Tag Archives: IAEA

Explaining Bibi’s Red Line (With a Bit of H.S. Chem.)

Uranium enrichment: Reaching the 20% U235 is the uphill-tough-sledding part. To then go from 20% U235 to 90% U235 is really the downhill-easy-run part. And Israel is a one bomb country.by Mark Langfan
This essay will attempt1) to explain what Bibi’s Iranian “Red-Line” actually means,

2) to show why Bibi’s Iranian Red-Line is reasonable, and

3) enable a reader using only trivial math to actually calculate the Iranian Red-Line status from the newspaper. To do this, one needs to first see what Bibi has actually said, read some additional news reports and expert analysis, and then add some basic high school chemistry principles.

Quotes:

1. On January 11, 2012, former IAEA Iranian weapons expert Mr. Olli Heinonen, wrote in an article titled “The 20 Percent Solution”:

“Over the last few days, Iran has begun operating two enrichment cascades at Fordow. Furthermore, Iran is completing installation of two additional cascades, with their planned operation already announced. Once the four cascades at Fordow, in addition to the two Natanz ones, are operating, Iran will be able to produce 15 kg of 20 percent enriched UF6 (uranium hexafluoride) per month. This process uses as feed 3.5 percent enriched uranium, which is produced currently at a rate of 140 to 150 kg UF6 per month at Natanz.”. .

“If Iran decides to produce weapons-grade uranium from 20 percent enriched uranium, it has already technically undertaken 90 percent of the enrichment effort required. What remains to be done is the feeding of 20 percent uranium through existing additional cascades to achieve weapons-grade enrichment (more than 90 percent uranium). This step is much faster than the earlier ones. Growing the stockpile of 3.5 percent and 20 percent enriched uranium, as Iran is now doing, provides the basic material needed to produce four to five nuclear weapons. With IR-1 centrifuges, it would take half a year to go from 3.5 percent enriched uranium to weapons-grade material for the first nuclear device. More advanced centrifuges would cut the time required in half. If, however, IR-1s are using 20 percent enriched uranium as a feed, 250 kg UF6 with that level of enrichment can be turned to weapons-grade material in a month’s time.”
2. On September 27, 2012, PM Netanyahu said at the UN General Assembly:

“This is a bomb; this is a fuse. In the case of Iran’s nuclear plans to build a bomb, this bomb has to be filled with enough enriched uranium. And Iran has to go through three stages. The first stage: they have to enrich enough of low enriched uranium. The second stage: they have to enrich enough medium enriched uranium. And the third and final stage: they have to enrich enough high enriched uranium for the first bomb. Where’s Iran? Iran’s completed the first stage. It took them many years, but they completed it and they’re 70% of the way there. Now they are well into the second stage. By next spring, at most by next summer at current enrichments rates, they will have finished the medium enrichment and move on to the final stage. From there, it’s only a few months, possibly a few weeks before they get enough enriched uranium for the first bomb.”

3. Iran has disclosed to the International ATOMIC Energy Agency (IAEA) and which the IAEA has confirmed, in the IAEA Board of Governors Report dated 30 November 2012, the IAEA stated:

“10. Since Iran began enriching uranium at its declared facilities, it has produced at those facilities approximately:

• 7611 kg (+735 kg since the Director General’s previous report) of UF6 enriched up to 5% U-235, of which: 5303 kg is presently in storage; 1226 kg has been fed into the Pilot Fuel Enrichment Plant (PFEP) and 1029 kg has been fed into the Fordow Fuel Enrichment Plant (FFEP) for enrichment up to 20% U-235; and 53 kg has been fed into the Uranium Conversion Facility (UCF) for conversion to UO2; 14 and 232.8 kg (+43.4 kg since the Director General’s previous report) of UF6 enriched up to 20% U-235, of which: 134.9 kg is presently in storage; 1.6 kg has been downblended; and 96.3 kg has been fed into the Fuel Plate Fabrication Plant (FPFP) for conversion to U3O8.15.”

