Russia Buzzes Babylon the Great

Russian bombers buzz North American coastline

A pair of Russian supersonic, nuclear-capable bombers buzzed North America Saturday, forcing American and Canadian fighter jets to scramble and intercept them, the U.S. military said.

The two Russian Tu-160 Blackjack bombers “remained in international airspace,” but were escorted by two U.S. Air Force F-22 fighter jets and two Canadian CF-18 jets, according to a statement from the North American Aerospace Defense Command, better known as NORAD.

The U.S. jets flew from an Air Force base in Alaska.

The Russian bomber flight near North America — the first known flight this year — coincides with the visit of NATO’s Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg to Washington to meet Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, acting Defense Secretary Pat Shanahan and national security adviser John Bolton. 

President Trump has mulled pulling the United States out of NATO, according to senior administration officials.

U.S. reconnaissance aircraft routinely fly off the coast of Russia and Russian-occupied Crimea, staying just outside the 12-nautical-mile terroritorial limit.

In 2017, U.S. nuclear-capable bombers flew over the Baltic Sea and were intercepted by Russian fighter jets.

And in 2018. a similar scenario played out as Russian bombers escorted by fighter jets flew near Alaska on Sept. 11 before the U.S. intercepted them with F-22s.

The Rising Chinese Nuclear Horn (Daniel 8:8)

We ranked the world’s nuclear arsenals — here’s why China’s came out on top

Alex Lockie, provided by

| January 25, 2019

Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty images

• Of the nine nations that control the roughly 14,200 nuclear weapons in the world, Russia’s bombs could most easily end all life on earth.

• But a nuclear arsenal can’t just be judged on how deadly it is.

• Nuclear nations must be judged on their execution of nuclear projects, their safety and responsibility in nuclear enterprises, whether or not they accomplish their nuclear missions, and the cohesiveness of their nuclear doctrine in addition to just making things go “boom.”

• Business Insider spoke with a nuclear-weapons expert and concluded that China has the world’s best nuclear arsenal, though not nearly the biggest or most ready to fight. 

Russian President Vladimir Putin confirmed long-held rumors in the US intelligence community in a speech on March 1, 2018, by announcing Russia had built an underwater nuclear device capable of killing millions in a single blast and rendering thousands of square miles of land uninhabitable for decades.

The US, Russia’s main nuclear rival, had no answer for this weapon — no defenses in place can stop it, no emergency-response plans in place address it, and no forthcoming projects to counter or neuter it.

On the surface, the doomsday torpedo represents unrivaled capability of nuclear destruction, but a nuclear arsenal’s worth rests on many factors, not just its ability to kill.

Eight nations control the roughly 14,200 nuclear weapons in the world, and another nation holds an additional 80 or so as an open secret.

Nuclear weapons, once thought of as the ultimate decider in warfare, have seen use exactly twice in conflict, both times by the US during World War II.

Since then, nuclear weapons have taken on a role as a deterrent. The US and Russia, Cold War rivals for decades, have not fought head-to-head since the dawn of the nuclear era, owing the peace at least in part to fear that a conflict would escalate into mutual, and then global, destruction.

What makes a good nuclear arsenal?

• First, a good nuclear doctrine. Will a country strike first, or only in response?

• Second, safety. Are the nukes secure? Does the country participate in nonproliferation treaties?

• Third, do the nukes work as intended? Is the arsenal sufficient? Can the nukes survive an initial attack?

In the slides below, Business Insider has weighed these questions with the help of Hans Kristensen, the director of the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists, to rank the world’s nuclear arsenals. 

9. North Korea: the fledgling force

Rodong Sinmun

North Korea fails by virtually every metric used to measure nuclear arsenals. North Korea’s nuclear missiles may not even work, and the country’s leader, Kim Jong Un, diverts money from essential services for his own people to foot the bill. The nation is a constant proliferation threat.

Furthermore, North Korea’s nuclear doctrine, as pieced together from decades of saber rattling, amounts to essentially saying it will nuke the US, South Korea, or Japan if it wishes, and as a first strike. In the 21st century, only North Korea has tested nuclear weapons, introducing the threat of radioactive fallout to a new generation.

