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Missile Watch – February 2010

Missile Watch
A publication of the FAS Arms Sales Monitoring Project
Vol. 3, Issue 1
February 2010
Editor: Matt Schroeder
Contributing Author: Matt Buongiorno
Graphics: Alexis Paige

Contents:

Global Overview

Afghanistan: No recent discoveries of shoulder-fired, surface-to-air missiles in insurgent arms caches
Eritrea: UN slaps arms embargo on major missile proliferator
Iraq: Fewer public reports of seized shoulder-fired missiles in Iraq, but MANPADS still a threat
Ireland: Alleged plot to shoot down a police helicopter may have involved surface-to-air missile
Myanmar: 300 shoulder-fired missiles in insurgent arsenal, claims Thai Colonel
North Korea: North Korean arms shipment included MANPADS, Thai report confirms
Peru: Igla missiles stolen from Peruvian military arsenals, claims alleged trafficker
Spain: Failed assassination attempts underscore the risks for terrorists of relying on black market missiles
United States: Congress to receive DHS report on anti-missile systems for commercial airliners in February
United States: Documents from trial of the “Prince of Marbella” reveal little about his access to shoulder-fired missiles
United States: No new international MANPADS sales since 1999
Venezuela: U.S. receives “assurances” from Russia regarding controls on shoulder-fired missiles sold to Venezuela, but questions remain

Additional News & Resources

About Missile Watch

About the Authors

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Flight Testing a Centrifuge

On 13 January, Ivanka Barzashka and I gave a briefing at the AAAS on our work regarding Iran’s uranium enrichment capacity.  Joshua Pollack also gave a briefing, which he has described.  Joshua’s analysis is thorough and interesting but I think I would use a different distinction than the “actual” and “nominal” values that he defines.

Pollack shows how the estimates of the capability of Iran’s centrifuge, the IR-1, have declined over time.  That is intriguing but I worry that it makes the calculations that Ivanka and I and others have performed using data reported from International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on-site inspections seem like the next step in a series of similar estimates.  They are not.  There are two very different types of approaches being taken here.  Here I present an analogy that I think might make the differences clear. Continue Reading →

Next Obama Speech: The Pentagon

President Obama has once again pushed nuclear weapons, and his vision for a world free of nuclear weapons, to the center of the world’s stage with his speech yesterday before the United Nations’ General Assembly and his chairing of the United Nations’ Security Council meeting this morning. He reiterated his goal of ratifying the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), of negotiating a Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty (FMCT) that would end production of bomb-grade nuclear material (something the Bush administration supported in theory but without any verification procedures), of negotiating a treaty with Russia that will “substantially reduce” strategic nuclear warheads, and of strengthening the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). The President also said “We will complete a Nuclear Posture Review that opens the door to deeper cuts, and reduces the role of nuclear weapons.” This morning, as chair of the UN Security Council, the President got unanimous consent to Council resolution that endorsed all the points made before the General Assembly.

The President’s remarks are powerful and plain and were overwhelming well received by all of us who have long hoped that the world might someday be free of nuclear weapons. Still, I am worried that the message has been clearer at the UN, and in Prague, than it is here in Washington. If we look at the direction the bureaucracy and politics are taking here, there is reason to worry that the President’s vision will be dangerously diluted. Continue Reading →

Hiroshima: Making the Sixty-fourth Anniversary Special

by Ivan Oelrich

Today is the sixty-fourth anniversary of the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima, which was one of those rare events that divides human history into a before and an after.  That day was the beginning of the nuclear age.  There is nothing special about sixty-four, not like a fiftieth or a centenary.  But, years from now, the sixty-fourth anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing may be seen as special:  there is a chance that people looking back on today’s anniversary will see this as the beginning of the end of the nuclear age. Continue Reading →

Happy Iranian Nuclear Day! And everything you have ever wanted to know about centrifuges.