4. On February 10, 2013, Myra MacDonald and Fredrik Dahl reported in Reuters the following:

“While scientists differ about how much uranium is needed to have the ability quickly to make a bomb, analysts say the Israeli figure is believed to be 240 kg of uranium enriched to 20 percent; at that concentration, the material is nine tenths of the way to the weapons-grade of about 90 percent, since most of the unwanted isotopes have been separated out by then.”

“’Israeli officials, in private, widely use the 240 kg figure,’ said Shashank Joshi, a Research Fellow at Britain’s Royal United Services Institute (RUSI). ‘The figure is so specific and so widely used that they must understand the implications of drawing this red line: that Iran is free to produce anything up to that amount, but that producing any more would force Israel to choose between humiliation or war.’”

5. On February 18, 2013, PM Netanyahu further explained that:

“They say it. They move forward. They’re progressing. They’re getting closer to the red line that I had set at the UN. They’re building rapid centrifuges: that is centrifuges that enrich uranium needed to make nuclear bombs at three times the pace so that they could cross that red line and get to a high enrichment to a sufficient amount of 90% enriched uranium within a much shorter time. They’re doing all that. So far, they’ve not been stopped. And the sanctions themselves – even tougher sanctions – will not stop them.”

6. Finally, on February 21, 2013, BBC News reported that:
“Iran had informed the IAEA in a letter on 23 January that it planned to introduce a new model of centrifuge called the IR2m, which can enrich two or three times faster than current equipment.”

Explanation and Analysis:

Given these news reports, in short, Bibi clearly meant his “Red-Line” to mean Iran’s having 240 kilograms of Uranium Hexafluoride (UH6) gas enriched to a 20% U235 level (“medium enriched uranium”) so that the Bibi-described “second stage” would be “completed.”

“Completed,” as Bibi meant it, in the sense that there would be enough of the medium enriched uranium 20% U235 stockpile from which the Iranians could then quickly further enrich enough 90% U235 enriched uranium (“highly enriched uranium”) to arm one uranium Hiroshima-type gun-type nuclear bomb.

Therefore, given this further information, more specifically, this article will attempt to explain why Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu considers his Iranian “Red-Line” to be Iran’s having stockpiled approximately 240 kilograms (kgs) of UF6 Uranium Hexafloride gas where the UF6 gas containing 20% U235 isotope/80% of the U238 isotope, and why Bibi’s Iranian Red-Line is reasonable.

Remember, U235 is the uranium isotope that is more atomically “fragile” than its U238 cousin, and hence, good for making a uranium gun-type nuclear bomb. Consequently, it is bad for Iran to have enriched that much of the specific U235 isotope to a much higher pre-weapons-grade 20% concentration.
So, what is 240 kgs of UF6 gas containing 20% U235? And why is this amount of stockpiled UF6 gas the likely magic “Red-Line” across which Israel fears Iran will quickly obtain a nuclear bomb?

Let’s get really basic. What does “UF6 20% U235” mean to begin with?
Firstly, UF6 gas is the gaseous medium through which one relatively easily enriches and separates the various uranium isotopes from each other by spinning the UF6 gas containing the mixed uranium isotopes through high speed centrifuges. In nature, mined naturally occurring uranium ore usually contains about combined average amounts of .7% of U235 and 99.3% of U238. The enrichment goal for a nuclear bomb is to change the natural state of uranium from low235/high238 to weapons-grade state of high235/low238 by repeatedly, in a cascade, separating and enriching the higher grade of U235. When mined in nature, the relative percentages of natural uranium containing both U235 and U238 isotopes is about 1 U235 atom for every 150 U238 atoms. After high level enrichment to the weapons’ grade, the ratio is approximately 10 U235 atoms for every 1 atom of U238.

