Proliferation Southeast Asia

Yesterday Syria, Today Burma, Tomorrow Al Qaeda

The “experts” told us that North Korea would have no reason to threaten us if we’d only “engage,” talk, and appease them.  We did, and they sold Syria a nuclear reactor anyway.  Others say we should just ignore them.  We did, and they’re selling Burma a uranium enrichment program:

The two defectors whose briefings have created such alarm are both regarded as credible sources. One was an officer with a secret nuclear battalion in the Burmese army who was sent to Moscow for two years’ training. He was part of a nuclear programme which planned to train 1,000 Burmese. “You don’t need 1,000 people in the fuel cycle or to run a nuclear reactor. It’s obvious there is much more going on,” he said.

The other is a former executive of the regime’s leading business partner, Htoo Trading, who handled nuclear contracts with Russia and North Korea.  [….]

Professor Ball and Mr Thornton reported that the army defector claimed that there were more than five North Koreans working at the Thabeik Kyin uranium processing plant in Burma and that the country was providing yellowcake ““ partially refined uranium ““ to both Iran and North Korea.  [The Independent]

Despite the years of denials by some that North Korea’s uranium enrichment program was a potential danger to us, North Korea is now in a position to reproliferate that technology and to outsource parts of it that skeptics cited as evidence that North Korea had no large-scale enrichment program.  How many centrifuges could Burma’s tunnels hold?

The authors concluded that the illicit nuclear co-operation was based on a trade of locally refined uranium from Burma to North Korea in return for technological expertise.

What is missing in the nuclear chain at the moment is a plutonium reprocessing plant, but according to the army defector, one was being planned at Naung Laing in northern Burma, parallel to a civilian reactor which is already under construction with Russian help.

But of course, the North Koreans have one of those.  The North Korean and Burmese nuclear programs could well have been designed to work in synergy with one another.

The secret complex would be hidden in caves tunnelled into a nearby mountain. Once Burma had its own plutonium reprocessing plant, it could produce 8kg of weapons-grade plutonium-239 a year, enough to build one nuclear bomb every 12 months.

If the testimony of the two defectors proves to be correct, the secret reactor could be operational by 2014, The Herald reported.

And thus two groups of American analysts, collectively comprising an overwhelming majority of so-called expert opinion, are both proven demonstrably wrong in their prescriptions for dealing with North Korea’s real threat to us — nuclear proliferation.  All we can wonder at this point is who else they’d sell to if some wahhabi oil sheikh can wire his zakaat money to Pakistan.

North Korea will proliferate nuclear technology and weapons as long as there is a North Korea.  North Korea considers itself to be at war with us.  Because it can’t attack us directly or conventionally, this is the means it chooses.  What responsible recourse but to do what we can to hasten the regime’s extinction?

10 Comments

  1. We didn’t ignore. We were seriously distracted while a key group of neocons sold us “the world is better without Saddam because he had WMD intentions.” The Syrian reactor was perhaps 100 miles too far away from the Iraqi border. A blind spot if you will.




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  2. Oranckay, The argument that “Iraq distracted us from ___” is a lazy canard that could just as well apply to stem cell research, tax cuts, Iranian nukes, or abortion. I could just as lazily argue that the obsession to plunge us all into a bottomless money-pit with a massive health care redistribution scheme distracted Obama from supporting the Iranian people, but the connection would be just as strained. And it still doesn’t make either Obama or Bush disinterested in nuclear proliferation.

    Frankly, the argument that the Iraq War was a neocon enterprise is a pretty shaky argument to advance when Bill Clinton signed the Iraq Liberation Act and 2/3 of the Congress, including about half of the Democrats, voted to authorize the war. Is everyone excused from leading us to war except a rather ill-defined clique the left now refers to as “neocons?”




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  3. Plenty fair enough about blaming neocons; countries get what they deserve and the American people allowed them to have their way, and Bush senior, Clinton, and W were all right to be on Iraq’s case. I would’ve been and would still be if Saddam Hussein had still been around, and of course I think it’s better that he isn’t. But it’s a matter of which battles are your priority.

    The difference is that the likes of Cheney were making a deliberate, all-consuming effort to find evidence of WMD programs in Iraq while the Bush II Administration was simultaneously telling the Israelis that there just wasn’t enough evidence that the structure in Syria was a reactor. The Americans went looking for stories of yellowcake in Niger based on questionable hints at best, said there were mobile missile launchers on truck trailers or whatever it was. They went after every lead. Meanwhile the Mossad had to get someone to bring back pictures of the inside of the structure in Syria to make their case and North Korea built several warheads. I’m not saying Iraq should’ve been ignored or not taken as a potential, or eventual, threat to civilization. But the myopic obsession was costly. At least in the case of the Syrian reactor there was an ally that was willing to go the extra mile.




