Authorities Expecting The Sixth Seal? (Revelation 6:12)

New York Times

By SAM ROBERTS

JULY 17, 2014

Here is another reason to buy a mega-million-dollar apartment in a Manhattan high-rise: Earthquake forecast maps for New York City that a federal agency issued on Thursday indicate “a slightly lower hazard for tall buildings than previously thought.”

The agency, the United States Geodetic Survey, tempered its latest quake prediction with a big caveat.

Federal seismologists based their projections of a lower hazard for tall buildings — “but still a hazard nonetheless,” they cautioned — on a lower likelihood of slow shaking from an earthquake occurring near the city, the type of shaking that typically causes more damage to taller structures.

“The tall buildings in Manhattan are not where you should be focusing,” said John Armbruster, a seismologist with the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University. “They resonate with long period waves. They are designed and engineered to ride out an earthquake. Where you should really be worried in New York City is the common brownstone and apartment building and buildings that are poorly maintained.”

Mr. Armbruster was not involved in the federal forecast, but was an author of an earlier study that suggested that “a pattern of subtle but active faults makes the risk of earthquakes to the New York City area substantially greater than formerly believed.”

He noted that barely a day goes by without a New York City building’s being declared unsafe, without an earthquake. “If you had 30, 40, 50 at one time, responders would be overloaded,” he said.

The city does have an earthquake building code that went into effect in 1996, and that applies primarily to new construction.

A well-maintained building would probably survive a magnitude 5 earthquake fairly well, he said. The last magnitude 5 earthquake in the city struck in 1884. Another is not necessarily inevitable; faults are more random and move more slowly than they do in, say, California. But he said the latest federal estimate was probably raised because of the magnitude of the Virginia quake.

Mr. Armbruster said the Geodetic Survey forecast would not affect his daily lifestyle. “I live in a wood-frame building with a brick chimney and I’m not alarmed sitting up at night worried about it,” he said. “But society’s leaders need to take some responsibility.”

How Babylon the Great Created the Nuclear Horns (Daniel)

Zarif Blames Rise in Extremism on Big Powers’ Miscalculations

Iran’s foreign minister says miscalculations and major mistakes made by the world’s big powers over the past decades are the main cause of the surge in extremism in the West Asia region.

Mohammad Javad Zarif made the remarks in a speech delivered at the Faculty of World Studies at the University of Tehran on Monday, the second part of a five-part course in international relations entitled, “World in Transition,” which is being offered by Iran’s top diplomat.

Extremism was a result of miscalculations and occupation [of regional countries by world powers]. The main problem, which evolved into the existing sad conditions is the problem of ‘misunderstanding’ and ‘miscalculation’, which caused both regional powers and superpowers to make mistakes,” Iran’s foreign minister said.

“Miscalculations made by big powers, or in other words superpowers, with regard to the world’s modern order have resulted in consequences, which are by far more disastrous than the mistakes made by other countries,” Zarif emphasized.

He described the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq as one of the big powers’ miscalculations, saying that there were many ambiguities surrounding the attack at its onset.

“But something was conspicuous. It was clear from the very beginning that this [US] war [against Iraq] would lead to the spread of extremism in the world.”

In early 2003, the United States, backed by the UK, invaded Iraq under the pretext that the regime of the country’s former dictator, Saddam Hussein, possessed weapons of mass destruction (WMD). No such weapons, however, were ever found in Iraq.

The invasion plunged Iraq into chaos and led to the rise of terrorist groups, including the Daesh Takfiri group, across the region.

The US and a coalition of its allies further launched a military campaign against purported ISIL targets in Iraq in 2014, but their operations in many instances have led to civilian deaths.

Elsewhere in his speech, Zarif touched on the US withdrawal from several international treaties, and said such a policy is just similar to those bigoted and obstinate ideas that contravene the world’s realities on the ground.

