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OH YES THEY DID: Secret Document Lifts Iran Nuclear Constraints, Cuts Time Tehran Would Need to Build Bomb by Half

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Breakout time would be reduced to six months, or even less if the efficiency is more than double.

VIENNA (AP) — Key restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program imposed under an internationally negotiated deal will ease in slightly more than a decade, cutting the time Tehran would need to build a bomb to six months from present estimates of a year, according to a document obtained Monday by The Associated Press.

The document is the only part linked to last year’s deal between Iran and six foreign powers that hasn’t been made public. It was given to the AP by a diplomat whose work has focused on Iran’s nuclear program for more than a decade, and its authenticity was confirmed by another diplomat who possesses the same document.

12 Times the Obama Administration Caved to Iran on Nuclear Deal

The diplomat who shared the document with the AP described it as an add-on agreement to the nuclear deal. But while formally separate from that accord, he said that it was in effect an integral part of the deal and had been approved both by Iran and the U.S., Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany, the six powers that negotiated the deal with Tehran.

[Read the full story here, at the Associated Press]

Details published earlier outline most restraints on Iran’s nuclear program meant to reduce the threat that Tehran will turn nuclear activities it says are peaceful to making weapons.

But while some of the constraints extend for 15 years, documents in the public domain are short on details of what happens with Iran’s most proliferation-prone nuclear activity – its uranium enrichment – beyond the first 10 years of the agreement.

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The document obtained by the AP fills in the gap. It says that as of January 2027 – 11 years after the deal was implemented – Iran can start replacing its mainstay centrifuges with thousands of advanced machines.

Centrifuges churn out uranium to levels that can range from use as reactor fuel and for medical and research purposes to much higher levels for the core of a nuclear warhead. From year 11 to 13, says the document, Iran can install centrifuges up to five times as efficient as the 5,060 machines it is now restricted to using.

Those new models will number less than those being used now, ranging between 2,500 and 3,500, depending on their efficiency, according to the document. But because they are more effective, they will allow Iran to enrich at more than twice the rate it is doing now.

Secretary of State John Kerry and the Israeli foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, at the State Department on Wednesday. Credit Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Secretary of State John Kerry and the Israeli foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, at the State Department on Wednesday. Credit Drew Angerer/Getty Images

The U.S. says the Iran nuclear agreement is tailored to ensure that Iran would need at least 12 months to “break out” and make enough weapons grade uranium for at least one weapon.

But based on a comparison of outputs between the old and newer machines, if the enrichment rate doubles, that breakout time would be reduced to six months, or even less if the efficiency is more than double, a possibility the document allows for.

The document also allows Iran to greatly expand its work with centrifuges that are even more advanced, including large-scale testing in preparation for the deal’s expiry 15 years after its implementation on Jan. 18. Read the rest of this entry »

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Report: China Establishes Space-Ops Military Branch

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 reports: China is moving forward with plans to create a fifth branch of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), one which will be dedicated to space operations, Japanese media reports.

Japanese paper Yomiuri Shimbun reported last month that Chinese-party officials submitted an official order for the PLA to go ahead with the establishment of an Aerospace Force, Zachary Keck of The Diplomat writes.

The space-branch would add to the PLA’s Ground, Air, Naval, and Second Artillery (nuclear and ICBM missiles) branches. It will come with the establishment of its own office run under the Party’s Central Military Commission.

In April, Chinese Communist Party General Secretary Xi Jinping told military officers “to speed up air and space integration and sharpen their offensive and defensive capabilities,” calling for a “new type of combat unit.” Read the rest of this entry »


U.S. in Space: Superiority, Not Dominance

NASA Endeavor  Image Credit: Buglugs via Flickr

NASA Endeavor      Image Credit: Buglugs via Flickr 

For The DiplomatTravis C. Stalcup writes:  Director Alfonso Cuarón’s latest film, Gravity is a sci-fi thriller about a lone astronaut fighting to live where “life is impossible.” Following a Russian missile strike against an aging spy satellite that shreds the American space shuttle and its crew, protagonist and mission scientist Sandra Bullock struggles to evade a predictable but lethal field of orbiting debris. Cuarón’s story dramatizes a stark future – one in which nations vie to control the cosmos and in doing so make life on earth as we know it considerably harder. Gravity makes an implicit argument about the folly of space dominance: operating in space is hard enough so why make it harder by testing and using kinetic kill anti-satellite (ASAT) weapons?

The Gravity of the Situation

Freedom of action in space is essential not only to the American way of war but to the American way of life. Everything from theater missile defense to Facebook relies on satellites high above that beam signals back and forth to Earth. Despite the importance of these assets, at no time since it first placed satellites into orbit in 1958 has the United States enjoyed space dominance. The Soviets acquired ASAT capabilities early in the space race (albeit it by heavenly nuclear detonations) and even now, the U.S. is dependent on Russia to ferry astronauts to and from the International Space Station. As an interest “vital to U.S. national security,” it is important to determine under what conditions the United States can achieve – or to many, maintain – dominance in space. (For a hardnosed view of U.S. space policy, see the 2006 National Space Policy, which calls for the denial of space to adversaries.) American space policy, sometimes out of the limelight, is growing even more important. Other nations are growing their capabilities to access space including China, which is also intensifying its investment in anti-satellite weaponry. America’s strategic advantage is eroding.

Read the rest of this entry »


How Politics Nuked Iran’s Economy

Iran is facing a threat even more severe than the Stuxnet computer virus, a sophisticated line of code which was reportedly sponsored by the U.S. and Israel, and which destroyed some of Iran’s uranium centrifuges in 2010. In Persian, this affliction is called Siyasat Bazee – in English, playing politics.

The precipitous fall of the Iranian rial against the U.S. Dollar, which has depreciated by more than 40% in the past week and by 75% since the end of last year, points to the perils of Iran’s leaders using economic policy to suit their own political interests. The collapse of the currency ignited protests on the streets of Tehran on Wednesday and some pundits are wondering whether inflation will spell the end of the regime...

More >> via  The Diplomat

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