Prelude To A Nuclear Storm (Revelation 8)

Agni-11Storm in a teacup

The writer is a foreign policy expert based in Washington, DC
Last month, Indian-American scholar Vipin Narang stirred a storm by casting doubt on the sanctity of India’s No-First-Use (NFU) pledge on nuclear weapons and positing the possibility of Indian pre-emptive strikes against Pakistan. Since, the Pakistani state and several experts have pointed to the Indian hypocrisy of claiming an NFU that they no longer plan to honour.
I would have usually dismissed the response as business as usual. Worryingly, there is more, it seems. In the past few weeks, I have heard regular references to Narang’s comments in Pakistani policy circles, and even discussions suggesting that Pakistan must consider its implications seriously. The talk continues.
I am alarmed because I found some of these conversations to be strikingly similar to what I heard a decade ago when the Indian army floated its Cold Start doctrine — a Pakistan-specific limited war strategy conceived by the Indian army after the 2001-02 crisis with Pakistan.
In that crisis, India not only discovered that its nuclear weapons have no bearing on the ability of terrorists to strike inside India, but also that its ability to leverage its superior conventional might was neutralised by Pakistan’s nuclear deterrent. Cold Start offered India an option to wage limited war that would punish Pakistan selectively, without bringing Pakistani nuclear use in response into play.
In 2007, three years after Cold Start was floated, I, along with several other scholars, analysed this Indian doctrine threadbare. The question posed to me was why Pakistan had not reacted to the doctrine in any visible way. I argued that Pakistan hadn’t and wouldn’t because Cold Start did not alter the military’s Order of Battle, or its ability to neutralise India’s conventional aggression, given that its short lines of communication and forward bases already secured it against such an Indian adventure. I was wrong.

The state has never believed in the sanctity of the Indian NFU.

Pakistan reacted, in fact overreacted, by developing a fresh tactical nuclear weapon capability. Most objective analysts agree that Cold Start is simply not executable, and even if it were, Pakistan’s conventional forces could easily tackle it. Moreover, the Nasr missile defies decades of experience during the Cold War that confirms the exorbitant risks attached to fielding battlefield nuclear weapons.
For now, Nasr has offered the latest reason for the world to question the dangers posed by Pakistan’s nuclear programme.
The NFU saga is also a storm in a teacup, no more. Vipin Narang is a well-respected Indian-American scholar who neither speaks for the Indian establishment, nor claims to have any clout over it. He made these remarks while speaking on a conference panel that specifically focused on envisioning hypothetical scenarios that entailed nuclear weapons use.
As scholars often do in such gatherings, Narang went for a counterintuitive scenario rather than the run-of-the-mill one that would have envisioned a Pakistani first use, probably of its tactical nuclear weapon against invading Indian conventional forces. Basing his observations on the statements of senior Indian ex-officials, he posited Indian pre-emptive strikes against Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal. Narang clearly wished to provoke an analytical debate on the sanctity of India’s NFU.
But he wasn’t claiming anything had happened in the days preceding his talk that had made such an Indian first-use likelier than before.
I am not arguing that the concern about India’s loosening NFU is made up. Indeed, this has been an ongoing debate in India and several serious voices have hinted that the posture may not be as sacrosanct after all. It is also true that a country’s shift from NFU to first-use is no trivial development. Under certain contexts, it could require the rival to consider significant changes in force planning, postures, deployment protocols, etc.
Luckily, this isn’t the case for Pakistan.
The reality is that the Pakistani nuclear est­a­bl­­ishment and experts alike have never believed in the sanctity of the Indian NFU to begin with. No Pakistani nuclear or conventional choices assume a credible Indian NFU; in fact, all discount it.
This isn’t surprising. After all, even though an NFU directly impacts force requirements and postures, at its heart, it is a declaratory commitment that can never be fully verified. When rivals are as mutually distrusting as India and Pakistan, scepticism about such declarations is only natural.
But this also implies that Pakistan needn’t worry about an Indian shift away from the NFU, much less a fanciful scenario (according to Narang himself) of an Indian pre-emptive strike. This is the time to exhibit the psychological security that behooves a nuclear power confident of its capability. To the contrary, reacting to an independent scholar’s academic analysis in this manner suggests exactly the opposite.
The development of Nasr has already shown the kind of decisions such insecurity can produce. Pakistan must not fall in this trap again.
The writer is a foreign policy expert based in Washington, DC

The Iran Nuclear Horn Increases Its Uranium (Daniel 8:4)

