Russia Sends Nuclear Warning to the US

Russian President Vladimir Putin and President Donald Trump.

At some point during the Trump administration, Russia told Defense Secretary Jim Mattis that it could use nuclear weapons in the event of a war in Europe — a warning that led Mattis to regard Moscow as major threat to the US.

According to “Fear,” Bob Woodward’s recently released book about turmoil in the White House, Moscow’s warning was in regard to a potential conflict in the Baltic countries of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.

The Baltics were part of the Soviet Union and have deep ties to Russia, which has sought to reassert influence there since the end of the Cold War. Those countries have tried to move closer to the West, including NATO membership.

According to Woodward’s account, the warning from Russia came some time during or before summer 2017, when the Trump administration was haggling over the future of the Iran nuclear deal.

At the time, President Donald Trump wanted to withdraw from the deal, claiming Iran had violated the terms.

Others, including then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, pushed back, citing a lack of evidence of any violation. (Trump refused to recertify the deal in October 2017 and withdrew from it in May.)

Mike Pompeo, then the director of the CIA, and Mattis didn’t disagree with Tillerson, Woodward writes, but they responded to the president’s assertions more tactfully.

Mattis, long regarded as a hawk on Iran, had mellowed, according to Woodward, preferring other actions — “Push them back, screw with them, drive a wedge between the Russians and Iranians” — to war.

Russia, Woodward then notes,”had privately warned Mattis that if there was a war in the Baltics, Russia would not hesitate to use tactical nuclear weapons against NATO.”

“Mattis, with agreement from Dunford, began saying that Russia was an existential threat to the United States,” Woodward adds, referring to Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford, who is chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Woodward offers no additional context for the warning, nor is it totally clear why that detail is included where it is in the book.

Most nuclear-armed countries have policies that would allow their first-use in a conflict.

The Baltic states have warned about what they perceive as increasing Russia activity against them, and there is evidence that Moscow is working on military facilities in the region.

Imagery released earlier this year indicated ongoing renovations at what appeared to be an active nuclear-weapons storage site in Kaliningrad, a Russian exclave on the Baltic Sea, south of Lithuania.

“Features of the site suggest it could potentially serve Russian Air Force or Navy dual-capable forces,” a Federation of American Scientists report on the imagery said. “But it could also be a joint site, potentially servicing nuclear warheads for both Air Force, Navy, Army, air-defense, and coastal defense forces in the region.”

‘Tactical nuclear weapons as a leveler’

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during Navy Day celebrations in Baltiysk, in Kaliningrad, July 26, 2015.

Tactical nuclear weapons typically have smaller yields and are generally meant for limited uses on the battlefield. Strategic nuclear weapons usually have higher yields and are used over longer ranges.

Some experts prefer the term “non-strategic nuclear weapons,” as the use of nuclear weapons would have both tactical and strategic implications. Mattis himself has said there is no such thing as a “tactical” nuclear weapon, as “any nuclear weapon used at any time is a strategic game-changer.”

Russia and the US have more than 90% of the world’s nuclear warheads, though Russia’s arsenal is slightly larger. Pentagon officials have said Russia wants to add to that arsenal, violating current arms-control treaties.

During the Cold War, the Soviets expected Western countries to use nuclear weapons first and had plans to use nuclear weapons against NATO targets in the event of war, using larger-yield devices against targets like cities and smaller-yield ones — “tactical” nukes — against NATO command posts, military facilities, and weapons sites.

The US had a similar plan.

The size of Russia’s current stockpile of non-strategic nuclear weapons is not known, though it’s believed to be much smaller than that of the Soviet Union.

It’s not totally clear how Russia would use “tactical” nuclear weapons — the Congressional Research Service has said Russia appears to view them as defense in nature — but they are seen as compensating for Russia’s conventional military shortcomings. (US interest in “low-yield” nuclear weapons as a deterrent has also grown, though critics say they would raise the chance of US first-use.)

Russia has fewer “strategic” nuclear weapons than the US, and “tactical” nuclear weapons may be more handy for Moscow’s shorter-range, regional focus, Hans Kristensen, director of the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists, told The National Interest in late 2017.

