Hervorgehoben

Brace Yourselves for the Sixth Seal (Revelation 6)

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Brace Yourselves, New Yorkers, You’re Due for a Major Quake

A couple of hundred thousand years ago, an M 7.2 earthquake shook what is now New Hampshire. Just a few thousand years ago, an M 7.5 quake ruptured just off the coast of Massachusetts. And then there’s New York.

Since the first western settlers arrived there, the state has witnessed 200 quakes of magnitude 2.0 or greater, making it the third most seismically active state east of the Mississippi (Tennessee and South Carolina are ranked numbers one and two, respectively). About once a century, New York has also experienced an M 5.0 quake capable of doing real damage.

The most recent one near New York City occurred in August of 1884. Centered off Long Island’s Rockaway Beach, it was felt over 70,000 square miles. It also opened enormous crevices near the Brooklyn reservoir and knocked down chimneys and cracked walls in Pennsylvania and Connecticut. Police on the Brooklyn Bridge said it swayed “as if struck by a hurricane” and worried the bridge’s towers would collapse. Meanwhile, residents throughout New York and New Jersey reported sounds that varied from explosions to loud rumblings, sometimes to comic effect. At the funeral of Lewis Ingler, a small group of mourners were watching as the priest began to pray. The quake cracked an enormous mirror behind the casket and knocked off a display of flowers that had been resting on top of it. When it began to shake the casket’s silver handles, the mourners decided the unholy return of Lewis Ingler was more than they could take and began flinging themselves out windows and doors.

Not all stories were so light. Two people died during the quake, both allegedly of fright. Out at sea, the captain of the brig Alice felt a heavy lurch that threw him and his crew, followed by a shaking that lasted nearly a minute. He was certain he had hit a wreck and was taking on water.

A day after the quake, the editors of The New York Times sought to allay readers’ fear. The quake, they said, was an unexpected fluke never to be repeated and not worth anyone’s attention: “History and the researches of scientific men indicate that great seismic disturbances occur only within geographical limits that are now well defined,” they wrote in an editorial. “The northeastern portion of the United States . . . is not within those limits.” The editors then went on to scoff at the histrionics displayed by New York residents when confronted by the quake: “They do not stop to reason or to recall the fact that earthquakes here are harmless phenomena. They only know that the solid earth, to whose immovability they have always turned with confidence when everything else seemed transitory, uncertain, and deceptive, is trembling and in motion, and the tremor ceases long before their disturbed minds become tranquil.”
That’s the kind of thing that drives Columbia’s Heather Savage nuts.

New York, she says, is positively vivisected by faults. Most of them fall into two groups—those running northeast and those running northwest. Combined they create a brittle grid underlying much of Manhattan.

Across town, Charles Merguerian has been studying these faults the old‐fashioned way: by getting down and dirty underground. He’s spent the past forty years sloshing through some of the city’s muckiest places: basements and foundations, sewers and tunnels, sometimes as deep as 750 feet belowground. His tools down there consist primarily of a pair of muck boots, a bright blue hard hat, and a pickax. In public presentations, he claims he is also ably abetted by an assistant hamster named Hammie, who maintains his own website, which includes, among other things, photos of the rodent taking down Godzilla.

That’s just one example why, if you were going to cast a sitcom starring two geophysicists, you’d want Savage and Merguerian to play the leading roles. Merguerian is as eccentric and flamboyant as Savage is earnest and understated. In his press materials, the former promises to arrive at lectures “fully clothed.” Photos of his “lab” depict a dingy porta‐john in an abandoned subway tunnel. He actively maintains an archive of vintage Chinese fireworks labels at least as extensive as his list of publications, and his professional website includes a discography of blues tunes particularly suitable for earthquakes. He calls female science writers “sweetheart” and somehow manages to do so in a way that kind of makes them like it (although they remain nevertheless somewhat embarrassed to admit it).

It’s Merguerian’s boots‐on‐the‐ground approach that has provided much of the information we need to understand just what’s going on underneath Gotham. By his count, Merguerian has walked the entire island of Manhattan: every street, every alley. He’s been in most of the tunnels there, too. His favorite one by far is the newest water tunnel in western Queens. Over the course of 150 days, Merguerian mapped all five miles of it. And that mapping has done much to inform what we know about seismicity in New York.

Most importantly, he says, it provided the first definitive proof of just how many faults really lie below the surface there. And as the city continues to excavate its subterranean limits, Merguerian is committed to following closely behind. It’s a messy business.

Down below the city, Merguerian encounters muck of every flavor and variety. He power‐washes what he can and relies upon a diver’s halogen flashlight and a digital camera with a very, very good flash to make up the difference. And through this process, Merguerian has found thousands of faults, some of which were big enough to alter the course of the Bronx River after the last ice age.
His is a tricky kind of detective work. The center of a fault is primarily pulverized rock. For these New York faults, that gouge was the very first thing to be swept away by passing glaciers. To do his work, then, he’s primarily looking for what geologists call “offsets”—places where the types of rock don’t line up with one another. That kind of irregularity shows signs of movement over time—clear evidence of a fault.

Merguerian has found a lot of them underneath New York City.

These faults, he says, do a lot to explain the geological history of Manhattan and the surrounding area. They were created millions of years ago, when what is now the East Coast was the site of a violent subduction zone not unlike those present now in the Pacific’s Ring of Fire.

Each time that occurred, the land currently known as the Mid‐Atlantic underwent an accordion effect as it was violently folded into itself again and again. The process created immense mountains that have eroded over time and been further scoured by glaciers. What remains is a hodgepodge of geological conditions ranging from solid bedrock to glacial till to brittle rock still bearing the cracks of the collision. And, says Merguerian, any one of them could cause an earthquake.

You don’t have to follow him belowground to find these fractures. Even with all the development in our most built‐up metropolis, evidence of these faults can be found everywhere—from 42nd Street to Greenwich Village. But if you want the starkest example of all, hop the 1 train at Times Square and head uptown to Harlem. Not far from where the Columbia University bus collects people for the trip to the Lamont‐Doherty Earth Observatory, the subway tracks seem to pop out of the ground onto a trestle bridge before dropping back down to earth. That, however, is just an illusion. What actually happens there is that the ground drops out below the train at the site of one of New York’s largest faults. It’s known by geologists in the region as the Manhattanville or 125th Street Fault, and it runs all the way across the top of Central Park and, eventually, underneath Long Island City. Geologists have known about the fault since 1939, when the city undertook a massive subway mapping project, but it wasn’t until recently that they confirmed its potential for a significant quake.