North Korea serves the world as a reminder of the horrors of nuclear proliferation. Every day, intelligence officials investigate whether the poverty-stricken country has helped another rogue state acquire missile or nuclear-bomb technology.

North Korea remains an international pariah under intense sanctions for its nuclear activity, so why bother?

Because North Korea has a hopeless disadvantage in nonnuclear forces when compared to South Korea, Japan, or the US. Because Pyongyang can never hope to defeat any of its enemies in conventional fighting, it turned to nukes as a guarantor of its security.

North Korea’s nuclear arsenal

KCNA/File Photo via Reuters

Weapons count: estimated 60

Weapons count rank: 9

North Korea has a number of short- to intercontinental-range ballistic-missile systems thought to operate off the backs of mobile missile launchers.

One analyst has warned that North Korea’s mobile launchers may simply distract from the real threat of hidden nuclear silos, but no evidence of such silos has ever appeared in US intelligence reports made public.

North Korea has tested a number of submarine-launch platforms and fields a fleet of older submarines, but this capability is thought to be far off.

North Korea’s nuclear arsenal comes down to a few older ballistic-missile systems in the field and some long-range systems in development, according to Kristensen.

It’s completely unknown if North Korea keeps its nuclear weapons mated or with the warhead affixed to the missile.

8. Pakistan: loose nukes?

Public Domain

Pakistan built nuclear weapons in response to its bitter regional rival, India, testing and proceeding with a relatively simple nuclear mission: deter or defeat India.

Pakistan managed to develop what’s known as a “credible minimum deterrent,” or the lowest number of nukes possible while still credibly warding off India, which has much stronger conventional forces and many times Pakistan’s population.

Full on shooting wars and frequent cross-border skirmishes have broken out between India and Pakistan since World War II, making the relatively smaller country fear for its sovereignty.

“Pakistan has concluded that India can use its more advanced conventional forces to push into Pakistan and Pakistan wouldn’t have a choice except to use nuclear weapons,” Kristensen told Business Insider.

Pakistan would score highly for having a simple nuclear mission, and not going overboard in meeting it, except for two glaring issues: safety and responsibility.

Pakistan has links to Islamic extremists with connections to global terror networks. Experts have long feared not enough has been done to secure Islamabad’s nukes against these threats.

Additionally, “Pakistan has lowered the threshold for nuclear weapons use,” by building smaller, tactical nuclear weapons, according to the Arms Control Association.

A Closer Look At the Sixth Seal (Revelation 6:12)


By Spectrum News NY1 | April 2, 2018 @4:32 PM

Not every New Yorker felt when the ground shook on August 23, 2011.

When a magnitude 5.8 earthquake cracked the soil near Mineral, Virginia that day, the energy traveled through the Northeast.

Some New Yorkers watched their homes tremor, while others felt nothing.

Researchers say New York City is due for a significant earthquake originating near the five boroughs, based on previous smaller earthquakes in and around the city. While New York is at moderate risk for earthquakes, its high population and infrastructure could lead to significant damage when a magnitude 5 quake or stronger hits the area.

Unbeknownst to many, there are numerous fault lines in the city, but a few stand out for their size and prominence: the 125th Street Fault, the Dyckman Street Fault, the Mosholu Parkway Fault, and the East River Fault.

The 125th Street Fault is the largest, running along the street, extending from New Jersey to the East River. Part of it runs to the northern tip of Central Park, while a portion extends into Roosevelt Island.

The Dyckman Street Fault is located in Inwood, crossing the Harlem River and into Morris Heights, while the Mosholu Parkway Fault is north of the Dyckman Street and 125th Street Faults.

The East River Fault looks a bit like an obtuse angle, with its top portion running parallel, to the west of Central Park, before taking a horizontal turn near 32nd St. and extending into the East River and stopping short of Brooklyn.

Just outside of the city is the Dobbs Ferry Fault, located in suburban Westchester; and the Ramapo Fault, running from eastern Pennsylvania to the mid-Hudson Valley, passing within a few miles northwest of the Indian Point Nuclear Plant, less than 40 miles north of the city and astride the intersection of two active seismic zones.

The locations of faults and the prevalence of earthquakes is generally not a concern for most New Yorkers. One reason might be that perceptions of weaker earthquakes vary widely.