“Russia’s conventional forces are incapable of defending Russian territory in a long war,” Kristensen said. “It would lose, and as a result of that, they have placed more emphasis on more usage of tactical nuclear weapons as a leveler.”

The Rise of the Nuclear Horns (Daniel 7/8)

The Arc of History Bends Toward Nuclear-Armed Countries

Who is more secure today, North Korea and Iran or Libya and Ukraine?

The latest news from North Korea is disappointing. That is, in the nearly three months since President Donald Trump’s Singapore summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, prospects for the de-nuclearization of that country seem to be decreasing, not increasing.

On August 24, Trump tweeted that he had directed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo not to travel to North Korea for more talks. On August 26, the North Korean newspaper Rodong Sinmun, mouthpiece for the Pyongyang regime, declared that the U.S. and South Korea were preparing an invasion. And on August 27, a CNBC headline blared, “The US is now ‘worse off’ on North Korea than it was before the Trump-Kim summit, expert says.” Needless to say, the American media are always looking for opportunities to slap Trump around.

It’s hard, in fact, to argue that we’re worse off than we were a year ago, or five years ago. After all, North Korea is no longer setting off nuclear explosions, nor is it firing test missiles into the Pacific, nor is it releasing propaganda videos showing Washington, D.C., in flames, as it did in 20132016, and 2017. Indeed, just last month, North Korea kept a promise made in Singapore and returned the remains of U.S. soldiers who died in the Korean War. It could even be the case that the Trump-Kim meeting had some positive effect on the relationship between the two mercurial leaders. As Trump said in Singapore, the two men now have a “special bond,” and such personal chemistry could well keep a lid on tensions.

What does not seem likely, of course, is that North Korea will actually give up its nuclear weapons. After all, from the North Korean regime’s point of view, that would be stupid. North Korea lives in a rough neighborhood, shadowed by three nuclear superpowers: China, Russia, and the U.S. Then there’s South Korea, which is a sincere friend to the North Korean people, but is no more than a frenemy to the North Korean regime. And 40 miles away, there’s Japan, an historic enemy of all Koreans.

The point here is not to plead North Korea’s case: the Pyongyang regime is, arguably, the worst in the world. Yet at the same time, it’s wise to understand why the North Koreans act as they do. As the experience of the Korean War taught us, when it comes to North Korean intentions, ignorance is not bliss.

The general rubric for this sort of foreign policy thinking—common here at TAC—is “realism.” By such hard-nosed reckoning, it’s simply unrealistic to think that Kim is going to do something that he doesn’t think is in his interest. And for a couple of decades, the Kim dynasty has understood the value of nuclear weapons. At least until such time as there’s a robust and foolproof missile defense shield, nukes are the great power equalizer.

From Pyongyang’s point of view, the need for such power equalization became all the more urgent after George W. Bush’s 2002 “axis of evil” speech. In that address, the 43rd president singled out North Korea, along with, of course, Iraq and Iran. At that point, all three regimes knew that they were in the crosshairs, and so two of them, North Korea and Iran, got serious about developing a nuclear program. From their point of view, upping their armaments made prefect sense; they needed a plan for defending themselves, and nukes do the trick.

Perversely, the only one of those countries that didn’t make a move towards nuclear weapons was Iraq. Saddam Hussein was anything but innocent; he surely would have developed nukes if he could have—yet he couldn’t. And as we know, he was easily removed from power in 2003. (The non-easy fighting came later, post-“liberation.”)

Thus we can see that nukes are the best friend of a designated “rogue regime.” Indeed, that lesson was underscored by the experience of another rogue nation, Libya. In the wake of regime change in Iraq, Libya voluntarily gave up the rudiments of its nuclear program. Finally, after decades of murderous roguery, Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi seemed to be doing his best to work within with the international order. And yet Gaddafi’s late conversion did him no good: in 2011, the U.S. and other Western nations aided rebels, and he and his government were ignominiously destroyed.

We can point to other cautionary tales about denuclearization. For instance, after the Soviet Union broke up in 1991, the newly independent country of Ukraine found that it had inherited some 1,700 nukes from the evil empire.

