Iran and the end game

 Someone wrote to lecture me about Iranian universities and cleverness.  I think it was "curious."  Well, lovely.  What will that matter when the Revolutionary Guard and their Howza enablers draw the enmity of the whole world onto the Iranian people, Persians, etc.?

The United States is a remarkably primitive state in terms of its understanding of the outer world.  As an elitist, I attribute that to the leveling process so favored by the modern world.  Jefferson did not intend this.  

In any event, one must face the issue of what US policy should be towards Iran in the context of the Iranian state's manifest intention to "trick f—k" the world into inaction while it achieves the status of a nuclear capable state.  

After some thought it is my opinion that we should do everything we can to impede Iran's progress towards nuclear power status while preparing ourselves for the day when the Iranian government explodes a device in the "Dasht-e-Kevir" (more Arabic loan words, did these people not have a language of their own?)

When that happens, (in spite of our sabotage), we must serve notice on Iran that a combat use of nuclear weapons will immediately lead to a total destruction of Iran by the United States.

Sorry, Israel. pl

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58 Responses to Iran and the end game

  1. Propagandist says:

    We could call the policy Singularly Assured Destruction (SAD).

  2. curious says:

    The link was a university in India, not Iran. A comment on another comment. kinda not making sense now, but I thought it was interesting because it’s a big archeological dig. Sort of little historical/wiki fun fact … ancient script give me the tingle, cause I always try reading them like strange comic for a chuckle.
    anyway, general serious comment, maybe related, maybe not.
    It could very well be that places with big population centers and old history are able to come up with diplomatic solution and read global geopolitical mood better than anyone cares to admit. Hey, if even schmo like me can blather about how Iran should hook up with China and that ought to stop neocon driven agenda dead on its track, and it happened, than maybe those direct and logical strategy, but very difficult to pull diplomacy will all come true. High diplomacy is cultural.
    Old places like persia, china and india can create very deep, long and intricate diplomatic dances. They also have long blood ties everywhere. Iran is not Saudi or Kuwait, bunch of nomad just coming out of the desert because of oil wealth. It has the entire persian and macedonian history behind them on top of Islamic world politics. Neocon tricks and game littered their history and story books. They know diplomatic strategems and DC bullshits, they were there when the game was invented.
    Above all, recent colonial history caution everybody in asia when it comes to any seemingly dubious legal and military move. Any hint of threat and unequal treaty should be answered only with ‘no’ and inevitable invasion. Iran is not going to fall for another zbig ploy.
    They are an ascdending regional superpower and so far they are doing all the right move. With the collapse of Hillary’s credibility in all of asia and arab world, as you say, it’s end game now. The middle game were China/Russia rearranging pipelinistan and Iran hanging tough during development of their centrifuge.
    The two extreme end games I see. Ugly skirmishes, begin with assassinations all over the world and collapsing into all out war (nule or no nuke), or new regional geopolitical equilibrium with US role in arab world greatly altered. Stable, but definitely different.
    So far Israel effort to start war, assassnation, usual neocon gags don’t work. Iran stay put and move their pieces methodically. And it is no secret I rather have new equilibrium than keep getting involved in endless war defending bunch of wackos. That will destroy the nation for good, instead of second scenario where everybody finally has to face up new energy policy.
    Military moves and counter move? I really don’t see how brute force will achieve those “policy”.
    nuclear war won’t save israel out of their morally repulsive action. They are destroying their own existence, no one else. No amount of weapons and technology can hide their crime.
    and this so called policy already put US at direct conflict with China, Russia and near collapse of european economy. It doesn’t take a lot of money for China to rearrange the global money flow permanently if they want to play their historically in their character game.
    Nobody buys neocon lies anymore.

  3. jm says:

    Pat, you say that “…we should do everything we can to impede Iran’s progress towards nuclear power status…” but from the context “everything” does not seem to mean the same thing as the often used “…nothing is off the table.” Care to expand?

  4. Charles I says:

    For reasons not clear to me aside from a Fatwa I heard on the news, I, well, I’m not sure, I Hope, the Mullahs are not suicidal, or worse yet, are’nt lawyers and it turns out the fatwa didn’t cover the tramp steamer nuke touched off in the harbour of New York.
    I infer, previous counsel aside, that you fear they think they could get away with sailing one into Israel, or wherever. I also infer from your proposed notice, you hope they are rational too, or you mightn’t bother.
    Then I read the last bit. . .
    I think the mullahs are rational, sorta. Israel drives me nuts, just on bleeding heart, chutzpah, thumb in your eye bullshit grounds alone. I hit post here in a lather, anything is possible I guess.
    Not by missile for years and years, surely. But yeah as soon as they get that, Israel will still be there pissing me, and no doubt the mullahs, off. I wonder when the assassination teams crossing the region – Jordan, Gaza, Dubai, Lebanon, Egypt, Iran – will sweep Israel?

