Finally, “diplomacy opened up a new path toward a world that is more secure — a future in which we can verify that Iran’s nuclear program is peaceful and that it cannot build a nuclear weapon.” The good news was announced a month before Christmas by Nobel Peace Prize winner President Barack Obama: he had just made the world a safer place — so he could proceed with improving the hundreds of nuclear bombs that the United States still keeps in Europe: the B61-11s have been transformed into B61-12s, which can also be used as bunker-busting bombs in a nuclear first strike. (whitehouse.gov, Nov. 23)
This falls under the Obama administration’s “roadmap” for maintaining U.S. nuclear supremacy. The U.S. has about 2,150 nuclear warheads deployed, that is, ready to launch using missiles and bombers, plus a further 2,500 stockpiled in warehouses, but which can quickly be activated, and an additional 3,000 that were withdrawn but not dismantled that can be reactivated: in total about 8,000 nuclear warheads.
Russia’s arsenal is comparable, but has fewer warheads ready to launch, only about 1,800. The new START treaty between the U.S. and Russia does not restrict the number of operational nuclear warheads in the two arsenals, but only those ready to launch on strategic carriers with a range greater than 5,500 km. (3,418 miles): the ceiling was established at 1,550 warheads each, but is actually higher because each heavy bomber is counted as a single warhead, even if it carries 20 or more bombs. The treaty leaves open the possibility of improving the quality of nuclear forces.
To this end, the U.S. is installing an anti-missile “shield” in Europe, ostensibly to neutralize an Iranian attack (something impossible at present), in reality in order to achieve a strategic advantage over Russia, which is taking countermeasures. In addition to the U.S. warheads, NATO has about 300 French and 225 British nuclear warheads, almost all ready to launch.
Israel — which is the only nuclear power in the Middle East and, unlike Iran, does not adhere to the Non-Proliferation Treaty — has an estimated 100 to 300 warheads with their vectors and produces enough plutonium to manufacture 10 to 15 bombs each year like the one the U.S. dropped on Nagasaki, Japan, in 1945. It also produces tritium, a radioactive gas used to manufacture neutron warheads, which cause minor radioactive contamination but a more lethal dose.
At the same time, the nuclear confrontation is developing in the Asia/Pacific region, where the U.S. is carrying out a military escalation. China has a nuclear arsenal estimated at about 250 warheads and about 60 intercontinental ballistic missiles. India has about 110 nuclear warheads, Pakistan 120, North Korea probably a few warheads.
In addition to the nine countries in possession of nuclear weapons, there are at least 40 others in a position to build them. In fact, there is no clear separation between civilian and military use of nuclear energy, and highly enriched uranium and plutonium suitable for the manufacture of nuclear weapons can be obtained from reactors. It is estimated that the world has accumulated enough of such materials to produce more than 100,000 nuclear weapons, and it continues to produce these materials in increasing amounts: there are over 130 “civilian” nuclear reactors that produce highly enriched uranium, suitable for the manufacture of nuclear weapons.
This is the world that “became more secure” because the five major nuclear powers plus Germany (which has provided Israel with nuclear attack submarines) have concluded an agreement according to which “Iran’s nuclear program will be exclusively peaceful.”
This article was published in the Nov. 26 issue of Il Manifesto (Italy) and translated by WW managing editor John Catalinotto.