Another Reason Why New York Will Be Our Fukushima (Revelation 6:12)

AIM protest at Cuomo residenceGovernor must reveal risks of fracked gas pipeline near nuclear storage: View

Sr. Bette Ann Jaster says the governor must make public the results of a risk assessment for a fracked-gas pipeline that runs by Indian Point. Video by Nancy Cutler/lohud Wochit

Nations Test the Resolve of Babylon the Great

As Virus Toll Preoccupies U.S., Rivals Test Limits of American Power

By David E. Sanger, Eric Schmitt and Edward Wong

June 1, 2020

The coronavirus may have changed almost everything, but it didn’t change this: Global competition spins ahead — and in many ways has accelerated.

The amphibious assault ship America conducted maneuvers with other Australian and U.S. Navy vessels in the South China Sea in April, one of four such operations this year.Australia Department Of Defence, via Reuters

WASHINGTON — With the United States preoccupied by the sobering reality of more than 100,000 Americans dead from the coronavirus, China has pushed in recent weeks to move troops into disputed territory with India, continue aggressive actions in the South China Sea and rewrite the rules of how it will control Hong Kong.

At roughly the same time, Russian fighter jets roared dangerously close to American Navy planes over the Mediterranean Sea, while the country’s space forces conducted an antisatellite missile test clearly aimed at sending the message that Moscow could blind U.S. spy satellites and take down GPS and other communications systems. Russia’s military cyberunits were busy, too, the National Security Agency reported, with an innovative attack that may portend accelerated planning for a strike on email systems this election year.

The North Koreans said they were accelerating their “nuclear deterrent,” moving beyond two years of vague promises of disarmament and Kim Jong-un’s warm exchanges of letters with President Trump. Iran, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said, is re-establishing the infrastructure needed to make a bomb — all a reaction, the Iranians insist, to Mr. Trump’s decision two years ago to reimpose sanctions, reaffirmed in recent weeks as the State Department dismantled the last elements of the Obama-era nuclear deal. Various powers are testing American cybersecurity.

The coronavirus may have changed almost everything, but it did not change this: Global challenges to the United States spin ahead, with America’s adversaries testing the limits and seeing what gains they can make with minimal pushback.

It has not created a new reality as much as it has widened divisions that existed before the pandemic. And with the United States looking inward, preoccupied by the fear of more viral waves, unemployment soaring over 20 percent and nationwide protests ignited by deadly police brutality, its competitors are moving to fill the vacuum, and quickly.

In some cases, Mr. Trump has helped them along. His announcement on Friday that the United States was severing ties with the World Health Organization left the field clear for China to broaden its influence over the organization. On Saturday, Mr. Trump delivered a gift to President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia: Aboard Air Force One, almost offhandedly, he said he would invite Mr. Putin to an expanded meeting of the Group of 7 nations. Russia was banned from meetings of the world’s major economic powers after its 2014 annexation of Crimea and attacks on eastern Ukraine.

President Trump told reports on Air Force One on Saturday that he would like to invite President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia back into the G7.Doug Mills/The New York Times

Most of the European allies have rejected past proposals to bring Russia back into the fold, noting that Moscow has never loosened its hold on Crimea, and Mr. Trump did not explain his change of policy. Apart from Mr. Pompeo’s declaration in February that the United States “does not and will not ever recognize” Russia’s claim to the region, though, Mr. Trump’s proposal suggests the United States is moving on.

Mr. Trump has also withdrawn from various U.N. bodies and from important international accords, most recently the Open Skies Treaty — actions that also weaken ties with allies and cede ground to China, Russia and others.

The retreat is also happening in sub-Saharan Africa, where Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper is weighing cuts in U.S. troop levels and aid to French-led counterterrorism efforts in ways that analysts say could open the door to China and Russia. Already, they are dangling deals for new ports and railroads, arms and mercenaries, and medical supplies to help combat Covid-19.

“The scope of medical and economic disruption that will come from Covid-19 will leave opportunities for both nations, and others, to try to gain advantages,” Stanley A. McChrystal, a retired four-star commander of the Joint Special Operations Command and American forces in Afghanistan, said in an interview.

The United States has not stayed entirely on the sidelines, though, creating potential arenas for new competition and possible collision. The race for a coronavirus vaccine has come to involve both China’s People’s Liberation Army and the U.S. military, which has said it would mobilize to distribute any breakthrough discovery.

American warships have sailed into disputed waters in the South China Sea in recent weeks to assert freedom-of-navigation rights, continuing a standoff in a region that Beijing asserts is its territory, backed up by the establishment of new air bases.

And the United States is speeding ahead in a renewed conventional and nuclear arms race, though its strategic rationale — other than to overmatch Russia and China — has never been fully described by this administration. Not long after the Pentagon announced in March that it had successfully tested an unarmed prototype of a hypersonic missile, a weapon that could potentially overwhelm an adversary’s defense systems, Mr. Trump boasted that a “super duper” missile was on the way. Presumably it is intended as an answer to Russia’s introduction of the Avangard, which made it the first country to claim it had deployed an operable hypersonic weapon, and a range of similar weapons that China is developing.

Mr. Trump’s new arms control negotiator, Marshall Billingslea, warned recently that Mr. Trump meant it when he vowed that America would always have the most potent nuclear force in the world. “We know how to win these races, and we know how to spend the adversary into oblivion,” he said, even as the country ran up record deficits to avoid an economic implosion because of the virus. “If we have to, we will, but we sure would like to avoid it.”

Middle East Power Vacuum

It is not only China and Russia that are challenging the United States. Across the Middle East, there is a sense that Mr. Trump’s oft-expressed desire to withdraw from the region — along with his National Security Strategy’s focus on a renewed competition among superpowers — offers new leeway.

Iran has bet that Mr. Trump, for all his emphasis on doubling down on sanctions as he completes America’s exit from the 2015 nuclear deal, is not willing to risk outright confrontation. Tehran has gradually accelerated its production of nuclear fuel and ignored requests from international inspectors for access to suspected nuclear-related sites. But it has not raced ahead, perhaps calculating that a slow rebuilding of its stockpiles will not result in a strong international backlash.