On Nov. 30, a magnitude 4.1 earthquake, centered near Dover, Delaware, could be felt in nearby states. Less than 200 miles away in New York City, some people reported on social media that they felt their houses and apartments shaking. At the same time, some New Yorkers, again, did not feel anything:

Won-Young Kim is a senior research scientist at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, which monitors and records data on earthquakes that occur in the northeast. Kim says it’s not clear who feels smaller earthquakes, as evident by a magnitude 0.8 quake in the city in December of 2004.

“Hundreds of people called local police, and police called us. Our system was unable to detect that tiny earthquake automatically,” Kim said. “We looked at it, and, indeed, there was a small signal.”

Kim says some parts of the city will feel magnitude 1 or 2 earthquakes even if the seismic activity does not result in any damage.

You have to go back to before the 20th Century, however, to find the last significant earthquake that hit the city. According to Lamont-Doherty researchers, magnitude 5.2 earthquakes occurred in 1737 and 1884. In newspaper accounts, New Yorkers described chimneys falling down and feeling the ground shake underneath them.

“1737 — that was located close to Manhattan,” Kim said. “It was very close to New York City.”

According to Kim, the 1884 quake was felt in areas in or close to the city, such as the Rockaways and Sandy Hook, New Jersey. But it was felt even as far away as Virginia and Maine.

From 1677 to 2007, there were 383 known earthquakes in a 15,000-square-mile area around New York City, researchers at Lamont-Doherty said in a 2008 study.

A 4.9 located in North Central New Jersey was felt in the city in 1783; a 4 hit Ardsley in 1985; and in 2001, magnitude 2.4 and 2.6 quakes were detected in Manhattan itself for the first time.

But the 1737 and 1884 quakes remain the only known ones of at least magnitude 5 to hit the city.

Smaller earthquakes are not to be ignored. Lamont-Doherty researchers say frequent small quakes occur in predictable ratios to larger ones and thus can be used — along with the fault lengths, detected tremors and calculations of how stress builds in the crust — to create a rough time scale.

The takeaway? New York City is due for a significant earthquake.

Researchers say New York City is susceptible to at least a magnitude 5 earthquake once every 100 years, a 6 about every 670 years, and 7 about every 3,400 years.

It’s been 134 years since New York was last hit by at least a magnitude 5. When it happens next, researchers say it won’t be much like 1884.

The city’s earthquake hazard is moderate, according to the New York City Area Consortium for Earthquake Loss Mitigation (NYCEM), but experts agree that, due to its higher population and infrastructure, the damage would be significant.

Before 1995, earthquake risks were not taken into consideration for the city’s building code. Thus, Lamont-Doherty says many older buildings, such as unenforced three- to six-story buildings, could suffer major damage or crumble.

The damage an earthquake causes is also dependent on what’s in the ground. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, bedrock is more resistant to earthquakes than sediment.

The upper third of Manhattan has harder soil that is more resistant to shaking. Parts of Midtown are more susceptible, while Downtown Manhattan’s soil is even softer, according to the NYCEM.

Exceptions to Upper Manhattan’s strength? Portions of Harlem and Inwood — both areas consist of a large amount of soft soil. Central Park has the strongest soil in Manhattan, outside of a small segment of Inwood..

Not all boroughs are created equal. While the Bronx is also made of solid bedrock, the ground in Queens and Brooklyn is softer.

“If you go to Queens and Brooklyn, you have sediment, so there would be more shaking relative to Manhattan,” Kim said. “So, it’s not easy to say the damage would be the same.”

Analysis pins the damage from a magnitude 5 earthquake hitting New York City in the billions, according to Lamont-Doherty.

New York City is not a hotbed for seismic activity; it is not close to a tectonic plate, and it is not clear if one of the faults would be the source of a strong quake. But the predicted damage to the city has concerned many experts.

Until that day, earthquakes are isolated events for New Yorkers. Some have felt the ground move, while others have only felt shaking when subway cars travel underground.

But researchers agree: One day, the ground will wake up in the city that never sleeps, and all New Yorkers will understand what Mineral, Virginia felt when their homes rattled with the earth.

Containing the nations outside the temple walls (Revelation 11:2)

Can Israel’s Iron Wall Contain Hamas?

Benjamin Netanyahu’s government has tried to keep the Islamist group in check, but the situation in Gaza is as unstable as ever.

