Babylon the Great Deceived About Nukes

nuclear weapons arsenals countries stockpiles



A since-deleted report published by the U.S. military on nuclear weapons appeared to suggest some positive outcomes of using such weapons of mass destruction in battle.

The unclassified document, published last week by the Joint Chiefs of Staff and entitled “Nuclear Weapons: Planning and Targeting,” was taken down from the Pentagon’s website shortly after. A copy, however, was preserved by the Federation of American Scientists, where government secrecy project analyst Steven Aftergood noted a particularly “Strangelovian passage” in reference to the Cold War-era classic Dr. Strangelove, a satirical take on nuclear tensions between the U.S. and Soviet Union.

Using nuclear weapons could create conditions for decisive results and the restoration of strategic stability. Specifically, the use of a nuclear weapon will fundamentally change the scope of a battle and create conditions that affect how commanders will prevail in conflict,” the report read.

Moreover, the report began with a quote from nuclear war theorist Herman Khan, identified as one of the primary inspirations for Stanley Kubrick’s 1964 black comedy film. The passage read: “My guess is that nuclear weapons will be used sometime in the next hundred years, but that their use is much more likely to be small and limited than widespread and unconstrained.”

Months after President Donald Trump came to office in 2017, Newsweek featured a couple of op-eds comparing his rise to the tale of Dr. Strangelove. While nuclear war has long been a theme in prominent works of fiction, real-life measures restricting the use of such weapons have come under threat in recent years, with the U.S. and Russia trading accusations of arms control treaty violations.

Washington charged Moscow with breaking the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces treaty by developing a missile system that allegedly fell within the restricted range of 310 to 3,420 miles and then suspended the agreement in February. Russian officials have counterclaimed that the U.S.’ Aegis Ashore missile defense system in Romania—and soon to be operational in Poland—because it could allegedly be used offensively as well.

The Trump administration has also delayed negotiations to renew the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), which both the U.S. and Russia’s nuclear capabilities, as the president pushed for a new deal involving China. Beijing, which possessed significantly less nuclear assets than Moscow and Washington, has said it “will never” join such an arrangement as it felt the White House did not even respect current international deals like the 2015 Iran nuclear accord.

The U.S. and Russia have also accused one another of seeking low-yield nuclear weapons reminiscent of Khan’s quote and that many experts since have warned may more likely to be used in the event of a conflict. Moscow officials have also characterized the Trump administration’s 2017 Nuclear Posture Review as relaxing restrictions on the use of nuclear weapons, while Washington has raised red flags in regards to Russia’s development of new hypersonic and cruise missiles capable of evading modern defenses.

The bout escalated once again late last month when Defense Intelligence Agency Director Robert Ashley claimed that “Russia probably is not adhering to its nuclear testing moratorium in a manner consistent with the ‘zero-yield’ standard'”—an apparent violation of the 1996 Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT). The Russian Foreign Ministry called the claims “absolutely unfounded” Wednesday, warning “they can be only considered as a cover up for Washington’s steps on leaving the CTBT and resuming full-fledged nuclear tests.”

New York Subways at the Sixth Seal (Revelation 6)

How vulnerable are NYC’s underwater subway tunnels to flooding?

Ashley Fetters

New York City is full of peculiar phenomena—rickety fire escapes; 100-year-old subway tunnels; air conditioners propped perilously into window frames—that can strike fear into the heart of even the toughest city denizen. But should they? Every month, writer Ashley Fetters will be exploring—and debunking—these New York-specific fears, letting you know what you should actually worry about, and what anxieties you can simply let slip away.

The 25-minute subway commute from Crown Heights to the Financial District on the 2/3 line is, in my experience, a surprisingly peaceful start to the workday—save for one 3,100-foot stretch between the Clark Street and Wall Street stations, where for three minutes I sit wondering what the probability is that I will soon die a torturous, claustrophobic drowning death right here in this subway car.

The Clark Street Tunnel, opened in 1916, is one of approximately a dozen tunnels that escort MTA passengers from one borough to the next underwater—and just about all of them, with the exception of the 1989 addition of the 63rd Street F train tunnel, were constructed between 1900 and 1936.

