Apocalypse Averted, Nuclear Threat Remains

On the radar: Actual existential threats; North Korea-Iran cooperation; Suspect uranium enrichment facilities in DPRK; Dealing with Khamenei; Y-12 break-in still evident; MidEast WMD-free zone; and Celebrating the apocalypse in a Russian bunker.

December 21, 2012 | Edited by Benjamin Loehrke and Marianne Nari Fisher

We survived! - “If you are reading this, then the world did not end today, as some thought it might,” writes The LA Times. “It may be more fun to consider theatrical endgames and far-fetched predictions of doom, but really, shouldn't we be concentrating instead on resolving the complex but scarily real scenarios facing us? At least then, Earthlings might stand a chance of surviving.”

--”Nuclear annihilation, which would happen a lot faster and with a more cinematic bang, continues to be a possibility as more countries seek nuclear weapons or the material to make them. Reining in nuclear proliferation — and controlling those weapons that already exist — is complicated and controversial but surely worth fighting for.” http://lat.ms/12EjElo

Tweet - @thedeadhandbook: The real #doomsday machine was brought to light by a courageous man who passed away last week. Repeating, a tribute: http://t.co/tzGp4JER

Happy Holidays! - The Early Warning crew will power down after today’s edition, heading back to the Midwest and West Coast. We’ll return with our next edition on Jan. 2nd. Stay safe and happy holidays!

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Kerry to State - “Born on the Seventh Floor: John Kerry is about to get the secretary of state job he was always meant to have.” Article by Douglas Brinkley in Foreign Policy. http://atfp.co/VUxt9B

Addressing the DPRK-Iran partnership - ”North Korea’s sudden success on December 12 was not the result of good fortune but rather was the fruition of its increasing institutional cooperation with Iran,” writes John Park at The National Bureau of Asian Research. The reality of this unique relationship will require an innovative and adaptive U.S. response.

--Recommendations: analyze the full life cycle of a North Korean–Iranian transaction, build on improved understanding of how the fused missile development programs function, structure new incentives to disrupt critical sections in the life cycle. Full analysis here.http://bit.ly/T84PDH

Additional uranium facilities - South Korea’s defense ministry revealed that intelligence satellites have detected additional facilities in North Korea suspected of enriching uranium that could be used to make nuclear weapons. Voice of America has the story. http://bit.ly/TFdUUw

NNSA Transparency - The National Nuclear Security Administration recently conducted a subcritical experiment, accompanied with a youtube video of the experiment and a press release explaining it. That’s a commendable transparency effort, but experts debated whether such transparency was enough for building confidence with Russia and China about the viability of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

--Jeffrey Lewis at Arms Control Wonk adds to the debate, commenting on NNSA’s transparency steps, the value of test site transparency, and the utility of scaled plutonium experiments. http://bit.ly/UhYnfp

Dealing with Iran - “Pursuing a deliberate arms-control process that initially focuses on stopping Iran’s more dangerous enrichment activities will both ease tensions and press this debate in the right direction,” writes Ray Takeyh in The National Interest.

--”Ironically, a more circumscribed agreement that allows [Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei] to sustain the essential character of his nuclear program and his slogans of resistance may be his path out of the dilemma of his own creation. Such an agreement may yet create conditions favorable to a more fundamental accord.” http://bit.ly/ZoiRqW

Tweet - @carnegienpp: Mark Hibbs and Olli Heinonen @BelferCenter on the IAEA's integral role in ending the Iranian nuclear crisis http://ow.ly/ghOUV

Security concern - 4.5 months after a break-in by peace activists, there remains a 4.5 foot vertical hole in the chain-link security fence at the Y-12 nuclear facility. The ramped security currently in place: a plastic tie and string to hold the fence together. Knox News has the photos and story. http://bit.ly/UOKoKw

Istagramming Iran - Iran hasn’t blocked Instagram, yet. So Holly Dagres, an Iranian-American, took one last trip through Tehran, Meshhad and Esfahan. She instagrammed her photos of the country in which she spent much of her adolescence. Foreign Policy has the photos. http://atfp.co/TGi4LF

Discussion Paper - "A WMD Free Zone in the Middle East: Creating the Conditions for Sustained Progress." Martin Malin and Paolo Foradori examine the challenges and obstacles that the parties of the region will need to overcome to bring a WMD-free zone into force. Full report here. http://bit.ly/VWbMX0

Going out with a bang and a bill - Bunker No. 42, located 184 feet under ground in central Moscow, will be hosting a 24-hour party for Russians willing to pay $1,000 for a ticket to escape the apocalypse.

--“Upon entering the bunker, built in 1956, visitors will be whisked 18 floors down in an elevator to a warren of rooms where loudspeakers blast out the old Cold war warning: ‘Attention! Attention! The enemy has carried out a nuclear attack!’” Reuters has the story. http://reut.rs/VfCrwQ