A Nuclear Disaster Awaits Indian Point Plant at the Sixth Seal

PIPELINEAIM gas pipeline opponents lose legal challenge, may appeal

Thomas C. Zambito, Rockland/Westchester Journal News

Gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon spoke to students about their proximity to the Algonquin natural gas pipeline. She then shared her thoughts. Seth Harrison, sharriso@lohud.com

Opponents of the AIM pipeline expansion say they may refocus their legal challenges on the next phase of the project

While a federal appeals court has rejected a pivotal challenge to the expansion of a natural gas pipeline near the Indian Point nuclear power plant, opponents say they’re not done trying to get the courts to block the project.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, in a July 27 decision, sided with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) in turning back a legal challenge to the Algonquin Incremental Market (AIM) pipeline expansion.

The Hudson Valley environmental group Riverkeeper claimed the installation of 2,159 feet of natural gas pipeline across from Indian Point posed a serious threat to public safety, particularly if the pipeline ruptured.

Riverkeeper spokesman Cliff Weathers said a decision to appeal has not been made yet.

But Courtney Williams, who heads the grassroots group SAPE (Stop the Algonquin Pipeline Expansion), said the opposition may focus its future legal challenges on the next phase of the expansion, known as the Atlantic Bridge Project.

“We’re still in discussions with Riverkeeper to determine whether we will appeal this portion of the decision,” Williams said. “But the legal challenge to Atlantic Bridge is already underway.”

Another challenge coming

SAPE joined Riverkeeper, the City of Boston and others in challenging FERC’s decision-making process.

Opponents argued that FERC should have considered the environmental impacts of all three phases of the expansion, including the Atlantic Bridge Project, as one. But the appeals court sided with FERC. “We find no basis to set aside the Commission’s order on those grounds,” the appeals court wrote.

The Atlantic Bridge Project is an extension of the Algonquin pipeline that runs through Yorktown and Somers in northern Westchester before heading into Putnam County and Connecticut.

It is part of a $972 million expansion that will make it possible for the pipeline’s current owner, Enbridge Energy Partners, to deliver natural gas to New England from Pennsylvania, by way of a pipeline that cuts through New Jersey and New York.

The project has impacted several Hudson Valley towns in Putnam, Rockland and Westchester counties and touched off a number of public demonstrations. In 2016, several protesters were arrested after locking themselves inside a section of pipeline in Verplanck while it was being readied to be installed under the Hudson River.

SAPE has staged protests outside Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s New Castle home, urging the governor to shut down the pipeline. And last month at a rally in Peekskill, Cynthia Nixon, Cuomo’s opponent in the September Democratic primary, accused the governor of moving too slowly to address the opposition’s concerns.

In June, state officials sent a letter to FERC, urging the commission to re-evaluate its decision allowing the pipeline near Indian Point.

NRC signs off on plan

The appeals court ruling said FERC’s decision allowing the pipeline near Indian Point was supported by an analysis by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), which the commission found “persuasive.”

NRC’s review determined that Indian Point’s two reactors could safely operate or temporarily shut down if a gas line ruptured near the plant.

FERC’s 2015 ruling credited NRC’s expertise in assessing safety threats to nuclear facilities.

“We see no basis to reject the Commission’s to do so,” the appeals court wrote.

The NRC said it could re-evaluate its decision after Indian Point’s owner, Louisiana-based Entergy, submits a plan for how the plant will be dismantled. Entergy has plans to shut down the Buchanan plant by 2021.

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From The USA TODAY NETWORK

The Nuclear Meltdown at the Sixth Seal (Revelation 6:12)

INDIAN POINT 

NYS agencies urge more scrutiny of Algonquin pipeline at Indian Point

Jorge Fitz-Gibbon, Rockland/Westchester Journal News

A group of residents opposed to the Algonquin gas pipeline project meet at Somers Intermediate School Monday, Dec. 4, 2017. Peter Carr/The Journal News

State asks Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for more steps ‘to minimize risk and protect public safety’ near the Buchanan plant

Several New York state agencies are urging the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to institute additional safety measures on the Algonquin Pipeline portions near the Indian Point nuclear reactor.

In a letter to the commission, officials from the state health, public safety, environmental conservation and homeland security agencies called for “additional scrutiny and monitoring” to minimize risks near the Buchanan plant.

“While the probability of pipeline incidents is low, the proximity to the Indian Point nuclear plant makes the potential consequences of such an event very significant,” the state agencies said in a joint statement. “Additional scrutiny and monitoring to better understand and reduce risks associated with the Algonquin pipelines is warranted.”

