Unwrapping Nuclear Armageddon (Revelation 16)

Intermediate-range missiles on display at the Korean War Memorial Museum in Seoul, South Korea. | Lee Jin-man / AP

Unwrapping armageddon: U.S. discards another nuclear weapons treaty

Conn Hallinan

The decision by the Trump administration to withdraw from the Intermediate Nuclear Force Agreement (INF) appears to be part of a broader strategy aimed at unwinding over 50 years of agreements to control and limit nuclear weapons, returning to an era characterized by the unbridled development weapons of mass destruction.

Terminating the INF treaty—which bans land-based cruise and ballistic missiles with a range of between 300 and 3,400 miles— is not, in and of itself, a fatal blow to the network of treaties and agreements dating back to the 1963 treaty that ended atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons. But coupled with other actions—George W. Bush’s decision to withdraw from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (ABM) in 2002 and the Obama administration’s program to upgrade the nuclear weapons infrastructure—the tapestry of agreements that has, at least in part, limited these terrifying creations, is looking increasingly frayed.

National Security Adviser John Bolton is a key voice in the Trump administration advocating a U.S. exit from any treaty that might restrain American power–whether military or economic. Here, Bolton speaks at a Federalist Society luncheon at the Mayflower Hotel, Sept. 10, in Washington. | Andrew Harnik / AP

“Leaving the INF,” says Sergey Rogov of the Institute of U.S. and Canadian Studies, “could bring the whole structure of arms control crashing down.”

Lynn Rusten, the former senior director for arms control in the National Security Agency Council warns, “This is opening the door to an all-out arms race.”

Washington’s rationale for exiting the INF Treaty is that the Russians deployed the 9M729 cruise missile that the US claims violates the agreement, although Moscow denies it and the evidence has not been made public. Russia countercharges that the U.S. ABM system—Aegis Ashore—deployed in Romania and planned for Poland could be used to launch similar medium range missiles.

If this were a disagreement over weapon capability, inspections would settle the matter. But the White House—in particular National Security Advisor John Bolton—is less concerned with inspections than extracting the U.S. from agreements that in any way restrain the use of American power, be it military or economic. Thus, Trump dumped the Iran nuclear agreement, not because Iran is building nuclear weapons or violating the agreement, but because the administration wants to use economic sanctions to pursue regime change in Tehran.

In some ways, the INF agreement is low hanging fruit. The 1987 treaty banned only land-based medium range missiles, not those launched by sea or air—where the Americans hold a strong edge—and it only covered the U.S. and Russia (then the Soviet Union). Other nuclear-armed countries, particularly China, India, North Korea, Israel, and Pakistan have deployed a number of medium range nuclear-armed missiles. One of the arguments Bolton makes for exiting the INF is that it would allow the U.S. to counter China’s medium range missiles.

But if the concern was controlling intermediate range missiles, the obvious path would be to expand the treaty to other nations and include air- and sea-launched weapons. Not that that would be easy. China has lots of intermediate range missiles, because most its potential antagonists, like Japan or U.S. bases in Asia, are within the range of such missiles. The same goes for Pakistan, India, and Israel.

Intermediate range weapons—sometimes called “theater” missiles—do not threaten the U.S. mainland the way that similar U.S. missiles threaten China and Russia. Beijing and Moscow can be destroyed by long-range intercontinental missiles, but also by theater missiles launched from ships or aircraft. One of the reasons that Europeans are so opposed to withdrawing from the INF is that, in the advent of nuclear war, medium range missiles on their soil will make them a target.

But supposed violations of the treaty is not why Bolton and the people around him oppose the agreement. Bolton called for withdrawing from the INF Treaty three years before the Obama administration charged the Russians with cheating. Indeed, Bolton has opposed every effort to constrain nuclear weapons and has already announced that the Trump administration will not extend the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) when it expires in 2021.

START caps the number of U.S. and Russian deployed nuclear weapons at 1,550, no small number.

The Bush administration’s withdrawal from the 1972 ABM treaty in 2002 was the first major blow to the treaty framework. Anti-ballistic missiles are inherently destabilizing, because the easiest way to defeat such systems is to overwhelm them by expanding the number of launchers and warheads. Bolton—a longtime foe of the ABM agreement—recently bragged that dumping the treaty had no effect on arms control.