President Hassan Rouhani (R) and AEOI head Ali Akbar Salehi unveil a rock core centrifuge, while FM Mohammad Javad Zarif (2nd L) and Vice President for science and technology Sorena Sattari look on in Tehran, April 9, 2017. (Photo by IRNA)
Mon Apr 10, 2017 8:1AM
Iran’s nuclear chief says the country is to produce about 40 tonnes of uranium this year, more than half the total amount yielded over the preceding years.
Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, made the remarks in a televised interview on Sunday.
Over 70 percent of the country’s terrain has been subjected to aerial prospecting for uranium, he said, adding, “Contrary to our previous perception, our country is not poor in uranium resources, and we will be able to satisfy our needs over the next several years.”
Should the country fail to produce its uranium, it will come under pressure in the process of obtaining it from foreign sources, Salehi said.
The official said that since the conclusion of the nuclear accord between Iran and the P5+1 countries — the US, the UK, France, Russia, and China plus Germany — in July 2015, the Islamic Republic has purchased 360 tonnes of yellowcake — a type of uranium condensate powder.
As a member of the Procurement Working Group of the Joint Commission monitoring the implementation of the nuclear agreement, the UK prevented Iran from further purchases of 900 tonnes, Salehi said.
“This is while it is up to us to decide how much (yellocake) we need. Therefore, we have to show to the opposite side that we are self-reliant so they do not make up excuses.”
Salehi said the Bushehr Nuclear Power Plant in southern Iran and two other facilities which are to be built over the next 10 years will need a total of 600 tonnes of uranium a year for their operation. 
Iran’s nuclear reversibility
Salehi said if the Iranian committee, tasked with observing the nuclear accord, decides that the other party has violated the deal, Tehran will roll back its nuclear program in such a way that it will surprise the opposite side. 

A general view of the Arak heavy-water project, 190 km southwest of Tehran January 15, 2011.

As per the agreement, Iran is forbidden from producing uranium and plutonium metals over the next 10 years, the official said, adding, “Of course, we have produced uranium metal in the past and know the way to produce it.”
Small nuclear reactors
Salehi said Iran has to build smaller reactors in the 100-megawatt range in the country’s central parts because big reactors need to be built near the sea for cooling.
According to the official, the construction of a 1,000-magawatt power plant similar to Bushehr requires some $5 billion of investment and involves energy waste during power transmission, while the cost of a 100-megawatt facility is significantly lower.
Salehi said negotiations have been held with the Chinese to build two 100-megawatt power plants in Iran, while nuclear agreements have been signed with the Czechs and Hungarians. Iran is further working with Slovakia and France since becoming a member of Euroatom, he added.
‘Building nuclear hospital afoot’
Austrian experts, Salehi said, would come to Iran over the next weeks to break the ground on a “nuclear hospital.”
The facility, which would be unique in West Asia, would take four years to build and revolutionize the country’s medical equipment.
Iran and China are also expected to finalize an agreement on redesigning Arak heavy water reactor in the upcoming weeks, Salehi said.
The 40-megawatt Arak reactor is intended to produce isotopes for cancer and other medical treatments. Iran is redesigning the planned research reactor to sharply cut its potential output of plutonium.
Salehi has said the amount of plutonium the reactor will be able to yield will be reduced to less than 1 kg a year from 9-10 kg in its original design.
Iran has removed the sensitive core of the Arak nuclear reactor and UN inspectors have visited the site to verify the move crucial to the implementation of Tehran’s nuclear agreement with major powers.

A Nuclear Saudi Arabia (Daniel 7:7)