Pipeline owner Enbridge is in the midst of expanding the half-century old natural gas pipeline from Pennsylvania, through Westchester, Rockland and Putnam counties, and north into New England.

Work done so far includes a new section through Stony Point, under the Hudson River, into Verplanck and near the Indian Point Energy Center.

The plan has sparked protests throughout the pipe’s path.

On Friday, the state agencies asked the federal commission for additional safety measures near the Indian Point property, including:

• Ensure that Enbridge will not be allowed to send additional natural gas at higher pressure through the pipeline to meet high demand for gas in the Northeast.

• The commission should work with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to examine Entergy Corp.’s decommission plan for Indian Point “to determine potential impacts to the original Algonquin pipelines.”

The Accidental Nuclear War (Revelation 8)

How Russia, China or America Could Accidentally Start a Nuclear War

by Michael Peck

What happens when you use the same satellites to control nuclear forces as well as conventional troops?

Accidental nuclear war, that’s what could happen.

That’s the warning by a Washington think tank, which argues that the U.S. is inviting nuclear war by using the same command and communications systems to oversee both nuclear and conventional forces. But such “dual use” systems risk an inadvertent nuclear war, because an attack on non-nuclear assets, such as satellites or radars, could be perceived as an attempt to cripple America’s nuclear deterrent.

The Trump administration’s draft nuclear policy already states that cyberattacks against America, or attacks on U.S. satellites, could constitute a strategic threat that merits a nuclear response. But this raises a problem called “nuclear entanglement,” where the traditionally bright lines between nuclear and non-nuclear systems become blurred.

In a study earlier this year , the Carnegie Foundation for International Peace pointed out that Russia and China were guilty of entanglement. For example, Russia keeps nuclear submarines and bombers at the same bases as conventional ships and planes: thus a strike by conventional U.S. forces against conventional Russian forces — the sort of operation common in World War II — could be mistaken by Russia as an American strike on its nuclear forces, triggering Russian nuclear retaliation. China plans to attack American satellites to disable U.S. command systems and smart weapons that rely on satellite guidance, because China believes this to be a part of conventional warfare — despite the Trump administration declaring otherwise.

But a new Carnegie study says the U.S. is making the same mistake. “Starting in the last decade of the Cold War, the United States has increased reliance on dual-use systems by assigning nonnuclear roles to C3I assets that used to be employed solely for nuclear operations,” writes James Acton, co-director of Carnegie’s Nuclear Policy Program. “Until the mid-1980s, for example, U.S. early-warning satellites were used exclusively for detecting the launch of nuclear-armed missiles. Today, they enable a variety of nonnuclear missions by, for example, providing cuing information for missile defenses involved in intercepting conventional ballistic missiles.”

The U.S. has also scrapped its Cold War land-based communications systems for controlling nuclear forces. Which means that satellites have become virtually the only means for nuclear command and control, and those precious satellites are also handling non-nuclear communications.

Even as cyberwarfare and anti-satellite weapons have emerged as major threats, U.S. satellite systems have become less redundant. In the 1980s and 1990s, the U.S. had two satellite-based communication systems for nuclear weapons. “Today, the United States is in the process of deploying just four Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) satellites that will be the nation’s sole space-based system for transmitting nuclear employment orders once legacy Milstar satellites have been retired,” writes Acton. Similarly, one of two radio networks for communicating with nuclear missile submarines has been shut down.

Acton explores several scenarios where the U.S. could overreact. “Russia might attack ground-based or space-based U.S. early-warning assets to defeat European missile defenses that were proving effective in intercepting its nonnuclear missiles,” he writes. “Washington might see such attacks, however, as preparations to ensure that limited nuclear strikes by Russia could penetrate the United States’ homeland missile defenses.”

The U.S. fears that Russia could launch limited nuclear strikes to paint America into a corner, where it must either back down or risk escalating into full nuclear war. But Russia could attack dual-use communications systems with the goal of disrupting the operations of U.S. conventional forces, which the U.S. might perceive as an attempt to  cripple U.S. nuclear communications.

These issues apply to a lesser extent to China, which knows (and the U.S. knows that China knows) that a Chinese first strike wouldn’t be powerful enough to prevent massive American retaliation. Still, a Chinese attack on, say, the Ballistic Missile Early Warning Radar system could be taken as the prelude to a Chinese nuclear strike.

