Babylon The Great Shall Fall (Rev 17)

The U.S. Has No Defense Against A Russian Nuclear Attack. Really.

Russia Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles

Russia Intercontinental Ballistic Missile
So guess how much money the administration is seeking to defend America’s homeland against an attack from Russia using nuclear-armed ballistic missiles.  Russia has about 1,600 missile warheads capable of reaching U.S. territory, and if even a small fraction were launched, they could wipe out our electric grid, our financial networks, and quite possibly the whole U.S. economy.
The answer is that the administration is proposing to spend nothing.  Even though we know that most of those Russian warheads are pointed at America.  Even though we know relations with Russia are deteriorating.  Even though we know that Vladimir Putin’s subordinates have repeatedly threatened the West with nuclear consequences if it seeks to block expansionist moves along the Russian periphery such as last year’s invasion of Ukraine.

The mushroom cloud from a 21-kiloton blast over Nagasaki, Japan in 1945. Strategic warheads in the current Russian arsenal typically have over 20 times the yield of the Nagasaki bomb. (Retrieved from Wikimedia)

But this commentary isn’t about Russian military intentions. It is about the utter absence of U.S. active defenses for repulsing the sole man-made threat capable of wiping out American civilization for the foreseeable future.  Imagine every person you know dead, injured, or lacking shelter and sustenance.  Not at some dim point in the future, but by this time tomorrow.  Russia has that power, because America has no defenses against long-range ballistic missiles.
It wasn’t supposed to be this way.  Great nations have always defended themselves against the most pressing threats to their survival.  So when the Soviet Union launched Sputnik in 1957, in the process demonstrating the ability to build long-range rockets, U.S. policymakers immediately began efforts to construct defenses against a missile attack.  But Russia kept adding to its arsenal until by the 1970s it had 40,000 nuclear warheads of all types and sizes.  By that time, Washington had given up on defenses and was just trying to slow the arms race.
In order to get Moscow to stop increasing its arsenal, the U.S. agreed to an Anti-ballistic Missile Treaty in 1972.  In effect, it traded away the right to defend its homeland in return for stabilizing the arms race.  But stabilization in this case meant the two countries would have an assured ability to wipe each other out.  The thinking was that if each side knew launching a nuclear attack would result in devastating (“unacceptable”) retaliation, then neither would ever commit nuclear aggression against the other.

The nicest thing that can be said about this approach to security is that it opened the way to reductions in nuclear arsenals on both sides.  The arms reductions have been substantial, but in a way they don’t matter: Russia still has an assured capacity to obliterate America’s society and economy.  That isn’t going to change, because Moscow doesn’t trust Washington and nuclear weapons are its sole remaining claim to superpower status.
A few U.S. leaders, most notably Ronald Reagan, understood what a bad bargain this was.  They saw that a security system based on “mutual assured destruction” would be unable to cope with enemies who were irrational, or accident prone, or unable to secure their arsenal against a breakdown in the chain of command.  They also understood that miscommunication and misjudgments are common in confrontations such as the Cuban Missile Crisis.  Even rational leaders can make mistakes when arsenals are poised to launch on a hair trigger.
However, Reagan’s efforts to develop ballistic missile defenses of the homeland were derailed by the end of the Cold War, because many observers assumed the waning of superpower rivalries would diminish the danger of nuclear conflict.  Missile defense lost its urgency until the end of the Clinton years, when the prospect of a nuclear-armed North Korea reignited interest.  George W. Bush withdrew the U.S. from the treaty banning homeland missile defenses, but his concern too was mainly with North Korea (and to a lesser extent Iran) – Russia was not a focus of his administration’s modest missile defense efforts.
The Obama Administration has followed the lead of past Democratic administrations in viewing homeland missile defense as (1) too hard, (2) too expensive, and (3) too destabilizing.  Until Russia unexpectedly invaded Ukraine, Obama’s security team preferred to focus on further reductions in nuclear arsenals and maintaining a minimal defensive shield on the West Coast oriented to North Korea.  To the extent it thought at all about the possibility of Russian nuclear aggression, its solution was a survivable retaliatory capability — in other words, offensively-based deterrence.
That deterrent — a “triad” of land-based and sea-based missiles plus bombers — is arguably the most important feature of the U.S. military posture for the simple reason that Russia’s nuclear arsenal is the most important threat.  However, on the day deterrence fails, America’s highly capable strategic force will be little comfort because it can’t do anything to intercept incoming warheads.  All it can do is lay waste to Russia.
This is the kind of strategic myopia that eventually leads to catastrophe.  What America needs is a layered, resilient defensive network against Russian ballistic missiles that at least can negate the kind of limited attack resulting from a strategic error or miscalculation.  That network would presumably include elements on land, at sea and in space that could give defenders multiple shots against any incoming warheads.  After all, if you have three layers that are each 80% effective, then cumulatively only one in a hundred warheads would get through to their targets.
Critics complain that such a system would be astronomically expensive.  However, even a crash program to deploy homeland missile defenses would likely cost much less than what taxpayers are coughing up today to defend hopeless cases like Afghanistan and Iraq.  And compared with the value of assets that might be destroyed in a nuclear attack, the cost would be genuinely modest — maybe equivalent to the losses caused by a couple of Russian warheads.  I have written a report for my think tank on why homeland missile defenses should be a national strategic imperative that you can read here.