Each day, thousands of New Yorkers venture across the East River and back again through these tubes buried deep in the riverbed, some of which are nearing or even past their 100th birthdays. Are they wrong to ponder their own mortality while picturing one of these watery catacombs suddenly springing a leak?

Mostly yes, they are, says Michael Horodniceanu, the former president of MTA Capital Construction and current principal of Urban Advisory Group. First, it’s important to remember that the subway tunnel is built under the riverbed, not just in the river—so what immediately surrounds the tunnel isn’t water but some 25 feet of soil. “There’s a lot of dirt on top of it,” Horodniceanu says. “It’s well into the bed of the bottom of the channel.”

And second, as Angus Kress Gillespie, author of Crossing Under the Hudson: The Story of the Holland and Lincoln Tunnels, points out, New York’s underwater subway tunnels are designed to withstand some leaking. And withstand it they do: Pumps placed below the floor of the tunnel, he says, are always running, always diverting water seepage into the sewers. (Horodniceanu says the amount of water these pumps divert into the sewer system each day numbers in the thousands of gallons.)

Additionally, MTA crews routinely repair the grouting and caulking, and often inject a substance into the walls that creates a waterproof membrane outside the tunnel—which keeps water out of the tunnel and relieves any water pressure acting on its walls. New tunnels, Horodniceanu points out, are even built with an outside waterproofing membrane that works like an umbrella: Water goes around it, it falls to the sides, and then it gets channeled into a pumping station and pumped out.

Of course, the classic New York nightmare scenario isn’t just a cute little trickle finding its way in. The anxiety daydream usually involves something sinister, or seismic. The good news, however, is that while an earthquake or explosion would indeed be bad for many reasons, it likely wouldn’t result in the frantic flooding horror scene that plays out in some commuters’ imaginations.

Horodniceanu assures me that tunnels built more recently are “built to withstand a seismic event.” The older tunnels, however—like, um, the Clark Street Tunnel—“were not seismically retrofitted, let me put it that way,” Horodniceanu says. “But the way they were built is in such a way that I do not believe an earthquake would affect them.” They aren’t deep enough in the ground, anyway, he says, to be too intensely affected by a seismic event. (The MTA did not respond to a request for comment.)

One of the only real threats to tunnel infrastructure, Horodniceanu adds, is extreme weather. Hurricane Sandy, for example, caused flooding in the tunnels, which “created problems with the infrastructure.” He continues, “The tunnels have to be rebuilt as a result of saltwater corroding the infrastructure.”

Still, he points out, hurricanes don’t exactly happen with no warning. So while Hurricane Sandy did cause major trauma to the tunnels, train traffic could be stopped with ample time to keep passengers out of harm’s way. In 2012, Governor Andrew Cuomo directed all the MTA’s mass transit services to shut down at 7 p.m. the night before Hurricane Sandy was expected to hit New York City.

And Gillespie, for his part, doubts even an explosion would result in sudden, dangerous flooding. A subway tunnel is not a closed system, he points out; it’s like a pipe that’s open at both ends. “The force of a blast would go forwards and backwards out the exit,” he says.

So the subway-train version of that terrifying Holland Tunnel flood scene in Sylvester Stallone’s Daylight is … unrealistic, right?

“Yeah,” Gillespie laughs. “Yeah. It is.”

Got a weird New York anxiety that you want explored? E-mail, and we may include it in a future column.

More Fire Before World War 3

2 Rockets Strike Oil Fields in Southern Iraq

Damage at a drilling plant that was hit by a rocket near Basra, Iraq, on Wednesday.CreditHussein Faleh/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

By Alissa J. Rubin

June 19, 2019

BASRA, Iraq — Two rockets struck separate targets on Wednesday in oil fields just outside Basra, not far from the headquarters of many international and domestic oil companies.

Though a bit more frequent in recent weeks, rocket attacks have been rare since the Islamic State was pushed out of Iraq more than 18 months ago, and oil fields generally have not been targets. Basra, in southwestern Iraq just above the Persian Gulf, is one of the richest oil production regions in Iraq.

