28east

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Posts Tagged ‘nuclear

Reconsidering Iran’s nuclear ambitions

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A sensible news report on Iran’s nuclear ambitions has finally emerged. From the Los Angeles Times:

As U.S. and Israeli officials talk publicly about the prospect of a military strike against Iran’s nuclear program, one fact is often overlooked: U.S. intelligence agencies don’t believe Iran is actively trying to build an atomic bomb.

A highly classified U.S. intelligence assessment circulated to policymakers early last year largely affirms that view, originally made in 2007. Both reports, known as national intelligence estimates, conclude that Tehran halted efforts to develop and build a nuclear warhead in 2003.

The most recent report, which represents the consensus of 16 U.S. intelligence agencies, indicates that Iran is pursuing research that could put it in a position to build a weapon, but that it has not sought to do so.

U.S. spy agencies also have not seen evidence of a decision-making structure on nuclear weapons around Khamenei, said David Albright, who heads the nonprofit Institute for Science and International Security and is an expert on Iran’s nuclear program.

Albright’s group estimates that with the centrifuges Iran already has, it could enrich uranium to sufficient purity to make a bomb in as little as six months, should it decide to do so.

It is not known precisely what other technical hurdles Iran would have to overcome, but Albright and many other experts believe that if it decides to proceed, the country has the scientific knowledge to design and build a crude working bomb in as little as a year. It would take as long as three years, Albright estimated, for Iran to build a warhead small enough to fit on a ballistic missile.

In December 2007, the National Intelligence Estimate judged with “high confidence” that Tehran had halted its nuclear weapons program in the fall of 2003. It judged with “moderate-to-high confidence that Tehran at a minimum is keeping open the option to develop nuclear weapons.”

As George Friedman said, very clearly, a month ago (here):

Moreover, while the Iranians may aspire to a deterrent via a viable nuclear weapons capability, we do not believe the Iranians see nuclear weapons as militarily useful. A few such weapons could devastate Israel, but Iran would be annihilated in retaliation. While the Iranians talk aggressively, historically they have acted cautiously. For Iran, nuclear weapons are far more valuable as a notional threat and bargaining chip than as something to be deployed. Indeed, the ideal situation is not quite having a weapon, and therefore not forcing anyone to act against them, but seeming close enough to be taken seriously. They certainly have achieved that.

Written by M. James

February 24, 2012 at 3:10 pm

Posted in News, Politics

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Iranian rial weakens

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Iran’s Middle Class on Edge as World Presses In
Robert F. Worth; The New York Times; Feb. 6, 2012

TEHRAN — One measure of the profound anxiety now coursing through Iranian society can be seen on Manouchehri Street, a winding lane at the heart of this city where furtive crowds of men gather every day like drug dealers to buy and sell American dollars.

The government has raised the official exchange rate and sent police into the streets to stop the black marketeers, but with confidence in Iran’s own currency, the rial, collapsing by the day, the trade goes on.

In an interview, Ali Akbar Javanfekr, an adviser to Mr. Ahmadinejad, also dismissed the sanctions as counterproductive, saying Iranians had suffered worse isolation during the 1980s and had always found ways around them. “This is not the way to approach us,” Mr. Javanfekr said. “You should instead speak to us with respect. You should win our heart.”

Some Iranian businessmen make similar comments, noting that there are always ingenious new ways to sell oil and to transfer money, and that the people who will suffer most from sanctions are not the ones who can pressure the government for change. “So you kill the pistachio trade in Iran,” one businessman said. “How does that stop nuclear enrichment?”

As I’ve argued already, the sanctions aren’t about stopping nuclear enrichment (or about pushing regime change)—they’re about dollarizing Iran by collapsing the rial. If the above reports are true, this attempt has already been met with some success.

Written by M. James

February 7, 2012 at 7:35 pm

Posted in News, Politics

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Fukushima and the East-West energy corridor

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The failure of the light water reactor in Japan’s Fukushima Prefecture to withstand the March 2011 tsunami will (whether it is a sensible reaction or not) discourage new ventures in nuclear power. The newest big-time player in energy—natural gas—will become even more essential in the West and, as a pipeline for the ever-expanding market, so will Turkey.

According to this report:

In the near term, as world economies begin to recover from the downturn, global demand for natural gas is expected to rebound, with natural gas supplies from a variety of sources keeping markets well supplied and prices relatively low.

Among these sources is “Russia and the other countries of non-OECD Europe and Eurasia” (read: Caspian) with an increase in production of 6 trillion cubic feet from 2007 to 2035. With well-supplied markets and low prices, financing pipelines as an efficient means of transportation will become a critical interest for energy companies with stakes in natural gas. This will be of especial interest to nations such as Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan, which are slated, along with Russia, for further natural gas production. By piping liquefied natural gas to Turkey’s nearest high-capacity Mediterranean port, Ceyhan (as they do with oil), the Caspian nations would be able to reach a large Mediterranean and European market—without relying on Russia or Iran for right-of-way.

Russia, displeased by these prospects, may have even further troubles in the future with its own increased natural gas production. If Russian supply exceeds Eastern European demand, which is believable, a wider market will be desirable. But with the Turkish Straits already jam-packed with Russian oil tankers, there is no room for the liquefied natural gas (LNG) tankers that would be necessary for Russia to export to the Mediterranean (there were 200+ tanker collisions/incidents in the ’90s alone). The solution? Turkey would propose the use of overland routes similar if not identical to those used by other Caspian Sea nations. This may be, for Russia, the only solution (and would be a source of extra pocket change for Turkey). But it will only have to be a “solution” if Turkey doesn’t absorb the remainder of Russia’s export all by itself before it can reach the Mediterranean market—another believable scenario.

Regardless, the Caspian won’t stop producing any time soon, and for Turkey, the West, NATO, and opportunistic supervillain daughters of oil tycoons, a Turkish East-West energy corridor for natural gas is a promising, and lucrative, possibility.

Written by M. James

May 24, 2011 at 2:20 am