The prospect of nuclear war 256

This is from the Wall Street Journal:

An Iranian bomb is now simply a matter of Tehran’s will, not capability — despite two decades of international effort to prevent it. How did this happen?

The authority quoted by the WSJ is Olli Heinonen, a former deputy director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

In Iran’s case, Mr. Heinonen says, matters weren’t helped when the IAEA developed “Stockholm Syndrome”, akin to hostages who identify with their kidnappers. Though he praises the professionalism of the IAEA’s world-wide efforts on nuclear safety, Mr. Heinonen is mystified by parts of its record on Iran.

Mohamed ElBaradei’s tenure as the IAEA’s director-general from 1997-2009 wasn’t distinguished by its vigilance regarding Iran. He constantly downplayed suspicions (both from Western governments and within his own agency) about Iranian activity, and in 2008 he blessed almost all of Iran’s claims about its nuclear program as “consistent” with IAEA findings. …

Mr. ElBaradei’s willingness to give rogue regimes the benefit of the doubtextended to Syria: After Israel bombed a site in the Syrian desert in 2007, he told the New Yorker magazine that it was “unlikely that this building was a nuclear facility.” In fact it was—supplied by North Korea, no less.

Mr. Heinonen … notes that two events seemed to affect Mr. ElBaradei’s determination [in the case of Iran].

One was the U.S.-led war in Iraq, which Mr. ElBaradei “felt was unjust”,  Mr. Heinonen says, and was launched on what Mr. ElBaradei regarded as “a pretext” that the Bush administration might also invoke to attack Iran.

The other was the Nobel Peace Prize awarded in 2005 to Mr. ElBaradei and the IAEA. “It had an impact”—a softening one—”on the way we dealt with Iran,” Mr. Heinonen says.

So Nobel Peace Prize awards have not just been ridiculous (as for instance the one to Barack Obama for having done sweet nothing), they’ve also been positively dangerous. 

The main problem, however, was an entrenched practice of credulous diplomacy, says Mr. Heinonen. “If you ask whether things went wrong in 2003 and 2004, actually I would say it went wrong much earlier. It went wrong at the time of Hans Blix — the IAEA chief at the time — in 1993 and 1994.

That is when IAEA officials conducted “transparency visits” in Iran, prompted by various concerns, including that China had secretly diverted two tons of uranium to the Islamic Republic. As Mr. Heinonen tells it, inspectors declared “Everything is OK, we saw nothing.” Actually, he notes, “there were two laboratories which were undeclared and became obvious during this visit.”

Yet the IAEA stayed mum and remained so for three years while Iran delayed putting the facilities under agency safeguards. “This was never mentioned in public,” says Mr. Heinonen, adding that as he rose through the agency he learned of other such nondisclosures by Vienna’s supposed enforcers of transparency.

“I cannot understand logically why you would behave like that,” he says …

Yet it’s not hard to understand if you take naive credulousness and political bias into account.

To this day, Iranian negotiators manage to dampen IAEA criticism despite Tehran’s continued obstructionism. Inspectors have been blocked for years from the suspicious Parchin complex and from Arak, too, for the past 18 months. But by making promising public statements — like those this week announcing further negotiations in March and April — the Iranians “build a kind of hope, and the diplomats buy it,” Mr. Heinonen says.

Yes, every time, over and over again.

If a grand — and honest — bargain can’t be struck …

And any half-awake observer can see that it can’t …

… and Iran is recognized as a de facto or overt nuclear power, then what? Will the Middle East see a nuclear-arms race as rival nations try to catch up?

“Yes, it might, but not overnight,” Mr. Heinonen says. Saudi Arabia, Egypt and others would need five to 10 years to build a bomb “even in a crash course”. Yet that is only if the countries are “starting from zero,” he notes [and]  Saudi Arabia may already be on the move. …

For now, Mr. Heinonen is most concerned about Pakistan. The country is unstable, its nuclear arsenal huge …

An afternoon with Mr. Heinonen provides a sobering counterpoint to happy talk from the Obama administration about “a world without nuclear weapons”.

Childish talk, characteristic of the Obama administration.

This glimpse behind the curtain of lies and secrecy which the IAEA, and numerous governments, have drawn over the truth of nuclear proliferation among states governed by despots with dark  seventh century minds, reveals a very frightening prospect: that there will be nuclear war. And unless Americans come to their senses soon and elect an adult to the presidency, the US may not be able to defend itself.