North Korea is no Longer a Nuclear Threat

https://1434697713.rsc.cdn77.org/assets/uploads/2018/03/28/Xi-Jinping-Kim-Jong-Un-hold-talks-in-Beijing.jpgNorth Korea agreed to give up nuclear weapons, claims China

Mahmood IdreesMarch 28, 2018
BEIJING – China on Wednesday claimed that North Korea leader Kim Jong Un has agreed to denuclearize the Korean peninsula in a meeting with President Xi Jinping during his “unofficial” to Beijing, reported CNBC.

Ending two days of speculations on the visit, China has confirmed that Kim Jong Un had been in China from Sunday to Wednesday on an unofficial visit, which is his first known foreign trip since taking office in 2011.

Xinhua cited Kim as saying that situation on the Korean Peninsula is starting to get better after the DPRK took steps to defuse tension and sent proposals for peace talks.

“It is our consistent stand to be committed to denuclearisation on the peninsula, in accordance with the will of late President Kim Il Sung and late General Secretary Kim Jong Il,” Kim Jong Un said, according to the media outlet.

He said that North Korea was willing to have dialogue with the United States President Donald Drup and South Korea, and hold a summit of the two countries.

“It is our consistent stand to be committed to denuclearization on the peninsula, in accordance with the will of late President Kim Il Sung and late General Secretary Kim Jong Il,” he said.

“The issue of denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula can be resolved, if south Korea and the United States respond to our efforts with goodwill, create an atmosphere of peace and stability while taking progressive and synchronous measures for the realization of peace,” said Kim.

However, Chinese President Xi in his remarks said Kim’s current visit to Bejing fully embodied the great significance that Comrade Chairman and the WPK Central Committee have attached to the relations between the two countries and the two parties. He added friendship of both nations should be passed on continuously and developed better.

Antichrist Establishes Peace Back in Iraq

Under construction Fifteen years after America’s invasion, Iraq is getting back on its feet

The Economist

With Islamic State defeated, a new sense of unity prevails. But it is fragile

With Islamic State defeated, a new sense of unity prevails. But it is fragile

WHISKY is back on the tables in Mosul, one of Iraq’s biggest cities. Until last year, boozing was punishable with 80 lashes. These days a refurbished hotel with a nightclub on the roof, set in a wood that had sheltered the high command of the so-called Islamic State (IS), is fully booked. Shops around the ruins of Mosul’s university have new fronts. Families queue at restaurants on the banks of the Tigris. There is not a niqab, or face-veil, in sight.

The revival of Mosul is a metaphor for Iraq as a whole. When IS captured the city in 2014, Iraq seemed a lost cause. Its armed forces had fled. The government controlled less than half the country and the jihadists stood primed to march into Baghdad. With the collapse of oil prices in 2015, the government was broke. Iraq was a byword for civil war, sectarianism and the implosion of the Arab state order established at the end of the first world war.

Now Iraq, home to nearly 40m people, is righting itself. Its forces have routed the would-be caliphate and regained control of the borders. A wave of victories has turned Iraq’s army into what a UN official calls the Middle East’s “winniest”. Baghdad feels safer than many other Middle Eastern capitals. The government is flush with money as the oil price has doubled since its low in 2016 and production has reached record levels. No wonder 2,000 foreign investors packed hotel ballrooms earlier this year at an Iraq-reconstruction conference in Kuwait.

Remarkably, given its belligerent past and the region’s many conflicts, Iraq enjoys cordial relations with all its neighbours. America and Iran may be bitter rivals, but both give Iraq military and political backing. Gulf states, overcoming decades-long sectarian and security fears, have restored diplomatic relations and want to invest. To cap it all, Iraq remains a rarity—the only Arab state, other than Tunisia, to get rid of its dictator and remain a democracy. Its fourth multiparty election since 2003 will take place on May 12th. In a region of despots, Iraqis talk freely. Media and civic groups are vibrant.

Counting the cost

Some think the war was needed to bring Iraqis to their senses. If so, it was a terrible form of therapy. In the 15 years since America’s invasion of Iraq, some 300,000 Iraqis and 4,400 American soldiers have been killed (see chart). Of the many rounds of strife, none matched the viciousness of the fight against IS. At least 7,000 civilians, 20,000 security personnel and over 23,000 IS fighters were killed, according to a think-tank in Baghdad. Priceless heritage, like Mosul’s old city, was reduced to rubble. About 6m people, most of them Sunnis, lost their homes.

In quick succession, three ideologies tearing the country apart have been tamed. Revanchism by the Sunni Arab minority, who are about 15-20% of the population but have dominated Iraq since Ottoman times, was a cocktail of Saddam Hussein’s brutal Baathist nationalism and even more brutal jihadism. It spawned al-Qaeda in Iraq and IS. But today it seems weaker than ever. “Sunnis finally felt what it meant to be Kurdish or Shia,” says an influential government adviser. “They know they are no longer top dogs.”

Triumphalism by the long-repressed Shia Arab majority, making up about 60% of the population, also turned violently sectarian. But this seems to have lost much of its appeal after 14 years of misrule by Shia religious parties. The Shia south may have most of Iraq’s oil, but it looks as wrecked and neglected as the Sunni north.

And Kurdish nationalism lies in tatters, too. Denied independence in the 1920s, the Kurds are scattered across four countries. In Iraq they have long enjoyed quasi-independence in an enclave in the north-east. But last September Masoud Barzani, the Kurdish president, overreached by calling a referendum for a fully fledged state, defying Baghdad as well as protests from America and Iran. When he refused to back down, Iraqi forces snatched back the disputed territories that Kurds held beyond their official autonomous region (about 40% of their realm); the Iraqi government also imposed an embargo on foreign flights (now lifted). Kurdish leaders are negotiating a way out of their isolation. But many Kurds seem none too upset, given how autocratic and dirty Mr Barzani’s regime is. “It would have been a Barzanistan, not a Kurdistan,” says a teacher.