In our lifetimes, a series of small earthquakes have been recorded on the Manhattanville Fault including, most recently, one on October 27, 2001. Its epicenter was located around 55th and 8th—directly beneath the original Original Soupman restaurant, owned by restaurateur Ali Yeganeh, the inspiration for Seinfeld’s Soup Nazi. That fact delighted sitcom fans across the country, though few Manhattanites were in any mood to appreciate it.

The October 2001 quake itself was small—about M 2.6—but the effect on residents there was significant. Just six weeks prior, the city had been rocked by the 9/11 terrorist attacks that brought down the World Trade Center towers. The team at Lamont‐Doherty has maintained a seismic network in the region since the ’70s. They registered the collapse of the first tower at M 2.1. Half an hour later, the second tower crumbled with even more force and registered M 2.3. In a city still shocked by that catastrophe, the early‐morning October quake—several times greater than the collapse of either tower—jolted millions of residents awake with both reminders of the tragedy and fear of yet another attack. 9‐1‐1 calls overwhelmed dispatchers and first responders with reports of shaking buildings and questions about safety in the city. For seismologists, though, that little quake was less about foreign threats to our soil and more about the possibility of larger tremors to come.

Remember: The Big Apple has experienced an M 5.0 quake about every hundred years. The last one was that 1884 event. And that, says Merguerian, means the city is overdue. Just how overdue?

“Gee whiz!” He laughs when I pose this question. “That’s the holy grail of seismicity, isn’t it?”

He says all we can do to answer that question is “take the pulse of what’s gone on in recorded history.” To really have an answer, we’d need to have about ten times as much data as we do today. But from what he’s seen, the faults below New York are very much alive.

“These guys are loaded,” he tells me.

He says he is also concerned about new studies of a previously unknown fault zone known as the Ramapo that runs not far from the city. Savage shares his concerns. They both think it’s capable of an M 6.0 quake or even higher—maybe even a 7.0. If and when, though, is really anybody’s guess.

“We literally have no idea what’s happening in our backyard,” says Savage.

What we do know is that these quakes have the potential to do more damage than similar ones out West, mostly because they are occurring on far harder rock capable of propagating waves much farther. And because these quakes occur in places with higher population densities, these eastern events can affect a lot more people. Take the 2011 Virginia quake: Although it was only a moderate one, more Americans felt it than any other one in our nation’s history.

That’s the thing about the East Coast: Its earthquake hazard may be lower than that of the West Coast, but the total effect of any given quake is much higher. Disaster specialists talk about this in terms of risk, and they make sense of it with an equation that multiplies the potential hazard of an event by the cost of damage and the number of people harmed. When you take all of those factors into account, the earthquake risk in New York is much greater than, say, that in Alaska or Hawaii or even a lot of the area around the San Andreas Fault.

Merguerian has been sounding the alarm about earthquake risk in the city since the ’90s. He admits he hasn’t gotten much of a response. He says that when he first proposed the idea of seismic risk in New York City, his fellow scientists “booed and threw vegetables” at him. He volunteered his services to the city’s Office of Emergency Management but says his original offer also fell on deaf ears.

“So I backed away gently and went back to academia.”

Today, he says, the city isn’t much more responsive, but he’s getting a much better response from his peers.

He’s glad for that, he says, but it’s not enough. If anything, the events of 9/11, along with the devastation caused in 2012 by Superstorm Sandy, should tell us just how bad it could be there.

He and Savage agree that what makes the risk most troubling is just how little we know about it. When it comes right down to it, intraplate faults are the least understood. Some scientists think they might be caused by mantle flow deep below the earth’s crust. Others think they might be related to gravitational energy. Still others think quakes occurring there might be caused by the force of the Atlantic ridge as it pushes outward. Then again, it could be because the land is springing back after being compressed thousands of years ago by glaciers (a phenomenon geologists refer to as seismic rebound).

“We just have no consciousness towards earthquakes in the eastern United States,” says Merguerian. “And that’s a big mistake.”

Adapted from Quakeland: On the Road to America’s Next Devastating Earthquake by Kathryn Miles, published by Dutton, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House, LLC. Copyright © 2017 by Kathryn Miles.

Quakeland: New York and the Sixth Seal

Quakeland: On the Road to America’s Next Devastating Earthquake

Roger Bilham

Given recent seismic activity — political as well as geological — it’s perhaps unsurprising that two books on earthquakes have arrived this season. One is as elegant as the score of a Beethoven symphony; the other resembles a diary of conversations overheard during a rock concert. Both are interesting, and both relate recent history to a shaky future.

Journalist Kathryn Miles’s Quakeland is a litany of bad things that happen when you provoke Earth to release its invisible but ubiquitous store of seismic-strain energy, either by removing fluids (oil, water, gas) or by adding them in copious quantities (when extracting shale gas in hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, or when injecting contaminated water or building reservoirs). To complete the picture, she describes at length the bad things that happen during unprovoked natural earthquakes. As its subtitle hints, the book takes the form of a road trip to visit seismic disasters both past and potential, and seismologists and earthquake engineers who have first-hand knowledge of them. Their colourful personalities, opinions and prejudices tell a story of scientific discovery and engineering remedy.

Miles poses some important societal questions. Aside from human intervention potentially triggering a really damaging earthquake, what is it actually like to live in neighbourhoods jolted daily by magnitude 1–3 earthquakes, or the occasional magnitude 5? Are these bumps in the night acceptable? And how can industries that perturb the highly stressed rocks beneath our feet deny obvious cause and effect? In 2015, the Oklahoma Geological Survey conceded that a quadrupling of the rate of magnitude-3 or more earthquakes in recent years, coinciding with a rise in fracking, was unlikely to represent a natural process. Miles does not take sides, but it’s difficult for the reader not to.

She visits New York City, marvelling at subway tunnels and unreinforced masonry almost certainly scheduled for destruction by the next moderate earthquake in the vicinity. She considers the perils of nuclear-waste storage in Nevada and Texas, and ponders the risks to Idaho miners of rock bursts — spontaneous fracture of the working face when the restraints of many million years of confinement are mined away. She contemplates the ups and downs of the Yellowstone Caldera — North America’s very own mid-continent supervolcano — and its magnificently uncertain future. Miles also touches on geothermal power plants in southern California’s Salton Sea and elsewhere; the vast US network of crumbling bridges, dams and oil-storage farms; and the magnitude 7–9 earthquakes that could hit California and the Cascadia coastline of Oregon and Washington state this century. Amid all this doom, a new elementary school on the coast near Westport, Washington, vulnerable to inbound tsunamis, is offered as a note of optimism. With foresight and much persuasion from its head teacher, it was engineered to become an elevated safe haven.

