Back to the Nuclear Precipice of WW3 (Revelation 16)

Back to the Nuclear Precipice

Javier Solana

MADRID – Ten years ago, during his first trip to Europe as US president, Barack Obama delivered an historic speech in Prague. Much to the delight of the crowd, Obama described a world free of nuclear arms as being both desirable and within reach. That declaration was unprecedented for an American president, and would contribute to his winning the Nobel Peace Prize later that year.

Obama also used the occasion to reassure Czechs – and Europeans generally – that the United States would never turn its back on them; that its commitment to the principle of collective defense under Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty was permanent and unconditional. Those words now seem like a relic of a bygone era.

Obama’s successor, Donald Trump, has questioned that key pillar of NATO, departing from almost 70 years of diplomatic tradition. Worse, he recently announced his intention to withdraw the US from the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty with Russia, which has been fundamental in guaranteeing European security since 1987. And though the Obama administration did end up deprioritizing nuclear disarmament over time, Trump seems to have replaced that goal with its polar opposite: rearmament.

To be sure, bilateral agreements like the INF Treaty – an artifact of the late Cold War – are no longer sufficient in today’s multipolar world. While the US and Russia are forbidden under the treaty from possessing land-based missiles with a range of 500-5,500 kilometers (300-3,400 miles), an estimated 95% of China’s missile arsenal now comprises precisely such weapons.

Moreover, the US and Russia have both accused the other of violating the INF Treaty, implying that the agreement has become moot anyway. But a far more sensible US strategy would have been to reaffirm its commitment to the treaty, thereby pressuring Russia to do the same in light of its own presumed violations. By taking the high ground, the US would have been far better positioned to extend the same normative framework to China and its arsenal.

Instead, the author of The Art of the Deal has followed the advice of someone who has yet to meet a deal he didn’t want to tear up: Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton. Having already dispensed with the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in 2002, during his tenure in President George W. Bush’s administration, Bolton has used his position in the Trump administration to launch attacks against the INF Treaty and the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) with Iran. Most likely, his next target will be New START. Signed by Obama and then-Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in Prague in 2010, that nuclear arms reduction treaty will expire in 2021, barring an agreement on its extension.

With the steady collapse of the international arms-control architecture has come a fresh race to develop new types of nuclear weapons. The potential use of these weapons is now discussed with such frivolity as to foreshadow a return to the darkest days of the Cold War, but one that is even more dangerous, because other countries not subject to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), such as North Korea, have since joined the nuclear club.

During Trump’s first year in office, his incendiary public exchanges with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un brought relations between Washington, DC, and Pyongyang to their tensest point in decades. While Trump has since abandoned his threats of “fire and fury” and given diplomacy a chance, his administration’s approach to North Korea has ignored all of the canons of effective diplomacy. This has given rise to another kind of frivolity: the spectacle of vacuous praise.

In the end, the lack of consensus among US foreign policymakers and the misaligned expectations of the two negotiating parties, combined with Trump’s own improvisations, condemned his recent summit with Kim to failure. A reorganization is now urgently needed, particularly to incorporate the other regional powers and keep Bolton and other hawks in the administration from derailing the process further.

Meanwhile, India and Pakistan, two other NPT non-signatories, recently engaged in a cross-border military confrontation, following a terrorist attack last month in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. Once deemed “the most dangerous place in the world” by former US President Bill Clinton, Kashmir is essentially shared between three nuclear powers: India, Pakistan, and China. Not since Pakistan revealed its nuclear capacity to the world in the late 1990s have Indian-Pakistani relations been so tense. Worse, as the latest instability shows, the presence of nuclear weapons is not sufficient to prevent conflict. Instead, it merely raises the risk that quarrels will escalate into existential conflagrations.

Lastly, in the Middle East, the Trump administration has actively sowed the seeds for nuclear proliferation. The decision to abandon the JCPOA was entirely counterproductive, merely reflecting Trump’s blind support for Israel – another NPT non-signatory – and Saudi Arabia. Indeed, the Trump administration is even exploring the possibility of exporting nuclear material to the Saudi regime without putting the necessary safeguards in place.