By James M Dorsey
Redress, April 10, 2017

Saudi Arabia is developing nuclear energy and potentially a nuclear weapons capability.
The Saudi focus on nuclear serves a variety of the kingdom’s goals: diversification of its economy, reduction of its dependence on fossil fuels, countering a potential future Iranian nuclear capability, and enhancing efforts to ensure that Saudi Arabia rather than Iran emerges as the Middle East’s long-term, dominant power.
Cooperation on nuclear energy was one of 14 agreements worth $65 billion signed during last month’s visit to China by Saudi King Salman. The agreement is for a feasibility study for the construction of high-temperature gas-cooled (HTGR) nuclear power plants in the kingdom as well as cooperation in intellectual property and the development of a domestic industrial supply chain for HTGRs built in Saudi Arabia.
http://andrewtheprophet.comSaudi Arabia’s close ties to the Pakistani military and intelligence during the anti-Soviet jihad in Afghanistan in the 1980s gave the kingdom arms-length access to his country’s nuclear capabilities.
The agreement was one of number nuclear-related understandings concluded with China in recent years. Saudi Arabia has signed similar agreements with France, the United States, Pakistan, Russia, South Korea and Argentina.
To advance its programme, involving the construction of 16 reactors by 2030 at a cost of $100 billion, Saudi Arabia established the King Abdullah Atomic and Renewable Energy City devoted to research and application of nuclear technology.
Saudi cooperation with nuclear power Pakistan has long been a source of speculation about the kingdom’s ambition. Pakistan’s former ambassador to the United States, Husain Haqqani, asserts that Saudi Arabia’s close ties to the Pakistani military and intelligence during the anti-Soviet jihad in Afghanistan in the 1980s gave the kingdom arms-length access to his country’s nuclear capabilities.
“By the 1980s, the Saudi ambassador was a regular guest of A.Q. Khan” – Abdul Qadeer Khan, the controversial nuclear physicist and metallurgical engineer who fathered Pakistan’s atomic bomb, Mr Haqqani said in an interview.
Retired Pakistani Major-General Feroz Hassan Khan, the author of a semi-official history of Pakistan’s nuclear programme, has no doubt about the kingdom’s interest.
Saudi Arabia provided generous financial support to Pakistan that enabled the nuclear programme to continue, especially when the country was under sanctions,” Mr. Khan said in a separate interview. Mr Khan was referring to US sanctions imposed in 1998 because of Pakistan’s development of a nuclear weapons capability. He noted that at a time of economic crisis, Pakistan was with Saudi help able “to pay premium prices for expensive technologies”.
The Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) said in a just published report that it had uncovered evidence that future Pakistani “assistance would not involve Pakistan supplying Saudi Arabia with a full nuclear weapon or weapons; however, Pakistan may assist in other important ways, such as supplying sensitive equipment, materials, and know-how used in enrichment or reprocessing.”
There is little reason to doubt that Saudi Arabia will more actively seek nuclear weapons capabilities…
The report said it was unclear whether “Pakistan and Saudi Arabia may be cooperating on sensitive nuclear technologies in Pakistan. In an extreme case, Saudi Arabia may be financing, or will finance, an unsafeguarded uranium enrichment facility in Pakistan for later use, either in a civil or military programme,” the report said.
The report concluded that the 2015 international agreement dubbed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) to curb Iran’s nuclear programme had “not eliminated the kingdom’s desire for nuclear weapons capabilities and even nuclear weapons… There is little reason to doubt that Saudi Arabia will more actively seek nuclear weapons capabilities, motivated by its concerns about the ending of the JCPOA’s major nuclear limitations starting after year 10 of the deal or sooner if the deal fails,” the report said.
Rather than embarking on a covert programme, the report predicted that Saudi Arabia would, for now, focus on building up its civilian nuclear infrastructure as well as a robust nuclear engineering and scientific workforce. This would allow the kingdom to take command of all aspects of the nuclear fuel cycle at some point in the future. Saudi Arabia has in recent years significantly expanded graduate programmes at its five nuclear research centres.
Saudi officials have repeatedly insisted that the kingdom is developing nuclear capabilities for peaceful purposes such as medicine, electricity generation and desalination of sea water. They said Saudi Arabia is committed to putting its future facilities under the supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
Saudi Arabia pledged to acquire nuclear fuel from international markets in a 2009 memorandum of understanding with the United States. In its report, ISIS noted, however, that the kingdom could fall back on its own uranium deposits and acquire or build uranium enrichment or reprocessing plants of its own if regional tension continued to fester. It quoted a former IAEA inspector as saying Saudi Arabia could opt to do so in five years’ time.
Saudi Arabia’s nuclear agency has suggested that various steps of the nuclear fuel cycle, including fuel fabrication, processing and enrichment, would lend themselves to local production. Saudi Arabia has yet to mine or process domestic uranium.
“The current situation suggests that Saudi Arabia now has both a high disincentive to pursue nuclear weapons in the short term and a high motivation to pursue them over the long term…” (Institute for Science and International Security)
Saudi insistence on compliance with the IAEA and on the peaceful nature of its programme is designed to avoid the kind of international castigation Iran was subjected to. Saudi Arabia is likely to maintain its position as long as Iran adheres to the nuclear agreement and US President Donald J. Trump does not act on his campaign promise to tear up the accord. Mr Trump has toughened US attitudes towards Iran but has backed away from tinkering with the nuclear agreement.
“The current situation suggests that Saudi Arabia now has both a high disincentive to pursue nuclear weapons in the short term and a high motivation to pursue them over the long term,” the ISIS said.
Saudi ambitions and the conclusions of the ISIS report put a high premium on efforts by Kuwait and Oman to mediate an understanding between Saudi Arabia and Iran that would dull the sharp edges of the two countries’ rivalry.
They also are likely to persuade Mr Trump to try to put pressure on Iran to guarantee that it will not pursue nuclear weapons once the JCPOA expires in a little over a decade. That may prove a tall order given Mr Trump’s warming relations with anti-Iranian Arab autocracies evident in this week’s visit to Washington by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and an earlier visit by Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman.