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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.

After Iraqi Election, the Antichrist Emerges as an Unlikely U.S. Ally

The U.S. once threatened to kill Muqtada al-Sadr as his militia battled occupying forces. Now, the powerful cleric is helping Washington by keeping Iran at bay.

By Jane ArrafOct. 16, 2021

BAGHDAD — Standing at a podium with an Iraqi flag by his side, the cleric Muqtada al-Sadr looked the part of a statesman as he read a postelection address.

In the 18 years since he formed the Mahdi Army militia to battle occupying U.S. forces, the onetime firebrand has refined his delivery. His formal Arabic is more proficient, and his voice more assured. Looking up to address the camera, he raised a finger in emphasis in remarks carefully crafted to send messages to both the United States and Iran after his party picked up seats in last week’s parliamentary election.

In 2004, as Mr. al-Sadr’s fighters took on U.S. forces with rifles and rocket-propelled grenades in Baghdad and across the southern provinces, the United States pledged to kill or capture the Shiite cleric.

Next to Al Qaeda, he posed the biggest threat to the American occupation in Iraq, miring U.S. troops in fighting in the streets and alleys of Iraqi cities as the military fought both Sunni and Shiite-based insurgencies.

Although still unpredictable, the cleric is consistently an Iraqi nationalist and now seems to be emerging as an arm’s-length American ally, helping the United States by preventing Iraq from tilting further into Iran’s axis.

“All embassies are welcome, as long as they do not interfere in Iraqi affairs and government formation,” Mr. al-Sadr said in a reference aimed at the United States, whose embassy was stormed two years ago by what were believed to be members of Kitaib Hezbollah, one of the biggest Iranian-backed Iraqi militias. “Iraq is for Iraqis only.”

In preliminary results from last Sunday’s elections, the Sadrist Movement gained roughly 20 seats, giving it up to 73 seats in the 329-member parliament. That leaves Mr. al-Sadr with the biggest single bloc in Parliament and a decisive voice in choosing the next Iraqi prime minister.

In his remarks, the cleric made a pointed reference to Iranian-backed militias, some of which have grown more powerful than Iraq’s official security forces and pose a threat to the United States in Iraq.

“From now on, arms must be restricted in the hands of the state,” he said in the address, broadcast on Iraqi state television. “The use of weapons shall be prevented outside of the state’s framework.” Even for those claiming to be the “resistance” to the U.S. presence, he said, “it is time for the people to live in peace, without occupation, terrorism, militias, kidnapping and fear.”

The self-styled resistance groups are the same Iranian-backed militias that launched drone and rocket attacks on the American Embassy and U.S. military bases after the U.S. killing of a leading Iranian commander, Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, and a senior Iraqi security official in Baghdad last year.

An aide to the Shiite cleric said disarming groups that are not under government control would also apply to Mr. al-Sadr’s own militia forces.n=0

“No country wants forces that are stronger than its army,” said Dhia al-Assadi, a former top official in the cleric’s political movement. He said Mr. al-Sadr would leave it to the incoming government to decide whether U.S. forces should remain in Iraq.

The United States has agreed to withdraw all combat troops from the country by Dec. 31, although Washington does not consider its troops there currently to be on a combat mission. Under that agreement, the number of U.S. forces — about 2,000 in Iraq at Baghdad’s invitation — is expected to remain the same.

“That is labeling or classifying the troops as trainers and not fighters,” said Mr. al-Assadi, who served as the head of Mr. al-Sadr’s former Ahrar political bloc. “The decision should be revisited again and decided by Parliament and the government.”

Mr. al-Assadi said he does not foresee any change in an existing ban on senior officials of the Sadrist Movement from meeting with U.S. or British officials.

Once a fierce sectarian defender of Iraq’s Shiite majority, Mr. al-Sadr has expanded his reach in recent years, reaching out to Sunnis, Christians and other minorities. After telling his followers to protect Christians, young men from Mr. Sadr’s stronghold in the mostly Shiite neighborhood of Baghdad’s Sadr City began wearing large crosses around their necks in a sign of solidarity. In a previous election, the Sadrists formed an alliance with the Communist Party, which is officially atheist.

Externally, he has fostered relations with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates at a time when those countries’ Sunni Arab rulers were hostile to Iraq’s Shiite-led government. Domestically, one of his main demands is to clean up Iraq’s dysfunctional and deeply corrupt political system, which appoints people to senior government posts on the basis of party loyalty rather than competence.

“He has grown and evolved,” said Nabeel Khoury, a former U.S. State Department official who served in Iraq in 2003. “But I think to some extent we underestimated him in the very beginning.”

Mr. Khoury said that he was approached in 2003 by Mr. al-Sadr’s aides as Iraq’s first governing council was being decided.

“We had coffee, we talked and they said Sadr was interested in playing a political role,” said Mr. Khoury, a fellow at the Atlantic Council. But Iraqi political figures who had returned from exile did not want Mr. al-Sadr involved, Mr. Khoury said, and the United States followed their counsel.

A few months later, the cleric formed his Mahdi Army militia to fight occupying troops.

When U.S. forces had an opportunity to kill Mr. al-Sadr during a battle in Najaf, Washington told them to stand down, also on the advice of the Iraqi expatriate politicians, said Mr. Khoury, adding: “They knew if Sadr was killed it would become a big problem for them.”

Mr. al-Sadr, 47, is the youngest son of a revered cleric, Grand Ayatollah Mohammad Sadeq al-Sadr, who was assassinated by Saddam Hussein in 1999 after demanding religious freedom for Iraq’s Shiites. The Sadr family commands the loyalty of millions, many of them poor and disposed, most of whom believe his election win was ordained by God.

In Sadr City, the Sadrist organization provides food, support for orphans and widows and many other services the Iraqi government fails to deliver.

“He would like to achieve certain objectives, and the main objective is social justice,” said Mr. al-Assadi of the cleric’s aims. He likened Mr. al-Sadr’s goals to those of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. or Mahatma Ghandi.

But unlike the Black civil rights leader or India’s pacifist icon, Mr. al-Sadr has overseen an armed militia that has waxed and waned but never entirely gone away.