Miles briefly discusses earthquake prediction and the perils of getting it wrong (embarrassment in New Madrid, Missouri, where a quake was predicted but never materialized; prison in L’Aquila, Italy, where scientists failed to foresee a devastating seismic event) and the successes of early-warning systems, with which electronic alerts can be issued ahead of damaging seismic waves. Yes, it’s a lot to digest, but most of the book obeys the laws of physics, and it is a engaging read. One just can’t help wishing that Miles’s road trips had taken her somewhere that wasn’t a disaster waiting to happen.

Catastrophic damage in Anchorage, Alaska, in 1964, caused by the second-largest earthquake in the global instrumental record.

In The Great Quake, journalist Henry Fountain provides us with a forthright and timely reminder of the startling historical consequences of North America’s largest known earthquake, which more than half a century ago devastated southern Alaska. With its epicentre in Prince William Sound, the 1964 quake reached magnitude 9.2, the second largest in the global instrumental record. It released more energy than either the 2004 Sumatra–Andaman earthquake or the 2011 Tohoku earthquake off Japan; and it generated almost as many pages of scientific commentary and description as aftershocks. Yet it has been forgotten by many.

The quake was scientifically important because it occurred at a time when plate tectonics was in transition from hypothesis to theory. Fountain expertly traces the theory’s historical development, and how the Alaska earthquake was pivotal in nailing down one of the most important predictions. The earthquake caused a fjordland region larger than England to subside, and a similarly huge region of islands offshore to rise by many metres; but its scientific implications were not obvious at the time. Eminent seismologists thought that a vertical fault had slipped, drowning forests and coastlines to its north and raising beaches and islands to its south. But this kind of fault should have reached the surface, and extended deep into Earth’s mantle. There was no geological evidence of a monster surface fault separating these two regions, nor any evidence for excessively deep aftershocks. The landslides and liquefied soils that collapsed houses, and the tsunami that severely damaged ports and infrastructure, offered no clues to the cause.

“Previous earthquakes provide clear guidance about present-day vulnerability.” The hero of The Great Quake is the geologist George Plafker, who painstakingly mapped the height reached by barnacles lifted out of the intertidal zone along shorelines raised by the earthquake, and documented the depths of drowned forests. He deduced that the region of subsidence was the surface manifestation of previously compressed rocks springing apart, driving parts of Alaska up and southwards over the Pacific Plate. His finding confirmed a prediction of plate tectonics, that the leading edge of the Pacific Plate plunged beneath the southern edge of Alaska along a gently dipping thrust fault. That observation, once fully appreciated, was applauded by the geophysics community.

Fountain tells this story through the testimony of survivors, engineers and scientists, interweaving it with the fascinating history of Alaska, from early discovery by Europeans to purchase from Russia by the United States in 1867, and its recent development. Were the quake to occur now, it is not difficult to envisage that with increased infrastructure and larger populations, the death toll and price tag would be two orders of magnitude larger than the 139 fatalities and US$300-million economic cost recorded in 1964.

What is clear from these two books is that seismicity on the North American continent is guaranteed to deliver surprises, along with unprecedented economic and human losses. Previous earthquakes provide clear guidance about the present-day vulnerability of US infrastructure and populations. Engineers and seismologists know how to mitigate the effects of future earthquakes (and, in mid-continent, would advise against the reckless injection of waste fluids known to trigger earthquakes). It is merely a matter of persuading city planners and politicians that if they are tempted to ignore the certainty of the continent’s seismic past, they should err on the side of caution when considering its seismic future.

Too Late to Reverse John Bolton’s Nefarious Tricks

War Possibilities

John F. McManus

Saturday, 13 July 2019 18:13

Let’s go back to 2002 and look at what one highly credentialed person was saying as our country was preparing to wage war against Iraq. We do so because some high officials of the U.S. government seem determined to launch another conflict, this time with Iran.

On July 20, 2002, Scott Ritter authored an op-ed for the Boston Globe in which he disagreed with obvious plans to send U.S. forces into Iraq. He countered the prevailing government-inspired notion claiming Iraq’s leader, Saddam Hussein, had “weapons of mass destruction,” even some of the nuclear variety, and was preparing to use them. Ritter didn’t believe the Iraqi leader had such weaponry and, further, he didn’t think there was any need to re-invade Saddam Hussein’s country. (U.S. forces had stormed into Iraq in 1991’s Desert Storm invasion.)

But who was Scott Ritter, and why should he be listened to when President George W. Bush, numerous members of Congress, an assortment of media pundits, and others were insisting that nuclear weapons from Iraq would soon incinerate a portion of the world? Why should Ritter’s reluctance be relied upon? The general public didn’t know him. True, but U.S. government officials knew that Ritter, after spending more than a dozen years as a U.S. Marine Corps intelligence specialist, had spent seven more years as the chief weapons inspector for the United Nations in Iraq. His years of investigation showed him that Iraq posed no weapons of mass destruction, not only of the nuclear variety but also those deemed chemical and biological weapons.

In Washington, war drums got louder as the George W. Bush administration settled in. While at a podium in the nation’s capital, President Bush discussed the “W.M.D.” problem, admitted that none had “yet” been found, and mockingly executed a 360-degree turn away from his microphone after claiming that he was still looking for forbidden weapons. Colin Powell then appeared on television to show photographs of Iraqi structures and claim that they housed the dreaded WMDs. Whoever set the retired general up for that performance accomplished destroying the former U.S. secretary of state’s credibility. It did nothing to prove that Saddam was planning to nuke mankind.

But the plan to again invade Iraq gathered momentum. U.S. Ambassador to the UN John Negroponte successfully sought a UN Security Council resolution demanding that Iraq comply with UN mandates to get rid of its alleged WMDs, and the United States launched a war that Scott Ritter and many others said wasn’t needed in order to force Iraq to comply with this resolution. Side note: One seeks authorization from a superior, not an inferior. Negroponte’s action clearly showed that U.S. military served at the pleasure of the world body.

As anyone paying attention knows, U.S. forces reinvaded Iraq in 2003. Approximately 4,500 American military personnel have perished in a struggle that continues to be costly in lives, finances and credibility. Claims that this dubious military adventure spurred the rise of ISIS and all of its horrors may actually be verifiable. And the million and a half strong Christian population in the beleaguered country has shrunk to 200 thousand.

