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

A Look at the Tri-State’s Active Fault Line

Monday, March 14, 2011

The Ramapo Fault is the longest fault in the Northeast that occasionally makes local headlines when minor tremors cause rock the Tri-State region. It begins in Pennsylvania, crosses the Delaware River and continues through Hunterdon, Somerset, Morris, Passaic and Bergen counties before crossing the Hudson River near Indian Point nuclear facility.

In the past, it has generated occasional activity that generated a 2.6 magnitude quake in New Jersey’s Peakpack/Gladstone area and 3.0 magnitude quake in Mendham.

“There is occasional seismic activity in New Jersey,” said Robinson. “There have been a few quakes locally that have been felt and done a little bit of damage over the time since colonial settlement — some chimneys knocked down in Manhattan with a quake back in the 18th century, but nothing of a significant magnitude.”

Robinson said the Ramapo has on occasion registered a measurable quake but has not caused damage: “The Ramapo fault is associated with geological activities back 200 million years ago, but it’s still a little creaky now and again,” he said.

“More recently, in the 1970s and early 1980s, earthquake risk along the Ramapo Fault received attention because of its proximity to Indian Point,” according to the New Jersey Geological Survey website.

Historically, critics of the Indian Point Nuclear facility in Westchester County, New York, did cite its proximity to the Ramapo fault line as a significant risk.

“Subsequent investigations have shown the 1884 Earthquake epicenter was actually located in Brooklyn, New York, at least 25 miles from the Ramapo Fault,” according to the New Jersey Geological Survey website.

UK and Babylon the Great Intervene in the Gulf (Daniel 7:7)

The HMS Montrose, right, accompanies the Stena Important vessel in the Persian Gulf. Photo: u.k. ministry of defense/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

Britain joined the U.S. in forming an international mission to protect shipping through the Strait of Hormuz from Iranian threats, the British government said on Monday, a decision that came after London struggled to build a European maritime coalition to safeguard ships in the region.

The U.K. said details of the cooperation had yet to be completed, but that it had offered to lead one of the mission’s maritime task groups.

“Both the U.K. and U.S. are committed to working with allies and partners to encourage others to join and broaden the response to this truly international problem,” the U.K. government said.

The U.K. was dragged into the center of the simmering crisis between Iran and the West after Iran seized a tanker flying the British flag in July. The capture came after Britain seized an Iranian tanker the U.K. claimed was carrying oil to a sanctioned entity in Syria.

The U.S., meanwhile, has separately lobbied countries to join its effort to police the Middle Eastern waterway.

Iranian Revolutionary Guard Video Shows Capture of British Tanker

Iranian Revolutionary Guard Video Shows Capture of British Tanker
Iran’s Revolutionary Guard has released footage showing some of its forces boarding the British tanker Stena Impero in the Strait of Hormuz. Photo: Iranian Revolutionary Guard

The latest move represents an effort to fuse the British and American initiatives. According to the new mission, British navy ships will accompany commercial ships that are owned by U.K. companies, are carrying British cargo, have a British crew, or are operating under the British flag. The Americans are expected to provide intelligence and reconnaissance information.

The mission is called the “international maritime security construct” to convey the impression that it is an international initiative that is not run by the American military, which originally referred to it as the Sentinel program.

More nations will be invited to join, which will be necessary if more tankers need projection.

“We welcome the decision of the United Kingdom to participate in the international maritime security construct to enhance maritime domain awareness, promote safe passage, and enhance freedom of navigation in the Arabian Gulf, Strait of Hormuz, Arabian Sea, and Bab al-Mandeb,” said Pentagon spokeswoman Cmdr. Rebecca Rebarich.

British naval vessels are there to protect British merchant traffic, and the British naval presence will be reduced if the Iranian threat to shipping diminishes. This is a signal to Iran that Britain isn’t building up its Persian Gulf presence indefinitely, a British official said.