How difficult is it to first enrich UF6 with .7% U235 to UF6 with 20% U235? And then how hard to go from 20% U235 UF6 to 90% U235 UF6?
To accomplish this enrichment of the U235 uranium isotope, the atomic scientists chemically bind one uranium atom to 6 fluoride atoms which then becomes Uranium Hexafluoride or UF6 gas (which stands for one atom of Uranium for every six atoms of fluoride which form one molecule of Uranium Hexafluoride) under certain pressures. In the gaseous UF6 form, the heavier and lighter uranium isotopes are easier to separate from each other by spinning the UF6 gas in high-speed centrifuges. In this process of enriching the U235 isotope from its heavier U238 isotope cousin, the original UF6 gas first contains the same U235/U238 ratio as natural uranium. But as the enrichment process proceeds, the enriched UF6 gas slowly contains a much greater ratio of U235 to U238 and hence a greater percentage of the UF6 contains the U235 atom.

Bibi’s “low enriched uranium” is 3.8% U235 UF6 gas. Bibi’s claim that once the “medium enriched uranium” level of 20% U235 UF6 gas has been reached, 90% of the total enrichment effort necessary to bring the uranium from .7% to weapons’ grade 90% U235 has been expended, jibs exactly with Mr. Heinonen’s published January 2012 analysis. Again, Mr. Heinonen stated that once the 20% U235 enrichment has been achieved, Iran “has already technically undertaken 90 percent of the enrichment effort required” to “produce weapons-grade uranium.” That’s because, anti-intuitively, to go from .7% U235 to 20% U235 enriched uranium takes 90% of the total enrichment effort. But for the enrichment process to go from 20% U235 to 90% U235, it takes only 10% of the total enrichment effort.

 In short, reaching the 20% U235 is the uphill-tough-sledding part. To then go from 20% U235 to 90% U235 is really the downhill-easy-run part.

What makes uranium, U235? Or uranium, U238? And, how is the difference exploited in enrichment?
So, 20% U235 UF6 gas really just means 20% of the UF6 gas contains the lighter U235 uranium isotope, and 80% of the UF6 gas contains the heavier U238 uranium isotope with the 3 extra neutrons in its nucleus. Both the U235 and U238 isotopes still both have 112 protons, U238 just has 3 extra neutrons where each extra neutron weighs about one atomic mass unit (AMUs). So the atomic weight of the U235 isotope is about 235 AMUs for each molecular unit of U235; the atomic weight of the U238 isotope is about 3 AMUs heavier than U235 for a total 238 AMUs per molecular unit of U238. This is because each neutron weighs about one AMU. The nuclear scientists exploit this slight difference in atomic weight between U235 and U238 to separate the two isotopes and enrich the U235 to a weapons’ grade uranium percentage of 90% U235/10% U238.

The mixed U235/U238 UF6 gas is fed into the high speed centrifuges where the UF6 gas molecules containing the heavier U238 isotope spin outward faster than the UF6 gas molecules containing the lighter 235 UF6 isotope. The heavier U238 UF6 gas molecules are sucked out of the outside rim of the centrifuge and reprocessed upstream, while the lighter U235 UF6 gas molecules are sucked out from the center of the centrifuge to be fed downstream into the next centrifuge to be yet further enriched.
How much weapons-grade 90% U235 can you get from a kilogram of UF6 20% U235 gas, or more specifically, from 240 kilograms of UF6 20% U235?
The reason I plied you with all this basic high school chemistry science (which you have probably not seen since then) is that it is a vital jigsaw piece to understanding the real debate. That’s because the key thing to understand is: What exactly does 240 kgs of 20% U235 UF6 gas represent and get you in terms of net-net actual 90% U235 weapons-grade bomb-type uranium?

The key fact is the molecule of UF6 simply means one atom of uranium (either the U235 isotope or the U238 isotope) is bound to 6 atoms of fluoride. Since fluoride has an atomic weight of about 19 AMUs for each atom of fluoride, you multiply 6 times 19AMUs for about 120 AMUs worth of the element fluoride are in one molecular unit of UF6. Add the 120 AMUs of fluoride to the approximate 235-238 AMUs of the element uranium (mix of U235 and U238) atom and you get about 337AMUs of atomic weight for one molecular unit of UF6 gas. Hence, the fluoride represents about one-third the actual weight of the resulting UF6 gas, and the mixed U235/U238 isotopes of uranium represent about two-thirds of the actual weight of the resulting UF6 gas.