Iraq has not looked so united since 1991, when Kurds and Shias rose up against Saddam after his occupying forces were pushed out of Kuwait by an American-led coalition. Many Shia volunteers died delivering Sunnis from the barbarous rule of IS. About 45,000 Sunnis mustered alongside the Shia-led Hashd al-Shaabi, or “popular mobilisation units”. And millions of Sunnis fled the would-be caliphate to seek refuge in Kurdish and Shia cities.

Revenge killings by Shia militias have been rarer than many had feared. “We expected much worse,” says a local councillor in Falluja, a Sunni city recaptured in 2016. The Hashd still display their religious insignia at checkpoints on the highways (softened with plastic flowers), but in Sunni cities the policing is largely local. Hashd barracks are low-key and often mixed. “Half of them are Sunni,” says a Hashd commander in Tikrit, Saddam’s home town, pointing at the dozen men in his mess. A Kurdish politician who supported the referendum expresses relief. “No one threatened me or my job,” says Dara Rashid, a deputy housing minister.

As security improves, barriers within the country are coming down. Many of the checkpoints snarling traffic in central Baghdad have gone. The curfew was lifted in 2015. The Suqur checkpoint separating Baghdad from Anbar province, notorious for delays and maltreatment, still shuts at sundown. But Anbar’s Sunnis no longer need a sponsor to enter Baghdad. For the first time since 2003, your correspondent drove the length of Iraq, from the border with Kuwait to the one with Turkey, without a security escort or special permits.

The calm is drawing Iraqis home. Worldwide it takes five years on average for half of those displaced by conflict to return home after a war, says the UN. In Iraq it has taken three months. “We’ve seen nothing like it in the history of modern warfare,” says Lise Grande, who headed UN operations during the war on IS. Millions returned without compensation, electricity or water. Rather than wait for the government to provide homes, they are repairing the wreckage themselves.

Lecturers at Tikrit University have raised funds from private evening classes, rebuilt their war-battered campus and redesigned the curriculum “to promote peaceful coexistence”, says the dean of Sharia Studies, Anwar Faris Abd. In this staunchly Sunni city, trainee clerics now study Shia as well as Sunni schools of law. In the spirit of reconciliation, half of the university’s 30,000 students are Shia.

Religious minorities feel safer, too. Over 70% of the 100,000 Christians who fled to Kurdistan have returned to their homes on the Nineveh plains, says Romeo Hakari, a Christian parliamentarian in Erbil. Sunnis from Mosul joined Chaldean Catholics to celebrate mass at their church in Bakhdida, whose icons IS used for target practice.

There has been a striking backlash against organised Islam. Mosque attendance is down. Although Sunnis are rebuilding their homes in Falluja, the minarets and domes in the city once known as “the mother of mosques” lie abandoned and ruined. “Only old men go to pray,” explains a 22-year-old worker mixing cement. Designer haircuts and tracksuit tops are the latest male fashion, because IS banned them. “Our imams radicalised us with IS and terror but refuse to admit it,” says a Sunni final-year student at Tikrit University with a bouffant hairdo.

Mistrust of clerics is as keenly felt in the Shia south. The turbaned Iranians gracing Basra’s billboards invite scorn. Cinemas banned since 1991 are reopening. Iraq’s first commercial film in a generation went on release this month. “The Journey” tells of a female suicide-bomber who, just as she is about to blow herself up, questions how she will rip apart the lives of people around her. It pours compassion on perpetrator and victim alike.

Secularism is making inroads even in the holy city of Najaf, the seat of Iraq’s ayatollahs, which has thrived on Shia pilgrimage since the American invasion. The new public library at the golden-domed shrine of Imam Ali includes sizeable collections of Marx’s tracts and non-Muslim scriptures. Shia clerics who until recently banned Christmas trees and smashed shop windows displaying love-hearts on Valentine’s Day now let them pass.

Iraq’s dominant religious parties used to flaunt their sectarian loyalties to get out the vote at elections. Now many hide them. An opinion poll last August showed that only 5% of Iraqis would vote for a politician with a sectarian or religious agenda. Yesteryear’s Shia supremacists these days promise to cherish the country’s diversity, and recruit other sects to their ranks.

All this produces strange bedfellows. Muqtada al-Sadr, a Shia cleric with a base in the shantytowns of Baghdad and Basra, has allied with communists, whom he once damned as heretics. Iraq’s branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist party, has joined forces with al-Wataniya, an anti-sectarian party led by a former Baathist, Iyad Allawi. As old alignments break apart, the Iraqi National Alliance, which grouped the main Shia parties, has split into its constituent parts. Kurdish and Sunni blocs are fragmenting too. Several religious factions have assumed secular names. “At least five masquerade behind the word ‘civil’,” complains the leader of the Civil Democratic Alliance, a genuinely secular party.

Against this background one worry stands out. Iraq’s politicians are mostly failing to rise to Iraq’s new spirit. If not on the international conference circuit, the government can be found in the Green Zone, the city within a city that the Americans carved out of Baghdad with six-metre-high concrete blast walls. The fortress provides a safe space for foreigners and officials to do business, say its residents. But for many Iraqis it is where officials conspire to siphon off public money.

The main government jobs are still dished out by sect and ethnicity. In healthy democracies the opposition holds the executive to account. In Iraq the government is a big tent. Factions name their own ministers, and they in turn appoint ghost workers to claim salaries. Ports, checkpoints and even refugee camps are seen as sources of cash and divvied out between factions. Appointment is rarely on merit. The head of Najaf’s airport is a cleric. Opinion polls suggest that most Iraqis want new faces, but Iraq’s leaders remain mostly the ones America installed in 2003.

Reasons for disillusion include the slow pace of reconstruction and the lack of jobs. Many Iraqis praise the speed with which the UN helped the displaced get home; they think their own politicians were remiss. Three million children are still out of school. A quarter of Iraqis are poor.

