The Terror of the Pakistan Nuclear Horn

Pakistan and Nuclear Terrorism

Shamsa Ishfaq

Pakistan as an Islamic nuclear power was always anathema for India, the US and much of the Western world. The US, of all, worked ceaselessly to reverse Pakistan’s nuclear and missile programmes despite fact that Pakistan has been closest ally. It is worth mentioning that endeavour to roll back Pakistan’s nuclear programme has intensified since the emergence of the American alliance with India.
Apart from the discriminatory technological and political restrictions it has long imposed against Pakistan’s strategic programmes, the US now demands that Pakistan unilaterally halt fissile material production and the development and deployment of short and long-range nuclear-capable missiles. On the other hand, it is actively assisting India in enlarging and modernizing its nuclear arsenal, its missile and anti-ballistic missile capabilities, its air and naval forces, as well as satellite and space capabilities. Notwithstanding that, arms deals with US including nuclear submarine and drone sales to New Delhi will increase Indian hostility in the region and insecurity of neighboring countries while completely upsetting the regional strategic balance.
There are credible and unclassified reports about the US having formulated plans to seize or destroy Pakistan’s nuclear weapons in a crisis. American think tanks have concocted scenarios of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons falling into the hands of terrorists or, even more absurdly, of the Pakistan Army turning into an ‘extremist’ or ‘jihadi’ force. Indeed, such scary scenarios could be engineered as an excuse to execute the ‘seize or destroy’ plans.

As far as Pakistan is concerned, its nuclear safety and security is the cornerstone of its nuclear program. There has not been a single incident to date where the IS, Daesh, Al-Qaeda or any other terrorist organization could have an access to the nuclear assets. As a matter of fact, the credible security standards do not allow a room at all for such an eventuality. Pakistan’s security measures to protect its nuclear assets against internal and external threats are among the best in the world.

Contrary to this, diversity of freedom movements currently in progress in India are not only an open display of India’s compromised internal security but also speak volumes of its unstable nuclear security protocols. Incident of Indian nuclear submarine (INS Chakra) with six other incidents concerning nuclear safety, violating IAEA standards, raise serious question about its security protocols as well. Most importantly, if the danger of a terrorist takeover exists due to breach of ‘normal nuclear status’ in South Asia, questions should be raised about India’s nuclear arsenal which are held under loose civilian control.

Pakistan has adopted potent measures as part of Nuclear Security Action Plan (NSAP), Mobile Expert Support Teams (MEST) and Nuclear Emergency Management System (NEMS) to respond and manage nuclear emergencies and securities. Also Pakistan is part of the Convention on Physical Protection of Nuclear Material (CPPNM) and is playing a leading role in global nuclear safety and security and export control regime according to the standards of NSG and Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR). It is due to potent security measure that despite political turmoil in Pakistan the international consensus on Pakistan’s nuclear program is obvious as neither terrorist networks, nor any external power is capable to seize its nuclear weapons.

The negative voices against the programme are results of hostile efforts to undermine Pakistan’s nuclear security in the garb of terrorism and Western and Zionist fear of a Muslim country holding nuclear weapons.
Amid this scenario, it is India whose political and military leaders continue to speak of ‘surgical strikes’ and a ‘limited’ war against Pakistan, which needs to be tamed. It is US that needs to be checked and made to realize that its support of India’s unilateral membership of the NSG pose a serious threat to regional stability. Global powers must understand that chasing Pakistan’s nuclear programme on the pretext of nuclear terrorism would reap no benefit and if international non-proliferation regime is to retain both its legitimacy and control, it is vital that the culture of ‘exceptionalism’ be discarded.