Khaled HroubJanuary 25, 2019, 1:25 PM

Yahya Sinwar (C-R), the leader of Hamas in the Gaza Strip and Ismail Haniyeh (C-L), the senior leader of the movement’s political bureau, attend the funeral of a Hamas official in Gaza City on March 25, 2017. (MAHMUD HAMS/AFP/Getty Images)

Any discussion of the Palestinian struggle always invokes broader debates concerning self-determination, colonialism, and resistance. An examination of narrower aspects of the struggle certainly can be illuminating but only if it remains very much linked to the wider historical picture. Tareq Baconi’s Hamas Contained: The Rise and Pacification of Palestinian Resistance places itself within this context, attempting to balance the broad with the narrow. The idea of “containment” is key. Baconi’s book straightforwardly summons the Iron Wall concept of force and coercion that Israeli leaders cherish; it is a helpful perspective in discussing Hamas, Palestine, and Israel.

The radical revisionist Zionist and ideologue Zeev Jabotinsky forcefully advocated the concept of the Iron Wall in 1923, arguing that the Arabs of Palestine would never accept a Jewish state created on their land by force. “This colonization [of Palestine],” Jabotinsky wrote, “can … continue and develop only under the protection of a force independent of the local population—an iron wall, which the native population cannot break through.” A metaphor that now has partially materialized in actual concrete, the Iron Wall of Jewish military might, Jabotinsky hoped and predicted, would separate the new Jewish state and protect it against the Palestinians and Arabs, who would keep banging their heads against it in despair. “Every native population in the world,” he argued, “resists colonists as long as it has the slightest hope of being able to rid itself of the danger of being colonized. That is what the Arabs of Palestine are doing and what they will persist in doing as long as there remains a solitary spark of hope that they will be able to prevent that transformation of ‘Palestine’ into the ‘Land of Israel.’”

At the time, Jabotinsky directed his argument particularly against those Zionists who advocated diplomacy and dialogue with the Palestinians. Jabotinsky’s early acknowledgement that Palestinian resistance is fundamentally anti-colonial ironically contradicts the narrow security-obsessed view of the current Israeli government—which claims to be his ideological heir—that Hamas or any form of Palestinian resistance is simple terrorism or aimless violence.

The Iron Wall paradigm has dominated Zionist thought since Jabotinsky’s time, becoming an integral part of the collective psyche of Israeli leaders. Defense ministers, foreign ministers, and prime ministers with military pedigrees brought this toughness into the realm of politics. Leaders without a military background have striven even harder to be no less tough than the first group.

In recent decades, the effectiveness of the Iron Wall has been clear—leading to Egypt, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), and Jordan signing peace treaties with Israel in 1981, 1993, and 1994, respectively—more or less on Israeli terms. Several other Arab states, such as Morocco, Oman, and Qatar, later created various forms of tacit relations with Israel. Presently, relationships between Israel and a number of Gulf states are warming, and they anticipate the exchange of ambassadors in the near future. Against this tide of Israeli “containment” of the Arabs and Palestinians, Hamas stands out—defiant—refusing to recognize and yield to the Iron Wall.

It is within this broader understanding of the centrality (and brutality) of power in Israeli thinking that one better appreciates Baconi’s impressive historiography of Hamas. Leaving barely any literature on Hamas untouched, Baconi’s book is extensively and solidly based on original material in Arabic: leaflets, communiqués, old founding documents and many newer ones, interviews with Hamas officials as well as an extensive reliance on issues of the monthly magazine Filastin al-Muslima, which was considered by many as the unofficial mouthpiece of Hamas for years.

Leaving barely any literature on Hamas untouched, Baconi’s book is extensively and solidly based on original material in Arabic

Baconi introduces the concept of Israeli pacification and containment of Hamas. He argues that Israel eventually succeeded in dealing with Hamas by neutralizing its military, pacifying the attitudes of some of its leaders, and containing the threat it posed. This has been far from a complete decapitation or destruction of Hamas, but it has prevented the movement from using its military arm in ways that continually harm or seriously threaten Israel.

