While considering the political theater of our leaders in the Washington “swamp” deciding by week’s end on whether for the 18th time since 1976 the congress “shuts down the government,” consider implications of two more important events last week: 1) President Trump again kicked the can for another 120 days on deciding to end the terrible Iran Deal; and 2) The False Alarm in Hawaii that all should contemplate.
Last Tuesday, President Trump hosted an impressive bipartisan meeting of senators and congressmen for a fully televised discussion of immigration issues. They seemed headed toward agreement. Then there was a smaller private meeting to discuss further these issues, followed by politically charged leaks by the Senate Whip and amplified by others, particularly those not present and in the “fake news” business — and denied by others who were present. This public display undermines prospects for a near-term agreement and distracts from more important quite serious matters.
I have no interest in this disgusting political theater, especially in view in two much more important events that occurred late last week. Consider:
That Terrible Iran Deal.
On Friday, President Trump again kicked the can on deciding what to do with the Iran deal. Click here for the White House release of the President’s January 12, 2018 comments on what he has called “the last chance” for “the worst deal” of the Obama administration from which he indicated he will unilaterally withdraw in another 120 days unless another deal is reached by then that rectifies major deficiencies. His stated conditions were:
- It must demand that Iran allow immediate inspections at all sites requested by international inspectors.
- It must ensure that Iran never even comes close to possessing a nuclear weapon.
- Unlike the nuclear deal, these provisions must have no expiration date. My policy is to deny Iran all paths to a nuclear weapon — not just for ten years, but forever. If Iran does not comply with any of these provisions, American nuclear sanctions would automatically resume.
- The legislation must explicitly state in United States law—for the first time—that long-range missile and nuclear weapons programs are inseparable, and that Iran’s development and testing of missiles should be subject to severe sanctions.
Moreover, the Treasury Department reportedly has decided to impose new, targeted sanctions against 14 Iranian entities and individuals.
Perhaps the President decided the timing was wrong to withdraw at this point because of the “political theater” as Congress decides whether it will again shut down the government or appropriate the funds already authorized for Fiscal Year 2018, which actually began on October 1, 2017 — or whether there will be yet another “Continuing Resolution” that will not allow new programs to be initiated.
Such matters are particularly important, in view of the Trump administration’s pending: 1) Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) and its implications for modernization of our strategic forces; and 2) Missile Defense Review (MDR) and its implications for needed ballistic missile defense (BMD) systems to counter the looming threat from Iranian and North Korean nuclear armed intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs).
If so, the unpleasant delay is understandable, but does not change the faults of the grossly mislabeled Joint Comprehensive Program of Action (JCPOA). Again, click here for a September 21, 2017 letter to President Trump, signed by 45 former national security experts, including yours truly, urging him to end the deal 120 days ago, and here for my October 17, 2017 update after the President decided instead to kick the can for 120 days, including an important assessment by former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich.
Others see the situation differently, of course. For example, click here for a notable Washington Post article by Trita Parsa interestingly entitled “Five Myths about Iran.” The alleged myths were: 1) The nuclear deal only delays an inevitable Iranian bomb; 2) Killing the deal would help support Iranian protesters; 3) Iran’s Green Movement was a failure; 4) Iran’s enmity with Israel is ideological and immutable; and 5) Iranians hate Americans.
With respect to the first, I think the JCPOA at best delays Iran from gaining a nuclear bomb which, if they don’t already have the bomb, they could buy from North Korea with the funds that terrible deal enabled with plenty left over — whatever effect it may have on Iran’s capability to escape the JCPOA’s faulty verification measures.
I have no comment on the second and third alleged myths, not that I necessarily agree with Parsa.
Regarding the fourth, I hope Parsa is right but find his argument completely unpersuasive because it ignores the outspoken ideological bent of Iran’s ruling Mullahs. It sounds like a plea for a strategy of “hope over experience.”
And I consider the fifth to be a strawman because I know no one who holds the view that all Iranians hate Americans.
Unless President Trump’s demands are met — and I also would explicitly insist on “anytime, anywhere inspection rights” to verify Iran’s compliance with an improved deal, I believe we’d be better off without it.
Some Lessons from Hawaii’s False Alarm.
Below is an expanded version of my recent Newsmax article providing an immediate response to the early Hawaii false alarm reports. Click here for that article, published at 1:32 PM last Sunday afternoon. I was somewhat out front in discussing the lessons that should be learned from this experience and related actions that should follow, especially to accelerate the development of needed ballistic missiles defense (BMD) systems to defeat a real ICBM attack, which could occur sooner than many expect. Others have picked up that theme, but without any specificity.
Hawaii’s False Alarm — Lessons Learned
We should learn critically important lessons from Saturday’s false alarm warning, pushed to mobile phones at 8:07 a.m. Hawaii time. Next time it could be for real. And not just for Hawaii. And also possibly for Iranian ballistic missiles.
North Korea has already successfully tested intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) and nuclear weapons that they could carry to attack not only Hawaii, but U.S. Territory Guam and the U.S. mainland.
Beyond repairing whatever were the procedural failures that led to the “false alarm”— and the 38 minute delay before getting that fact to over a million unprepared Hawaiians who were scrambling for their safety, we should better prepare for the real thing were it to happen.
