Iran and Hecker’s North Korean effect

The 2,000 working centrifuges for processing uranium adaptable to the fueling of nuclear weapons, which North Korea showed off to visiting US scientist Prof. Siegried Hecker of Stanford University on Nov. 12, told US and Western intelligence that Pyongyang was shifting its weapons program to enriched uranium.
The plutonium facilities which yielded North Korea's estimated arsenal of 8-12 nuclear weapons were judged by the visiting American scientist to be dormant.

In the light of the Hecker report, US and Israel intelligence cannot avoid suspecting that Iran, with characteristic furtiveness, may have performed a similar transformation. After all, the North Korean, Iranian and Syrian nuclear programs have collaborated closely in the last decade and maintained a thriving give-and-take relationship that grows progressively stronger.

debkafile's intelligence sources note that Tehran maintains a permanent military mission in Pyongyang matched by a permanent North Korean mission in Tehran. Their primary task is to keep nuclear technology flowing uninterrupted between their two programs and making sure they benefit reciprocally from innovations. That way, they avoid duplicating research and save time and money.

In his report, Prof. Hecker writes: "I have previously stated my concern about potential cooperation and exchanges in uranium technologies between North Korea and Iran."
Our sources stress that Pyongyang, Tehran and Damascus share more than technology; they have the same nuclear image of self and coordinate their diplomatic strategies. As a well-knit nuclear alliance, the trio challenge United States and seek to defy its leverage for dictating which countries are entitled to be nuclear-armed and which are not.

This bloc did not rise spontaneously; it was secretly crafted by China as a tool for diminishing America as a military power.

For ten years, Washington has tried to persuade Beijing to put a stop to Pyongyang nuclear ventures.

To distract attention from its lack of success, US analysts are trying to link the display of North Korea's  nuclear advances to Prof. Hecker, including work on a light-water reactor, as bound up with the succession struggle and Kim Jong-Il's wish to impress the military with his son Kim Jon-un's nuclear credentials.

According to debkafile's analysts, Pyongyang's rationale is more far-reaching.

Although treated by the West as a pariah state with a failed economy, North Korea has managed to develop two advanced nuclear programs fueled by plutonium and now enriched uranium and export its technologies to Iran, Syria and, some Asian intelligence sources believe, Myanmar.

The sanctions initiated by President George W. Bush and his successor in the White House, Barack Obama, have been of no avail because of Chinese backing. Beijing has run Obama's drive to halt nuclear proliferation into the sand, while building up strategic interests in Tehran to a level comparable to its stake in Pyongyang.

According to OPEC figures, Iran's oil sales to China jumped in recent months by 30 percent to 597,800 barrels a day. Aggressive in its quest for energy, Beijing will do whatever it takes to protect its energy sources and supply routes.
On Nov. 10, the high-ranking Chinese official Tong Xiaoling said his government would expand its investments in developing Iran's oil and gas fields and building refineries. Those investments have already passed the $40 billion mark.

At this time, therefore, given China's calculations, North Korea's interest in selling nuclear technologies for hard foreign currency and Iran's relentless pursuit of a nuclear weapon, it should not be hard to anticipate Tehran following Pyongyang's brazen example before long.  A Western or Arab nuclear expert may be invited to take a look at an advanced – and banned – nuclear plant or process undiscovered by Western intelligence, and displayed proudly as a fait accompli. Not only does North Korean nuclear and missile technology tend to catch on and spread, so too will the Hecker effect because nothing really stands in its way.

Monday, Nov. 22, questions to the Obama administration about the professor's report drew this response: The United States and its allies Monday accuse North Korea of being a danger to the region after it showed off its latest advances in uranium enrichment, but Washington is still open to talks. The US is hoping to revive the six-party talks over the North's nuclear facilities based at Yongbyon.

Closer to the firing line – and therefore more realistic – South Korea's defense minister Kim Tae-young said his country may consider having US tactical nuclear weapons deployed on its soil for the first time in 19 years,  in the light of North Korea's latest escalation.

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