Does Iran have a nuclear weapon now? It’s an interesting question when taken in context with the current rush to prevent them from manufacturing nukes. It calls into question whether President Obama is simply posturing for the sake of having something positive to say about his eight years in office beyond the dismal tenure that we’ve all been subjected to.
Hang with me as we explore this together very briefly for the purpose of this blog.
On 22 April, the Wall Street Journal reported that during a meeting in February a Chinese nuclear expert briefed that China judged that North Korea already might have 20 nuclear weapons and the capacity to manufacture fissile material for twice that many by 2016. According to the Journal article, the US estimate is that North Korea has between 10 and 16 nuclear weapons.
Nuclear weapons estimates are notoriously imprecise, but always generate discussions.
The North Korean capability to manufacture nuclear warheads that fit into a missile nose-cone has been an important, controversial question. The prudent answer, which the Chinese number supports, is that they have mastered the technology. Since March 2013 North Korea’s official national doctrine has been parallel development of nuclear weapons and economic construction. It is called the “Pyongjin line.” The new information indicates Kim Jong Un was serious about the nuclear weapons; the economy not so much.
In the past 20 years, the North Koreans fielded at least 1,000 ballistic missiles of various types. At least two types are capable of delivering nuclear warheads to varying ranges. They have the means to hold the populations of Japan and South Korea hostage to nuclear weapons delivered by ballistic missiles, provided they accepted the inevitable consequences. The commander of US Forces Korea testified to Congress that North Korea has a missile that is nuclear capable and can reach the US.
A substantial nuclear arsenal would not change the outcome of a war – North Korea would be utterly destroyed if it used nuclear weapons. However, it changes the costs of a war, especially for Japan, South Korea and for the US. It also changes the going-in assumptions about any future talks. And it provides an incentive for Japan and South Korea to develop their own nuclear weapons.
North Korea has exported nuclear and/or ballistic missile technology to Iran (Pakistan, Syria, Libya and Egypt). This information is not disputed and has been reportedly by open sources journalism. A prudent assumption would be that if North Korea could more or less double its warhead inventory, it has the ability to help its clients perform similar accomplishments, provided they have the production lines. It also has the capability of exporting nuclear weapons for hard cash, which it lacks.
This does not mean that Iran, has a nuclear warhead and the means to deliver it today. It does suggest that if Iran does not have one, it is because it chooses not to.
So what is Obama doing with the drawn out negotiations with Iran?
While Iran does want their own home grown nuclear program, I suggest to you that Barack’s point to them is that since they already have 2 or 3 nuclear weapons, Iran can work with America to provide an excuse to lift sanctions…
If true, why wouldn’t Barack share that intelligence with America? Why indeed?