Antichrist’s Men Head To Tikrit (Rev 13:16)

Shia fighters in Najaf head to Tikrit

Shia Fighters Tikrit

Shia fighters from Saraya al-Salam, who are loyal to radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, gather in the holy city of Najaf before heading to the northern Iraqi city of Tikrit to continue the offensive against Islamic State (IS) militants, March 20, 2015. (Reuters) Alaa Al-MarjaniIraq‘s most important Shia religious leader, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, called on Friday for greater professionalism and planning by government forces and allied militias in fighting IS insurgents.
A Shi'ite fighter from Saraya al-Salam sits in the back of a vehicle as he leaves from Najaf in a convoy of vehicles heading to Tikrit March 20, 2015.(Reuters) Alaa Al-Marjani
A Shia fighter from Saraya al-Salam, who are loyal to radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, sits in the back of a vehicle as he leaves from the holy city of Najaf in a convoy of vehicles heading to the northern Iraqi city of Tikrit to continue the offensive against IS militants, March 20, 2015. (Reuters) Alaa Al-Marjani
A Shi'ite fighter from Saraya al-Salam waves weapon in the back of a vehicle as he leaves to Tikrit to continue offensive against IS March 20, 2015.(Reuters) Alaa Al-Marjani
A Shia fighter from Saraya al-Salam waves weapons in the back of a vehicle as he leaves Najaf to Tikrit to continue the offensive against IS, March 20, 2015. (Reuters) Alaa Al-Marjani
Shi'ite fighters from Saraya al-Salam gather in Najaf before heading to Tikrit to continue the offensive against IS March 20, 2015.(Reuters) Alaa Al-Marjani
Shia fighters from Saraya al-Salam gather in Najaf before heading to Tikrit to continue the offensive against IS, March 20, 2015. (Reuters) Alaa Al-Marjani
Shi'ite fighters from Saraya al-Salam gather in the holy city of Najaf before heading to Tikrit to continue the offensive against IS March 20, 2015.(Reuters) Alaa Al-Marjani (2)
Shia fighters from Saraya al-Salam gather in the holy city of Najaf before heading to Tikrit to continue the offensive against IS, March 20, 2015. (Reuters) Alaa Al-Marjani
Shi'ite fighters from Saraya al-Salam gather in the holy city of Najaf before heading to Tikrit to continue the offensive against IS March 20, 2015.(Reuters) Alaa Al-Marjani
Shia fighters from Saraya al-Salam gather in the holy city of Najaf before heading to Tikrit to continue the offensive against IS, March 20, 2015. (Reuters) Alaa Al-Marjani
Shi'ite fighters from Saraya al-Salam, gather in the holy city of Najaf before heading to the Tikrit to continue the offensive against ISIS March 20, 2015.(Reuters) Alaa Al-Marjani
Shia fighters from Saraya al-Salam gather in the holy city of Najaf before heading to Tikrit to continue the offensive against IS, March 20, 2015. (Reuters) Alaa Al-Marj

The Horns Of The Ram: Iran & Iraq (Dan 8:4)

