Indian Point Shuts Down Again Before the Sixth Seal (Rev 6:12)

(courtesy Entergy)

Indian Point Shutting Down Unit 2 For Generator Issue

The recent set of shutdowns for the generator problem is the first time both nuclear reactors have been shut down in a decade.

By Lanning Taliaferro | Apr 2, 2019 3:10 pm ET

CORTLANDT, NY — Control room operators plan to shut down Indian Point nuclear facility’s Unit 2 on Tuesday afternoon to troubleshoot an issue with the main generator’s excitation system, located on the non-nuclear side of the plant.

Operators plan to take the step following indication that the excitation system may not be functioning as designed, said spokesman Jerry Nappi. The generator’s excitation system was the initiating cause of the two other recent shutdowns at Unit 2, which were automatic shutdowns, as opposed to today’s planned operator-controlled shutdown.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has been made aware of the issue, Nappi said.

Unit 2 had its final refueling outage last spring. It is scheduled for permanent shutdown by April 30, 2020.

Unit 3, which is undergoing its final refueling outage now, will shut down by April 30, 2021.

The recent set of shutdowns for the generator excitation issue is the first time both nuclear reactors have been shut down at the same time in more than a decade.

Babylon the Great Shows NO Mercy on Iran

Damaged vehicles are seen after a flash flooding in Shiraz, Iran Image Credit: AFP

Iran floods force evacuations as U.S. denies sanctions harming aid efforts

Agencies Published:  April 03, 2019 09:51

US blames disaster on the Iranian government’s own ‘mismanagement’


Sanctions have prevented Iran from acquiring badly needed equipment, including relief helicopters

Tehran – Iranian authorities ordered the evacuation of scores of villages on Tuesday as the impact of severe flooding spread further across the country, while Washington denied Tehran’s claim that U.S. sanctions were slowing aid efforts.

The spokesman for the emergency department said 57 people have died in the flooding since mid-March. Mojtaba Khaledi was quoted by the state-run IRNA news agency on Tuesday as saying another 478 have been injured, with 19 still hospitalized.

State television said armed forces had stepped up relief efforts, airing footage of military and Red Crescent helicopters taking part in rescue operations.

Flood risks forced authorities to order the evacuation of more than 70 villages in the oil-rich southwestern province of Khuzestan, state news agency IRNA said.

Iran’s top authority, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, praised rescue efforts but said officials should have anticipated the disaster better, state TV reported, as a war of words broke out between Tehran and Washington over relief responses.

Iran’s foreign minister says sanctions imposed by the Trump administration last year have hampered rescue efforts in flood-stricken areas of the country, where nearly 60 people have died since mid-March, while the U.S. blamed the disaster on the Iranian government’s own “mismanagement.”

Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted late Monday that America’s “maximum pressure” policy on Iran “is impeding aid efforts by #IranianRedCrescent to all communities devastated by unprecedented floods.”

He said the sanctions have prevented Iran from acquiring badly needed equipment, including relief helicopters. “This isn’t just economic warfare” it’s economic TERRORISM,” he tweeted.

Flooded streets in the northern Iranian village of Agh Ghaleh. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on April 2, 2019 blamed Iran for the level of devastation from major floods, and said Washington was ready to help. Image Credit: AFP

U.S. President Donald Trump restored crippling sanctions on Iran last year after withdrawing from Tehran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers. The sanctions have worsened an economic crisis that has ignited sporadic anti-government protests over the past year.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Tuesday the floods show the “level of Iranian regime mismanagement in urban planning and in emergency preparedness.”

“The regime blames outside entities when, in fact, it is their mismanagement that has led to this disaster,” he said. “The United States stands ready to assist and contribute to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, which would then direct the money through the Iranian Red Crescent for relief.”

In a tweet late Tuesday, Zarif called Pompeo’s remarks “fake news” and urged the U.S. to accept responsibility for economic pressures on Iranians.

The regime blames outside entities when, in fact, it is their mismanagement that has led to this disaster. The United States stands ready to assist and contribute to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, which would then direct the money through the Iranian Red Crescent for relief.

– U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo

Iran has seen major flooding for the past two weeks in hundreds of villages, towns and cities in the western half of the country, where in some places an emergency situation has been declared.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi told IRNA that because of the U.S. sanctions, all foreign bank accounts of the Iranian Red Crescent are closed and no foreign-based entity is able to transfer funds for those suffering from the floods.

A man crosses a flooded street in the city of Khorramabad in western province of Lorestan, Iran. Image Credit: AP

Local authorities in the stricken areas have repeatedly asked for more helicopters to reach remote locations. Iranian state media said Tuesday that dozens of military and Iranian Red Crescent helicopters are taking part in the relief operation.

Britain and Germany have offered to send help, including boats and safety equipment.

