Why New York City Will Be Shut Down At The Sixth Seal

Indian Point tritium leak 80% worse than originally reported

Published time: 10 Feb, 2016 22:12Edited time: 11 Feb, 2016 01:51

New measurements at the Indian Point nuclear power plant in upstate New York show levels of radioactive tritium 80 percent higher than reported last week. Plant operator insists the spill is not dangerous, as state officials call for a safety probe.

Entergy, which operates the facility 25 miles (40 km) north of New York City, says the increased levels of tritium represent “fluctuations that can be expected as the material migrates.”

“Even with the new readings, there is no impact to public health or safety, and although these values remain less than one-tenth of one percent of federal reporting guidelines,” Entergy said in a statement.

New York governor Andrew Cuomo raised an alarm last Saturday over the reports of groundwater contamination at Indian Point, noting that the company reported “alarming levels of radioactivity” at three monitoring wells, with “radioactivity increasing nearly 65,000 percent” at one of them.

The groundwater wells have no contact with any drinking water supplies, and the spill will dissipate before it reaches the Hudson River, a senior Entergy executive argued Tuesday, suggesting the increased state scrutiny was driven by the company’s decision to shut down another nuclear power plant.

“There are a number of stakeholders, including the governor, who do not like the fact that we are having to close Fitzpatrick,” Michael Twomey, Entergy’s vice president of external affairs, said during an appearance on ‘The Capitol Pressroom,’ a show on WCNY public radio.

The James A. Fitzpatrick plant is located on the southern shore of Lake Ontario, near Oswego, New York. Entergy said it intended to close the plant once it runs out of fuel sometime this year, citing its continued operations as unprofitable.

Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant on the Hudson river © wikipedia.org

‘65,000% radioactivity spike’: New York Gov. orders probe into water leak at Indian Point

“We’re not satisfied with this event. This was not up to our expectations,” Twomey said, adding that the Indian Point spill should be seen in context.

Though it has never reported a reactor problem, the Indian Point facility has been plagued by issues with transformers, cooling systems, and other electrical components over the years. It currently operates two reactors, both brought on-line in the 1970s.

In December, the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission allowed Entergy to continue operating the reactors, pending license renewal. The facility’s initial 40-year license was set to expire on December 12, but the regulators are reportedly leaning towards recommending a 20-year extension.

By contrast, Reactor 4 at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Pripyat, Ukraine was only three years old when it exploded in April 1986. To this day, an area of 1000 square miles around the power plant remains the “exclusion zone,” where human habitation is prohibited.

The tritium leak at Indian Point most likely took place in January, during the preparations to shut down Reactor 2 for refueling, according to Entergy. Water containing high levels of the hydrogen isotope reportedly overfilled the drains and spilled into the ground.

According to Entergy, tritium is a “low hazard radionuclide” because it emits low-energy beta particles, which do not penetrate the skin. “People could be harmed by tritium only through internal exposure caused by drinking water with high levels of tritium over many years,” an Entergy fact sheet says.

Environmentalist critics are not convinced, however.

“This plant isn’t safe anymore,” Paul Gallay, president of environmental watchdog group

Riverkeeper, told the New York Daily News. “Everybody knows it and only Entergy and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission refuse to admit it.”

The Upcoming Australian Nuclear Horn (Daniel 7)

Going Nuclear in the Antipodes: Australia’s Megadeath Complex

Binoy Kampmark07.04.19

World News /04 Jul 2019

The antipodes has had a fraught relationship with the nuclear option. At the distant ends of the earth, New Zealand took a stand against the death complex, assuming the forefront of restricting the deployment of nuclear assets in its proximity. This drove Australia bonkers with moral envy and strategic fury. The New Zealand Nuclear Free Zone, Disarmament and Arms Control Act 1987 made the country a nuclear and biological weapons-free area. It was a thumbing, defiant gesture against the United States, but what is sometimes forgotten is that it was also a statement to other powers – including France – who might venture to experiment and test their weapons in the Pacific environs.

The Lange government had made an anti-nuclear platform indispensable to an independent foreign policy, one that caused a fair share of consternation in Washington. The satellite was misbehaving and seeking to break free from its US orbit. “If we don’t pass this law, if we don’t declare ourselves nuclear free,” insisted Prime Minister David Lange, “we will have anarchy on the harbours and in the streets.”

An important provision of the Act remains clause 9(2): “The Prime Minister may only grant approval for the entry into the internal waters of New Zealand by foreign warships if the Prime Minister is satisfied that the warships will not be carrying any nuclear explosive device upon their entry into the internal waters of New Zealand.”