Baconi follows Hamas’s evolution from its inception in late 1987 through 2016. Hamas advanced its resistance in the first half of the 1990s in reaction to the PLO’s decision to pursue peace talks and diplomacy that culminated in the Oslo Accords in 1993. For many Palestinians, Oslo was a trap baited with vague promises of Israeli withdrawal and the creation of a Palestinian state. The agreement guaranteed PLO recognition of Israel in return for Israel’s recognition of the PLO as the sole representative of the Palestinians—but not recognizing the Palestinians as a “people.” Hamas protested that Oslo didn’t end the Israeli occupation and reiterated that, as Hamas leader Abdel Aziz Rantissi put it, “the continued presence of the occupation means the continued presence of resistance.”

In response to the killing of more than 29 Palestinians praying in Hebron’s Ibrahimi Mosque by a fanatical Jewish settler (whose grave was transformed into a shrine revered by settlers today), Hamas launched a wave of suicide attacks inside Israel that shocked Israeli society and its leaders. The Oslo Accords collapsed over the following years amid Hamas’s continued military operations and Israel’s expanding settlements.

In September 2000, Israeli opposition leader Ariel Sharon visited Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem accompanied by armed Israeli police, triggering a major riot and the renewed bloodshed of the Second Intifada. In response, Yasser Arafat and his Fatah movement finally joined forces against the Israeli army, seemingly vindicating Hamas’s resistance approach. Israel responded mightily by crushing the Palestinian Authority and placing Arafat himself under confinement until his death in 2004. During the first month of the Second Intifada, showing the ruthlessness of the Iron Wall concept, the “Israeli army fired between twenty-eight and thirty-three thousand bullets per day against Palestinian stones and light arms,” Baconi writes.

During the Second Intifada, Hamas managed to build a strong military infrastructure, thereby cementing its significance on the resistance and political scene. Mahmoud Abbas succeeded Arafat in 2005, within the volatile regional context of U.S. President George W. Bush’s war on terrorism. Hamas felt politically vulnerable and decided to run for Legislative Council elections in 2006, opting to protect itself by becoming part of the political system. Within the year, a bloody conflict erupted between Hamas and Fatah that resulted in a split at the heart of the Palestinian national movement, with Hamas running Gaza and Fatah and its Palestinian Authority running the West Bank.

Since then, as Baconi masterfully explains, Hamas has found itself caught in the duality of resistance and governance in poverty-stricken, blockaded Gaza, failing to credibly deliver either. In Gaza, Hamas has ruled with an iron fist, suppressing its opponents and imposing religious rules—such as a dress code for schoolgirls, banning alcohol, and prohibiting women from smoking shisha pipes—while bearing the brunt of successive Israeli wars on Gaza in 2008-2009, 2012, and 2014.

Hamas has found itself caught in the duality of resistance and governance in poverty-stricken, blockaded Gaza, failing to credibly deliver either.

“Regional misfortunes,” as Baconi refers to them, resulted in Hamas losing its Syrian backing because of its support for the popular uprising against Bashar al-Assad’s regime. At the same time, Hamas’s relations with Iran dropped to their lowest point. In 2013, the yearlong lifeline provided by then-Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood ended with Morsi’s toppling by the army and was followed by an even more draconian blockade on Hamas from the new Egyptian regime, compounding the air, sea, and land siege already imposed by Israel.

Baconi explores how Israel managed to maintain its containment strategy. Central to this strategy was keeping an undermined Hamas in power—weak enough not to threaten Israel but strong enough internally not only to prevent the situation in Gaza from slipping into total chaos but, particularly, to stay capable of suppressing more extreme jihadi groups that could cause unanticipated troubles to Israel. To achieve this, Israel combined continuous military strikes to keep Hamas’s “lawn mowed short” with disproportionate force and heavy bombardment against civilian areas to maintain military deterrence; thus, Baconi writes, Hamas had been contained.

There is considerable merit in this thesis. However, there are other elements that need to be accounted for as well. It is hard to believe that Israeli right-wing leaders and an increasingly religious establishment would accept a defiant force that is still resisting their Iron Wall and causing a serious (if not existential) threat—demonstrated by Hamas’s niggling tunnels and occasional rockets hitting Israeli cities.