Apparently, Trump is not bothered by the fact that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has neither ruled out developing nuclear arms nor committed to a strict regime of inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency. One false step, though, could plunge the Middle East into a nuclear arms race – truly a worst-case scenario for such a fraught region.

During the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump raised a red flag for the umpteenth time when he suggested that Japan and South Korea should develop their own nuclear weapons as a means of self-defense. This idea couldn’t have been more wrongheaded. Logic dictates that if more countries acquire nuclear weapons, the likelihood of such weapons being used will increase.

The Cold War gave us a glimpse of the risks we run when our single-minded pursuit of some geopolitical interests causes us to lose sight of the most important of them all: international security. As Obama emphasized ten years ago in Prague, the US is the only country ever to have used nuclear weapons, and therefore has an historic responsibility to ensure that they are never used again. For the US to forsake this responsibility and champion a new era of nuclear proliferation would be a tragic outcome.

The “Zone” of the Sixth Seal (Revelation 6:12)

Matt Fagan, Staff writer, @fagan_nj

It had been relatively quiet this year, until geologists recorded a 1.3 magnitude quake last weekend in Morris Plains, and then a 1.0 magnitude quake Saturday in Morristown.

Last weekend’s tremor was reported by Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Observatory to the Morris Plains Police Department, which issued an advisory to residents on Monday morning.

Lamont-Doherty spokesman Kevin Krajick said the quake was pinpointed to a shallow depth of 6 kilometers just north of Grannis Avenue, between Mountain and Sun Valley ways, about 500 feet southeast of Mountain way School.

Rutgers Newark geology professor talks about earthquakes in northern New Jersey. Matt Fagan/NorthJersey.com

“It was a very small earthquake at a very shallow depth,” Krajick said. “Most people would not feel an earthquake that small unless they were absolutely right under it, if that.”

“To date (there) were no reported injuries or damage related to the earthquake and no Morris Plains residents reported any activity to this agency,” according to Morris Plains police Chief Jason Kohn

On the other hand, Butler Police Lt. Mike Moeller said his department received “a bunch of calls about it, between 9:30 and 10:30 p.m.”

Saturday’s earthquake was so minor that Morristown police said they received no calls from residents

Earthquakes are generally less frequent and less intense in the Northeast compared to the U.S. Pacific Coast, according to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. But due to geological differences between the regions, earthquakes of similar magnitude affect an area 10 times larger in the Northeast compared to the West Coast.

The 16 tremors recorded in 2016 were minor, generally 1 or 2 magnitude, often misinterpreted as explosions, said Alexander Gates, geology professor at Rutgers University Newark campus.

“A lot of people in Butler felt them over the course of the last year, but a lot of them didn’t know it was an earthquake,” Gates said.

Butler is the borough, but also the name of the fault that sits at the end of aseries of others belonging to the Ramapo Fault, Gates said.

The Ramapo fault, Gates said, is the longest in the Northeast and runs from Pennnsylvania through New Jersey, snaking northeast through Hunterdon, Somerset, Morris, Passaic, and Bergen counties before coming to an end in New York’s Westchester County, not far from the Indian Point Energy Center, a nuclear power plant.

“I’d be willing to bet that you’d have to go all the way to Canada and all the way to South Carolina before you’d get one that active,” Gates said of the area which runs from the New York state line in the Ringwood and Mahwah area down to Butler and central Passaic County, Gates said.

Of last year’s 16 earthquakes, 12 were directly associated with the faults around Butler, Gates said.

Butler Councilman Ray Verdonik said area residents are well aware of the frequency of earthquakes and agrees they are often difficult to discern.

During one earthquake, the councilman said he and his neighbors rushed from their homes.

“We thought it was from Picatinny Arsenal or a sonic boom.” he said.

Won-Young Kim, director of the  Lamont-Doherty Cooperative Seismographic Network, which  monitors earthquakes in the Northeast, said often very shallow, the low magnitude quakes’ waves cause much ground motion. He said even though the waves don’t travel very far, they can seem more intense than the magnitude suggests.

They may not topple chimneys, he said but can crack foundations and frighten residents.