And in the Persian Gulf, even after the U.S.-led killing in January of Qassim Suleimani, a senior commander in the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps and Iran’s terrorism mastermind, Tehran is episodically testing America’s limits.

Nearly a dozen Iranian fast boats conducted what the Navy described as “dangerous and harassing approaches” to six American warships in the Persian Gulf in mid-April, prompting Mr. Trump’s order “to shoot down and destroy any and all Iranian gunboats if they harass our ships at sea.” Iran backed off in the gulf — but then stepped up oil shipments to Venezuela, in a challenge to the U.S.-led embargo meant to displace President Nicolás Maduro, who has stayed in office despite a vigorous American campaign to force him out.

In mid-May, Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, said American attempts to disrupt the course of Iranian tankers carrying fuel for Venezuela were “dangerous” and “provocative” acts. Iran has threatened retaliation against U.S. forces in the gulf and throughout the Middle East if Washington interferes with Tehran’s oil deliveries.

And in Iraq and Syria, the Islamic State, a year after losing its last territorial foothold, is resurgent with a spate of roadside bombings, ambushes and other attacks as U.S. troops in Iraq pull back from four bases and suspend training in the country, along with other Western allies, because of coronavirus restrictions. Mr. Trump, after initially declaring in 2018 that the group had been defeated, has barely mentioned its recent gains.

Russia and China are active in the region. Russia continues to support the government of President Bashar al-Assad as he nears a brutal victory in Syria’s civil war. And China maintains a military base in Djibouti, near an American one there. Chinese diplomats and state-owned enterprises have increased their presence throughout the region.

“China has significantly expanded its engagement in the region, especially in the economic and diplomatic realms,” said Patricia M. Kim, a China analyst at the U.S. Institute of Peace who worked on a recent report on China and the Red Sea area. “And for the U.S. to remain relevant — to be able to shape norms in the region and help states manage China’s growing presence — it needs to significantly increase its own engagement.”

From Russia, Testing Boundaries

Mr. Trump’s willingness to invite Mr. Putin back into the company of the major Western allies — partly as an effort to counter China — is all the more mystifying because friction between American and Russian forces is running high. From international territory and airspace off Alaska to the Black Sea, combat planes and warships are pressing new boundaries and renewing years-old brinkmanship.

On Friday, two U.S. Air Force B-1B bombers flying a long-range training mission over the Black Sea prompted Russian fighter jets to scramble and intercept the American warplanes. At least three times in the past two months, Russian fighter jets intercepted Navy P-8 surveillance planes over the Mediterranean, most recently on Wednesday.

In an intercept in April, a Russian jet conducted a high-speed, inverted maneuver, 25 feet in front of the P-8. “Another unsafe #Russian intercept of @USNavy P-8 in international airspace above #Mediterranean Sea!” the U.S. military wrote, tweeting a video of the encounter.

If these had been encounters with Iranian or Chinese forces, Mr. Trump would have almost certainly protested. But amid the throes of a pandemic, he has not been eager to ratchet up tensions with Russia. “I don’t see it,” Mr. Trump said when asked whether Russia was toying with U.S. military forces. “We had a very good relationship with Russia.”

That is not what top NATO officials and American commanders say.

The U.S. military on Tuesday accused the Kremlin of secretly sending at least 14 fighter jets to eastern Libya in May to support Russian mercenaries battling alongside a beleaguered commander, Khalid Hifter, in his campaign to oust the internationally recognized government in Tripoli, the capital.

The unusually blunt and public criticism by two top American generals underscored the Pentagon’s broader concern about Moscow’s growing influence in Libya and a looming security threat on NATO’s southern flank.

Closer to home, Air Force F-22 Raptor fighter jets intercepted two Russian maritime patrol planes in April about 50 miles from Alaska’s Aleutian Islands, in an echo of the Cold War. A month earlier, a pair of Russian reconnaissance aircraft were intercepted by U.S. and Canadian jets 50 miles from the state’s coast over the Beaufort Sea.

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The North American Aerospace Defense Command, or NORAD, said the Russian aircraft were intercepted in the Bering Sea north of the Aleutian Islands and never entered U.S. or Canadian airspace.

In mid-March, two Russian strategic bombers flew over a U.S. submarine that surfaced in the Arctic Ocean and were subsequently escorted by American and Canadian fighter jets.

“What we do see is, I think, a continuous effort for them — as they do in the Covid-19 environment, outside the Covid-19 environment — to continually probe and check and see our responses,” said Gen. Terrence J. O’Shaughnessy, the head of the military’s Northern Command, which oversees homeland defense.

China Seizes the Moment

During the 2016 campaign, Mr. Trump spoke publicly, in a New York Times interview, about leaving it to South Korea and Japan to secure the Pacific, saying he was tired of paying so much to help defend allies who were running big trade surpluses with the United States. And as Mr. Trump has argued with Seoul and Tokyo, and not significantly bolstered ties with Southeast Asia, President Xi Jinping of China has seen his moment of opportunity.

From the waters of the Pacific and Indian Oceans to the heights of the Himalayas, China has pressed forward on expanding its military footprint.

“I think what Beijing is pursuing — and it’s a rational interest — is hegemonic authority over Asia,” said Elbridge Colby, the former Pentagon official who was the main writer of the Trump administration’s National Defense Strategy, which focuses on how the American military should reshape itself for great-power competition with Russia and particularly China.

It is most evident in the South China Sea. Beijing has continued with its yearslong strategy of pressing maximal territorial claims. Turning outcroppings of rock into full islands, it is forming a bulwark against the claims of competing nations and against the findings of a 2016 international tribunal, which sought to limit China’s aggressive maritime actions.