The Ramapo Fault and the Sixth Seal (Revelation 6:12)

http://www.ldeo.columbia.edu/news/2004/images/ramapo_factsheet_img_0.gif

Living on the Fault Line

Posted June 15, 2010 by Wayne J. Guglielmo

 

The couple checked with Burns’s parents, who live in nearby Basking Ridge, and they, too, had heard and felt something, which they thought might have been an earthquake. A call by Burns some 20 minutes later to the Bernardsville Police Department—one of many curious and occasionally panicky inquiries that Sunday morning, according to the officer in charge, Sergeant John Remian—confirmed their suspicion: A magnitude 2.6 earthquake, its epicenter in Peapack/Gladstone, about seven miles from Bernardsville, had hit the area. A smaller aftershock followed about two and a half hours later.

 

After this year’s epic earthquakes in Haiti, Chile, Mexico, Indonesia, and China, the 2.6 quake and aftershock that shook parts of New Jersey in February may seem minor league, even to the Somerset County residents who experienced them. On the exponential Richter Scale, a magnitude 7.0 quake like the one that hit Haiti in January is almost 4 million times stronger than a quake of 2.6 magnitude. But comparisons of magnitude don’t tell the whole story.

 

Northern New Jersey straddles the Ramapo Fault, a significant ancient crack in the earth’s crust. The longest fault in the Northeast, it begins in Pennsylvania and moves into New Jersey, trending northeast through Hunterdon, Somerset, Morris, Passaic, and Bergen counties before terminating in New York’s Westchester County, not far from the Indian Point Energy Center, a nuclear power plant. And though scientists dispute how active this roughly 200 million-year-old fault really is, many earthquakes in the state’s surprisingly varied seismic history are believed to have occurred on or near it. The fault line is visible at ground level and likely extends as deep as nine miles below the surface.

 

During the past 230 years or so, New Jersey has been at the epicenter of nearly 170 earthquakes, according to data compiled by the New Jersey Geological Survey, part of the United States Department of Environmental Protection. The largest known quake struck in 1783, somewhere west of New York City, perhaps in Sussex County. It’s typically listed as 5.3 in magnitude, though that’s an estimate by seismologists who are quick to point out that the concept of magnitude—measuring the relative size of an earthquake—was not introduced until 1935 by Charles Richter and Beno Gutenberg. Still, for quakes prior to that, scientists are not just guessing.

 

“We can figure out the damage at the time by going back to old records and newspaper accounts,” says Won-Young Kim, a senior research scientist at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in Palisades, New York, directly across the New Jersey border. “Once the amount and extent of contemporary damage has been established,” Kim says, “we’re then able to gauge the pattern of ground shaking or intensity of the event—and from there extrapolate its probable magnitude.”

 

Other earthquakes of magnitude 5 or higher have been felt in New Jersey, although their epicenters laying near New York City. One—which took place in 1737 and was said to have been felt as far north as Boston and as far south as northern Delaware—was probably in the 5 to 5.5 range. In 1884, an earthquake of similar magnitude occurred off New York’s Rockaway Beach. This well-documented event pulled houses off their foundations and caused steeples to topple as far west as Rahway. The shock wave, scientists believe, was felt over 70,000 square miles, from Vermont to Maryland.

 

Among the largest sub-5 magnitude earthquakes with epicenters in New Jersey, two (a 3.8 and a 4.0) took place on the same day in 1938 in the Lakehurst area in Ocean County. On August 26, 2003, a 3.5 magnitude quake shook the Frenchtown/Milford area in Hunterdon County. On February 3 of last year, a 3.0 magnitude quake occurred in the Morris County town of Mendham. “A lot of people felt this one because of the intense shaking, although the area of intensity wasn’t very wide,” says Lamont-Doherty’s Kim, who visited the site after the event.

 

After examining the known historical and geological record, Kim and other seismologists have found no clear evidence that an earthquake of greater than 5.3 to 5.5 magnitude has taken place in this area going back to 1737. This doesn’t mean, of course, that one did not take place in the more remote past or that one will not occur in the future; it simply means that a very large quake is less likely to occur here than in other places in the east where the seismic hazard is greater, including areas in South Carolina and northeastern New York State.

 

Given this low-hazard, high-vulnerability scenario, how far along are scientists in their efforts to predict larger magnitude earthquakes in the New Jersey area? The answer is complex, complicated by the state’s geographical position, its unique geological history, the state of seismology itself, and the continuing debate over the exact nature and activity of the Ramapo Fault.