Yes, today, 9 April, is the official Iranian holiday to celebrate all the progress that the Iranians have made toward nuclear self-sufficiency. The Iranian nuclear program is getting lots of news, especially their effort to enrich uranium using centrifuges and today’s inauguration of their new fuel fabrication facility. The fundamental problem with centrifuges is that they can be used to produce uranium for a nuclear reactor but the very same machines can also be used to produce uranium for a nuclear bomb. The Iranians protest that they have every right to nuclear power while the rest of the world worries that the entire nuclear power enterprise is a thin cover for a bomb program.

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North Korea’s Teapodong-2 Unha Missile Launch: What might we learn?

Indications are that North Korea is moving ahead with its planned launch of a missile with the intent of placing a satellite into orbit. The North Koreans are portraying the launch in purely innocuous, civilian terms even naming the rocket “Unha,” which means “Milky Way” in Korean, to emphasize its space-oriented function. In the West, the rocket is called the Taepodong-2 and is thought to be a long-range (but not truly intercontinental range) ballistic missile.

Even if the rocket launches a satellite, and recent news reports say the payload sections seems to be shaped and sized for a satellite, it would be an important step in their military ballistic missile program. In the early days of the Soviet and American space programs, there was little distinction between military and civilian rocket development and the same would be true of North Korea’s upcoming launch. What I want to discuss in this essay is the question of how much can the outside world learn if the North Korean test goes through, what does it tell us about their ballistic missile capability?

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FAS Releases Survey Results on the Attitudes of Scientists Toward Law Enforcement – FBI to use results to improve relations with the scientific community

A survey conducted by the Federation of American Scientists and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) revealed that while scientists are disposed to assist in criminal investigations, they often fear working with law enforcement agencies. The survey questions were designed to evaluate the working relationship between FBI field agents and scientists, and the results, published December 22, 2008 in Science Progress, indicate a reluctance to discuss research with law enforcement and other issues that are specific to the science community.

Anecdotal evidence suggested that some scientists held negative views of law enforcement. This survey is the first step in recognizing the scope of the problem and addressing it directly.

“The results suggest a larger percentage of scientists show cooler feelings towards the FBI than the general public, and often misunderstand why FBI agents might be contacting them,” said Michael Stebbins, Director of Biology Policy at the Federation of American Scientists. “FAS is now working with the FBI to develop specific solutions for alleviating the concerns of scientists and strengthening the relationship between law enforcement and the scientific community.”

“The FBI proactively initiated this outreach effort with FAS to engage the scientific community, seek their input, and gather useful information enabling us to improve the relationship. The results of this survey will go a long way to helping us better understand the challenges we face and to overcome some of the misconceptions that exist between law enforcement and scientists,” said Dr. Vahid Majidi, Assistant Director of the FBI’s Weapons of Mass Destruction Directorate.  “This information will enable us to devise a strategic plan to address this matter and to continue working with the scientific community to enhance our relationship.”

FAS and the FBI will apply the lessons learned in this survey towards developing training materials for field agents to improve the relationship between scientists and law enforcement.

“Perhaps the most important step toward building a better working foundation is for law enforcement agencies, like the FBI, to establish procedures for contacting science experts,” said Stebbins. “Many of the scientists’ concerns would be alleviated if the specific goals the agent hoped to achieve were clarified. If clear boundaries are established then the cooperation of scientists and law enforcement agents will likely improve.”

The Survey:

FAS collaborated with the FBI, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research to develop the survey questions and distribute it to the scientific community. The survey contained a mix of multiple choice and open-ended questions and was distributed to 10,969 AAAS member scientists. 1,332 surveys were completed and the resulting data produced an average margin of error associated with the total data set of +/- 2.7%.