Iranian media say the floods have cut off some 80 intercity roads, as well as roads to nearly 2,200 villages, and that electricity and communications with many places have been cut.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei held an emergency meeting Tuesday on the flood response with top officials and army commanders, state TV reported. Authorities have already issued evacuation warnings and ordered emergency discharges from reservoirs.

Iranian authorities ordered the immediate evacuation of flood-stricken cities in a western province as rivers burst their banks, dams overflowed and vast areas were cut off from communication Image Credit: AFP

Emergency services are advising people to postpone travel to western and southern Iran, including the oil-rich Khuzestan province, which is expecting heavy flooding in the coming days from overflowing rivers that flow down to the province.

Provincial Gov. Gholamreza Shariati told the semi-official Tasnim news agency that at least three towns with nearly 140,000 residents are on evacuation alert.

Last year, at least 30 people were killed by flash floods in Iran’s East Azerbaijan province.

More Gazans Shot Outside the Temple Walls (Revelation 11)

IDF shoots three Gazans sneaking into Israel with knives

Palestinians taken to an Israeli hospital after breaching security fence from enclave, army says

By AFP and TOI staff3 Apr 2019, 11:48 pm

Israeli forces opened fire and wounded three Palestinians who entered Israel from the Gaza Strip and were carrying knives, the army said Wednesday.

“(Israeli) troops spotted three suspects crossing the security fence and infiltrating into Israel from the southern Gaza Strip,” it said.

“In response, the troops fired at the suspects. Knives were found in their possession.”

The three were transferred to an Israeli hospital, a spokesperson told AFP.

The incident came amid days of relative quiet on the Gaza-Israel border, as  regional states worked to broker a truce between Israel and Hamas after a flareup in violence last week.

Egypt, the United Nations and Qatar have recently worked to broker ceasefire understandings between Israel and Hamas, which, if finalized, would likely see an end to violence emanating from the Strip in exchange for the Jewish state easing some of its restrictions on the movement of people and goods into and out of the coastal enclave.

Israeli officials have long held that the Jewish state’s limitations on movement aim to prevent Hamas and other terror groups from transferring weapons into Gaza.

There appeared to be a breakthrough in the ceasefire efforts over the weekend, when Palestinians in Gaza maintained relative calm along the border during large protests on Saturday.

Israel, in turn, reopened its two crossings with Gaza on Sunday, having closed them last week after a rocket attack struck a home in central Israel and injured seven people, and significantly expanded the permitted fishing area on Monday around the coastal enclave.

On Wednesday, Palestinian factions in Gaza reportedly agreed to stop launching balloons with incendiary devices into Israel.

The Coming War Against Iran

REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic

An explosion rocks Baghdad during air strikes March 21, 2003.

We had one disastrous war in the Middle East. Don’t start a new war with Iran.

By Jacob Thomas

March 20 marked the 16th anniversary of the start of the Iraq War. It’s an appropriate time to remember the value of diplomacy in advancing America’s national security interests. And there is no better example of smart diplomacy than the Iran nuclear agreement, which blocked Iran’s paths to a nuclear bomb without putting a single American life in harm’s way.

As a former technical sergeant with the United States Air Force and recipient of the Nuclear Deterrence Operations Service Medal, I fully appreciate the gravity of what a nuclear Iran could mean. I also have no desire to see American service members needlessly put in danger. The Iran deal exemplified the critical role and brilliance of our nation’s diplomatic arm.

President Donald Trump intentionally violated the Iran deal by reimposing unilateral sanctions, even though Iran is complying. Trump’s careless violation of our obligations risks unraveling the very deal so many fought to create. The next president should reverse this reckless decision and re-enter the Iran agreement, for American security and the security of our allies.

12 years to negotiate

The nuclear deal was a triumph of international diplomacy. It took the U.S., Great Britain, France and Germany 12 years to negotiate. The sobering reality is that before the deal was signed in 2015, Iran was on the brink of a nuclear bomb. The U.S. and allies imposed severe economic sanctions that brought Iran to the negotiating table and convinced Iran to end its dangerous nuclear activities. In exchange for sanctions relief, Iran submitted to the most intensive monitoring regime ever negotiated, ensuring that its nuclear activities remain peaceful. The relief of sanctions was our international promise that Trump is intent on breaking.

Trump, claiming Iran was not complying, reimposed nuclear sanctions, violating our commitment under the agreement. However, the president’s claims have no basis in reality. Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats and CIA Director Gina Haspel recently testified to Congress that Iran is not conducting nuclear weapons work. This assessment is shared by the Israeli intelligence community and by the International Atomic Energy Agency, which has inspectors on the ground in Iran’s nuclear facilities.