  5. EL says:

    I still worry, really worry, that BiBi wants to go down in Israeli history as the superhero who saved his nation from extermination. The mind reels.

  6. PirateLaddie says:

    Ah, Colonel —
    Ever the optimist! If but our wounds from Iraq could speak to the limbs we risk by engaging Iran. I think Van Riper gamed it well, but despite that revelatory exercise, we’ll be flim-flammed into doing Israel’s will once again.
    At the very least, a real dust-up in Iran gives Tel Aviv cover to begin a stronger program of ethnic cleansing.

  7. Lysander says:

    Col Lang,
    Do you think it might be possible that Iran will seek to be a turn of the screw away from a nuke and not have actually ever build one? Would having that capability to nuke up on short notice give Iran substantial strategic heft without incurring the world’s wrath?
    Alternatively, if the do go nuclear, wouldn’t it be in their interest to maintain an Israeli like ambiguity rather than actually detonate a nuke?
    There was a study at a Tel Aviv Strategic Studies institute saying just that. It was reported in Haaretz a few years back.
    Money quote

    According to the study, as Iran formulates its nuclear policy, it will have to decide on one of three options: a) to remain on the verge of acquiring nuclear weapons – to avoid developing a nuclear arsenal immediately, but developing the capability to do so on short notice; b) to adopt a policy of nuclear ambiguity – to produce nuclear weapons, but to avoid making their existence public and testing them, in the hope of averting further pressure on Tehran; and c) to produce nuclear weapons, announce their existence and possibly also to carry out a test.
    The study suggests that Iran will prefer the second option “which appears most likely, at least in the first stage.””

  8. b says:

    For all practical purpose Iran is already a “nuclear capable” state just as Germany, the Netherlands, Japan and Brazil are.
    They do have the theoretical and practical know-how on how to build a bomb or two.
    But Iran will not do so unless it gets under serious physical attack. There is simply no advantage in that.
    The U.S. could and should still go for a grand bargain with Iran.
    Unfortunately the masters in Tel Aviv will not allow this and Washington seems too timid to give it a try.
    The whole U.S. foreign policy staff seems to run around the middle east right now screaming “Iran, Iran, Iran” while important other issues, the new START agreement, economic relations with China, climate etc are all delayed and mishandled onyl to “fix” the “Iran problem”.
    Netanyahu must laugh his ass off.

  9. RAISER William says:

    “…do everything we can to impede Iran’s progress towards nuclear power status…”
    That’s the sticky part. How do we impede nuclear bomb development, allow and encourage nuclear electricity development, and do everything we can to develop positive relations with Iran. Not an easy combination, as you have pointed out.
    There are enough nuclear bomb powers now to ensure that anyone who uses such a device will commit suicide, and everyone knows that.
    Seems to me you are pushing in a direction of much needed creative engagement. Everything we can do to expand cultural understanding and trade (rather than trade sanctions) should move in positive directions.
    Since the US started Iran’s nuclear electric program, we might help them achieve that rather than see their money spent on Russian plants.
    Let’s work to enhance their integration into the global community rather than try to isolate them. That has a BIG upside and very little on the down side.

  10. Stormcrow says:

    I’ve figured Iran was on that road for at least 5 years now.
    It doesn’t worry me very much.
    I grew up in Tucson in the 1960s, and went to grad school there in the 80s. We had Davis-Monthan Air Force Base (SAC base: nuclear-armed B-52s) on the southeast side of town, a big Hughes Aircraft defense plant in the south part of town, and 18 Titan II hardened silos surrounding. If things had dropped in the pot with the USSR, there wouldn’t have been much point in seeking shelter. OTOH, with that many H-bombs going off nearby, it probably would have been over quickly.
    These people had more than 30,000 deliverable nuclear weapons at their height, and a BW arsenal, also deliverable, that boggles the mind.
    And we stared them down. It took us 40 years, but we did it. Where are they now?
    So an Iran with less than a dozen first-generation nukes and nothing in particular to deliver them with does not scare me all that much.
    When and if they “graduate” into the nuclear club, they’ll only find themselves bound by the same constraints as everyone else at the table. Plus the fact that some of that club’s senior members really don’t care for them very much.
    I agree that Iran should be told. These things are best made explicit. That avoids confusion.
    But Mahmoud Ahmadinejad doesn’t seem to be a dynamite-vest type to me. Despicable, yes. Sociopathic, yes. Brutal, yes. Rather lie than tell the truth? Absolutely.
    Suicidally insane, no.