The Mahdi Army has been blamed for fueling Iraq’s past sectarian violence. As it battled with Sunni fighters of Al Qaeda for supremacy in Iraq between 2006 and 2008, Mr. al-Sadr’s fighters were accused of running death squads and conducting sectarian cleansings of Baghdad neighborhoods.

Mr. al-Sadr has said that not all the fighters were under his control.

In 2008, after losing a fight with Iraqi government forces for control of Basra, Mr. al-Sadr — who lacks the religious credentials of his father — abruptly left for Iran to pursue his theological studies.

Yet he has long had an uneasy relationship with Tehran, and while he cannot afford to antagonize its leaders, he advocates an Iraq free of both Iranian and American influence.

“I think he has his own space in which he walks, and his base is not dictated by any country, especially not the Iranians,” said Elie Abouaoun, a director at the United States Institute of Peace, a U.S. government-funded think tank. “I think that he is much less sectarian than many, many others because he has a nationalist vision of Iraq.”

Explosives set off outside the Temple Walls: Revelation 11

Explosives set off at Gaza border

Jerusalem PostBreaking News
BREAKING NEWS

By JERUSALEM POST STAFF OCTOBER 15, 2021 22:03

IDF observers noticed two suspects trying to cross the no-mans-land at the Gaza border, the IDF Spokespersons unit reported on Twitter on Friday eveningUpon reaching the border, the two suspects put down an improvised explosive device, which exploded not long after.IDF soldiers arrived on the scene and arrested the suspects, taking them in for questioning

AQ Khan’s death confirms the threat of nuclear proliferation

AQ Khan’s death doesn’t stop the threat of nuclear proliferation

BY JOSEPH DETRANI, OPINION CONTRIBUTORThe views expressed by contributors are their own and not the view of The Hill

The recent death of Abdul Qadeer Khan, a national hero in Pakistan who was the architect of Pakistan’s nuclear bomb program, is an appropriate time to reflect on how an individual or network can provide nuclear technology and know-how to rogue states and terrorist organizations seeking nuclear weapons.

A.Q. Khan was trained in Europe as a metallurgical engineer and employed by the Anglo-Dutch-German nuclear engineering consortium Urenco, where he gained unique access to and expertise working with uranium centrifuges. He brought this knowledge, and documentation, to Pakistan for its nuclear weapons program.

A serial nuclear proliferator, Khan in the late 1980s and ’90s provided Iran with a few thousand P-1 and P-2 centrifuges, in addition to blueprints and components, for its facility in Natanz. He provided North Korea with centrifuges, training and manuals for its highly-enriched uranium program, which provided Pyongyang with another path, in addition to its plutonium program, to nuclear weapons. Libya also was the recipient of centrifuges and documentation for a uranium enrichment program.

Iraq and Syria were approached, but it was Iran, North Korea and Libya that aggressively pursued a relationship with Khan. Libya eventually abandoned its pursuit of nuclear weapons, in return for international legitimacy and normalized relations with the United States and United Kingdom. Iran and North Korea have persisted with their programs.

The 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear deal with Iran – signed by Iran and China, France, Germany, Russia, the U.K. and the U.S., before Donald Trump withdrew our participation in May 2018 – requires Iran’s compliance with halting numerous nuclear programs for a certain period, to be verified by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Iran has breached the accord several times.

North Korea has conducted six nuclear tests and continues to reprocess spent fuel rods for plutonium for nuclear weapons. They are assessed to have between 40 to 60 nuclear weapons.  Although North Korea never has admitted to having a highly-enriched uranium program for weapons, it does have a declared modern uranium enrichment facility in Yongbyon, reportedly with thousands of spinning centrifuges. 

North Korea reportedly provided Syria with training, materials and assistance in the construction of a plutonium nuclear reactor in Al-Kibar. Israel bombed this facility in September 2007, just prior to its going into operation. Al Qaeda reportedly also attempted to acquire nuclear weapons and fissile materials from North Korea for a dirty bomb. 

There is appropriate current concern that other nation-states will try to acquire nuclear weapons capability, usually for deterrence purposes. Indeed, if North Korea is permitted to retain its nuclear weapons, South Korea, Japan and others in the region may decide that, despite U.S. nuclear deterrence commitments, they need their own nuclear weapons.The same applies to Iran. If it pursues a nuclear weapons program, it’s likely that countries such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Turkey will pursue their own nuclear weapons programs, despite U.S. nuclear deterrence commitments.It’s logical to assume that al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations continue to seek nuclear and biological weapons to attack the U.S., its allies and partners. And the Taliban’s return to leadership in Afghanistan – and their complicity with 9/11 by permitting al Qaeda and other terrorist groups to reside in Afghanistan and plot against the U.S. – must be of immediate concern to the U.S. and its allies.nullKhan showed the world that one serial proliferator can provide the technology and know-how necessary to a few nation-states interested in acquiring nuclear weapons. Ensuring that Iran doesn’t acquire a nuclear weapon and that North Korea denuclearizes completely and verifiably is necessary if we want to ensure that other countries – especially in East Asia and the Middle East – do not pursue their own nuclear weapons programs.The proliferation of nuclear states, and the likelihood that a nuclear weapon or fissile material for a dirty bomb is acquired by a rogue state or terrorist organization, must be of the highest concern to the United States and our allies.Joseph R. DeTrani was the former special envoy for negotiations with North Korea and the former director of the National Counterproliferation Center. The views expressed in this publication are his and do not imply endorsement of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence or any other U.S. government agency.

The China Horn’s tested nuclear-capable, hypersonic space weapon: Daniel 7

 Military vehicles carrying hypersonic missiles DF-17 travel past Tiananmen Square during the military parade marking the 70th founding anniversary of People's Republic of China, on its National Day in Beijing, China October 1, 2019. (photo credit: REUTERS/JASON LEE)

China tested nuclear-capable, hypersonic space weapon – FT

By JERUSALEM POST STAFF, REUTERS   OCTOBER 17, 2021 17:44

Military vehicles carrying hypersonic missiles DF-17 travel past Tiananmen Square during the military parade marking the 70th founding anniversary of People’s Republic of China, on its National Day in Beijing, China October 1, 2019.(photo credit: REUTERS/JASON LEE)

The Chinese military’s hypersonic capabilities are “far more advanced than US officials realized.”