But the treaty’s demise has shelved START talks, and it was the ABM’s deployment in Eastern Europe—along with NATO’s expansion up to the Russian borders—that led to Moscow deploying the cruise missile now in dispute.

While Bolton and Trump are more aggressive about terminating agreements, it was the Obama administration’s decision to spend $1.6 trillion to upgrade and modernize U.S. nuclear weapons that now endangers one of the central pillars of the nuclear treaty framework, the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).

That agreement ended the testing of nuclear weapons, slowing the development of new weapons, particularly miniaturization and warheads with minimal yields. The former would allow more warheads on each missile, the latter could increase the possibility of using nuclear weapons without setting off a full-scale nuclear exchange.

Nukes are tricky to design, so you don’t want to deploy one without testing it. The Americans have bypassed some of the obstacles created by the CTBT by using computers like the National Ignition Facility. The B-61 Mod 11 warhead, soon-to-be-deployed in Europe, was originally a city killer, but labs at Livermore, California and Los Alamos and Sandia, New Mexico turned it into a bunker buster, capable of taking out command and control centers buried deep in the ground.

Nevertheless, the military and the nuclear establishment—ranging from companies such as Lockheed Martin and Honeywell International to university research centers—have long felt hindered by the CTBT. Add the Trump administration’s hostility to anything that constrains U.S. power and the CTBT may be next on the list.

Restarting nuclear testing will end any controls on weapons of mass destruction. And since Article VI of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) requires nuclear-armed powers to eventually disarm their weapons of mass destruction, that agreement may go as well. In a very short time, countries like South Korea, Japan, and Saudi Arabia will join the nuclear club, with South Africa and Brazil in the wings. The latter two countries researched producing nuclear weapons in the 1980s, and South Africa actually tested one.

The demise of the INF agreement will edge the world closer to nuclear war. Since medium range missiles shorten the warning time for a nuclear attack from 30 minutes to 10 minutes or less, countries will keep their weapons on a hair trigger. “Use them or lose them” is the philosophy that impels the tactics of nuclear war.

In the past year, Russia and NATO held very large military exercises on one another’s borders. Russian, U.S., and Chinese fighter planes routinely play games of chicken. What happens when one of those “games” goes wrong?

The U.S. and the Soviet Union came within minutes of an accidental war on at least two occasions, and, with so many actors and so many weapons, it will be only a matter of time before some country interprets a radar image incorrectly and goes to DEFCON 1—imminent nuclear war.

The INF Treaty came about because of strong opposition and huge demonstrations in Europe and the United States. That kind of pressure, coupled with a pledge by countries not to deploy such weapons, will be required again, lest the entire tapestry of agreements that kept the horror of nuclear war at bay vanish.

Babylon the Great Builds Up Her Nuclear Horn


Published 12:58 p.m. ET Oct. 22, 2018 | Updated 6:48 p.m. ET Oct. 22, 2018

WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump said Monday he would build up America’s nuclear arsenal in response to what he portrayed as growing threats from Russia and China.

„Until people come to their senses, we will build it up,“ Trump said in reference to U.S. nuclear weapons capacity. „We have more money than anybody else by far.“

Trump also reiterated his intention to withdraw from a landmark nuclear weapons treaty with Russia, which he accused of violating the pact.

„I’m terminating the agreement,“ Trump told reporters before leaving for a campaign rally in Texas. „Russia has not adhered to the agreement. This should have been done years ago.“

Trump first announced plans to withdraw from the three-decades-old accord, commonly referred to as the INF Treaty, during a campaign rally over the weekend. The agreement, signed in 1987 by then-President Ronald Reagan and Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, required the U.S. and Russia to destroy ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges of between approximately 310 and 3,400 miles, along with supporting equipment.

The White House says Russia is breaking the accord by producing or testing ground-launched nuclear cruise missiles with that range. Russia has repeatedly denied the allegations.

Trump made the threat of a nuclear weapons build-up shortly after his national security adviser, John Bolton, landed in Moscow for a series of previously scheduled meetings.

White House officials said Bolton would focus on a broad range of issues, from arms control to the Syrian civil war. But Putin’s spokesman said they would use the meetings to demand answers from Bolton about the fate of the nuclear accord.

Russian President Vladimir Putin expects “a detailed explanation” of Trump’s threat to withdraw from a landmark nuclear weapons treaty, a Kremlin spokesman said Monday before Bolton’s meetings began.