In the first attack, three employees of an Iraqi drilling company who were injured when a Katyusha rocket hit their sleeping quarters were taken to a hospital, said Khalid Hamza, the deputy director of the Basra Oil Company, an Iraqi firm.

There were no injuries reported in the second attack. No other details were available about the strike, and officials would not say who they believed was responsible for the attacks

The rocket strikes come as tensions are escalating between the United States and Iran after attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman, for which Washington blamed Tehran. Iran said on Monday that it would soon breach curbs on its stock of low-enriched uranium set out in the 2015 pact limiting its nuclear program. In response, President Trump ordered an additional 1,000 troops to the Middle East and affirmed his pledge that Iran would not be allowed to develop a nuclear weapon.

The Trump administration withdrew the United States from the nuclear pact last year and has reimposed painful economic sanctions on Iran, including a prohibition on oil exports that has cut off a large portion of its government’s revenue.

Western analysts have described the attacks on the oil tankers as an effort by Iran to signal that if it is blocked from selling its oil, it will penalize the rest of the world by making the shipment of oil riskier and more expensive.

Recent rocket attacks in Iraq have included one in the Green Zone, home to the embassies of the United States and other countries. Other strikes appeared to take aim at Iraqi security forces.

The Iraqi government has been resolute about keeping out of any conflict between Iran and the United States.

“We think its an operation that aims to drag Iraq into the crisis between Iran and America and to involve Iraq in a war,” said Gen. Yahya Rasool of the Baghdad Joint Command, which includes American and Iraqi forces.

The first rocket landed before dawn Wednesday near the Zubair oil field in an area that includes the headquarters of many oil companies, including those of Shell and Exxon Mobil; the second landed in the area of the Rumaila oil field, one of Iraq’s oldest and largest oil patches, where BP is operating. Shell said in a statement that all its staff members were accounted for and that the company was continuing normal operations in Iraq.

Abbas Maher, the mayor of Al Zubair, said the first rocket had been launched from his town.

“This is the first incident of its kind, and we consider it as targeting an Iraqi company and damaging the Iraqi economy,” Mr. Maher said.

Trump Increases Iran’s Hatred Towards America

A demonstrator holds an anti-U.S. placard during the annual Quds, or Jerusalem Day, rally in Tehran on May 31. (Vahid Salemi/AP)

Trump claims he tamed Iran to stop chanting ‘Death to America.‘ Wrong.

By Aaron Blake

June 18 at 12:34 PM

In a new interview with Time magazine, President Trump seems to slow-walk the idea of going to war with Iran. Asked about an attack on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman that the United States has blamed on Iran, Trump called it “very minor.” He also suggested that it wasn’t worth getting bogged down in another war because the United States isn’t as reliant upon Middle Eastern oil as it was in the past.

But while he has always talked tough about Iran, it’s not the first time he has suggested that U.S. interests aren’t really at play there. Recently, he has taken to arguing that the Iranians aren’t chanting “Death to America” since he came along.

He’s either not paying attention or is deluding himself.

Trump had this to say in the Time interview: “If you look at the rhetoric now compared to the days when they were signing [the 2015 Iran nuclear] agreement, where it was always, ‘Death to America, death to America, we will destroy America, we will kill America’ — I’m not hearing that too much anymore,” Trump said. “And I don’t expect to.

He said much the same in an interview with Fox News on Friday and also at an Iowa fundraiser last week. “They don’t talk that way anymore,” he said. “They’re not talking that way anymore.”

And yet they are.

Just this month, when the supreme leader of Iran, Ali Khamanei, told Iranians to stand up to U.S. “bullying,” the call was reportedly met with chants of “Death to America” — or “marg bar Amreeka” in Farsi.

Hard-line cleric Ahmad Khatami last week said during Friday prayer sermons broadcast by Radio Tehran that the supreme leader’s words were equivalent to “Death to America.” According to the BBC:

Prior to and during the sermons, worshippers were heard chanting “Death to America,” “Death to Israel,” “Death to England” and “Death to the House of Saud” – the Saudi royal family.

In April, after the Trump administration officially designated Iran’s Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist organization, Iranian lawmakers convened by chanting “Death to America.”