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif on Monday denied that Iran’s seizure of a British-flagged tanker in the Strait of Hormuz in July was a retaliation for the earlier detention of a tanker carrying Iranian oil. Photo: Rouzbeh Fouladi/Zuma Press

Britain currently has a frigate and a destroyer in the Gulf along with four minesweepers. The U.K. government previously said it would escort British shipping through the strait, through which it has already accompanied 47 ships. The government on Monday didn’t mention any extra Royal Navy ships being sent to the region.

The U.K. has been caught between diverging foreign-policy goals over Iran. Britain, along with its European Union partners France and Germany, is seeking to defend a nuclear accord with Iran and wants to avoid further antagonizing the country. The U.S., meanwhile, is taking a more forceful approach to Iran, and has repudiated the agreement. Britain initially tried to build a maritime coalition with France and Germany, but the project struggled to gain traction.

“Our approach to Iran hasn’t changed. We remain committed to working with Iran and our international partners to de-escalate the situation and maintain the nuclear deal,” Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said.

Britain’s new prime minister, Boris Johnson, has repeatedly stressed the importance of building closer ties to the U.S. With the U.K. set to leave the EU this fall, Mr. Johnson is eager to bolster trade and security relations with Washington.

Mr. Raab is due to travel to the U.S. this week to meet with officials. Mr. Johnson is due to meet President Trump at the end of the month. The two leaders have spoken twice by phone.\

Oil, Defense and Sanctions: Why the Strait of Hormuz Is So Volatile

Oil, Defense and Sanctions: Why the Strait of Hormuz Is So Volatile
As tensions between the U.S. and Iran rise, a series of incidents has put a strategic maritime waterway back into the spotlight: The Strait of Hormuz. WSJ’s John Simons explains. Photo: Getty Images

Iran Foreign Minister Javad Zarif on Monday denied that Iran’s seizure of a British-flagged tanker in the Strait of Hormuz in July was a retaliation for the earlier detention of a tanker carrying Iranian oil. British authorities intercepted the Iranian tanker off the coast of its overseas territory in Gibraltar, saying it was on its way to deliver oil to a refinery in Syria that is under EU sanctions.

The British-flagged Stena Impero was detained because Iran will no longer turn a blind eye to misconduct and wrongdoing in the Strait of Hormuz, Mr. Zarif said. His comments came a day after Iran seized a vessel it identified as Iraqi, allegedly smuggling fuel in the Persian Gulf.

Iran says it is trying to maintain maritime security in the region. But its officials also have repeatedly warned they would block the Strait of Hormuz—through which a third of the world’s seaborne oil is transported—in response to crippling U.S. sanctions.

Iran has accused the Europeans of not providing adequate relief from American pressure. “The Europeans should note how much they want to be a hostage of the U.S.,” Mr. Zarif said.

Iran’s minimum expectation is for oil exports to be restored to 2.5 million to 2.8 million barrels a day—their level before the U.S. unilaterally withdrew from the nuclear accord in May 2018, Mr. Zarif said. Iran’s oil exports have plummeted since the U.S. ended waivers for importers of Iranian crude this year, prompting Tehran to assume a more-aggressive posture in response, some analysts said.

“The U.S. can’t be arsonist and firefighter at the same time in the Persian Gulf. It [the U.S.] is responsible for the current tension and instability in the region,” Mr. Zarif said.

Mr. Zarif said the U.S. decision to impose sanctions on him last week came after he refused an invitation to meet with members of the Trump administration during a recent visit to the U.S.

A U.S. official said assertions that Mr. Zarif was sanctioned for refusing to meet “are patently false.”

Write to Max Colchester at max.colchester@wsj.com and Isabel Coles at isabel.coles@wsj.com

Copyright ©2019 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8

Appeared in the August 6, 2019, print edition as ‘U.K., U.S. Join to Protect Shipping in Strait.’

A High Stakes Game in Kashmir (Revelation 8)

Kashmir: The world’s most dangerous conflict

By David Ehl

The dispute over Kashmir has poisoned relations between India and Pakistan since the two became independent countries in 1947. Here’s an overview of how tensions have grown more dangerous over the past seven decades.