At the time, a few wise voices said that the Ukrainians would be foolish to give up those weapons. One such voice was realist thinker John J. Mearsheimer who, in 1993, published a piece in Foreign Affairs bluntly entitled, “The Case for a Ukrainian Nuclear Deterrent.”

Mearsheimer argued that the key to Ukraine’s defense “means ensuring that the Russians, who have a history of bad relations with Ukraine, do not move to reconquer it.” He warned, “Ukraine cannot defend itself against a nuclear-armed Russia with conventional weapons.” In particular, Mearsheimer said that Ukraine would be foolish to rely on promises, no matter how comprehensive or high-minded: “No state, including the United States, is going to extend to it a meaningful security guarantee.”

Yet in 1994, urged on by the Clinton administration waving many pieces of paper, Ukraine chose to give up its nukes. It was less than 20 years later when the Russians did exactly what Mearsheimer had predicted—they attacked.

In 2014, after the Russians seized Crimea and were gnawing on Ukraine’s east, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko lamented that his country had fallen into the “trap” of “pacifist illusions” two decades earlier. He added, speaking of his naive predecessors, that they had been lulled into “believing the world had all turned vegetarian.”

Thus we can see: any national leader facing a serious foreign threat—whether democratically elected or a dictatorial tinpot—is better off if he or she can wield a nuclear arsenal.

Now we can see more clearly the choices before North Korea’s Kim. He might be a thoroughly rotten person, and yet he’s well-fortified: the world can’t remove him without enormous cost, so it has to deal with him. Yes, it’s nice to explore whether he might yet be willing to reduce or eliminate his arsenal; he could, after all, have some sudden Damascene conversion. And miracles do happen, although they don’t happen very often. Moreover, it’s entirely possible that if Kim suddenly went peacenik, the non-peaceniks around him would step in to protect their regime, which is to say, get rid of him.

We might pause now to consider that other member of the old axis of evil: Iran.

The Iranians may or may not be abiding by the 2015 nuclear deal, but it’s naive to think that they don’t still want nuclear weapons. And given that Iran is a country of 80 million people surrounded by dangerous neighbors, it’s hard to see how anything short of national annihilation will stop them from getting nukes eventually. What they do with them, of course, is an unknown; this is where diplomacy, deterrence, and, yes, missile defense could yet make the difference.

To be sure, many will deem this assessment to be depressing. As we know, there’s an enormous arms control apparatus in the U.S. and around the world, buoyantly dedicated to disarmament, non-proliferation, and generally beating swords into plowshares. (And there are more than a few regime changers still lurking about—they all have optimistic plans, too.)

Mere facts on the ground, no matter how stubborn, are unlikely to dissuade any of these folks from their ongoing efforts to save the world. Yet as we have seen, the logic of nuclear proliferation is strong. Pakistan, to cite another nuclear-armed country, is a respected international player because of its arsenal, and wouldn’t be without it.

In the meantime, the American national interest requires a rethinking of how countries defend themselves. More specifically, the U.S. can’t expect to be able to continue defending every country against every other country. This faulty status quo is perhaps most glaring on the Korean peninsula. South Korea, which we are pledged to defend, has twice the population of North Korea, and their GDP is almost 100 times higher. Why, then, is it our task to defend Seoul—especially when we run a trade deficit of some $20 billion a year? As this author wrote in June, “It’s simply not normal that one country should do all this defending, and oftentimes pay for the privilege of doing it.”

For his part, Trump might not succeed in denuclearizing North Korea, but he might succeed in energizing the self-defense efforts of South Korea, Japan, and other countries. And yes, such upgraded efforts might include nuclear weapons.

That’s not a particularly optimistic thought; it’s merely a realistic one. And as we have seen, after all the preachy illusions of Left and Right are flitted and frittered away, the world is left with something hard and lasting: reality.

James P. Pinkerton is an author and contributing editor at The American Conservative. He served as a White House policy aide to both Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.

Earthquake Assessment For The Sixth Seal (Revelation 6:12)

Earthquake Risk in New Jersey

by Daniel R. Dombroski, Jr.