Over millions of years, New Jersey developed four distinct physiographic provinces or regions, which divide the state into a series of diagonal slices, each with its own terrain, rock type, and geological landforms.

 

The northernmost slice is the Valley and Ridge, comprising major portions of Sussex and Warren counties. The southernmost slice is the Coastal Plain, a huge expanse that covers some three-fifths of the state, including all of the Shore counties. Dividing the rest of the state are the Highlands, an area for the most part of solid but brittle rock right below the Valley and Ridge, and the lower lands of the Piedmont, which occupy all of Essex, Hudson, and Union counties, most of Bergen, Hunterdon, and Somerset, and parts of Middlesex, Morris, and Passaic.

 

For earthquake monitors and scientists, the formation of these last two provinces—the Highlands and the Piedmont—are of special interest. To understand why, consider that prior to the appearance of the Atlantic Ocean, today’s Africa was snuggled cozily up against North America and surrounded by a single enormous ocean. “At that point, you could have had exits off the New Jersey Turnpike for Morocco,” says Alexander Gates, professor of geology and chair of the department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Rutgers-Newark.

 

Under the pressure of circulating material within the Earth’s super-hot middle layer, or mantle, what was once a single continent—one that is thought to have included today’s other continents as well—began to stretch and eventually break, producing numerous cracks or faults and ultimately separating to form what became the Atlantic Ocean. In our area, the longest and most active of these many cracks was the Ramapo Fault, which, through a process known as normal faulting, caused one side of the earth’s crust to slip lower—the Piedmont—relative to the other side—the Highlands. “All this occurred about 225 million years ago,” says Gates. “Back then, you were talking about thousands of feet between the Highlands and the Piedmont and a very active Ramapo Fault.”

The Earth’s crust, which is 20 to 25 miles thick, is not a single, solid shell, but is broken into seven vast tectonic plates, which drift atop the soft, underlying mantle. Although the northeast-trending Ramapo Fault neatly divides two of New Jersey’s four physiographic provinces, it does not form a so-called plate boundary, as does California’s infamous San Andreas Fault. As many Californians know all too well, this giant fault forms the boundary between two plates—to the west, the Pacific Plate, and to the east, the North American Plate; these rub up against each other, producing huge stresses and a regularly repeating pattern of larger earthquakes.

This second bit of uncertainty is especially troubling for some people, including some in the media who want a neat story. To get around it, they ignore the differences between plate settings and link all of New Jersey’s earthquakes, either directly or implicitly, to the Ramapo Fault. In effect, such people want the Ramapo Fault “to look like the San Andreas Fault,” says Gates. “They want to be able to point to one big fault that’s causing all of our earthquakes.”

 

Gates does not think that’s the case, and he has been working with colleagues for a number of years to prove it. “What we have found is that there are smaller faults that generally cut from east to west across the northeast-trending Ramapo Fault,” he explains. “These much smaller faults are all over the place, and they’re actually the ones that are the active faults in the area.”

But what mechanisms are responsible for the formation of these apparently active auxiliary faults? One such mechanism, say scientists, is the westward pressure the Atlantic Ocean exerts on the North American Plate, which for the most part resists any movement. “I think we are in an equilibrium state most of the time,” says Lamont-Doherty’s Kim.

 

Still, that continuous pressure on the plate we sit on causes stress, and when that stress builds up sufficiently, the earth’s crust has a tendency to break around any weak zones. In our area, the major weak zone is the Ramapo Fault—“an ancient zone of weakness,” as Kim calls it. That zone of weakness exacerbates the formation of auxiliary faults, and thereby the series of minor earthquakes the state has experienced over the years.