Here we are in 2019 and Scott Ritter is now telling U.S. officials that war against Iran isn’t necessary. Nor should a war against North Korea be launched. He greatly applauds the gesture recently taken by President Trump when our nation’s leader went to North Korea and actually set foot in the Communist-led portion of the Korean peninsula. Calling the president’s brief walk into the North “20 steps in the right direction,” Trump’s gesture signaled to the North Korean leader that the United States has no intention of starting a war in that part of the world.

Neoconservatives in the Trump administration aren’t as happy. But Scott Ritter, this writer, and hundreds of millions in the United States and Korea are delighted to see the newer rush to war slowed down. Still, war-happy U.S. officials continue working behind the scenes to involve our nation in more conflicts. They know that taking the nation to war presents an opportunity to build the power of government.

Chief among those who favor war — almost any war — is National Security adviser John Bolton. About his continued presence serving in such an important post, even leftist David Alexrod finds it curious. Having served for years as a top aide to former president Barack Obama, he had some advice for President Trump. He still believes that Obama was a great leader but he saw fit to wonder about the Trump administration: “If part of your brand is that you’re not going to get the U.S. into unnecessary wars, why in the world would you hire John Bolton?”

Good question. President Trump ought to retire John Bolton. Perhaps Scott Ritter would be a better choice to fill that important post.

John F. McManus is president emeritus of The John Birch Society.

Argument for the Australian Nuclear Horn (Daniel 7)

Prominent Australian academic suggests building nuclear weapons 

By Peter Symonds

11 July 2019

Strategic analyst Hugh White has reignited a debate in media and security circles about building nuclear weapons to defend the country against the alleged threat posed by nuclear-armed powers, particularly China. His recently published book, How to Defend Australia, argues that nuclear weapons need to be considered because the United States is in relative decline and can no longer be relied upon to defend Australia in a “more contested and more dangerous” region.

This discussion is taking place in the context of a broader dispute in the political establishment over how to position Australian capitalism amid the increasingly belligerent US confrontation with China over economic issues and the US military build-up in the Indo-Pacific in preparation for war.

The dominant position in ruling circles is that Australia has no choice but to stick with the US military alliance, even if it damages relations with its top trading partner, China. Indeed, since US President Barack Obama announced his aggressive “pivot to Asia” against China in the Australian parliament in 2011, Australian military and military bases have been integrated ever more closely with the US, and governments—Labor and Coalition—have toed the line from Washington.

White, a former senior defence official, Labor government adviser and now professor of strategic studies at the Australian National University, is one of the dissident voices. He has previously advocated for the US to strike a power-sharing deal with China to defuse tensions, but now suggests that Australia has to be prepared to go it alone. Amid the rising dangers of a US-China war, White lines up with others who, either directly or indirectly, advocate for a more “independent” foreign policy.

White makes clear that the necessary corollary of a so-called independent foreign policy is a huge build-up in the Australian military. He calls for a virtual doubling of military spending—from 2 percent to 3.5 percent of gross domestic product. Such an increase would be extracted from the working class via the further gutting of essential social services.

White’s argument—in public at least—is based on the hoary old lie that the military build-up is purely defensive in character. In reality, the military’s mission has always been to prosecute the economic and strategic interests of Australian imperialism, which, in more recent times, has included interventions in East Timor and Solomon Islands. Australian participation in British and US-led wars has always sought to secure the backing of the major powers for its own regional and international interests. Now, White is arguing, Australia requires more military muscle to do the same.

White claims he is not advocating the acquisition of nuclear weapons but merely encouraging a debate, which he is now fostering with the assistance of the media. It is not the first time that White has advanced this proposal, but the publication of his book has become the occasion for his appearance on a number of TV and radio programs, including the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s high-profile “Q&A” last Monday night.

Well aware that any decision to build nuclear weapons would face huge public opposition, White was at pains to stress that it was “the hardest issue I’ve ever dealt with in 40 years of thinking about the unpleasant business of war.” White, however, is doing far more than just encouraging a general discussion. He is outlining an entire agenda, including what would be needed to build nuclear weapons and the necessary delivery systems. He advocates creating a nuclear arsenal along the lines of Britain and France, based on submarine-launched missiles.

For all his attempts to disguise the provocative character of his arguments, White was adamant on the central point, saying: “At the moment, we depend on US nuclear weapons to deter any possible nuclear attack on Australia. The less confident we are of that, the less confident we are that we can rely on America to do that, the stronger the arguments for Australia to acquire its own.” Asked whether China or other powers were a future existential threat, he declared they could pose “at least a very, very serious threat, and one which we can no longer rely on America to defend us from.”

White is standing reality on its head. While it is true that the US faces a historic decline vis-a-vis China and other powers, the response of Obama and now Donald Trump has not been to withdraw from Asia but to confront China on all fronts—diplomatically, economically and militarily—to maintain American domination. US imperialism has no intention of being eclipsed in Asia or any other region of the world and is recklessly engaged in an economic war and military provocations in contested waters close to the Chinese mainland that could trigger open conflict. The danger to Australia’s population is not primarily from Chinese aggression, but from being dragged by the US into a war on China that would have incalculable consequences.

Rising geopolitical tensions and rivalries, and the growing danger of a global conflict, have sparked debate not only in Canberra but in other capitals, including Tokyo, Berlin and Seoul, about building nuclear weapons. A nuclear arms race would multiple many-fold the danger of a nuclear war. This prospect barely rated a mention among the politicians and commentators on the “Q&A” program. Both Liberal Senate President Scott Ryan and Labor foreign affairs spokeswoman Penny Wong differed with the need for nuclear weapons, but did not emphatically rule out building a nuclear arsenal. They praised White, in Wong’s words, for grappling with “the most challenging set of external circumstances since World War II.”

Scant reference was made to the fact that acquiring nuclear weapons would be a clear breach of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty that Australia has signed. Diana Sayed, a human rights lawyer, declared that it was “astonishing” that the issue was being canvassed. After branding nuclear weapons as “inhumane and indiscriminate” and an environmental disaster, Sayed said: “The fact that Australia would even be entertaining this thought is unfathomable and unconscionable to me, and it goes against everything in international law.” Her remarks were quickly brushed aside.