The Israeli military is wary, to say the least, about its achievable options when it comes to dealing with Hamas. The most recent threat of war against Gaza in November 2018, after months of Hamas’s Great March of Return along the Gaza-Israeli border, exposed Israel’s limited options. The possibility of Hamas still being capable of inflicting more harm on Israel has complicated Israeli political and military calculations, creating divisions in the government and the recent resignation of far-right Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman.

The possibility of Hamas still being capable of inflicting more harm on Israel has complicated Israeli political and military calculations, creating divisions in the government

The scenarios on the table regarding Gaza and Hamas include maintaining the status quo, giving Gaza some waterway access, and allowing joint foreign administration on borders while tolerating Hamas rule. These are not necessarily in line with a policy of containment nor likely to coerce a foe to pursue a desirable outcome. Moreover, the humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza is speedily deteriorating and will render the area, according to United Nations reports, uninhabitable by the year 2020. In this light, the continuation of the status quo, the key to containment, is a recipe for an explosion that neither Israel nor Egypt nor any other nearby country wishes to see.

Baconi concludes that after Israel’s war on Gaza in 2012-2013, “Israel again failed to instill lasting deterrence.” Hence, what the world is witnessing now is a sort of half-containment and half-deterrence by Israel over Hamas, while Hamas delivers its half-insurance (against “fresh” jihadis and total chaos) and military half-threats to Israel. This unstable balancing act continues while the humanitarian and political nightmare created by Hamas’s half-government rumbles beneath Gaza.

Khaled Hroub is a professor of Middle Eastern studies at Northwestern University in Qatar, the author of Hamas: A Beginner’s Guide, and the editor of Political Islam: Context Versus Ideology.

More from Foreign Policy

Preparing for the nuclear show down (Revelation 16) is

As Nations Get Ready for Nuclear War, Their Governments Work to Create the Illusion of Safety

Lawrence Wittner

Ever since the U.S. atomic bombings of Japanese cities in August 1945, a specter has haunted the world―the specter of nuclear annihilation.

The latest report from the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, issued on January 24, reminds us that the prospect of nuclear catastrophe remains all too real.  Citing the extraordinary danger of nuclear disaster, the editors and the distinguished panel of experts upon whom they relied reset their famous “Doomsday Clock” at two minutes to midnight.

This grim warning from the scientists is well-justified.  The Trump administration has withdrawn the United States from the painstakingly-negotiated 2015 nuclear weapons agreement with Iran and is in the process of withdrawing from the 1987 Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty with Russia.  In addition, the 2010 New Start Treaty, which caps the number of strategic nuclear weapons held by the United States and Russia, is scheduled to expire in 2021, thus leaving no limits on the world’s largest nuclear arsenals for the first time since 1972.  According to Trump, this agreement, too, is a “bad deal,” and his hawkish national security advisor, John Bolton, has denounced it as “unilateral disarmament.”

Furthermore, while nuclear arms control and disarmament agreements crumble, a major nuclear weapons buildup is underway by all nine nuclear powers.  The U.S. government alone has embarked on an extensive “modernization” of its entire nuclear weapons complex, designed to provide new, improved nuclear weapons and upgraded or new facilities for their production.  The cost to U.S. taxpayers has been estimated to run somewhere between $1.2 trillion and $2 trillion.

For his part, Russian President Vladimir Putin used his televised 2018 State of the Union address to laud his own nation’s advances in nuclear weaponry.  Highlighting a successful test of Russia’s RS-28 Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missile with a payload of 15 nuclear warheads, he also boasted of developing a working laser weapon, a hypersonic missile, and a cruise missile powered by a nuclear reactor that could fly indefinitely.  Putin noted that the hypersonic missile, called Kinzhal (or dagger), could maneuver while traveling at more than ten times the speed of sound, and was “guaranteed to overcome all existing . . . anti-missile systems” and deliver a nuclear strike.  The cruise missile, displayed on video by Putin in animated form, was shown as circumventing U.S. air defenses and heading for the California coast.

When it comes to bellicose public rhetoric, probably the most chilling has come from Trump.  In the summer of 2017, angered by North Korea’s missile progress and the belligerent statements of its leaders, he warned that its future threats would be “met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.”  The following year, referring to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, he bragged: “I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger and more powerful one than his.”