Acton does point out that the U.S. reaction will depend to some extent on context, such as whether Russia has placed its nuclear forces on alert. But this is a slender reed on which to avoid nuclear destruction.

Untangling nuclear entanglement will not be easy. Russia, China and the U.S. are likely to balk at the cost of separating their nuclear and non-nuclear command and control systems and facilities. Nor are they like to accept limits on weapons that threaten an opponent’s command and control systems, even if those systems have a nuclear function.

Acton does suggest a few mild measures to mitigate the problem, such as more resilient command and control systems, or small space-based sensors useful for detecting ICBM launches, but not for conventional warfare.

Meet the Antichrist: Moqtada al-Sadr

Iraqi Shiite cleric and leader Moqtada al-Sadr (C-L) shows his ink-stained index finger and holds a national flag while surrounded by people outside a polling station in the central holy city of Najaf on May 12, 2018 as the country votes in the first parliamentary election since declaring victory over the Islamic State (IS) group.Cleric who fought US troops is winning Iraq’s election: Meet Moqtada al Sadr

HAIDAR HAMDANI | AFP | Getty Images
Iraqi Shiite cleric and leader Moqtada al-Sadr (C-L) shows his ink-stained index finger and holds a national flag while surrounded by people outside a polling station in the central holy city of Najaf on May 12, 2018 as the country votes in the first parliamentary election since declaring victory over the Islamic State (IS) group.

More than 91 percent of Iraq’s votes have been tallied after polls closed over the weekend in Iraq’s first election since defeating the Islamic State (ISIS) late last year.

And they reveal a shock win for firebrand Iraqi cleric Moqtada al Sadr, who wasn’t even running for prime minister, along with his coalition allies, the Iraqi Communist Party.

He was followed by Iran-backed Shia militia leader Hadi Al Amiri, while incumbent Prime Minister Haider Al Abadi, initially predicted to win re-election, trailed in third. Voter turnout was a low 44.5 percent, indicating widespread voter apathy and pessimism, observers said.

Reports show that Sadr’s “Sairoon” alliance won more than 1.3 million votes, translating to 54 seats in the country’s 329-seat parliament, taking the greatest share among a broad and fractured array of parties.

Who is Moqtada al Sadr?

A win for Sadr, the populist Shia leader known for his anti-American campaigns and his populist appeal to Iraq’s young and poor, could dramatically change Iraq’s political landscape and its relationship with external powers like the U.S. and Iran.

In addition to pushing for the removal of U.S. troops from Iraq, Sadr is avidly opposed to Iranian influence in his country. That influence has grown significantly thanks to the pivotal role played by Iran-backed militias in driving out ISIS.

The influential cleric, who has millions of religious followers, cannot become prime minister as he did not run for the position himself — but his electoral success means he will likely have a key role in deciding who does.

Powerful charisma

Sadr has spearheaded a number of political movements in Iraq, gaining infamy for directing attacks on U.S. troops in the wake of the 2003 Iraq invasion. His charismatic sermons have drawn hundreds of thousands into the streets over a range of causes. More recently, he’s led campaigns and protests against corruption within the Shia-led government as well as against Iranian influence, and pledged to overcome sectarianism by leading a secular coalition that includes Iraq’s communists.

Sadr in 2003 created the Mahdi Army, which executed the first major armed confrontation against U.S. forces in Iraq led by the Shia community — and it posed such a threat that U.S. forces were instructed to kill or capture him. The group, which numbered up to 10,000, was also accused of carrying out atrocities against Iraq’s Sunnis. It was disbanded in 2008, but re-mobilized in 2014 to fight ISIS.

The cleric owes much of his religious following to the legacy of his father, an influential Iraqi ayatollah murdered in the 1990s for opposing former President Saddam Hussein, and has spent much of his career championing Shia causes.

AHMAD AL-RUBAYE | AFP | Getty Images

But in the last year, he’s undergone something of a reinvention: he has reached out to Sunni Gulf neighbors, most notably in 2017 visits to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, where he met with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) powers typically shunned Iraq’s Shia, but are now making headway in the country through investment and economic aid, seen partially as an attempt to counter arch-rival Iran’s entrenched influence in the country.

Ahead of the election, Sadr pledged a commitment to abandon sectarianism by forming a coalition with secular Sunnis and Iraq’s Communist Party, who have as a result seen their best election performance ever.