The reaction from the US Congress was a cool one: the Broomfield Act was duly passed in the House: an ally had been recast as a somewhat disregarding “friend.” It urged New Zealand to “reconsider its decision and law denying port access to certain US ships” and “resume its obligations under the ANZUS Treaty.” Various “security assistance and arms export preferences” to New Zealand would be suspended until the President determined that the country was compliant with the Treaty.

As Anglo-American retainer and policing authority of the Pacific, Australia has had sporadic flirts with the nuclear option, one shadowing the creation of the Australian National University, the Woomera Rocket Range and the Snowy Mountains hydro-electricity scheme. Australian territory had been used, and abused, by British forces keen to test Albion’s own acquisition of an atomic option. The Maralinga atomic weapons test range remains a poisoned reminder of that period but was hoped to be a prelude to establishing an independent Australia nuclear force. Cooperation with Britain was to be key, and Australian defence spending, including the acquisition of 24 pricey F-111 fighter bombers from the US in the 1960s, was premised on a deliverable nuclear capability.

During John Gorton’s short stint as prime minister in the late 1960s, rudimentary efforts were made at Jervis Bay to develop what would have been a reactor capable of generating plutonium under the broad aegis of the Australian Atomic Energy Commission. Gorton’s premiership ended in 1971; Australia slid back into the sheltering comforts of Washington’s unverifiable nuclear umbrella.

The influential chairman of the AAEC, Philip Baxter, who held the reins between 1956 and 1972 with a passion for secrecy, never gave up his dream of encouraging the production of weapons-grade plutonium. It led historian Ann Moyal to reflect on the “problems and danger of closed government,” with nuclear policy framed “through the influence of one powerful administrator surrounded by largely silent men.”

Nuclear weapons have a habit of inducing the worst of human traits. Envy, fear, and pride tend to coagulate, producing a nerdish disposition that tolerates mass murder in the name of faux strategy. With the boisterous emergence of China, Australian academics and security hacks have been bitten by the nuclear bug. In 2018, Stephan Frühling, Associate Dean of the College of Asia and the Pacific at the Australian National University fantasised about adorning the Australian coastline with tactical, short-range nuclear weapons.

It was a fantasy he was happy to recommend to audiences tuning in to the ABC’s “Late Night Live.” “In air and naval battle on the high seas, nukes can now be employed without significant risk of collateral damage much like conventional warheads.” Such thinking has the hallmarks of redux insanity in the field of nuclear thinking, the sort that deems such weapons equivalent in their characteristics to conventional types.

And what of the much vaunted US nuclear umbrella? By stepping out of it, Australia was surely making a statement of cranky independence. Frühling’s suggestion is symptomatic of a field filled with syndromes and disorders. “Before investing in a nuclear program I think we would have to make a genuine attempt at trying to draw closer to the United States and its nuclear arsenal.” By stepping out, you have to be stepping in.

His work exudes a lingering suspicion that the ANZUS treaty binding both Australia and the United States remains foamy and indistinct on the issue of territorial defence. Since Vietnam, there has been little by way of joint operations in the Pacific between the two. The treaty’s preamble outlining the allies’ need to “declare publicly and formally their sense of unity, so that no potential aggressor could be under any illusion that any of them stand alone in the Pacific Area” remains distinctly free of evidence and logistical heft.

Other authors who claim to be doyens of Australian strategic thinking also fear the seize-the-prize intentions of the Yellow Peril and a half-hearted Uncle Sam keen to look away from “the Indo-Pacific and its allies.” Paul Dibb, Richard Brabin-Smith and Brendan Sargeant, all with ANU affiliations, call for “a radically new defence policy,” which might be read as a terror of the US imperium in retreat. For Dibb, Australia “should aim for greater defence self-reliance.” This would involve “developing a Defence Force capable of denying our approaches to a well-armed adversary capable of engaging us in sustained high-intensity conflict.”

Such writings suggest an element of the unhinged at play. The paternal protector snubs the child; the child goes mad and seeks comfort in suitable toys. Brabin-Smith broods over the end of extended nuclear deterrence, “not just for us but for other US allies in the Pacific, Japan especially.” This might well precipitate nuclear proliferation in the Pacific, requiring “Australia to review its own position on nuclear weapons.”