The problem that government officials have faced when engaged in this kind of missile-rattling behavior is public concern that it could lead to a disastrous nuclear war.  Consequently, to soothe public anxiety about catastrophic nuclear destruction, they have argued that, paradoxically, nuclear weapons actually guarantee national security by deterring nuclear and conventional war.

But the efficacy of nuclear deterrence is far from clear.  Indeed, despite their possession of nuclear weapons, India and Pakistan fought wars against one another, and, like the United States and the Soviet Union, came perilously close to sliding into a nuclear war.  Furthermore, why has the U.S. government, armed (and ostensibly safe) with thousands of nuclear weapons, been so worried about Iraq, Iran, and North Korea acquiring them?  Why does it need additional nuclear weapons?

Beginning in 1983, Ronald Reagan―under fierce public criticism for his nuclear buildup and disturbed that U.S. nuclear weapons could not prevent a Soviet nuclear weapons attack―initiated a nuclear safety program of a different kind:  missile defense. Called the Strategic Defense Initiative (but derided by Senator Edward Kennedy as “Star Wars”), the program involved shooting down incoming nuclear missiles before they hit the United States, thus freeing Americans from any danger of nuclear destruction.  

From the start, scientists doubted the technical feasibility of a missile defense system and, also, pointed out that, even if it worked to some degree, an enemy nation could overwhelm it by employing additional missiles or decoys.  Nevertheless, missile defense had considerable appeal, especially among Republicans, who seized upon it as a crowd-pleasing alternative to nuclear arms control and disarmament.

The result was that, by the beginning of 2019, after more than 35 years of U.S. government development work at the cost of almost $300 billion, the United States still did not have a workable missile defense system.  In numerous scripted U.S. military tests―attempts to destroy an incoming missile whose timing and trajectory were known in advance―the system failed roughly half the time.

Nevertheless, apparently because there’s no policy too flawed to abandon if it enriches military contractors and reduces public demands for nuclear disarmament, in mid-January 2019 Trump announced plans for a vast expansion of the U.S. missile defense program.  According to the president, the goal was “to ensure that we can detect and destroy any missile launched against the United States―anywhere, any time, any place.”

Even so, all is not lost.  Leading Democrats―including presidential hopefuls―have demanded that Trump keep the United States within the INF Treaty and scrap plans to expand the U.S. nuclear arsenal.  Adam Smith, the new chair of the House Armed Services Committee, has called for “a nuclear weapons policy that reduces the number of weapons and reduces the likelihood of any sort of nuclear conflict.”  Using their control of the House of Representatives, Democrats could block funding for the administration’s nuclear weapons programs.

And with enough public pressure, they might do that.

Arming the Iranian nuclear horn (Daniel 8)

Iran Is Still on Its Way to Getting Nukes

January 25, 2019 4:11 pm

On July 14, 2015, the day when several world powers struck the Iran nuclear deal, then-President Barack Obama triumphantly touted his administration’s crowning foreign policy achievement. “Every pathway to a nuclear weapon is cut off,” he said. “Because of this deal, Iran will not produce the highly enriched uranium and weapons-grade plutonium that form the raw materials necessary for a nuclear bomb.”

Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, apparently did not get the memo. Speaking to Iran’s Channel 4 on Tuesday, Salehi made several revealing comments that belie Obama’s maximalist statements about the nuclear deal—officially called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA. His remarks, translated by the Middle East Media Research Institute, should concern anyone worried about a murderous Islamist theocracy obtaining the world’s most destructive weapons.

Iran has lost nothing as a result of signing the agreement, and history will prove this,” Salehi said. “We have preserved our capabilities in the field of enrichment. We are providing products for other industries and are continuing to manufacture new centrifuges. We are doing everything we need to do.”

Salehi described how the Iranian regime circumvented a section of the deal that explicitly requires Tehran to remove the reactor core at its Arak nuclear facility in central Iran, and then to fill its tubes with cement so the facility cannot be used to pursue a plutonium path to a bomb. Iran’s nuclear chief explained that Tehran secretly acquired and stored replacement tubes, noting that only Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, knew about the decision.

“When our team was in the midst of the negotiations, we knew that [the Westerners] would ultimately renege on their promises. The leader warned us that they were violators of agreements,” Salehi said. “We had to act wisely. Not only did we avoid destroying the bridges that we had built, but we also built new bridges that would enable us to go back faster if needed.”