Some players in the international scene, like the United States, have struggled to take control of the situation by resorting to old-dated rules and reliance on their military superiority, but their approach led to a “disaster,” the top Iranian diplomat added.

The US under President Donald Trump has pulled out from several international treaties in defiance of global outcry.

Trump, a hawkish critic of a landmark 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), unilaterally withdrew Washington from the agreement in May 2018, and unleashed the “toughest ever” sanctions against the Islamic Republic in defiance of global criticism.

The Trump administration also pulled the United States out of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) with Russia last year. The 1992 treaty allows member countries to conduct short-notice, unarmed, reconnaissance flights over the other countries to collect data on their military forces and activities.

Trump has also pulled his country out of the UN cultural organization UNESCO and the Paris climate accord.

Source: Iranian Agencies

More Chaos Outside the Temple Walls (Revelation 11)

Lebanon: Deadly Beirut explosion injures thousands

At least 25 people were killed and around 2,500 others injured when a powerful explosion rocked Beirut’s port. Buildings were destroyed and windows shattered, with dozens of Red Cross teams racing to the scene.

A massive explosion at a port in the Lebanese capital Beirut killed at least 25 people and injured around 2,500 others on Tuesday, according to Lebanon’s health minister. 

It was not immediately clear what caused the explosion.

Windows were shattered and buildings were destroyed in the widespread damage, while smoke was seen billowing across the city. Damage appears to have spread for several kilometers.

The Red Cross said there were at least 2,200 injuries from the explosion, while several eyewitnesses reported that some of the wounded may be buried under rubble.

Beirut’s governor told local TV: “I have never in my life seen a disaster this big.”

‘A fireball’

“My apartment is completely destroyed,” Joachim Paul of the Heinrich Böll Foundation told DW. “I was in a shopping mall when the explosion happened, and I was under the impression that a bomb had gone off in the mall.”

An eyewitness told Reuters news agency, “I saw a fireball and smoke billowing over Beirut.”

“People were screaming and running, bleeding. Balconies were blown off buildings. Glass in high-rise buildings shattered and fell to the street.”

Many people were seen lying injured on the ground and hospitals put out immediate calls for blood donations, the Associated Press reported. One hospital reported over 500 patients had arrived, bringing them to capacity.

The explosion in Beirut caused widespread damage

Warehouses stored ‘highly explosive materials’

Local TV stations reported that the blast took place at an area where fireworks were sold, while Lebanon’s state news agency NNA quoted security sources as saying that the warehouses may have housed explosives.

Security Chief Abbas Ibrahim confirmed that there were warehouses in the area that stored “highly explosive materials,” without elaborating on whether this referred to weapons or fireworks. Ibrahim said the materials had been “confiscated years ago.”

The Lebanese Red Cross said “hundreds” were injured and tweeted that over 30 teams were responding to the incident. 

Prime Minister Hassan Diab declared that Wednesday will be a national day of mourning for the victims of the explosion, according to local media, while President Michel Aoun called an emergency meeting with the National Defense Council.

International community responds

The White House announced that the United States was monitoring the explosion very closely and was ready to “offer all possible assistance.” France and Iran also both announced they would help Lebanon in any way necessary.

After the blast, Israel said it had nothing to do with the explosion. Israel’s Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi told Israeli TV that he believed the explosion was most likely caused by a fire, urging “caution around speculation.”

Tensions have been high between the two neighboring countries after Israel said it thwarted an infiltration attempt by Hezbollah gunmen. 

Lebanon is also currently in the grip of a major economic crisis, with many people taking to the streets in recent months to protest the financial situation.

Black smoke billows over destroyed buildings in Lebanon

ed/stb (AFP, dpa, Reuters)

This story has been updated to reflect the latest developments. 

The Hegemony of the Chinese Nuclear Horn (Daniel 8)

Ballistic missiles that can carry nuclear warheads go on display at a parade in Beijing. Credit: Kyodo News/Getty

Nuclear weapons: arms-control efforts need China

As tensions mount and treaties totter, fresh thinking is needed — on deterrence, emerging technologies and key players in east Asia.