China made significant strides in space weapons capabilities in August as they secretly tested an advanced nuclear-capable hypersonic missile, The Financial Times reported on Saturday night.The report said the Chinese military launched a rocket carrying a hypersonic glide vehicle that flew through low-orbit space, circling the globe before cruising toward its target, which it missed by about 25 miles.

The new missile reportedly caught the US by surprise, with a source telling FT that China’s hypersonic capabilities are “far more advanced than US officials realized.”China’s Defense Ministry did not immediately respond to a faxed request for comment from Reuters on Sunday.

The hypersonic weapons, also tested by the US and Russia, include glide vehicles that fly at five times the speed of sound (Mach 5) – approximately one mile per minute – and are launched into space on a rocket, orbiting the Earth under their own momentum.The Pentagon logo is seen behind the podium in the briefing room at the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, U.S., January 8, 2020.

According to an expert on Chinese nuclear weapons policy, the newly tested weapon, armed with a nuclear warhead, will help China “negate US defense systems that are designed to destroy incoming ballistic missiles,” FT said.America’s defense systems, which are focused on the North Pole, could be completely disregarded as the new weapon could potentially fly over the South Pole, according to FT.Advertisementhttps://69d722ee720fb23f0d7ae54de0558193.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html?n=0“We have made clear our concerns about the military capabilities China continues to pursue: capabilities that only increase tensions in the region and beyond,” said Pentagon spokesman John Kirby.The US and Russia are also developing hypersonic missiles, and North Korea said last month that it had test-fired a newly developed one.

At a 2019 parade, China showcased advancing weaponry including its hypersonic missile, known as the DF-17.Ballistic missiles fly into outer space before returning on steep trajectories at higher speeds. Hypersonic weapons are difficult to defend against because they fly toward targets at lower altitudes but can achieve more than five times the speed of sound, or about 6,200 kph (3,850 mph).

Russia and China won’t get Iran to the table: Daniel 8

Nuclear deal: Tough talk aside, can Russia and China get Iran to the table?

Howard LaFranchiOctober 15, 2021, 10:38 am

When it comes to prospects for restarting talks with Tehran aimed at restoring the tattered 2015 Iran nuclear deal, the tone in Washington this week has been decidedly downbeat.

“With every passing day and Iran’s refusal to engage in good faith, the runway gets short,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Wednesday as he met in Washington with foreign ministers from Israel and the United Arab Emirates.

The top U.S. diplomat then delved into a little saber-rattling. “We are prepared to turn to other options if Iran doesn’t change course” – meaning if Iran doesn’t put a halt to continuing advances in its nuclear program and get back to the negotiating table.

But beneath the public pessimism and tough talk are a number of economic and regional political factors that suggest a resumption of diplomacy between two arch adversaries – and revival of the 2015 international agreement that temporarily closed Iran’s pathway to a nuclear weapon – is still more likely than not.

Those factors include big-ticket pressures like Iran’s need for relief from U.S.-imposed economic sanctions and President Joe Biden’s hopes of avoiding a nuclear crisis that could overtake his domestic agenda.

A range of factors

But other, more subtle factors favoring diplomacy include Iran’s growing relations with two big regional powers – Russia and China; Iran’s fraught but budding relations with its Persian Gulf neighbors, including Saudi Arabia; and Israel’s less strident opposition to a U.S. return to a deal former President Donald Trump abandoned in 2018.

Even the spike in global energy costs is contributing to mounting pressure on Iran to return to indirect talks with the United States on restoring the nuclear accord, some analysts argue.

How do oil prices fit into a list of glimmers favoring diplomacy?

Consider this: China, one of six powers that signed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA, with Iran, finds its economy hampered by energy shortages and rising prices. Beijing would welcome the eased access to Iran’s oil that would accompany a revived deal.

At the same time, oil-producer Iran – its economy stuck in the doldrums despite recent modest growth – would very much like to reap the benefits from the rising prices that a return to licit oil sales would offer, some international analysts say.

And as Tehran’s recent accession to membership in the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation suggests, the Iranians have been putting more of their economic eggs into the China basket and are aiming for bilateral economic ties to flourish.

The alternative serves no one

Yet even with all those factors contributing, the key driver of a return to talks is going to be a decision from the two main protagonists – the U.S. and especially Iran – that the alternative to dialogue serves no one.

“The bottom line is that restoring the deal serves the best interests of both Iran and the United States,” says Kelsey Davenport, director for nonproliferation policy at the Arms Control Association in Washington.

“If the talks to restore the JCPOA fail, the likelihood of a nuclear crisis, the likelihood of a return to a coercive sanctions strategy, the likelihood of military strikes, all of it goes up,” she adds. “But those likelihoods don’t benefit [Iranian President Ebrahim] Raisi, and they don’t benefit Biden.”

President Biden entered the White House pledging to restore the JCPOA, and earlier this year it appeared that a U.S. return to the deal – and returning Iran to compliance with the deal’s nuclear limitations – was imminent. (Once the U.S. pulled out in 2018, Iran questioned the deal’s validity and eventually returned to prohibited activities. Those include spinning increasingly sophisticated centrifuges delivering a higher purity of highly enriched uranium, a key step on the road to building a nuclear weapon).

But the sixth round of talks ended in April without an agreement, and then the hard-liner Mr. Raisi was elected president in June.

Speculation over a return to Vienna for a seventh round of talks has since followed the path of a roller coaster, with sudden ascents of optimism followed by chutes of despair.

The last two weeks are a case in point. Last week Iran’s new foreign minister, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, said in Moscow that Iran was finalizing diplomatic consultations and “will soon restore our negotiations in Vienna.” But that was followed this week by plummeting hopes and warnings from German Chancellor Angela Merkel, then Secretary Blinken, that the diplomatic window is closing.

U.S. actions vs. words

For some U.S.-Iran analysts, the Biden administration has largely itself to blame for the stalled diplomacy and the failure to coax Iran back to the Vienna table, since the U.S. has never backed up its warnings with any actions.

“The Americans keep talking about how hopes for diplomacy are growing dim, opportunities are diminishing, a window is shutting, but ultimately their rhetoric doesn’t sync with their behavior, and what their behavior says is that they really are trying very hard to keep the door open,” says Behnam Ben Taleblu, a senior fellow specializing in Iranian security and political issues at Washington’s Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.