Not wishing to be left off the increasingly crowded nuclear wagon, Australia’s longstanding commentator on China, Hugh White, has also put his oar in, building up the pro-nuclear argument in what he calls a “difficult and uncomfortable” question. (Age does have its own liberating qualities.) Having suggested in 2017 that the China-US tussle in the Pacific would eventually lead to a victory for Beijing, he has his own recipe for a re-ordering of the Australian defence establishment. How to Defend Australia suggests what needs to be done and, as is the nature of such texts, what the bunglers in the security establishment are actually doing. It is also a paean about future loss. “We have been very fortunate to live under America’s protection for so long and we will sorely miss it when it is gone.”

White advocates an Australian Defence Force heavily reliant on sinking flotillas: “only ships can carry the vast amounts of material required for a major land campaign.” Sell most of the surface vessels, he urges; abandon existing plans to build more; build a fleet of 24 to 36 submarines and increase defence spending from the current levels of 2% to 3.5%.

Then comes the issue of a nuclear capability, previously unneeded given the pillowing comforts of the US umbrella, underpinned by the assurance that Washington was “the primary power in Asia.” White shows more consideration than other nuclear groupies in acknowledging the existential dangers. Acquiring such weapons would come at a Mephistophelian cost. “It would make us less secure in some ways, that’s why in some ways I think it’s appalling.”

The nuclear call doing the rounds in Canberra is a bit of old man’s bravado and a glowering approach to the non-proliferation thrust of the current international regime. Should Australia embark on a nuclear program, it is bound to coalescence a range of otherwise divided interests across the country. It will also thrill other nuclear aspirants excoriated for daring to obtain such an option. The mullahs in Iran will crow, North Korea will be reassured, and states in the Asian-Pacific may well reconsider their benign status.

If you’re interested in writing for International Policy Digest – please send us an email via submissions@intpolicydigest.org

Situation Escalates Between India and Pakistan

India kills five Pakistani soldiers in Kashmir

July 4, 2019

AFP

The Pakistani military accused India Wednesday of killing five soldiers along the de facto border in Kashmir, just months after the nuclear-armed neighbours nearly went to war over the disputed Himalayan region.

The soldiers were killed in a blast in Barnala, on the Pakistan-administered side of Kashmir, just a few meters from the so-called “Line of Control” that divides the region, the military said in a statement.

Read more: PM Khan believes settlement in Kashmir possible if Modi wins

The blast took place a few meters from the Line of Control in Chamb sector of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK), Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said in a statement

It was not immediately clear when the blast happened.

“The incident is evident of state sponsored terrorism by India violating bilateral ceasefire agreement and the international rules,” the statement said, though it also added that the nature of the blast that killed the soldiers is still being investigated.

The soldiers martyred in the incident include:

• Subedar Muhammad Sadiq, aged 44, resident of village Bandi P/O Jura, tehsil Athmuqam and district Neelam

• Sepoy Muhammad Tayyab, aged 26, r/o village Surakhi, tehsil and district Khushab

• Naik Sher Zaman, aged 36, r/o village Shamashaki, district Karak

• Sepoy Zohaib, aged 20, r/o village Nandi Nar Ghamir Manhdala, tehsil Hajira and district Poonch

• Sepoy Ghulam Qasim, aged 22, r/o village Sahiwal, tehsil Sahiwal and district Sargodha.

Almost a war

The arch-rivals barely escaped a war in February when they launched cross-border air strikes at each other, sending tensions to the highest they have been since both gained nuclear weapons.

Since then they have stepped back from the brink, with Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan and his Indian rival Narendra Modi exchanging warm messages after Modi’s hawkish party won a new term in May.

Even so, Pakistan has kept large swathes of its airspace near the eastern border with India closed since the February clashes, effectively closing off or disrupting several major international flight routes.

Kashmir is ruled in part but claimed in full by both countries, who have fought two of their three wars since independence in 1947 over it. The region has always had a high presence of soldiers.

AFP with additional input from GVS News desk

Thousands Flee From Outside the Temple Walls (Revelation 11)

Palestinians wave goodbye to people aboard a bus before it leaves to cross into Egypt. As conditions at home worsen, thousands of Gazans have crossed the Egyptian border since last May, seeking a better life.

Daniel Estrin/NPR

‚I Want To Get The Hell Out Of Here‘: Thousands Of Palestinians Are Leaving Gaza

Daniel EstrinJuly 4, 20195:18 AM ET

For over a decade, the Gaza Strip — controlled by the Islamist militant group Hamas, blockaded by its neighbors, difficult to leave — has amounted to an experiment in human isolation.

Now there is a new escape route. Egypt suddenly opened its border with Gaza in May 2018, and, facing increasingly unbearable living conditions, tens of thousands of Gazans are believed to have crossed that border and scattered across the world, in the latest chapter in a mass exodus of migrants out of the troubled Middle East.