04 August 2020

Nobumasa Akiyama

It is 75 years since the United States dropped atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on 6 and 9 August 1945, killing around 200,000 people. Since then, humanity has had to coexist with the massive destructive power of nuclear weapons.

Although such weapons have not been used in wars since, they define the international order. Nuclear deterrence and pacts to restrict arms between the United States and Russia have assured decades of precarious peace. Meanwhile, the United Nations’ adoption of the first-ever Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) in 2017 buoyed hopes of a world free of these catastrophic arms.

Now the skies are darkening. In 2019, the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty between the United States and Russia collapsed, ushering in a new arms race for weapons with a range of 500–5,500 kilometres. China’s rise as a superpower is bolstered by a rapidly modernizing arsenal. India and Pakistan are engaging in the worst border scuffles for decades. Iran is re-stoking its nuclear programme, after the United States unravelled the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action restricting it. North Korea continues to expand its arsenal.

This environment had made the old rules of strategic stability obsolete even before the COVID-19 pandemic fuelled nationalism and tensions. New ways of thinking about nuclear security and arms control are needed urgently, and for more than two players.

First, researchers and security experts need to find deterrence strategies that are acceptable to three nations. China should join arms-control talks with the United States and Russia, even if these are open-ended. Second, international security discussions need to encompass emerging technologies and conventional weapons, as well as nuclear ones. Third, non-nuclear states, including Japan — my nation — need to be at the table.

How a small nuclear war would transform the entire planet

In the 75 years since the nuclear cataclysm at the end of the Second World War, scientists have been central to deterrence, detection and verification, capitalizing on global collaborations to build trust, technology and treaties. Researchers’ skills and commitment are needed now more than ever.

Nuclear-arms control is at a crucial juncture. On a positive note, world leaders are increasingly vocal about abolishing these abhorrent weapons. Sadly, current geopolitics means that situation is a long way off.

Former US president Barack Obama called for a world without nuclear weapons on a visit to Prague in 2009, and became the first sitting US president to visit Hiroshima, in 2016. UN secretary-general António Guterres argued that their abolition is crucial “to save humanity” in his 2018 disarmament agenda1. When Pope Francis visited Nagasaki and Hiroshima in November 2019, he criticized the concept of nuclear deterrence as offering a “false sense of security” sustained by “fear and mistrust”. Peace should be assured instead, he said, through “the arduous yet constant effort to build mutual trust”.

Similar sentiments among non-nuclear states delivered the TPNW. It was adopted by 122 of the 193 members of the UN, and will enter into force once 50 states ratify it. But, as of this month, only 40 have done so. Signatories agree not to develop, test, produce, acquire, possess, stockpile, use or threaten to use nuclear weapons.

Eradication is unlikely, however. Notable absentees from the treaty include all nuclear-armed countries. They did not vote for the TPNW; they jointly expressed their unwillingness to join. Nor did ‘nuclear umbrella states’ in Europe and Asia, such as the members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, Japan and South Korea, whose security from nuclear attack relies on the United States.

A global regime of arms control is still crucial to manage nuclear risks.

Fracturing framework

The United States and Russia together possess 90% of the world’s 14,000 nuclear weapons. Their holdings have been shaped through four bilateral treaties at three levels: strategic nuclear arms, missile defence and sub-strategic nuclear and conventional arms. Negotiations began in 1969 under the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT).

The SALT I agreement, signed in 1972, restricted systems that were capable of directly delivering nuclear weapons to either country. That agreement was replaced by the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START 1), which capped the numbers of nuclear warheads as well as delivery systems that each nation could hold. President Obama and then Russian president Dmitry Medvedev signed a replacement ‘New START’ treaty in April 2010.

Atomic bombs through wars hot and cold

The Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty, signed in 1972, limited competition concerning these offensive weapons that had shaped confrontation between the two countries in a framework of mutual assured destruction.