The only person who shares the president’s conviction is his national security adviser, John Bolton. Yet Bolton is hardly a credible source. As the top arms control analyst for President George W. Bush, Bolton advocated for the Iraq war, claiming Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction and ignoring evidence to the contrary. Bolton supported the U.S. withdrawal from the Iran agreement and now claims that Iran “continues to seek nuclear weapons,” despite clear evidence that Iran is complying. Bolton’s claims about Iran do not reflect the facts, but they do reflect his role in the Iraq war and his advice, laid out in a New York Times op-ed, “to stop Iran’s bomb, bomb Iran.” We should not let a warmonger lie to us (again) and undermine 12 years of courageous work.

A reckless and dangerous decision

Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Iran deal was reckless and dangerous. It has severely damaged our relationship with our European allies who helped broker this deal. The U.S. role as a global leader is not based solely in our military might but in our economic influence and in our ability to conduct diplomacy with democratic allies in Western Europe. By withdrawing from the Iran deal and threatening to sanction our allies if they do not do the same, the Trump administration has undercut both our economic and our diplomatic relationships.

Trump once sent a bizarre, all caps tweet threatening Iran with “consequences the likes of which few throughout history have ever suffered before.” As Sen. Amy Klobuchar says, “our front line troops, diplomats and intelligence officers … who are out there every day risking their lives for us … deserve better than foreign policy by Tweet.” She is absolutely right.

The Trump administration’s disdain for diplomacy and over-reliance on crude military force has damaged America’s standing on the global state. We cannot and we must not bludgeon our way through foreign policy. We need the next president to restore our role as a world leader, trusted partner and committed advocate for diplomacy and democracy. Klobuchar has already taken a good step by committing to the climate accord — and I applaud her for that. As her constituent, I urge her to take the next crucial step of committing to rejoin the nuclear agreement. Not only is it the right choice for America and for our allies, it is the only choice that keeps our nation safe from a nuclear threat from Iran.

Jacob Thomas, of Minneapolis, is an Air Force veteran and member of Common Defense, a grassroots organization of veterans. 

Two Centuries Before The Sixth Seal (Revelation 6:12)

The worst earthquake in Massachusetts history 260 years ago

It happened before, and it could happen again.

By Hilary Sargent @lilsarg Staff | 11.19.15 | 5:53 AM

On November 18, 1755, Massachusetts experienced its largest recorded earthquake.

The earthquake occurred in the waters off Cape Ann, and was felt within seconds in Boston, and as far away as Nova Scotia, the Chesapeake Bay, and upstate New York, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

Seismologists have since estimated the quake to have been between 6.0 and 6.3 on the Richter scale, according to the Massachusetts Historical Society.

While there were no fatalities, the damage was extensive.

According to the USGS, approximately 100 chimneys and roofs collapsed, and over a thousand were damaged.

The worst damage occurred north of Boston, but the city was not unscathed.

A 1755 report in The Philadelphia Gazette described the quake’s impact on Boston:

“There was at first a rumbling noise like low thunder, which was immediately followed with such a violent shaking of the earth and buildings, as threw every into the greatest amazement, expecting every moment to be buried in the ruins of their houses. In a word, the instances of damage done to our houses and chimnies are so many, that it would be endless to recount them.”

The quake sent the grasshopper weathervane atop Faneuil Hall tumbling to the ground, according to the Massachusetts Historical Society.

An account of the earthquake, published in The Pennsylvania Gazette on December 4, 1755.

The earthquake struck at 4:30 in the morning, and the shaking lasted “near four minutes,” according to an entry John Adams, then 20, wrote in his diary that day.

The brief diary entry described the damage he witnessed.

“I was then at my Fathers in Braintree, and awoke out of my sleep in the midst of it,” he wrote. “The house seemed to rock and reel and crack as if it would fall in ruins about us. 7 Chimnies were shatter’d by it within one mile of my Fathers house.”

The shaking was so intense that the crew of one ship off the Boston coast became convinced the vessel had run aground, and did not learn about the earthquake until they reached land, according to the Massachusetts Historical Society.

In 1832, a writer for the Hampshire (Northampton) Gazette wrote about one woman’s memories from the quake upon her death.

“It was between 4 and 5 in the morning, and the moon shone brightly. She and the rest of the family were suddenly awaked from sleep by a noise like that of the trampling of many horses; the house trembled and the pewter rattled on the shelves. They all sprang out of bed, and the affrightted children clung to their parents. “I cannot help you dear children,” said the good mother, “we must look to God for help.

The Cape Ann earthquake came just 17 days after an earthquake estimated to have been 8.5-9.0 on the Richter scale struck in Lisbon, Portugal, killing at least 60,000 and causing untold damage.

There was no shortage of people sure they knew the impretus for the Cape Ann earthquake.

