said she sees potential to create “hundreds, maybe thousands of jobs” in an economically distressed part of the state, where double-digit unemployment rates are the norm.

Schmidt has signed on to an effort by the Southern Ohio Diversification Initiative (SODI) and a Cleveland-based company called SONIC to seek a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) grant of up to $5 million for a study of whether the former Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion plant should be a site for temporary storage and recycling of spent nuclear fuel rods. The 3,400-acre site near Piketon produced highly enriched uranium through the Cold War years for military purposes and for civilian reactors until 2001, when that activity was consolidated at the similar Paducah plant.

A decision on the grant could come this week.

The idea of nuclear waste storage on a site that is still being cleaned up from its previous use has infuriated environmentalists and neighbors of the plant in Pike County and nearby Scioto County, prompting a communitywide petition drive and vows to fight the storage plan to the bitter end.

That and the fact that Schmidt’s Democratic opponent, Victoria Wulsin of Indian Hill, has come out against the idea, mean that the issue could have an impact on Schmidt’s re-election – meaning it could help determine who represents 650,000 constituents from Greater Cincinnati to Portsmouth.

“All I can tell you is that when it became known that she supports this, every Jean Schmidt yard sign in the county went down overnight,” said Geoffrey Sea, a writer whose home abuts the Piketon plant.

While in most towns and congressional districts, outside business investors coming in is usually considered a good thing, I have no idea why the hell Schmidt thought it would be a good idea to have a nuclear waste facility in her district. Maybe she’s getting campaign advice from Mr. Burns? Yucca Mountain is a no-brainer for people and politicians in Nevada, regardless of their political stripes. In a close re-election race, a gaffe like this could be costly for Schmidt.

NOTE: The photo is of a radioactive waste facility in Chernobyl, taken by a Ukrainian TV news station.

This came out today from the National Security Archive:

Washington D.C., October 26, 2006 – A CIA panel of experts concluded in 1997 that North Korea was likely to collapse within five years, according to declassified documents posted today on the Web by the National Security Archive. This “Endgame” exercise of former U.S. policymakers, intelligence officers and outsider experts warned that the North Korean regime could not remain “viable for the long term,” with the majority doubting the “current, deteriorating status could persist beyond five years.” Citing the “steady, seemingly irreversible economic degradation in the North,” the panel concluded that “the current situation in North Korea appears beyond corrective actions that do not fundamentally threaten the regime’s viability.”

Was that a slam dunk too, George?

In light of yesterday’s nuclear test, this seemed worth highlighting. [Note: At the time, Bandar was the Saudi ambassador to the United States and a close friend of the Bush family] From pages 12-13 of State of Denial:

George W. pulled Bandar aside.
“Bandar, I guess you’re the best asshole who knows about the world. Explain to me one thing.”
“Governor, what is it?”
“Why should I care about North Korea?”
Bandar said he didn’t really know. It was one of the few countries that he did not work on for King Fahd.
“I get these briefings on all parts of the world,” Bush said, “and everybody is talking to me about North Korea.”
“I’ll tell you what, Governor,” Bandar said. “One reason should make you care about North Korea.”
“All right, smart aleck,” Bush said, “tell me.”
“The 38,000 American troops right on the border.” Most of the U.S. 2nd Infantry Division was deployed there, along with thousands of other Army, Navy and Air Force personnel. “If nothing else counts, this counts. One shot across the border and you lose half these people immediately. You lose 15,000 Americans in a chemical or biological or even regular attack. The United State of America is at war instantly.”
“Hmmm,” Bush said. “I wish those assholes would put things just point-blank to me. I get half a book telling me about the history of North Korea.”
“Now I tell you another answer to that. You don’t want to care about North Korea anymore?” Bandar asked. The Saudis wanted America to focus on the Middle East and not get drawn into a conflict in East Asia.
“I didn’t say that,” Bush replied.
“But if you don’t, you withdrawl those troops back. Then it becomes a local conflict. Then you have the whole time to decide, ‘Should I get involved? Not involved?’ Etc.”
At that moment, Colin Powell approached.
“Colin,” Bush said, “come here. Bandar and I were shooting the bull, just two fighter pilots shooting the bull.” He didn’t mention the topic.
“Mr. Governor,” Bandar said, “General Powell is almost a fighter pilot. He can shoot the bull almost as good as us.”