Joe Cirincione

Islamic State May Now Have A Dirty Bomb, But What About A Nuke?

“Militants in Iraq have taken hold of nuclear materials at university science facilities near the northern city of Mosul, the Iraqi government has said in a letter to the United Nations.

But two U.S. officials told CNN on Wednesday that the small amounts of uranium aren’t enriched or weapons-grade, prompting only minimal concern…”

-CNN website, July 10, 2014

I remember reading about the Islamic State getting their hands on that nuclear material near Mosul this summer. And I also remember the American response to it happening- which was basically “who cares?”

Now, I distinctly recall what I was thinking when I heard the news:

The caliphate is going to build themselves some dirty bombs.

From the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission website:

A “dirty bomb” is one type of a radiological dispersal device (RDD) that combines conventional explosives, such as dynamite, with radioactive material. The terms dirty bomb and RDD are often used interchangeably in the media. Most RDDs would not release enough radiation to kill people or cause severe illness – the conventional explosive itself would be more harmful to individuals than the radioactive material. However, depending on the situation, an RDD explosion could create fear and panic, contaminate property, and require potentially costly cleanup… A dirty bomb is not a “Weapon of Mass Destruction” but a “Weapon of Mass Disruption,” where contamination and anxiety are the terrorists’ major objectives

A “weapon of mass disruption.” Cute.

On Saturday, the Daily Mirror– a British tabloid- ran the following:

Islamic State fanatics have built a dirty bomb, it has been claimed.

The fighters are said to have made a device using radioactive uranium stolen from Iraq’s Mosul University after seizing control of the city last June.

And this week they were boasting of the damage it would cause if blown up in London, although sources insist security measures would make it almost impossible to transport here…

If the bomb does exist, militants are far more likely to use it in Syria or Iraq, rather than trying to smuggle it into a Western country.

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

“Although sources insist security measures would make it almost impossible to transport here.”

“Militants are far more likely to use it in Syria or Iraq, rather than trying to smuggle it into a Western country.”

Not sure I agree with those statements. First off, you don’t need to “transport” the components required to construct a dirty bomb. There’s a good chance the bad guys would be able to source that locally in the U.K.

Second, going back to that NRC statement about dirty bombs being “weapons of mass disruption” rather than “destruction”- it’s my understanding that Iraq and Syria are way past being “disrupted.” Why would the Muslim extremists waste such fear-inducing devices there? New York City makes more sense as a potential dirty bomb target. Think Wall Street during the business week or Times Square on New Year’s Eve. That’s what I’d be trying to prevent if I were still in government and in the counter-terrorism field.

So the caliphate may have a dirty bomb. Not shock there if this turned out to be true considering the relative ease of constructing one. More of a concern should be the Islamic State getting their hands on a nuclear weapon. Why’s that? Because these guys have proven themselves to be hard-chargers and probably wouldn’t hesitate to detonate the damn thing among their enemies. Joe Cirincione, an expert on nuclear proliferation, penned on the Huffington Post website on November 28:

It is impossible now for ISIS to build a nuclear bomb from scratch. Doing so would require large, industrial facilities to enrich uranium, billions of dollars and gigawatts of energy. But if they could get the highly-enriched uranium — about 100 pounds would do, about the size of a soccer ball — it is possible that they could assemble the equipment and small technical team to build the bomb.

Jeffrey Lewis described in the superb documentary, Countdown to Zero, how few people are actually required to do this and how little it would cost. But it does require a sophisticated operation. ISIS has the capabilities required.

We have never encountered a terrorist group like ISIS. Their demonstrated brutality and willingness to kill large numbers of innocents is shocking, but is now the kind of terrorism that we have become familiar with over the past 20 years. ISIS adds three capabilities that catapult the threat beyond anything seen before: control of large, urban territories, huge amounts of cash (perhaps as much as $2 billion), and a global network of recruits.

With these assets they could illicitly acquire the nuclear material for a bomb from vulnerable storage sites in Russia or Pakistan, and possibly nuclear expertise as well

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Remember that phrase “if you build it, they will come” from the 1989 film Field of Dreams?

It’s seems like “if they build it, they will blow s**t up” as it concerns these particular jihadists.

By Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

Sources:

Dorman, Nick and Doyle, Neil. “British ISIS fanatics have built a dirty bomb and boast of the damage it could inflict on London.” The Mirror. 29 Nov. 2014. (http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/british-isis-fanatics-built-dirty-4721561). 2 Dec. 2014.

Cirincione, Joe. “Preventing a Nuclear ISIS.” Huffington Post. 18 Nov. 2014. (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/joe-cirincione/preventing-a-nuclear-isis_b_6180120.html). 2 Dec. 2014.

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