 

All this presupposes, of course, that any intraplate stress in this area will continue to be released gradually, in a series of relatively minor earthquakes or releases of energy. But what if that were not the case? What if the stress continued to build up, and the release of large amounts of energy came all at once? In crude terms, that’s part of the story behind the giant earthquakes that rocked what is now New Madrid, Missouri, between 1811 and 1812. Although estimates of their magnitude have been revised downward in recent years to less than magnitude 8, these earthquakes are generally regarded as among the largest intraplate events to have occurred in the continental United States.

For a number of reasons—including the relatively low odds that the kind of stored energy that unleashed the New Madrid events could ever build up here—earthquakes of plus-6 magnitude are probably not in our future. Still, says Kim, even a magnitude 6 earthquake in certain areas of the state could do considerable damage, especially if its intensity or ground shaking was of sufficient strength. In a state as geologically diverse and densely populated as New Jersey, this is a crucial wild card.

 

Part of the job of the experts at the New Jersey Geological Survey is to assess the seismic hazards in different parts of the state. To do this, they use a computer-simulation model developed under the direction of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, known as HAZUS, for Hazards US. To assess the amount of ground shaking likely to occur in a given county during events ranging in magnitude from 5 to 7 on the Richter Scale, NJGS scientists enter three features of a county’s surface geology into their computer model. Two of these features relate to the tendency of soil in a given area to lose strength, liquefy, or slide downhill when shaken. The third and most crucial feature has to do with the depth and density of the soil itself and the type of bedrock lying below it; this is a key component in determining a region’s susceptibility to ground shaking and, therefore, in estimating the amount of building and structural damage that’s likely to occur in that region. Estimates for the various counties—nine to date have been studied—are sent to the New Jersey Office of Emergency Management, which provided partial funding for the project.

To appreciate why this element of ground geology is so crucial to earthquake modelers, consider the following: An earthquake’s intensity—which is measured on something called the Modified Mercalli Scale—is related to a number of factors. The amount of energy released or the magnitude of an event is clearly a big factor. But two earthquakes of the same magnitude can have very different levels of intensity; in fact, it’s quite possible for a lower magnitude event to generate more ground shaking than a higher magnitude one.

 

In addition to magnitude, other factors that affect intensity are the distance of the observer or structure from the epicenter, where intensity is the greatest; the depth beneath the surface of the initial rupture, with shallower ruptures producing more ground shaking than deeper ones; and, most significantly, the ground geology or material that the shock wave generated by the earthquake must pass through.

 

As a rule, softer materials like sand and gravel shake much more intensely than harder materials, because the softer materials are comparatively inefficient energy conductors, so whatever energy is released by the quake tends to be trapped, dispersing much more slowly. (Think of a bowl of Jell-O on a table that’s shaking.)

In contrast, harder materials, like the solid rock found widely in the Highlands, are brittle and break under pressure, but conduct energy well, so that even big shock waves disperse much more rapidly through them, thereby weakening the amount of ground shaking. “If you’ve read any stories about the 1906 earthquake in San Francisco, you know the most intense damage was in those flat, low areas by the Bay, where the soil is soft, and not in the hilly, rocky areas above,” says Karl Muessig, state geologist and NJGS head.

 

The map that accompanies the online version of the NJGS’s Earthquake Loss Estimation Study divides the state’s surface geology into five seismic soil classes, ranging from Class A, or hard rock, to Class E, or soft soil (state.nj.us/dep/njgs/enviroed/hazus.htm).

 

Although the weakest soils are scattered throughout the state, including the Highlands, which besides harder rock also contains areas of glacial lakes, clays, and wetlands, they are most evident in the Piedmont and the Coastal Plain. “The largest expanses of them are in coastal areas where you have salt marshes or large glacial lakes, as in parts of the Passaic River basin,” says Scott Stanford, a research scientist with NJGS and lead author of the estimate. Some of the very weakest soils, Stanford adds, are in areas of filled marshland, including places along the Hudson waterfront, around Newark Bay and the Meadowlands, and along the Arthur Kill.

 

Faults in these areas—and in the coastal plain generally—are far below the ground, perhaps several hundred to a thousand feet down, making identification difficult. “There are numerous faults upon which you might get earthquake movement that we can’t see, because they’re covered by younger sediments,” Stanford says.