According to many ministers in and around Boston, “God’s wrath had brought this earthquake upon Boston,” according to the Massachusetts Historical Society.

In “Verses Occasioned by the Earthquakes in the Month of November, 1755,” Jeremiah Newland, a Taunton resident who was active in religious activities in the Colony, wrote that the earthquake was a reminder of the importance of obedience to God.

“It is becaufe we broke thy Laws,

that thou didst shake the Earth.

O what a Day the Scriptures say,

the EARTHQUAKE doth foretell;

O turn to God; lest by his Rod,

he cast thee down to Hell.”

Boston Pastor Jonathan Mayhew warned in a sermon that the 1755 earthquakes in Massachusetts and Portugal were “judgments of heaven, at least as intimations of God’s righteous displeasure, and warnings from him.”

There were some, though, who attempted to put forth a scientific explanation for the earthquake.

Well, sort of.

In a lecture delivered just a week after the earthquake, Harvard mathematics professor John Winthrop said the quake was the result of a reaction between “vapors” and “the heat within the bowels of the earth.” But even Winthrop made sure to state that his scientific theory “does not in the least detract from the majesty … of God.”

It has been 260 years since the Cape Ann earthquake. Some experts, including Boston College seismologist John Ebel, think New England could be due for another significant quake.

In a recent Boston Globe report, Ebel said the New England region “can expect a 4 to 5 magnitude quake every decade, a 5 to 6 every century, and a magnitude 6 or above every thousand years.”

If the Cape Ann earthquake occurred today, “the City of Boston could sustain billions of dollars of earthquake damage, with many thousands injured or killed,” according to a 1997 study by the US Army Corps of Engineers.

Building up the Saudi Nuclear Horn (Daniel 7)

Saudi Arabia’s first nuclear reactor nearly finished, sparking fears over safeguards

Riyadh has so far resisted international watchdog’s requests to accept a strict inspection regime

Julian Borger

Last modified on Thu 4 Apr 2019 07.54 EDT

Saudi Arabia is within months of completing its first nuclear reactor, new satellite images show, but it has yet to show any readiness to abide by safeguards that would prevent it making a bomb.

The reactor site is in the King Abdulaziz city for science and technology on the outskirts of Riyadh. The site was identified by Robert Kelley, a former director for nuclear inspections at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), who said it was very small 30-kilowatt research reactor, not far from completion.

“I would guess they could have it all done, with the roof in place and the electricity turned on, within a year,” said Kelley, who worked for more than three decades in research and engineering in the US nuclear weapons complex.

The satellite photos show that a 10-metre high steel tubular vessel, which will contain the nuclear fuel, has been erected, and construction work is under way on the surrounding concrete building.

Kelley said the main practical purpose of the research reactor would be to train nuclear technicians, but it also marked the crossing of a nuclear threshold. Before inserting nuclear fuel into the reactor, Saudi Arabia would have to implement a comprehensive set of rules and procedures, including IAEA inspections, designed to ensure no fissile material was diverted for use in weapons – something it has so far avoided.

The reactor has been designed by an Argentinian state-owned company, Invap SE.

“This reactor should be operational by the end of the year roughly,” Rafael Mariano Grossi, Argentina’s envoy to the IAEA, confirmed. “It depends on a number of factors. Invap is in charge of design. They are directing all the operations. But the local engineering is being done by the Saudis.”

The emergence of the satellite images, first published by Bloomberg, comes in the midst of a struggle between the Trump White House and Congress over the sale of nuclear technology to Riyadh, after it emerged that the US department of energy had granted seven permits for the transfer of sensitive nuclear information by US businesses to the Saudi government.

The secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, and the energy secretary, Rick Perry, have both stonewalled congressional committees demanding to know what the authorisations were for, and which companies were involved.

On Tuesday, the head of the independent Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Kristine Svinicki, and her fellow commissioners remained silent when repeatedly asked by Democratic senator Chris Van Hollen, whether the commission had been consulted on the nuclear permits.

Tempers flared last week in a confrontation between Pompeo and the Democrat-run House foreign affairs committee, when legislators demanded to know why the administration appeared to be shielding a Saudi regime responsible for wholesale human rights abuses, mass civilian deaths in Yemen and the murder and dismemberment of Washington Post columnist and dissident Jamal Khashoggi.

Brad Sherman, a California Democrat, told Pompeo: “If you cannot trust a regime with a bone saw, you should not them with nuclear weapons.”

Sherman said the issuance of the seven permits, known as Part 810 authorisations, represented an effort by Trump and his son-in-law Jared Kushner to bypass Congress, and spare the Saudi monarchy the need to accept a formal agreement that would put strict limits on its nuclear programme.

