Babylon’s Nuclear Program Asunder (Rev 15:2)

A B-52 Stratofortress is refueled in-flight April 2, 2014 over the Pacific Ocean near Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii.

Pentagon Has Done a Bad Job of Defending Nuclear Triad, Air Force General Says
​ With hundreds of billions of dollars in new nuclear weapons being eyed over the next two decades, Pentagon leaders are pushing the value of the mission.
During more than a decade of fighting insurgents in ground wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the Pentagon didn’t talk much about nuclear weapons or how it views the submarines, bombers and Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles, or ICBMs, that are essential to the deterrence mission.

Now faced with the need for hundreds of billions of dollars in improvements to the current U.S. nuclear stockpile and new nuclear equipment over the next two decades, Pentagon leaders are speaking up.

“We have not gone out to the American people, we have not discussed the continued relevance of the triad and the stability that it brings to us and our allies,” said Maj. Gen. Garrett Harencak, Air Force assistant chief of staff for strategic deterrence and nuclear integration. “Because of that, people are not realizing [the] tremendous value that it brings.”

The nuclear triad, referenced by Harencak at the Carnegie International Nuclear Policy conference on Monday, is the combination of ICBMs, submarines and strategic bomber aircraft. Outside of the think-tank world or every four years when the Pentagon writes a new Quadrennial Defense Review, leaders rarely talk about the triad.

The structure was developed during the Cold War as the U.S. and Soviet Union built up their nuclear deterrent. Decades later, all of the ICBMs, submarines, bombers — and the weapons themselves — are old and in need of replacement, military officials say.

“The triad works,” Harencak said. “The triad is a complementary system that we’ve had for decades that, across the entire spectrum, covers all the possible threats, the most extensive possible threats to America. It works.”

The Air Force is responsible for the Minuteman ICBMs and the bombers, while the Navy oversees the Ohio-Class nuclear submarine mission. The B-52, the oldest bomber in the Air Force’s fleet, has been flying since the 1950s. Its youngest bomber, the B-2, has been flying since the 1980s.

Air Force leaders say they need 80 to 100 new bombers to start flying by the mid-2020s in order to keep the bomber leg of the triad effective.

“It’s going to take time for the roll out,” Air Force Secretary Deborah James said Monday at the conference. “All 100 aren’t all going to be there in the mid-2020s.”

Right now, the Air Force is secretly evaluating bids submitted by Northrop Grumman and a Boeing-Lockheed Martin team for a new stealth bomber. The Pentagon is expected to announce a winner in the coming months.

For a classified program, Pentagon leaders spend a lot of time talking about the new stealth bomber. The project has seen steady support from senior Air Force and Pentagon leadership in recent years.

The Air Force had started working on a new bomber program last decade, but that project was derailed after an intense debate inside the Pentagon over whether the new planes were needed. When Pentagon leaders reconsidered the expensive project, Air Force brass successfully argued the project back into the Pentagon’s long-term plans.

Harencak says the upcoming aircraft’s ability fly deep behind enemy lines, undetected by radar, is a key aspect in future battles. Even if nuclear weapons were abolished tomorrow, the Air Force still needs “a penetrating, persistent bomber,” he argues.

The new Air Force bomber will carry nuclear weapons, but not until several years after it is deemed ready for conventional battle.

As Harencak said, “We are talking about an ability to allow no adversary to have sanctuary anywhere in the world.”

President Obama – Really? (Ezekiel 17)

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White House: ‘Death To America’ Comments in Iran Only Meant For ‘Domestic Audience’

CNN is reporting tonight that the White House considers the “Of course, death to America” comments made by Iran’s Supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, as merely statements “intended for a domestic political audience.”

That clueless take would be headline news everywhere right now if this were a Republican or conservative administration. The National Journal’s John Kraushaar’s tweet reporting that statement, and one reaction to it, follow the jump:

Well, at least that means Bibi Netanyahu won’t suffer any repercussions for anything he said during the final days of Israel’s election campaign last week, because, after all, those statements were only “intended for a domestic political audience.”

Wanna bet?

Over at Ace’s place, astute sardonic commenters have identified several other things throughout history only “intended for a domestic political audience,” and therefore apparently no one else’s business. Here are a few examples:

  • Mein Kampf.
  • Das Kapital.
  • The Koran.
  • Cambodia’s killing fields.
  • The Nazi gas chambers.

The willingness to overlook anything and everything negative emanating from Iran in the name of making a deal — any deal — couldn’t be more obvious.

The press also wants a deal — any deal. That’s why it’s highly unlikely that the White House’s foolishness noted here will get any establishment press notice.

Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.