Iraq’s economy has fluctuated as wildly as its geopolitical fortunes. GDP per person collapsed after the war for Kuwait in 1991 and during the American-led invasion of 2003. A gradual recovery was interrupted by the upheaval of 2014 and 2015 (see chart). Economic activity may now be set to take off again. Oil output has risen from a low of 1.3m barrels a day (b/d) in 2003 to 4.4m. Iraq is already OPEC’s second-biggest producer, with output predicted to rise to 7m b/d by 2022. It has amassed over $50bn in reserves, about a quarter of GDP.

There are small signs of government investment: fancy lampposts in Falluja and Mosul, astro-turf pitches in Hilla and a grass verge with fountains along Baghdad’s airport road. But some of the Middle East’s largest factories still lie idle—everything from steel and paper mills to factories that made syringes, textiles and more. Since most sanctions were lifted in 2003 a country that used to make things has come to rely far more on oil. It uses its oil money to finance patronage in the bloated public sector and imports almost everything, including petrol, from its neighbours. Officials pocket commissions and bribes in the process.

As a result, foreign governments are wary of giving aid. “It’s a bottomless pit,” despairs a Gulf minister. The country has an anti-corruption watchdog, the Commission of Integrity, but that too is said to have succumbed to factional profiteering.

Suspicion of foreigners, a relic of the Saddam era, risks lowering the appetite of potential investors. Iraq’s Safwan border crossing lies an hour’s drive away from the Kuwait conference where Haider al-Abadi, the prime minister, declared Iraq open for business. It could not be less inviting. Rubble left over from American bombing 15 years ago spills over the pavements. Four sets of officials had to sign and stamp entry papers before your correspondent could bring in his laptop. “We still think foreigners are spies or imperialists bent on plunder,” grumbles an Iraqi fund manager.

Disgruntlement carries great dangers. It is common to hear Iraqis long for a military strongman like Egypt’s general-cum-president, Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi, or a Chinese-style autocrat, to rid Iraq of democracy’s curse. Many even express nostalgia for Saddam, most notably in the south, where his yoke fell heaviest. They recall how, despite UN sanctions, he repaired bombed bridges and power plants within a year of the war of 1991. He somehow kept the hospitals and electricity running, criminals off the streets and the country self-sufficient in rice, sugar and vegetable oil. “Before 2003 the state still cared about art, theatre and the preservation of antiquities,” says a sculptor who works above Basra’s old canal, which now flows black with sewage.

For all the war fatigue, the threat of renewed violence is never far away. Mr Barzani’s humiliated Peshmerga fighters threaten to hit back if their marginalisation continues. “Just as they destabilised Kurdistan, we can destabilise Iraq,” says one of his advisers. He threatens to send fighters to pillage Iran, which he holds ultimately responsible for the Iraqi army’s strike against the Kurds. The Hashd, for their part, are armed and expect to be treated like heroes, not sent home empty-handed.

Abadi in motion
On a map of northern Iraq, a UN official draws five large red boxes, covering most of its main cities. Each, she warns, indicates where IS could resurface. “Many IS fighters shaved their beards, put on dirty sandals and walked out,” says an international observer. In February a squad hiding in the Hamrin mountains north of Tikrit ambushed and killed 27 soldiers. There have been frequent strikes since. The refugee camps are thought to be full of sleeper cells, padlocked behind wire fencing. The rain floods their tents, watering grievances. Just as Egypt’s prisons nurtured Ayman al-Zawahiri, al-Qaeda’s leader, and America’s Camp Bucca in Iraq bred Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the IS leader, Iraq’s prisons may now be “incubating a new generation of trauma and terror”, says Nada Ibrahim, a Sunni doctor in Baghdad.

Break the curse

Iraq has known, and wasted, other hopeful moments. The overthrow of Saddam was botched by America, which shut Sunnis out of the new order. The respite won by its surge of troops in 2007-08 was botched by Nuri al-Maliki, the then prime minister from Dawa, a Shia Islamist party, who ran a sectarian government. Can Mr Abadi break the cycle?

Iraq holds much promise, given its abundant oil and water and its educated population. And Mr Abadi is remarkably popular among Sunnis even though he, like Mr Maliki, is from Dawa. “We want elections and we want Abadi to win,” cheers a female lawyer in Mosul’s courthouse, surrounded by nodding colleagues.

Yet Mr Abadi has failed to turn his military victory into political gain. Some of his own advisers compare him to Churchill, who led Britain to victory over Nazi Germany only to be voted out of office. Iraq’s leaders seem unlikely to act as Britain’s did, turning from war to social reform; instead they are risking a reversion to civil strife. Confronted with a dispirited population, powerful militias, lurking jihadists and scheming politicians, Iraq’s governing class has yet to show it knows how to win the peace.

This article appeared in the Middle East and Africa section of the print edition under the headline “Moving forward”

More of Obama’s Lies Help the Iran Nuclear Horn

The Obama administration did not act on evidence that Russia was aiding Iran’s nuclear development, instead approving nuclear energy deals favorable to Moscow, according to a new report from The Hill.

Former FBI informant Douglas Campbell, who worked undercover for the agency from 2008 to 2014, told reporters in a videotaped interview how he acquired his information.

While officially working as a consultant for Rosatom, Campbell says that he was privy to the secret plans of Russian nuclear energy policymakers, which included efforts to help Iran’s nuclear program by lending them intelligence, technical advice, and even equipment and materials to run one of Iran’s domestic nuclear facilities.

According to Campbell, Rosatom executives were worried that this nuclear assistance, if exposed, could derail nuclear contracts with American businesses:

“The people I was working with had been briefed by Moscow to keep a very low profile regarding Moscow’s work with Tehran,” Campbell said in an interview. “Moscow was supplying equipment, nuclear equipment, nuclear services to Iran. And Moscow, specifically the leadership in Moscow, were concerned that it would offset the strategy they had here in the United States if the United States understood the close relationship between Moscow and Tehran.”

