Beware the numbers

Reuters is quoting an FT report about US investigators who are chasing money that might have been used to fund the activities of governments that Washington has put under sanctions.

But applying common sense seems to make the reporting, the US statement or the original evidence suspect.

The US fears that some of the money might have been used to buy tungsten:

“There was an order for 30,000 metric tonnes of tungsten that would take care of every refrigerator in the Middle East and then some,” Morgenthau told the paper on Sunday.

“It was not being purchased, we think, for domestic consumption . . . Tungsten was not used for making refrigerators but for long-range missiles,” he told the paper. “That is our supposition.”

But hold on – 30,000 tonnes. How much is that? Well, first of all, it would cost $600 million according to Wikipedia‘s estimate of the cost of the metal. And it’s about a third of annual world production. Next, a Trident nuclear missile with a 4000 mile range weighs about 33 tonnes. So you could make about 1000 of them out of solid tengsten with this order! Given that a fraction of the weight is tungsten (say 5%), that’s enough for 20,000 missiles. If these countries are clever enough to fool US banks into lending the money, how could they be foolish enough to put in such a massive order?

Could this be another WMD dossier fiasco?


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