– See more at: http://newsbusters.org/blogs/tom-blumer/2015/03/24/white-house-death-america-comments-iran-only-meant-domestic-audience#sthash.oMHLjJSI.dpuf

Middle East Nuclear Race Heats Up (Daniel 7)

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The Middle East Nuclear Race Is Already Under Way

With the exception of Israel, which has never publicly acknowledged its widely known nuclear arsenal, no Middle Eastern country beyond Iran had a nuclear program — peaceful or otherwise — until the wealthy United Arab Emirates began building a reactor in July 2012 (due for completion in 2017). The list now includes, in addition to Egypt, Turkey, Jordan and Saudi Arabia — the last Iran’s archrival, and which last year revealed plans to build 16 nuclear plants over the next two decades. When the President of South Korea — which has 23 nuclear plants of its own — visited the Kingdom earlier this month, leaders of both countries signed a memo of understanding calling for Seoul to build two of the nuclear plants. The Saudis have made similar arrangements with China, Argentina and France.

“It’s not just because nuclear power is seen as a first step toward a nuclear-weapons option,” says Mark Fitzpatrick, a former U.S. State Department nuclear expert who now runs the nonproliferation and disarmament program at London’s International Institute for Strategic Studies. “There is also a prestige factor: keeping up with the neighbors.”

Middle Eastern nations may have legitimate reasons to invest in nuclear energy. Jordan, for instance, has almost no oil in liquid form, and almost less water. Saudi Arabia and the UAE possess huge crude reserves, but lose potential export revenue when they burn oil at home to create electricity — huge amounts of which are sucked up by desalination plants. Turkey, despite impressive hydroelectric potential, must import oil and natural gas.

But all that has been true for decades. What’s changed in recent years is the nuclear capabilities of Iran — a Shi‘ite Muslim country Sunni leaders have come to regard as major threat. Jordan’s King Abdullah II famously warned of a “Shia crescent” of Iran-aligned countries reaching from the Mediterranean to the Persian Gulf. The Saudis have made it clear that they will acquire a nuclear weapon should Iran get one.

 “This is not the shortest way to a nuclear weapon, by any means,” says Sharon Squassoni, director of the proliferation-prevention program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C. “But if I put myself in their shoes, I’d think it probably makes sense to start down this path to see if we can develop a civilian nuclear [program], and if we pick up some capabilities along the way, that’s all right.”

Suspicion rises with every new announcement partly because the Middle East is bucking a global trend. Worldwide, the number of nuclear plants has declined since the meltdown at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi plant in 2011. Reactions differed by country. Germany forswore nuclear energy altogether after the disaster, while China pressed ahead, planning more than 100 new reactors. But in most places, the environmental risks and high costs have turned countries off nuclear power.

“My beef with nuclear energy is that it’s sort of held up as this very prestigious thing,” Squassoni tells TIME. “We do nuclear deals with our best allies … all this stuff about strategic partnership. And really, it’s this extremely expensive, complicated, slightly dangerous way to boil water. And that’s what you’re doing, right? You’re boiling water to turn those turbines.”

The expense alone may prevent some Middle Eastern nations from every actually joining the “nuclear club.” Building an atomic plant costs at least $5 billion, Fitzpatrick notes, and Egypt is desperately poor; Jordan relies heavily on remittances and foreign aid. But the Saudis still have money to burn and, according to former White House official Gary Samore, have consistently rebuffed U.S.

imprecations to sign a pledge not to divert any nuclear program toward producing a bomb (a pledge the UAE took). Saudi Arabia has signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, but then so has Iran, and in the end a race can be run by as few as two: India and Pakistan, bitter neighbors, neither of which are rich, went nuclear in 1974 and 1998, respectively. They’ve gone to war once since, raising anxiety levels around the world.

So the talks in Switzerland are about more than preventing Iran from getting the bomb. They are also about persuading Iran’s neighbors that the nuclear option is effectively off the table. If the talks end with a final agreement that looks like a win for the Islamic Republic, diplomats say its neighbors will fast track their own plans. “If the accord is not sufficiently solid then regional countries would say it’s not serious enough, so we are also going to get the nuclear weapon,” French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told Europe 1 Radio on Saturday. “And that would lead to an extremely dangerous nuclear proliferation.”

IAEA Displays Their Incompetence Beforehand (Rev 15:2)

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U.N. Agency Unsure About Iran’s Past Nuclear Activity

Iran hasn’t sufficiently answered questions about its nuclear program’s history, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency says.

By March 23, 2015
As a deadline approaches next week for an agreement on Iran’s nuclear program, the head of the U.N. agency in charge of nuclear inspections said his organization is unable to ensure that all of Iran’s nuclear material is intended for peaceful purposes.

“We are still not in a position to conclude that all nuclear material in Iran is [for a] peaceful purpose,” Yukiya Amano, director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said at the Carnegie International Nuclear Policy Conference in Washington on Monday. “Progress has been very limited in clarifying issues with possible military dimensions.”