In response, he adds, Iran’s new class of hard-liners is finding a “certain glee” in “turning the superpower into the supplicant” and “trying to tempt Washington into premature sanctions relief.” Those in power in Tehran now are “more risk tolerant and escalation friendly, and more keen to drive a harder bargain.”

This does not mean Tehran won’t eventually return to the Vienna talks and even the JCPOA, Mr. Ben Taleblu says. But he says Iran is demonstrating the objective it intends to pursue if it does return to the negotiating table: “Get more but offer less.”

Still, not all Iranians are on board with the Raisi government’s maximalist approach to nuclear diplomacy.

Mohammad Javad Zarif, the former foreign minister who was former Secretary of State John Kerry’s Iranian counterpart in negotiating the JCPOA, said in a public online chat last week that Iran had an “opportunity” to return to the deal “while keeping its dignity intact,” according to the Amwaj.media website.

Mr. Zarif also quoted Russian President Vladimir Putin telling him that, “If, when the U.S. declares that it wishes to return to the JCPOA, Iran takes a hard line, then the whole world will turn against” Iran – something Mr. Putin added was already happening.

Iran’s “Eastern orientation”

The role of Russia and China in getting Tehran to “yes” may be crucial. Mr. Ben Taleblu notes that the Iranians have long talked about an “Eastern orientation” of their foreign policy as a way to offset Western influence. And while that reorientation may be a long-term goal, he says it points to where Iran is headed – and suggests that Tehran may prefer not to alienate either Moscow or Beijing by precipitating a regional crisis.

“Politically Moscow matters to Iran, but economically Beijing matters much more, and the Iranians can’t easily disregard that right now” given their weak economy, he says.

Ms. Davenport of the Arms Control Association adds that even if China is unwilling to exert Moscow’s style of overt pressure on Tehran, Beijing clearly prefers a return of the JCPOA.

“The greater access to the Iranian oil market that would accompany a deal would clearly benefit China in a variety of ways,” she says, adding that “from the big-picture perspective, Chinese interests suffer if there’s an escalation of tensions and conflict in the region.”

Just how much that kind of external factor matters to Tehran remains to be seen.

For Mr. Ben Taleblu, the U.S. needs to move beyond rhetoric and show some teeth if it wants to get Iran back to Vienna. And he’s not alone in thinking something has to happen soon.

For now, Ms. Davenport says she sees Iran’s nuclear advances as aimed primarily at “increasing Iran’s leverage” in eventual talks. But she worries that some of the advances Iran is making are getting to a point of no return.

“My concern is that the advances Iran is making will become more difficult to reverse over the next few months,” she says. And if over that period Iran’s hard-liners continue to play hard to get and meet the Americans with new demands, she says, “that delay could be fatal.”

Staff writer Scott Peterson in London contributed to this report.

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The History of Earth­quakes In New York Before the Sixth Seal (Revelation 6:12)

     The History of Earth­quakes In New YorkBy Meteorologist Michael Gouldrick New York State PUBLISHED 6:30 AM ET Sep. 09, 2020 PUBLISHED 6:30 AM EDT Sep. 09, 2020New York State has a long history of earthquakes. Since the early to mid 1700s there have been over 550 recorded earthquakes that have been centered within the state’s boundary. New York has also been shaken by strong earthquakes that occurred in southeast Canada and the Mid-Atlantic states.

Courtesy of Northeast States Emergency ConsortiumThe largest earthquake that occurred within New York’s borders happened on September 5th, 1944. It was a magnitude 5.9 and did major damage in the town of Massena.A school gymnasium suffered major damage, some 90% of chimneys toppled over and house foundations were cracked. Windows broke and plumbing was damaged. This earthquake was felt from Maine to Michigan to Maryland.Another strong quake occurred near Attica on August 12th, 1929. Chimneys took the biggest hit, foundations were also cracked and store shelves toppled their goods.In more recent memory some of the strongest quakes occurred On April 20th, 2002 when a 5.0 rattled the state and was centered on Au Sable Forks area near Plattsburg, NY.Strong earthquakes outside of New York’s boundary have also shaken the state. On February 5th, 1663 near Charlevoix, Quebec, an estimated magnitude of 7.5 occurred. A 6.2 tremor was reported in Western Quebec on November 1st in 1935. A 6.2 earthquake occurred in the same area on March 1st 1925. Many in the state also reported shaking on August 23rd, 2011 from a 5.9 earthquake near Mineral, Virginia.

Earthquakes in the northeast U.S. and southeast Canada are not as intense as those found in other parts of the world but can be felt over a much larger area. The reason for this is the makeup of the ground. In our part of the world, the ground is like a jigsaw puzzle that has been put together. If one piece shakes, the whole puzzle shakes.In the Western U.S., the ground is more like a puzzle that hasn’t been fully put together yet. One piece can shake violently, but only the the pieces next to it are affected while the rest of the puzzle doesn’t move.In Rochester, New York, the most recent earthquake was reported on March 29th, 2020. It was a 2.6 magnitude shake centered under Lake Ontario. While most did not feel it, there were 54 reports of the ground shaking.So next time you are wondering why the dishes rattled, or you thought you felt the ground move, it certainly could have been an earthquake in New York.Here is a website from the USGS (United Sates Geologic Society) of current earthquakes greater than 2.5 during the past day around the world. As you can see, the Earth is a geologically active planet!Another great website of earthquakes that have occurred locally can be found here.To learn more about the science behind earthquakes, check out this website from the USGS.

The agonizing problem of the Pakistani Nuclear Horn: Revelation 8

The agonizing problem of Pakistan’s nukes

Marvin KalbTuesday, September 28, 2021

“This is a new world,” President Joe Biden declared, when justifying his pullout from Afghanistan and explaining his administration’s war on global terrorism in an August 31 speech. It will go “well beyond Afghanistan,” he alerted the world, focusing on “the threats of 2021 and tomorrow.”

The president will not have to look too far. Bordering Afghanistan, now again under Taliban rule, is Pakistan, one of America’s oddest “allies.” Governed by a shaky coalition of ineffective politicians and trained military leaders trying desperately to contain the challenge of domestic terrorism, Pakistan may be the best definition yet of a highly combustible threat that, if left unchecked, might lead to the nightmare of nightmares: jihadis taking control of a nuclear weapons arsenal of something in the neighborhood of 200 warheads.