In February, crowds gathered in Tehran on the 40th anniversary of Iran’s Islamic Revolution and chanted “Death to America.” From the AP:

In Tehran, crowds streamed in the rain from a dozen of the capital’s far-flung neighbourhoods to mass in central Tehran Azadi, or Freedom Square, waving Iranian flags and chanting “Death to America” – a chant that has been standard fare at anti-US rallies across Iran.

And around that same time, Khamenei actually clarified the meaning of “Death to America.” He said it specifically referred to the president, his national security adviser and his secretary of state. “‘Death to America’ means death to Trump and John Bolton and [Mike] Pompeo,” Khamenei said. “It means death to American leaders, who happen to be these people at this time.“

Trump’s implication seems to be that Iran is cowed by his actions, including designating the Iranian Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist organization and withdrawing the United States from the Iran nuclear deal. Khamenei’s words and the continued chants seem to paint the opposite picture.

Measuring the popularity of the “Death to America” chant in Iran is a difficult thing to do — it is a slogan that dates back decades — but there is no real sign that it has fallen out of favor. Indeed, the chants continued even as Trump was making this claim over the past week.

Antichrist warns Iraqi government to complete cabinet

Sadr warns Iraqi government to complete cabinet within 10 days | AW

BAGHDAD – Iraqi Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr urged political blocs on Monday to pressure the prime minister to form a complete cabinet within 10 days, warning that his supporters would take a “new stance” if they failed to do so.

Sadr, who leads a large parliamentary bloc, has rallied his supporters to stage mass protests against previous governments, and has implied this could take place against the current government of Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi.

“I call on all political blocs to charge the prime minister with completing the cabinet formation process within 10 days,” Sadr said in a letter released by his office.

“Otherwise we will have another position … and you are aware of our stance.”

Sadr’s Saeroon political bloc came first in a May 2018 general election. He has called for independent candidates to be put forth for several key cabinet positions which remain vacant over disagreement between powerful parties.

Abdul-Mahdi began his term in October, but has yet to fill interior and defense posts.

Sadr, who presents himself as a nationalist who opposes the involvement of both the United States and Iran, Iraq’s two mains allies, scored a surprise victory in the May vote by promising to fight corruption and improve services.

The other largest political bloc includes candidates backed by Iran who have tried to push an interior candidate linked to Iran-backed militias.

A wild card in Iraq’s turbulent politics driven largely by sectarian interests, he has frequently mobilized tens of thousands of followers to protest against government policies and corruption.

His militia, previously known as the Mehdi Army, staged two violent uprisings against US occupation forces after the invasion. Iraqi and US officials described him at the time as the biggest security threat in Iraq.


Iran Prepares to Break the Nuclear Deal

Iran Says It Will Exceed Nuclear Deal’s Limit On Uranium ‘In 10 Days’

Scott NeumanJune 17, 20197:22 AM ET

Atomic Energy Organization of Iran spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi, pictured at a July 2018 news conference in Tehran, said Monday: “We have quadrupled the rate of enrichment and even increased it more recently.”

Atta Kenare/AFP/Getty Images

Updated at 11:50 a.m. ET

Within days Iran will exceed the limit on its stockpile of uranium under a 2015 nuclear deal, according to a spokesman for the country’s atomic energy agency, who also said Tehran would increase uranium enrichment levels in violation of the agreement, “based on the country’s needs.”

The remarks come amid increased tension between the U.S. and Iran, particularly after last week’s attack on two tankers in the Gulf of Oman that Washington has blamed on Tehran. Iran has denied any involvement.

Under the multilateral Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action that the U.S. withdrew from a year ago, Iran can keep no more than 300 kilograms (661 pounds) of uranium enriched no higher than 3.67% — far below the 90% level considered suitable for building nuclear weapons.

At a news conference at the Arak Nuclear Complex that was carried live Monday on Iranian television, Behrouz Kamalvandi, a spokesman for the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, said that stockpile limit could be exceeded within 10 days.

“We have quadrupled the rate of enrichment and even increased it more recently, so that in 10 days it will bypass the 300 kg limit,” Kamalvandi said.