To put earthquake magnitudes in perspective, experts said each year there are about 900,000 earthquakes of 2.5 magnitude or less recorded annually by seismograph. These mild tremors are usually not felt.

There are 30,000 that measure between 2.5 and 5.4, and these are often felt, but cause minor damage.

About 500 quakes worldwide are recorded between 5.5 and 6 magnitude per year and cause slight damage to buildings and structures.

The 100 that fall within 6.1 and 6.9 may cause lots of damage in populated areas.

The 20 or so which fall within the 7 and 7.9 magnitude per year are considered major and cause serious damage.

Those that measure at 8 or greater can totally destroy communities near the epicenter and average one every five to 10 years.

The earthquake recorded in Mexico last week measured 7.1 magnitude.

Gates said he has identified most of the region’s numerous faults, but has yet to name them all. Among the unnamed include the faults responsible for last year’s quakes in the region.

Earthquakes in this region are intraplate ones,Gates said, meaning they occur within the plates. Earthquakes of this type account for more than 90 percent of the total seismic energy released around the world.

Plates are the masses of the earth’s crust that slowly move, maybe as little as a few centimeters a year to as much 18 centimeters, around the globe. Faults such as the San Andreas are interplate and occur near where two plates meet.

The plate North America rides upon runs from the Mid Atlantic Ridge to the Pacific Coast. The theory is that as plates interact with one another, they create stress within the plate. Faults occur where the crust is weak, Gates said. Earthquakes relieve the built up pressure.

Boston College Geophysics Professor John Ebel said he and a Virginia Tech colleague, believe the seismically active areas in New York and South Carolina are where some 200 million years ago, the plates tried to break off but failed. This led to a weakening of the earth’s crust which makes them susceptible to quakes.

While not predictable, the data collected seem to suggest earthquakes occur somewhat periodically, 40 active years followed by 40 less active, Gates said.

“We are over due for a 3 or 4” magnitude, Gates said. “A 4 you’d feel. It would shake the area. Everybody would be upset.”

Ebel does not fully agree. He said saying “overdue” might be somewhat misleading.  Earthquakes happen through a slow process of rising stress, “like dropping individual grains of sand on the table.”

You never know which grain will cause the table to break, he said.

Still all three experts say statistically it is only a matter time before a magnitude 5 quake is recorded in the northern New Jersey area.

The scientists said quakes in the Northeastern part of the United States tend to come 100 years apart and the last one was recorded in 1884 believed to be centered south of Brooklyn. It toppled chimneys and moved houses from their foundations across the city and as far as Rahway.

Washington D.C. experienced a 5.8 magnitude quake in 2011, which was felt in the Northeast, Gates said. That quake cracked the Washington Monument.

A similar quake was recorded in 1737 in Weehawken, Gates noted.

“Imagine putting a 5.5 magnitude earthquake in Weehawken, New Jersey next to the Bridge, next to the tunnel,” Gates said. “Boy that would be a dangerous one.”

In 2008 Columbia University’s The Earth Institute posted an article titled: “Earthquakes May Endanger New York More Than Thought, Says Study.”

“Today, with so many more buildings and people, a magnitude 5 centered below the city would be extremely attention-getting,” the article’s co-author John Armbruster wrote. “We’d see billions in damage, with some brick buildings falling.”

The threat though, is not tangible to many, Armbruster wrote.

“There is no one now alive to remember that last one, so people tend to forget. And having only a partial 300-year history, we may not have seen everything we could see. There could be surprises — things bigger than we have ever seen,” Armbruster wrote.

The Earth Institute’s article did note New York City added earthquake-resistant building codes in 1995.

New Jersey also began to require earthquake-resistant standards in the 1990s. The state, following the 2011 Virginia quake, now requires lake communities to make dams able to withstand a magnitude 5 earthquake.

The issue, Gates said, is that many of the buildings were built before these codes went into effect. A “sizable” earthquake could cause much damage.

Then there’s the prediction that every 3,400 years this area can expect a quake at 7 magnitude.