“Putin has always said that scrapping this document would cause damage to global security and stability,“ Dmitry Peskov, the Russian leader’s spokesman, said Monday, according to the state-controlled media outlet Tass. “We would like to receive a detailed explanation from the U.S.”

European leaders have not disputed U.S. allegations of Russian cheating. But they’ve expressed concerns that Trump’s plan to nix the treaty will lead to a new nuclear arms race.

The INF treaty „contributed to the end of the cold-war and constitutes a pillar of European security architecture since it entered into force 30 years ago,“ the EU said in a statement Monday. It noted that the treaty led to the elimination of nearly 3,000 missiles with nuclear and conventional warheads have been removed and verifiably destroyed and urged the U.S. and Russia to resolve its differences over the accord.

„The world doesn’t need a new arms race that would benefit no one and on the contrary would bring even more instability,“ the EU statement says. .

Trump’s announcement also sparked concern among some members of Congress.

“They’re a nuclear power, and I think it’s foolish of us to get out of the INF treaty willy-nilly or flippantly,” Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., told reporters during a conference call Monday. “We should be appointing arms negotiators to work out our differences.”

Senate Foreign Relations chairman Bob Corker, R-Tenn., told CNN on Sunday that Trump’s decision could undermine other disarmament agreements. He said he hoped Trump would reconsider.

“Maybe this is just a move to say, ‘Look … if you don’t straighten up we’re moving out of this’,” Corker said. “… And I hope that’s the case.“

But Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said it was “absolutely the right move” to nix the treaty. „The Russians have been cheating,” Graham said on Fox News.

@AmbJohnBolton began his visit to Moscow by meeting with Nikolai Patrushev, Secretary of the Security Council of the Russian Federation. They discussed a wide range of topics including strategic arms control, Syria, Iran, North Korea and the fight against terrorism. https://t.co/KToxiqmLU7

— Andrea Kalan (@USEmbRuPress) October 22, 2018

Contributing: The Associated Press

Russia is „Winning“ the Nuclear Race

In most of the industrialized world, nuclear energy has lost its appeal due to, among other reasons, the disaster at Fukushima in 2011. Few countries have ordered new plants to supplement or replace aging ones. China is an exception with 44 reactors under construction meaning that by 2030 almost 150 GW of nuclear energy will be produced. Saudi-Arabia could become the second largest growth market and a boon to companies specialized in nuclear energy across the world. Riyadh will order its first two reactors in 2019 and an additional 19 power plants until 2030.

As there are no Saudi companies with the required nuclear know-how, expertise will be provided by foreign companies. Several corporations have been shortlisted to provide the necessary expertise. In order to export American nuclear technology, Congress needs to approve the deal. Strong ties and mutual interests such as the containing of Iran would have smoothened a deal on nuclear energy in the past. Recent developments, however, paint a gloomier picture.

Saudi-U.S. relations and challenges

Washington has maintained close relations with Riyadh since the end of Second World War due to the Arab country’s strategic importance. Every president has dedicated precious time and resources to maintain good relations with the Saudis. President Trump is no exception. The destination of his first foreign trip was Saudi-Arabia where $110 billion in military hardware deals were signed.

Despite Riyadh making several foreign policy blunders such as the blockade of Qatar and alleged kidnapping of Lebanese prime minister Hariri, Washington’s support for Saudi-Arabia remained unchallenged. Even the disastrous war in Yemen didn’t change the situation. The murder of one man, however, could possibly do more harm.

The killing of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul and the obvious involvement of senior leaders in Riyadh have fraught relations. Section 123 of the Atomic Energy Act of 1954 requires several prerequisites as guarantees for the peaceful use of nuclear energy before foreign companies and states are able to use American technology. Five key Republican Senators are pushing President Trump to take punitive actions. According to Senator Marco Rubio „no relationship is too big to fail“.

In addition, Democratic Senator Edward Markey urged Trump to “suspend discussions on civilian nuclear cooperation with Saudi-Arabia and to revoke any approvals for the transfer of nuclear services, technology or assistance”. Bipartisan pressure on Trump’s administration threatens to derail negotiations. This was before the midterms. The Democrats, which after 8 years have regained control over the House of Representatives, are more critical towards Riyadh on the subject of Khashoggi than the Republicans. This could become a serious challenge for the U.S. administration and for U.S. companies trying to do business in Saudi Arabia going forward.