In spite of Campbell providing evidence of Russia-Iran nuclear cooperation to FBI officials, the Obama administration cleared several deals with the Russian government or its state-owned companies related to nuclear energy, including the now-infamous Uranium One deal, which was potentially facilitated by Russian infusions of cash into the Clinton Foundation.

Campbell told The Hill that the forward progress on these types of deals greatly concerned him:

“I got no feedback. They took the reports and the reports, I assume, went to specific people assigned to analyze the reports and that was the last I heard of it,” he said.

Of course, in 2015, the Obama administration went on to approve the Iran nuclear deal, another potential case of them ignoring the significance of Campbell’s intel. At the time, the agreement was touted as a major step forward in preventing Iran from getting nuclear weapons, but we now know that one of the only real “accomplishments” of the deal was giving the Iranians $1.7 billion in cash, some of which eventually ended up in the hands of terrorist groups like Hezbollah.

Check out the original report here, which includes part of the video interview with Campbell.

Why the Iranian Horn Will Not Back Down (Daniel 8:3)

Iran: How New Developments in US Foreign Policy Will Affect the Nuclear Deal

Pooya Stone28 March 2018

by Pooya Stone

With the new developments in US foreign policy and the prospect of the country’s walking away from Iran nuclear deal getting more serious, the question that keeps popping up more than ever is what would be Iran’s approach and what options it would have at its disposal?

Before delving into possible solutions, it should be pointed out that despite Iran’s expectations, it’s now quite clear that the 2015 nuclear deal has actually made the situation more complicated for the Iran, giving rise to different viewpoints within the Iran to deal with the current crisis.

Some suggest sticking to Europe, arguing that Europeans’ interests and independent policies will push them towards standing against the United States.

Meanwhile, head of Iran Parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Commission ‘Alaeddin Boroujerdi’ says “we need to get closer to Russia and China.”

Still there are others who say “we could turn the threat into an opportunity. We’d better resume uranium enrichment activities and adopt a ‘resistance economy’ approach.”

The fact, however, is that none of the suggestions are practical or able to resolve any of Iran’s contradictions.

Although it’s quite natural for Europe to benefit to a great extent from its economic relations with Iran, but Europeans have extremely huge interests in their relations with the United States as well, so much so that it seems quite unlikely for Europe to sacrifice its US ties over having economic relations with Iran.

Since other suggested solutions actually serve more to please Iran’s worried forces and boost their morale, the most obvious point here is the degree of Iran’s fear and its concerns about the issue.

With some of Iran’s experts recommending a ‘Look East’ policy and getting closer to Russia and China – an approach also previously encouraged by Iran leader Ali Khamenei – the question is how practical or effective this solution could be?

If the ‘Look East’ approach was going to help and if Russia and China were willing to offer their unwavering support to Iran after benefiting from decades of political and economic relations, then the Iran would undoubtedly have adopted that policy from the very beginning, thus eliminating the need to sit down at the negotiating table and eventually sign the 2015 nuclear deal. Moreover, the ‘Look East’ policy was also the government’s dominant approach during Ahmadinejad’s presidency, but it failed to resolve much of Iran’s problems.

In a global economy where the United States is qualitatively different from others, the balance of power dictates that the others adjust themselves with US policies.

With the United States walking away from Iran nuclear deal and Trump’s refusal to extend suspension of sanctions, the severity of sanctions would more or less return to the same level as it was prior to the 2015 nuclear deal, in which case no big company –whether it’s European, Russian or Chinese– would dare to take the risk of trading with Iran while fearing of being heavily fined by the United States. So, Russia and China are not able to come to Iran’s rescue.

Likewise, foreign investors will be unwilling to invest in Iran since they believe that the country’s situation is not stable enough, not to mention that they’ll be incapable of dealing with new US sanctions under the present conditions as well.

The Iran meanwhile seeks to take advantage of the gap between the United States and Europe. Europe in turn has to choose between going along with the Iran and respecting its ties with the United States, which after all is the world’s number one economic power. Would it be within Europe’s interests to risk its ties with the United States over having trade relations with Iran in a post nuclear deal era?

The fact is that even now that the nuclear deal is still in place, no foreign company other than France’s Total – which has set special conditions to invest and operate in Iran– has been willing to take the risk of investing in Iran.

As for Iran’s missile program and regional interventions, we see that Europe and the United States are on the same side of the table. So, seeking to take advantage of the gap between Europe and the United States only suggests that the Iran is out of any imaginable solution.

Having said that, although Europe has its eyes on making huge profits out of its trade with Iran, but at the same time it aligns itself more with US policies than the Iran’s as the importance and benefits of having economic and financial relations with the United States for Europe is beyond compare.

But as the last option, it’s still possible that towards the end of Trump’s 120-day deadline, Iran decides to back down from its missile program and regional interventions, thus to gain Europe’s support and preserve the nuclear deal. Could this be considered as a solution?

Well, it’s clear that this means nothing but acceding to second and third JCPOA-like deals, meaning the Iran has to take missile program and regional poisoned chalices. But if that was regarded as a real option, then the Iran would have done that much sooner so as to avoid the current difficult situation.

But taking the new poisoned chalice would have such dangerous repercussions for the Iran that the fear of which has prevented the Iran from taking a step in that direction. If the Iran decides to back down, the first message it sends to Iranian people and the international community would be that the Iran is in a position of absolute weakness.

Likewise, the Iran was in a position of total weakness when it decided to take part in nuclear negotiations, but it could however gain some points out of its backing down and taking the poisoned chalice due to West’s appeasement policy at the time.

Considering the current balance of power reflected in recent international developments (particularly the recent changes in the White House) as well as domestic ones (nationwide protests asking for a Iran change), Iran’s backing down will not only fail to break its deadlock, but will even serve to push it deeper into a crisis that will lead to Iran’s inevitable collapse.

History Says Expect The Sixth Seal In New York (Revelation 6:12)


According to the New York Daily News, Lynn Skyes, lead author of a recent study by seismologists at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory adds that a magnitude-6 quake hits the area about every 670 years, and magnitude-7 every 3,400 years.