A 10–fold increase in amplitude represents about a 32–fold increase in energy released for the same duration of shaking. The best known magnitude scale is one designed by C.F. Richter in 1935 for west coast earthquakes.

In New Jersey, earthquakes are measured with seismographs operated by the Lamont–Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University and the Delaware Geological Survey.

An earthquake’s intensity is determined by observing its effects at a particular place on the Earth’s surface. Intensity depends on the earthquake’s magnitude, the distance from the epicenter, and local geology. These scales are based on reports of people awakening, felt movements, sounds, and visible effects on structures and landscapes. The most commonly used scale in the United States is the Modified Mercalli Intensity Scale, and its values are usually reported in Roman numerals to distinguish them from magnitudes.

Past damage in New Jersey

New Jersey doesn’t get many earthquakes, but it does get some. Fortunately most are small. A few New Jersey earthquakes, as well as a few originating outside the state, have produced enough damage to warrant the concern of planners and emergency managers.

Damage in New Jersey from earthquakes has been minor: items knocked off shelves, cracked plaster and masonry, and fallen chimneys. Perhaps because no one was standing under a chimney when it fell, there are no recorded earthquake–related deaths in New Jersey. We will probably not be so fortunate in the future.

Area Affected by Eastern Earthquakes

Although the United States east of the Rocky Mountains has fewer and generally smaller earthquakes than the West, at least two factors  increase the earthquake risk in New Jersey and the East. Due to geologic differences, eastern earthquakes effect areas ten times larger than western ones of the same magnitude. Also, the eastern United States is more densely populated, and New Jersey is the most densely populated state in the nation.

Geologic Faults and Earthquakes in New Jersey

Although there are many faults in New Jersey, the Ramapo Fault, which separates the Piedmont and Highlands Physiographic Provinces, is the best known. In 1884 it was blamed for a damaging New York City earthquake simply because it was the only large fault mapped at the time. Subsequent investigations have shown the 1884 earthquake epicenter was actually located in Brooklyn, New York, at least 25 miles from the Ramapo Fault.

However, numerous minor earthquakes have been recorded in the Ramapo Fault Zone, a 10 to 20 mile wide area lying adjacent to, and west of, the actual fault.

More recently, in the 1970’s and early 1980’s, earthquake risk along the Ramapo Fault received attention because of its proximity to the Indian Point, New York, Nuclear Power Generating Station. East of the Rocky Mountains (including New Jersey), earthquakes do not break the ground surface. Their focuses lie at least a few miles below the Earth’s surface, and their locations are determined by interpreting seismographic records. Geologic fault lines seen on the surface today are evidence of ancient events. The presence or absence of mapped faults (fault lines) does not denote either a seismic hazard or the lack of one, and earthquakes can occur anywhere in New Jersey.

Frequency of Damaging Earthquakes in New Jersey

Records for the New York City area, which have been kept for 300 years, provide good information

for estimating the frequency of earthquakes in New Jersey.

Earthquakes with a maximum intensity of VII (see table DamagingEarthquakes Felt in New Jersey )have occurred in the New York City area in 1737, 1783, and 1884. One intensity VI, four intensity V’s, and at least three intensity III shocks have also occurred in the New York area over the last 300 years.

The time–spans between the intensity VII earthquakes were 46 and 101 years. This, and data for the smaller–intensity quakes, implies a return period of 100 years or less, and suggests New Jersey is overdue for a moderate earthquake like the one of 1884.

Buildings and Earthquakes

The 1995 earthquake in Kobe, Japan, is an example of what might happen in New Jersey in a similar quake. It registered a magnitude 7.2 on the Richter scale and produced widespread destruction. But it was the age of construction, soil and foundation condition, proximity to the fault, and type of structure that were the major determining factors in the performance of each building. Newer structures, built to the latest construction standards, appeared to perform relatively well, generally ensuring the life safety of occupants.

New Jersey’s building code has some provisions for earthquake–resistant design. But there are no requirements for retrofitting existing buildingsnot even for unreinforced masonry structures that are most vulnerable to earthquake damage. Housing of this type is common in New Jersey’s crowded urban areas. If an earthquake the size of New York City’s 1884 quake (magnitude 5.5) were to occur today, severe damage would result. Fatalities would be likely.