Russia’s potential win

Among the countries vying for lucrative contracts to build nuclear power plants, is Russia’s state-controlled Rosatom. The company is currently constructing 34 reactors in 12 countries while several other states have shown interest. The order book has increased to $300 billion which adds up to 60 percent of all nuclear power plants under construction. In order to land new deals and service existing agreements in the Arab world, Rosatom has opened an office in Dubai.

Until recently, Russia and Saudi-Arabia were competitors on the global energy market with little cooperation between the energy superpowers. The dramatic fall of oil prices caused by the surge of U.S. shale forced the countries to cooperate which led to the OPEC+ agreement and increased prices. According to Minister of Energy, Khalid Al-Falih Saudi-Arabia is also considering investing $5 billion in the Arctic-2 LNG project led by Novatek and Total.

Although it cannot be said with certainty that Rosatom will receive lucrative orders, Moscow has positioned itself well in recent years to profit from good relations with Riyadh. In case Washington decides to withhold American nuclear technology, Riyadh has plenty of alternatives. The extended track record of Rosatom and attractive conditions have in the past assured the nuclear energy giant of several deals. The Russians meet, on paper at least, the requirements to succeed in Saudi-Arabia which will be assisted by the absence of American competitors.

By Vanand Meliksetian for Oilprice.com

Closer to the First Nuclear War (Revelation 8)

Muzaffarabad: President of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK), Sardar Masood Khan, on Tuesday made a threatening statement against India by saying that Indian “obstinacy on the Kashmir issue” could trigger a nuclear war in South Asia.

“India and Pakistan have fought three wars over Kashmir and Indian obstinacy on the Kashmir issue, along with inhuman atrocities in Kashmir and Indian shelling on the civilian population living along the Line of Control (LoC) could bring both nuclear-armed states to the brink of another devastating war,” Khan threatened.

There is no possible military solution to the Kashmir issue and India will have to initiate dialogues with Pakistan to find a ‘peaceful’ resolution to this conflict, he said.

Speaking to a delegation of 48th Pakistan Navy Staff Course participants in Muzaffarabad, Khan said Pakistan always sought peaceful resolution on Kashmir through dialogues but India “is adamant to settle the issue through military might by suppressing the voice of Kashmiri people for their internationally recognized right to self-determination”.

“It is high time for the United Nations Secretary-General to take a step forward and appoint a special representative to explore a viable solution to the conflict of Kashmir and to ensure peace and stability in the region,” he said.

“The United Nations and world powers need to intervene in setting a stage for the resolution of Kashmir before the two nuclear states of India and Pakistan indulge in a full-fledged war which will be a monumental disaster that will engulf not only the region but large part of the world,” Khan emphasized.

Khan went on a further verbal assault on India’s laws such as Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) and Public Safety Act (PSA) and called them ‘draconian’, alleging that our laws give impunity to the Indian army in Kashmir, so much so that “an Indian soldier can shoot to kill any at will and he will not be accountable to anybody or any agency for prosecution”.

Deadly Fire Outside the Temple Walls (Revelation 11:2)

Buildings in the southern Israeli town of Ashkelon were hit by rockets fired from Gaza

Israel-Gaza: Deadly fire traded across border

▪ 13 November 2018 Middle East

Eight people have been killed in a flare-up of violence between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza.

More than 460 rockets have been fired into Israel by militants since Monday night, while Israeli aircraft have hit 160 militant targets in response.

Seven Palestinians, several of them militants, died in the strikes on Gaza, while a Palestinian civilian was killed in a rocket attack in southern Israel.

Later, Palestinian militant groups said Egypt had brokered a ceasefire.

The military wing of Hamas, the Islamist movement that dominates Gaza, said it would „abide by this declaration as long as the Zionist enemy commits to it“.

A senior Israeli official appeared to confirm the report . Israeli media quoted the official as saying: „Israel maintains its right to act. Requests from Hamas for a ceasefire came through four different mediators.

„Israel responded that the events on the ground will decide [how it proceeds].“

The escalation began when an undercover Israeli special forces operation inside Gaza was exposed on Sunday. A Hamas commander was among seven militants killed in clashes, and an Israeli lieutenant-colonel in the undercover unit also died.