The growing prominence being afforded in the media to building nuclear weapons is a sure sign that behind the scenes a more intense discussion is underway. This would concern not only the advisability of a nuclear arsenal, but also how to overcome the intense public opposition and anti-war sentiment that such a decision would trigger. The debate is another warning of the advanced preparations being made in capitals around the world for war, not decades down the track, but in the not-too-distant future.

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Renewed push for Australia to building nuclear weapons
[30 January 2018]

The Rising Risk of the First Nuclear War (Revelation 8)

New Report Warns of Resurfacing Nuclear Risks

Photo: United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres addresses the Conference on Disarmament’s High-Level Segment 2019, in Palais des Nations, Geneva on February 25, 2019. Credit: UN Photo by Antoine Tardy.

By Jaya Ramachandran

NEW YORK (IDN) – In the run-up to the 50th anniversary of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) in 2020, arms control experts have warned that „the risk of nuclear use is increasing and … critical nonproliferation and disarmament norms are eroding„.

Assessing Progress on Nuclear Nonproliferation and Disarmament in 2016-2019, the Arms Control Association, says: „While there have been some modest gains on safeguards, there has been significant backsliding on the standards related to arms control and risk reduction.“

Alicia Sanders-Zakre, research assistant, and Kelsey Davenport, director for non-proliferation policy of the U.S. nonpartisan organization, based in Washington DC, dedicated to promoting public understanding of and support for effective arms control policies, point out that collectively, states fared worse on the majority of criteria when compared with the prior assessment covering the 2013–2016 period.

„While there have been some modest gains on safeguards, there has been significant backsliding on the standards related to arms control and risk reduction,“ Sanders-Zakre and Davenport say.

They add: „All states with nuclear weapons are taking steps to invest in new delivery systems and several are expanding the role of nuclear weapons in their security doctrines. These findings raise concerns that the risk of nuclear use is increasing and that critical nonproliferation and disarmament norms are eroding.“

The authors outline many core obligations and goals for what constitutes mainstream nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament behaviour. State responsibilities regarding nonproliferation and disarmament are further defined by additional agreements, UN Security Council resolutions, shared norms, and binding legal commitments.

The Arms Control Association has identified 10 internationally recognized standards for nuclear nonproliferation, disarmament, and nuclear security. Each of these standards plays an important role in addressing the complex nature of the threat posed by nuclear weapons.

The ten standards are: Banning Nuclear Testing; Ending the Production of Fissile Material for Weapons; Nuclear Weapons Alert Levels; Nuclear Force Reductions; Negative Security Assurances; Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zones; IAEA Safeguards; Nuclear Weapons-Related Export Controls; Nuclear Security Commitments; and Criminalization and Illicit Trafficking Commitments.

The Arms Control Association has tracked state adherence to these standards since 2010 and published a report card every three years detailing the extent to which each state is fulfilling its commitments.

The 2016–2019 report is the fourth in a series that assesses the extent to which 11 key states are fulfilling, promoting, or undermining 10 standards identified as critical elements of the nonproliferation and disarmament regime during the period between 2016 and June 2019.

The report finds in particular that  all of the states that possess nuclear weapons failed to make progress in reducing their nuclear arsenals 2016-2019. While Russia and the United States met their obligations under the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START Treaty) to reduce deployed strategic warheads to 1,550 by February 2018, that treaty was negotiated in 2010 and there is no new agreement between Washington and Moscow to extend the treaty or pursue negotiations on additional limits.

Furthermore, the recognized nuclear-weapon states and states that developed nuclear weapons outside of the 1970 NPT are investing in new nuclear weapons delivery systems, and several states—China, India, Pakistan, and North Korea—expanded their arsenals over the previous three years.

Of the 11 states assessed in this report, the overall grades for the United States and Russia dropped the most, from a B average in 2016 to a C+ average in 2019. The drop in grades is primarily due to Russia’s violation of the 1987 Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF Treaty), and the U.S. decision to withdraw from that treaty in response.

In addition, both states expanded the circumstances under which they would use nuclear weapons and are investing heavily in new, destabilizing delivery systems. „Together, these developments increase the risk of nuclear use,“ warn the report’s authors.

Several states have taken actions that led to increased alert levels for their nuclear forces, they add. India deployed sea-based nuclear warheads and Pakistan developed tactical nuclear-capable ballistic missiles, both of which require mating warheads to missiles, earning them lower grades in this edition of the report. Several of the nuclear-weapon states also earned lower grades for opposing UN resolutions calling for lower alert levels.

The report further points out States failed to strengthen negative security assurances during the timeframe of this report. „While there is rhetorical support from some of the states assessed in this report for negotiating legally binding negative security assurances, several states, including the United States, Russia, France, and India, have expanded the scenarios under which they would use nuclear weapons.“

Iran continued to abide by the 2015 multilateral nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) until beginning of July 2019, despite the U.S. decision to withdraw from the agreement and reimpose sanctions on Tehran in May 2018. „While Washington’s violation of the JCPOA does not fall into any of the criteria that the United States is assessed on in the scope of this report, the decision weakens nonproliferation norms and undermines U.S. credibility in future negotiations,“ the report’s authors caution.

France and the United Kingdom each earned a B, the highest overall grades in this report card. The United Kingdom received a B+ in the 2013-2016 version of this report, but the lack of support for additional nuclear force reductions and UN efforts to reduce alert levels for nuclear weapons caused its overall grade to drop.

North Korea continues to fare the worst of the eleven states, earning an overall F grade for the fourth consecutive report. However, North Korea did nominally improve on certain criteria in the current report for announcing and abiding by a voluntary nuclear and long-range missile test moratorium.

There were few changes from the 2016 report in the grades on banning nuclear testing. One notable exception is the U.S. grade, which sunk from a B+ to a C-, due in part to the Trump administration’s stated intent not to seek ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).

According to the 2019 report, the grades for all eleven states in the category of ending fissile material production for nuclear weapons remained unchanged from the 2010, 2013, and 2016 versions of this report.

The five nuclear-weapon states – permanent members of the Security Council (P5) – maintain de facto moratoriums on producing fissile material for weapons and while states outside of the NPT continue to do so. Additionally, the stalemate continues at the Conference on Disarmament over the negotiation of a Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty due to objections from Pakistan.

The report’s authors note with satisfaction that with the exception of Iran, North Korea and Syria, the majority of states assessed continue to adhere to strong nuclear security practices and measures to prevent the illicit trafficking of nuclear or missile-related materials.