„I didn’t find my future here,“ says Zeid Al Kurdi, 25, at the Gaza-Egypt border with just a backpack and small rolling suitcase.

He grew up in a refugee camp and, like most Gazans, relied on United Nations food rations. His family’s house was destroyed in an Israeli airstrike in 2008, during the first of three wars that Hamas and Israel have fought, and his father went broke paying off a loan to rebuild it.

Kurdi had a plan: He went to university, earned a bachelor’s degree in English and French, and was sure his language skills would land him a job with an international aid organization working in Gaza. But some aid groups have scaled back their activities in Gaza. The U.S. recently cut all aid money to Gaza and donor countries are spread thin, aiding other Mideast hot spots. He couldn’t find work.

Kurdi tried to get a visa to the U.S. — „you know, the land of opportunity,“ he says — but his application was rejected. So his family collected enough money for him to fly from Cairo to Abu Dhabi to look for work.

Zeid Al Kurdi, 25, waits inside the Gaza border terminal to cross into Egypt.

Daniel Estrin/NPR

„It’s really bad for me to leave them,“ he says of his brothers, who came to the border to see him off, „and also really bad to leave my mother and father. But it is necessary to seek a better future.“

Gaza is a core focus of the White House’s new multibillion-dollar proposal to enhance the quality of life for Palestinians. But the U.S. says the proposal cannot be implemented without a political solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Youth like Kurdi cannot afford to wait.

He departed through Gaza’s main portal to the world, a black iron gate on the Egyptian border.

In recent years, this gate has only been open a couple of days every few months, as Egypt and Israel imposed a blockade to contain Hamas and keep militants from getting out. Egypt tightened its border after the 2013 overthrow of the country’s Islamist President Mohammed Morsi and as it battled militants near Gaza in the northern Sinai Peninsula.

Last May, the border gate was opened to „alleviate the burdens of the brothers in the Gaza Strip,“ as Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi tweeted. Days earlier, as the U.S. inaugurated its new embassy in Jerusalem, Israeli troops fatally shot 59 Palestinians and wounded more than 2,700 during protests and violence along the Israeli fence with Gaza.

The Egyptian border crossing has remained open ever since last May, teeming with young men like Kurdi, waiting for Hamas authorities to call their names over a scratchy loudspeaker to board a bus and cross. Absent official emigration statistics, experts in Gaza estimate around 35,000 to 40,000 Gazans have left since mid-2018.

„It’s: ‚Let me get out of Gaza and I’ll figure it out,'“ says Caitlin Procter, a Harvard University research fellow studying migration out of Gaza. „It speaks to the level of desperation.“

Procter knows of more than 10 newlywed couples who are waiting to have children — bucking Gaza’s conservative tradition — until they can leave Gaza and reach someplace where they can ensure their kids a better life.

Conditions have gone from bad to worse since Hamas took over Gaza in 2007. The group refuses to recognize Israel, which considers it a terrorist group and blockades Gaza.

The Rafah gate on the Gaza-Egypt border, mostly closed in recent years, was opened last May. Egypt and Israel have imposed a blockade to contain Hamas and keep militants out.

Daniel Estrin/NPR

More pressure comes from the Palestinian Authority, which has cut civil servants‘ salaries in Gaza in an effort to squeeze Hamas and regain control of the territory, exacerbating an already devastated economy. Two out of every three youth in Gaza are unemployed, according to the World Bank, while electricity is spotty and most tap water is unpotable.

So when Egypt opened its border gate, it was a window of opportunity.

Those who leave are mostly young Palestinian men in their 20s, many of them from poor families and refugee camps, says Gaza-based Al-Azhar University political science professor Mukhaimar Abu Sada, whose four nephews and son have moved abroad in the past year.

„Most of them are college graduates, poor, no jobs,“ says Abu Sada. „You cannot get married. You cannot rent a house. You cannot start a new life here.“

Some fly to the Gulf. Others have family ties in Egypt and settle there, or fly to Turkey, where it’s easy and relatively cheap to get a visa. Some take Turkish smuggling boats to Greece. Some have drowned along the way. Many make their way deeper into Europe; Belgium and Norway are popular destinations.

Hamas has arrested and interrogated critics and beaten protesters in Gaza, and Abu Sada says some Palestinians who make it to Europe seek asylum, claiming they faced harassment at home.