In 1987, the United States and the Soviet Union agreed to eliminate ground-launched, medium-range missiles under the INF treaty, and signed the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe, which set ceilings on key conventional forces in Europe. Russia announced its withdrawal from the treaty in 2015.

Each nation agreed to abide by these rules because they recognized the existential risks: either could wipe out the other. The rules were formalized and verified. Predictability and transparency increase trust. Scientific teams from both countries conducted on-site inspections of warheads and exchanged data. The number of nuclear weapons held in each country has now fallen to around 6,000, or one-fifth of their peak during the cold war.

But tensions are rising again between the United States and Russia. The United States backed out of the ABM treaty in 2002. And in February 2019, it announced it would withdraw from the INF treaty, citing Russia’s testing of prohibited missiles. After Russia made counter accusations, both sides abandoned the treaty in August 2019.

Enter China

Negotiations have also stalled over a replacement for New START, which expires in February 2021. If the treaty is not renewed or extended, the nuclear arms race will go unchecked. The United States wants to bring in China and expand the scope of weapons covered. Russia wants to stick to the original remit.

China’s rise has transformed the geopolitical landscape. The United States cited that country’s unrestricted build-up of nuclear forces as one reason for its withdrawal from the INF treaty. China has around 320 nuclear warheads, and more than 250 missile launchers capable of carrying them2. The majority of its nuclear arsenal is in land-based, medium-range missiles.

For example, the Chinese ballistic missile Dongfeng 26 can travel 4,000 km, roughly the distance from eastern China to Guam, a US territory in Micronesia in the western Pacific Ocean. Dongfeng 21 can reach a target 2,000 km away, enough to hit US aircraft carriers deployed around the South China Sea if launched from central western China. Dongfeng 17 is a manoeuvrable missile that can deliver both nuclear and conventional warheads at a similar range. It could function as boosters for a hypersonic glide vehicle flying at low altitude, which radars would have little time to detect3.

A view of Hiroshima in Japan, about two years after it was hit by a US nuclear bomb.Credit: AFP/Getty

These types of missile are the very assets that the United States and Russia could not possess under the INF treaty. For China, they are key to being able to compete with the United States in the western Pacific Ocean. It is because of these that the United States, keen to protect its superiority in the region, wishes to bring China into the arms-control fold.

So, in June this year, the United States invited China to attend its discussions with Russia in Vienna about what will replace New START. China declined. Not keen for the United States to dampen its nuclear ambitions, it would rather wait and see what happens in November’s US presidential election.

But there are good reasons for China to engage. Not least, it could influence the agenda — to raise issues that concern it, such as the missile defence systems of the United States and its allies, which include Japan.

Three challenges

Finding a trilateral arms-control strategy will be difficult for three reasons4.

First is a problem of game theory. It makes more sense for three players in a non-cooperative dilemma game to defect rather than cooperate5. Conventionally, rational players would rather engage in an arms race than agree not to. That view changes when they look ahead. Players place more emphasis on the value they will gain in future — they would rather be guaranteed a smaller payback than risk gaining nothing or losing. Cooperation then becomes possible. That’s why the United States and Russia agreed to act in the past. The game repeats endlessly, and the devastating power of nuclear weapons makes the cost of defection high — a nuclear-first strike from the other.

In a three-way game, the outcome might be different. It is harder to find a stable equilibrium in the first place. And it’s better for two to form a coalition against the other, even in the long run. Thus, every player fears others teaming up against them. When trust is missing, players prefer to stay in competition rather than reach agreement.

We ignore the past at our peril

The key to trilateral arms control is to ensure that the isolated party benefits from signing up. It’s unclear whether the confidence-building and verification measures associated with existing arms-control treaties are sufficient to do that, and whether the level of transparency that could be required is acceptable for all three.

