Monday, January 16, 2012

Stopping Iran's Nukes Takes 4 Pronged Approach - JPOST

Combination of covert operations, sanctions, diplomatic pressure, military threat necessary against Iran.

Original Document URL

Iran seems intent on pushing forward with its nuclear program and there seems to be no surefire way of stopping it. If the current situation continues, we might have to face the horrific prospect of learning to live with a nuclear Iran.

It has been five years since the UN Security Council first demanded that Iran cease enriching uranium. But the Islamic Republic continues to defy international pressure and is stubbornly advancing with what appears to be a bid to acquire nuclear weapons in the coming year.

On November 8, the International Atomic Energy Agency released a report expressing “serious concerns regarding possible military dimensions to Iran’s nuclear program.” The most recent development is Iran’s announcement that it is beginning to enrich uranium in a new facility in Fordo, near the holy city of Qom.

The imminent opening of the new enrichment site further complicates a military option. Since the new facility is buried deep underground at a well-defended military site, it is considered far more resistant to air strikes than the existing enrichment site at Natanz. And even if a military strike against Iranian nuclear facilities succeeded, the geopolitical fallout is liable to be nightmarish, although the prospect of a nuclear Iran is no less of a nightmare.

Covert actions, in contrast, carry much less of a risk, but are also less effective. For instance, last week’s assassination of Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan, director of the Natanz uranium enrichment facility, undoubtedly dealt a blow to Iran’s nuclear program.

But the delay, if any, is only temporary since Roshan is obviously not the only person in Iran privy to nuclear know-how. And these sorts of operations have negative side effects. Theoretically, if the US was behind the killing of Roshan or one of the other four (or five, depending on which reports you believe) scientists killed since 2007 and this became known, the Obama administration might have a more difficult time putting together a unified front consisting of Russia, China and other countries against Iran.

Some say that targeted killings strengthen extremists, though it is difficult to claim today that there is any significant “moderate” opposition challenging the Islamic Republic’s leadership.

In contrast, cyber warfare or other non-lethal covert operations such as the Stuxnet virus are less likely to hurt American attempts to muster a broad coalition against Iran. Some of these operations can be presented by the Iranians as “accidents.”

Economic sanctions, meanwhile, have so far not changed Iranian nuclear policy, though they have caused some damage. Indeed, since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, there have been numerous attempts to influence Iranian policy through economic sanctions.

Arguably, such sanctions helped end Iran’s war with Iraq in 1988. At the same time, Iran’s economy has been forced to adapt to functioning under various Western boycotts while developing alternative trade ties with Russia, China and several South and Central American countries.

Still, Tehran’s threat to close the Strait of Hormuz, gateway to much of the world’s oil trade, could be a sign of its growing economic desperation. Iranians are plagued by inflation, unemployment and economic stagnation. And the economic situation will only worsen. Though a new round of Security Council-backed sanctions has been delayed due to opposition from Russia and China, the US and Europe have put in place their own penalties. Japan pledged to buy less Iranian oil while South Korea said it was looking for alternative suppliers. And even China can take advantage of a situation in which fewer countries are buying Iranian oil to put pressure on Tehran to lower prices.

A new US law that would penalize foreign companies that do business with Iran’s central bank and an oil embargo that EU foreign ministers plan to approve on January 23 could have an even bigger impact.

A combination of covert operations, economic sanctions and diplomatic pressure, while at the same time keeping the military option “on the table,” is the only way to convince Tehran to back down. And maintaining a broad coalition of countries behind the sanctions is the best way to make them effective.

MLK Hate Crime Prevented By FBI 2011

Composite of parade route, attendees

On January 17, 2011, as hundreds of people gathered (above) in downtown Spokane to participate in the Martin Luther King Jr. Day Unity March, Kevin Harpham placed a backpack bomb (inset) along the parade route on Main Avenue. The graphic shows the likely direction of the blast had the bomb detonated.