Consequently, we now apply this relative fluoride/mixed U235/238 uranium relative weight analysis to Bibi’s Red-Line amount of 240 kgs of 20% U235 UF6 gas. So, you multiply 240 kgs of UF6 gas times 66% and that yields you about 160kgs of netted total mixed U235/U238 uranium where 20% is the U235 isotope and 80% is the U238 isotope. Therefore, you further multiply 160 kgs of the total netted uranium times 20% (or one-fifth) because the U235 is 20% of the total netted uranium. That net-nets you down to about 32 kgs of pure bomb grade U235. Since one only needs 90% U235 that means 160 kgs of 20% U235 net-nets you to about 35 kgs of 90% weapons-grade uranium. See graphic www.marklangfan.com/240kguh6bomb.html

It is widely assumed that you only need about 25-30 kgs of weapons-grade uranium to make one uranium gun-type Hiroshima type nuclear weapon. Hence in “nuclear proliferation lingo,” 25 kilograms of 90% 235 uranium is called a “Significant Quantity” or “SQ” of weapons-grade uranium. Hence, you can make a quick calculation of the amount of weapons-grade U235 in any amount of 20% U235 UF6 gas by just multiplying the total 20% U235 UF6 gas kilograms by one-fifteenth or 1/15.

How fast can 240 kg of UF6 20% gas be processed to get a bomb’s worth weapons-grade U235?

In other words, what Bibi means by the “240 kgs of 20% U235 UF6 gas Red-Line” is if the Iranians get 240 kgs of 20% 235 UF6 gas, they can quickly spin and centrifuge that stockpiled gas out to make one nuclear bomb’s worth of 90% weapons grade 235. To quote Mr. Olli Heinonen, the preeminent former IAEA nuclear weapons expert, if the Iranians are “using 20% enriched uranium as a feed [for the cascade of centrifuges], 250 kg of UF6 with that level of enrichment can be turned into weapon-grade material in one month.”

How will the newly announced new generation of Iranian centrifuges affect this break out time?

What’s worse is Iran announced the installation of a new generation of even faster and better centrifuges. Hence, the time needed to “breakout” from 20% U235 to the 90% U235 of one bomb’s worth of uranium to weapons-grade enrichment level would be about two weeks.

How much 20% U235 UF6 does Iran possess at this time?

So even assuming you believe the Iranians, and the IAEA, Iran had, as of 3 months ago, about 134.9 kgs of 20% UF6 stockpiled and ready to be spun to 90% U235 UF6 gas. The “diversion” of some of the 20% UF6 gas averted Iran from crossing what would have been Bibi’s Iranian Red-Line. Had Iran not voluntarily diverted 96.3 kg of their 20% U235 stockpile to fuel plate production, Iran would have already crossed the Bibi Red-Line. We don’t really even know for sure if Iran diverted the U235 enriched UF6 gas. Let’s just hope they did.

How much 20% 235 UF6 gas is Iran stockpiling per month?

As Mr. Heinonen stated, “once the four cascades at Fordow, in addition to the two Natanz ones, are operating, Iran will be able to produce 15 kg of 20% enriched UF6 (uranium hexafluoride) per month.” This “15 kg” a month number is field-confirmed because the IAEA report cites, “+43.4 kg since the Director General’s previous report,” which was 3 months before. So, the Iranian stockpiling rate of UF6 20% gas is about 15kgs a month.

After they get the 90% U235 UF6 gas, what do the Iranians need to do to actually build a final workable nuclear bomb?

Once the UF6 gas reaches the enriched 90% U235/10% U238, the atomic scientists then chemically decouple the uranium atom from the fluoride atoms to get a pure uranium metal of 90% U235 purity (10% U238). This is a technically trivial part of the process. It is this enriched metal that is then shaped, and put into the actual bomb mechanism, or “physic’s package” as it is known. The Iranians are surely working on such an actual atomic bomb mechanism in parallel to their U235 enrichment so there isn’t likely going to be a huge lag time at the final assembly phase where the enriched U235 metal is installed in the actual bomb mechanism. (And remember, in 1945, the US didn’t even test its first gun-type uranium bomb before it dropped it on Hiroshima. And, Iran has surely partnered with North Korea on its nuclear tests.)