So far this year, Palestinians are the third-largest group after Afghans and Syrians to take the smuggling route across the Mediterranean Sea to Europe, the International Organization for Migration tells NPR. At least 1,046 Palestinians have taken the sea route so far this year, as did 1,433 Palestinians last year. As recently as 2015, over 6,000 Palestinians took the same route, according to IOM figures.

Publicly, Hamas has stayed quiet about the migrant phenomenon. It sees the open Egyptian border as a sign of warming ties between Egypt and Gaza’s Hamas rulers, as it seeks aid and a long-term truce arrangement with Israel and Egypt that would ease restrictions on Gaza.

„I don’t deny that there are some who want to go out and leave,“ says Hamas official Ghazi Hamad. „We are struggling to ease the life of people … every day, looking here and there, looking for options.“

Khalil Abu Ibrahim left Gaza with his family last year, but had to return after struggling to earn a living in Europe. Now he provides a service assisting other young Palestinians as they apply for visas.

Daniel Estrin/NPR

Egypt only allows in a few hundred Gaza travelers a day, so Hamas maintains a months-long waiting list. Those who pay for „coordination“ — a bribe believed to be pocketed by authorities on both sides of the border — get bumped higher up the list.

The last straw for Siham Shamalakh, an English translator and mother of two, was the Israeli airstrikes in March that hit a Hamas security building around the corner from her well-appointed Gaza City apartment. She slept in the living room, away from windows, for a week, and signed up for the waiting list to leave for Egypt.

Across from her bedroom balcony is a building that she and her neighbors believe a Hamas-affiliated group recently moved into — on account of the sudden appearance of guards and police officers in the street and new air conditioning units installed on a previously-empty floor of the building.

She is convinced it, too, will be targeted in an Israeli airstrike someday.

„I don’t want to sleep [while] I’m afraid from the bombings and the missiles, whether from the Israelis or from Hamas,“ she says. „I know that I have a nice apartment, and life in Gaza is nice when it’s peaceful. But when the escalation comes, I change my mind. I say, no, I want to get the hell out of here.“

Gaza’s flight also includes doctors and surgeons.

At Gaza’s main hospital, three of its five gastrointestinal specialists left for Canada, Ukraine and the Gulf, and about a fifth of the physiotherapists and the lone cardiac surgeon have gone abroad in the past year, according to hospital staff. Doctors‘ salaries have plummeted due to the Palestinian Authority’s cuts for civil servant salaries, and further salary cuts by the cash-strapped Hamas. Many medical students are looking for better-paying jobs abroad. Some doctors have traveled abroad for training, and it is unclear if they will ever return.

The disappearance of doctors comes just as they are needed most. Hospitals have been overwhelmed, treating more than 7,000 Gazans who, according to the World Health Organization, were shot by Israeli soldiers during a year of protests at the Israeli fence.

Hamas authorities have begun to restrict doctors leaving Gaza, approving travel only for those they are certain will return, according to a Gaza-based doctor who spoke on condition of anonymity because Hamas did not make the travel restrictions public, and he did not want to fall afoul of authorities.

Many young people say they’d stay in Gaza if there were decent work, even with all the other hardships. It hurts, they say, to leave their families, their culture, their home.

Among their parents‘ generation, many choose to stay. Older Palestinians have long-established families and careers in Gaza. University academics have stable salaries, and some entrepreneurs are investing in new ventures, like a historic home turned café-restaurant and a fancy new wedding hall on the Mediterranean shore for Gaza’s booming wedding industry.

And some of the Gazan migrants who’ve left for Europe have returned.

In search of better work, Khalil Abu Ibrahim took his wife and kids in boats across the Mediterranean last year, from Turkey to Greece and then Austria. But he couldn’t keep up with the cost of living, and he and his family have returned to Gaza.

Now he has found a way to make a decent living in Gaza. Using his experience as a migrant, he collects a fee for helping other young Palestinians apply for visas to escape.

The Increasing Risk of Nuclear War (Revelation 16)

BY KIMBERLY DOZIER 

12:34 PM EDT
NORTH KOREA

As President Donald Trump prepares to tout his achievements at a on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., here’s a snapshot of how global hot spots have fared since he took office.

North Korea was a crisis on the boil when President Barack Obama left the White House. Trump’s personal outreach to leader Kim Jong Un has turned the temperature down but failed to produce tangible steps to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula.

The two men have held three face-to-face meetings, progress of a sort compared to early 2017 when Trump was promising “fire and fury” and Kim was testing missiles capable of reaching the United States. But Kim resumed weapons testing, and U.S. intelligence believes he has built more nuclear weapons, according to David Maxwell of Washington-based Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

“The North is no closer to denuclearization today than in the previous administration,” Maxwell says.