In April, a Chinese Coast Guard vessel collided with a Vietnamese fishing boat near a disputed archipelago, sinking the small vessel. The same month a Chinese seismic survey ship, escorted by Chinese Coast Guard vessels, entered waters designated as the exclusive economic zone of Malaysia, daring the Malaysians to push back. There have been parallel confrontations with Indonesia and the Philippines.

The Trump administration has continued President Barack Obama’s policy of not taking sides in the territorial disputes while asserting that the United States aims to maintain freedom of navigation in the region. Mr. Esper insists that the United States will continue naval operations “to send a clear message to Beijing that we will continue to protect freedom of navigation and commerce for all nations, large and small.”

But China’s leaders appear to suspect that they are empty words; Mr. Trump has no appetite for facing off with Beijing over scarcely populated territory half a world away.

And in an annual policy report last month, the Chinese government dropped the term “peaceful reunification” when discussing Taiwan, the democratic, self-governing island, breaking with a tradition of using that phrase in the reports since 1992. Li Keqiang, the Chinese prime minister, also omitted “peaceful” when he called for reunification at the opening session of the National People’s Congress on May 22.

The U.S. Navy has announced at least three instances of transits of its warships through the Taiwan Strait this year. And last month, the State Department notified Congress of a potential sale of advanced torpedoes to Taiwan worth $180 million, the latest of several large arms sale packages to the island. But that is not enough, some experts say.

“We need to change things on Taiwan to improve the deterrent and make clearer where we stand,” said Mr. Colby, who added that the United States had to “end any remaining ambiguity about how we’d react to the use of force.” Without that, China may well doubt that Mr. Trump sees Taiwan’s de facto independence as a vital American interest.

Tensions involving China extend to the roof of the world. Along a disputed border in the Himalayas, Indian and Chinese troops engaged in scuffles and shouting matches in recent weeks. Indian officials say the Chinese military made at least one major incursion into Indian territory. Both sides have amassed thousands of troops in the disputed areas, leading to the tensest such standoff since 2017.

On Wednesday, Mr. Trump weighed in via Twitter. “We have informed both India and China that the United States is ready, willing and able to mediate or arbitrate their now raging border dispute,” he wrote, in an echo of an offer he made last year on the India-Pakistan conflict over Kashmir.

Neither side seemed interested in his offer.

Global Risks During the Pandemic

David E. Sanger is a national security correspondent. In a 36-year reporting career for The Times, he has been on three teams that have won Pulitzer Prizes, most recently in 2017 for international reporting. His newest book is “The Perfect Weapon: War, Sabotage and Fear in the Cyber Age.” @SangerNYT • Facebook

Eric Schmitt is a senior writer who has traveled the world covering terrorism and national security. He was also the Pentagon correspondent. A member of the Times staff since 1983, he has shared three Pulitzer Prizes. @EricSchmittNYT

Edward Wong is a diplomatic and international correspondent who has reported for The Times for more than 20 years, 13 from Iraq and China. He received a Livingston Award and was on a team of Pulitzer Prize finalists for Iraq War coverage. He has been a Nieman Fellow at Harvard and a Ferris Professor of Journalism at Princeton. @ewong

Fatah, Hamas, threaten retaliation outside the Temple Walls (Revelation 11)

Fatah, Hamas, threaten retaliation over Israeli killing of disabled Palestinian

Fatah calls shooting of autistic Palestinian Iyad Halak a “war crime,” demands police officers responsible be brought before The Hague. Hamas warns of new intifada. Israel Police says an investigation into the incident underway.

Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas threatened retaliation over the weekend over the killing of a disabled Palestinian man by Israel’s Border Police on Friday.

Fatah calls shooting of unarmed autistic Palestinian Iyad Halak a “war crime,” and demanded the police officers responsible for his death be brought before the International Criminal Court in The Hague. Hamas, the terrorist group that controls the Gaza Strip, called for a new intifada, or “popular uprising.”

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said the force opened an investigation into the incident where “security forces spotted a man with a suspicious object that looked like a pistol and after he failed to obey orders to stop, gave chase and them opened fire.

It was only later that it was found that Halak, 32, was unarmed.

The shooting drew broad condemnations and revived complaints alleging excessive force by Israeli security forces. On social media, some compared the shooting to police violence in the US.

Rana, mother of Iyad Halak, 32, holds his photo at their home in East Jerusalem’s Wadi Joz, Saturday (AP/Mahmoud Illean)

Halak’s relatives said he suffered from autism and was heading to the school for students with special needs where he studied each day when he was shot.

“They killed him in cold blood,” Halak’s mother, Rana, told Israel’s Channel 12 News.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah party called the incident a “war crime” and said it held Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu fully responsible for the “execution of a young disabled man.”

The Palestinian leadership demanded that whoever killed the man be brought before the International Criminal Court.

Hamas warned that Hallak’s death would give rise to a new Palestinian uprising, saying that the incident would also “fuel our people’s revolution which will not stop until the occupier leaves all Palestinian territory.”

There has been an uptick in violence in east Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank in recent days, although it has yet to reach the levels of 2015-2016 when Israeli security forces struggled to stop a wave of so-called lone-wolf attacks.

The New Cold War Courtesy of the Donald

Trump Boosts Nuclear Weapons Spending, Fueling a New Arms Race

Jon Letman Jon Letman is a freelance journalist on Kauai. He writes about politics, people and the environment in the Asia-Pacific region. Follow him on Twitter: @jonletman. More by this author…

Published May 30, 2020

President Donald Trump attends a signing ceremony at Joint Base Andrews, in Maryland, United States on December 20, 2019.

Yasin Ozturk / Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Spending by the world’s nine nuclear nations climbed to nearly $73 billion in 2019, nearly half of it by the United States alone. At the same time, the Trump administration has prioritized nuclear weapons in its defense budget while abandoning nuclear treaties, fumbling negotiations and confounding allies. The administration’s lack of coherent goals, strategies or polices have increased nuclear dangers, leaving the U.S. “blundering toward nuclear chaos with potentially disastrous consequences.” Those are the findings of two separate reports published in May that examine nuclear spending and strategy under Trump.