According to the Earth Institute article, a  2001 analysis for Bergen County estimates a magnitude 7 quake would destroy 14,000 buildings and damage 180,000 in that area alone.  Likewise, in New York City the damage could easily hit hundreds of billions of dollars.

Ebel noted that depending on the depth and power of a severe quake, damage could be also be wide ranging. In 2011, Washington D.C., 90 miles away from the epicenter, which was located in central Virginia, suffered significant damage.  Cities like Philadelphia fall within that radius.

“The big one could happen tomorrow or 100 years from now. That’s the problem,” Gates said. It geological terms 100 years is just a spit in the ocean, he noted.

Then again North Jersey is more likely to be hit by hurricane in the next three years, Gates added.

Email: Fagan@NorthJersey.com

Staff Writer William Westhoven contributed to this report. 

New Jersey’s top earthquakes

• Dec. 19, 1737 — Weehawken, believed to be a 5-plus magnitude quake, could be very serious if occurred in same spot today.

• Nov. 29, 1783 — Western New Jersey. Geologists are not exactly sure where it happened because area was sparsely populated. Estimated magnitude varies from 4.8 to 5.3. Felt from Pennsylvania to New England.

• Aug. 10, 1884 — A 5.2 earthquake occurred somewhere near Jamaica Bay near Brooklyn. The quake toppled chimneys and moved houses off their foundations as far Rahway.

• The biggest earthquake in the last 45 years of data available form USGS was a 3.8 quake centered in Carneys Point in Salem County on the morning of Feb.28, 1973

• New Jersey has never recorded a fatality due to an earthquake, according to the DEP.

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Israel Strikes at Hamas Outside the Temple Walls

IDF STRIKES HAMAS TERROR CELLS IN GAZA IN RESPONSE TO INCENDIARY BALLOONS

By JERUSALEM POST STAFF

Smoke rises following an Israeli air strike in Gaza November 12, 2018. (photo credit:” REUTERS/SUHAIB SALEM)

The IDF has struck several targets in the Gaza Strip on Tuesday evening, in a response to the renewed launching of incendiary balloons from the Strip into Israeli territory, the IDF reported.

Balloon terrorism has returned in recent weeks with several launches at communities in the Gaza vicinity. One incendiary balloon was reported to have been found in the Eshkol Regional Council on Tuesday. Residents reported the incident to security personnel, and an examination conducted on the ground found the balloon not to be a threat. A message in Arabic was attached to the balloon.

Shortly after, the IDF launched an initial airstrike, attacking the position from which the balloon was launched, in the northern Gaza Strip, followed by another strike, the IDF spokesperson reported.

Riots broke out simultaneously at the border fence, in which three Palestinians were injured, the Palestinian Ministry of Health said.

Earlier Tuesday, the IDF Spokesperson stated that soldiers identified three suspects crossing the border fence In the southern Gaza Strip, placed a flag on it and returned immediately to the Strip.

IDF soldiers arrested a number of suspects who crossed the security fence south of the Gaza Strip on Monday. The Palestinians were unarmed and transferred to security forces for questioning.

Iran Prepares For War Against the US

With Eye on US, Iran Revs up ‘Resistance Front’

A new phase is beginning in Iran’s approach to the situation since last May when the US withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal. Tehran had thus far prioritised the consolidation of Western opinion against President Trump’s decision with a view to effectively counter the US sanctions. But with hindsight, it appears that Europeans might posture against the US sanctions, but business interests ultimately prevail and the hard reality is that European companies that have exposure to the American market will not risk US sanctions.

Certainly, the drop in oil income following the US sanctions has hurt the Iranian economy and Tehran admits it openly. The Trump administration now plans to unveil an even harsher sanctions regime in May. According to reports, Washington aims to bring down Iran’s oil exports further.

Meanwhile, the US-Israel-Saudi-UAE nexus against Iran is actively working to create instability within Iran, weaken the regime and incapacitate it from playing regional role. Saudi money is challenging Iran’s towering multi-dimensional presence in Iraq.