IRAN

Trump abandoned Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran, ramped up sanctions and brought Tehran to the brink of economic implosion. In response, Tehran has threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz and shot down a U.S. military drone.

European officials fear the tension could lead to an all-out U.S. war with Iran, or drive Tehran to ramp up a mothballed nuclear weapons program, or both.

Iran had dismantled much of its nuclear program by 2016, but also had continued supporting Syrian President Bashar Assad, Houthi rebels in Yemen, and other extremist groups. Trump’s sanctions are aimed at ending those regional activities.

Tehran defiantly produced enough enriched uranium this week to bust the nuclear agreement, trying to pressure the Europeans to get Trump off Tehran’s back.

The standoff is still playing out.

IRAQ & SYRIA

ISIS had lost roughly half the territory it once controlled in Iraq and Syria by the time Trump took office. He empowered U.S. troops to hit harder with less prior White House approval.

By March 2019, ISIS’ territorial caliphate had ceased to exist, but it has expanded affiliates globally, from West Africa to the Philippines.

In Iraq, its fighters have melted back into Iraqi society, and much of the country is still in ruins, with 1.7 million Iraqis internally displaced.

Syria remains a war zone with no peaceful resolution in sight. The Assad government is propped up by Russian and Iranian military assistance.

LIBYA

Libya is a failed state gripped by civil war. The chaos started under Obama and hasn’t gotten any better under Trump.

Western countries that had intervened to overthrow dictator Moammar Gadhafi in 2011 did little to rebuild Libya. The power vacuum was quickly filled by former Libyan strongmen, ambitious young militia leaders and a Star Wars bar of extremist groups including ISIS.

The Trump administration continued an Obama bomb-and-raid campaign to drive ISIS out of the towns and into the Libyan desert.

But the bulk of the fighting has been undertaken by rogue Libyan general and former U.S. ally Khalifa Haftar, whose forces are now threatening to overthrow the weak UN-backed government in Tripoli.

VENEZUELA

Trump’s support for Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó’s coup plot against President Nicolás Maduro last April went nowhere. Attempts to turn Maduro’s inner circle against him have been stymied by Cuban intelligence, and any notion of intervening militarily has been rendered moot by a small number of Russian troops backing Maduro.

At least 3 million Venezuelans fled the country as it sank into economic decline, partly due to a fall in global oil prices but also because the socialist system promised more benefits than the country’s coffers could deliver. U.S. officials say Maduro has been robbing the country to pay off a network of senior military and government officials to stay in power.

AFGHANISTAN

The Trump Administration is still trying to figure out how to extricate U.S. troops from Afghanistan, after Obama spent two terms attempting to do the same. The conflict has cost the lives of more than 2,400 U.S. troops since they invaded to hunt Al Qaeda after the attacks of 9/11.

Trump’s Afghan envoy Zalmay Khalilzad has held multiple rounds of talks with the Taliban. He is pushing a peace deal that would give the extremists some political role in Afghan government in return for allowing a small western military force to continue hunting ISIS and al Qaeda.

The talks have been stymied by two things: the absence of anyone from the government of the current Afghan President, Ashraf Ghani; and the impatience of a U.S. president who would like to bring home a significant number of U.S. troops ahead of the 2020 election. Trump’s repeated declarations that he intends to bring the troops home gives little incentive to the Taliban to negotiate, experts say.

The Unlikely Risk of War Against Russia

What Would the U.S. Do if Russia Attacked with Nuclear Weapons?

Goldfein extended this thinking to specify that, in an instant, US and NATO forces would launch a massive counterattack including, as he put it, “fighters, bombers, tankers, space, command and control, ISR, cyber, special operations and aeromedical teams trained and ready for high-end warfare.”

(Washington, D.C.) Red lights start flashing in rapid succession, space-based infrared sensors detect a heat signature, somebody calls the President…and in what may seem like a matter of seconds, the US launches an immediate, massive counterattack. F-35s, B-2 bombers, nuclear-armed Navy submarines, missile-armed destroyers, Ground Based Interceptors and satellites — are all instantly thrust into action. Why?

An enemy has launched a nuclear attack on the US homeland, an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile packed with destructive power…is heading toward North America.

Just what would the US do? Are there a series of steps, protocols and instant counterattack plans to put in motion instantly? According to US Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein, the answer is “yes.”

Speaking recently at a Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies Nuclear Deterrence event, Goldfein mapped out what he would do if Russia attacked the US with a nuclear weapon. He cited a series of rapid, successive steps.