Therefore, Bibi’s attempt to draw a Red-Line where Iran could be less than one month (or now two weeks) away from a nuclear bomb isn’t war-mongering, but is peacemaking and prudent statesmanship. In fact, Bibi’s line may even be too close to the point of no-return where Iran will one morning fire off a nuclear blast and tell the world it is a fully nuclear weapons’ state.

And as Cong. Steve Southerland II(R-Fla.) correctly stated, “Israel is a one-bomb country.” So, even with one Iranian bomb, Israel’s very existence, along with its 6 million Jewish citizens, is at total risk.

For more information please visit http://www.marklangfan.com/

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Iran must be President Obama’s immediate priority

Henry Kissinger: Iran must be President Obama’s immediate priority – The Washington Post.

#Iran: The Zone of Impunity

Articles: Iran’s Zone of Impunity.By Ed Lasky

Experts may debate the prospects of how soon Iran will enter the zone of immunity — when air strikes will be unable to derail the regime’s nuclear weapons program.  However, what are not debatable are the facts.  Iran kills American soldiers, plans murders in our capital, boasts how cleverly its people have fooled international inspectors and played negotiators for fools, launches cyber-attacks against America, and proudly declares its genocidal goal.  The response of Barack Obama has been so feckless that Iran no longer even bothers to hide its nefarious, criminal, and warlike behavior.  Tehran’s contempt for the American president is palpable.  The Iranians know they can act with impunity.  We have seen this script play out before, and it did not end well.

For years, Iranians have actively aided murderers of American soldiers.  This predated 9/11.  The terror bombings in Beirut decades ago were committed by Iranian-allied Hezb’allah.  The Khobar bombings in Saudi Arabia in 1996 that killed 19 Air Force personnel — Iran was responsible.  The regime stepped up its murder spree in Iraq and Afghanistan, targeting American and allied soldiers.  The death toll is in the thousands.

Meanwhile, Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai has admitted to receiving bags of cash from Iran for years — as have up to 44 members of Afghanistan’s parliament.

And the White House response has been to sweep it under a Persian rug.

The regime has worked through proxies, but all lines lead back to Iran and, in particular, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.  U.S. administrations from both parties have refused to confront Iran.

Mass murder is a daily occurrence as rebels struggle to oust the hated regime of Bashar Assad — a key Arab ally of the Iranians who served Iranian interest when he allowed Syria to be used as a jumping-off point for terrorists entering Iraq and killing Americans.  Assad’s Syria serves as a conduit to ship weapons, aid, and soldiers to the Shiite Hezb’allah terrorists who control much of Lebanon and share the Iranians’ genocidal intentions toward Israel.  For months Iran has been coy regarding the help it has extended to Assad.  Lately, the pretense has fallen.  The commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard acknowledged just a few weeks ago that members of the elite Quds force have been training Assad’s forces to become a militia modeled on Iran’s own Basij force.  These “trainees” have already been implicated in some of the worst atrocities so far in Syria — with more undoubtedly to come.

The Washington Post editorial board has a problem with Iranians helping perpetrate mass murder and with Nobel Peace Prize-winning President Obama’s complacency regarding the same.  The Iranians can mass-murder away with impunity.

Perhaps if Barack Obama had taken time to negotiate what is called a “Status of Force Agreement” with Iraq before skedaddling out of that nation, America may have retained enough influence to prevent Iran from flying and driving through Iraqi airspace to ship weaponry and killers to Assad. 

Lest we forget, the Iranians still have a bounty on the head of Salman Rushdie — and just a few days ago publicly boosted the “reward” for his murder to 3.3 million dollars.

The regime’s escalation does not end with Rushdie.