Although the US is notionally withdrawing troops from Syria, the efforts continue to roll back Iran’s presence in Iraq and Syria. Iran mentors the battle-hardened Shi’ite militia forces numbering tens of thousands in Iraq and Syria, which fought against the ISIS. Iran’s continuing presence in Syria poses an insurmountable obstacle to Israel’s designs to weaken and dominate Syria and to legitimise its illegal occupation of Golan Heights.

Suffice to say, Tehran finds itself besieged. Of course, Iran’s regime has lived through dangerous periods through the past 4 decades and there is no question of capitulation. But an inflection point has been reached and a new trajectory has become necessary in terms of Iran’s political economy as well as to overcome the geo-strategic challenges.

There have been incipient signs change in the most recent months — in various statements by the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, in particular — indicative of a new pathway that would jettison the earlier obsession with the Western countries and abandon the strategy to put eggs in the EU basket. Khamenei repeatedly stressed Iran’s inner strength and the resilience of ‘resistance’.

Without doubt, the unannounced visit by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to Tehran on February 27 augured that a Syrian-Iranian alliance with far-reaching geopolitical significance is taking shape. Khamenei stated during his meeting with Assad: “The Islamic Republic of Iran regards helping the Syrian government and nation as assisting the Resistance movement, and genuinely takes pride in it… Syria, with its people’s persistence and unity, managed to stand strong against a big coalition of the US, Europe and their allies in the region and victoriously come out of it… Iran and Syria are strategic allies and the identity and power of Resistance depend on their continuous and strategic alliance, because of which, the enemies will not be able to put their plans into action.”

Khamenei repeatedly used the metaphor of the resistance to characterise the Iran-Syria alliance. The charismatic commander of the Quds Force Gen. Qassem Soleimani neatly summed up that Assad’s visit was a “celebration of victory” for the resistance front.

Gen. Soleimani at a meeting of resistance commanders of the Nujaba in Falluja, Iraq. The Nujaba has dedicated a song to Soleimani.

Indeed, Khamenei has since decorated Soleimani with Iran’s most prestigious medal of honor, the Order of Zulfiqar. There is much symbolism here, since Soleimani happens to be the first Iranian commander to receive the Order of Zulfiqar after the 1979 Islamic revolution. Iran is applauding Soleimani’s profound contribution to the resistance. To be sure, Iran is returning to its revolutionary moorings.

Thus, the meeting between the top commanders of the armed forces of Iran, Iraq and Syria which took place in Damascus on Sunday was geared to flesh out a coordinated plan to meet the challenges in regional security. Some reports mentioned that Soleimani too was in Damascus on Sunday.

While receiving the the three army commanders in Damascus, Assad reportedly said that the blood of Syrians, Iranians, and Iraqis “have mixed in the battle against terrorism and its mercenaries, who are considered as a mere façade for the countries that support them.”

Equally, Iranian president Rouhani’s recent visit to Iraq can be put in perspective. As a senior Chinese expert on West Asia has noted, Rouhani’s visit has “long-term geopolitical implications” in terms of expansion of Iran’s regional influence, apart from giving traction to the “resistance” politics (against US and Israel.)

The Chinese expert wrote that Iraq is refusing to be part of US’ containment strategy against Iran and Rouhani’s visit consolidates Iran’s influence in Iraq, which in turn also enhances its capacity to offer a “stark counterbalance” to US influence over Iraq. Again, Iran sees Iraq as a gateway to bust the US sanctions. Geopolitically, the expert underscored,the new dynamic strengthens Tehran’s strategy to create a regional axis between Iran, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, which would have an edge over Saudi Arabia. Incidentally, Rouhani is likely to visit Syria as well in the near future.

Clearly, resistance politics creates strategic depth for Iran to push back at the US. But there is also a bigger dimension to it. Tehran plans to step up its participation in Syrian infrastructure construction. Ultimately, Iran’s economic relations with Iraq and Syria will be further strengthened in addition to its political and strategic relations with the two countries.

Very few details of yesterday’s meeting of army commanders in Damascus have emerged but one concrete outcome is the reopening of the Syrian-Iraqi border in the “coming days”, which of course, will facilitate a road link connecting Iran with Syria and Lebanon via Iraq. This is a major development insofar as a direct road link becomes possible connecting Iran with Syria and Lebanon. One main objective of the US military presence in Syria was to thwart such a transportation route that would significantly boost Iran’s influence and presence in the Levant. There have been reports that Iran may use Latakia port in Syria to access the world market.