  11. different clue says:

    I wonder if Ahmadinejad himself and some other figures in the A-K/RevGuard/Baseej faction which currently rules the Islamic Republic have a psychological mindset such that the threat or even the fact of massive retaliation would not upset them. I wonder if they are psychologically even if not theologically similar to the
    most “Darby” of “Rapturists”. In other words, what if Ahmadinejad and some of the RevGuards and Baseejis consider an atom bomb to be their “ticket to heaven”?
    On the other hand, I wonder if some of the out-of-power power centers such as senior clerics like Rafsanjani, the Regular Armed Forces, political leaders like Mousavi and others; might be more pragmatically survival-oriented and as such; would rather “have” the bomb than use it? If so, might they be more trustworthy custodians of Iran’s eventual atom bomb than the faction now in power?
    If analysts and decision makers within our government think that could be so; would they have a way
    to convey a sense of hope and support to the out-of-power counter-faction elements of the leadership system in Iran? Would efforts to delay Iran’s reaching the bomb combined with very carefully crafted sanctions buy enough time for the counter A-jad forces
    to take back power from the current faction in time to put Iran’s eventual bomb in wiser cooler hands?

  12. Some journalism studies have shown that in US papers there were porportionately more column inches devoted to foreign news reporting back around 1800 in Jefferson’s day than in recent years.
    As the votes show, Congress is dominated by the “pro-israel” lobby. Thus it will rubber stamp what the White House would offer in terms of action against Iran, IMO. About 3/4 of the House and Senate voted for war against Iraq. (voted to “authorize force”). Probably have more votes today against Iran.
    Today’s “pro-Israel” press will play the cheerleader-stenographer role.
    We saw this with the Iraq war so it is not likely to be any different when the US launches against Iran.

  13. mo says:

    The irony is of course that if weaponary is their goal it would be only to avoid that fate. I do not think the Iranians will ever use a nuclear weapon on Israel and take the risk of killing Palestinians or the Shia of southern Lebanon. Nor do I think that they are foolish or naive enough to not anticipate the consequences of such an act (and I doubt the US would be the only nation taking part in carpet bombing Iran in response.)
    I think you nailed it on the head in an earlier post. This is about a balance of power.
    This isn’t so much about Iran’s first strike ability but more about their ability to respond to a first strike.
    And this isn’t so much about the US defending Israel’s right to exist as it is about the US defending Israel’s desire to act with total impunity without fear of consequence.
    The question is are the Israelis prepared for to accept this outcome or will they try to act before-hand?

  14. J says:

    So you have come to the belief that they will some day use their Bonneville salt flats to detonate weapons testings? How does Iran achieving nuclear status capability threaten our U.S.? I could care less about if they become a threat or not to Israel, as Israel has stabbed our the back too many times. How does Iran become a threat to our U.S.? We contained the Soviets. Is not Iran a pimple compared to the Soviet threat of yesteryear?

  15. Patrick Lang says:

    “The irony is of course that if weaponary is their goal it would be only to avoid that fate.”
    You don’t know that. You HOPE that it is true. pl

  16. Patrick Lang says:

    They will be a threat to us when they achieve the farther goals of their ballistic missile program. pl

  17. FDRDemocrat says:

    Since, absent a US invasion, an Iranian nuclear capability now seems all but certain, the following questions suggest themselves:
    1. What steps will Saudi Arabia, Egypt and other Arab and neighboring states take now that another regional power has nuclear weapons?
    2. Israel’s possession of nuclear weapons has been somewhat tolerated until now; to what extent does an Iranian capability mean that future nuclear disarmament discussions will include addressing all such weapons in the region? Perhaps one part of achieving this capability is to use it as a bargaining chip, as has sometimes seemed the case with the DPRK?
    3. What of the nightmare scenario of such nuclear capability falling into unstable, perhaps even non-state actor, hands? Given that this fear already exists vis a vis Pakistan, have we doubled the odds that a suitcase nuke is in D.C.’s future? Or are these fears exaggerated?

  18. Patrick Lang says:

    Forget about the freighter blowing up in the St. Lawrence. All they have to do to radically alter the balance of power in the ME is get something to go “bang” in the desert. It can be as big as a boxcar. that won’t matter. As soon as it happens the world will be profoundly different. strategic wargaming on this issue has always revealed the same thing. Possession of of a nuclear device paralyzes options political options against Iran.
    The first deliverable Iranian nuclear weapon does not have to be a suitacase or freighter bomb. It can be something that fits into a C-130 which can be flown at nap of the earth altitude all the way to the Mediterranean on a one way trip. pl