The IAEA is the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog, and is responsible for monitoring Iran’s nuclear activities. It isn’t party to the current nuclear negotiations between Iran and six major world powers, including the U.S., but is charged with ensuring the implementation of an interim agreement governing the talks until a final deal is reached. IAEA inspectors are on the ground in Iran and have access to the country’s nuclear facilities to ensure it is no longer enriching uranium.

“We will remain the eyes and ears of the international community on nuclear matters in Iran,” Amano said. “We expect Iran to be as transparent as possible.”

Amano stressed that his agency is responsible for clarifying the technical elements of Iran’s nuclear program, but that it is up to U.N. member states to determine the appropriate response to any violations.

A confidential IAEA report detailed by Reuters last week said that Iran continues to meet its obligations under the interim Joint Plan of Action and is not enriching uranium above a 5 percent concentration. But Amano said Monday that although Iran has been compliant, the country has not sufficiently addressed other issues his agency raised in a 2011 report, which focused on 12 areas of concern about the possible military dimensions of its past nuclear activities.

A bipartisan group of U.S. representatives also expressed concern that Iran has not revealed the full extent of its previous nuclear actions in a letter to President Barack Obama on Friday.

“Unless we have a full understanding of Iran’s past program it will be impossible for the international community to judge Iran’s future breakout time with certainty,” the 367 House members wrote.

Pakistan Prepares For Conventional NUCLEAR War (Daniel 8:8)

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With Military Parade, Pakistan Sends Message to India, Taliban

Today, Pakistan held its first military parade after a seven-year suspension due to “security concerns” amidst an escalating conflict with the Pakistani Taliban. The last parade was held on March 23, 2008 and reviewed by then-President Pervez Musharraf.

March 23 holds special importance in Pakistan. On that date in 1940, the All-India Muslim league adopted a resolution for the creation of “independent states” for Muslims in northwestern and eastern British India. The resolution was later interpreted to have been a specific call for the creation of Pakistan.

The March 23 parade is meant to illustrate Islamabad’s resolve, sending messages to both its nuclear-armed neighbor India and to Taliban extremists. “Pakistan is resolved to redeem its pledge given to its founding fathers that it will protect the homeland,” Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif emphasized in a statement.

This year, personnel from all three service branches, the Army, Navy, and Air Force, participated in the parade — including the army’s strategic command force, which administers Islamabad’s land-based nuclear weapons arsenal.

The parade featured nuclear-capable and conventional missiles, including Nasr, Shaheen, Ghauri, Babur, and Ghaznavi weapons systems, indigenously manufactured tanks  (such as the Al-Zarar,  and  Al-Khalid models), and  a squadron of JF-17 Thunder fighter jets, a multi-role combat aircraft jointly developed by China and Pakistan.

Next to the regular army, air force, and navy units defiling past Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, President Mamnoon Hussain, army chief Raheel Sharif and other dignitaries, paramilitary forces (including the Frontier Corps and Pakistan Rangers) and the police also marched on the new Parade Ground, specifically built for this occasion near the Shakarparian hills in Islamabad.

A particular highlight was the flyover of Pakistan’s first locally manufactured armed UAV – the Burraq drone equipped with the laser-guided Barq missile, which was successfully tested for the first time on March 13, 2015.

The drone “will enormously help in the campaign against militants,” a government official said. Almost a third of Pakistan’s military is engaged in fighting Taliban extremists in the Af-Pak border region.

“I believe the Chinese helped Pakistan manufacture these drones, which fits into the pattern of this relationship,” a Western defense official notes in recent a Financial Times article.

However, notably absent from the parade ground was China’s President Xi Jinping, who officially had been invited in January this year. Many observers perceived that invitation to be Pakistan’s direct response to Barack Obama’s presence as “chief guest” at India’s Republic Day parade in New Delhi at the beginning of 2015.

Islamabad cited security reasons for  China’s declining the invitation. But even though Xi did not put in an appearance, “there will be plenty of China to see,” as the Western defense official put it.

Between 2010 to 2014, Pakistan was China’s top customers in military hardware. According to the Financial Times, Chinese defense technology constitutes the “ the bulk of Pakistan’s military arsenal.”

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi posted a conciliatory response to the recent display of Pakistan’s military prowess on Twitter: “It is my firm conviction that all outstanding issues can be resolved through bilateral dialogue in an atmosphere free from terror and violence.”

In an interview with The Diplomat, Pakistan’s ambassador to the U.S., Jalil Abbas Jilani, emphasized the importance of “trust building through continued dialogue and engagement,” including in Pakistan-India relations. Jilani also warned of the dangers of a “growing military imbalance in a region beset with long standing territorial conflicts.”

For further reading on military parades in Asia, see my commentary in the International New York Times, “Parades to Fear, Not Celebrate.”