“It tells the country that if Jared and Donald Trump can transfer nuclear technology to the Saudis on seven occasions and not reveal the details to members of Congress with the highest national security clearance, even in special classified rooms – what are they hiding?” Sherman said in a telephone interview.

He said there was a bipartisan majority in Congress that would insist Saudi Arabia could buy US nuclear technology only if it agreed to the “gold standard”: no enrichment of uranium and no reprocessing of plutonium, and the acceptance of intrusive IAEA inspections.

But Sherman was less sure Congress could overcome a presidential veto. “The cards are stacked against us,” he said. “We would need a two-thirds vote and the country has gotten so partisan, Congress is no longer independent.”

A report in February by the House oversight committee cited evidence from whistleblowers that senior White House political appointees, had repeatedly pushed for a quick deal to sell nuclear reactors to Saudi Arabia, without non-proliferation safeguards.

According to the report, the campaign was led initially by Trump’s first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, who had close ties to one of the companies pushing the scheme, IP3 International, but it was pursued after Flynn was fired, by Kushner, Perry and a Trump friend, Tom Barrack.

Saudi Arabia joined the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in 1988 but signed a comprehensive safeguards agreement with the IAEA only in 2005, and at the same time exempted itself from regular inspections, by signing a “small quantities protocol” (SQP), designed for countries with negligible quantities of nuclear material.

Largely because of controversy over Riyadh being shielded from scrutiny under these rules, the IAEA made the SQP more rigorous, but the Saudis resisted making changes.

“Saudi Arabia was the last country allowed to sign the old SQP. And they never agreed to adjust or rescind it,” said Laura Rockwood, a former senior official in the IAEA’s legal affairs office, now head of the Vienna Centre for Disarmament and Non-Proliferation.

Thomas Countryman, who was assistant secretary of state for international security and nonproliferation in the Obama administration, said his negotiations with Saudi officials stalled over their resistance to accepting prohibitions on enrichment or reprocessing, as well as a strict IAEA inspections protocol.

“I believe the Saudis saw an opportunity with Trump and Kushner to conclude this rapidly on their terms, holding out the promise of major purchases,” Countryman, now board chairman of the Arms Control Association, said.

He thought it unlikely the seven export permits issued by the administration would be any help to Saudi Arabia in developing nuclear weapons, but he questioned the lack of transparency involved.

“The unusual level of secrecy surrounding these approvals will only add to Congress’s suspicion of the intentions of both the administration and of Saudi Arabia,” Countryman said. “If there is a deal to be made for US reactor sales to Saudi Arabia, it can only be achieved, and supported by Congress, through transparency and not through secrecy.”

A Planet in Nuclear Peril (Revelation 8)

India, Pakistan, and a Planet in Peril

South Asia’s nuclear-armed neighbors pull back from the abyss…barely

Dilip Hiro

It’s still the most dangerous border on Earth. Yet compared to the recent tweets of President Donald Trump, it remains a marginal news story.  That doesn’t for a moment diminish the chance that the globe’s first (and possibly ultimate) nuclear conflagration could break out along that 480-mile border known as the Line of Control (and, given the history that surrounds it, that phrase should indeed be capitalized). The casus belli would undoubtedly be the more than seven-decades-old clash between India and Pakistan over the contested territory of Kashmir. Like a volcano, this unresolved dispute rumbles periodically — as it did only weeks ago — threatening to spew its white-hot lava to devastating effect not just in the region but potentially globally as well.

The trigger for renewed rumbling is always a sensational terrorist attack by a Pakistani militant group on an Indian target. That propels the India’s leadership to a moral high ground. From there, bitter condemnations of Pakistan are coupled with the promise of airstrikes on the training camps of the culprit terrorist organizations operating from the Pakistan-controlled part of Kashmir.  As a result, the already simmering relations between the two nuclear-armed neighbors are quickly raised to a boiling point. This, in turn, prompts the United States to intervene and pressure Pakistan to shut down those violent jihadist groups. To placate Washington, the Pakistani government goes through the ritual of issuing banning orders on those groups, but in practice, any change is minimal.

And in the background always lurks the possibility that a war between the two neighbors could lead to a devastating nuclear exchange.  Which means that it’s time to examine how and why, by arraying hundreds of thousands of troops along that Line of Control, India and Pakistan have created the most perilous place on Earth.

How It All Began

The Kashmir dispute began with the birth of the kicking twins — Hindu-majority India and Muslim-majority Pakistan — as independent countries.  They emerged from the belly of the dying British Raj in August 1947.  The princely states in British India were given the option of joining either of the new nations. The dithering Hindu ruler of Muslim-majority Jammu and Kashmir (its full title) finally signed a legally binding instrument of accession with New Delhi after his realm was invaded by armed tribal raiders from Pakistan. This document offered that state’s citizens the chance to choose between the two countries once peace had been restored. This has not happened so far and there is no credible prospect that it will.