 

This combination of hidden faults and weak soils worries scientists, who are all too aware that parts of the coastal plain and Piedmont are among the most densely populated and developed areas in the state. (The HAZUS computer model also has a “built environment” component, which summarizes, among other things, types of buildings in a given area.) For this reason, such areas would be in the most jeopardy in the event of a large earthquake.

For example, in the study’s loss estimate for Essex County, which includes Newark, the state’s largest city, a magnitude 6 event would result in damage to 81,600 buildings, including almost 10,000 extensively or completely; 36,000 people either displaced from their homes or forced to seek short-term shelter; almost $9 million in economic losses from property damage and business interruption; and close to 3,300 injuries and 50 fatalities. (The New York City Area Consortium for Earthquake Loss Mitigation has conducted a similar assessment for New York City, at nycem.org.)

 

All of this suggests the central irony of New Jersey geology: The upland areas that are most prone to earthquakes—the counties in or around the Ramapo Fault, which has spawned a network of splays, or auxiliary faults—are much less densely populated and sit, for the most part, on good bedrock. These areas are not invulnerable, certainly, but, by almost all measures, they would not sustain very severe damage, even in the event of a higher magnitude earthquake. The same can’t be said for other parts of the state, where the earthquake hazard is lower but the vulnerability far greater. Here, the best we can do is to prepare—both in terms of better building codes and a constantly improving emergency response.

 

Meanwhile, scientists like Rutgers’s Gates struggle to understand the Earth’s quirky seismic timetable: “The big thing with earthquakes is that you can commonly predict where they are going to occur,” Gates says. “When they’re going to come, well, we’re nowhere near being able to figure that out.”

 

***********************

For the men and women of the state police who manage and support the New Jersey Office of Emergency Management (OEM), the response to some events, like hurricanes, can be marshalled in advance. But an earthquake is what responders call a no-notice event.

 

In New Jersey, even minor earthquakes—like the one that shook parts of Somerset County in February—attract the notice of local, county, and OEM officials, who continuously monitor events around the state from their Regional Operations and Intelligence Center (The ROIC) in West Trenton, a multimillion dollar command-and-control facility that has been built to withstand 125 mph winds and a 5.5 magnitude earthquake. In the event of a very large earthquake, during which local and county resources are apt to become quickly overwhelmed, command and control authority would almost instantly pass to West Trenton.

 

Here, officials from the state police, representatives of a galaxy of other state agencies, and a variety of communications and other experts would assemble in the cavernous and ultra-high tech Emergency Operations Center to oversee the state’s response. “A high-level earthquake would definitely cause the governor to declare a state of emergency,” says OEM public information officer Nicholas J. Morici. “And once that takes place, our emergency operations plan would be put in motion.”

 

Emergency officials have modeled that plan—one that can be adapted to any no-notice event, including a terrorist attack—on response methodologies developed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. At its core is a series of seventeen emergency support functions, ranging from transportation to firefighting, debris removal, search and rescue, public health, and medical services. A high-magnitude event would likely activate all of these functions, says Morici, along with the human and physical resources needed to carry them out—cranes and heavy trucks for debris removal, fire trucks and teams for firefighting, doctors and EMTs for medical services, buses and personnel carriers for transportation, and so on.

 

This is where an expert like Tom Rafferty comes in. Rafferty is a Geographic Information Systems Specialist attached to the OEM. His job during an emergency is to keep track electronically of which resources are where in the state, so they can be deployed quickly to where they are needed. “We have a massive database called the Resource Directory Database in which we have geolocated municipal, county, and state assets to a very detailed map of New Jersey,” Rafferty says. “That way, if there is an emergency like an earthquake going on in one area, the emergency managers can quickly say to me, for instance, ‘We have major debris and damage on this spot of the map. Show us the location of the nearest heavy hauler. Show us the next closest location,’ and so on.”