Key findings of the survey:

  • Despite suspicions of the FBI and opposition to law agencies monitoring scientific research, scientists are willing to aid in certain situations.
  • Scientists feel that the FBI does not work well with the scientific community, specifically that law enforcement officers don’t understand their work (76%), that these agencies are more interested in restricting research for security purposes than they are in the scientific value of the work (71%), that officers have an overzealous approach to security issues and an interest in censorship (63%), and that research will be restricted from publication (55%).
  • Only 15% of surveyed scientists indicated any personal past contact in a professional capacity and these attitudes are likely based on stereotypes instead of actual experiences
  • Relations with the FBI would improve if law enforcement agents approached scientists in a professional manner by setting up an appointment or initiating contact through official channels such as the scientist’s department head or supervisor.

Increasing scientific literacy among agents and officers will ensure clearer communication since scientists are most comfortable talking about their work with others familiar with scientific concepts, possibly because they are less concerned that the research will be misunderstood.

Another Nuclear Trade Deal, This Time with Russia

Compared to all the excitement created by the US-Indian nuclear trade deal, the Russian equivalent, submitted last week, created barely a ripple [caution: big file to download]. While FAS strongly opposes the US-Indian nuclear trade agreement, the Russian case is much more complex.

There are reasons to oppose the Russian deal and reasons to support it. The calculation is further complicated because some of the reasons, in my opinion the primary reason, for opposing the deal are not because of specific problems with the deal, per se, but because the deal is a surrogate for the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP), which is itself a breathtakingly bad idea.

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The Good Old Days: The military budget is out of control

The military budget is out of control. Not in the sense of the mantra of “waste, fraud, and abuse.” That is, in fact, a tiny slice of the enormous U.S. military spending. No, the budget is out of control in the sense that spending on the military is no longer subject to meaningful political review. The Pentagon has slipped its leash and Congress is not asking questions.

Congress is currently considering President Bush’s proposed budget, which included $515 billion for the military and separate requests for tens of billions more for intelligence and nuclear weapons and, on top of that, separate requests of over a hundred billion can be expected to cover the operating costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. This is more than we spent on the military during the height of the Cold War, even accounting for inflation. The president is constantly reminding us of how dangerous the world is and, of course, the threats to American security are all too real. But using the threats faced by the US today to justify Cold War-level budgets is possible only if we have near total amnesia about what the threat during the Cold War really was.

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Ben Stein Is Very, Very Wrong: Problems with Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed

Wolfgang Pauli is a legendary figure among physicists. He is remembered for having both one of the greatest minds of the twentieth century and one of its sharpest tongues. One student’s paper he dismissed by saying: That’s not right; it isn’t even wrong. (Or words to that effect in German; Pauli was Viennese.) If a theory isn’t relevant to the facts at hand, if it can’t be tested, if it doesn’t advance our understanding, then it isn’t that the theory is not right, it’s not even really a theory, it isn’t even wrong. It simply isn’t a tool for scientific understanding. Congressman Rush Holt once used Pauli’s expression in response to the claims that creationism, now often called Intelligent Design (ID), could be an “alternative” to the theory of evolution. Creationism isn’t even wrong because creationism can’t explain anything in the sense that science understands the word “explain.” Most advocates of creationism accept that evolution works at some scale and explains some things but for anything evolution does not explain they then assert that God, the Intelligent Designer, simply made it so. This is a valid religious belief. But what is the testable hypothesis? What is the prediction? What is the deeper understanding of mechanism? There isn’t anything there for a scientist to grab hold of. As far as science is concerned, creationism isn’t even wrong.

In contrast, Ben Stein has just released a movie, Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, that is very, very wrong, indeed. (I confess, I have not seen the movie yet. It opens later today. This essay is based on Ben Stein’s extensive interviews, the movie website, and an extended, nine minute trailer available on the website. I will see the movie this weekend, although it pains me to give him any of my money.) I won’t argue about creationism here; it has been discussed in depth elsewhere. That “Intelligent Design” is a phrase designed in a transparent attempt to teach creationism without using the word “creationism” is well established. Ben Stein’s charges of unethical suppression of creationist spokesmen has been repudiated. But what is so very wrong about Ben Stein’s movie is not just the science; what I want to discuss here is his portrayal of how science works.

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