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Surprising Science

Armageddon in the Hands of Ahmadinejad

If there was a sanity test for leaders who wanted their own nuclear weapons, would these guys pass?

Some of the most powerful weapons on earth are in the military coffers of countries with the most corrupt or dangerous leaders. There are currently eight countries in the world that have successfully detonated nuclear weapons, three of which are not a party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). But there are over 30 countries that have weapons-usable nuclear material, which the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI) defines as any amount of uranium or plutonium over one kilogram.

The NTI came up with an index that ranks these countries by traits like political corruption, stability, transparency and security. There are several countries that consistently rank poorly in all these areas, and its leaders also happens to be news makers and rabble rousers whose controversial relationship with the international community make them a ticking time bomb. Literally.

Let’s take a look at the top five countries:


  • Non-Proliferation Treaty: Yes
  • Nuclear Weapons: Suspect. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad claims that Iran’s nuclear program is for electricity, not weapons. The International Atomic Energy Agency debunked that claim with a report released in November that revealed evidence of a nuclear device under development. Western powers in Europe and the United States have since imposed trade sanctions in an effort to thwart Iran’s nuclear development.
  • Leadership: Ahmadinejad made headlines with his nuclear ambitions, hostility toward Israel, and shady support for terror groups like Hezbollah and Hamas. He’s defiant and confrontational and has repeatedly dismissed U.N. sanctions against what he deems as his country’s right to nuclear development. He described the Holocaust as a myth and calls for an end to an Israel state. His speeches at the U.N. General Assembly always had a way of making delegates exit the room.
  • North Korea

    • Non-Proliferation Treaty: Yes and then No. They signed the treaty in 1985 and then withdrew in 2003.
    • Nuclear Weapons: Yes
    • Leadership: Kim Jong-un inherited two things from his father Kim Jong-il: the role of supreme commander of North Korea and his reclusive persona. Kim Jong-il picked Jong-un as the successor after another son fell out of favor for the role. Little is known about Jong-un, except that he was educated in Switzerland and the elder Kim deemed him the son that is most similar to him. If that is true, then he will rule with the same iron fist that brought about a famine that killed millions in favor of military development, assassinated defectors and kept the country in isolation for the last 50 years.
    • Russia

      • Non-Proliferation Treaty: Yes
      • Nuclear Weapons: Yes. They have the largest stockpile in the world.
      • Leadership: Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is perceived by many as both a reformer and a despot. He is credited with Russia’s unprecedented economic growth and political stability during his first two terms as president. But he now faces growing opposition on the home front for his third run for the presidency next month. The parliamentary elections in December were allegedly rife with fraud and Putin has rejected protesters’ demands for another election. Russia and China made headlines recently for blocking a U.N. action against the bloodshed in Syria, a move that garnered international condemnation.
      • China

        • Non-Proliferation Treaty: Yes
        • Nuclear Weapons: Yes
        • Leadership: Wen Jiabao spent his nine year tenure facilitating China’s economic growth and securing the country’s place in the world stage. But while some have prospered, millions still live in abject poverty and human rights offenses continue to stain China’s reputation. With bedfellows like Syria, Russia, Iran, North Korea and Venezuela, Wen shows that economic interests, not human rights, dictates loyalty.
        • Pakistan

          • Non-Proliferation Treaty: No
          • Nuclear Weapons: Yes
          • Leadership: Asif Ali Zardari presides over a country plagued by flooding, political corruption, suicide bombings and a tenuous relationship with its ally the United States. Zardari, who inherited the presidency after his wife Benazir Bhutto was assassinated, was criticized when he left for Europe during the height of the floods in 2010. His leadership was also called into question when the U.S. found Osama bin Laden hiding in plain sight near a military compound 60 miles from the capital of Pakistan.
          • Honorable Mention

            United States

            • Non-Proliferation Treaty: Yes
            • Nuclear Weapons: Yes
            • Leadership: President Barack Obama may not have the pedigree of insanity seen in Mahmoud Ahmadinejad or Kim Jong-il, but it’s hard to ignore that the U.S. is the only country in the world that has ever used a nuclear bomb against another nation. The  Commander in Chief leads an ubiquitous armed forces with personnel stationed in over 150 countries, making them a threat and a safeguard throughout the world. At the beginning of his presidency, Obama talked about a “world without nuclear weapons.” His 2012 budget request, however, includes plans to maintain and update the U.S.’ nuclear arsenal.
            • Images courtesy of Wikimedia Commons and Shutterstock


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