Second, power balances, strategic goals and arsenals that were evolving fast are now profoundly in flux. The economic power shifts brought about by technology alliances and globalization have been accelerated and amplified by the COVID-19 pandemic. At potentially one of the most profound inflection points for centuries, it is hard to define a stable state of relations among countries that have different (and unpredictable) goals and assets.

From a global perspective (even as the pandemic continues), the United States is still a political and economic heavyweight, as well as a military one. It has been pursuing cooperation with allies in the Indo-Pacific, Europe and the Middle East. Russia’s power is declining: its core interests are in Europe and central Asia, and it is seeking to keep its superpower status, even if only nominally. China’s global status is rising: it has been extending its influence worldwide by economic and diplomatic means, such as the Belt and Road Initiative, and its military focus has enabled it to gain dominance in the western Pacific.

These three rival powers, with their varying future trajectories, face a major challenge in finding a sustainable way to accommodate all of their strategic interests.

Third, boundaries are blurring between different types of weapon. Emerging technologies such as hypersonic gliders, precision-guided strike systems, robots and artificial intelligence (AI) make conventional weapons as effective strategically as nuclear ones (go.nature.com/2x46wda). Cyberattacks could cheat nuclear command-and-control systems and confuse decision-making, leading to risky situations. Satellite-imaging technologies enhanced using AI make it easier to identify and target strategic assets such as missile-launch sites and commands.

All of these factors complicate deterrence calculations. Discussion on regulating them has not produced any tangible results, and it will remain difficult.

Steps forward

The United States, China and Russia should immediately begin talks that explore how stable strategic relationships can be built. That would reassure other countries and pave the way for more substantive security agreements. Meanwhile, the United States and Russia need to extend New START to avoid a gap in arms control.

From blackboards to bombs

The three powers should discuss ways to identify and reduce the risks associated with nuclear weapons, as well as how to implement transparency measures. Then they should take the following steps. First, agree the definition and scope of the weapons systems covered by an arms-control treaty. Second, reach a mutual understanding regarding the definition of a strategic equilibrium that serves the security of each country. This will involve balancing qualitative values with a quantitative formula. Third, formulate mechanisms for verification and confidence-building that prevent defection without compromising sensitive security information.

Researchers and specialists in security need to explore new models of deterrence and arms control. Win-win-wins need to be found for a three-player game. And a formula is needed to convert the balance of strategic interests into measurable levels of force, given different goals and military assets. Deterrence strategies that cover nuclear, conventional and cyber capabilities also need to be designed.

Non-nuclear states must participate in arms-control discussions. East Asia could be one focal point for testing new strategies, for three reasons. First, it is caught in the middle of a competition between the United States and China. Second, four nuclear powers, including North Korea and Russia, are involved in the region’s instability. And third, non-nuclear allies of the United States — Japan and South Korea — are major strategic and scientific players in the high-tech environment that today shapes the power of states.

This places my country in a difficult but important position. Japan should take the lead in envisaging new forms of arms control, because it would be a way for the nation to commit to its promise: that what happened to the people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki must never happen again.

Nature 584, 40-42 (2020)

doi: 10.1038/d41586-020-02282-9

References

1.United Nations. Securing Our Common Future: An Agenda for Disarmament (UN, 2018).

2.Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. SIPRI Yearbook 2020 354–362 (Oxford Univ. Press, 2020); available at https://go.nature.com/3f60pjy

3.Panda, A. The Diplomat (28 December 2017).

4.Krepinevich, A. F. Jr Foreign Affairs (January/February 2019).

5.Dawes, R. M. in Human Judgment and Decision Processes (eds Kaplan, M. F. & Schwartz, S.) 87–107 (Academic, 1975).

Babylon the Great’s Nuclear Horn Grows Even Greater

Nuke Sea-Launched Cruise Missile Would Bolster Deterrence, Officials Say

Aug. 4, 2020 | BY Jim Garamone , DOD News

Developing and deploying a sea-launched nuclear cruise missile is essential to deter Russia, U.S. officials have said.