Ever since May 1998, when Pakistan first began testing nuclear weapons, claiming its national security demanded it, American presidents have been haunted by the fear that Pakistan’s stockpile of nukes would fall into the wrong hands. That fear now includes the possibility that jihadis in Pakistan, freshly inspired by the Taliban victory in Afghanistan, might try to seize power at home.

Trying, of course, is not the same as succeeding. If history is a reliable guide, Pakistan’s professional military would almost certainly respond, and in time probably succeed; but only after the floodgates of a new round of domestic warfare between the government and extremist gangs has been opened, leaving Pakistan again shaken by political and economic uncertainty. And when Pakistan is shaken, so too is India, its less than neighborly rival and nuclear competitor.

Pakistani jihadis come in many different shapes and sizes, but no matter: The possibility of a nuclear-armed terrorist regime in Pakistan has now grown from a fear into a strategic challenge that no American president can afford to ignore.

Former President Barack Obama translated this challenge into carefully chosen words: “The single biggest threat to U.S. security, both short term, medium term and long term,” he asserted, “would be the possibility of a terrorist organization obtaining a nuclear weapon.” (Author’s italics).

The nation that has both nuclear weapons and a dangerous mix of terrorists was — and remains — Pakistan.

No problem, really, Pakistan’s political and military leaders have quickly assured a succession of anxious presidents. Whether it be Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, the Haqqani network, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Tehreek-e-Labaik, al-Qaida, or the Afghan Taliban’s Quetta Shura — these terrorist organizations have always been under our constant surveillance, checked and rechecked. We keep a close eye on everything, even the Islamic madrassas, where more than 2 million students are more likely studying sharia law than economics or history. We know who these terrorists are and what they’re doing, and we’re ready to take immediate action.

These official assurances have fallen largely on deaf ears at the White House, principally because one president after another has learned from American intelligence that these same Pakistani leaders have often been working surreptitiously with the terrorists to achieve common goals. One such goal was the recent defeat of the Kabul regime, which had been supported by the U.S. for 20 years. During this time, the victorious Taliban secretly received political and military support from Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency. Shortly after 9/11, for example, the terrorist mastermind, Osama bin Laden, escaped U.S. capture, in part because sympathetic of ISI colleagues. Bin Laden fled to the one place where his security could be assured — Pakistan. In 2011, when the U.S. finally caught up with bin Laden and killed him, Obama chose not to inform Pakistani leaders of the super-secret operation, even though the target was down the street from a Pakistani military academy, fearful that once again bin Laden would be tipped off and escape.

The U.S. has learned over the years not to trust Pakistan, realizing that a lie here and there might be part of the diplomatic game but that this level of continuing deception was beyond acceptable bounds. That Pakistan was also known to have helped North Korea and Iran develop their nuclear programs has only deepened the distrust.

Indeed, since the shock of 9/11, Pakistan has come to represent such an exasperating problem that the U.S. has reportedly developed a secret plan to arbitrarily seize control of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal if a terrorist group in Pakistan seemed on the edge of capturing some or all of its nuclear warheads. When repeatedly questioned about the plan, U.S. officials have strung together an artful, if unpersuasive, collection of “no comments.”

Even though U.S. economic and military aid has continued to flow into Pakistan — reaching $4.5 billion in fiscal 2010, though on other occasions capriciously cut — America’s concerns about Pakistan’s stability and reliability have only worsened. Since the debacle in Afghanistan, and Pakistan’s barely disguised role in it, serious questions have been raised about America’s embarrassing predisposition to look the other way whenever Pakistan has been caught with its hand in a terrorist’s cookie jar. How long can America look the other way?

The anguishing problem for the Biden administration is now coming into sharper focus: Even if the president decided to challenge Pakistan’s dangerous flirtation with domestic and regional terrorism, what specific policies could he adopt that would satisfy America’s obvious desire to disengage from Afghan-like civil wars without at the same time getting itself involved in another nation’s domestic struggles with terrorists?  Disengagement has become the name of the game in Washington.

One approach, already widely discussed, is that the U.S. can contain the spread of terrorism in South Asia by relying on its “over-the-horizon” capabilities. Though almost every senior official, including Biden, has embraced this approach, it’s doubtful they really believe it’s a viable substitute for “boots on the ground.”

Another possibility would be the Central Intelligence Agency striking a new under-the-table deal with the ISI that would set new goals and guidelines for both services to cooperate more aggressively in the war against domestic and regional terrorism. Unfortunately, prospects for such expanded cooperation, though rhetorically appealing, are actually quite slim. Veterans of both services shake their heads, reluctantly admitting it is unrealistic, given the degree of distrust on both sides.

But even if Biden, despite knowing better, decided to continue to look the other way, hoping against hope that Pakistan would be able to contain the terrorists and keep them from acquiring nuclear warheads, he will find that Prime Minister Imran Khan is not a ready and eager ally, if he ever was one. Lately he’s been painting the Biden administration as damaged goods after its hurried exit from Afghanistan. And he has been rearranging Pakistan’s regional relationships by strengthening his ties with China and extending a welcoming hand to Russia. Also Khan may soon discover that his pro-Taliban policy runs the risk of backfiring and inspiring Pakistani terrorists to turn against him. To whom would he then turn for help?

Khan, who won his mandate in 2018, surely knows by now that he runs a decidedly unhappy country, beset by major economic and political problems, waves of societal corruption and the no-nonsense challenge coming from domestic terrorists eager to impose a severe Islamic code of conduct on the Pakistani people. Sixty-four percent of the population are under the age of 30 and more desirous of iPhones and apps than of religious zealotry.

Pakistan is a looming problem with no satisfactory solutions. For Biden, no matter what policies he pursues, it remains a recurring nightmare, the stuff of a paperback thriller: a scary mix of terrorists who may one day be able to seize power and, with it, control over the nation’s stockpile of nuclear warheads — all of this happening in a shaky, strategically-located country that was once an ally.