In the last year, Iran has planned to both murder the Saudi ambassador and attack the Israeli Embassy in Washington, just blocks from the White House.  Attorney General Eric Holder declared that the investigation led to Iran being the culprit.  The director of National Intelligence subsequently testified that Iranian leaders “are now more willing to conduct an attack in the United States” (italics mine).  Yet, just a few months after that attempt on American soil, Barack Obama said he doubts that Iran is attempting to mount attacks in America: “we don’t see any evidence that they have those intentions or capabilities now.”  Either Barack Obama has a serious short-term memory problem or he swept Iranian attacks against America down the memory hole, for to do otherwise would spoil the story he has told regarding his superb foreign policy chops.  Worse, from his point of view, it might actually require him to act.  As one CIA official opined regarding President Obama and his team, they say things they wished to be true.

Such an abdication of the president’s duties just stokes a sense of impunity among the Iranians.

Recently, Iranian handprints have been found behind a series of cyber-attacks against America.

Iranian leaders now so regularly threaten genocide against Israel (a “cancer” that must be removed; a “fake Zionist regime that will disappear from geography”; its existence is an insult; and, just this week, the bald statement that it will be “eliminated“) that, as Barack Obama might say, it has become just so much “noise.”

Yet, others — particularly the Israelis, with a searing memory of the Holocaust — are not so dismissive.  The Iranians have also made it clear that America, the Great Satan, is also a target for destruction.  Congress has responded by enacting a series of sanctions meant to dissuade Iran from pursuing its nuclear weapons program.

The last few years, much of the world’s focus has been on Iran’s nuclear program.  Iran has violated numerous obligations as a signatory of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and a range of agreements with other international actors, stonewalled the International Atomic Energy Agency that is charged with inspecting its nuclear facilities, and (helped by its allies on the Security Council, Russia and China) all but ignored the United Nations.

Sanctions have been passed in Congress over the years (the first set in 1996), the European Union, and, in a milder form, by the U.N.

However, the regime has found ways to circumvent these “roadblocks.”  Ships are reflagged; barter deals are reached that avoid the use of normal channels of commerce.  Then there are smuggling and a “whack-a-mole” strategy that involved creating a stream of new companies when old ones are targeted by sanctions.  The list goes on and on.  The Iranians and their co-conspirators have been fiendishly clever.

But lately the regime not only has been proudly broadcasting the success it has had in evading these sanctions, but also has pointedly admitted to some of the strategies it has been using to spin much of the world community.

Late last year, the former Iranian nuclear negotiator boasted about Iran’s negotiating strategy — he invited three European foreign ministers to Tehran for “negotiations” so as to make Europe oppose American efforts to submit the issue to the U.N. Security Council.  Of course, given the protracted talks — and more talks — that have gone on for years, this “bazaar”-like behavior should not come as a surprise.  While “diplomats” share tea, centrifuges spin away.  But what was surprising was the honesty in the admission: he all but declares European nations as being represented by dupes.  Michael Rubin wrote a Wall Street Journal op-ed in 2009 outlining the insincerity of the Iranians when they negotiate.  Their former chief negotiator publicly confirmed Rubin’s argument.

Yet…nothing has changed.  Talks are suspended and are renewed; technical issues are raised; talks are ended…and then the cycles continue — both the nuclear and the negotiating ones.  The Iranians routinely announce new breakthroughs in their enrichment capacity and the range of the missiles that can be tipped by a nuclear device — showing nary a concern for how the rest of the world — let alone America — may respond.

They know better by now.

Furthermore, as Joel Sprayregen writes, the current de factor leader of the West’s negotiating team, British Baroness Catherine Ashton, is ideal for the Iranians.

Why do the Iranians boast of their methods to fool the world, openly declare intentions to commit genocide, plan attacks in our nation’s capital, launch cyber-attacks against America, and no longer deny their role in helping Syria massacre its people?

Why do the Iranians feel so emboldened?  Why do they act with such impunity?  And what does this portend for the future?

They know the president.  They have a measure of the man.