Sadr‘s strong showing suggests that he maintains a relatively loyal following and that his nationalist, cross-sectarian platform was effective at mobilizing voters in challenging conditions,” said Ryan Turner, a senior risk analyst at London-based PGI Group.

He has also stopped advocating violence, said Renad Mansour, an Iraq researcher and fellow at U.K. policy institute Chatham House. “He passed the use of violence for his political agenda,” Mansour said. “But say if the U.S. come back and occupy Iraq, I imagine that this would change.”

Possible kingmaker

Because of the fractured nature of Iraqi politics, no candidate or bloc has won an outright majority. The winners of the most seats must negotiate a coalition government within 90 days, during which a long complex process of compromise will have to unfold. Winning the greatest share of votes does not directly translate to leading the government.

“Depending on the final tallies and political jockeying, Sadr may find himself in a position to play kingmaker, which could see Abadi reappointed prime minister,” Turner said, referring to the current prime minister, who was widely praised for leading the fight against ISIS and for balancing relationships across sects and external powers.

But to do so, Sadr would likely have to outmaneuver Iran, which would prefer to see Amiri — the candidate who finished second place — assume the premiership. Tehran wields much of its influence by pushing its preferred policies through Iranian-backed candidates and political players like Amiri. A major objective of Iran’s is to push the U.S. out of Iraq, where some 5,000 troops still remain.

U.S. Army paratroopers assigned to Bravo Troop, 5th Squadron, 73rd Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division, maneuver through a hallway as part of squad level training at Camp Taji, Iraq.

Department of Defense photo
U.S. Army paratroopers assigned to Bravo Troop, 5th Squadron, 73rd Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division, maneuver through a hallway as part of squad level training at Camp Taji, Iraq.

The extent to which the reforms Sadr has championed can take place will be determined by these fractured politics, said Mansour. “So far Sadr has been a very vocal voice demanding change — the question becomes whether he’ll actually be able to maneuver around the system that Iraq is, which is one where power is so diffuse among different entities that it’s hard for one group to have complete control. But I think he certainly will try and be more dramatic about it.”

Labeled one of the most corrupt countries in the world by Transparency International, Iraq is still mired in poverty and dysfunction following its bloody, three-year battle against ISIS.

Officials estimate they’ll need at least $100 billion to rebuild the country’s destroyed homes, businesses and infrastructure, and improvised explosive devices and landmines remain scattered throughout the country. The composition of the new government will be crucial in determining how Iraq moves forward.

“It’s not clear that Sadr‘s rising political influence will undermine Iraq’s recent progress,” Turner said, noting that despite the cleric’s past, he has cooperated with Abadi and backed changes intended to reduce corruption. “Much will depend on what happens next, and whether Sadr is able to quickly form a governing coalition or Iraq enters a period of prolonged deadlock as after the 2010 election.”

US Seeks to Nuclearize Saudi Arabia (Daniel 7)

The Barakah nuclear power plant in United Arab Emirates is seen in an undated photo released by the state-run WAM news agency.U.S. Pursues Saudi Nuclear Deal, Despite Proliferation Risk

Michael R. Gordon and Timothy Puko in Washington and Summer Said in Riyadh

The Trump administration is pursuing a deal to sell nuclear reactors to Saudi Arabia despite the kingdom’s refusal to accept the most stringent restrictions against the proliferation of nuclear weapons, U.S. officials say.

Saudi Arabia’s nuclear energy ambitions could open a new market worth tens of billions of dollars, drawing countries including Russia, South Korea and China to compete for the business. Administration officials consider it too important to overlook, especially when the U.S. nuclear power industry is on the decline.

But Saudi Arabia’s resistance to the toughest proliferation controls—a ban on enriching uranium or reprocessing spent fuel—already is stirring concern among U.S. lawmakers, who must review any accord to transfer U.S. nuclear technology, known as a 123 agreement.

“The new Saudi ambassador came into my office in January, just last month, and I told him that I would demand a vote and debate on the Senate floor on any proposed 123 agreement with Saudi Arabia,” said Sen. Ed Markey (D., Mass.). “It seems crazy to loosen important nonproliferation standards just to try to secure an uncertain commercial deal.”

Proliferation Paths

The nuclear fuel cycle offers two routes to build a weapon, one using enriched uranium and one using plutonium.

Civilian and military nuclear programs both start with unrefined uranium.

Centrifuges isolate the part of uranium that is suitable for nuclear fission.

Centrifuge

Civilian power reactors require uranium enriched to 3% to 5% purity.

