22 February 2010

Nukes Around Asia - An Overview

A good look at the nuclear weapons preparations around the old Persian Empire.

About the same time that India conducted a test demonstrating it now has the ability to deliver a nuclear bomb to any target in the Middle East - or China - Iran provided more evidence that it intends to continue attempting to join the nine nations that comprise the so-called nuclear club.

Earlier this month, Iran celebrated its annual Space Day by firing a powerful rocket into space and announcing that it is close to a "point of no return" in its space program. The success of the large, four-engine, satellite-carrying rocket caused concern among the Western powers based on their realization that Iran's ballistic missile program is proceding faster than expected.

About the same time, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates announced that he was disappointed in Tehran's response to a proposal made months ago by the Obama sdministration involving an exchange of low-enriched uranium for fuel plates designed for use in a medical reactor.

The day after the Gates announcement, Iran President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad directed his atomic energy agency to boost its enrichment capabilities to the 20% level, ostensibly for medical purposes. However, this level of purity also represents the threshold for developing nuclear weapons.

Two days later, increased calls for sanctions echoed throughout the West as Iran revealed it had told the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that it intends to start the construction of 10 more nuclear fuel plants within the next year. At the same time, Iranian military officials announced plans to build military planes, aerial drones and antiaircraft missiles.

This provoked an unusually harsh response from Russia which joined the U.S. in condemning Iran's plans. A muted reaction from China, however, which also wields a Security Council veto, signalled the possibility of a tough road ahead for those who wish to impose sanctions.

Then, last Thursday, the IAEA announced for the first time that it had concluded that Iran was, indeed, trying to make a nuclear bomb and, further, that its relations with the Islamic Republic were "fraying." U.S. officials said the report was in agreement with their own assessment of the situation. Iran is now refusing to let inspectors have access to its heavy-water production plant near Arak, according to the UN, where plutonium from the spent fuel can be used to make atomic bombs.

Meanwhile, Iran's arch enemy, Israel, has been creating a little buzz of its own. Last month it started conducting the first air assaults on Gaza in more than a year, in response to some cross-border mortar attacks that had landed harmlessly in open fields.

By: Brant

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