International Atomic Energy Agency

This week, the editors of the Süddeutsche Zeitung, a liberal Munich newspaper, published a diatribe—in the form of a poem—by the well-known German author Gunter Grass. Entitled “Was gesagt werden muss” (“What must be said”), the poem denounced a possible Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities.

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The question of Tehran’s status as nuclear power is a genuine matter of concern for international policymakers, but they have become far too accustomed to treating it as a perpetual hypothetical. The assumption has always been that Iran would never get a nuclear weapon, because the West would have enough advance warning to prevent that from happening, whether by means of diplomacy or force. Unfortunately, the time for hypotheticals has passed.

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In the wee hours of September 6, 2007, Israel’s air force crossed into Syrian airspace and attacked a clandestine, nearly operational nuclear reactor located in the country’s remote northeastern desert. Were the strike the end of the story the international community might have tipped its hat silently, thanking Jerusalem for putting to bed a nuclear risk that could have increased regional tensions dramatically. But the assault proved to be a mere chapter in what now has become a saga.

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Gimme Fuel, Gimme Fire

When the Iranian Revolution overthrew the Shah in 1979, years of “peaceful” U.S. nuclear cooperation with the Persian dictator suddenly seemed like they had been a bad idea. In part as a result of this early assistance, Tehran is on the road to producing a bomb’s worth of weapons-grade uranium in roughly a year or less. And with protests upending governments in Egypt, Tunisia, and the rest of the Middle East, this sequence is on the cusp of repeating itself to produce a nuclear domino effect.

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Bombshell

When faced with a particularly scary, nettlesome problem, there’s a natural tendency in Washington to accentuate the positive and play for time even when the clock has pretty much run out. This is certainly so with Iran’s nuclear program. In this case, U.S. officials have prepared for talks with Iran, China, Russia, and our key European allies by highlighting Iran’s nuclear difficulties.

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"So why not Israel?" you undoubtedly will say.  But we know that Israel has nukes.  And Jerusalem told us its intentions long ago when it refused to sign the convention that set up the monitoring mechanism.  Other governments also did not sign, among them France which, however, advertised its designs with the force de frappe.   The rules of the International Atomic Energy Agency are relatively simple, as you can read in the article "Proliferation".

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Operation Sabotage

Eli Lake on our secret war against Iran.

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A vivid report by Ashraf Khalil in Friday’s Wall Street Journal and an AP dispatch on the same day evoke a moribund Egyptian politics coming to life because of the death of a 28-year old in Alexandria. The murder—and it was a murder!—was committed by the police. Out in the open or, to be precise, down the alley from an internet cafe out of which Khaled Saieed was dragged. Saieed’s face was shown on web sites, and the image was not pretty: a battered face and broken teeth. The police attributed his death to resisting arrest. Of course.   Not surprisingly: ‘We are all afraid for our children.

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You may remember that during the president’s first trip abroad he spent two days in Turkey. A little much, I thought. After all, a presidential visit is something of a gift to the host country’s government. And why did Ankara deserve such a gift? Well, it didn’t. First of all, in 2003, it had barred American troop movement through Iraq from the north. I don’t know exactly how many U.S. deaths accrued because of this ban. But sober estimates tell us that as many as 500 soldiers may have been killed because of the restriction.

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The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has done indispensable work over the years in assessing the vast amount of research out there on the Earth's climate system and putting it all together into an accessible summary for policymakers and laypeople. I'd very much recommend the IPCC's Working Group 1 report from 2007 to anyone who wants to delve deeper into the basics of how scientists know that humans are warming the planet. Still, the panel isn't perfect.

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