  19. Cieran says:

    FDR Democrat:
    Given that this fear already exists vis a vis Pakistan, have we doubled the odds that a suitcase nuke is in D.C.’s future? Or are these fears exaggerated?
    The fears of a suitcase-sized tactical nuclear weapon are exaggerated, at least in terms of such technology being designed, manufactured and successfully tested in Pakistan or Iran.
    The fears of nuclear proliferation are, of course, not exaggerated, though it is intriguing how incredibly selective we seem to be in terms of the attribution of those fears, e.g., we worry about the future potential for a handful of low-yield weapons in Iran, but not about the current certainty of perhaps hundreds of high-yield weapons in Israel, or about the considerable uncertainty of Soviet-era weapons that might have gone missing.
    One of the stranger aspects of nuclear weapons technology is that it’s arguably easier to increase the size and yield of a weapon than it is to decrease it. So the design and construction of a suitcase nuke is likely well beyond the engineering capabilities of all but the most well-established nuclear club members, e.g., the US, the Russians, the French.
    On the other hand, Iran’s engineering capabilities have so far proven to be incapable of refining sufficient gasoline to keep its citizens’ automotive needs satisfied. Engineering a portable tactical nuclear weapon is an infinitely more difficult task than turning crude oil into gasoline, so while fears in general are warranted, the current level of fear is almost certainly not.

  20. david says:

    Thanks for this. Sounds about right to me. I would say the timeline is about 20 years (my timeline would include sabotage, as well as the possibility of limited air strikes).
    I guess my second question would be about the secondary effects of such. Are you arguing for a comprehensive containment policy or one focused neatly on the nuclear issue and accepting the status quo elsewhere, ie Iraq, Lebanon, etc?
    I guess my concern would be that a comprehensive approach would run at cross-purposes with preparation for the “day.” This is not necessarily so, but I doubt we have the agility such a policy would require (and I say this leaving aside the reliability of our “partners” in such a policy.)
    Finally, can I infer from this post that you have given up on the idea of a “grand bargain” or more accurately decided such will not be possible until all other possibilities are excluded?

  21. Patrick Lang says:

    It does not appear to me that such a bargain is still a possibility. pl

  22. mo says:

    Yes, I don’t know that it is true (and we could say that we don’t know that they actually want the bomb).
    I can only base my conclusions on analysis and understanding. One can think what one wants of the Iranian leadership but they have never done anything to portray themselves as suicidal – There is a rationale to having the weapons only if you do not intend to use them first.
    As you say, a test of any site in the desert will fundamentally change the balance of power in the region.
    Iran supports the Palestinians and the Palestinian cause. That cause would not be served by irradiating the coastal cities of Israel.
    However, if their possesion of nukes causes enough Israelis to start thinking about using that second passport then that would serve the Palestinian cause perfectally.
    With Hizballah, water shortages, the “Khamas” rocket threat and the total breakdown of the peace process, a nuclear Iran may be the straw that puts the camel on a flight to Florida or Russia.
    That is what I believe Israel (and therefore the US govt.) fears the most, far more than mushroom clouds over Tel Aviv.

  23. Patrick Lang says:

    “When that happens, (in spite of our sabotage), we must serve notice on Iran that a combat use of nuclear weapons will immediately lead to a total destruction of Iran by the United States.”
    Does this apply to Iranian retaliation for first use of nuclear weapons by “some other state” against Iran,
    or a false flag “Iranian attack” on one of its neighbors? The latter
    is perhaps a hare-brained hypothesis,
    but similar (and more complex) scenarios are easy to imagine, and have, in the past, been used to initiate conflicts.”
    Hannah O’Luthan

  24. Redhand says:

    Given how overstretched we are militarily now, I don’t see that we have any ground military option against Iran, and that the airwar option–bombing them back to the stone age LeMay style with conventional weapons–would also be a disaster.
    IMO it would lead to incredible disruptions in the world oil supply, turn the entire Muslim world against us (even the Arab states that fear and hate Iran) and cause many unforeseen asymmetric warfare problems for us in AFPAK and Iraq, where we are engaged, not to mention elsewhere.
    I absolutely agree that it is “the Iranian state’s manifest intention to “trick f—k” the world into inaction while it achieves the status of a nuclear capable state.
    So what are our options? While still an “act of war,” what about a blockade of Iran’s oil ports and sea trade? Will that accomplish anything positive? Or is the only real option we have doing everything we can to support a “green revolution” behind the scenes?
    After our follies in Iraq and AFPAK, and out own economic weaknesses, I have real concerns about another massive military effort in the Middle East.
    I’m interested in hearing more about what others think. Unless I’m mistaken, Col. Lang thinks our hands are tied at this point, except for the “glass it over” option should Iran ever use nukes.

  25. schol says:

    Colonel, do you think that one of unintended consequences of a pre-emptive strike against Iran could be unification of Islam, meaning fusion of Shia and Sunni into a monolithic Islam?