Like so many conflicts around the world, the dispute over Kashmir began with independence from a colonial power. In 1947, the United Kingdom gave in to the struggle for freedom in its Indian colony and granted it independence. The retreating British left behind two states: the secular Indian Union and the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.

Politics | 05.08.2019

India abolishes Kashmir’s autonomous status

The partition of India in 1947 presented a problem to the then princely state of Jammu and Kashmir, located right along the two new states’ northern border.

Traditionally, the state was ruled by a Hindu maharaja (local ruler), but the majority of the population was Muslim. Hoping to be able to declare his territory independent, Maharaja Hari Singh initially did not join either India or Pakistan, both of which took an interest in this special social constellation in the Kashmir Valley.

To this day, India sees itself as a secular nation in which several religions coexist. This makes Jammu and Kashmir, the only province with a Muslim majority, an important part of India’s religious plurality.

At the time, Pakistan saw itself as the home of all Muslims in South Asia. Its founding father, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, envisioned Pakistan and India as separate Muslim and Hindu nations on the subcontinent. Until 1971, Bangladesh, which is located to the east of India, was part of Pakistan.

The Kashmir wars

While the maharaja hesitated to make Kashmir part of either country, in 1947, Pakistani guerrillas tried to bring the principality of Kashmir under their control. Hari Singh turned to New Delhi for help, and it didn’t take long for troops from India and Pakistan to face off.

The first war for Kashmir began in October 1947 and ended in January 1949 with the de facto division of the state along the so-called Line of Control (LoC), the unofficial border line still recognized today.

Back then, the UN sent an observer mission that is still on the ground today. Pakistan has controlled the northern special province of Gilgit-Baltistan and the sickle-shaped Azad Kashmir sub-region since 1949.

The Indian-held section became the federal state of Jammu and Kashmir in 1957, with special autonomous status allowing the state’s legislature to have a say in legislation covering all issues except defense, foreign affairs and communications.

The following decades were marked by an arms race on both sides. India began to develop a nuclear bomb and Pakistan also started a nuclear program with the aim of being able to stand up to its giant neighbor. Today, India and Pakistan have an estimated 140 and 150 nuclear warheads respectively. Unlike Pakistan, India has explicitly ruled out a nuclear first strike.

Pakistan also spends huge amounts on its nuclear program as the country tries to make sure it won’t lag behind its neighbor in military terms.

In 1965, Pakistan once again used military force to try to change the borders, but lost to the Indian military. The neighbors clashed for a third time in 1971, but this time Kashmir was not at the center of the confrontation. Instead, it was the independence struggle in Bangladesh that precipitated the war. India, which supported the Bangladeshi independence fighters, once again defeated Pakistan.

A year later, India and Pakistan signed the Simla Agreement that underlines the importance of the LoC and commits to bilateral negotiations to clarify claims to the Kashmir region once and for all.

In 1984, the nations clashed again; this time over the India-controlled Siachen Glacier. And in 1999, both sides fought for control of military posts on the Indian side of the LoC. In 2003, India and Pakistan signed a new ceasefire — but it has been fragile since 2016.

India-Pakistan rivalry: Kashmiris pay a high price

An unprecedented danger?

On February 27, Pakistan’s military said that it had shot down two Indian fighter jets over disputed Kashmir. A Pakistani military spokesman said the jets were shot down after they’d entered Pakistani airspace. It is the first time in history that two nuclear-armed powers have conducted air strikes against each other.

India-Pakistan rivalry: Kashmiris pay a high price

India drops bombs inside Pakistan

The Pakistani military has released this image to show that Indian warplanes struck inside Pakistani territory for the first time since the countries went to war in 1971. India said the air strike was in response to a recent suicide attack on Indian troops based in Jammu and Kashmir. Pakistan said there were no casualties and that its airforce repelled India’s aircraft.