Since the American withdrawal from Afghanistan, geostrategic relationships on the Asian subcontinent have been undergoing important changes. Pakistan has tilted its future towards a closer relationship with China, while its principal adversary, India, has tightened its ties to the United States, both of them sharing an already deep distrust of China. In this increasingly uneasy atmosphere, the U.S. remains concerned about Pakistan’s nuclear stockpile falling into terrorist hands. If this seemed to be happening, the U.S. would feel the need to intervene militarily to stop it. Pakistan would likely turn to China for help, setting the stage for the U.S. and China, because of Pakistan’s nukes, to head towards a direct and possibly deadly confrontation which neither superpower wants or needs

Despite Iraq election win, the Antichrist still has to work with the Iranian Horn

Despite Iraq election win, Sadr still has to work with pro-Iran groups

BAGHDAD–Firebrand cleric Moqtada al-Sadr may be Iraq’s big election winner but he will still have to haggle with his opponents, linked to armed pro-Iranian groups, to forge a new government.

War-scarred Iraq, an oil-rich country plagued by corruption and poverty, last Sunday held its fifth parliamentary elections since the 2003 US-led invasion toppled president Saddam Hussein.

Sadr, a Shia preacher who once commanded an anti-US militia, had campaigned as a nationalist and criticised the influence of big neighbour Iran, which has grown strongly since Saddam’s fall.

The political maverick had initially vowed to boycott the polls but then sent his movement into the race, proclaiming in recent months that it will be he who chooses Iraq’s next prime minister.

At first glance, his bloc’s election win would seem to reinforce that view. The Sadrists won 70 out of the assembly’s 329 seats, according to preliminary results, boosting their lead from the previous parliament.

But analysts say Sadr will now have to come to terms with his adversaries, the pro-Iran Shia parties linked to the Hashed al-Shaabi network of paramilitary forces.

The Fatah (Conquest) Alliance, Hashed’s political wing, lost more than half of its 48 deputies, according to preliminary results.

“The results give Sadr an upper hand when it comes to politics and his negotiating position, but that is not the only thing that is important here,” said Renad Mansour of the Chatham House think tank.

The Hashed “has lost political power by losing seats, but they still have coercive power and that will be used in the bargaining,” he said of the movement, which according to estimates has over 160,000 men under arms.

Despite the implicit “threat of violence” Mansour does not predict an escalation, but he warned, “That doesn’t mean that each side won’t use threats and sometimes violence … to show that they have that power.”

Sour mood

Iraqi politics have been dominated by factions representing the Shia majority since the fall of Saddam’s Sunni-led regime.

They are, however, increasingly split, especially on their attitude toward powerful Shia neighbour Iran, which competes with the United States for strategic influence in Iraq.

The Hashed were formed in 2014 to fight the Sunni-extremist Islamic State (ISIS) group and entered the legislature for the first time in the 2018 vote, after playing a major role in defeating ISIS.

Opposition activists accuse Hashed’s armed groups, which are now supposedly integrated into Iraq’s state security forces, of being beholden to Iran and acting as an instrument of oppression against critics.

A youth-led anti-government protest movement that broke out two years ago ended after hundreds of activists were killed and the movement has blamed pro-Iranian armed groups for the bloodshed.

Washington, meanwhile, accuses Tehran-backed armed groups of being behind rocket and drone attacks on its military and diplomatic interests.

Among many Iraqis, the mood over Iranian interference has soured and Sadr voiced that sentiment after the election.

He attacked “the resistance,” the name pro-Iran armed groups give themselves in the Middle East.

“Arms should be in the hands of the state and their use outside of that framework prohibited, even for those who claim to be from the resistance,” he said in a clear reference to Hashed.

Rejecting election results

The Hashed and their allies denounced the election outcome as a “scam.”

“These elections are the worst Iraq has known since 2003,” charged the head of Houqouq, a party close to the Hezbollah Brigades which are under the Hashed umbrella.

The faction’s military spokesman accused Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi of being the “sponsor of electoral fraud.”

Amid the heated rhetoric, the political blocs are seen to be starting the process of post-election haggling aimed at forming parliamentary blocs ahead of finding a prime minister.

One pro-Iran figure and Hashed partner made surprising gains, former Prime Minister Nuri Maliki, who served from 2006 to 2014 and whose State of Law Alliance can count on more than 30 seats.

Fatah is looking at Maliki’s party and smaller groups to create the largest parliamentary bloc and nominate him as prime minister, said Hamdi Malik, of the Washington Institute for Near East Study.

“This is very hard to achieve, but it can form their starting point to enter into negotiations with Sadr to secure a lot of positions in the next government,” Malik said.

The most likely outcome, the analyst added, is “a compromise PM with a lot of Sadrist control over him”.

Political scientist Ali al-Baidar said that, whatever happens, Hashed won’t be content sitting in opposition.

“There is no culture of opposition in Iraqi politics,” he said. “Everyone wants some of the power.”

Casualties mount outside the Temple Walls: Revelation 11

Gaza-Israel: Casualties mount as violence continues

UN officials say more than 100,000 people have been forced to take shelter in UN buildings in Gaza because of the violence – double the number of the Gaza conflict five years ago.

Diplomatic efforts to broker a truce between Israel and Hamas have intensified, with the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon meeting the US Secretary of State John Kerry in Cairo. 

A woman the BBC filmed being pulled from rubble in a Gaza blast was taken to hospital – but later died from her injuries.

Paul Adams reports.

First broadcast Tuesday 22 July

The new hypersonic nuclear arms race: Daniel

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Hypersonic Arms Race

Written by Syed Alyaan Kazmi• October 15, 2021• 11:47 am•

The Hypersonic Arms Race Between the US, China & Russia

The development of hypersonic weapons has made it difficult to distinguish between nuclear weapons and non-nuclear strategic weapons. Yet, it has made it clear that hypersonic weapons cannot be taken lightly. The strategic instability created by these weapons has triggered a hypersonic arms race between the US, China, and Russia. The author, Syed Alyaan Kazmi, notes that each state views the other two with suspicion and fears a pre-emptive strike, thus triggering a security dilemma. The existence of hypersonic weapons greatly influences the decision-making process due to their unpredictability. Fearing the destabilization of the arms race between the nuclear states, the author suggests the establishment of new multilateral agreements to limit the development and proliferation of hypersonic weapons.