A recent State Department paper says the new weapon would help fill a gap identified in the 2018 Nuclear Posture Review.

The United States retired its last nuclear sea-launched cruise missile in 2010 — one of only two remaining U.S. theater or tactical (“non-strategic”) nuclear weapons. In contrast, Russia continued a comprehensive program to modernize and expand its low-yield theater and tactical nuclear weapons. What is more disturbing, officials said, is that Russian strategy actually contemplates the use of these nuclear capabilities in conflict.

Russian strategic thought mistakenly believes that limited nuclear first use with low-yield weapons could provide Russia with a “coercive advantage” in a conflict, the State Department paper says.

Russia may have pursued this strategy because the United States, unlike Russia, retired most of its non-strategic nuclear systems. Russia may believe it can use theater or tactical weapons, the paper says, because the United States could not effectively respond and might be reluctant to escalate further by responding with strategic nuclear weapons..

The 2018 Nuclear Posture Review calls for adjustments to U.S. nuclear forces to close this perceived gap on the escalation ladder and reinforce deterrence against low-yield nuclear use, DOD officials said.

A nuclear-armed sea-launched cruise missile would address alarming developments in the forces and doctrine of nuclear competitors, the posture review says, adding that Russia and China both are investing significant sums to improve and expand their nuclear forces with no clear indication as to where that expansion will stop.

Russia’s “adventurism” is the most immediate concern, officials said. The nation invaded Georgia in 2008 and still occupies two provinces. Russia illegally occupied Crimea in 2014 and sponsors a shooting war in the eastern part of Ukraine today. Russia has propped up the Assad regime in Syria and has prolonged the civil war in that nation. Russia has also sent forces to Libya, and Kremlin-associated contractors have seized two of its largest oil facilities. Finally, Russia has done its best to divide the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, seeking more leeway to intimidate the frontline states of Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, Poland, Bulgaria and Romania.

There are credible concerns that theater and tactical nuclear capabilities are central to a Russian approach to regional conflict that envisions the early, limited use of non-strategic nuclear weapons to end a war on terms favorable to Russia.

“This approach may be premised on Russia’s belief that its expanding anti-access/area denial networks will be able to neutralize the airborne nuclear deterrent forces of the United States and NATO,” the 2018 U.S. Nuclear Posture Review concluded. “In the future, it is possible that China could adopt a similar doctrine. Developing and fielding (sea-launched cruise missile-nuclear) signal the leaders of nuclear competitors in a concrete way that the United States has the capability and will to maintain operationally effective nuclear options to deter regional aggression.”

The SLCM capability could also help allay the concerns of regional allies shielded by the U.S. nuclear umbrella, officials said.

The United States having such a capability would make any adversary think twice about using nuclear weapons. Without requiring nuclear testing or violating any treaty, the SLCM “will lower the risks of nuclear conflict, bolster the confidence of allies and restore a degree of balance in non-strategic nuclear weapons that could create conditions more conducive to addressing this category of forces through arms control,” the posture review says.

Khamenei Doesn’t Trust Babylon the Great. Period.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei addresses the nation in a live TV speech on the occasion of Eid al-Adha in Tehran, July 31, 2020

Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei addresses the nation in a live TV speech on the occasion of Eid al-Adha in Tehran, July 31, 2020

The Democratic Party’s recently released policy platform was greeted warmly by certain newspapers in Iran. Media outlets associated with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani praised the party’s rejection of “regime change” as U.S. policy. They also welcomed its proposal for a return to the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the nuclear deal from which President Donald Trump withdrew in May 2018. If former Vice President Joe Biden wins in November, the Rouhani camp believes the new American administration will not only revive the nuclear deal, but also lift sanctions. This could save the Islamic Republic of Iran from economic devastation, internal rebellion, and further regional setbacks. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, whose hatred of America has always been bipartisan, begs to differ.