A 5.2-magnitude quake shook New York City in 1737 and another of the same severity hit in 1884.

Tremors were felt from Maine to Virginia.

There are several fault lines in the metro area, including one along Manhattan’s 125th St. – which may have generated two small tremors in 1981 and may have been the source of the major 1737 earthquake, says Armbruster.

“The problem here comes from many subtle faults,” explained Skyes after the study was published.

He adds: “We now see there is earthquake activity on them. Each one is small, but when you add them up, they are probably more dangerous than we thought.”

Armbruster says a 5.0-magnitude earthquake today likely would result in casualties and hundreds of millions of dollars in damage.

“I would expect some people to be killed,” he notes.

The scope and scale of damage would multiply exponentially with each additional tick on the Richter scale. (ANI)

The End of Nuclear Deterrence (Revelation 8)

See the source image

 

After India and Pakistan first tested nuclear devices in 1998, people in both countries hoped that nuclear weapons would decrease the incentive for war and lead to sustainable peace in the region. The 1999 Kargil conflict that took place when Pakistan’s military tried to gain control of the 70-kilometer-long Siachen glacier occupied by India in 1984, and the military standoff a few years later in which troops massed along both sides of the border, however, dashed these hopes, and both nations once more found themselves in the spotlight. Unfortunately, the current situation is not much different from the past, with relations between the two nuclear-armed neighbors remaining troubled. As the recently announced US National Security Strategy noted, “the prospect for an Indo-Pakistani military conflict that could lead to a nuclear exchange remains a key concern requiring constant diplomatic attention.”

Disappointment regarding India-Pakistan relations is partly a result of the misplaced and overstated expectations that commentators attach to technological capability, forgetting the naked reality—in situations like these, it is not the gun, but the man behind the gun, that matters. Pinning high hopes on nuclear weapons capability, while underestimating the role of human agency, is contradictory to the logic of deterrence theory. Deterrence only works well when decision makers behave in a rational manner. Leaders in both India and Pakistan must recognize that a continued Cold War-style military arms buildup, absent a framework for conflict resolution, threatens the stability of deterrence in South Asia.

Deterrence and human behavior. Interestingly, deterrence theory is silent on the behavior of the “irrational actor.” As Admiral Arleigh Burke, the longest-serving Chief of Naval Operations in US naval history, put it in 1960, “the major deterrent [to war] is in a man’s mind.” And history is witness to the fact that technological transformation has had little impact on the human inner self. Despite tremendous progress in material terms, basic human instincts remain the same, and the instinct of survival continues to be a central element in shaping human lives and their surroundings. The nation-state is an extension and accumulation of individuals and their threat perceptions, creating a national survival instinct.

There are many factors that determine the behavior of an individual. These include genetics, social norms, faith, culture, and attitudes. Likewise, state behaviors in international affairs are determined by collective historical experiences, belief systems, and geographic parameters. India and Pakistan are no exception; they are the result of historical, political, and geographic forces—and the interaction of these forces with human agency.

New technologies, old thinking. Despite economic progress and technological transformations, strategic planners in both India and Pakistan still operate in a conventional manner. Their respective security strategies and rationales are heavily militarized, and relics of Cold War politics.

The rules of the game changed in 1998, and India’s political leadership must understand that it can neither gain significant strategic advantage from a conventional war with Pakistan, nor does it currently possess the capability to destroy Pakistan’s nuclear weapons capability. Similarly, Pakistan’s security planners must be cognizant of the fact that they cannot overpower India by any means, conventional or nuclear.

Bernard Brodie, the famous architect of nuclear deterrence strategy, once observed that “thus far the chief purpose of our military establishment has been to win wars. From now on its chief purpose must be to avert them. It can have almost no other useful purpose.” Because of deep prevailing political paranoia, however, security elites in both India and Pakistan continue to formulate dangerous nuclear strategies that are not in sync with the basic concept of deterrence. The two countries’ strategic planning is gradually shifting from “war prevention” to “war fighting,” and they are trying hard to undo each other.

In South Asia, nuclear technological transformation is driving the military and nuclear policies of both nations. India’s hybrid warfare strategy is fueling a secessionist movement in Baluchistan (one of four provinces in Pakistan), opening a “second front” with Afghanistan through support to Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (or TTP, the largest militant organization in Pakistan), and threatening to cut water supplies governed by the Indus Waters Treaty between the two nations. India’s military Cold Start Doctrine, which aims to undercut a conventionally weak—but nuclear—adversary by quickly mobilizing conventional retaliatory attacks, is highly destabilizing. In fact, this approach is laying a structural foundation for a potential nuclear war.

In response to India’s Cold Start doctrine, Pakistan developed the NASR short-range ballistic missile to compensate for the rapidly increasing conventional asymmetry between the two nuclear rivals. Pakistan’s approach to the looming conventional threat resembles Russia’s doctrine of “escalate to deescalate,” which conceives of using tactical nuclear weapons in a conventional conflict to compel an adversary to halt large hostilities and respect the status quo. The other potential reason for the development of the NASR missile is the lack of margin of error for Pakistan, which does not have the large nuclear force and vast strategic depth of its nuclear adversary.

The colossal conventional arms buildup in the region, coupled with the nuclearization of the Indian Ocean and policies for the development and potential deployment of ballistic missile defense systems, has the potential to change the balance of power in the region. An unchecked nuclear arms race would have a negative effect on the fragile security environment of the Asian continent in general, and South Asia in particular, pushing the region toward a perpetual “security trilemma” in which actions taken by India to defend against China trigger insecurity in Islamabad.

In my opinion, the strategic landscape of the Asian continent drastically changed after the 2011 announcement of a US “pivot to Asia,” also known as the Rebalance to Asia and the Pacific. This US policy gave rise to what I believe is more accurately described as a “security quadrilemma” than a trilemma: China’s nuclear and conventional buildup to counter the increasing US military buildup in Asia and the Pacific sets off alarm bells in New Delhi, and India’s countermoves against Beijing in turn aggravate Pakistan’s sense of insecurity.