India-Pakistan rivalry: Kashmiris pay a high price

No military solution

Some Indian civil society members believe New Delhi cannot exonerate itself from responsibility by accusing Islamabad of creating unrest in the Kashmir valley. A number of rights organizations demand that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government reduce the number of troops in Kashmir and let the people decide their fate.

India-Pakistan rivalry: Kashmiris pay a high price

No end to the violence

On February 14, at least 41 Indian paramilitary police were killed in a suicide bombing near the capital of India-administered Kashmir. The Pakistan-based Jihadi group, Jaish-e-Mohammad, claimed responsibility. The attack, the worst on Indian troops since the insurgency in Kashmir began in 1989, spiked tensions and triggered fears of an armed confrontation between the two nuclear-armed powers.

India-Pakistan rivalry: Kashmiris pay a high price

A bitter conflict

Since 1989, Muslim insurgents have been fighting Indian forces in the Indian-administered part of Kashmir – a region of 12 million people, about 70 percent of whom are Muslim. India and Pakistan have fought two of their three wars since independence in 1947 over Kashmir, which they both claim in full but rule in part.

India-Pakistan rivalry: Kashmiris pay a high price

India strikes down a militant rebellion

In October 2016, the Indian military has launched an offensive against armed rebels in Kashmir, surrounding at least 20 villages in Shopian district. New Delhi accused Islamabad of backing the militants, who cross over the Pakistani-Indian “Line of Control” and launch attacks on India’s paramilitary forces.

India-Pakistan rivalry: Kashmiris pay a high price

Death of a Kashmiri separatist

The security situation in the Indian part of Kashmir deteriorated after the killing of Burhan Wani, a young separatist leader, in July 2016. Protests against Indian rule and clashes between separatists and soldiers have claimed hundreds of lives since then.

India-Pakistan rivalry: Kashmiris pay a high price

The Uri attack

In September 2016, Islamist militants killed at least 17 Indian soldiers and wounded 30 in India-administered Kashmir. The Indian army said the rebels had infiltrated the Indian part of Kashmir from Pakistan, with initial investigations suggesting that the militants belonged to the Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammad group, which has been active in Kashmir for over a decade.

India-Pakistan rivalry: Kashmiris pay a high price

Rights violations

Indian authorities banned a number of social media websites in Kashmir after video clips showing troops committing grave human rights violations went viral on the Internet. One such video that showed a Kashmiri protester tied to an Indian army jeep — apparently as a human shield — generated outrage on social media.

India-Pakistan rivalry: Kashmiris pay a high price

Demilitarization of Kashmir

Those in favor of an independent Kashmir want Pakistan and India to step aside and let the Kashmiri people decide their future. “It is time India and Pakistan announce the timetable for withdrawal of their forces from the portions they control and hold an internationally supervised referendum,” Toqeer Gilani, the president of the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front in Pakistani Kashmir, told DW.

India-Pakistan rivalry: Kashmiris pay a high price

No chance for secession

But most Kashmir observers don’t see it happening in the near future. They say that while the Indian strategy to deal strictly with militants and separatists in Kashmir has partly worked out, sooner or later New Delhi will have to find a political solution to the crisis. Secession, they say, does not stand a chance.

The third neighbor China, which has a long border with Jammu and Kashmir, also plays a role in this conflict. In 1962, China occupied a part of India that borders Kashmir — and entered into an alliance with Pakistan. To this day, China and Pakistan trade via the newly constructed Karakoram Highway, which connects the countries via the western Kashmir region. As part of the multibillion-dollar China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project, that corridor is being expanded.

This former gravel road is currently being developed into a multi-lane asphalt highway that can be used all year long. China is investing $57 billion (€51 billion) in Pakistani infrastructure and energy projects, more than in any other South Asian country. The economic alliance with its powerful neighbor has helped solidify Pakistan’s claims to the Himalayan foothills.

Rebels and attacks

The governments of neighboring states are no longer the only parties to the conflict in Kashmir, however. Using violence, militant groups have been trying to disrupt the status quo on both sides of the LoC since at least the 1980s. Their attacks have contributed to a deterioration of the security situation.