 

A very large quake, Rafferty says, “could overwhelm resources that we have as a state.” In that event, OEM has the authority to reach out to FEMA for additional resources and assistance. It can also call upon the private sector—the Resource Directory has been expanded to include non-government assets—and to a network of volunteers. “No one has ever said, ‘We don’t want to help,’” Rafferty says. New Jersey officials can also request assistance through the Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC), an agreement among the states to help each other in times of extreme crisis.

 

“You always plan for the worst,” Rafferty says, “and that way when the worst doesn’t happen, you feel you can handle it if and when it does.”

 

Contributing editor Wayne J. Guglielmo lives in Mahwah, near the Ramapo Fault.

Preparing For Korea’s Next Nuclear Test

Doug Tsuruoka

Security, Asia

And would Trump launch a military attack in response?

EMP Detonation, Nuclear Blast or ICBM Test? What is North Korea’s Next Move?

Donald Trump got a few laughs when he dubbed North Korean leader Kim Jong-un “little rocket man” after the lyrics of Elton John’s hit 1970s song. But as the US president knows, Kim’s fuse isn’t burning out. In fact, the buzz among top Korea analysts is that Pyongyang is lighting the way for at least one more long-range missile test.

The aim would be to show the US, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that the regime has mastered the intricacies of nuclear warhead miniaturization, re-entry and range. But some analysts warn that a misreading by Washington of such a test could trigger war.

Fueling speculation that a big demonstration may be due is the fact that North Korea hasn’t sent anything aloft for more than eight weeks – since its Hwasong-12 intermediate range ballistic missile launch on September 15 to be exact.

Ralph Cossa, president of the Pacific Forum at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), told United Press International on Thursday that North Korea might undertake another missile test to convince the US that it can hit its furthest shores — not just the West Coast or Alaska.

“Once they are convinced that we are convinced that they’re capable of hitting Washington and New York they will then put their nuclear capabilities in their pocket, and be very agreeable to talking about a freeze,” Cossa said. “But it won’t be a freeze for a freeze, as China and others have recommended, it will be a freeze for aid or a lifting of sanctions.”

Cossa’s assessment was supported a few days earlier by an analysis on 38 North by veteran Korea watcher Robert Carlin. Carlin argues that Pyongyang, euphoric over its two successful long-range missile launches in July, may think its strategic position vs. the US to now be unassailable. This might convince the regime to step back from the brink of nuclear war and settle for “practical equilibrium” with the US.

One more fatal step?

But before this can happen, Carlin warned, North Korea might be tempted to take “one more fatal step” that triggers a military response from a US president who doesn’t grasp Pyongyang’s real intentions.

“Watching events in Washington, it would not be surprising if the North has concluded that the President is too weak and embattled to take decisive action in response,” the former State Department intelligence honcho wrote on the respected Johns Hopkins University platform devoted to North Korean affairs.

What might that “fatal step” be? Carlin doesn’t say, but he’s clearly talking about another nuke or missile test of unknown type and scale. The possibilities include anything from another Hwasong-14 long-range missile test to North Korea’s threatened atmospheric detonation of an H-bomb somewhere over the Pacific. Some analysts warn that Pyongyang might even consider testing an infrastructure-paralyzing electromagnetic pulse, or EMP, device.

Joe Brazda, a nonproliferation expert at the Middlebury Institute for International Studies at Monterey, has cited data showing that North Korea’s top-of-the-line Hwasong-14 ICBM can reach Chicago and possibly the East Coast. Proving once and for all that the rocket can hit New York or Washington would be the final icing on Kim’s uranium cake.

Trump, who seems confident that his strategy of hurling insults with a few dove feathers at Kim is working, might be dumbfounded by such a move and could opt for military action, according to Carlin.

China’s example

Kim, for his part, has historical precedent on his side for conducting what might be described as the mother of all tests. Back in the 1960s, the Pentagon belittled China’s ability to develop a nuclear arsenal with an effective delivery capability. Beijing responded in 1966 by launching a test missile armed with a live nuclear warhead that successfully detonated in the Gobi Desert. This put to rest any doubts that China was a nuclear superpower.