„UN reports provide evidence that Iran, North Korea, and Syria all engaged in illicit trafficking of dual-use materials and technologies,“ note Sanders-Zakre and Davenport. [IDN-InDepthNews – 13 July 2019]

Photo: United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres addresses the Conference on Disarmament’s High-Level Segment 2019, in Palais des Nations, Geneva on February 25, 2019. Credit: UN Photo by Antoine Tardy

IDN is flagship agency of the International Press Syndicate.

The Fatal Ignorance of Trump (Revelation 16)

There Is No Such Thing As a ‚Small‘ Nuclear War (But Trump Wants Mini Nukes)

The Democratic lawmakers who control the U.S. House of Representatives are pushing back against Pres. Donald Trump’s plan to expand the United States’ nuclear arsenal with new and smaller “tactical” weapons.

The Democrats’ version of the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act, which funds the military, faces opposition in the Republican-controlled Senate, as well as from the president himself. Trump has threatened to veto the NDAA, potentially setting up a budgetary showdown that could force the Pentagon to operate on so-called “continuing resolutions” that essentially copy previous years’ budgets.

Trump in 2017 laid out a plan for a host of new and modernized nuclear weapons, including less-powerful nukes that some hardliners believe are more useful than larger-yield weapons are and could make limited atomic wars feasible and survivable on a planetary level.

But many nuclear experts disagree. No nuclear war is “small,” they argue. And any nuclear war would be devastating for the entire human race and the only planet that’s known to support life.

The House bill “signals a new, much-needed change in direction for U.S. nuclear weapons policy, one that would reduce the nuclear threat and cut some spending on these weapons,” wrote Eryn MacDonald, an expert with the Union of Concerned Scientists in Massachusetts.

The House bill stands in stark contrast with the version the Senate passed easily in late June [2019], which would fully fund the Trump administration’s nuclear programs and in some cases even increase funding.

We support passage of the House version of the NDAA; if its version becomes law, it will be a victory not only for U.S. security, but also for common sense.

The House bill is chock-full of positive provisions. For example, it would prohibit deployment of the Trump administration’s new ‘low-yield’ nuclear warhead; cut funding for an unnecessary replacement for the current ground-based intercontinental ballistic missile; and reduce the excessive, but congressionally mandated, requirement for the number of plutonium pits that the National Nuclear Security Administration has been told to produce.

The House’s version of the NDAA defunds the W76-2 low-yield warhead for the U.S. Navy’s Trident submarine-launched ballistic missiles, which MacDonald described as “an ill-conceived attempt to lower the threshold for nuclear war.”

The W76-2 “would thrust U.S. ballistic-missile submarines into regional conflicts instead of reserving them for their crucial role as a nuclear deterrent, providing a secure means of retaliation if they should ever be needed,” MacDonald added.

The Trump administration requested $19.6 million for the Navy to begin installing these new warheads on missiles later this year. The House defense authorization bill sensibly zeros out this money, but Republicans plan to offer an amendment to the bill on the House floor that would restore that funding.

Fortunately, the amendment is unlikely to pass. Republicans on the House Armed Services Committee have twice attempted to restore the money and failed along party lines both times.,

The House Appropriations Committee also eliminated funding for the low-yield warhead, and the full House already rejected an attempt to restore the W76-2 money in an appropriations bill by a 236 to 192 vote.

The Democrats also want to cut $103 million from the Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent, the intercontinental ballistic missile the U.S. Air Force is developing to replace the existing Minuteman III missile.

“The bill also initially called for an independent study of options that could extend the Minuteman III’s life to 2050,” MacDonald wrote. “This would postpone spending on the new ICBM, which some estimates expect to cost $100 billion.”

Republicans in the Armed Services Committee, however, succeeded in removing that study requirement. Fortunately, Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) has submitted an amendment that would restore a version of the independent study.

Extending the life of the Minuteman III instead of building a new missile is a reasonable, cost-saving option that could facilitate an eventual phase out of the land-based leg of the U.S. nuclear triad as the older missiles reach the end of their lives.

The House could vote on its version of the NDAA by early July 2019, after which the House and Senate would reconcile their competing versions of the authorization.

The president could veto the resulting conference bill. No only has Trump objected to the Democrats’ cuts to nuclear weapons, he also opposes language in the House NDAA that would limit the president’s ability to divert military funding toward his signature campaign initiative: a wall along the southern border that Trump claims would stop migrants from crossing into the United States in order to seek asylum.

David Axe serves as Defense Editor of the National Interest. He is the author of the graphic novels  War Fix, War Is Boring and Machete Squad.

Babylon the Great is Desperate for Diplomacy

Iran Denies US Talks

TEHRAN (Tasnim) – Iran’s Foreign Ministry dismissed rumors about mediation by some countries for launch of Iran-US talks, saying there are no negotiations between Tehran and Washington.

Tasnim News Agency

Speaking to reporters on Sunday, Foreign Ministry Spokesman Abbas Mousavi denied reports that the US has asked Russia to pass on a message calling for negotiations with Iran at the level of foreign ministers.

The Islamic Republic of Iran is not involved in any negotiations with the American officials at any level,” the spokesman underlined.

Back in May, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani roundly dismissed the idea of direct negotiations with the US under the current circumstances, stressing the need for resistance against an ongoing economic war waged by Washington.

In remarks on May 14, Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei underlined that there will be no military confrontation between Iran and the US as Washington is aware that it won’t be in its interest, adding that negotiation with the US is not on the Islamic Republic’s agenda either.

“The Iranian nation’s definite option will be resistance in the face of the US, and in this confrontation, the US would be forced into a retreat,” Ayatollah Khamenei said. “Neither we nor they, who know war will not be in their interest, are after war.”

74 More Shot Outside the Temple Walls (Revelation 11)

Report: 74 Palestinians wounded by Israel forces in Gaza

The wounded included 23 children, two women, two journalists and two paramedics

July 13, 2019 at 12:47 pm

At least 74 Palestinians were wounded in Israel’s crackdown on the 66th Friday of the Great March of Return and Breaking the Siege in the Gaza Strip, the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) has said.

According to the rights group, the wounded included 23 children, two women, two journalists and two paramedics.

The Great March of Return began on 30 March 2018, calling for an end to Israel’s ongoing siege on Gaza and reinforcing the right of return. Since then, Israel has killed 306 protesters and wounded around 17,000 others.

Authorities Expecting The Sixth Seal? (Revelation 6:12)

New York Times

By SAM ROBERTS

JULY 17, 2014

Here is another reason to buy a mega-million-dollar apartment in a Manhattan high-rise: Earthquake forecast maps for New York City that a federal agency issued on Thursday indicate “a slightly lower hazard for tall buildings than previously thought.”