The findings of the reports lay bare the soaring costs and dangers of the Trump administration’s pursuit of more nuclear pits; the fast tracking of a new generation of intercontinental ballistic missiles; and the deployment of new, low-yield submarine-launched nuclear weapons. In May, The Washington Post reported that Trump officials are in ongoing discussions about resuming explosive nuclear weapons testing.

The first report, titled “Enough is Enough: Global Nuclear Weapons Spending 2019,” published by the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), is a densely-packed 12-page snapshot of how the world’s nuclear-armed nations collectively spent $72.9 billion on nuclear weapons last year, an increase of more than $7 billion over 2018. That worked out to almost $200 million per day in 2019.

Among the nine nations that collectively (but very unevenly) possess over 13,000 nuclear weapons, in 2019 four countries (Russia, China, France and India) increased nuclear spending modestly, three remained flat (the U.K., North Korea and Israel), and one cut spending slightly (Pakistan). Only the United States sharply increased nuclear expenditures over the previous year, from $29.6 billion to $35.4 billion.

According to Alicia Sanders-Zakre, ICAN policy and research coordinator and lead author of the report, the modernization of existing weapons and the expansion of arsenals is likely to drive further increases on nuclear spending in coming years.

Drawing primarily on Department of Defense and the National Nuclear Security Administration figures, the report found that U.S. nuclear spending made up about 5 percent of the United States’ total military spending last year.

Sanders-Zakre told Truthout that while figures are based largely on government budget documents, the SIPRI Military Expenditure Database, and other estimates from regional scholarly work on local defense spending, the report does not include environmental remediation costs or compensatory assistance programs for victims of nuclear weapons use and testing. Reporting and documenting those costs is often uneven and frequently lacks transparency. The true total costs of nuclear weapons, Sanders-Zakre noted, is in fact much higher than the numbers cited in the report.

In response to those who argue that nuclear weapons “don’t cost that much” because they account for a relatively small fraction of overall defense spending,

Sanders-Zakre calculated that total nuclear spending among the U.S., France and U.K. in a single year could cover all their respective shortfalls in “ICU beds, annual salaries for doctors and nurses, and ventilators … and [they would] still have just enormous amounts of money left over.”

And to U.S. allies who, like NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, argue the case for keeping American nuclear weapons on European soil, Sanders-Zakre said that the citizens of nations living under the U.S. nuclear umbrella should be asked if they want to be used to justify U.S. nuclear weapons. Many, she says, would reject those weapons, as was illustrated recently by a leader of Germany’s Social Democratic party, who called for U.S. nuclear weapons to be removed from Germany.

“Blundering Toward Nuclear Chaos”

A second report, “Blundering Toward Nuclear Chaos: The Trump Administration After Three Years,” published by the American Nuclear Policy Initiative (ANPI), an independent project of Global Zero, takes a sweeping look at how the U.S. is navigating the complex nuclear landscape under the undisciplined and unpredictable rule of Donald Trump.

Calling for broad changes, the report’s authors present a disturbing triptych of instability, inexperience and incompetence, making a powerful case for the urgent need to correct and redirect the U.S.’s approach to nuclear weapons policy.

Beginning with U.S.-Russian relations, and continuing with critiques of Trump’s approach to Iran, North Korea, China, modernization, nonproliferation and other critical nuclear matters, the report is a sober, even-tempered assessment of an administration led by a temperamental bull in a nuclear china shop.

The report describes “growing nuclear instability and the accelerating arms race between Russia and the United States” as among the “most pressing and consequential” nuclear challenges facing the U.S. today.

Largely completed before January 2020, when the U.S. and Iran came dangerously close to an all-out war, and with the spread of the coronavirus on its heels, the authors make it clear that the Trump administration was ill-equipped to navigated the nuclear weapons landscape, even before a global pandemic and subsequent economic freefall.

The commitments or capabilities that are demonstrated by the administration, the report notes, are being undermined by the president’s own inability to conduct foreign policy in a manner consistent with international norms or the expectations of U.S. allies.

In its relations with Iran and North Korea, the administration has taken strikingly different approaches — “maximum pressure” and confrontation with Iran and, in the case of North Korea, threats to “totally destroy” the country followed by highly choreographed summits and Trump’s declaration that “there is no longer a nuclear threat” from the North. In both cases, however, Trump’s approach has failed to produce concrete steps toward denuclearization.

The report’s authors note that Trump takes pride in rejecting traditional approaches to domestic and foreign policy challenges, resulting in increased tension between the administration and policy makers who have invested decades in protecting U.S. interests.

The authors also closely examine how Trump has played a disruptive — even destructive — role in dismantling international agreements and nuclear treaties, most notably the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or Iran nuclear deal, the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, while acting in a manner that runs counter to arms control and nonproliferation.

The report explains why the U.S. is likely to continue rejecting Russian overtures to extend the last major U.S.-Russia bilateral nuclear agreement, the New START Treaty, set to expire in February 2021. The Trump administration insists the treaty should be renegotiated to include China, which has just over 300 nuclear weapons (compared with Russia and the U.S., which have an estimated 6,370 and 5,800 respectively).

Trump’s rejection of extending New START appears all but certain, especially following the recent announcement by the Trump administration that it was planning to abandon the nearly three-decade old Open Skies Treaty. The treaty allows 34 party nations to carry out reconnaissance flights in the interest of transparency and the prevention of misunderstanding that could lead to war.

“This is a reckless decision and more evidence that the Trump administration seems incapable of fixing or building anything. They only know how to tear things down,” Alexandra Bell, a senior policy analyst with the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation and co-author of the ANPI report told Truthout. “President Trump is being steered into a legacy of destruction.”

Bell, who wrote the report’s chapter on nonproliferation and disarmament said, “We’ve been lucky enough to avoid [nuclear war] for the last 75 years but unfortunately, the law of odds is such that eventually this is going to happen unless we take steps to reduce and eventually eliminated the weapons themselves and there’s just no way of getting around that.”