Iran Prepares for the Holy War (Daniel 8)

Image result for khameneiLeader’s statement on Second Phase of Islamic Revolution calls for awakening, vigilance

News Code : 933644

Leader of Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei’s statement on The Second Phase of Islamic Revolution has called for awakening and vigilance of the Muslims, said Hoj. Seyyed Mohammad Reza Al-e Ayyub, the manager of research affairs of the Ahl al-Bayt World Assembly.

AhlulBayt News Agency (ABNA): Leader of Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei’s statement on The Second Phase of Islamic Revolution has called for awakening and vigilance of the Muslims, said Hoj. Seyyed Mohammad Reza Al-e Ayyub, the manager of research affairs of the Ahl al-Bayt World Assembly.

Speaking at the first scientific panel of “The Second Phase of Islamic Revolution, Requisites and Strategies in International Arena” in Mashhad, Al-e Ayyub referred to the Leader’s statement as a roadmap that calls for awakening of the society and promoting awareness of humanity. “It is a reflection of the lessons clarified by the Ahl al-Bayt (AS) that have been expressed in modern-day language by the Leader.”

Being critical of the fact that today, Muslims have neglected the lessons of Ahl al-Bayt (AS) or the Infallible Household of the Prophet (pbuh), Al-e Ayyub noted that clarification of the fundamentals of the Islamic Revolution in the contexts put forward by the Leader is one strategy for compensating that neglect.

“According to the Leader, clarification of Ahl al-Bayt (AS) viewpoints is one major religious duty of the seminary schools,” he said.

Al-e Ayyub pointed to resistance as another religious duty for the seminary students across the globe, saying: “The ongoing situation in the society has burdened clerics with heavier responsibilities and you should introduce this roadmap to the world.

“Identifying enemies is another key point in this statement that must be paid serious attention to. This is because the enemies of Islam have made utmost preparations to bring down the flag of Islam and to understate Islamic movements, but they have failed so far.”

According to Al-e Ayyub, the scientific panel was held to analyze and design efficient models for realization of the targets stipulated at the Leader’s statement through civilizational and transnational approaches, and translating into action the endless potentials and capacities of the youth.

The scientific panel of “The Second Phase of Islamic Revolution, Requisites and Strategies in International Arena was held at the amphitheater of al-Mustafa International University in the shrine city of Mashhad with a number of academicians, students of seminary schools, Iranian and foreign students of al-Mustafa International University in attendance.

The Inevitable Nuclear War (Revelation 8)

Image result for pakistan india nuclear warPakistan and India Can’t Escape the Conflict Cycle

Why do Islamabad and New Delhi remain mired in a volatile and perilous status quo, despite that neither side desires escalation nor the prospect of continued conflict?

The outbreak of violence last week between India and Pakistan once again reaffirmed that South Asia is home to one of the most dangerous rivalries on Earth. As has happened several times since the Kargil War in 1999, a terror attack involving non-state actors based in and supported by Pakistan brought the two subcontinental rivals into direct conventional conflict, raising fears that an already unstable situation could precipitate nuclear Armageddon. While it is notable that this outbreak of violence subsided fairly quickly (following a decision by Pakistani military and political leaders to de-escalate), it is of far greater significance that no progress has been made in addressing the ethno-religious and political frictions that keep bringing India and Pakistan to blows.

Why do Pakistan and India remain mired in a volatile and perilous status quo, despite that neither side desires escalation nor the prospect of continued conflict? According to Husain Haqqani, a former Pakistani ambassador to the United States and the current director for South and Central Asia at the Hudson Institute, much of the blame falls on Pakistan. Pakistani foreign policy, Haqqani observed at a recent event at the Center for the National Interest, is utterly beholden to the country’s military and intelligence services, which have driven the securitization of Pakistani politics—whether against India, or, more recently, Afghanistan. This problem, he said, goes back to the creation of Pakistan after the partition of British India, where the fledgling Pakistani state was left with only 17 percent of the former British colony’s resources, but 33 percent of its military forces. Since then, he continued, the Pakistani military has done its utmost to “raise the size of the threats to match the army that it inherited,” using external threats to justify its existence and to unify the various ethnic groups living within the country.