Structures have collapsed in New Jersey without earthquakes; an earthquake would trigger many more. Building and housing codes need to be updated and strictly enforced to properly prepare for inevitable future earthquakes.

The Antichrist Calls for “Prayer”

Iraqi supporters of Muqtada al-Sadr shout slogans and wave national flags as they demonstrate in Baghdad against corruption in the Iraqi government on March 2, 2018. Photo: Ahmad Al-Rubaye | AFP

Sadr calls on supporters to hold ‘1 million individual prayer’

By Rudaw 7 hours ago

ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — Muqtada al-Sadr, the power broker in Iraq’s government formation, has called on supporters to rally and protest the corruption, sectarianism and partisanship within Iraq on the occasion of an upcoming “Unity Prayer” wearing death shrouds after months of stopping his protests.

“Yes, you believers rush to helping your Marja and custodian to victory with all prestige, veneration and humbleness, wear shrouds just like worn as shields by the unjust,” reads a message by Sadr on Wednesday.

The firebrand Shiite cleric has rallied relished the role of the opposition voice in Iraqi politics.

“Yes you soldiers of reform rush to helping the success of the reformer of the era ‘Sayid Mohammed al-Sadr’ and his Friday,” he added, referencing his father.

He says his father held Friday prayers while religion was “banned” and Iraq was held in a “prison where life was banned” by Saddam’s regime.

Sadr, throughout the last year and sometimes this year, has organized 1 million-man protests to demand reforms and better services. This helped his list win Iraq’s elections.

“Rush to a prayer of 1 million [men] from which the corrupt tremble, the oppressors get humiliated, the believer becomes humble and the oppressed get elevated,” called Sadr on his supporters.

Sadr called on supporters to reject sectarianism, corruption, partisanship, terror and “to the occupier,” unclear as to whether he is referring to the United States.

Iraq needs the “peaceful, honorable, angry stance” of the people, arguing this will pave the road for a new Iraq that is far from “the corrupt, sins, oppressors and all sinful aggressors and occupiers.”

Sadr currently has formed an alliance with Iraqi PM Haider al-Abadi, Ammar al-Hakim and previous PM Ayad Allawi’s Wataniyah, while competing to win over Kurds and Sunni against the bloc of former PM Nouri al-Maliki.

Iraq’s new parliament is to convene its first session no later than September 3 by presidential decree.

Russia Threatening Nuclear War

World War 3 fears: Russia threaten NUCLEAR WEAPONS to Syria in response to US sanctions

Vladimir Gutenev said Russia should deploy tactical nukes in Syria (Image: GETTY)

RUSSIA may deploy nuclear weapons to Syria in response to the US policy of imposing sanctions over Moscow crossing “red lines”, a senior Russian lawmaker has warned.


PUBLISHED: 04:26, Mon, Aug 27, 2018

UPDATED: 08:42, Mon, Aug 27, 2018

Vladimir Gutenev, first deputy head of the economic policy committee of the State Duma, the lower chamber of the Russian parliament, said it is time for Russia to draw its own red lines.

Among such measures, the official said the deployment of Russian tactical nukes in countries such as Syria, the use of gold-linked cryptocurrencies for Russian arms exports and the suspension of a number of treaties with the US – such as non-proliferation of missile technologies.

Mr Gutenev said: “I believe that now Russia has to draw its own ‘red lines.’

“The time has come to ponder on variants of asymmetric response to the US, which are now being suggested by experts and are intended not only to offset their sanctions but also to do some retaliatory damage.

“It’s no secret that serious pressure is being put on Russia, and it will only get worse.

“It is intended to deal a blow to defence cooperation, including defence exports.”

The minister added that Russia should follow the advice of “experts” and follow the US’ example of deploying nuclear weapons in other countries.

He added: “We should follow the advice of certain experts, who say that Russia should possibly suspend the implementation of treaties on non-proliferation of missile technologies, and also follow the US example and start deploying our tactical nuclear weapons in foreign countries.