  26. N. M. Salamon says:

    IMO blockade of Iran without UN sanction is an act of war.
    The problem is China needs the oil, would USA fire on chinese owned and operated oil tanler [or Jabanese, South Korean Taiwan, etc all the financiers of USA’s Treauries]?
    What wouled you expect the Chinese [etc] to do, buy more treasuries or bankrupt the USA by selling same?

  27. Patrick Lang says:

    I don’t think so. Islam is endlessly self-divisive, (even more than Christianity). The divisions are too deep. pl

  28. C L says:

    Missing from this discussion is Iran’s perceived threat from its Eastern neighbors, Pakistan & (their identity feud with) India. Both these countries have nuclear weapons pointed at each other & a shortage of petroleum. There is no love lost between the Iran/Pakistan/India Axis with grievances dating to the dawn of the age of man.
    To the northwest – Turkmenistan & the Kurds, both with ties to Israeli enterprise. Turkmenistan supplies Israel with oil & receives technology in return. The Kurds use Israel’s support in the creation of their autonomous state.
    These issues are much closer to Teheran’s heart & need a deterrent better than the ‘Saddam Hussein school of nuclear bluffing’.
    The US & NATO forces to the south & Northwest (Iraq/Afghanistan) actually help Iran stabilize their country by providing peaceful, clearly defined borders. Hence the lack of threats from Iran on either front these days.
    The Israelis greatest deterrent is Jerusalem, the victor who will eventually wipe Israel ‘off the map’ wants the historic glory of liberating Jerusalem. These modern day Salah al-Din(s) will want their victory parade in Jerusalem. This cannot be done after the use of Nuclear weapons. The fallout from nuking Tel Aviv will be blown by the daily westerly winds straight to Al-Quds (Jerusalem, 36 miles away), killing the population & probably destroying the city in the process.
    I won’t even delve into the effect of wiping out of the city to christianity, Islam or the death toll of Palestinians, Jordanians etc…
    Lastly – if Israel is destroyed, how will the ME dictatorships distract & control their populations, a new boogieman will be needed or internal turmoil will explode along sectarian/tribal riffs. Will the Persians become the new devil nation?

  29. Patrick Lang says:

    Cieran will sort this out but IMO a high airburst over TA would just rattle the windows in Jerusalem depending on the yield. If the fire ball does not touch the earth, there would be no fallout to speak of.
    “Destroying the city?” what?
    The bogyman thing is nonsense. The rulers will always have each other as rivals. pl

  30. Thomas says:

    Could this issue be the catalyst for the establishment of 21st century state relations through the Concert of the Middle East?
    In regards to Redhand’s comment of a naval blockade as an act of war, hasn’t the US been in a technical state of war with Iran since Nov. 4 1979? Therefore any action by US would just be a continuation of it.
    It makes sense for IRI wanting to change the strategic balance since their rhetoric has them coming across as wanting to be more than a regional actor but world player. Which leads to the question of regime stability and Khamenei’s eventual succession (a big question for all of the Middle East states in the next 5-10 years). The civil upheval from last summer’s election is not going away anytime soon. As the crisis continues, the revolutinary generation is turning on itself in a power struggle and their economy is faltering. How long can this last before hitting the breaking point?

  31. C L says:

    How high would such an airburst be?
    Given the altitude differences between TA & Jerusalem approx. 2500 ft. Would not the radiation emitted from such an airburst explosion be at the same elevation as J’lem?
    I am not familiar with Cieran, what is it?
    Destroying the city – would be the intentional destruction of temple mount by the US settler wing in the turmoil that follows. I recollect reading in the 80s of Kahana’s thoughts on such an activity in the next great war.

  32. 1. We should consider the cost to the US non-proliferation goal and strategy per Iran of the Valerie Plame case.
    It runs in my mind that the operations in which she was involved reportedly related directly to our goals of halting proliferation and restraining potential/actual Iranian nuclear weapons programs.
    I seem to remember somewhere that it was said at the time Karl Rove and the Cheney White House action against her created significant “damage” to ongoing operations. And also that it set the US back by several years (10 some said) in this regard.
    2. General Jones just noted that perhaps with a regime change in Iran we could get down to some more productive negotiations and verifiable behavior etc. Thus tightening sanctions to create conditions for a “regime change” in Iran would seem to be in the works at this time. Mrs. Clinton has made remarks in this direction of late which seem to be underscored by Gen Jones.
    3. This then would take us to the matter of the Rev Guards and their relative position within Iran. Can they be fragmented? What will the regular Army, Navy, and Air Force do? What about police forces? What about the mullahs themselves?
    4. The fact remains that the US has used nuclear weapons with devastating effect in the past, something the Iranian leadership might wish to take into consideration. Particularly those living in Qom, perhaps.