At least 45,000 people have been killed in terrorist attacks over the past 30 years. And the total number of deaths resulting from this conflict is at least 70,000, according to estimates by human rights organizations.

Russia’s Fearsome Nuclear Arsenal (Daniel 7:7)

An American Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit, or Stealth BomberRussia set to unleash terrifying new stealth bomber as World War III fears grow

Jasper Hamill Monday 5 Aug 2019 11:19 am

Vladimir Putin’s scientists are working on a scary new aeroplane designed to sneak undetected behind enemy lines and wipe out targets with nuclear weapons.

Russia is developing a new stealth bomber – the name for aircraft which can evade radar – which can carry nukes and so-called ‘conventional’ weapons.

The plane is called the PAK DA and will be tested in the coming years before being rolled out as soon as 2025, the Russian news agency TASS announced.

Just a few years ago, war with Russia seemed like a remote possibility.

But the US recently pulled out of a nuclear treaty with the former Soviet state, prompting fears that both sides would ramp up the development of new missiles capable of killing millions in an instant.

Moscow is developing a range of new weapons including an underwater nuke designed to swamp coastal cities with huge radioactive tsunamis and kill millions of people.

This doomsday weapon was announced last year and is inspired by the experimental Soviet T-15 nuclear torpedo, which was dreamed up by the nuclear physicist Andrei Sakharov but never put into active service.

If the T-15 had been built and unleashed it would produce a wave capable of washing a city like London or New York off the map and turn surrounding areas into an irradiated death zone.

Shamil Aliev, a top Russian torpedo designer, confirmed plans for a WMD which can ‘destroy coastal targets via aquatic explosion’ are currently under review.

‘There is a general tendency of reviewing the ideas that weren’t implemented before. … Sakharov’s ideas about making 24-meter-long nuclear-tipped torpedoes with a 1.5-meter diameter and 50-kilometer range are being reviewed,’ he told Sputnik.

‘When Russia talks about weapons, the whole world knows that Russia knows how to do it,’ he also said when speaking to RIA Novosti.

The original torpedo provoked revulsion among naval chiefs, who feared its destructive power was just too great to go-ahead with its creation.

But Aliev said the project ‘was not realized’ because ‘there was no money’ to fund its development in the USSR.

Earlier this year, a leaked Pentagon report said Russia was building a 100-megaton hydrogen bomb that’s almost twice as powerful as any nuclear bomb ever tested.

The US gave this mega-nuke the codename Kanyon, but in Russia it was originally dubbed Status-6 before being renamed Poseidon.

The autonomous killing machine would ‘swim’ towards its target like a submarine, meaning that it could not be stopped by anti-missile systems

It would be detonated under the sea, swamping enemy ports and coastal areas in a radioactive tsunami up to 500ft high, experts believe.

Affected areas could be left uninhabitable for up to 100 years.

Defence analyst H I Sutton told Futurism the nuclear torpedo was a ‘military fact’.

‘Until now, many observers had regarded the system as “fake news”,’ he said.

‘I think that this was partly because the stated specifications are so incredible and partly because it is hard to understand how it will be used.’

The Horns of Saudi Arabia Iran and Babylon the Great (Daniel 7)

Saudi Arabia, Iran and the US

The Saudi-Iranian rivalry has, for many years, been a constant in the Middle East. It is a mix of geopolitics and religious sectarianism. Both countries vie for influence in their shared region, with religion and politics impacting on each other.

The 1979 Iranian revolution intensified this divide with a religious/revolutionary fervour added to it for the discomfort of the established order in the Sunni Arab countries. It didn’t, however, translate into any immediate threat to Arab monarchies as Iran-Iraq war engulfed these two countries for much of the eighties. It was, nevertheless, perceived as a potential threat.

The presence of a large Shia population in Saudi Arabia’s oil-rich Eastern Province and their perceived susceptibility to Iran’s influence, as well as Shia majority in Bahrain’s Sunni-led monarchy, have often led to persecution and repression of the Shias; further embittering their relations.