The agency, the United States Geodetic Survey, tempered its latest quake prediction with a big caveat.

Federal seismologists based their projections of a lower hazard for tall buildings — “but still a hazard nonetheless,” they cautioned — on a lower likelihood of slow shaking from an earthquake occurring near the city, the type of shaking that typically causes more damage to taller structures.

“The tall buildings in Manhattan are not where you should be focusing,” said John Armbruster, a seismologist with the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University. “They resonate with long period waves. They are designed and engineered to ride out an earthquake. Where you should really be worried in New York City is the common brownstone and apartment building and buildings that are poorly maintained.”

Mr. Armbruster was not involved in the federal forecast, but was an author of an earlier study that suggested that “a pattern of subtle but active faults makes the risk of earthquakes to the New York City area substantially greater than formerly believed.”

He noted that barely a day goes by without a New York City building’s being declared unsafe, without an earthquake. “If you had 30, 40, 50 at one time, responders would be overloaded,” he said.

The city does have an earthquake building code that went into effect in 1996, and that applies primarily to new construction.

A well-maintained building would probably survive a magnitude 5 earthquake fairly well, he said. The last magnitude 5 earthquake in the city struck in 1884. Another is not necessarily inevitable; faults are more random and move more slowly than they do in, say, California. But he said the latest federal estimate was probably raised because of the magnitude of the Virginia quake.

Mr. Armbruster said the Geodetic Survey forecast would not affect his daily lifestyle. “I live in a wood-frame building with a brick chimney and I’m not alarmed sitting up at night worried about it,” he said. “But society’s leaders need to take some responsibility.”

Paying the Price as the Merchant of Merchants

Fire and smoke billow from the Norwegian owned Front Altair tanker said to have been attacked in the waters of the Gulf of Oman.

Iran’s uranium enrichment has US weighing sanctions ’snapback‘

ISNA/AFP/GETTY IMAGES/TNS

By DAVID WAINER AND DANIEL FLATLEY | Bloomberg News | Published: July 13, 2019

WASHINGTON (Tribune News Service) — Iran’s decision to ramp up uranium enrichment is prompting debate over whether the U.S. should – or even can – invoke a threat that negotiators built into the 2015 nuclear agreement but hoped would never be used: a „snapback“ of international sanctions.

Although President Donald Trump withdrew from the accord last year, the administration is being pressured by some American hard-liners to invoke a mechanism that ultimately would trigger a return to United Nations Security Council sanctions beyond those the U.S. is already imposing unilaterally.

Such a move, if successful, would shred what’s left of European-led efforts to keep the multinational accord alive, and analysts and diplomats say it would be galling coming from the nation that was first to quit the deal.

„Do I think there’s an argument to be made for snapping back? Sure,“ said Richard Nephew, who was the lead sanctions expert for the Obama administration team that negotiated the 2015 accord. „Do I think the rest of the council agrees? No. It’s not clear people would stay in their chairs during discussions if we invoked this.“

Nephew, now a senior research scholar at Columbia University, said the snapback was designed to give the U.S. unilateral privileges to restore sanctions through the Security Council. At the time, the provision was a major part of Secretary of State John Kerry’s pitch for Congress to acquiesce to the deal. It’s also something that an „America First“ president like Trump would like.

Under the snapback clause, any of the signatories to the Iran accord can cite Iran for violating the accord in a complaint to a dispute resolution committee. The matter eventually could be brought before the Security Council, which could vote on a resolution to keep the previous sanctions from going back into force. But the U.S. could get its way by exercising its veto on the council.

It’s no easy fix: The process could take two months or longer. And in today’s circumstances, other participants in the deal would be likely to argue that the U.S. is no longer allowed to invoke the mechanism.

To get around a dispute over whether the U.S. has standing to initiate the snapback mechanism, American officials are leaning on France and the U.K. to consider exercising it. The Europeans are signaling they’re not at that point yet, but they are using the American threats to put pressure on Iran to restrain itself, according to Western diplomats at the U.N.

A senior European diplomat whose country still supports the accord said any decision to implement the snapback wouldn’t be automatic but predicted that support for it will grow unless Iran’s government changes its behavior.

A trio of hard-line U.S. senators says the White House doesn’t need to wait for the Europeans to start the process.

„Your administration has refrained from invoking the snapback mechanism in United Nations Security Council resolution (U.N.SCR) 2231, which if invoked would restore international restrictions against Iranian uranium enrichment, plutonium-related heavy water work, and ballistic missile development,“ Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and Tom Cotton said in a letter to Trump.

The U.N. resolution defines „the United States as a participant for the purpose of invoking the mechanism,“ they said. „We urge you to do so.“

Even without the snapback provision, the U.S. has instituted punishing sanctions targeting Iran’s oil exports and its broader economy. European nations have been trying to salvage the deal by offering barter provisions that would sidestep the U.S. banking system – with little success so far – even as they warn Iran against continuing to violate the deal’s limits on uranium enrichment.

In a briefing last month, Majid Takht-Ravanchi, Iran’s ambassador to the U.N., told reporters that his country wants to remain in the accord but that Europe needs to deliver stronger economic incentives, and quickly.

Against that backdrop, tensions between the U.S. and Iran have surged. The Trump administration has blamed Iran in recent weeks for sabotaging oil tankers near the Strait of Hormuz and for downing an American drone over international waters. Tehran denies it was behind the tanker attacks and says the drone was shot down over its territory.

A meeting in Vienna on Wednesday foreshadowed just how explosive any efforts for a snapback would be. The U.S. sought a special meeting of nuclear inspectors to increase pressure against Iran. Instead, the Americans drew pushback from Russia, China and Europe, all of whom blame the Trump administration for the crisis.

France, Germany and the U.K. issued a joint statement on the eve of the meeting saying that while they were concerned by Iran’s violations, it’s the job of the remaining participants in the deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, to address disputes.

„The EU deeply regrets the U.S. withdrawal and calls on all countries to refrain from taking any actions that impede the implementation of the JCPOA commitments,“ it said.

Trump, who has a long history of pushing allies and adversaries toward the edge of conflict, will have to decide if it’s time to test the snapback provision.

„It is certainly a topic of significant ongoing conversation within the administration,“ Cruz of Texas said in an interview. „We should invoke those sanctions.“

___

Wainer reported from New York, Flatley from Washington. Jonathan Tirone, Patrick Donahue and Nick Wadhams contributed to this report.