After the 1947-1948 Indo-Pakistani War that followed independence, India was left in control of almost two-thirds of the princely state (18% of which it lost to China in the Sino-Indian War of 1962). Crucially, the 45% of the former princely state that remained in its hands included the Vale of Kashmir. Guarded by snow-capped mountain peaks, covered with verdant forests of fir and pine, carpeted by wild flowers in the spring, and irrigated by the Jhelum River, it has been described by poets and others as “paradise on Earth.” Its population of seven million is 96% Muslim. And it is this territory that is coveted by Pakistan.

In 1989, having secured the withdrawal of the Soviet army from Afghanistan after a 10-year struggle, some of the Afghan Mujahedin (“Holy Warriors”), including Pakistani militants, turned their attention to liberating Indian-controlled Kashmir.  In this, they had the active backing of the powerful Inter-Services Intelligence directorate, or ISI, of Pakistan’s army. Earlier, the ISI had acted as the conduit for channeling U.S. and Saudi-supplied weapons and cash to the Mujahedin coalition.

At that time, the two Pakistani groups in the Mujahedin coalition, which always harbored an anti-Indian agenda, emerged front and center. They were the Jaish-e Mohammad (Army of Mohammad) and Lashkar-e-Taiba (Army of the Righteous), led respectively by Masoud Azhar and Hafiz Saeed. Working with those Kashmiris who wanted their state to secede from India, they soon began to resort to terrorist acts.

The Indian government responded with draconian measures. In July 1990, it passed the Armed Forces (Jammu and Kashmir) Special Powers Act, or AFJKSP, a law that authorized the state government to declare any part of Jammu and Kashmir a “disturbed area,” where the Indian army would be free to shoot anyone acting in contravention of “any law” or in possession of a deadly weapon.  Indian forces could now arrest people suspected of committing any offense without a warrant or enter and search any premises to make such arrests. In other words, from then on, the armed forces had carte blanche legal immunity to do whatever they wished without the slightest accountability.

Yet resistance to Indian rule did not subside. In fact, the slogan “Azadi” (Freedom) caught on, emboldening both terror groups to jointly launch an audacious attack on the Indian Parliament building on December 20, 2001, with the aim of taking lawmakers hostage.  (They were bravely blocked by armed guards.)  In the crisis that followed, the mobilized armies of the two neighbors, each already a declared nuclear power, faced off across their international border and the Line of Control in Kashmir. Pressured by Washington, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf banned the two terror organizations in January 2002.  Yet both of them soon resurfaced under different names.

In June 2002, at a regional conference in the Kazakh city of Almaty, Musharraf assailed then-Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee for ignoring the wishes of the Kashmiri people. “The possession of nuclear weapons by any state obviously implies they will be used under some circumstances,” he stated grimly, refusing to commit his country (as India had) to a “no first use” policy on nuclear arms. Vajpayee accused him of “nuclear blackmail.”  At home, however, Musharraf’s hardline stance was applauded by the militant groups

Over the years, the crisis only deepened.  In November 2008, for instance, working with the ISI, the operatives of Lashkar-e-Taiba attacked Mumbai’s landmark Taj Mahal Palace Hotel and two other inns. After a 60-hour siege, 166 people, including 28 foreigners, were dead.  Despite initial denials, Pakistan would finally acknowledge that the Mumbai conspiracy was, in part, hatched on its soil, and place Lashkar-e-Taiba leader Saeed under house arrest.  But no charges would be leveled against him and he would, in the end, be released.

After the Mumbai carnage, Jaish-e Mohammad’s chief, Azhar, kept a low profile for several years, only to reappear publicly in 2014, issuing fiery calls for more attacks on India (and the United States as well). In September 2016, his fighters stormed an army camp in Uri, an Indian garrison town near the Line of Control, killing 19 soldiers.

With the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, or BJP, under Narendra Modi gaining power in New Delhi in 2014, repression of the Muslim separatist movement in Kashmir only intensified.  Within three years, the number of security personnel — army troops, paramilitaries, border guards, federal armed policemen, state policemen, and intelligence agents — had reached 470,000 in Jammu and Kashmir, which had a population of only 14.1 million.  As a result, the proportion of local Kashmiris among anti-Indian fighters only rose.

A Sensational Terrorist Attack

This February 14th, a 19-year-old suicide bomber, Adil Ahmad Dar, drove a car bomb into an Indian convoy heading for Kashmir’s capital city, Srinagar. At least 40 Indian paramilitary troops were killed — the worst such attack in the troubled history of the state.  Jaish-e Mohammad proudly claimed responsibility.