MLK Parade Bomber
Horrific Hate Crime Prevented; Case Solved


Had his homemade bomb gone off—one he had diabolically constructed using shrapnel coated with a substance meant to keep blood from clotting in wounds—Kevin Harpham would have undoubtedly caused the death and injury of many people at last year’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Unity March in Spokane, Washington.

file cabinet

A Bomb Designed to Kill

Kevin Harpham had been an artilleryman in the Army, and the bomb he meticulously constructed—using 128 fishing weights for shrapnel, each coated with an anticoagulant commonly found in rat poison—was not a typical improvised explosive device (IED).

“JTTF members on this investigation have had experience on many other bombing cases both here and abroad,” said Special Agent Joe Cleary, who worked alongside other agents, evidence technicians, and intelligence analysts on the Harpham case. “But none of us had ever seen this type of bomb in the U.S.”

Cleary explained that most IEDs are triggered with fuses or timers. “This was command-detonated,” he said. “Harpham designed it so he could remotely control when the blast would occur and the direction in which the shrapnel would fly. He placed the bomb so it would explode directly across the line of the march, thereby inflicting maximum damage to the marchers. This was a weapon of mass destruction.”

When bomb experts from the FBI Laboratory reconstructed the device and detonated it, the results were sobering, Cleary said. “The shrapnel exploded with such a high velocity that some targets in the shape of humans were blown over, and a metal filing cabinet was perforated—it was filled with holes.”

“Harpham intended to use this extremely lethal weapon on individuals solely because of their race and perhaps their religion,” Cleary said. “His plan was to wreak havoc on a crowd of innocents.”

Instead, Harpham was eventually caught and recently sentenced to 32 years in prison for a hate crime and other offenses related to the attempted bombing. The case illustrates how a quick response by citizens and local law enforcement averted a tragedy, and how teamwork and time-tested investigative techniques led to the apprehension of an individual who has shown no remorse for his actions.

“Clearly he intended to detonate the device, cause mass carnage, and then survey the devastation,” said Special Agent Frank Harrill, who supervised the investigation. “Harpham was acting out against what he termed multiculturalism, but his hatred was firmly rooted in violent white supremacy. This was a prototypical hate crime.”

On January 17, 2011, as hundreds of people gathered in downtown Spokane to participate in the march, Harpham placed his backpack bomb along the parade route at Washington Street and Main Avenue. Alert city workers discovered the suspicious backpack before the march started, and Spokane Police Department officials changed the route as a precaution. The Spokane Police and Sheriff’s Office bomb squad was called in, and their precision in disarming the device enabled evidence to be preserved that would help lead FBI agents to Harpham.

The FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) in Spokane immediately began an investigation, and JTTF members canvassed the region for batteries and other components similar to those used in the bomb. Within a month, in a small town about 60 miles north of Spokane, they discovered that a local outlet of a large retail chain was selling the same kind of fishing weights Harpham had used as shrapnel.

Store records showed there had been three large purchases of the weights in recent months—two were paid for in cash, but a debit card was used in one transaction, and it belonged to Harpham. At the same time, the FBI Laboratory had been working to extract a DNA sample from the backpack which was later matched to Harpham through his military records.


FBI Special Agent Frank Harrill Discusses the Case.

Investigators also learned of Harpham’s white supremacy postings on the Internet and his affiliation with a neo-Nazi group called the National Alliance.

Because he lived in a remote, relatively inaccessible area and was likely heavily armed, our Hostage Rescue Team devised a ruse to lure Harpham out of his house. He was arrested March 9, 2011 without incident—but as agents suspected, he was armed when taken into custody.

“Kevin Harpham was the lone wolf that all of us in law enforcement dread,” Harrill said. “He lived alone and he worked alone, and he didn’t foreshadow the bombing plot in any meaningful way. He targeted those who were attempting to celebrate an event meant to unite society,” Harrill added, “and he was prepared to indiscriminately kill men, women, and children.”

Harrill credited teamwork and strong partnerships for stopping Harpham and bringing him to justice. “From the workers who noticed the device to the police response, the JTTF investigation, the expertise of the FBI Laboratory, and the prosecuting skill of the U.S. Attorney’s office—everything worked just as it should have.”