Trump to Nuke Nevada

Nevada can never let its guard down against Trump on nuke tests, waste

Sunday, May 31, 2020 | 2 a.m.

Donald Trump’s presidency poses a danger to Nevada on nuclear waste and weapons, and it will remain one until he steps out of office.

Trump upped the toxic ante with last week’s revelation that he remains enthralled by the idea of conducting nuclear bomb testing in our state.

Trump’s lunatic notion was first reported by Time magazine back in 2018, but it seemed to vanish after fierce pushback from Nevada’s state and congressional leaders. Then-Gov. Brian Sandoval said at the time that he had received “100% confirmation” from the administration that it wouldn’t restart bomb tests here.

It was yet another 100% worthless promise from a 100% untrustworthy White House.

The Washington Post reported that on May 15, administration officials discussed conducting a test in response to an unsubstantiated assertion that Russia and China recently conducted low-yield tests of their own.

An unidentified senior official told the Post that while officials didn’t come to an agreement on whether to detonate a bomb in Nevada, the proposal was “very much an ongoing conversation.”

To that, we offer a response from our state.

No. Hell no. Not now. Not ever.

Nevada will not be subjected to nuclear bombing again.

The state endured four decades of nuclear tests — more than 1,000 in all, before testing ceased in 1992 via an international moratorium. We and our downwind neighbors in Utah endured nuclear fallout in above-ground tests during the 1950s and 1960s, and our desert remains irradiated by underground tests conducted later.

We will fight any effort to reopen the door to that dark era. Nevada proudly and fiercely supports the U.S. Armed Forces in the defense of our nation from foreign adversaries, but we have already sacrificed greatly.

Beyond that, this test is strategically nightmarish. The stated purpose is to drive China and Russia to the negotiating table for a trilateral agreement to regulate nuclear arsenals. But the outcome will almost certainly be more testing by those and other nuclear-armed nations.

More importantly, Trump is admitting grave weakness in this move. If the U.S. has so little power that it must explode a nuclear weapon to get rivals to a negotiating table, Trump has fulfilled his mission to Make America Weak Again. Strong countries don’t need to engage in nuclear testing to call countries to the table. Weak countries resort to such tactics. Trump’s clownish rule weakened the U.S. to the point he thinks he must use the exact tactics Kim Jong Un employed to force Trump to the table.

But there’s another troubling aspect to this that rumbles through Trump’s psyche like megatonnage deep in the earth. His intellectual development stopped somewhere in the late 1950s. Back then, little Donnie Trump pressed his nose to a three-channel TV and watched his beloved Donna Reed Show, dreaming of being famous himself, gasping at the glory of open-air nuclear tests and imagining parades and rockets and someday a man on the moon! The marvels of it all. And now, little Donnie Trump’s toy box includes his very own Space Force, and a renewed mission to go to the moon, and a wife he says is just like Jackie Kennedy, and talks of un-American activities. And he still compares women to Donna Reed (psst, she was a feminist and peacenik, little Donnie).Of course we need nuclear tests to complete the set.

It is as if this presidency is some kind of deranged version of “Pleasantville,” where the flickering black-and-white images on TV have merged with crazy dreams of corruption and power in Trump’s impaired mind. He is living in the drooling madness of his childhood Saturday morning TV show fantasies while we endure the nightmare of the Trump years.

Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association, told the Post: “It would be the starting gun to an unprecedented nuclear arms race. You would also disrupt the negotiations with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, who may no longer feel compelled to honor his moratorium on nuclear testing.”

Former Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee for president, called the strategy “delusional.” He’s right.

“How can the United States persuade North Korea not to test and to give up its nuclear weapons, and how can we persuade Iran not to pursue nuclear weapons, if we set the destructive example of testing nuclear weapons for coercive purposes?” Biden said in a statement from his presidential campaign.

As Biden also correctly pointed out, nuclear detonations are no longer necessary in assessing the reliability of weapons. Scientists in the nation’s nuclear laboratories can make that determination without setting off bombs, thanks to advancements in science since the nuclear testing moratorium was established in 1992.

Nevada isn’t alone in its opposition to resumption of testing. Utah leaders and so-called “downwinders” are standing with us.

“I burst into tears when I read that,” said Mary Dickson, a longtime advocate for downwinders, in a story published by the Salt Lake Tribune. “I live every day with watching the effects that testing all those years ago had on so many people I know and love. We’re still living with the consequences of fallout from testing. … Their cancers are coming back. They are more at risk during the pandemic. But we think of doing it again.”

Although the tests being discussed by the Trump administration would be conducted below ground, as opposed to the tests that carried fallout through stretches of Nevada and other states decades ago, underground tests can leak and vent radiation downwind. Then there’s the danger underground tests pose to groundwater supplies, which can become contaminated with radioactive particles.

Nevadans can’t let that happen.

The Trump presidency has been a continuous Paul Revere moment for our state on nuclear issues. We fought the president’s men to a standstill on their bent to reopen the nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain, but they kept coming. We defended ourselves against the administration in Congress and the courts after discovering that the feds had secretly shipped radioactive plutonium to the state in 2019, but they kept coming.

Now they’re on the verge of revoking their worthless promise on nuking Nevada.

What’s clear in all of this is that Nevada can’t let down its guard for one second on the Trump administration until the moment Trump is out of the White House. He’s forced us all to become modern-era, nuclear age Minutemen in the defense of our state.

This is a moment we must remember this fall, for the protection of Nevada and the entire nation.

Iran Tramples Outside the Temple Walls (Revelation 11)

Iran Presents the “Final Solution” – to the Question of Palestine

JCPA- Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs

8 Sivan 5780 – May 31, 2020

Women make T-shaped gesture in message to U.S.: You send your soldiers to the region standing up, and they will come back lying in coffins.