Salehi added that images showing the reactor core filled with cement were “photoshopped.” He then said that Iran does not “intend to build a nuclear weapon” and that the reactor at Arak is “not suitable for nuclear weapons”—similar to past statements from Iranian officials now proven to be blatant lies.

Yet Salehi went on to detail a host of ambitious plans for Iran’s nuclear program, such as transferring 30 tons of yellowcake, uranium concentrate used to produce nuclear fuel, from newly operational production facilities in Ardakan to Isfahan. This step would be key for ensuring the availability of raw material if Iran opts to leave the JCPOA and increase its uranium enrichment. Salehi also mentioned that Iran has been authorized to produce additional advanced centrifuges, which make enriching uranium far more efficient; has “advanced significantly in the field of nuclear propulsion”; will continue to “discover and mine” uranium; and will construct new nuclear power reactors as planned.

According to Michael Segall, an expert at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, Salehi also said that, “as one who is responsible for all technical aspects [of Iran’s nuclear program],” he was “thankful to Allah for the way in which the discussions relating to the technical aspects of the nuclear talks were conducted, as they left so many breaches in the agreement that Iran was able to exploit, doing things that the other side could not claim were a violation of the nuclear agreement.”

These remarks came after Salehi said earlier this month that Iran has taken key steps to enrich uranium to a purity of 20 percent and that it can resume enrichment to that level in three or four days. The JCPOA forbids Iran from exceeding 3.67 percent for 15 years.

Salehi is likely making such boastful comments for two reasons: to increase Iran’s pressure on the Europeans, and to respond to conservatives inside Iran, who have pilloried the government for remaining in the nuclear deal. Tehran has grown increasingly frustrated with the Europeans for not taking more assertive action to circumvent American sanctions and conduct robust business with the Islamic Republic. Expect Iranian officials to continue to tout the progress of their nuclear program and hint at leaving the JCPOA to push the Europeans. Furthermore, members of Iran’s government who support the deal want to boast about the nuclear program’s strength to undercut more conservative voices within the regime who want Iran to rip up the deal now.

Regardless of the motive, Salehi’s comments are the latest evidence that Iran completely outmaneuvered the Obama administration while negotiating the deal. Tehran wanted it all—to obtain relief from sanctions while preserving the ability to build a nuclear weapon in the future. Since the deal was reached, it has become increasingly clear that the Islamic Republic achieved its goals. The nuclear deal is more than “defective,” as President Trump has described it. The agreement is rotten to the core, built on a mountain of lies.

Thanks to the Israelis, the world knows that Iran hid thousands upon thousands of files concerning its nuclear program, including documents on building bombs. Their very existence indicates that Iran has the intent to obtain nuclear weapons in the future. Salehi is telling the world that Iran will also have the capability, unless something major changes.


A Palestinian demonstrator uses a sling to hurl back a tear gas canister fired by Israeli troops during a protest at the Israel-Gaza border fence. (photo credit:” REUTERS/IBRAHEEM ABU MUSTAFA)



On Friday, one Palestinian was killed and dozens more injured by IDF fire during the weekly protests which saw some 10,000 demonstrators.

Following the report that an agreement allowing Qatar to transfer funds designated for humanitarian projects in the Gaza Strip was reached between Israel and Qatar on Saturday, Palestinians resumed their protests along the Gaza border, according to Israeli media.

Protesters were seen burning tires, throwing objects towards the Israeli side and attempting to sabotage the fence, according to the reports. Israeli soldiers responded with riot dispersal methods that included tear gas and live fire.

One Palestinian was injured after the riots resumed, according to Palestinian sources.

On Friday, demonstrations took place against the backdrop of Hamas’s refusal to accept funds from Qatar and the escalation in violence last week, and following the approval for the transfer from Hamas, the protests resumed on Saturday.

On Friday, one Palestinian was killed and dozens more injured by IDF fire during the weekly protests which saw some 10,000 demonstrators riot along the Gaza security fence.

According to the Palestinian Ministry of Health, 25-year-old Ehab Atallah Abed was killed during clashes with IDF troops east of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip. Another 24 were injured, including 14 minors, the ministry was quoted by Palestinian Wafa news as saying.