Yet while the international focus on Pakistan often pertains to its military capabilities or its support for terrorism, the state itself has fallen into social and developmental disrepair. Haqqani listed a variety of social, political, economic, and territorial ills that Pakistan has confronted over the last forty years, but gave special attention to two: last year, Pakistan has an infant mortality rate that is among the highest in the world, and its literacy rate shrunk by two percent. In Haqqani’s view, this is extremely problematic: “That makes Pakistan’s big picture economic prospects difficult, but the state does okay . . . [by] borrowing from China, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE . . . but there is just no getting out of the deeper crisis that Pakistan is creating for itself as a state. If you don’t have a literate population, you don’t have human capital development. If you don’t have that, where will you make the money to be able to pay back all the loans that you have? You can try to leverage your strategic location as much as you like, but there will come a time . . . when strategic concerns change.”

 

If the last two U.S. administrations are any guide, Haqqani may very well be proven prescient sooner rather than later. It is clear that the United States, Pakistan’s biggest historical benefactor, is eager to withdraw from Afghanistan, thereby reducing Islamabad’s importance to Washington. “The Pakistanis were not wrong in coming to certain conclusions about the centrality of Pakistan in the strategic calculus of the United States and the region,” judged Gerald Feierstein, a senior career U.S. foreign service official and the director for Gulf Affairs and Government Relations at the Middle East Institute. “It was true in the 1980s [during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and later after the 9/11 attacks], but it has become subsequently less true . . . and we’ve been on a declining path for the last ten or fifteen years.”

Much like in the conflict over Kashmir, the Muslim-majority territory controlled by India which Pakistan considers a “forgotten dispute,” Islamabad has employed Islamic extremists to pursue its security objectives in Afghanistan. Pakistani supported militant groups such as the Afghan Taliban, which Haqqani called “the only reliable tool and ally for the Pakistani military,” have exacerbated tensions between Islamabad on one side, and New Delhi, Washington, and Kabul on the other. Yet the United States has still sought to work with Pakistan in the pursuit of U.S. objectives in the region, at least until recently. According to Feierstein, this is because Washington needed Islamabad’s acquiescence for the U.S. war effort in Afghanistan to have any chance of success: “In terms of the air lines of communication, the ground lines of communication, for the United States to supply our forces in Afghanistan and to supply the Afghan forces, we had to have Pakistan.”

Yet, these concerns have become less salient under President Donald Trump. The Trump administration has been seeking a settlement in Afghanistan and is largely reorienting itself to the Indo-Pacific region where it sees dual national security threats from China and North Korea. This transition, Feierstein noted, means “that strategic requirement to maintain the close relationship with Pakistan simply doesn’t exist anymore.” Although he concedes that the United States may “want the Pakistanis to help maneuver the Taliban” toward an acceptable settlement, “it really does not really go beyond that.”

In looking to the future, neither expert believes that a dramatic near-term improvement in the American-Pakistani relationship is likely. China’s buttressing of Pakistan via foreign aid and investment has grown to the point that Islamabad is far more beholden to Chinese interests than American ones. This trend is converging with the United States’ rethinking of its relationship with Pakistan, which only solidifies the notion that Islamabad is no longer in the U.S. orbit, if it ever truly was. Instead, Pakistan will likely continue to be a headache for American decisionmakers, since Washington cannot afford to completely neglect any state with nuclear arms. Regarding U.S. efforts to devise a new U.S. strategy toward Pakistan, Haqqani could only offer the following: “[The United States] gave aid and that was incentive to change and that didn’t work. [The United States is] trying to punish and that isn’t working. What will? . . . Maybe reconciling to the fact that nothing will work will enable you to develop policy tools that might end up working.”

Adam Lammon is the assistant editor at the National Interest . Follow him on Twitter @AdamLammon