After the fall of the Shah of Iran and the new clerical order in Iran, its relations with the US deteriorated sharply. Indeed, the US encouraged and equipped Saddam Hussein’s Iraq into attacking Iran to hopefully destroy the new political order in Iran.

But, despite the horrific Iran-Iraq war causing huge casualties in Iran and overall destruction, the clerical regime still survived.

Iraq was impoverished from the war. When some of its Arab lenders, like Kuwait, wanted repayment of their debts, Saddam Hussein sought to solve the problem forever by attacking Kuwait to annex this oil-rich country.

Having failed to make any headway against Iran, where the war ended in a stalemate, Saddam sought through seeking to annex Kuwait to become the dominant economic and political force in the Middle East.

Iran’s economic blockade fit into the US’s Middle Eastern strategy of prioritising Israel and Saudi Arabia

But the US didn’t want Saddam’s Iraq to control the Middle Eastern oil fields, which led them into the first Gulf War; resulting in Saddam Hussein’s comprehensive defeat, just short of his overthrow, probably because President George Bush (senior) hadn’t planned an alternative political order

Therefore, Saddam Hussein was just tolerated, with Iraqi people, especially children, suffering the most from international sanctions, including that on medical supplies.

As we know, the task of overthrowing Saddam was left to Bush senior’s son, President George Bush, who attacked Iraq in 2003. But that is a different story, opening another hornet’s nest, which is still being played out.

Under President Obama, an attempt was made to work out some sort of a breakthrough with Iran, while maintaining close political and security ties with traditional allies, Saudi Arabia and Israel.

As Iran’s nuclear program advanced, the Obama administration sought to limit it to peaceful research under the 2015 nuclear deal, signed by Iran with five permanent members of the UN Security Council (US, UK, France, Russia and China) plus Germany. And Iran adhered to its part of the deal.

While this was generally welcomed as a positive development, it was considered bad news in Saudi Arabia and Israel. There, the entire approach was in favour of continuing, and even ramping up further the international regime of international economic sanctions.

Iran’s economic blockade was supposed to bring down the clerical regime or bring it to a humiliating climb down so that it entirely gives up its nuclear program. This fit into the US’s Middle Eastern strategy of prioritising Israel and Saudi Arabia.

Under Obama, the broad strategy remained the same with Israel and Saudi Arabia as security partners, but to address the issue of Iran’s nuclear program to limit its weapons potential with very low enrichment capacity. This, Iran followed, as was attested by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

With Obama gone, Trump decided to undo much of his predecessor’s legacy, including the Iran nuclear deal. He described it as the worst ever deal and wanted it renegotiated. And to bring this about, Trump scrapped the 2015 nuclear agreement, re-imposed even more sanctions, sent a naval force threatening Iran and inviting it to re-negotiate without prior conditions.

In other words, Iran was offered the choice of accepting a new deal amounting to a virtual surrender of its sovereignty. Iran is refusing to accept the US dictation and the situation is combustible.

Saudi Arabia and Israel are pleased with the turn of events from Obama’s time and hope that US’ continued economic sanctions and warlike pressure will bring Iran to its knees and might even bring down the clerical regime.

At the same time, the US is pressuring Europe to be part of an international naval fleet to patrol the Persian Gulf, especially the Strait of Hormuz, in the wake of the seizure of a British oil tanker by Iran.

This was apparently as tit-for-tat for the British navy’s seizure of an Iranian oil tanker in the seas around Gibraltar, allegedly for breaking international sanctions to ferry oil to Syria.

It is a very tense situation and there is no knowing how it will end. Saudi Arabia (and Israel) will be very pleased with the turn of events under Trump. But things are not as rosy in the Saudi kingdom, which I might explore in a subsequent article.