  33. Cieran says:

    Just running off to class, but as far as this:
    a high airburst over TA would just rattle the windows in Jerusalem depending on the yield
    The fundamental thing to remember about explosive weapons effects is the cube-root-scaling law, which is a remarkably useful approximation for estimating effects.
    Since any blast must expand into a 3D domain (space for an air blast, a half-space for a ground blast), the blast effects scale as the cube root of the distance.
    So if you want to achieve a given blast effect at twice the distance, you need approximately eight times the blast energy, i.e., an order of magnitude of increased yield buys you something like a factor of two in terms of effects distance.
    This is why low-yield weapons are no match for high-yield ones, and it’s why thermonuclear weapons (i.e., megatons instead of kilotons) are so incredibly destructive. Thermonuclear technology brings order-of-magnitude increases in effects distance, so that’s not something you want to see proliferated, as long as we wish to preserve some semblance of civilization.
    Hope this helps!

  34. Tony says:

    Frankly, I am baffled by some of the arguments. Colonel states that if Iran gets the nuclear bomb, then they will put it on a long-range missile and that would be a threat to the US. IF Iran gets the bomb, THEN they develop long-range missiles and AFTER that they put the bomb on the missile…… Isn’t it a slippery-slope argument? Who says they will do that? Did we (or do we) have the same apprehension about Pakistani or even Indians?? Do you honestly believe that Iranian leaders are that empty-headed to invade Israel or for that matter any other country in the ME? I pose a hypothetical question and that is “what if US lifts the sanction on Iran all together”? I know it is crazy…..

  35. Patrick Lang says:

    Thanks it does. I am right. pl

  36. Patrick Lang says:

    You need to get out more. They ARE developing long range ballistic missiles. The Shahab-5 is being designed with a desired range of 10,000 km. pl

  37. Patrick Lang says:

    Cieran is a nuclear physicist/engineer. As a young man I went to school for months to be qualified in nuclear weapons effects. It is all over the internet now if you look for it.
    This is a theoretical discussion and not intended to be prophetic.
    I don’t think that the Iranians would use a large yield weapon against TA or Haifa. It would be unnecessary even if they had some. These are not large cities. In the weapons sizes that would be likely the blast and heat effects on those cities would be quite enough.
    Direct radiation effects on Jerusalem should not be a major factor if the delivery were accurate. pl

  38. Patrick Lang says:

    I failed to answer your question. The idea would be to keep the fireball from touching the earth. If the fireball touches the earth, then the weapon digs a big hole and throws large amounts of soil high into the air. This soil is radioactive and drifts around causing “fallout.”
    The height required to prevent that is determined by the yield and therefore the size of the fireball.
    Where were you during the Cold War? pl

  39. MRW. says:

    Colonel you wrote: They will be a threat to us when they achieve the farther goals of their ballistic missile program. pl
    Why? Why are they more of a threat than India or Pakistan with their nuclear programs. As for ballistic missiles, they can buy more SS-N-22 Sunburns or SS-N-25 Onyx’s from Russia, both of which Iran already has, and Iran has the Russian S-300PMU-2 air defense system in place.

  40. Patrick Lang says:

    Brilliant! All nuclear weapons states are equally dangerous! Brilliant!
    Can you hold New York at risk with those weapons? pl

  41. Dale says:

    It is sad that the United States can’t even stand up to the Iranians. We have a weak leader with no foreign policy to speak of, and a totallack of intestinal fortitude. While we say talk to the Iranians, the Israeli’s are going to do what should have been done long ago. Take out Iran, then we won’t have to deal with these terrorists.

  42. Question PL? What would be the merits of redeploying all US troops current in countries bordering on Iran to that border?
    Hey I know a fool may ask more questions than a wise man can answer!

  43. Sidney O. Smith III says:

    Looking on down the road a bit, we may reach a point where American Gentiles need to stand up on behalf of American Jews.
    Here’s why:
    The Satmar Rabbis, among others, have emphasized, for decades now, that Zionism triggers systematic anti-Semitism. It justifies and strengthens the State. Whether Zionism is intended to do so, I don’t know. But there does seem to be a vicious cycle at work and with each rotation of the cycle, the situation worsens.
    If true — and there is some indication that the Satmar analysis warrants consideration — a tipping point will be reached.
    Increasingly, assimilated American Jews are re-evaluating traditional allegiances towards Zionism — such alliances that quite frankly, I once considered myself apart. So, obviously, people are becoming more aware of the potential long term repercussions from Likud Zionism, all of which portend a disaster. My belief is that it will engender some type of national fragmentation.
    But the fact that so many assimilated American Jews are reassessing their loyalites seems to confirm some of the analytical assumptions underlying the Satmar view towards Zionism.
    I don’t know if we are at that tipping point yet – looks unlikely — but just something to keep in mind.