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The minister added that Russia should follow the advice of “experts” (Image: GETTY)


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“It is possible that Syria, where we have a well-protected airbase, may become one of those countries.”

Commenting on sanctions already in place, Mr Gutenev said they are unlikely to do serious damage to Russia’s defence industry.

He continued: “The import substitution program has produced very good results, alternative suppliers have been found.

“However, we are concerned about the fact that the sanctions are still gaining momentum and have become somewhat imminent.”

John Bolton warns Syria ‘we will act very strongly’


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Sergei and his daughter Yulia were found unconscious on a bench (Image: GETTY)

The US hit Russia with a fresh batch of sanctions on August 22 over its alleged involvement in the poisoning of former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Salisbury.

Sergei and his daughter Yulia were found unconscious on a bench near the Maltings shopping centre in Salisbury.

The Department of State claims Russia breached the Chemical and Biological Weapons Control and Warfare Elimination Act, 1992.

How Bush Set the Prophecy in Motion

‘The ground feels unsteady’: Exposed CIA spy on why Iraq was ‘one of the worst foreign policy decisions in history’ and its consequences

CommonSpace spoke to Valerie Plame, the ex CIA spy who’s story was turned into a film, about the “trumped up” intelligence in the US and UK which led to the Iraq war, and why mistrust in government now runs deep in western society

OVER 10 years after the invasion of Iraq, Valerie Plame travels the world with her spy thriller story, but the unlikely peace activist, formerly a senior spy tasked with nuclear counter-proliferation missions, never expected to attract sell-out crowds. 

Sitting down to lunch at the Beyond Borders festival before the interview begins, it is clear that Plame is more comfortable as part of a room than at its centre. Masterfully turning questions from journalists and film crew around and asking them herself, most notably finding out the hometown of those quizzing her before revealing where she lives now in New Mexico, it’s clearly her spy training hasn’t left her.

Plame’s life and career has been the plot of a major Hollywood blockbuster, and she has written her own account in a spy novel, but the unlikely protagonist of the “Plame affair” could not have dreamed of becoming a household name when she signed up to the Central Intelligence Agency [CIA] in the 1980’s.

Valerie Plame was a covert agent specialising in the counter proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, in her own words she “chased down the bad guys” who threatened the security of the West.

“When I was with the CIA, I was recruiting foreign spies to provide good, critical intelligence to senior policymakers. My expertise was counter-proliferation, essentially that means making sure bad guys did not get nuclear weapons,” she says.

Speaking to CommonSpace two years after the UK’s official inquiry into the Iraq war concluded that the invasion was founded on inaccurate intelligence, the woman behind the US intelligence gathering mission reaffirmed her belief that the Blair and Bush governments misused intelligence to support “one of the worst foreign policy decisions in history”.

“I would say that the whole time period, here we are 15 years on from the invasion of Iraq, and it is a decision that I think will go down in history as probably one of the worst foreign policy decisions in the US and perhaps in the UK, although it has a much longer history [in Iraq] than the US.

“Nevertheless, the UK at that time under Tony Blair was famously closely allied with US choices on this. What I saw, somewhat contemporaneously, and even more so today, of course, knowing what we know, is that the US administration was set to go to war with Iraq. The intelligence was famously wrapped around the policy, rather than intelligence driving policy.”

Plame’s identity as a covert CIA spy was leaked to the press in July 2003 by then Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff Lewis “Scooter” Libby in retaliation for a column authored by her husband, Ambassador Joe Wilson, himself a distinguished diplomat, which disputed the central premise behind the US and UK Government’s argument for the Iraq war.

Wilson, formerly second in command at the US embassy in Iraq, was sent to Niger, in Western Africa, in February 2002 to investigate UK intelligence passed to the US Government concerning the sale of enriched uranium to Saddam Hussein, a critical component part of a nuclear weapon of mass destruction.

Despite Wilson finding no evidence of such a sale, the faulty intelligence was quoted by the then American president George Bush when he announced action in Iraq, leading Wilson to conclude in a New York Times column that: “Some of the intelligence related to Iraq’s nuclear weapons program was twisted to exaggerate the Iraqi threat”.