Syed Alyaan Kazmi 

Syed Alyaan Kazmi is currently pursuing his bachelor’s degree in strategic and nuclear studies from the National Defence University, Islamabad. His areas of interest include the geopolitics of the Asia-Pacific region and South Asia.

Introduction

Despite disagreements, the majority of the experts from the US, China, Russia, and Europe agree that the advancements in military technology have the potential to exacerbate the complexity of deterrence and strategic stability, and intensifying the hypersonic arms race. Until the end of the Cold War, the entire construct of deterrence rested upon the presumption of survivability of credible nuclear forces to launch a counter nuclear strike, in retaliation to the first strike.

In recent years, advances in military technology—predominantly, the development of hypersonic weapons—have obscured the distinction between nuclear weapons and non-nuclear strategic weapons. Since hypersonic missiles can carry both nuclear and non-nuclear warheads at intercontinental ranges, their incredible speed and maneuverability enable them to incapacitate the adversary’s strategic forces like the nuclear command, control, and communication facilities without even crossing the nuclear threshold of the opponent.

Consequently, this warhead ambiguity might encourage a pre-emptive counterforce strike to limit the damage inflicted by the first strike. Hence, triggering an unstable hypersonic arms race leading to uncontrollable escalation, threatening the global strategic stability.

Hypersonic missiles, touted by many experts as the demolishers of anti-missile systems, travel at a speed faster than Mach 5 (about 5000-25000 km/hr) which makes them invulnerable to any missile defense system in the world. Presently, there are two main well-tested types of hypersonic missiles: hypersonic boost-glide vehicles (HGVs) and hypersonic cruise missiles (HCMs). Both have different working principles from traditional ballistic missiles.

HGVs are unpowered vehicles that glide at hypersonic speed in the upper atmosphere at an altitude above 50 km. Being equipped with propulsion systems, an HGV travels with greater maneuverability, having greater self-orientation and directional control.

The glide vehicle upon reaching about 100 km of altitude (depending upon the target location) separates from the booster and skims through the atmosphere by the momentum gained due to its aerodynamic shape. Moreover, an HGV follows an unpredicted non-ballistic trajectory, maneuvering at the hypersonic speed which makes it invulnerable to any missile defense system.

The second type, hypersonic cruise missile, uses a Supersonic Combustion Ramjet Engine (SCRAMJET engine) which generates supersonic airflow thrust. An HCM needs to gain a supersonic speed of about 4 to 5 Mach before the engine starts working and for this purpose, booster rockets are used. 

Furthermore, land, aircraft, and ship-based launchers are used to launch an HCM, traveling at a low altitude of 12 to 30 miles, above the earth’s surface. Due to its high speed and unpredictable trajectory, an HCM poses a serious threat to most defense systems. Depending upon its speed, weight, and material stiffness, a hypersonic cruise missile possesses the capability to destroy any underground facility, solely through its kinetic energy, with high precision.

Currently, the US, China, and Russia are the major countries actively pursuing research and development programs in the arena of hypersonic missile technology. Some other countries including France, India, and Australia are also pursuing hypersonic weapons for military use, however, they are still far behind the big three in this race.Also Read:  Sino-Russian Relations and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization: The Tides of Power

Russia is the only country having hypersonic missiles developed and fully operationalized in its arsenal, while some are reaching operational status. At present, three main hypersonic missiles in the Russian arsenal pose serious threats to the US missile defenses. Firstly, the Avangard, an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM)-launched hypersonic glide vehicle that can travel at a velocity of more than 20 Mach—20 times faster than the speed of sound.

Avangard is fitted to carry both nuclear and conventional warheads capable of delivering a yield of 2 megatons. The defense minister of Russia, Sergei Shoigu, in a press release on December 27, 2019, confirmed the entry of Avangard HGV into the service of Russian rocket forces.

Another missile, the Kinzhal Kh47-M2is an air-launched hypersonic ballistic missile that can travel at the velocity of 10 Mach, capable of carrying both nuclear and conventional warheads at the distant ranges of 2,000 km. A TU-22M3, a maritime strike fighter, and MIG-31K interceptor aircraft provide a reliable platform for its possible launch. Kinzhal, because of its maneuverability, is highly valuable to strike naval targets such as aircraft carriers. In December 2017, it entered into the Russian rocket force service.

Kh-47M2 Kinzhal in 2018

Kh-47M2 Kinzhal. 2018 Moscow Victory Day Parade” by The Presidential Press and Information Office is licensed under CC BY 4.0

Lastly, Tsirkon 3M22 (Zircon) is a ship-launched hypersonic cruise missile that can fly at the speed of up to Mach 9 with a range of 1000 km. In July 2021, Russia successfully tested Zircon HCM from Admiral Gorshkov-class frigate on the Barents sea coast, which President Vladimir Putin described as a great event for Russia. Moreover, Russia is also pursuing a submarine version of Tsirkon HCM, which will further enable it to strike key US command and control centers with a slight warning.

For the United States, the development of hypersonic weapons remains the highest technical priority. At first, the US actively pursued the hypersonic missiles development program for its conventional use, however, the Pentagon had to drop the plans fearing their possible perception as nuclear warheads, triggering a nuclear response.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) unsuccessfully tested two Hypersonic Test Vehicles (HTVs) in 2010 and 2011 but failed due to vehicle destruction. Nevertheless, the other US military services continued testing their hypersonic weapons. For instance, In 2013, the US Air Force tested the X-51A Waverider hypersonic glide vehicle reaching the speed of Mach 5.1. In June 2021, the US defense department announced a defense budget of $3.8 billion for the hypersonic weapons initiative in the fiscal year 2022.

X-51A Waverider during its final mission in 2013

X-51A Waverider during its fourth and final mission on May 1st, 2013

Similarly, in China, hypersonic technology has become the focus of aeronautical research. To counter the US technological monopoly, China is also pursuing hypersonic weapons for military use. Since 2014, China has conducted several successful tests of DF-17 HGV, which can achieve a velocity of Mach 5-10 with a range of 1600-2400 km. Currently, China is also considering the development of hypersonic cruise missiles, which can be deployed by the mid of 2023. For Instance, DF-21D—an intermediate-range missile also known as “carrier killer”—can penetrate the deck of the US aircraft carriers at the range of more than 1,500-2,600 km.