After dropping out of his village school, Dar had gone to work in a neighbor’s sawmill. During a four-month-long protest sparked by the killing of a popular 22-year-old local militant leader, Burhan Wani, in July 2016, Indian troops gunned down nearly 100 protestors, while injuring 15,000, including Dar. In response, he crossed the Line of Control and joined Jaish-e Mohammad. In the wake of his suicide attack, Indian soldiers raided the home of his parents, locked them inside, and set it on fire. And so it continues in the officially “disturbed” Kashmir.

In response to the deaths of the soldiers (and keenly aware of an upcoming nationwide election), Prime Minister Modi exploited the situation for political ends. He turned popular grief into an emotive and prolonged commemoration of those military deaths. TV networks focused on the flag-draped coffins of the slain troops, while local BJP candidates followed their hearses. The cremations were telecast live, while Modi proclaimed that “the security forces have been given complete freedom.  The blood of the people is boiling.”

On February 26th, temporarily released from civilian control, the Indian military launched a “pre-emptive” air strike on an alleged Jaish-e Mohammad training camp near Balakot, six miles inside Pakistan’s Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province.  The last time the air forces of either country had crossed the international border was during their 1971 war.

India claimed to have killed more than 300 militants, but Islamabad reported that the Indian bombs had actually hit a totally deserted site. (This would be confirmed later by satellite analysis from the Australian Strategic Policy Institute which concluded that no damage had been done to the hilltop facility India claimed to have struck.) The next day Pakistan announced that, in a dogfight between warplanes of the two countries, an Indian fighter jet had been shot down and its pilot, Abhinandan Varthaman, captured.

India angrily demanded that he be set free immediately. On February 28th, while announcing the pilot’s release during a televised address, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan warned against miscalculation and the explosive potential for such aerial skirmishes to escalate into a wider conflict in the most dangerous environment on the planet.  He said, “With the weapons you have and the weapons we have, can we afford miscalculation? Shouldn’t we think that, if this escalates, what will it lead to?”

This was a barely disguised reference to the devastating nuclear arsenals that the two South Asian neighbors now possess, with 135 nukes in New Delhi’s possession and 145 in Islamabad’s.  Those arsenals are more than capable of causing havoc far beyond South Asia.  It’s estimated that even a “moderate” Indo-Pakistani nuclear conflict could create a global “nuclear winter,” killing directly or indirectly up to a billion people as crops failed and starvation stalked the Earth.

Those Nuclear Arsenals

Pakistan’s arsenal now includes tactical nuclear weapons (TNWs) with “low” explosive power for battlefield use. In 2011, it tested its first one successfully. Since then, according to Professor Rajesh Rajagopalan, author of Nuclear South Asia: Keywords and Concepts, Pakistan is believed to have assembled four or five of these annually. They are to be fired from the Nasr, a short-range missile. Two successful tests of it were conducted this January.

Islamabad began producing and deploying TNWs after India adopted a “Cold Start” military contingency plan to punish unacceptable Pakistani provocations like mass-casualty terror strikes.  After repeated denials, in early 2017, India’s army chief finally acknowledged the existence of the plan, involving the creation of eight division-size integrated battle groups (IBGs).  Each is to consist of infantry, artillery, armor, and air support and is to be able to operate independently on the battlefield. In response to major terrorist attacks from Pakistan or by Pakistani-based groups, the IBGs are to rapidly penetrate that country at unexpected locations and advance up to 30 miles beyond the border, disrupting command-and-control networks while trying to avoid locations likely to trigger nuclear retaliation. In other words, the goal is to be able to launch an overwhelming conventional strike swiftly but in a limited fashion in order to ward off a Pakistani nuclear response.  Overall, India’s contingency plan assumes unrealistically that, in the heat of the battle, leaders on both sides will remain calm and rational.

Responding to Islamabad’s production of theater nuclear weapons, New Delhi initiated a super-secret nuclear program revealed only in December 2015, thanks to an investigation by the Washington-based Center for Public Integrity.  A top-secret, government-run, $100 million rare materials plant near the city of Mysore in southern India now houses a nuclear enrichment complex that has been operating since 2012.  It feeds the country’s nuclear weapons program and, far more ominously, has laid the foundation for an ambitious Indian hydrogen bomb project.

To consternation in world capitals, it was also revealed that this plant has a larger twin 160 miles north of Mysore in southern India that goes by the innocuous name of the Aeronautical Test Range. Conceived in March 2007 by the defense ministry, its construction started in 2012 on nearly 13 square miles of land. It is to become the subcontinent’s largest military-run complex of nuclear centrifuges, atomic-research laboratories, and weapons- and aircraft-testing facilities after its completion in 2020. Among the project’s aims is to expand the government’s nuclear research, to produce fuel for the country’s nuclear reactors, and to help power its fleet of new nuclear submarines. This nuclear city is to be protected by a ring of military garrisons, turning the site into a virtual military facility, which also means that it will not be open to inspection by the International Atomic Energy Agency.  Its overarching aim is to give the country an extra stockpile of enriched uranium fuel that could be used to create hydrogen bombs and so further enhance the power of India’s already devastating nuclear arsenal.