Recently there had been signs that the UN and Egypt had made progress in an effort to secure a truce on the Gaza border, where more than 200 Palestinians have been killed in protests since March.

The Israeli military has been accused of using excessive force against protesters, but has said its soldiers have only opened fire in self-defence or on potential attackers trying to infiltrate its territory.

How serious is the latest violence?

After a brief lull following Sunday night’s violence, a barrage of rockets and mortars was launched towards Israel late on Monday, which Israeli medics said killed one person and injured 28.

A bus, which had reportedly been carrying troops, was hit by an anti-tank missile in the Shaar Hanegev region , seriously wounding a male soldierOvernight, a man was killed when a block of flats in Ashkelon was hit by a rocket. He was later identified as a Palestinian from the occupied West Bank who had been working in Israel.

Eight other people were injured in the attack, including two women who the Israeli ambulance service said were in a serious condition.

In response, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) carried out what it called a wide-scale attack against military targets belonging to the Hamas and Islamic Jihad groups.

Israeli aircraft struck the Hamas interior security headquarters in Gaza City

It said they included Hamas’s military intelligence headquarters in northern Gaza and „a unique vessel“ in a harbour in the south of the territory.

The building housing Hamas’s Al-Aqsa TV was also bombed after being evacuated. The IDF said the outlet „contributes to Hamas’s military actions“.

The Hamas-run Gaza health ministry said seven people were killed and 26 others injured in the strikes. At least four of the dead were militants; two are said to have been farmers in northern Gaza.

This is one of the most serious rounds of fighting since Israel and Hamas fought a war in 2014.

The IDF has warned it is prepared to „dial up its response“ to the rocket fire, while Hamas’s military wing said it was ready to „expand the circle of fire“ against Israel.

UN Middle East envoy Nickolay Mladenov said the escalation was „extremely dangerous“ and that efforts were being made to pull Gaza „back from the brink“.

Escalation threatens to derail truce efforts

By Tom Bateman, BBC News, southern Israel

This latest flare-up has shown again how swiftly the pendulum can swing from the brink of a longer-term truce to the brink of all-out conflict.

For months there has been quiet yet intensive shuttle diplomacy brokered largely by Egyptian intelligence officials and Nickolay Mladenov.

Hamas sought an easing of the Israeli and Egyptian blockade of Gaza amid deteriorating economic and humanitarian conditions, while Israel wanted calm on the Gaza perimeter.

Some limited results were starting to be delivered – literally, in the form of fuel for Gaza’s power plant and $15m (£12m) in cash from Qatar, which was allowed into Gaza to help fund the salaries of unpaid Hamas civil servants.

But the indirect process also came under attack from internal critics on both sides, who saw it as a sign of unnecessary compromise or weakness.

The current escalation is likely to have strengthened those voices for now.

How did the violence start?

Palestinians said they discovered an undercover Israeli unit in a civilian car about 3km (2 miles) inside the Gaza Strip, east of Khan Younis, late on Sunday.

A firefight ensued in which the Hamas commander was killed. Israel launched air strikes and opened fire with tanks on the area, witnesses said. Six other militants were killed as well as one of the Israeli special forces soldiers.

Due to the secrecy of the operation, Israel has not revealed specific details about the mission.

REUTERS

Image caption

Israel carried out air strikes when Sunday night’s firefight erupted

The IDF said, however, that the operation was „not intended to kill or abduct terrorists, but to strengthen Israeli security“.

According to a former Israeli general, the incident was likely to have been an intelligence-gathering operation that went wrong.

A spokesman for Hamas denounced Sunday’s incident as a „cowardly Israeli attack“.

Why are Israel and Hamas enemies?

Hamas won Palestinian elections in 2006 and reinforced its power in the Gaza Strip after ousting West Bank-based Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s rival Fatah faction in clashes the following year.

While Mr Abbas’s umbrella Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) has signed peace accords with Israel, Hamas does not recognise Israel’s right to exist and advocates the use of violence against it.

AFP

Schools have been ordered to close in Israeli border communities as a precaution

Israel, along with Egypt, has maintained a blockade of Gaza since about 2006 in order, they say, to stop attacks by militants.

Israel and Hamas have gone to war three times, and rocket fire from Gaza and Israeli air strikes against militant targets are a regular occurrence.