As the drums for direct military intervention to derail Iranâs purported covert military nuclear weapons program beat louder in both Jerusalem and Washington, an overlooked issue is the possibility of international âcollateral damage,â to use the Pentagonâs favourite euphemism for civilian casualties.
On 14 November South Koreaâs Chosun Ilbo stated, "Hundreds of North Korean scientists and engineers are working at about 10 nuclear and missile facilities in Iran, including Natanz, The North Koreans are apparently rotated every six months." Russian technicians also remain at Iranâs first nuclear electrical energy facility, Bushehr. So, any aerial strikes against Iranâs nuclear facilities could result in significant numbers of dead Russian and North Korean specialists as âcollateral damage,â with all the diplomatic uncertainties that might ensue from Moscow and Pyongyang as the body bags start arriving home.
The https://www.cia.govwebsite, which listed the report, describes the Chosun Ilbo website as âconservative in editorial orientation -- strongly nationalistic, anti-North Korea, and generally pro-U.S.â
For those looking for more smoking guns, Japanâs Sankei Shimbun reports that among the Iranian sites the North Koreans have been involved in are three research centres carrying out simulations of how to trigger nuclear weapons.
The news complicates the situation for advocates of a âcleanâ surgical strike against Iranâs nuclear facilities.
History seems to be repeating itself. The world has in fact lived with an âIslamic nuclear bombâ for the last thirteen years, when on 28 May 1998, a few weeks after India's second nuclear test, Pakistan detonated five nuclear devices in the Chagai Hills in Balochistanâs Chagai district. Pakistan began focusing on nuclear weapons development in January 1972 under the leadership of Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, who famously declared seven years earlier in 1965, âIf India builds the bomb, we will eat grass or leaves, even go hungry. But we will get one of our own.â
On 18 May 1974, Bhuttoâs, by then Prime Minister, worst fears were realized when Indiaâs first nuclear test, Pokhran-I, was conducted in Rajasthan.
It took Pakistan 14 years to match New Delhiâs effort, breaking Indiaâs south Asian nuclear monopoly. South Asia is now effectively in nuclear stasis, as both India and Pakistan both possess nuclear armaments.
Why this diversion into Islamabadâs nuclear policies?
Because Pakistanâs top nuclear scientist, Dr. Abdul Kadeer Khan from Pakistanâs Kahuta nuclear establishment helped Iran develop its uranium-235 centrifuge enrichment program.
Contributing to Tehranâs concerns about its nuclear endeavours, Iranâs uranium centrifuge cascades have recently been subjected to a series of sustained cyber attacks, first by the Stuxnet computer virus and more recently, by the Dugu computer virus. In January The New York Times reported that the U.S. and Israeli intelligence services collaborated to develop the Stuxnet computer worm to sabotage Iran's efforts to make a nuclear bomb. As for the Duqu computer virus, Iranâs civil defense head, Brigadier General Gholamreza Jalali told IRNA news agency, "The software to control the (Duqu) virus has been developed and made available to organizations and corporations." Interestingly, North Koreaâs Korean Central News Agency state media outlet reported Iranâs Duqu computer virus attacks.
On 12 September Iran brought its first nuclear power plant in Bushehr online, connecting the 1,000 megawatt plant to the country's electrical grid, bolstering Iranâs claims to develop civilian nuclear power use under the terms of the Non Proliferation Treaty, of which Iran is a signatory, unlike Israel.
Israel is a de facto nuclear weapons power, Iran at best an incipient one. The question lurking in the drawing rooms of Washington and Europe is whether a military strike will irrevocably or only temporarily sustain the status quo, and if the possible cost is worth the ultimate risk.
Do the mullahs in Tehran have more nefarious objectives than generating electricity?
The juryâs seemingly still out, but one thing as clear â if Israel and/or the U.S. shortly decide to mount an aerial assault against Iranâs nuclear infrastructure, the âcollateral damageâ now will not be limited to Iranians, for all the international consequences that might ensue after Moscow and Pyongyang begin receiving their dead technicians.
By. John C. K. Daly of Oilprice.com