IRAN. Reuters reported last week that the UN's nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, told its parent that Iran is yet again blocking full access to its nuclear sites. A WSJ editorial adds telling detail.
Iran warned IAEA inspectors re criticizing lack of access to Iran's nuclear facilities, saying the agency is making a "big mistake" that is "very dangerous." Hmmm, sound like cooperation? Also, Iran's soon-to-be operational Bushehr nuclear reactor is triggering environmental safety concerns around the Persian Gulf.
But what of Iran's releasing this week one of three imprisoned American hikers? Was this not a humanitarian gesture? Hardly. Were its regime humanitarian, Iran never would have seized the hikers and imprisoned them in the first place--even if, as is iffy, the hikers had in fact strayed across the Iraq-Iran border into Iranian territory. In reality, the gesture was strategic in intent, aiming to lessen pressure on the regime over its nuclear program & obscene human rights abuses. It was, put simply, another in a long line of manipulations of the civilized sentiments of Western leaders & publics.
SYRIA. On an upbeat note, here is a stirring account of the Mossad's role in Israel's September 6, 2007 destruction of Syria's North-Korean built nuclear reactor. The Mossad provided intel not only on the site itself, including advance proof of its nuclear activities, but also convinced a chary US State Dept. (no mean feat) that Israel had ample justification for a pre-emptive strike.
RUSSIA. Meanwhile, former top national security official John Bolton warns that the New START arms treaty limits America's ability to substitute conventional warheads on nuclear-armed delivery systems, a capability the US needs far more than does Russia. Read his superb piece. In arms control, the Devil often is in the details.
Taking the opposite tack, Reagan-era Secretary of State George Shultz, who held cabinet rank in several administrations, says we should learn from arms control experience and thus the Senate should ratify New START. But the "experience" Shultz cites in his well-written piece is in the late-1980s with genuine reformer Mikhail Gorbachev and in the 1990s with the nascent democratic post-Cold War Russia. The Russia of today still has Vladimir Putin behind the throne, hinting that he may seek a third term as Russian President in 2012. Putin did sign the 2002 Moscow Treaty, but since then has called (in 2005) the collapse of the former Soviet Union "the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the twentieth century." No Gorbachev, he. In arms bargaining and treaty implementation, with whom you deal is crucial.
Two arms control experts see unseemly haste in Senator Kerry's setting today for a committee vote on New START. They note that the administration created a verification mess by not extending the Moscow Treaty's December 5, 2009 expiration deadline before negotiating & signing New START. And they note the perils of placing "reset" at the top of priorities with Russia, as to arms deals:
Twenty years ago, the Commission on Integrated Long-Term Strategy (which included Zbigniew Brzezinski and Henry Kissinger) made the following observations about arms control with Russia: “When arms-control agreements are valued mainly for the international good will they are expected to generate, and only secondarily for their effects on arms, then our political leaders will always be under pressure to reach agreements by making concessions on arms. . . . A good arms agreement will be consistent with our long-term military strategy. This means we want agreements that (a) do not assume nuclear vulnerability is a desirable condition for the American people, (b) do not assume that accuracy is an undesirable attribute for American weapons, and (c) do not assume that defense against nuclear attacks is more threatening than offense. Agreements should be negotiated with awareness that they could restrict our forces and technologies for decades.” We believe that is still a good standard. The agreement currently before the Senate cannot yet be said to meet it.
Senator John Kerry's draft New START ratification resolution already faces Hill opposition. Blog-site The Cable reports:
Multiple GOP Senate aides close to the issue told The Cable they found the Kerry language unacceptable on a number of issues, including how it dealt with missile defense, tactical nuclear weapons, counting rules for warheads, and the sharing of telemetry data. "There are a lot of concerns raised that the Kerry draft didn't answer," one senior GOP aide said.
Expect more hurdles like this to emerge as the debate goes on. (The linked article links to .pdf files for Senator Kerry's draft resolution & cover letter.)
Shultz & three other foreign policy types argue in a WP op-ed that the time to vote on New START is now, citing the lack of verification since the monitoring provisions of previous treaties expired December 5, 2009. Were the treaty sound, a vote in favor clearly would be in order.
But New START is not sound, for lots of reasons explored in earlier LFTC editions. To vote for a bad treaty because it improves verification is precisely the box Team Obama's negotiators got us into, by rushing to get a new arms treaty without conditioning future arms negotiations on extension of the existing verification rules. Were Russia to have rejected such a condition, it would prove Moscow's insincerity as to new arms deals. But Team Obama was so eager to "reset" relations with Moscow that it plunged straight into new talks with verification expiration looming. Would they had been mindful of the lyrics of an old American tune: "Fools rush in where wise men never, never never go..." Ditto for wise women.
Senator Kerry intends to push for a New START floor vote in the lame-duck post-election session, noting that a more Republican Senate would make ratification less likely.
In a related development, the Center for Strategic Budgetary Assessments, a defense policy outfit, released a detailed study calling for a new strategic bomber to meet long-range strike goals that are an essential part of a post-NewSTART strategic environment.
Bottom Line. While the UN & America diddle over Iran's march toward joining the nuclear power & nuclear weapons clubs, Israel acts to stop rogue states. And our Senate debates a deeply flawed arms treaty that harks back to the Cold War superpower standoff.
Letter from the Capitol, LFTC, 9/11, National Security, Terrorism, Homeland Security, Nuclear Proliferation, Arms Control, WMD, Foreign Policy, UN, Conservative Politics