The writer is a senior journalist and academic based in Sydney, Australia

The Bowls of Wrath are in Play (Revelation 16)

A nuclear world in disarray | The Strategist

Ramesh Thakur

A nuclear world in disarray

We are in a uniquely dangerous period in the atomic age. Geopolitical tensions have spiked in Europe, in the Middle East, on the subcontinent and in East Asia. The nuclear arms control architecture is fraying and crumbling, but no negotiations are underway to reduce global nuclear stockpiles.

A hostile international security environment, the proliferation of nuclear weapons and the emergence of new space, cyber and AI technologies have increased the risk of accidental or deliberate use of nuclear weapons. The growing strategic risks and uncertainty in turn fuel the vicious cycle of renewed interest among US allies in a nuclear deterrent as a hedge against receding US primacy and reliability.

At the conclusion of a United Nations conference on 7 July 2017, 122 states parties of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty adopted a new Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. All nine countries that possess the bomb (China, France, India, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia, the UK and the US) boycotted the conference and rejected the treaty. They have done their very best since then to validate the concerns behind the drive to adopt it.

The 2018 US nuclear posture review will guide the Trump administration’s nuclear decision-making, modernisation, targeting and signalling. With an expansive vision of the role of nuclear weapons, its threefold effect is to enlarge the US nuclear arsenal, lower the threshold for the use of nuclear weapons, and broaden the contingencies in which the threat of nuclear weapons can be wielded as a tool of diplomatic coercion.

The 2015 Iran nuclear deal established a robust dismantlement, transparency, inspections and consequences regime. Last year, President Donald Trump pulled the US out of the agreement and reimposed sanctions on Iran, despite its still being in compliance with its obligations. That put Washington in breach of the multilaterally negotiated and UN-endorsed Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. Trump’s decision will have reconfirmed North Korea’s belief that the one thing standing between its security and a US attack is the bomb. It has also caused the recent surge in tensions in the Persian Gulf.

On 1 February, Trump decided to suspend US participation in the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces  Treaty—an arms control agreement with Russia that contributed to the end of the Cold War and underpinned European strategic stability for three decades. It lapsed on 2 August. Trump has also rebuffed Russian overtures to discuss a five-year extension of New START beyond 2021. His second summit with North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un in Hanoi in February collapsed without agreement and Pyongyang now seems to be expanding its nuclear arsenal. Still, at least the US and North Korea are engaged in high-level and working-level discussions and the fear of an imminent war has faded.

The altered US nuclear posture will have cascading effects on the arsenals, doctrines and deployments of other nuclear-armed states. On 1 March 2018, Russian President Vladimir Putin boasted of a new array of invincible nuclear weapons that can penetrate any defences anywhere in the world. He noted the US had not heeded Russian warnings when it pulled out of the 1972 anti-ballistic missile treaty in 2002. ‘You didn’t listen to our country then. Listen to us now’, he said. Putin’s language was reminiscent of the Cold War.

After the US–Russian suspensions of the INF Treaty, Putin warned that Russia could place hypersonic nuclear weapons on submarines deployed near US waters to match the time in which US missiles based in Europe could strike Russia. He also warned of a radioactive tsunami that could be triggered in densely populated coastal areas by a new nuclear-powered underwater drone dubbed ‘Poseidon’.

The more that Putin and Trump revalidate the role of nuclear weapons in strengthening national security, the more they normalise the discourse of nuclear weapons use and embolden calls for nuclear weapon acquisition in other countries. In Australia, this debate has been restarted most recently by Hugh White.

Meanwhile, the official newspaper of the People’s Liberation Army has called for China to strengthen its nuclear deterrence and counterstrike capabilities to match the US’s and Russia’s developing nuclear strategies. China is upgrading its relatively small nuclear arsenal. It rejected Germany’s request to save the INF Treaty by agreeing to trilateralise it, emphasising that its warheads in the low hundreds cannot be compared with US and Russian arsenals in the several thousands.

India and Pakistan are enlarging, modernising and upgrading stockpiles, while investing in battlefield tactical nuclear weapons and systems to counter them. The INF Treaty was the first disarmament agreement of the nuclear age. In an unwelcome symmetry, on 26 February we witnessed the first airstrikes by one nuclear-armed state against another, and the two engaged in a deadly dogfight above the skies of Kashmir the next day. Another India–Pakistan war is a question of when, not if.