He added that his country needs uranium enriched to 5% for its Bushehr Nuclear Power Plant, built in the 1990s with Russian help, and uranium of 20% purity to be used as fuel for the Tehran Research Reactor, which the U.S. supplied to Iran in 1967.

Although not weapons-grade, 20% purity is generally considered “highly enriched” uranium, and as The Associated Press notes, “going from 20% to 90% is a relatively quicker process, something that worries nuclear nonproliferation experts.”

Even so, Kamalvandi held out the possibility that “there is still time … if European countries act.”

“Iran’s reserves are every day increasing at a more rapid rate. And if it is important for them (Europe) to safeguard the accord, they should make their best efforts. … As soon as they carry out their commitments, things will naturally go back to their original state,” he said, according to AP.

That sentiment was echoed by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Monday. “It’s a crucial moment, and France can still work with other signatories of the deal and play an historic role to save the deal in this very short time,” he was quoted by the Fars News Agency as saying during a meeting with France’s new ambassador in Iran.

Reuters reports that Rouhani said the collapse of the nuclear deal would not be in the interests of the region and the world.

In response to Iran’s announcement on uranium enrichment levels, National Security Council spokesman Garrett Marquis said in a statement: “Iran’s enrichment plans are only possible because the horrible nuclear deal left the their capabilities intact. President Trump has made it clear that he will never allow Iran to develop nuclear weapons. The regime’s nuclear blackmail must be met with increased international pressure.”

Following last week’s reported attack on the tankers Front Altair and Kokuka Courageous near the strategic Strait of Hormuz, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said “there’s no doubt” that Iran was responsible for disabling the vessels.

“The intelligence community has lots of data, lots of evidence,” Pompeo said on Fox News Sunday. “The world will come to see much of it, but the American people should rest assured we have high confidence with respect to who conducted these attacks as well as half a dozen other attacks throughout the world.”

On CBS’ Face the Nation, Pompeo said the U.S. was “considering a full range of options.”

“We are confident that we can take a set of actions that can restore deterrence, which is our mission set,” he said.

On Monday, Iran’s armed forces chief of staff again denied the country’s involvement in the attacks.

“Regarding the new incidents in the Persian Gulf … if the Islamic Republic of Iran decides to block exports of oil through the Strait of Hormuz, it is militarily strong enough to do that fully and publicly,” Maj. Gen. Mohammad Bagheri said, according to Fars News Agency.

Iran WILL Close the Strait of Hormuz. America Needs to Be Prepared

Featured Image

Iran Could Close the Strait of Hormuz. America Needs to Be Prepared.

Iranian military personnel place a national flag on a submarine during the “Velayat-90” navy exercises in the Strait of Hormuz in southern Iran on January 3, 2012, the End day of ten-day war games. Iran’s military warned one of the US navy’s biggest aircraft carriers to keep away from the Gulf, in an escalating showdown over Tehran’s nuclear drive that could pitch into armed confrontation. AFP PHOTO/JAMEJAMONLINE/EBRAHIM NOROOZI (Photo credit should read EBRAHIM NOROOZI/AFP/Getty Images)

Did Iran attack two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman? The U.S. government says they did. America’s allies, including Japan and Germany, say they want to see more proof.

Because every question must invariably become about Donald Trump—is he lying? is this the price of his lack of credibility?—we seem to be ignoring one of the key elements in the situation: the nature of the Islamic Republic regime.

Iran has been threatening to close the Strait of Hormuz—the connection from the oil-rich Persian Gulf to the Sea of Oman to oceans and international waters—for several years now. And one way to read the recent attacks is as an indication that they are demonstrating a willingness to back up with these threats.

At first glance, the idea that Iran’s green-water navy (which includes six frigates, three corvettes, and a menagerie of small, coastal missile craft) could challenge America’s blue-water might sounds ridiculous.

The problem lies in Iran’s asymmetrical power, where the United States has proven to be incredibly vulnerable throughout its history. To quote H.R. McMaster, there are two ways to fight the United States: asymmetrical and stupid. Consider the Indian Wars, the Philippines War, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq—basically every conflict that didn’t turn out optimally for the United States.