In the second nuclear age, the emerging competition in hypersonics poses grave challenges to strategic stability. Security professionals largely view strategic stability as the absence of incentives between nuclear powers to use nuclear weapons first to initiate a conflict. During the Cold War, strategic stability had two specific meanings: crisis stability and arms race stability.Also Read:  U.S. and China’s Balance of Power on the Asia-Pacific Chessboard

Crisis stability is the situation between two nuclear states when both sides consider their nuclear forces as invulnerable, breaching any missile defense system an enemy may develop. Moreover, both sides assure that they are fully capable of massive retaliation if one side decides to launch the first nuclear strike.

In contrast, crisis instability, according to Thomas C. Schelling, is the fear of a pre-emptive counter-force strike by any side in a crisis. For crisis instability, two weapons are implicated— counter-force weapons and ballistic missile defense systems (BMDs). The former include ballistic missiles, MIRVs (multiple independently-targetable re-entry vehicles), and hypersonic missiles. In the 21st century, hypersonic missiles possess such prevailing capabilities having the potential to severely impact crisis stability between global nuclear powers.

The US withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty in 2002 and the development of the Conventional Prompt Global Strike (CPGS) strategy gave incentive to Russia and China to develop hypersonic weapons. Russia’s intentions to develop hypersonic weapons are the product of a historical fear of the vulnerability of its strategic nuclear forces.

After the American withdrawal from the ABM treaty, Russia believed that the United States would develop conventional counter-force weapons to launch a first strike on Russia, and then, through advanced missile defenses, the US will circumvent the damage of Russian retaliatory strikes. Therefore, hypersonic missiles, armed with nuclear warheads, having rapid speed and maneuverability might assist in restoring the Russian logic of strategic stability.

For Russia, the strategic rationale behind hypersonic missiles development was to evade the US missile defense systems to secure second-strike capability. In February 2019, the Trump administration announced the decision to suspend US obligations under the landmark 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty. The treaty led to the elimination of cruise missiles and ground-launched ballistic missiles of range 500 – 5000 kilometers.

Russia views NATO enlargement as an existential threat to its national security. To address the advanced conventional capabilities of NATO, Russia is developing a land-based intermediate-range version of the Tsirkon-3M22 hypersonic cruise missile. Due to the unpredictable trajectory, high speed, and low altitude, the intermediate-range Zircon HCM can even circumvent the US Aegis-class system. Also, Russian theater-range hypersonic missiles as an essential part of the anti-access/area-denial strategy is a major threat to the forward-deployed US forces in the European theater.

Chinese experts argue that the US’ CPGS strategy can undermine the credibility of China’s nuclear deterrent. China maintains a “minimum credible deterrence” nuclear posture and has a no-first-use nuclear policy. Therefore, China believes that the US hypersonic weapons as a part of its CPGS tactic can decapitate its small strategic forces in a pre-emptive decapitation strike, ultimately weakening China’s counter-strike capability.

For that reason, China, like Russia, is also pursuing hypersonic weapons as a part of its anti-access/area-denial (A2AD) strategy to counter the US weapons. The US decision to deploy BMDs and advanced radar systems in the Asia-Pacific region produces incentives for China to shift on a policy of launch-on-warning and deploy intermediate-range hypersonic missiles as a part of the A2AD strategy.

The utility of hypersonic weapons in a crisis involves many implications for the crisis stability because the hypersonic weapons possess some exceptional features which enable them to create security dilemmas between the hostile nuclear states. The hypersonic speed of these missiles severely impacts the decision-making timelines.

Decision-makers, after a hypersonic weapon has been detected, would have to act in a very short time after receiving initial intel from detection radars. The whole chain of command would be under greater pressure under the tainted environment of compressed timelines. For instance, a hypersonic missile like Avangard, capable of carrying both conventional and nuclear warheads, approaching at the speed of more than 25 Mach, would give little time to US decision-makers to detect and analyze the intelligence received from the radars.Also Read:  Civil War in Myanmar and Human Rights Violations

Consequently, the warhead ambiguity could encourage a nuclear response to a conventional strike due to inefficient decision-making in a degraded decision-making environment, triggering a nuclear crisis. Similarly, target ambiguity is another challenge for the decision-makers because the hypersonic weapons can maneuver even before the point of contact with the target. It makes it impossible for the radars to track the trajectory of an incoming hypersonic missile.

As a consequence, decision-makers will be facing a “use-it or lose-it dilemma” because a delay of a minute in decision-making can result in the decapitation of the entire command and control center. Hence, the increased degree of unpredictability could result in miscalculated pre-emptive nuclear response which will ultimately start a nuclear conflict.

Nevertheless, this inefficient decision-making will have other serious implications on the organization of strategic forces. For instance, regional commanders of strategic forces might be given full authority to make independent decisions in a state of crisis. This decentralization of command and control might result in miscalculated nuclear launches resulting in uncontrollable nuclear escalation.

The advent of hypersonic weapons is most likely to be destabilizing for the arms race behavior of nuclear states. The contemporary world is entering into an age of great uncertainty because the advent of hypersonic weapons is further intensifying the offense-defense dynamic of the arms race. For instance, in this arms race, China and Russia are developing new offensive strategic hypersonic missiles to evade the US missile defense systems.

At the same time, the US is investing heavily in the means to counter this new hypersonic threat. For this purpose, the US has awarded a contract to Northrop Grumman and L3Harris to develop prototypes of hypersonic and ballistic tracking space sensors (HBTSS). To avoid this new hypersonic arms race there is a need to negotiate new multilateral agreements limiting the development and proliferation of hypersonic weapons. However, major world powers, unfortunately, are less likely to negotiate any new treaty limiting the use of hypersonic weapons.

In this age of great power competition and a hypersonic arms race between the US, China, and Russia, it seems impossible that any treaty or an agreement could limit the development of these disruptive technologies. However, the establishment of a mechanism to prevent conflicts and ensure confidence-building measures to limit the incentives for the first use of hypersonic weapons could be the first step towards negotiating a new multilateral agreement between the world powers and maintaining global strategic stability

Read the original post at ParadigmShift.com.pk: https://www.paradigmshift.com.pk/hypersonic-arms-race/
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