{Originally posted to the JCPA website]

Iran Celebrates International Quds (Jerusalem) Day

On Friday, May 22, Iran and the Muslim world celebrated International Jerusalem Day or Quds Day, which falls on the last Friday of the month of Ramadan. In line with a ruling by Ayatollah Khomeini and the Iranian government, this day has been observed each year since 1979. During it, Muslims express their yearning for the “liberation of Jerusalem” and the “restoration of the legitimate rights of the Palestinians in Palestine.” Even today, Khomeini’s doctrine, in general, and Jerusalem Day, in particular, continue to dictate, define, sustain, and shape the goals of the Islamic Revolution, not least the call that is reiterated each year for the destruction of the “Zionist entity” – that is, Israel. This year, Israel’s Jerusalem Day, marked each year (on the 28th of the Hebrew month of Iyar) to commemorate the city’s unification, fell on the same day as the Iranian International Quds Day.

Since its establishment, International Jerusalem Day has become a major highlight in the calendar of the Islamic regime. It is prepared for long in advance, both in Iran and among Muslim (particularly Shiite) populations outside of it. Among its main features are mass processions, usually after recruitment and organized transportation by the regime and its arms, in which placards proclaim “Death to Israel” and “Death to America.” This year, because of the Covid-19 pandemic, of which Iran is one of the epicenters, the Iranian regime made do with virtual activity. Its centerpiece was an online speech by the Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, who asserted, among other things, that “the Zionist virus will not last very much longer and will be eradicated.”1 Iran also waged a wide-scale propaganda campaign on social networks and in its propaganda organs that featured calls for the annihilation of the Zionist entity (“the regime that occupies Jerusalem”). In that context, it also presented the Iranian peace plan along with denunciations of the Trump Peace Plan – the “deal of the century.”

In the run-up to International Jerusalem Day, Khamenei’s office sent out a poster (in English, Farsi, and Arabic) on social networks with the provocative, offensive, impudent, and deliberately intended title, which is unambiguous in the context of the Holocaust of the Jewish people: “Palestine will be free. The final solution: Resistance until referendum.” Amid the wide media impact, Khamenei “clarified” the poster by saying: “Eliminating Israel does not mean eliminating Jewish people….It means abolishing the imposed regime & Muslim, Christian & Jewish Palestinians choose their own govt & expel thugs like Netanyahu.”2 The Iranian leader’s plan is not new; he invokes it from time to time under various circumstances. In November 2019 he posted a similar plan on his website in English with the title: “How will the ‘abolition of Israel’ be accomplished?” and offered the main points of “the plan.”3

For his part, Foreign Minister Zarif tweeted (broadly hinting at Germany, which recently added Hizbullah to its list of terror organizations): “Disgusting that those whose civilization found a ‘Final Solution’ in gas chambers attack those who seek a real solution at the ballot box, through a REFERENDUM.”4

The poster was aimed at uniting the various elements of the “resistance camp.” It included indicators of the struggle and of Palestinian sacrifice, alongside symbols of the conflict with a focus on Jerusalem. These were linked with Iran’s decisive role, as Khamenei also made sure to emphasize in his speech, in strengthening the Palestinian camp and providing it with “tie-breaking weapons” (missiles and rockets) that are intended to balance the force equations between the Palestinians and Israel. Khamenei thereby defied the moderate Arab (Sunni) camp (particularly the Gulf States), including PA President Mahmoud Abbas himself who, in Khamenei’s view, has abandoned and even betrayed Palestine – in contrast to Iran, which is portrayed as a key regional power that spearheads the anti-Israel resistance camp. For their part, the leaders of the resistance camp rose to the occasion with online speeches, including Ismail Haniyeh (Hamas), Ziyad al-Nakhalah (Palestinian Islamic Jihad), Hassan Nasrallah (Hizbullah), Kais al-Khazali (leader of the pro-Iranian Shiite militia Asaib Ahl al-Haq in Iraq), and Abdul-Malik Badreddin al-Houthi (leader of the Houthis in Yemen).

Leaders of the resistance front: “For the first time in the history of the region…on one screen…a message to the ummah and to the enemy…the heads of the resistance camp renew their promise to liberate Palestine and eradicate the Zionist entity.”5

The poster is brimming with details, and its setting is the entrance to the al-Aqsa Mosque, possibly during the holding of a referendum. The figure of Qasem Soleimani, who was commander of the Quds Force of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and was assassinated by the United States, and whom the Iranian regime is turning into a historical-religious-religious myth transcending time and location, appears in many places in the poster (even more than Khomeini and Khamenei do). To emphasize that the struggle against Israel goes beyond borders and countries, the flags of Palestine, Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Hizbullah, and the IRGC all appear in the poster, as well as some of the flags of the pro-Islamic Shiite militias in Iraq and a picture of Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, who was assassinated along with Soleimani (in the background, the Israeli flag is going up in flames).

Also visible in the poster are “martyred” Palestinian leaders (shahids) such as Ahmed Yassin (the Hamas leader who was assassinated in Gaza), Fathi Shkaki (the Islamic Jihad director-general who was assassinated in Malta), Imad Mughniyeh (a senior Hizbullah figure and associate of Khamenei, assassinated in Syria), and Muhammad Bakr al-Hakim (a senior Shiite figure in Iraq and one of the staunch opponents of Saddam Hussein, assassinated in Najaf). On one side of the poster, there also appear two women making a threatening T-shaped gesture with their hands – the gesture adopted by Nasrallah after Soleimani’s killing, which is meant to hint to the United States: You send your soldiers to the region standing up, and they will come back lying in coffins.

Women make T-shaped gesture in message to U.S.: You send your soldiers to the region standing up, and they will come back lying in coffins.

Nor did the Iranians forgo the Jewish context in the poster, which includes a number of figures representing ultra-Orthodox Jewish elements who oppose Zionism and Israel. Concomitantly, Khamenei stated in his speech regarding the “final solution”: “Palestine belongs to the Palestinians….A referendum should be held in which all the religions (Christians, Jews, and Muslims) will participate….This is our old proposal and it is still valid – it is the only solution to the challenge that the question of Palestine has faced and will face….That which should definitely go is the Zionist regime, since Zionism is a bizarre innovation which has been planted in Judaism and is totally alien to it.”

