Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Good News and Bad News

North Korea likely has mastered the technology of miniaturizing and making robust a nuclear warhead that will fit on a ballistic missile. There's good news and bad news about this.

This isn't breaking news, but I haven't really seen North Korea's nuclear advancement discussed:

American and South Korea defense officials admit that North Korea may have mastered the technology to build a nuclear weapon that will work on a ballistic missile.

It isn't good that a nutball regime like North Korea will have nuclear weapons. But it isn't the same as Iran getting them. North Korea is a despotic state but there aren't legions of true believers around the world eager to use such weapons against the West.

And North Korea wants nukes for reasons that are easier to contain--survival (against foreign invasion) and blackmail (for goodies from South Korea, Japan, and others to keep their nukes on the ground).

So even with a nuclear North Korea, I figure containment is the best strategy. Keep talking, keep help to the minimum, and wait for the regime or state to collapse. Talk, talk. Die, die, I've argued.

With anti-missile defenses and a plan to move north to seize nukes in case North Korea collapses, this is as good as it can get.

But then there is Iran. Iran and North Korea cooperate on nuclear missile technology. I think that Iran has probably outsourced much of their nuclear warhead work to North Korea, which doesn't act as a JDAM magnet for America or Israel.

Think about how much we discuss the finer details of just how much enriched Uranium Iran must have to be a "break out" threat to race to nuclear warheads.

Why on Earth would Iran play such a risky game when there is a better alternative to betting on the West (and Israel) miscalculating our ability to detect an Iranian race to building their own bomb?

Why wouldn't Iran buy North Korean nukes to shield their final efforts to openly possess nuclear weapons construction capability? I asked this question 5 years ago

The problem from Iran's point of view is that they can't know if crossing one of these lines could trigger an American or Israeli preemptive strike out of fear that further delay in attacking would be too late to prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons. And if I was an Iranian nutball, I wouldn't assume the Americans and Israelis couldn't knock out my infrastructure.

Were I an Iranian nutball, under those circumstances, I'd want at least a few atomic warhead on hand before I announce capabilities to produce atomic weapons-grade material. Which would mean I'd have had to have bought some from either North Korea or Pakistan--or possibly even from some broke custodian of Russia's arsenal.

If Iran can announce both the ability to make nuclear bomb material and the possession of actual nuclear weapons--perhaps by detonating one in a test on their own territory--Tehran would quite possibly deter an attack on Iran's nuclear infrastructure.

We're not dealing with idiots. If the Iranian mullahs believe there are red lines that trigger Israeli or American action, why wouldn't they take counter-actions rather than just blindly cross those lines and provide a pretext for military action against them?

It may be that selling nukes to Iran is an alternative for North Korea to blackmailing aid from increasingly uncooperative South Korea and Japan.

Have a super sparkly day.