Khamenei believes the United States can never be trusted. In his eyes, Democrats who prefer “soft” power to “hard” power may be even more dangerous than hawkish Republicans. This good cop-bad cop routine fits perfectly into Khamenei’s paranoia. While Democrats preach engagement, Khamenei views American soft power as “subtle warfare” meant to undermine the “spiritual” basis of the Islamic Republic. According to a senior intelligence officer with whom we spoke and who has a long history of dealing with Iran, “Khamenei is paranoid that the ultimate American goal is to use this soft power to destroy the regime from within.” In his feverish, conspiratorial worldview, Khamenei believes that the Democratic and Republican parties are controlled by “Zionists” bent on overthrowing the Islamic Republic and reversing the “victories” of the 1979 revolution.

Khamenei came to understand that further economic pain from more punishing sanctions might trigger regime-changing protests.

The more Democrats and Trump disavow regime change, the more Khamenei becomes convinced that’s exactly their goal. He understands better than American leaders the enduring appeal of America among Iran’s young and repressed population.

The supreme leader had no illusions about the 2015 nuclear deal. He did not view it as a first step in resolving more than 40 years of mutual enmity. He endorsed Rouhani’s nuclear negotiations with the Obama administration as a policy of “heroic flexibility”, which he compared to the moves of a wrestler who changes tactics “but should not forget who his rival is and what his goal is.” Following the 2009 protests, which saw millions of Iranians in the streets confronting the regime, Khamenei came to understand that further economic pain from more punishing sanctions might trigger regime-changing protests. The 2009 Green Revolution had shocked the regime and, as Khamenei acknowledged, taken it to the “edge of the cliff.” So, he compromised at the negotiating table. This flexibility was made easier by the Obama administration’s extensive nuclear concessions, which gave the Islamic Republic near-zero nuclear breakout time and easier advanced centrifuge-sneakout options, as key restrictions disappeared over time.

Today the regime’s security apparatus is better prepared for popular unrest, as demonstrated by its effective crackdowns on continual protests between 2017 and 2019. As a result of Trump’s “maximum pressure” campaign, the Islamic Republic faces an even more severe economic crisis today than it did prior to the JCPOA. Yet Khamenei thinks his regime can survive any pressure short of American military action or a massive domestic uprising that overwhelms his security forces.

Khamenei will never trust Americans: He knows that his regime is viewed as dangerous and odious by most of the Washington political and national security establishment, with the exception of a leftist fringe. Most Democrats embrace the JCPOA not because they tolerate the regime. Instead, they believe, as former President Barack Obama said in response to the 2009 Green Revolution, in his often-repeated phrase borrowed from Martin Luther King Jr., that “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” They believe more diplomatic engagement with Tehran will, over time, wear down the regime so that it must moderate or disappear. Republicans prefer greater coercion to bend the moral arc more rapidly. For Khamenei, who sees clearly through the partisan noise in Washington, American politics means he gets both devious seduction and regime-punishing pain, as successive administrations open up and crack down. The supreme leader sees both as a mortal threat.

Khamenei could have billions of dollars of Iranian oil flow freely with zero restrictions on hard currency under the Democrats for a few years.

Khamenei is in no mood for a simple “re-entry” into the JCPOA, regardless of who is elected. Under the JPCOA, a previous Democratic administration took away, at least temporarily, a chunk of his nuclear infrastructure in return for economic relief. And then Trump took away that economic relief and imposed crippling sanctions. It’s also been a horrible few years for the supreme leader: Two major internal rebellions erupted. The Israeli Mossad sabotaged key nuclear, missile, and military facilities and embarrassed Iranian security services by removing a nuclear archive from right under their noses that demonstrated the regime’s nuclear mendacity. In operations greenlighted by America and tolerated by Russia, the Israeli Air Force launched hundreds of strikes against Iranian commanders, weapons supply lines, and proxies in Syria and Iraq. And the most humiliating blow: Trump’s killing of Iran’s top battlefield commander, Qassem Soleimani, whom Khamenei considered a national hero.