It appears as if the Indian nuclear establishment is under the delusion that possession of nuclear weapons and associated advanced weaponry protects India from any security challenge. That, in turn, gives India the confidence to pursue an aggressive stance and test the credibility of Pakistan’s deterrence by committing serious ceasefire violations along the Line of Control (a temporary border, agreed to by both nations in 1972, that divides the disputed Kashmir region) and the Working Boundary (which India identifies as the international border, but which also includes the disputed Indian-occupied Kashmir territory along with India’s internationally recognized land). To make matters worse, the Indian military’s rhetoric of carrying out “surgical strikes” across the Line of Control—in response to the 2016 attacks by militants on the Pathankot and Uri Indian military bases—is inherently a tectonic shift away from deterrence theory.

Deteriorating conditions. In 2018, according to Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Indian forces have carried out more than 415 ceasefire violations along the Line of Control and the Working Boundary, resulting in the death of 20 civilians and injuries to 71 others. In retaliation, Pakistan forces have destroyed Indian military check posts, resulting in the killing of five Indian soldiers. According to India’s defense minister, Pakistan has violated the ceasefire agreement along the Line of Control as many as 351 times this year.

In a study published by American disarmament expert Lewis Dunn at the end of the Cold War, Dunn named three conditions that played a critical role in stabilizing deterrence and preventing the use of nuclear weapons by the United States and the Soviet Union: political, technical, and situational conditions. Politically, according to Dunn, if a country’s stakes are low, deterrence works, but if the stakes are existential in nature, deterrence cannot work. Technically, deterrence depends on how reliable and survivable nuclear command and control structures are. And thirdly, the situational conditions for deterrence depend upon the overall global power structure. During the Cold War, deterrence worked because it was bilateral, but today the world power structure is inherently multipolar and therefore more unpredictable.

Unfortunately, in the context of South Asia, these three factors are negatively affecting stability in the region. Political dialogue between India and Pakistan has been suspended since the 2008 Mumbai attacks by the Pakistani militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba, and today there is no chance of resumption of this dialogue. Regarding the technical conditions today, both countries’ command and control systems are still in development and are untested. Situationally, the strategic landscape of South Asia is very complex, with multiple internal and external factors that cast deep shadows on both nations’ national security strategies, pushing the deterrence stability in South Asia toward failure.

Without a credible conflict-resolution framework, and in the absence of a regional arms-control mechanism, strategic circumstances in South Asia are likely to deteriorate further and head toward complete gridlock. Deterrence stability is under tremendous pressure from increasing conventional and unconventional imbalances. The nuclear threshold is getting blurred, and war is no longer a distant threat.

In these circumstances, political and military establishments in both countries should do some soul-searching and realize that clinging to the past will darken the future. All stakeholders should ask themselves three simple questions: Do nuclear war-fighting capabilities enhance or erode deterrence? Are these military and nuclear buildups sustainable? And could these gigantic resources instead be invested in building peace, reducing abject poverty, and saving humanity from the edge of nuclear winter?

Trump is Beating the War Drums

https://i0.wp.com/cdn.latribuna.hn/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/Donald-Trump1-770x470.jpgWith eyes on Iran, Trump builds ‘war council’

By Ihsan al-Faqih

ISTANBUL

John Bolton, the newly-appointed U.S. national security advisor, portends a more hawkish approach by Washington to America’s perceived enemies.

The 69-year-old has a long history of adopting hardline positions and showing a readiness to use military force overseas as evidenced by the “preemptive war” doctrine embraced by President George W. Bush (2001-2009), who launched wars on both Afghanistan (2001) and Iraq (2003).

Under Bush, Bolton served as both undersecretary of state for arms control and international security affairs (2001-2005) and as U.S. ambassador to the UN (2005-2006).

Bolton was close to U.S. decision-making circles throughout the terms of republican presidents Ronald Reagan (1983-1989) and George H. W. Bush (1989-1993).

He was a vocal supporter of regime change during the U.S.-led war against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq in 1990/91 and maintained this orientation under the George W. Bush administration, which would end up invading — and occupying — both Afghanistan (2001) and Iraq (2003).

The younger Bush took the decision to invade Iraq when Bolton was serving as undersecretary of state. In the run-up to the invasion, Bolton exerted pressure on decision-making circles — including the CIA and the U.S. National Security Council — to endorse Bush’s decision.

Trump era

With his appointment last week as national security adviser, the Trump administration appeared to follow the policies of the Bush era, which was dominated by the pro-war “neo-conservative” movement.

The national security adviser’s most significant function is to provide the president with options, alternatives and information relevant to political and/or military decision-making.

Bolton does not hide his preference for the use of force against Iran and North Korea in response to perceived threats to U.S. national security on the pretext that both these countries boast a nuclear capacity and are generally antagonistic to the U.S.

Bolton’s appointment was made in the run-up to historic peace talks with North Korea (expected in May) and shortly after Trump’s remarks on March 20, in which he — in the presence of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman — voiced his refusal to allow Iran to threaten global stability.

Just before signing the six-nation nuclear agreement with Iran in 2015, Bolton had argued that Tehran would never abandon its nuclear program and that U.S. sanctions would not be enough to deter it from developing a nuclear-weapons capacity.

Only military action would stop Iran from acquiring nuclear arms, Bolton asserted, citing Israel’s 1981 strike on Iraq’s nuclear reactor and its 2007 strike on a nuclear reactor in Syria.

Bolton’s latest appointment, experts say, along with that of Mike Pompeo — a former CIA director — as secretary of state, suggests the nuclear deal with Iran will be revoked by Washington.

Declaration of war

Others, including Trita Parsi, head of the National Iranian American Council, have gone further, saying the appointment of Bolton and Pompeo was tantamount to a “declaration of war” on Iran.

Before his appointment, Bolton told members of Iran’s opposition People’s Mujahideen in Paris that Trump should “review” his policies on Iran and that the U.S. should openly call for regime change.