Will exuberance over its nukes persuade Pyongyang to go a test too far? Hopefully not.

There’s another possibility: North Korea will conduct another test or two but stop just short of the red line that invites annihilation by the US. Its next exercises in missilery will also leave no doubt that it has the recipe for nuclear deterrence. Despite seemingly mad political theatrics, North Korea has proven over the years that it’s a rational state actor capable of shrewdly measured acts. Kim Jong-un, to paraphrase Elton John’s lyrics, plans to be around for a “long, long time.”

Doug Tsuruoka is Editor-at-Large of Asia Times where this first appeared

Image: Reuters. 

Iran Plans for Nuclear Bomb (Daniel 8:4)

 

Work surrounding Iran’s latest secret nuclear site continues unabated, new satellite images from DigitalGlobe show.

The existence of the site was revealed by WND on Oct. 8.

The site – Velayat 1 – which is in the province of Isfahan on the outskirts of the small city of Najafabad, was built for research and development and has a capacity of 800 centrifuges for uranium enrichment. It already has successfully tested a neutron detonator and implosion system for a nuclear bomb.

According to the source for the exclusive WND report, research at the site includes design of a nuclear warhead for the Iranian Shahab-3 ballistic missile, which is now almost complete. The source added that there is also a nuclear reactor at the site along with a separation plant as another path to acquire a nuclear bomb.

To avoid suspicion, the site was built below a medicine factory called Abu Reyhan. The facility beneath the factory has three levels, with two underground entrances away from the facility.

This is where the father of Iran’s nuclear program, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh-Mahabadi, assisted by 10 other scientists, is working on Iran’s nuclear bomb program, within the SEPAND project (known by the IAEA as SPND) and under the AMAD (weapons program) to build atomic warheads.

The new images of the above-ground facility show that main buildings have been completed.

This is an image by Google Earth that dates to early 2000:

This is a new image by DigitalGlobe of the main installation:

The new images also clearly show trees planted around the site, a routine measure by the Islamic regime to hide the facility, according to a specialist on proliferation of atomic weapons who is familiar with Iran’s nuclear program. The trees camouflage barbed wires surrounding the site.

In parts of the vast site, earth has been covered, similar to what took place at the Natanz nuclear facility, a sign of underground building.

Other images show signs of digging and holes in the skirt of the nearby mountain which could corroborate the information about tunnels and passages underground.

According to a source who has been in the underground facility, military trucks covered with tarps for disguise have transferred equipment with “radiation warning” signs to the facility. An entrance on the side of the so-called medicine factory leads to the underground facility.

Another entrance to the underground facility, according to the source, is far to the north of the “medicine factory.” Large equipment has been observed being transferred through the entrance, which is almost a third of the actual size of the factory itself.

One source, with knowledge of the facility, stated that equipment similar to the picture has been installed at the underground site. The source added that several of these devices were taken out of the Lavizan Shian facility back in 2003 when the IAEA found out about that site and they were brought to the new site. He also added that more advanced neutron monitoring and measurement equipment has been purchased from a European country and installed at several sites. According to someone familiar with the device, it is a neutron detector. The white cylinder is a polyethylene moderator surrounding a detector tube, a common neutron detector setup.

Peter Vincent Pry, executive director of the Task Force on National and Homeland Security, an advisory board to Congress, has experience analyzing imagery of underground facilities from his service at the CIA.

“It is difficult to ascertain the purpose of any underground facility just from imagery,” he cautioned. “We have been studying the Russian deep underground complex at Yamantau Mountain, which is the size of a small city, for years, and it is still a mystery. However, these photos of the facility in Iran have all the earmarks of an elaborate attempt to conceal an underground complex of significant size and strategic purpose by hiding it under a legitimate factory, concealing the original excavations, and elaborate and costly landscaping to screen everything from public view.