Step 1 – call NATO.

— „Should war with a nuclear power happen – and I’m gonna primarily use Russia as my example today as the most dangerous nuclear threat we face – I fully expect three lights to light up on my red switch phone in the office. The first call will be the Supreme Allied Commander of Europe – General Tod Wolters – who will tell me what he needs to join NATO forces to halt enemy activity and blunt their objectives. By virtue of the speed with which air and space component deploys and employs, he expects us (US Air Force) to be the first to arrive as his (halt) and his blunt force. Because NATO is first and foremost a nuclear alliance „– Gen. Goldfein.

Goldfein extended this thinking to specify that, in an instant, US and NATO forces would launch a massive counterattack including, as he put it, “fighters, bombers, tankers, space, command and control, ISR, cyber, special operations and aeromedical teams trained and ready for high-end warfare.”

This kind of integrated response raises an interesting and relevant question for analysis…what would the respective missions be? Time is, of course, of the essence as millions of lives hang in the balance. An enemy ICBM, after a fast boost-phase launch, will take about 20minutes to travel through space during the mid-course phase — not much time. However, given the training, forward positioned weapons and range of US assets, there is time to destroy the enemy ICBM and likely … the attackers themselves. While specifics regarding which assets might be part of the plan may not, of course, be available for security reasons…here are a few thoughts for consideration.

Should the attack be several years from now, forward-positioned nuclear-armed F-35As (F-35s will have nuclear weapons by then) would enter enemy airspace to instantly attack enemy air assets, but perhaps of even greater significance, destroy enemy nuclear-launch sites. Should F-35s be close to the attacking country and informed of a potential launch by virtue of US-gathered intelligence information, there may be time for an F-35 to attack the ICBM itself during the boost phase with missiles, guns or even lasers. Pentagon officials say these tactics are now in development. F-22s, often cited as a “first strike, first kill” platform, would likely use supercruise speed to immediately attack enemy targets. An F-22 would likely be launched to quickly engage any potential enemy aircraft, given that it is regarded as the best air-to-air combat platform in the world. Sensors, air-to-air missiles and even dogfighting ability would help ensure air supremacy during any possible counterattack. Also, its speed and stealth configuration might enable it to hit enemy targets faster than other attack options.F-22s

Bombers, such as the B-2, would likely use stealth and altitude to go after enemy air-defenses while themselves eluding enemy radar. Also, like F-35s, B-2s are of course nuclear-armed with weapons such as the B61-12. Given the speed, and potential proximity of these air assets, it seems entirely possible that fighters and bombers might be able to destroy enemy air defenses, nuclear-weapons launch sites or even, if ordered by the President, wipe out entire cities. These air platforms could, potentially, attack enemy targets before a US-launched ICBM could reach its target. With this in mind, it is not by accident that Goldfein mentioned NATO because the US and its allies currently have missile defense assets in places such as Romania, Poland and other strategically-positioned areas. F-35s are also forward positioned in strategically significant places throughout Europe to enable rapid deployment if necessary.

While some European defenses, such as land-based Aegis-fired SM-3s, might primarily function as a way to knock out long-range ballistic missiles traveling within the earth’s atmosphere — coming from a rogue state such as Iran — the US and NATO are increasingly strengthening European-based ICBM defense as well. A Congressional Research Report from June 19 called “Navy Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) Program: Background and Issues for Congress,” talks about how the new SM-2 Block IIA is enabling faster development of using Aegis BMD for ICBM defense — both Terminal phase and the end of space flight or Midcourse phase. Destroyers and cruisers could be better positioned for response by operating in a maritime environment closer to enemy territory or launching enemy missiles. The Congressional report also cites how emerging weapons such as lasers will increasingly contribute to missile defense.

“The potential for ship-based lasers, electromagnetic railguns, and hypervelocity projectiles to contribute in coming years to Navy terminalphase BMD operations and the impact this might eventually have on required numbers of ship-based BMD interceptor missiles,” the report writes.

The Chief’s mention of tankers seems crucial as well; fighters and bombers will likely need extended dwell time over targets and therefore need to be refueled. Goldfein also mentioned Special Operations Forces (SOF), which calls to mind a number of possibilities. First of all, SOF forces regularly operate within the borders of countries considered high-threat areas; in many instances, this presence is specifically designed to deploy highly-trained, mobile ground-units to attack enemy launch points or command and control assets from the ground. Details of this kind of mission would of course – understandably – not be available, but the Pentagon talks often about forward-operating SOF pursuing missions in high-threat areas.