In Iran, there has been a general sense of pessimism regarding the nuclear deal, especially since the appointment of Pompeo, who, like Trump, has described it as “terrible”.

Trump believes there are only two options regarding the deal with Iran — to withdraw from it or to “do something else”. But given that the agreement is not a bilateral one between Iran and the U.S., Washington’s choices in this regard are limited.

Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghji, for his part, believes Washington “is determined” to withdraw from the deal and that Pompeo was appointed expressly for this purpose.

While some voices in Tehran say Iran should abandon its obligations as laid out in the agreement if the U.S. withdraws, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has reiterated his country’s commitment to the deal — even if the U.S. abandons it — “as long as it benefits Iran”.

N. Korea

Before his appointment, Bolton did not appear to put much stock in diplomacy as a means of resolving the dispute with North Korea.

His appointment, however, comes only weeks ahead of a meeting, slated for May, which will bring together — for the first time ever — the U.S. and North Korean leaders.

Bolton’s appointment came following a series of resignations by senior administration officials — resignations that have left Trump surrounded by officials who largely agree with his views on major foreign policy issues, including North Korea and Iran.

Bolton’s appointment appears to suggest that Trump is building a “war council” stacked with hardliners who favor a muscular foreign policy.

That council, which now includes both Bolton and Pompeo, is now awaiting a successor to Defense Secretary James Matiss, who many observers believe is on the verge of being replaced by Trump.

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US Considers Complete Separation From Pakistan (Daniel)

Unprec­edente­d new measur­es agains­t Islama­bad includ­e visa ban on govt offici­als, revoki­ng status as non-NATO ally.

The Trump administration has been looking into a range of new options to incrementally pressure Pakistan into acting against militants, Foreign Policy reported.

According to the American publication, White House functionaries are weighing unprecedented penalties including revoking the country’s major non-NATO ally status, permanently cutting off military aid and imposing a visa bars on Pakistani government officials.

However, the magazine claimed the suggestions stimulated internal debate in Washington circles on the “tempo and scale” of the under-consideration measures. The publication noted some officials and military men favoured pursuing an aggressive policy while others counselled caution.

These reports come amidst an ongoing shuffle in the Trump cabinet. Foreign policy hawk John Bolton was recently appointed National Security Advisor and former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) director Mike Pompeo replaced Rex Tillerson at the US State Department.

These changes could “tilt” the discussion on Pakistan in the Trump inner circle in favour of new measures against Islamabad, according to the American publication.

Foreign Policy cited current and former deputies in the White House as saying that drastic measures against Pakistan included punitive actions like a visa ban on government and security officials from Islamabad allegedly involved in subversive activities.

“We are prepared to do whatever is necessary to protect US personnel and interests in the region,” a senior Trump administration official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told reporters last week.

These reports suggest a shift in American policy towards Pakistan with previous US presidents being hesitant to push Pakistan too hard.

There have also been murmurings that cutting off aid to the country permanently would make it harder for Islamabad to access high-tech military hardware, hampering the fight against terrorism in the tribal regions bordering Afghanistan, emboldening militants and destabilising the nuclear-armed nation.

Pakistan is also important to the peace process in Kabul, as US forces seek a dignified exit from the war-torn country after over a decade of little progress.

Two lethal attacks in Kabul in January claimed by the Taliban, occurring only days after the suspension of US aid was announced and after a tweet by Trump castigating Pakistan, have added urgency to the debate.

The Growing Russian Nuclear Horn (Daniel 7)

Vladimir Putin et al. standing in front of a crowd: President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, center, at a ceremony for Defender of the Fatherland Day in Moscow last month.

A New Cold War With Russia? No, It’s Worse Than That

The New York Times By ANDREW HIGGINS 4 hrs ago
© Yuri Kadobnov/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, center, at a ceremony for Defender of the Fatherland Day in Moscow last month.

MOSCOW — The expulsion of scores of Russian diplomats from the United States, countries across Europe and beyond has raised, yet again, the question of whether the world is veering back where it was during the Cold War. The alarming answer from some in Russia is: No, but the situation is in some ways even more unpredictable.

For all the tension, proxy conflicts and risk of nuclear war that punctuated relations between Moscow and the West for decades, each side knew, particularly toward the end of the Cold War and collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, roughly what to expect. Each had a modicum of trust that the other would act in a reasonably predictable way.

The volatile state of Russia’s relations with the outside world today, exacerbated by a nerve agent attack on a former spy living in Britain, however, makes the diplomatic climate of the Cold War look reassuring, said Ivan I. Kurilla, an expert on Russian-American relations, and recalls a period of paralyzing mistrust that followed the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution.

“If you look for similarities with what is happening, it is not the Cold War that can explain events but Russia’s first revolutionary regime,” which regularly assassinated opponents abroad, said Mr. Kurilla, a historian at the European University at St. Petersburg.

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He said that Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin, had no interest in spreading a new ideology and fomenting world revolution, unlike the early Bolsheviks, but that Russia under Mr. Putin had “become a revolutionary regime in terms of international relations.”

From the Kremlin’s perspective, it is the United States that first upended previous norms, when President George W. Bush scrapped the Antiballistic Missile accord, an important Cold War-era treaty, in 2002.

Russia, Mr. Kurilla said, does not like the rules of the American-dominated order that have prevailed since then, “and wants to change them.”

One rule that Russia has consistently embraced, however, is the principle of reciprocity, and the Kremlin made clear on Monday that it would, after assessing the scale of the damage to its diplomat corps overseas, respond with expulsions of Western diplomats from Russia.

The Russian Parliament also weighed in, with the deputy head of its foreign affairs committee, Aleksei Chepa, telling the Interfax news agency that Russia would not bow to the West’s diplomatic “war.” Russia, he said, “will not allow itself to be beaten up, the harder they try to intimidate us, the tougher our response will be.”