Both of these projects are directed by the office of the prime minister.  India’s Atomic Energy Act and its Official Secrets Act have placed everything linked to the country’s nuclear program under wraps. In the past, those who tried to find out more about these activities were bludgeoned into silence.

According to Gary Samore, an Obama-era White House coordinator for arms control and weapons of mass destruction, “India intends to build thermonuclear weapons as part of its strategic deterrent against China. It is unclear when India will realize this goal of a larger and more powerful arsenal, but they will.” Once manufactured, however, nothing would block India from deploying them against Pakistan. “India is now developing very big bombs, hydrogen bombs that are city-busters,” commented Pakistani nuclear physicist Pervez Hoodbhoy. “It is not interested in [producing] nuclear weapons for use on the battlefield; it is developing nuclear weapons for eliminating population centers.”

In other words, while India has long been in a nuclear arms race with Pakistan, it is no longer sticking to the same race course.  In late March, Modi announced that India recently launched a rocket successfully shooting down one of its satellites. This creates the possibility that, in a future nuclear war with Pakistan, it could preemptively “blind” the Pakistanis by destroying their space-based communication and surveillance satellites.  A race of another kind could be in the offing.

The central motive that drove Pakistan to develop its nuclear arsenal, however, remains unchanged. It was the only way Islamabad could deter New Delhi from defeating it in a war waged with conventional weapons. India’s 2.14 million-strong military, equipped with 5,967 artillery pieces, 4,500 tanks, and 2,216 aircraft, is significantly larger and better armed than Pakistan’s 1.55 million soldiers, 3,745 artillery, 2,700 tanks, and 1,143 aircraft. In addition, New Delhi’s annual defense budget of $55.9 billion is more than five times Islamabad’s $10.8 billion.

Little wonder that, in his February 28th televised address, while announcing the Indian pilot’s release, Prime Minister Khan suggested that the two sides “should sit down and resolve our problems through dialogue.” He claimed that his own political party, Pakistan Tahreek-e-Insaf (the Pakistan Movement for Justice), and the country’s powerful military were “all on one page” in wishing to mend fences with India.

Pakistan’s Belated Suppression of Violent Jihadists

In late February, India handed over to Pakistan a dossier with information on Jaish-e Mohammad, its top leadership, and their involvement in several terror attacks. Islamabad initially said that the dossier was being “examined.” However, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi added that his government could act against Masoud Azhar only if New Delhi provided “solid, inalienable evidence” strong enough to convince the country’s judiciary.

And yet on March 8th, the Pakistani government acted, launching a crackdown on leading terrorist groups.  Among other things, it outlawed the Jamaat-ud Dawa (Society of the Islamic Call), or JuD, a welfare organization that raised funds for Lashkar-e-Taiba. It sealed the banned organization’s headquarters in Lahore as well as more than 200 schools, seminaries, and hospitals it ran. It also banned its chief, Hafiz Saeed, from leading Friday prayers on the sprawling JuD complex and kept him under surveillance.

One key factor that spurred such action was a warning the Pakistani government received on February 22nd from the Paris-based intergovernmental Financial Action Task Force (FATF). It threatened to add Pakistan to its blacklist of non-cooperating countries if, by May, it failed to take specific steps against the financing of terrorism. To be added to the FATF blacklist could mean being sanctioned by most Western nations, a development only likely to deepen Islamabad’s current financial crisis. (Recently, it has had barely enough foreign reserves to pay for two months of imports or service a huge loan it secured from the International Monetary Fund in 2013.)

In January 2018, President Donald Trump had already cancelled plans for Washington to give Pakistan $1.3 billion in military aid and had imposed sanctions on the country for its support of terrorist groups, including the Afghan Taliban.  On Twitter, he accused Pakistan of “providing nothing but lies and deceit.” Soon after, the FATF placed Pakistan on its “gray list.”

Still, none of that proved sufficient to compel Pakistan’s powerful military high command to cede its traditional monopoly on national security and foreign policy decision-making, including its covert backing of anti-Indian extremist groups through the ISI.  Only when pressure continued to build, bolstered by fresh urging from Washington, London, and Paris, was a critical mass reached that made those generals finally fall in line with recently elected Prime Minister Khan’s more conciliatory stance toward India.

Now, the international community can only hope that the carnage and chaos of February was the last in a tragic series of encounters between nuclear neighbors that could otherwise lead South Asia to devastation and the world to nuclear winter.