Goldfein’s emphasis upon Russia seems based on a number of factors, not the least of which is the countries’ commitment to an “escalate to de-escalate” nuclear posture and development of low-yield nuclear weapons. Looking more than a decade into the future, an essay from Air University called “Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles and Their Role in Future Nuclear Forces,” aligns with Goldfein’s thinking.

No other nation (other than Russia) is likely to have a force with the number and accuracy of nuclear weapons needed to threaten US silo-based ICBMs in 2030, although China has the resources and technology to pose a threat by perhaps 2035 if Chinese leaders choose to expand their arsenal,” the essay states. (by Dr. Dennis Evans Dr. Jonathan Schwalbe).

Following his first comment, Goldfein described “Step 2.” Call NORAD

— „As soon as I hang up with him (NATO Commander) there will be two other lights blinking. And I’ll talk to the NORTHCOM NORAD commander General Terrence O’Shaughnessy and he’ll team – tell me what he needs to support his increased footprint for homeland defense“…- Goldfein. (according to a Mitchell Institute transcript of Goldfein’s remarks)

Homeland defense, it goes without saying, would include the use of Ground-Based Interceptors. These GBIs would be launched into space to find and intercept attacking ICBMs. The Pentagon is fast at work with GBIs, working on new command and control technology, sensors and targeting. Among other things, this primarily involves increasing the technical ability to discern actual warheads from surrounding decoys, debris or other structures. ICBMs not only break up in flight as its warheads and re-entry bodies separate, but they also, by design, travel with decoys to confuse GBI sensors and increase the prospect that a missile will get through. In recent years, the Missile Defense Agency successfully destroyed an ICBM with a GBI, and there is much work going on to not only improve sensors, but integrate multiple interceptors onto a single missile.

Iran Continues to Advance Her Nuclear Horn

“Our advice to Europe and the United States is to go back to logic and to the negotiating table,” Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said Wednesday. | Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Iran says it will increase uranium enhancement

QUINT FORGEY07/03/2019 06:54 AM EDT

Iran will begin enhancing its enrichment of uranium this weekend, President Hassan Rouhani warned Wednesday — signaling Tehran’s move away from the specifics of the 2015 multinational pact meant to curb the Islamic Republic’s nuclear ambitions.

Rouhani said Iran will “take the next step” on Sunday to increase uranium enhancement to “any amount that we want,” adding, “If you want to express regret and issue a statement, you can do it now.”

The remarks, reported by The Associated Press, come after Tehran’s announcement Monday that it had breached the roughly 300 kilogram uranium stockpile limit established by the nuclear deal, which also prohibits Iran from enriching uranium beyond 3.67 percent. Enrichment levels of roughly 90 percent would be required for nuclear weapons capabilities.

“We will take over 3.67,” Rouhani said Wednesday, threatening the deal’s European signatories — France, Germany and the United Kingdom — to begin work on providing Tehran international relief from Trump administration sanctions meant to hobble Iran’s economy.

“Our advice to Europe and the United States is to go back to logic and to the negotiating table,” Rouhani said. “Go back to understanding, to respecting the law and resolutions of the U.N. Security Council. Under those conditions, all of us can abide by the nuclear deal.”

President Emmanuel Macron of France said Tuesday that he “took note with concern” of Iran’s decision to plow through the deal’s uranium caps, according to the AP, and pledged to hold Iran to previous commitments while ensuring it enjoys the “economic advantages of the accord.”

The foreign ministers of France, Germany and the U.K., as well as the European Union’s foreign policy chief, implored Iran in a statement Tuesday to recognize the jointly negotiated uranium limits “and to refrain from further measures that undermine the nuclear deal” while the nations continue “urgently considering next steps,” the AP reported.

Asked Monday about Iran’s noncompliance with the deal, President Donald Trump said he had “no message” for officials in Tehran.

“They know what they’re doing,” he told reporters in the Oval Office. “They know what they’re playing with, and I think they’re playing with fire.”

Trump repeated his warning late Wednesday afternoon in a tweet: „Rouhani says that they will Enrich Uranium to ‚any amount we want‘ if there is no new Nuclear Deal. Be careful with the threats, Iran. They can come back to bite you like nobody has been bitten before!“nu

Trump last week imposed new economic penalties against Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and several senior military leaders after Iran’s Revolutionary Guard claimed responsibility for shooting down a U.S. Navy surveillance drone. The administration in June blamed Tehran for attacks on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman, allegations that the Iranian government denies.

CLARIFICATION: This article has been adjusted to reflect Iran’s attitude toward the nuclear agreement.