When Britain expelled 23 Russian diplomats this month in response to the nerve agent attack in Salisbury, England, Moscow not only evicted an equal number of British diplomats, but ordered the closing of the British Council, an organization that promotes British culture and language.

While denying any part in the March 4 poisoning of Sergei V. Skripal, a former spy, and his daughter, Yulia, both still critically ill in the hospital, Russia in recent years has built up a long record of flouting international norms, notably with its 2014 annexation of Crimea, the first time since 1945 that European borders have been redrawn by force.

a person standing in front of a building: Employees at the Russian Consulate in an adjacent driveway in New York on Monday. © Peter Foley/EPA, via Shutterstock Employees at the Russian Consulate in an adjacent driveway in New York on Monday. The attack on the Skripals was another first, at least according to Prime Minister Theresa May of Britain, who denounced the action as the “first offensive use of a nerve agent in Europe since the Second World War.”

Kadri Liik, a senior policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, said she was mystified by the nerve agent attack. Ms. Liik said she had expected Mr. Putin, who won a fourth term by a lopsided margin on March 18, to back away from disruption during what, under the Constitution, should be his last six years in power.

Mr. Putin, she said, might not be predictable but usually follows what he considers fairly clear logic. “Putin does not do disruption just for fun, but because he is Putin and he can,” she said.

Each time Russia has been accused of having a hand in acts like the seizure of Ukrainian government buildings in Crimea or the 2014 shooting down of a Malaysian passenger plane over eastern Ukraine, in which nearly 300 people were killed, Moscow has responded with a mix of self-pity, fierce denials and florid conspiracy theories that put the blame elsewhere.

In the case of the poisoning in Salisbury, Russia’s denials became so baroque that even the state-run news media had a hard time keeping up.

After officials denied any Russian role and insisted that neither Russia nor the Soviet Union had ever developed Novichok, the nerve agent identified by Britain as the substance used against the Skripals, a state-controlled news agency published an interview with a Russian scientist who said he had helped develop a system of chemical weapons called Novichok-5. The agency later amended the article, replacing the scientist’s mention of Novichok with an assertion that the “chemical weapons development program of the U.S.S.R. was not called ‘Novichok.’”

The attempted murder of Mr. Skripal on British soil, however, “was the straw that broke the camel’s back,” said Vladimir Inozemtsev, a Russian scholar at the Polish Institute of Advanced Studies in Warsaw. “Western leaders finally decided that enough is enough” because Moscow has played the denial game so many times and showed no real interest in establishing the truth, he said.

Unlike Soviet leaders during the Cold War, he added, Mr. Putin follows no fixed ideology or rules but is ready to pursue any “predatory policies,” no matter how taboo, that might help “undermine the existing order in Europe,” while insisting that Russia is the victim, not the aggressor.

When the United Nations in 2015 proposed an international tribunal to investigate the MH-17 air disaster a year earlier over territory held by Russian-armed rebels in eastern Ukraine, Moscow used its veto in the United Nations Security Council to block the move, the only member of the Council to oppose the investigation.

Ian Bond, a former British diplomat in Moscow who is now director of foreign policy at the Center for European Reform in London, said Russia’s often implausible denials had made it “like the boy who cried wolf.”

“If you keep putting forward crazy conspiracy theories, eventually people are going to ask whether what you are saying is just another crazy Russian denial,” he said.

Mr. Bond said diplomacy during the Cold War, even when it involved hostile actions, tended to follow a relatively a calm and orderly routine. No longer is that the case, he added, noting that the Russian Embassy in London and the Foreign Ministry in Moscow have issued statements and tweets mocking Britain as an impotent has-been power and scoffing at the Salisbury poisoning as the “so-called Sergei Skripal case.”

President Putin, Mr. Bond added, “is not trying to foment international revolution, but he is the great disrupter” and revels in wrong-footing foreign governments by flouting established norms.

While Russia may have been surprised by the magnitude of the coordinated expulsions by Britain’s allies on Monday, it was clearly anticipating something. Hours before they were announced, it went on the offensive.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, posted a message on Facebook sneering at the European Union for showing solidarity with Britain at a time when London is negotiating its exit from the bloc. Britain, she wrote, is “exploiting the solidarity factor to impose on those that are remaining a deterioration in relations with Russia.”

While President Trump has expressed a curious affinity with Mr. Putin and raised expectations of improved relations, the Russian leader has always been more measured. The underlying mistrust seemed to be reinforced on Monday by Russia’s ambassador in Washington, Anatoly Antonov, who told the Interfax news agency that “what the United States of America is doing today is destroying whatever little is left in Russian-U.S. relations.”

Despite the unpredictability under Mr. Putin, the possibility of nuclear conflict between the Russians and the West, the most frightening aspect of the Cold War, does not appear to have increased. Arms control agreements reached since the 1970s are still honored — with the exception of the 1972 Antiballistic Missile accord, known as the ABM Treaty, which Mr. Bush abandoned 30 years later.

Mr. Bush’s decision, questioned by even some American allies, opened the way, in Moscow’s view, to a free-for-all in international relations that has left the United States and Russia struggling to recover the trust developed by President Ronald Reagan and the last Soviet leader, Mikhail S. Gorbachev, in the 1980s.

In a state of the nation address in February, President Putin unveiled what he described as a new generation of “invincible” long-range nuclear missiles but, speaking later in an interview with NBC, he blamed Washington for pushing Moscow into a new arms race by disregarding a Cold War status quo.

“If you speak about the arms race, it started when the U.S. withdrew from the ABM Treaty,” he said.

Confronted with Moscow’s disruptive actions in the 1920s, Britain and other European countries “did not know how to respond and took 10 years or more to figure out how to deal with Moscow,” said Mr. Kurilla, the St. Petersburg historian.

In the case of Britain, the leading power of the day and the first Western country to recognize the Soviet Union, the process had echoes of the present. It recognized the new Bolshevik government in 1924 but then expelled Soviet diplomats and shuttered their embassy three years later after the police uncovered what they said was a Soviet espionage ring bent on spreading mayhem.