The retired ambassador was no friend of Saddam Hussein and had been a trusted advisor to Republican presidents and military commanders, serving as deputy chief of mission in Iraq he responded to threats by the then Iraqi dictator to “kill all foreigners” by appearing at a press conference with a homemade hangman’s noose around his neck and said: “If the choice is to allow American citizens to be taken hostage or to be executed, I will bring my own fucking rope”.

Only a handful of people outside of the CIA knew of Plame’s real identity, and her “cover” as a venture capitalist extended to even her children and closest friends. After a prolonged investigation, Scooter Libby was later found guilty of exposing the CIA spy, but using his executive powers Bush ensured that Libby would not serve his sentence, and after coming into office President Donald Trump officially pardoned Libby.

Central to Tony Blair’s case for war, set out in the infamous “dodgy dossier” which made the public case, was that Saddam Hussein could deploy weapons of mass destruction [WMDs] within 45 minutes of an order to use them.

Asked by CommonSpace if her experience in Iraq had ever indicated if this claim could be true, Plame laughed.

“No. No significant WMDs, in particular nuclear, were found of any sort [in Iraq],” She says. “Government at the very highest levels knew that. We had recruited the Iraqi foreign minister and he was a source providing intelligence and others.

“Again, an extremely complicated question, but why the US and the highest levels of government chose to ignore the understanding of that and still proceeded is the subject of many books and lots of ink.”

She explains that in the US, a coordinated marketing campaign for war in Iraq was tasked with convincing the public of the need for war: “How you market a war, and the thing that gets people to sit up and take notice is, ‘hey, psst, they got a nuclear weapon.’ That gets people to pay attention.”

Despite her exposure and initial reservations, Plame was able to launch a fightback against the political campaign which attempted to smear her, which included a leading politician telling the media she was simply a “secretary” with the CIA.

“I never wanted to be a public person, if none of that had happened I would be overseas now chasing nuclear weapons around the world. It took me some years to come to terms with it. I found it horrifying that my name and picture were in the newspaper and on TV,” she says.

Plame agreed that there was a public mistrust both in government and the intelligence services following the failures of the Iraq war: “Whether it is in the US or the UK, the politicisation of intelligence is always a possibility and always a threat.

“It happens and you try to pull back and re-establish a semblance of trust with the general public. That is very difficult because of the nature of the intelligence business. If it continues to happen you become a banana republic.

“in part, we are where we are today, and the general trend of populism we are seeing throughout the world and particularly in Western Europe can be traced back to 9/11 and the aftermath. Going to war on essentially trumped up charges, democratic institutions being eroded and a deep mistrust of those institutions.

“It has created a world where we are today where you sort of have people with pitchforks out on the street, exacerbated of course by the financial crash of 2008. The ground feels unsteady.”

Hesitant to comment on the details of the plans, Plame was uneasy at proposals from the new UK Government home secretary Sajid Javid, who would for the first time share secret intelligence relating to terror subjects outwith the tightly controlled grip of the security services.

“I haven’t read much on this, but it doesn’t sound like the way to go. We would have to read and understand more to look at this properly.”

The interview came in the same week that Donald Trump used powers to remove security clearance from political opponents who have access to secret or classified information, a McCarthyite tactic, according to Plame, used by Trump to remove the security clearance of people who say things he disagrees with.

“This is a dangerous precedent, and I keep waiting, and I may wait in vain, for someone in the Republican leadership to step forward and say, ‘that’s enough, Mr President,”‘ she says.

On the next global crisis, Plame says she would always revert back to her expertise on nuclear weapons: “What I know best is the nuclear threat, and right now we have nine declared nuclear countries. We’ve had some sabre rattling between North Korea and the United States, turns out that not everything was sorted out at the North Korea and Trump summit.

“That continues to be of grave concern, as does Pakistan, which is to my mind a country always ready to implode but which has nuclear weapons. And one can’t forget the Iran nuclear deal, which the US unilaterally withdrew from.

There are lots of problems in the world, but I always come back to the nuclear threat and how it should be discussed by clear thinking people.”

Picture courtesy of Paul Morse