  44. Patrick Lang says:

    I do not see any advantage at all in doing that. We would place our ground forces in the position of being on external lines with inferior numbers and with supply lines very long indeed.
    If you liked Lee’s dispositions at Gettysburg in the famously defective “fish hook” you would really like this. pl

  45. Frabjous says:

    HEU production is just one among many (and, arguably, far from the most difficult) step in achieving missile-deliverable nukes. First (please correct me if wrong), Uranium-based bombs can not be easily carried on a missile given size and shape constraints, so a plutonium-based implosion bomb is required. Therefor, and secondly, one must produce and extract plutonium, which requires a specialized (breeder) reactor (with plenty of fuel), and the chemical/radiological industrial process. Third, the design and manufacture of a thermonuclear implosion bomb is non-trivial and requires several components (high-speed, high power switches , neutron mediators, gamma lenses &c) that must either be acquired or developed. Fourth, the bomb must be miniaturized and ruggedized to survive the launch and re-entry of the missile. Fifth, a reliable ballistic missile platform.
    The Iranians may be able to buy or steal some of these, but have not as of yet shown the type of deep technical expertise required for their development and production (e.g. petroleum refining). The long pole in the tent seems to me to be the Pu production, as it is very difficult and requires so much industrial expertise, not to mention the (BTW non-power producing) breeder reactor.
    They may be able to make a gun type uranium bomb and set it off in the desert, but I bet it will be a long time if ever that they are able to manufacture a reliable nuke mated to a reliable over-the-horizon delivery system.
    I am by no means an expert on any of this, but it really concerns me that there is so little discussion of the numerous and substantial technical hurdles that must be overcome to produce an ICBM (or even TBM) nuke. In any case, the Iranians may be 0.5-2.0 years from producing a crude nuclear device, but I bet you a dime to a d’ohnut that they are much further from an ICBM.
    Not, however, a threat calculation I’d care to bet my farm on!

  46. J says:

    It appears that our Sec-O-State Hillary is a day late and a dollar short. She is warning of a nuclear arms race. Hillary needs to take a gander at aisle #6 to see that it IS Israel’s undeclared nukes that have and are the reason of any nuclear arms that Iran or any other Mideast state may try achieve.
    If people are so concerned about Iran nukes? Blame it on Israel’s ‘undeclared nuke stockpiles’.

  47. different clue says:

    If a “clean yield” uranium bomb is made of uranium super-enriched to just below the upper limit of safe handle-ability, so it won’t go off on its own; how much radionuclide product (strontium 90, cesium 120, etc.) would be left in the air after the fission had run its course? Enough to affect human health? Where would it go and how widely would it disperse?
    Would such a high-purity U235 airburst generate enough free neutrons and alphas to turn stable nuclei
    into radionuclei? If so, would it be enough to matter?
    Conversely, if someone enriched uranium just enough
    to where a huge amount of it pressed together fast enough hard enough would go off; how much plutonium would be generated? Enough to matter? How far might it spread and where and how would it reach and enter living organisms?
    Colonel Lang, looking back…should we wonder if Israel was right all along and our own estimate was too rosy? Or was our estimate correct at the time
    and has since been Overtaken By Iran? In other words, have the Iranians just lately started
    pouring new atomic truthwine
    into old Israeli liebottles?

  48. Cieran says:

    Different Clue:
    A few hopefully-worthwhile comments:
    (1) to my knowledge, there’s no such thing as “clean yield” in terms of nuclear weapons design. Fission is a necessary part of all nuclear WMD, and fission is inherently dirty in terms of EM radiation and unpleasant daughter products.
    (2) as Colonel Lang pointed out, there are strategies that can be employed to minimize some of the attendant messes, but none of those removes the fundamental problem of radionuclide pollution… and if a weapon is poorly-engineered or poorly-detonated, the resulting mess can get worse.
    (3) some nuclear strategies are inherently dirtier than others, e.g., all the recent saber-rattling about nuclear bunker-busters neglects the likelihood of really nasty fallout that would be spread over a wide area.
    (4) thankfully for the human race, nuclear weapons have not been used on civilization for over half a century. Thus there’s not a lot of data on the effects of such weapons, so speculation on the resulting carnage is just that: speculation. We would expect that the real-world effects would be better than the most pessimistic scenarios, and worse that the more optimistic ones. That leaves a lot of unpleasant room in the intervening uncertainty.
    Finally, for anybody wishing to make sense out of this topic, the material found on the web is a pretty good introduction, e.g., Wikipedia articles, the document resources found at sites like, or the highly-readable books written by folks like Richard Rhodes. One of my favorites is the magnificently-written “Curve of Binding Energy” by John McPhee.
    The details beyond those found in open-source references are of course highly classified, but rest assured that this is a very good thing.