The US, described by former Canadian disarmament ambassador Paul Meyer as ‘the high priest of nuclear orthodoxy’, has left its allies looking rather foolish. Washington had led them in dismissing the nuclear weapon ban treaty as impracticable virtue-signalling, instead extolling the decades-long efforts at step-by-step measures to advance the cause of nuclear disarmament that had seen global stockpiles plummet by over two-thirds from their Cold War peak.

When unkind critics noted that the only steps that were visible were leading backwards, Washington responded by launching a new initiative on ‘creating the conditions for nuclear disarmament’. Lest some conditions be specified and met, however, Washington suddenly embraced the more nebulous and inherently subjective language of ‘creating an environment for nuclear disarmament’.

During the Cold War, Soviet citizens who kept to the straight path as the communist party veered sharply to the left or right were denounced as ‘deviationists’. For decades, US allies have been singing from the same hymn book, joining it in the insistence that the step-by-step, progressive approach was the only realistic path to nuclear disarmament. Instead of embracing the new orthodoxy from their fallible high priest, they should do a hard-nosed analysis of the merits of the changing risk–reward calculus of integrating more deeply with the nuclear alliance structure or joining the majority of countries in trying to rid the world of nuclear weapons.

Ramesh Thakur, a former UN assistant secretary-general, is emeritus professor at the Australian National University and director of its Centre for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament. Image: White House Photographic Office/Wikimedia Commons.

Closing in to the First Nuclear War (Revelation 8)

An Indian soldier in Kashmir (Pic: Panky2sharma/Wikimedia commons)

India risks nuclear war with attack on Kashmir

India announced on Monday that it will remove Article 370 from the Indian constitution. This gives the disputed region of Kashmir special status and autonomy over all governance except foreign and defence policies.

Its removal is a result of racism. India’s ruling class has roots in Hindu nationalism.

The governing hard right Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s manifesto promised to remove the special status from Kashmir—a predominantly Muslim region.

The BJP, led by Narendra Modi, was re-elected by a landslide in May.

The crisis in Kashmir is also rooted in imperialism. The British Empire fought to divide Muslims and Hindus in order to maintain control.

When Britain pulled out of India in 1947 it partitioned it between Hindu-majority India and Muslim-majority Pakistan. There was no definite plan for what would happen to the semi-independent state of Jammu and Kashmir.

India and Pakistan have fought over Kashmir ever since, with ordinary Kashmiris suffering as a result. Kashmiris should have self-determination.

The move to remove Kashmir’s autonomy caused panic. In the run-up to the announcement, authorities cut off internet access and evacuated tourists.

Nuclear-armed India and Pakistan close to war over Kashmir

India sent thousands more troops to Kashmir, which is already one of the most militarised places in the world. Public meetings and rallies were banned.

Top politicians in Kashmir have been placed under house arrest to try and prevent any opposition from parliament.

Mehbooba Mufti, former chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir, said the announcement “marks the darkest day in Indian democracy”.

Many people started to hoard food, fuel and other supplies.

Groups that have campaigned for independence from India could now escalate their struggle.

Tensions between India and Pakistan have escalated recently. A car bomb attack in Kashmir six months ago led to new threats of war from both states.

On 26 February, just weeks after the bombing, India launched air raids on Pakistan. Any war between Pakistan and India could be fought with nuclear weapons.

India’s latest attack on Kashmiri rights sows further division between Hindus and Muslims.

The BJP whips up such divisions to win support.

Its supporters say Muslims in India are the “enemy within” and accuse them of molesting Hindu women and eating cow’s meat—an animal Hindus treat as sacred.

Those in the region should unite against the threat of nuclear war.

Kashmiris should have the right to determine whether their state belongs in Pakistan, India or should be an independent nation.

Ordinary people should not be pawns for Indian and Pakistani war games.