In this regard, the Iranian regime coerced Rabbi Yehuda Gerami, chief rabbi of the Iranian Jewish community, to lash out (in Hebrew) at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israelis as Iran marked Quds Day: “You don’t represent Judaism. We Iranian Jews want to send this message to the Zionists, and first and foremost to Netanyahu….Know that you Zionists do not represent Judaism and do not represent the Jewish people….You only represent the idea of a political movement whose ideas and values oppose the ideas and values of our holy Torah and the Jewish religion….We strongly condemn your aggressive actions and emphasize to the whole world: There is a big difference between Judaism and Zionism.”6

A Worldwide Revolutionary Vision

In tandem, not coincidentally, with the Iranian Jerusalem Day, five tankers were making their way to Venezuela carrying Iranian fuel for the Maduro regime in blatant violation of the U.S. sanctions on both countries. One tanker has already arrived and the others are in transit. With this tanker convoy, Iran is not only demonstrating readiness to clash with the United States if need be, but also that the resistance camp ranges far beyond the boundaries of the Middle East and that the struggle with the “Great Satan” is global. In social networks, Iran and Venezuela were portrayed as components of the anti-imperialist front, which, as far as Iran is concerned, is the international extension of the regional resistance front. Here, too, Qasem Soleimani is included in the campaign alongside the symbols of the ongoing anti-imperialist struggle in South America – Hugo Chavez, Simón Bolivar (El Libertador, the Venezuelan who freed South American countries from the yoke of Spanish rule), Che Guevara, and Fidel Castro.

The Spirit of the Times

Thus, Khomeini’s doctrine – “The destruction of Zionism is almost a necessary condition for solving the contemporary problems of Islam” – continues to resonate and to guide even the second and third generations of the revolution, a sort of eternal precept that brooks no deviation, questioning, or disagreement and that one must strive constantly and actively to fulfill. According to this doctrine, the ongoing struggle against Israel and the United States is not a separate phenomenon but part of the centuries-old battle against Western arrogance and imperialism, which implanted the Zionist entity in the heart of the Muslim domain and the world of Islam. Iran, as noted, has been broadening this struggle as part of its fight against the U.S. sanctions regime, even to the borders of the United States itself. It is also extending the regional resistance front to include the struggle against “U.S. imperialism in South America,” now specifically involving Venezuela, which is also contending with a sanctions regime. Hence, for Iran, the arrival of the fuel tankers to Venezuela’s shores, breaching the wall of U.S. sanctions, is a dramatic economic and moral achievement at a time when Iran is undergoing a severe economic, political, and medical crisis. Iran’s HispanTV strongly propagated this message.7

Thus, Iran seeks to incorporate both the anti-Israel resistance camp and the anti-imperialist camp into its border-transcending revolutionary vision. During the tankers’ voyage, the hashtag #IranYVenezuelaUnionAntiimperialista8 (“Iran and Venezuela united in the anti-imperialist struggle”) has gone viral on social networks, and the Qasem Soleimani symbol has made the long journey to the shores of Venezuela,9 thereby melding with the mythological symbols of the struggle against imperialism and its handiwork – “the Zionist entity.”

Amid Soleimani’s glorification after he was killed, as he became an integral part of the Shiite mythology, Khamenei likened him to Malik al-Ashtar, one of the most loyal companions of Imam Ali (father of Imam Hassan). Al-Ashtar, who fought in the foundational battles of early Islam (the Battle of the Camel, the Battle of Siffin, the Battle of Yarmouk, and others), is regarded as a skilled and fearless warrior. Indeed, the photo of Soleimani’s severed hand with its ring, which circulated on social networks and became one of the symbols of the assassination, is of great import in the Shiite believers’ iconography and corresponds with the myths of the battles (particularly Karbala) and the self-sacrifice of the historical Shiites. Iran is thus trying to link Soleimani as a symbol with the regional and international struggles against imperialism and the U.S. sanctions, and with the ongoing struggle of the Palestinians, Hizbullah, the pro-Iranian Shiite militias in Iraq, and the Houthis in Yemen against regional enemies who are supported by the United States.

In the harsh anti-Israel and anti-Zionist rhetoric of Khamenei, the top regime officials, and the IRGC there is nothing new. They are indeed echoing the original slogans of the Islamic revolution, attuning them to the spirit of the time and place, and linking them with the new geostrategic reality that is emerging in the region and the world, and with the essential, overarching attitude that guides Iran: hostility and suspicion toward the West (particularly the United States) and Israel (which, as noted, it regards as a Western implant in the region).

The pro-active interpretation that Khomeini gave to Shiite Islam, and the revolution in Shia that he brought about, are regularly revalidated. For the current leaders of Iran, even amid the difficulties they are now undergoing, these factors link the successes in the national-Iranian dimension (bearing up under the sanctions, the continuing nuclear program, the overthrow of Saddam Hussein and the revival of the Shiites in Iraq and Lebanon, the Palestinian and Hizbullah “victories” against Israel) and in the religious dimension (the hand of the Mahdi through Divine intervention). This, in turn, bolsters belief and righteousness in the justness of the path, and in the ongoing rationale for standing firm. Just as Khomeini’s “prophecies” about the collapse of the Soviet Union and the fall of Saddam are seen as having been realized, these leaders likewise believe in his prophecy about the demise of Israel, with Iran as the agent bringing it about.