5%

5%

Spent fuel from power reactors can be reprocessed to extract plutonium that could be used in making nuclear weapons.

20%

90%

90% enriched uranium is needed to produce nuclear weapons.

U.S. Pursues Saudi Nuclear Deal, Despite Proliferation Risk

The impending debate has confronted the administration with a dilemma: If it lowers standards in the hope of securing the Saudi deal it will spur criticism about its commitment to fighting proliferation.

Critics of reducing standards say it will send a signal at a time more countries across the volatile region aspire to acquire nuclear technology. But supporters of a deal with Saudi Arabia argue there are other ways to address nonproliferation concerns and that if the U.S. isn’t willing to sell nuclear technology, other nations will.

The kingdom is playing competitors, especially the U.S. and Russia, against one another. Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak visited Riyadh on Wednesday, meeting Saudi King Salman. U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry visited in the autumn, and 17 U.S. companies, including Westinghouse Electric Co. and Exelon Corp. , followed.

Formal talks on the reactor sale are expected to start in coming months.

Saudi Arabia has abundant sources of energy, and some analysts question whether nuclear power would be cost effective. It can expand its capacity for solar and other renewable power, and can tap huge natural-gas reserves to phase out oil, said Ali Ahmad, the director of the energy policy and security program at the American University of Beirut.

The new Saudi Arabian leadership’s aggressive approach to Iran is shifting the balance of power across the Middle East and is having huge repercussions for the region. Iran, in response, has warned Saudi Arabia against its hawkishness. WSJ’s Niki Blasina explains the four main proxy conflicts between the two nations.

“The kingdom does not need nuclear power,” he said.

Saudi officials say they want to diversify their fuel sources and can make more money exporting their crude rather than burning it for power.

But while the Saudis insist their program will be peaceful, they have refused to rule out the right to enrich uranium. They have pointed to their archenemy Iran’s ability to enrich uranium as part of the 2015 accord aimed at preventing Tehran from producing nuclear weapons.

“I’m not saying Saudi would want to enrich uranium tomorrow or anytime soon but they don’t want to be committed to anything that bans them from doing it,” said a senior Saudi official. “It is quite political.”

That has stirred speculation that one purpose of the Saudi nuclear program is to compete with Iran’s nuclear technology and perhaps even preserve an option to develop nuclear weapons.

“I think that the Saudis legitimately believe that a nuclear power program is an essential element of their political competition with Iran, if not their strategic competition with the country,” said Richard Nephew, of the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University.

During the George W. Bush administration, U.S. officials negotiated a 123 agreement with the United Arab Emirates that precluded that Gulf state from enriching uranium or reprocessing spent fuel to produce plutonium, essential steps in producing nuclear weapons. President Barack Obama later submitted a new version of that deal to Congress, saying it had the potential to serve as a “model for other countries in the region.” The U.A.E. subsequently purchased four reactors from South Korea, which incorporated U.S. technology.

That assurance become known as the “gold standard,” and some U.S. nonproliferation supporters argue it should become the norm for the region. A provision in the agreement also allows the U.A.E. to ask for a reconsideration of the “gold standard” if the U.S. sells nuclear technology to other Middle East nations under less strict standards.

The Trump administration has yet to publicly detail its position on Saudi Arabia. But officials say that a 123 agreement with Riyadh that didn’t incorporate the gold standard still could provide important safeguards, including restrictions on enriching U.S. supplied nuclear material without its approval.

The U.S., they signaled, also will press Saudi Arabia to accept a special protocol on nuclear safeguards, as Iran has done, so that the International Atomic Energy Agency can carry out on-site inspections if suspicions arise. If the U.S. insists on the U.A.E. standard, the Saudis may simply buy reactors from Russia or China, who don’t demand such stringent protections.

Ernest J. Moniz, who served as Energy secretary during the Obama administration, said it is possible to devise a strong 123 agreement that doesn’t include “gold standard” restrictions. The kingdom, he suggested, could be supplied with low-enriched uranium for its reactors, and have its spent fuel removed, in return for a promise not to enrich uranium or reprocess spent fuel. The agreement might last a decade or more and then could be renewed.

But critics say that would merely delay, and not resolve, the problem. “We would be saying ‘later’ instead of ‘no’ to something we shouldn’t allow at all,” said Henry Sokolski of the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center.

