February 8, 2007
Ignoring the covert nuclear clubBy Douglas Hanson
As much as the American people want the potential nuclear confrontation with Iran resolved in our favor, the simple truth is this: the two previous US administrations stuck their heads in the sand concerning the mullahs' efforts to develop nuclear weapons. And unfortunately, the current administration shows no signs of breaking with this tradition of ignoring the Persians' quest to be the world's newest atomic power.
As soon as the radioactive dust settled after the North Korean nuclear test fizzle last year, the finger pointing began as to who was responsible for letting ‘Lil Kim blindside the US intelligence apparatus. The legacy media also belatedly speculated on a possible NK - Iran WMD connection. Blaming and intelligence failures on political partisanship, while simultaneously rattling off a string of slack responses to a decades-long-series of nuclear shenanigans by North Korea, Iran and other rogue states, is standard procedure for the DC punditry. It also provides cover for administrations and a military that simply ignored the threat or thought that an armed response was in the "too hard to do" category.
In fact, not only had Kim's nuclear program been producing about six kilograms of plutonium per year since 1986 at the nuclear reactor at Yongbyon, he was also supplying ballistic missile and battlefield rocket components to Iran via regular shipments through the Strait of Hormuz to Bandar Abbas and other Iranian ports for years.
And we knew about it.
Immediately after the Gulf War, the Bush '41 administration publicly announced the Persian Gulf maritime interception operation that was ostensibly designed to keep banned materials from reaching Saddam Hussein, who was still firmly in control of Iraq thanks to the imagined geo-political prowess of the realists in the Whitehouse including General Colin Powell.
The focus of the interception operation was only on North Korean cargo vessels suspected of heading to Iraqi ports in strict adherence to UN resolutions. Of course, Kim had more than one customer in the region, and reports from the time show that we were well-aware of the Iran - NK missile connection. But like everything else in the 90s, the interception operation was executed half-heartedly and with very limited objectives.
The lack of success at preventing banned delivery systems from reaching Iran was laid at the altar of international legalities that in some cases covered a few naval miscues. In 1992 for example, the North Korean cargo freighter, Dae Hung Ho, arrived in the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas with an unknown shipment, but it was strongly suspected of containing North Korean Scud surface-to-surface missiles.
DoD spokesman Pete Williams said at the time that,
In the afterglow of our incomplete victory in the Gulf War, we pretended that concealed WMD shipments between our enemies, and even some coming from our erstwhile allies, would just take care of itself. All we had to do was rattle our saber, which was undergoing a severe drawdown by the way, and all those bad boys would bow down to our will. But surprise - NK, along with Russia and China continued to transfer nuclear and missile technology to Iran throughout the 90s and beyond.
Next up was the Clinton administration, which used phony agreements that were thinly disguised bribes to try and keep a lid on WMD proliferation. The Agreed Framework with North Korea was not only ineffective, but actually abetted Kim's project to obtain special nuclear material and banned delivery systems.
By early 2000, President Clinton indirectly confirmed that North Korea was continuing to develop banned weapons. A presidential memorandum authorizing $15 million for the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization (KEDO) was issued,
North Korea continued to export ballistic missile-related equipment and missile components throughout the 90s, since sales of these materials were a major source of hard currency. But that wasn't the only major player in the mullahs' nuclear program. As far back as 1999, it was known that the Russians were extremely lax in countering smuggling of nuclear materials across its southern border to Iran, and from there to North Korea. In this way, Russia could supply two client states at the same time.
To deal with this problem, a non-proliferation program was initiated by Clinton's acting U.S. State Department deputy administrator for defense nuclear nonproliferation, Rose Gottemoeller. One part of the operation was to install radiation detection equipment at nine key crossing points on the Russia - Iran border. But according to Ms. Gottemoeller,
...Russian cooperation in ending the transfer of nuclear material or technology to Iran has been spotty. They said the government insists on the right to complete the Iranian reactor at Bushehr.
So over the past 15 years, we have clear evidence of a North Korea - Iran WMD trade scheme, a Russian weapons assistance program disguised as a peaceful project of refurbishing the reactor at Bushehr, and continuing threats from the loony madman Ahmadinejad.
Sadly, the history of the current administration and its reluctant military establishment portends a continuing standoff with the Persians over development of the bomb despite our recent brilliant geo-political moves to cut off the mullahs from their source of supply. The problem is that large scale strategic maneuvers not only take time to accomplish, they also take a long time to show results.
Right now, we are in a critical phase of the close-in fight in Iraq. Iran has been a major player on the ground since the early days of the occupation; this fact only acknowledged by those outside the beltway and CENTCOM headqaurters. Why this administration and its national security experts do not tackle our regional adversaries in this war is beyond comprehension. And with the disloyal opposition in control of Congress, we no longer have the time to fritter away our military power on half-measures and questionable hearts-and-minds operations.
Simply put, it's time get on with the dirty business of winning the war.
Douglas Hanson is National Security Correspondent of American Thinker.