Iran’s Influence in Iraq Deeper Than Assumed

Shia Crescent copy

March 19, 2015 5:00 PM
Sharon Behn
 

On the battlefield, Iran is helping Iraq push out Sunni-dominated Islamic State extremists from key northern cities. Trade between Iraq and Iran flows easily over the border. And Tehran has permeated deeply into Baghdad’s security and intelligence structures.
Maria Fantappie, senior Iraq analyst for the International Crisis Group, says Iran’s strong sway over the Iraqi Shi’ite militias, and their likely leadership role in re-establishing basic services such as electricity and water as Islamic State militants retreat, risks weakening the Iraqi government’s already fragile control over its own territory.
But Iran’s influence, Fantappie says, stretches much further than that: it is changing the very character of the Iraqi nation and as a result, the power dynamics in the region.
“It’s enough to have a tour of the streets of Baghdad, to see pictures of the [Iranian] Supreme Leader Khameini posted everywhere, and often now the Iraqi national flag is often showed besides another flag which is that one of Hussein, which is a reference to the Shia identity. Although this does not refer strictly to Iran, it is a direct consequence of Iran’s peaking role within Iraqi politics,“ she said.
Western allies and Iran, who are in prolonged negotiations over Tehran’s nuclear program, appear to have found common ground in fighting Islamic State militants in Iraq, says Henry Smith, senior consultant for Control Risks in the Middle East. The U.S. and its coalition partners are assisting Iraqi ground forces with airstrikes in its battles against the Islamic State, while Iran is providing supplies, arms, ammunition and aircraft and leadership.
“In the period in which Iran has been negotiating over its nuclear program with the P5+1, you have also had a growing implicit acceptance of the fact that Iran [has] a key role in some of the key security issues in the Middle East,“ said Smith.
But videos have emerged of the government-backed Shi’ite militias committing atrocities in Sunni communities. Islamic State militants have capitalized on Sunni anger with the sectarian policies of successive Baghdad governments.
University of Maryland researcher Phillip Smyth warns that Iran’s ever-stronger presence will exacerbate Iraq’s Sunni-Shi’ite sectarian divide and make it harder to form an effective inclusive government.
“Many of these groups are going into Sunni areas and putting power drills through people’s heads,“ said Smyth. „They are a highly sectarian organization, so you can’t really deny that they are actually part of the cause for the crisis we are facing now.”
But Henry Smith of Control Risks, says Tehran wants a stable Iraq where it can extend its sphere of influence.
“There is a bit of a balance there,“ he said. „Iran wants to have a government in Baghdad which is compliant and in line with Iran’s strategic thinking, both in Iraq and the broader region, but it also doesn’t want a country that is essentially slipping out of control.”
For American policy makers, there is no clear solution. They are faced at home with a nation tired of war and endless years of expensive reconstruction, and a choice between Iran or the Islamic State gaining strategic ground in Iraq.
But as U.S. policy makers wait, Fantappie says, Iran is taking over Iraq’s own security structure.
“It’s a wait and see attitude. It’s a wish of not involving into the restructuring of the state, but it’s also in a way a complete detachment from the full erosion of a state,” she said.
With Iraq’s weak government and tenuous control over tens of thousands of armed Shi’ite militia fighters, Iran will likely continue to play a crucial role in the country’s security. The question remains as to whether Tehran will turn out to be a long-term stabilizing influence or a potential source of even greater instability.

Weapon Grade Uranium Remains In S Africa (Rev 15:2)

Uranium stockpile will stay in country

Spare-bomb-casings-from-South-Africa-nuclear-weapon-programme
Spare bomb casings from South Africa’s nuclear weapon program (courtesy of Wikipedia)

March 19, 2015 at 12:59pm
By Peter Fabricius
Johannesburg – International Relations and Co-operation Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane made it very clear on Wednesday that South Africa was not going to hand over its stockpile of weapons-grade uranium to the US or anybody else.

“That would be an admission that we are unable to be not only a producer, but a safe custodian of the technology for peaceful means,” she said at a press conference in Pretoria on Wednesday.
“So no, we are not handing over to anybody else, not because we are against anyone, but because we think we have all the safeguards.”

She was referring to the stockpile of highly enriched uranium (HEU) extracted in 1990 from the six or seven nuclear bombs the apartheid government had built.

It is now stored in the Pelindaba Nuclear Research Centre, west of Pretoria.

According to a report by the Center for Public Integrity, a non-profit American investigative news organisation, US President Barack Obama has been urging President Jacob Zuma since 2011 to hand over the 220kg of HEU, which it fears could fall into the hands of terrorists.

But Nkoana-Mashabane was adamant that “we are not about to be handing over any of our material to anybody for safekeeping”.

“No, it’s going to be kept safely in the new democratic, non-racial South Africa.”

Independent Foreign Service

When Iran’s Nuclear Negotiations Fail (Daniel 7)

U.S. says to impose more sanctions if no Iran nuclear deal

Kerry
WASHINGTON | Thu Mar 19, 2015 4:03pm EDT

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Obama administration will work with Congress to impose further sanctions on Iran if a nuclear deal is not reached, a senior U.S. Treasury official said on Thursday, just weeks before a deadline for a political accord.

Iran and six world powers are seeking an agreement ahead of an end-March deadline to curb Iran’s most sensitive nuclear activities for at least 10 years in exchange for a gradual end to sanctions on Tehran.

U.S. lawmakers have been concerned the White House would cut Congress out of any nuclear deal, and would treat Iran too lightly.

“Our team stands ready to raise the costs on Iran substantially should it make clear that it is unwilling to address the international community’s concerns,” said Adam Szubin, the acting head of Treasury Department’s Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence.

Speaking before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Szubin also said the United States will remove sanctions on Iran only in stages as part of a nuclear deal, tied to Tehran’s “verifiable” steps in curbing its nuclear activities.

Even if a deal is reached, Washington still plans to keep sanctions tied to Iran’s support for militant groups, human rights abuses and other “destabilizing” activities in the Middle East, he said.
A letter signed by 47 Republican senators warned Iran that any nuclear deal with U.S. President Barack Obama could last only as long as he remained in office, in an unusual intervention into U.S. foreign policy-making.

“We are committed to working with Congress to ensure that our sanctions continue to serve our national security goals, whether to ensure that Iran abides by the conditions of a deal … or to raise the costs substantially if Iran demonstrates that further negotiations are futile,” Szubin said.

(Reporting by Anna Yukhananov; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Jeffrey Benkoe)