The Saudis aim to complete the first step—awarding contracts for two reactors capable of 1 to 1.6 gigawatts—by year’s end. It is the beginning of an ambitious plan to construct 17.6 gigawatts of nuclear capacity by 2032—enough to power over 12 million Saudi homes. The ultimate goal, which some analysts doubt Saudi Arabia will achieve, is to build 16 reactors at a cost of some $80 billion.

Other companies talking to Saudi Arabia about nuclear technology include South Korea’s Korea Electric Power Corp. , France’s EDF Group and China’s General Nuclear Power Group. Many of the competitors, including Russia, are state-backed enterprises, making it especially difficult for the U.S. entrant, Westinghouse.

The company is in bankruptcy, stung by a series of delayed, over-budget and failed projects in the U.S. and abroad. Canada’s Brookfield Business Partners LP is spearheading a deal to buy the troubled company’s assets, but it is uncertain how much funding Brookfield will put into the business and what parts it will keep open.

State-backed firms, by comparison, have higher, more assured capacity for multibillion-dollar financing deals, and sometimes are even subsidized.

Even if Westinghouse wins the project, some of the billions in the deal won’t go to the U.S. economy. The company’s headquarters and design work are based in Pittsburgh, but the heart of its reactors often are built overseas in places like Japan and South Korea, and its supply chain is global, analysts said.

Despite that, U.S. officials have urgent reasons to pursue the deal as a way to boost its domestic nuclear industry. Once an innovator and world leader, the U.S. nuclear industry is beset by competition from natural gas, solar and wind power at home, and frequently outbid by rivals abroad.

The Saudi project is one the few remaining globally that could sustain a nuclear business, with decades of work servicing and refueling new reactors, and it would be an “embarrassment” if the U.S. gets left out, said Chris Gadomski, head of nuclear research at Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

“This is a barometer, an indicator of where the world market is going to go,” he added. “If we’re the world leader in nuclear technology, are we going to let that go?”

—Benoit Faucon in London contributed to this article.

Write to Michael R. Gordon at Michael.Gordon@wsj.com, Timothy Puko at tim.puko@wsj.com and Summer Said at summer.said@wsj.com

The Awakening Iranian Horn (Daniel 8:4)

Iran has unveiled a next generation short-range ballistic missile and vowed to further boost its capabilities, defying U.S. demands to stop the development of such sophisticated weapons.

Iranian state media reported on August 13 that the new Fateh-e Mobin, or “Bright Conqueror,” missile has “successfully passed its tests” and can strike targets on both land and sea.

“As promised to our dear people, we will not spare any effort to increase the missile capabilities of the country, and we will certainly increase our missile power every day,” Defense Minister Amir Hatami said on state media.

“Nothing can stop this missile because of its high degree of flexibility,” Hatami said, adding that the new version of the Fateh Mobin was “100-percent domestically made…agile, stealth, tactical, [and] precision-guided.”

“Be sure that the greater the pressures and psychological warfare against the great nation of Iran, our will to enhance our defense power in all fields will increase,” he said.

Hatami did not mention the new missile’s range, but previous versions had a range of around 200 to 300 kilometers, according to the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a think-tank in Washington.

U.S. officials told Fox News last week that a “Fateh-110 missile” was test-fired by Iran during naval exercises in the Strait of Hormuz last week.

Sending A Message?

A U.S. general described the exercises as designed to send a message as Washington prepared to impose a first round of sanctions against Iran on August 7 after withdrawing from its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers in April.

U.S. President Donald Trump has called on Iran to negotiate a new nuclear deal that would entirely rid Iran of nuclear weapons capability and also curb its development of ballistic missiles, which has been a point of contention between Tehran and Washington for years.

Iran’s announcement about the new Fateh missile came on the same day that Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei officially rejected Trump’s call for direct talks with Washington over a new nuclear deal. At the same time, Khamenei ruled out getting into a war with the United States.

“Along with sanctions, Americans have recently raised two more options: war and talks,” Khamenei said on state television. “War will not happen and we will not enter talks.”

Khamenei said recent talk out of Washington has “exaggerated the possibility of a war with Iran.”

“We have never started a war, and they will not confront Iran militarily,” he said.

But “America’s withdrawal from the nuclear deal is clear proof that America cannot be trusted” to negotiate a new deal, Khamenei said. “I ban holding any talks with America.”

The United States and its European allies have opposed Iran’s missile development program in part because it poses a threat to Westerm allies in the region such as Saudi Arabia and Israel.

But Iran has insisted that the missiles are only to be used for defensive purposes.

With reporting by AP, AFP, dpa, and Reuters