As has been discussed repeatedly in my previous messages, North Korea has been developing both nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles for decades; and recently the Intelligence Community acknowledged that it now may have 60 Hydrogen Bombs (H-Bombs). Still some dispute that could be an exaggerated number. And others think that the North Korean’s may be further away from having deployable nuclear weapons.
Click here for Sunday evening’s very interesting Sixty Minutes interview of former Los Alamos Director Sig Hecker and acknowledged nuclear proliferation expert, David Albright, the director of the Institute for Science and International Security. Both a transcript and video of an informative session are given.
I don’t know David Albright but have no reason to doubt his widely acknowledged competence on nuclear proliferation matters — and he previously estimated that North Korea would have had 13 to 30 nuclear weapons by the end of 2016, before the Intelligence Community reached its recent conclusion of up to 60.
Sig Hecker was Director of Los Alamos when I was Director of Ronald Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) and I met with him a number of times in those days. I was impressed with his earnestness and knowledge, though I would differ with some of his recent policy positions.
In any case, I have no reason to doubt Dr. Hecker’s reflections on the information uniquely provided to him as the guest of North Korean leaders during several visits since 2004 to North Korea’s key locations of its nuclear development infrastructure. He is doubtful of North Korea’s ability to deliver a viable H-Bomb via its ICBMs, but has no doubt that they will test until they are confident they have achieved that capability. I do wonder about what the North Koreans didn’t show him.
Pertinent to me was the fact that neither of these experts dealt with the likelihood that North Korea might have a light-weight “super” electromagnetic pulse (EMP) nuclear weapon — nor did the Sixty Minute interviewer, David Martin. Such a light-weight, low yield nuclear weapon would easily fit into existing now tested North Korean ballistic missiles — and on their low-altitude satellites. And several Russian General experts told EMP Commissioners over a decade ago that Russia had “accidentally” passed to North Korea how to build such special EMP nukes.
In either case, North Korea either has or will shortly have the ability to attack the United States with nuclear weapons. And we need to prepare with that eventuality, which I believe already exists.
Happily, we have the means to defeat such an attack with our Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) systems, if they and their crews are prepared to do so. If the Navy is not currently prepared it should get ready ASAP!
Click here for my last September’s National Review article, “Yes, the Navy can shoot down North Korean ICBMs.” There I argued that if the Navy crews are trained, ready and authorized to engage on a real warning that North Korean ICBMs have been launched, our Aegis BMD ships near North Korea can shoot the attacking ICBMs down on their way up and 20-minutes or so later can destroy them from Aegis BMD ships near Hawaii.
For years the Aegis BMD systems on our cruisers and destroyers have been tested off the shores of the Hawaiian Islands — with primary test operations in Kauai. There is no reason they cannot be ready to intercept attacking North Korean missiles during their flight time required to reach Hawaii.
Moreover, the Aegis Ashore test operations on Kauai should have that as a standing mission. Tests have been conducted for years to assure the viability of our Aegis Ashore sites in Romania and Poland — and our Japanese allies recently announced serious interest in buying two Aegis Ashore sites to defend their homeland.
That objective also should certainly be a mission for the American people — especially in Hawaii. And while we are at it, we should also deploy Aegis Ashore sites on military bases around the Gulf of Mexico where we are vulnerable to ballistic missile launches from nearby off-shore vessels.
Note: Aegis Ashore requires no development. It is essentially deploying in a land-based mode the same system that is on our Aegis BMD ships. And it has been successfully tested and has been operational in Romania for over a year.
Even after Sunday’s wake up call, some still perpetuate the idea that we have months or even years to prepare for this threat because North Korea still has to demonstrate its nuclear warhead can survive the hot effects of reentering the earth’s atmosphere with sufficient accuracy to hit a city, e.g., Honolulu.
But we should also remember that North Korea has as a “strategic goal” the ability to conduct an EMP attack and that could be carried out without reentering the earth atmosphere. And accuracy is not a particular requirement for carrying out such an attack, which can be executed via their satellites that approach the United States from our poorly defended (at best) south.
Click here for my Newsmax article, published last month, arguing we need BMD readiness to counter such EMP attack threats that also could cause major damage to our undersea cables that are essential for communications and commerce around the world.
So … Saturday’s false alarm should be an unmistakable wakeup call for the Trump administration’s Missile Defense Review, nearing completion within weeks. And Congress should pass an appropriately funded defense bill to assure such defenses are available ASAP.
It is difficult to separate Iran and North Korea in examining the threat of nuclear armed ballistic missiles (or satellites) that can attack the United States and/or out territories and allies. They have been close allies for decades. Allowing ample funding to Iran to buy whatever they want from cash-starved North Korea is foolishness of the first order.
Both are allied to a varied degree with China and Russia — not particular friends of the United States.
President Trump’s recently advanced National Security Strategy sets a sound base for dealing with this threatening condition. But the “Devil in the Details” is still to be advanced by his Nuclear Posture Review and Ballistic Missile Defense Review.
And these important policy reports (and I hope specific program proposals) are soon to be provided to a congress distracted by a number of conflicting political issues other than “providing for the common defense” as is their first sworn duty under the Constitution.
The next test will be whether Congress provides funding and directives to implement markedly improved programs — or will they one more time “kick the can” with yet another continuing resolution that bridles the national security leaders and limits their ability to execute much of anything new.
Stay tuned, indeed.
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