Rewind the tape to 2008, when Barack Obama dismissed Iran as a “tiny country” that “doesn’t pose a serious threat.”  That should have been a tipoff regarding Obama’s worldview.  He was to be the agent of change — by virtue of not being George Bush and having Muslim family members and friends, he would open a new chapter on our relations with the Muslim world.  Early in his presidency, a letter sent from him to the theocrats in Tehran paid homage to the Islamic Republic of Iran.  He cut off federal funding for a Boston-based Iranian human rights group that was recording the torture and deaths of Iranians at the hands of their rulers (before he won the Nobel Peace Prize).  The blandishments continued apace: ignoring the pleas of the Green Revolution protesters who also got the measure of the man when they saw hope for change vanish and beseeched him (“Obama, Are You With Us or With Them”).  They found their answer.

And still the endlessly open hand, the window for diplomacy that never closes (regardless of the claims over the years by Secretary of State Clinton and Barack Obama that it would not remain open — but it has for almost four years now).  Obama’s bluff has been called many times — despite his warning to Iran not to do so.

Supporters of Barack Obama routinely declare that he signed the toughest Iranian sanctions legislation of any American president.  That may be true — but the work was done in Congress and had to overcome his delaying tactics.  Even then he was able to weaken the sanctions.  Among the ways he was able to diminish their strength was having his allies in Congress insert “national security waivers” in the legislation that gave him the power to waive sanctions if he alone decided that to do so would be in the national security interests of the United States.  These were Obama’s Iran Loopholes, and, like most loopholes, they were exploited.  The result: all 20 of Iran’s major trading partners have sanctions exemptions.  Even before he handed out waivers, enforcement of sanctions legislation by the Obama administration had been so lax that huge bipartisan majorities of both houses of Congress have repeatedly signed letters calling on him to actually enforce the sanctions legislation they have passed over the years.  As I wrote last year (“Iran Policy: the Problem is Obama”), Obama has not even led from behind regarding Iran.  He has been the shirker-in-chief.

Of course, his supporters — unlike Paul Harvey — never tell the rest of this story.  Just repeat robotically that “President Obama signed the toughest” blah, blah, blah.

America’s leadership, at Obama’s behest as the commander-in-chief, have all but put the handcuffs on Israel’s ability to defend herself from Iran — telegraphing that an Israeli strike would be a disaster and would not accomplish much at all, and that America would not be “complicit” (so redolent of criminality) in such a strike.  His people leak details of the joint Israeli-American effort (initiated during the Bush administration) to disable the Iranian nuclear program by using computer viruses — rendering that effort less potent.

Meanwhile, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad feels that the world is moving Iran’s way and that, once Obama is re-elected, America will concede to Iranian demands (maybe he received a “flexibility” message, as did Vladimir Putin).

Iran is but a microcosm of Obama’s entire approach to foreign policy.  He projects a weakness that is provocative to the bad actors on the world stage.  Russia is trampling the rights of its citizens and neighboring nations and making threats to America regarding our missile defense system.  We have the Middle East aflame and the Muslim Brotherhood marching.  China is exerting imperialistic-flavored designs on Asia and squabbling with Japan.  North Korea just ignores us; Pakistan harbors bin Laden and still receives munificent levels of American aid.  Egypt allows attacks on our Embassy and gets a billion-dollar reprieve from debts owed to America while announcing its intentions to buy German submarines.

The Iranians feel empowered — they are riding the so-called strong horse and accumulating allies (including Egypt) as America stands down.

We have Iranian theocrats openly broadcasting their intention to commit genocide (paging Samantha Power, the self-described genocide chick — where are you and your Atrocities Prevention Board?).  They are in the zone of impunity, and their comfort there will lead them to take even greater risks — to be bolder in their actions.

But Obama would rather wage war against fellow Americans (the rich, fat cats, greedy doctors, malevolent health insurers, Republicans) than defend America and its allies overseas.  He would rather pressure fellow Americans and stoke divisions here than use American power to resist dictators overseas and stand up for American principles and interest.  He is creating a vacuum overseas being filled with people who mean to do harm to America.

Obama is leading in one way: retreat.  He is, as Max Boot wrote, “The Retreater in Chief.”

And retreat often leads to surrender.