An Activist Approach

Amid the complex weave of the efforts to export the revolution and promote the Islamic regime’s revolutionary aspirations, each year the repeated call for the destruction of Israel (“the Zionist regime,” “the Zionist entity,” “the regime that occupies al-Quds”) offers Iran an opportunity to showcase an ongoing activist approach to the Palestinian problem and a far-reaching domain of activity wherein the vision of the instigator of the revolution, Khomeini, can be realized. Tehran contrasts this stance with the impotence of the Sunni Arab leaders, who, in its view, are normalizing their relations with Israel and thereby betraying the Palestinians. Iran, as Khamenei underlined in his speech, is arming Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Gaza and helping them achieve a balance in the armed struggle with Israel. (Khamenei has also called to arm the Palestinians in Judea and Samaria.)

In the past, Iran tried to wrap its radical ideological messages, whose real meaning is the destruction of Israel, in “cellophane.” Today the messages are more blatant and unabashed in the vein of the “final solution.” The Iranian regime is not likely to change its ideological conception of Israel as a foreign implantation and “cancerous tumor” (the phrase reappeared this year as well in Khamenei’s Jerusalem Day speech), and it will continue to market that concept in the region and in the international arena. The meaning of the “Iranian peace plan” – or, as packaged this year, a referendum as the “final solution” to the problem of Palestine – is Israel’s eradication as a Jewish state.

The calls for Israel’s destruction and of “Death to America” will keep reverberating around the world next year as well, and Iran will keep pursuing its meandering strategy toward the production of nuclear weapons. On Jerusalem Day in 2005, Ahmadinejad called on the Palestinians to “wisely stand firm for a short time, and if we go through it successfully, the process of destroying the Zionist regime will be simple and brief.” In September 2015, Khamenei asserted that Israel would not exist for another 25 years. [10]

Next year in Jerusalem Day?

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Notes

1 https://jcpa.org.il/article/%d7%9e%d7%a0%d7%94%d7%99%d7%92-%d7%90%d7%99%d7%a8%d7%90%d7%9f-%d7%9c%d7%a8%d7%92%d7%9c-%d7%99%d7%95%d7%9d-%d7%a7%d7%93%d7%a1-%d7%94%d7%a6%d7%99%d7%95%d7%a0%d7%95%d7%aa-%d7%aa%d7%95%d7%91%d7%a1/

2 https://twitter.com/Khamenei_tv/status/1264541220006739968

3 http://english.khamenei.ir/news/7186/How-will-the-abolition-of-Israel-be-accomplished

4 https://twitter.com/JZarif/status/1263457808713998338

5 http://www.alyemenione.com/145703/

6 https://www.tehrantimes.com/news/448235/Iran-s-chief-rabbi-lashes-out-at-Netanyahu

7 https://twitter.com/Hispantv/status/1265282821955948546

8 https://twitter.com/search?q=%23IranYVenezuelaUnionAntiimperialista%20&src=typeahead_click&f=live

9 https://twitter.com/Nik67674890/status/1264788135642230784

10 https://twitter.com/khamenei_ir/status/641520641724780544

Iran Establishes a Foothold Outside the Temple Walls (Revelation 11)

Iranian-backed organizations establish a foothold in the Gaza Strip

By Joe Truzman | May 30, 2020 | Joe.Truzman@longwarjournal.org | @JtruzmahIran is exerting its regional influence in the Middle East and Gaza is not an exception. Social welfare programs and charities throughout the Gaza Strip have been established by Iran to influence the hearts and minds of its residents.

Iran financially and militarily supports a number of its proxies in the Middle East including militant organizations in Gaza such as Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Popular Resistance Committees. However, Iran’s support does not solely go to Gaza’s militant groups.

During the first week of Ramadan, Harakat al Nujaba, an Iranian-backed Iraqi paramilitary group, distributed food baskets and other Ramadan gifts to the families of prisoners and those who have been killed fighting against Israel.

“A gift on the occasion of the blessed month of Ramadan, presented by al Nujaba for the families of the martyrs and captives in Palestine,” a message in the food basket read.

Furthermore, al Nujaba’s Information and Relations office stated “The staff of al Nujaba’s office in Gaza, having collected the needed medical and food supplies, distributed a package of diverse Ramadani presents among the families of martyrs and captives in ash-Shujaiyya and northern areas of the Strip, an act carried out secretly and at night for the image of the targeted families is maintained.”

The statement by al Nujaba is important because it demonstrates that an Iraqi paramilitary group funded and supported militarily by Iran has a presence in the Gaza Strip.

It is noteworthy to mention al Nujaba isn’t the first Shia movement with a military wing to operate in the Gaza Strip. Harakat al Sabireen, founded by former Palestinian Islamic Jihad members who converted to Shia Islam, operated in the Gaza Strip for some years until Hamas arrested its leader and seized the group’s weapons in 2019.

Another Iranian funded organization operating in the Gaza Strip is the Palestinian-Iranian Friendship Association (PIFA). The organization also has branches in Lebanon and Syria.

PIFA describes itself as a “Palestinian civil organization that seeks the participation of the largest possible number of our Palestinian people to work on developing and strengthening Palestinian-Iranian relations by working to develop various forms of culture, media, social, political and other work.”

However, the organization actively associates itself with militant groups in the Gaza Strip and abroad. In the summer of 2018, an event sponsored by PIFA in the Gaza Strip hosted the heads of Abd al Qadir al Husseini, Mujahideen Brigades and a representative of Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

Additionally, according to Hezbollah’s media relations department, a delegation from PIFA met with senior Hezbollah official Ibrahim al Sayed on November 2019.

“We met the brothers in the leadership of Hezbollah to confirm our loyalty to the valiant Islamic resistance that carried the cause of Palestine and offered martyrs for it,” Abdul Karim al Sharqi, PIFA’s Secretary-General stated.

Furthermore, a recent Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center report provided additional information on Iranian funded organizations with an operational presence in the Gaza Strip.

The evidence presented suggests Iran is attempting to influence its Islamic ideology through charitable organizations similar to what it has already done in Lebanon, Syria and Iraq for the last several decades. Whether it will be able to repeat the success it has had in other countries is yet to be seen in the Gaza Strip.

Joe Truzman is a contributor to FDD’s Long War Journal.