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  4. I would’ve been and would still be if Saddam Hussein had still been around, and of course I think it’s better that he isn’t. But it’s a matter of which battles are your priority.

    We haven’t withdrawn completely from Iraq yet, so it’s still too early to know whether a non-threatening regime will remain in power or crumble under civil war and be replaced by a government as bad or worse than Saddam’s. There’s also the matter of whether or not the lives of the Iraqi people are better now than they were under Saddam. State-sponsored violence has been replaced by a combination of state-sponsored and internationally supported factional violence.




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  5. That’s foolish. Saddam and his sons were the reason Iraqis had two choices: corruption or hopelessness. I served in two deployments to Iraq. Even with all the chaos, I never once heard an Iraqi say “Oh! If only baba Saddam were still in power!”

    By your logic, we’d better keep KJI in power, after all, the devil we do know is better than the devil we don’t.

    Myopic obsession with Iraq? Really? By whom? Democrats voted overwhelmingly voted to invade Iraq based on the Clinton-sponsored Iraqi Liberation Act of 1998.




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  6. Saddam was not loved by Iraqis, but that does not mean they support the US invasion and occupation. One can hate Saddam and hate the present situation in Iraq.

    By my logic, invading other countries and toppling their regimes however undemocratic or brutal is generally not a good idea.




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  7. Not that I mind debating the topic, but I’m just enjoying the rich irony of the Marmot’s comment sheriff taking this thread off topic.

    Rather than just argue in a factual vacuum, let me just begin by linking the July 2009 Brookings Iraq Index. Read the numbers for yourself. Iraq’s security gains have been solid for two years and stable for a year, there has been a surge of optimism among the Iraqis, reconciliation is making slow but steady progress, and Iraq’s rebounding economy is starting to dry up the excess of young jobless men. You can always question what will happen next, but there’s no reasonable debate that there’s been significant and steady progress. And this, notwithstanding the fact that U.S. force levels are at their lowest of the war.

    The interests of the United States were in removing Saddam as a threat (he’d invaded Iran, Kuwait, and Saudi, and attacked Israel) and eliminating the risk that he’d host and enable terrorists (he was financing Hamas, hosting the ’93 WTC bombers, and had invited in AQ) or supply them with WMD’s (which he’d previously used on multiple occasions and could easily have reconstituted, and was trying to reconstitute, since sanctions were dissolving). He had plunged his country into poverty, misery, and humiliation, and was creating a whole generation of people with nothing to live for but martyrdom.

    It’s taken six years, but the odds now favor us meeting all of those interests. Saddam is dead, AQ is all-but-extinct in Iraq, the Shiite militias are a potential threat but subdued, and Sadr is widely discredited and has taken a beating in recent elections. The casualties are tragic, but certainly not more than Diane Feinstein, Harry Reid, Hillary Clinton, or John Kerry must have anticipated when they cast their votes (though Oranckay seems to suggest that Wolfowitz slipped them all rufies and manipulated their voting fingers while they were temporarily catatonic). I don’t think anyone wants a perpetual occupation, nor should anyone want Iraq to be the next Cambodia or Afghanistan. But when it was politically popular to say that we should surrender, flee, and leave Al Qaeda in possession of a third of Iraq, our least statesmanlike politicians were willing to seek personal political advantage in America’s defeat.

    So where does this leave us? For approximately the cost we either anticipated or but for our own ignorance should have, we have a very good shot at leaving behind a reasonably stable, reasonably democratic Iraq that doesn’t threaten its neighbors, us, or its own population. Should we have gone in? The question is moot now, and it’s not even answerable without knowing how events would have played out had we not gone in. I’d guess Saddam’s compulsion for risk-taking would have made war for some reason or another inevitable by this time. Without the threat of Saddam, we don’t have to enforce a failing sanctions regime and no-fly zone, we can delink ourselves from the vile Saudi regime and remove our troops from their kingdom, and put Iran on the defensive to answer to its people. Moammar Khaddafy, no less, links Iraq to his decision to give up his nuclear program and expose the AQ Khan network, a gain that by itself made the war worth fighting. If we can manage to hold onto those gains until they solidify, wouldn’t those be significant gains for our interests and those of the Iraqis?




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  8. Syria will never get to have a nuclear facility because Israel will always bomb it, just like they did a few years ago.
    Even if Burma does acquire nuclear weapons, it would only be for defense, because China has a lot of control over Burma, as well as over NK.
    Al Qaeda has been reduced significantly, so they are much less of a threat.

    I know that nuclear proliferation is bad, but the proliferation threat from North Korea is not as high as some people might think.




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