(c)2019 Bloomberg News
Visit Bloomberg News at http://www.bloomberg.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

The Saudi Nuclear Horn Will Follow (Daniel 7)

Iran’s nuclear program seems to be accelerating. Will Saudi Arabia take a similar path? – The Washington Post

Monkey Cage

In a multipolar world, curbing nuclear transfers becomes more difficult.

The Iranian flag waves outside the U.N. building that hosts the International Atomic Energy Agency office in Vienna on Wednesday. (Ronald Zak/AP)

July 12, 2019 at 7:45 AM EDT

Iran announced this week that it has surpassed the uranium-enrichment level allowed under the 2015 nuclear deal. This was Tehran’s response to the Trump administration’s withdrawal from the deal and subsequent reimposition of harsh sanctions.

While most observers focus on the spiral of U.S. pressure and Iranian defiance, the situation has broader implications for nuclear programs elsewhere — specifically, whether Saudi Arabia could follow in Iran’s footsteps. Riyadh has vowed to match Iran’s nuclear capabilities, including the ability to enrich uranium and acquire nuclear weapons if Tehran gets the bomb. My research, recently published in International Security, explains how Riyadh’s ability to play nuclear suppliers off against one another can increase its chances of securing nuclear technology.

U.S. sanctions against Iran just got tougher. What happens now?

Why is Saudi Arabia eyeing this capability?

Saudi Arabia considers Iran a mortal foe. The suspicion that Iran is building a bomb exacerbates the Saudis’ sense of threat. Tehran’s most recent moves will likely heighten that fear — and push Riyadh to accelerate the development of its nuclear program. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman warned, “Without a doubt if Iran developed a nuclear bomb, we will follow suit as soon as possible.”

For now, Saudi Arabia is focused on becoming what scholars call a nuclear “hedger” — a country without a dedicated nuclear weapons program that can weaponize relatively quickly, thanks to an advanced enrichment and reprocessing (ENR) capability. Iran has already achieved this status.

Hedging stems from the fact that the military and civilian uses of the atom are not completely separable. ENR facilities can fuel nuclear reactors and/or they can produce fissile material for a bomb. Hedging also allows countries to avoid the costs of a nuclear program, including international sanctions, as Iran knows only too well.

Won’t the great powers step in?

Wouldn’t the United States and other countries interested in stopping proliferation block Riyadh’s access to sensitive nuclear transfers, such as enrichment technology? It’s possible Saudi Arabia will be unable to acquire or develop the wherewithal for a nuclear weapon. But the nuclear market is changing in ways that facilitate proliferation.

There’s been a shift from a unipolar world, with the United States as the dominant power, to a world of several great powers, or multipolarity. Since 1975, the key instrument for curbing nuclear transfers has been the supplier cartel — the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), created by the United States in cooperation with the Soviets. The NSG forced suppliers to act in unison and incorporate the same guidelines into their individual nuclear export policies, restricting the sale of ENR and thus stemming proliferation.

Here’s the catch: The NSG’s ability to regulate supplier behavior depends on how many great powers are in the system and whether they agree to work together to limit proliferation. The emerging multipolar world and the growing rivalry among the United States, Russia and China is likely to weaken the NSG’s effectiveness. This could crack open the door to renewed supplier competition and broader access to sensitive nuclear technologies. And this lets countries interested in acquiring nuclear transfers, such as Saudi Arabia, pit suppliers against each other and secure better products, lower prices and more advantageous terms of use.

The Trump administration wants to sell nuclear technology to the Saudis — without a nuclear agreement. That’s alarming.

As Matthew Fuhrmann explained here in the Monkey Cage, there remains debate over whether peaceful nuclear technology transfers lead to proliferation — but the risk of proliferation is high in the Saudi case.

Saudi Arabia has set its nuclear procurement train in motion

After failing to secure nuclear technology in the 1970s, Riyadh turned to the global market with renewed vigor in the mid-2000s — in both cases presumably because of a perceived Iranian nuclear threat. Recent efforts to exploit supplier competition seem to have paid off: In 2015, Saudi Arabia acquired a research reactor from Argentina, a steppingstone toward achieving the full nuclear fuel cycle capability.

Saudi authorities have also expressed an interest in nuclear power reactors and an enrichment plant. Reactors alone are not enough to build a nuclear weapon, but can provide cover for a nuclear weapons program or for hedging: Countries can claim they need ENR technology to fuel their research or power reactors, but instead use it to produce fissile material for a bomb.

Moving forward, Saudi Arabia can play several suppliers against one another to secure nuclear transfers. Countries such as France and South Korea have expressed an interest in selling nuclear technology to Riyadh for almost a decade. And Saudi Arabia has excellent relations with Pakistan, whose nuclear weapons program Riyadh allegedly helped finance in the 1970s. Fearing that other suppliers will get Saudi Arabia’s nuclear contracts, the United States, Russia and China have also begun courting Riyadh.

President Trump pulled the U.S. out of the Iran deal. Here’s what you need to know.

There are few good options for dealing with Saudi Arabia’s nuclear procurement plans

Some analysts argue that the United States should transfer nuclear technology to the Saudis on the condition they adopt the “gold standard,” which would require the Saudi regime to forfeit its right to enrich or reprocess. The problem here is that other countries could make more lenient counteroffers.

Recognizing this issue, others propose that Washington should supply Saudi Arabia nuclear technology without the “gold standard” constraints, thus keeping a foot in the door and hopefully becoming well-positioned to limit Riyadh’s nuclear pursuits. But even this approach may prove too restricting for the Saudis. If Saudi Arabia concludes that the United States is encroaching on its nuclear ambitions, it can turn to other suppliers for more advantageous terms.

The Trump administration has embraced a more permissive nuclear transfers policy toward Saudi Arabia than the “no gold standard” approach — and has signaled its willingness to approve such transfers without congressional approval. As Fuhrmann explained, such an approach is particularly dangerous for containing the bomb.

The problem for those hoping to stop the further spread of nuclear weapons is that it’s hard to get the great powers to cooperate. Instead, the United States, Russia and China are developing their own unilateral policies on Saudi Arabia. With the 2015 nuclear deal unraveling and Iran accelerating its enrichment efforts, the future does not bode well for stopping Riyadh from going down the same path as Tehran.

Eliza Gheorghe is a visiting fellow at the Institute for Peace Research and Security Policy (IFSH) at the University of Hamburg and assistant professor of international relations at Bilkent University. You can follow her at @gheorghe_eliza.