“Because an Iranian source of proven reliability claims this is a previously unknown nuclear facility, the allegation should be taken very seriously and regarded as credible,” Fry said. “Iran has a long history of successfully concealing its nuclear weapons program and nuclear facilities. What we know about is probably only the tip of the iceberg. Iran’s nuclear weapons program may well be larger, more sophisticated and more advanced than is generally suspected.”

The site operates under the control of the Revolutionary Guards to expand research and development of nuclear, plutonium and atomic warheads. Its activities include:

  • Enriching uranium to weapons grade.
  • Testing a neutron detonator and implosion system (chemical explosive lens). As a result of research at this facility, a test was done at Iran’s Parchin military site several months ago. After the revelation of the high-explosives experiment activity, Iran started to clean up the site but continues to stonewall on the IAEA’s request to inspect the Parchin site.
  • Designing and building a nuclear warhead to arm Iran’s Shahab-3 ballistic missile.
  • Separating plutonium for a plutonium implosion-type fission bomb. Iran’s heavy-water reactor near the city of Arak is nearing completion and is capable of providing spent fuel that, once processed, could produce plutonium for nuclear bombs. The separation of plutonium from fuel is an easy process requiring dual-use off-the-shelf equipment that Iran has already purchased.

The source indicated that Fakhrizadeh-Mahabadi’s atomic warhead project seeks to build three nuclear warheads in its initial phase. Tests of the implosion system and neutron generator, the source said, have been successful and the design of the nuclear warhead is nearly complete.


Reza Kahlili is a pseudonym for a former CIA operative in Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and author of the award-winning book “A Time to Betray” (Simon & Schuster, 2010). He serves on the Task Force on National and Homeland Security and the advisory board of the Foundation for Democracy in Iran (FDI).

Russia Prepares for Nuclear War

 

Russian troops near the Black Sea coast have carried out drills for a scenario in which Russia was attacked by a chemical or nuclear weapon, the country’s military has revealed.

Spread across three Russian regions between the Black and Caspian seas, the drills involved more than 5,000 troops, the Ministry of Defense announced in a statement Monday.

Preparing for a scenario in which Russia was attacked by “weapons of mass destruction by a hypothetical enemy,” soldiers were deployed in hazmat suits and gas masks.

Units specializing in chemical weapons were deployed in the Krasnodar and Stavropol regions, while at least 100 personnel in the neighboring Rostov region launched a parallel decontamination drill on Monday. It followed similar exercises held by Russian overseas troops in nearby Armenia over the weekend.

  Cadets wear gas masks as they take part in exercises at Serpukhov Military Institute of Rocket Forces in Serpukhov town, 100 kilometers (62 miles) south of Moscow, on April 6, 2010. Denis Sinyakov/Reuters

Also deployed were mobile laboratories and radioactive- and chemical-tracing reconnaissance vehicles capable of quarantining, assessing and potentially eliminating a chemical or nuclear theat.

In recent weeks, Russia’s nuclear-capable forces practiced missile launches and flyovers in apparent offensive measures for a conflict scenario. The military has pledged to test its Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missile system before the end of the year.

Russian Minister of Defense Sergei Shoigu has alleged that NATO is developing use of nuclear arms near Russia’s western borders last week, but has not provided evidence for the claims.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly warned of the dangers of a nuclear conflict, mostly in response to the growing rift between the West and his government.

Russia’s annexation of Crimea, backing of separatist insurgents in Ukraine’s east and its military support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad have been the major sticking points that have worsened ties with the U.S. and European states.

Recent allegations that Russia interfered in the U.S. presidential election last year have halted Trump’s campaign initiative to reach out to Putin and improve relations.

While a handful of officials have made a habit of speaking about hypothetical massive and possibly nuclear conflict, opinion polls show the majority of Russians are wary to believe such a scenario is likely, despite the rift with the West.

According to state pollster WCIOM, 63 percent of Russians felt that war with the U.S. or NATO was impossible or unlikely in April. Although North Korea enjoys a better relationship with Russia than with most countries, the country’s nuclear weapons program was viewed as a threat by 67 percent of Russians. A total of 39 percent believed North Korea directly threatened Russia.