With Iran this is a two-fold problem: Iran’s asymmetrical power deters us from an invasion out of fear of consequent insurgency by the old IRGC members (and especially the IRGC’s Basij force) and also deters us from limited operations out of fear of responses against our military bases in the region and against Israel through Hezbollah and Hamas.

Iran could not win a conventional fight with the U.S. Navy. But then, they would have no intention of conducting a conventional fight. They would seek to cripple shipping, raise the cost of sending trade through the strait, create uncertainty in world financial markets, and sow dissension between America and our allies. It’s not even clear that Iran would openly conduct operations under their own banner. It’s just as likely that they would employ maskirovka in order to launder the fight through non-state actors.

In other words, there is a reason that Iran has proved to be such an intractable problem.

President Obama saw the Iran nuclear crisis as an opportunity to remake the Middle East. He believed that after sanctions were lifted, Iran would become a member of the international community and adopt a more responsible behavior. This transformation, in turn, would balance the power of the Arab coalition—specifically Saudi Arabia and the United Arab of Emirates—and create a more stable region.

The Obama gamble failed. Even before the United States left the JCPOA, Iran had been antagonizing America at sea, destroying the little left of Lebanese democracy through continued support for Hezbollah, strengthening its alliance with Russia, providing support for Bashar al-Assad to slaughter the Syrian people, deploying its military to Iraq, supporting Houthis in Yemen, and providing support for Hamas.

If anything, the economic relief that followed the implementation of Obama’s JCPOA accelerated Iran’s malicious behaviors.

What Obama failed to appreciate was that the Islamic Republic is an ideological and revolutionary regime. Rarely in history have such regimes “evolved” into normalcy. The Soviet Union remained a revisionist state until it collapsed. China’s entrance into the World Trade Organization didn’t change its behavior.

This leaves the United States with two options: (1) To tolerate the regime and its rogue behavior and, perhaps, to limit it, through power projection; or (2) To facilitate regime change.

Tolerating the regime is both painful and costly for America. It requires the United States to spend financial, military, and other resources on containment. Nevertheless, it is the less risky option. (At least for now.)

The alternative offers higher risks but even higher rewards. To take just one for instance, China is pursuing its Belt and Road initiative and Iran is what connects East and South Asia to the Middle East and Africa—it’s a crucial piece of China’s attempt to remake the world order on its own terms. A liberal Iranian regime would further American interests and make the lives of our competitors more challenging.

But regime change requires prudence and offers its own challenges. Regime change could look like successful cases such as Chile and South Korea in the 1980s. Or it could look like chaoses of Iraq and Libya.

The best hope for the United States would be for Iran’s regime to fall from a revolution from within.

But there is a problem with the change-from-within fantasy: The natural evolution of the regime into something more acceptably liberals has proven impossible because the very legitimacy of the regime depends on its not being a normal state. As Henry Kissinger once said, Iran needed to decide whether it wanted to be a country or a cause. They decided on the latter. Consequently, the cleavage between the regime and the people on all accounts—political, social, economic—has become too wide to leave any door open for reform.

Which leaves revolution. But a revolution also looks deeply unlikely. For a revolution to succeed, it either requires that the government’s security forces lose the fight, or that they switch sides and join the revolutionaries. The uprisings of 1998, 2001, 2009, and 2018-19 have all demonstrated that the government’s security forces are loyal to the regime and have an overwhelming advantage over the people.

Granted, this could change. The United States could provide support for the opposition in Iran in case of another uprising, and perhaps this could change the power imbalance. And there may well be another uprising. The regime is deeply unpopular. The number of protests and demonstrations now reaches the high three digits each year. As the economic condition worsens—this is something that has been happening over the past 15 years, and the JCPOA failed to fix that problem—the regime’s popularity has been in free fall. Even within the IRGC and outside the corp’s leadership, the regime is not popular. Most of the enlisted and low- and medium-ranked officers serve only for the benefits and not out of ideological devotion.

The administration can right a wrong done by Carter and Obama administrations—the missed opportunity of 2009. But that would require a lot of prudence and planning.