  49. Patrick Lang says:

    Incredibly (to me) someone has written to accuse me of warmongering against Iran.
    For those who think that, I will try to explain…
    I have been trained and educated to make available to the sovereign/boss (you) analysis as clear as I can make it and as inclusive of evidence as I can manage.
    If you want someone to feed you their agenda in the guise of argument, go elsewhere.
    I expect that reasonable people will come to reasonable conclusions. pl

  50. Patrick Lang says:

    DC, Cieran
    I was taught that radionuclides were not a significant weapons effect, in other words that they could not calculated as part of the destruction.
    I agree that the talk of nuclear “post hole doiggers” does not consider the enhanced fallout that would result from sub-surface detonations.
    Was Israel correct all along? Iranian actions will tell us that. pl

  51. curious says:

    The long pole in the tent seems to me to be the Pu production, as it is very difficult and requires so much industrial expertise, not to mention the (BTW non-power producing) breeder reactor.
    Posted by: Frabjous | 16 February 2010 at 03:05 PM
    huh? Anybody who can stack a lego can produce plutonium. It’s that easy. How do you think handford B reactor was made? or the first nuclear reactor at U o Chi was made? It’s just a block of stacked lead brick with holes for uranium pallets entrance. nature takes care the rest. Tho iranian has their own small research reactor plus north Korean supply. Obtaining plutonium is trivial once they have uranium.
    Then making hollow pit or “swan device” type of nuke is definitely within range of iranian capability. It’s not like they have to figure out everything from scratch, all they have to do is cut and paste. They don’t even have to do the calculation anymore. Somebody already figured it out.
    Any half drunk computer hacker can run a C&C milling machine and make swan device. Dude. It’s basic metal work. Walmart/basement garage type of deal. enriching uranium is the most complicated infrastructure. Making device around 100Kg. (to fit inside their current ballistic missile) is definitely within their capability.
    Multi stage/H-bomb is complicated.

  52. J says:

    Israel has been doing its best to goad Iran into going over the nuke weapons thresh-hold, goading Iran into making a nuke weapon. Israel is a bully with their undeclared nuke weapons stockpiles, threatening other Mideast states at every turn. It’s time that Israel was called on the carpet and forced to declare their nuke weapons stockpiles and then actions taken to neutralize Israel’s bully behavior once and for all.
    Was Israel right all along? That is a loaded question.

  53. J says:

    Make Israel destroy their undeclared nuke weapons stockpiles, or we the U.S. will do it for them, forcefully if necessary. Make Israel an example for going forward to make the entire Mideast a nuke weapons free environment. Such an environment is beneficial for all concerned (U.S., Russia, China, India, etc.).

  54. Trent says:

    J, I think we’d get along over beers. I think you’re incapable of ignoring elephants in the living room. But I’m curious as to your background. Where do you come from (politically, academically, nationally) that you think this is possible?

  55. Trent says:

    Col. Lang, what do you mean by, “Sorry, Israel”?

  56. J says:

    Patrick J. Buchanan commenting on the recent White House ridicule of Ahmadinejad in a recent address where he said Iran would enrich uranium to 20 percent and manufacture its own rods for what he called medical research.
    White House: “He [Ahmadinejad] says many things, and many of them turn out to be untrue. We do not believe they have the capability to enrich to the degree to which they now say they are enriching.”
    Buchanan remarked and said: “Wait a minute. If Iran does not have the capability to enrich to 20 percent for fuel rods, how can Iran enrich to 90 percent for a bomb?”
    If Iran does not have the capability to enrich to 20 percent for fuel rods, how can Iran enrich to 90 percent for a bomb?

  57. J says:

    Patrick J. Buchanan’s Comment: “If Iran does not have the capability to enrich to 20% for fuel rods, how can Iran enrich to 90 percent for a bomb?”
    So why all this fuss about sanctions and military strikes on Iran?

  58. Sidney O. Smith III says:

    “Looks like the Wurmser option is still the name of the game. O7NIE caused major problems as how to execute the option. Odds increasing that step one of the three steps may materialize as some type of economic warfare, including a naval blockade of Iran, with the neo-pundits drawing a historical comparison to Cuban Missile Crisis to sell to Am. Public. (I believe C. Krauthammer has already laid the pipe for such an analogy in an earlier screed).”
    Posted by: Sidney O. Smith III | 03 June 2008 at 08:53 PM
    ‘Tis true, ‘tis true. I ain’t lyin. Sure, I ain’t no government type I don’t reckon but still: Here it is 2010 and the Israeli FM is now makín’ the comparison b/t a blockade of Iran and the Cuban Missile Crisis.
    Btw, Dean Rusk, from what little I know, was a major player in defusing the Cuban Missile Crisis. Politically incorrect of me to put forth such analysis regarding Rusk, but ‘tis true, ‘tis true.

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