And Iranian officials expect it to get worse. There’s fear of more popular insurrections like the nationwide November 2019 uprising, which shook the regime to its core. The security apparatus may be more efficient and repressive than in 2009, but a large-scale counterrevolution could overwhelm the regime’s stormtroopers. Khamenei also knows that while the Biden team has discussed a possible return to the JCPOA, meaningful sanctions relief could be ephemeral, since it will be almost unanimously opposed by Republicans. Khamenei could have billions of dollars of Iranian oil flow freely with zero restrictions on hard currency under the Democrats for a few years. That may help him avoid total economic collapse and find more money for Syria’s Bashar al-Assad, Hezbollah, and his other murderous proxies.

Khamenei rightly fears that his regime will end up on the ash heap of history. Democrats and Republicans should be dedicated, in their own way, to helping Iranians achieve that goal.

But it’s difficult to imagine a Republican presidential candidate running in 2024 who will not support a return to a policy of maximum pressure. Many international companies and banks will be frightened to invest in Iran knowing that, four years later, a Republican president could yet again pull America out of the JCPOA and reimpose sanctions. (Ironically, since a Trump deal with Iran is more likely to be supported by Republicans and some Democrats and ratified by the Senate as a treaty, it could be more enduring than the Democratic alternative.)

Khamenei knows his days on Earth are numbered and that his legacy can be secured only by handpicking a younger, ideologically fanatical successor. Gone after 2021 will be Rouhani and possibly his mendacious but savvy foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif. Their successors will not be nearly as masterful at manipulating Western elites, even though some of those elites have shown a disturbing desire to be manipulated. Revealing the true face of the regime, these successors’ bellicosity and revolutionary zeal could strengthen the Washington consensus about the threat from the Islamic Republic. And the painful memories of the regime’s leadership role in the slaughter of over 500,000 people in Syria on their watch may be enough to have awakened at least some senior members of Biden’s foreign policy team to the horrendous depravity of the regime.

Khamenei rightly fears that his regime will end up on the ash heap of history. Democrats and Republicans should be dedicated, in their own way, to helping Iranians achieve that goal.

The opinions expressed by the authors are not necessarily the views of Radio Farda
  • 16x9 Image
  • Mark Dubowitz is the chief executive of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

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  • Alireza Nader is a senior fellow at FDD focusing on Iran and U.S. policy in the Middle East. He also researches the Islamic Republic’s systematic repression of religious freedom and currently serves on ADL’s Task Force on Middle East Minorities.

Scientists sound alarm against Trump’s nuclear stupidity

GUEST COLUMN: Scientists sound alarm against Trump’s desire to resume nuclear weapons testing

On the 75th anniversary of the first nuclear test explosion in the New Mexico desert, leading scientists from Cambridge and across the country joined Sen. Edward J. Markey at a virtual press conference to express their strong opposition to the Trump Administration’s desire to resume the U.S. nuclear testing program. The scientists endorsed the PLANET Act, S.3886, legislation introduced by Markey that would prohibit the use of federal funds for nuclear weapons testing.

The June 16 press conference, organized by Cambridge-based Massachusetts Peace Action, announced the publication of an open letter in the July 17 issue of Science magazine warning that a resumption of testing would cause significant environmental harm, fuel a new nuclear arms race and could lead to accidental or intentional nuclear war. Some 70 scientists and other experts, including several Nobel laureates, signed the letter.

Last month, the Trump Administration made the terrifying announcement that it won’t carry out a nuclear test at this time,” said Boston University professor Sheldon Glashow, winner of the 1979 Nobel Prize for Physics. “I certainly hope not. To do so would be an act of madness. Rather … we must strive to reduce and at last eliminate the world’s vast accumulation of these infernal and unnecessary nuclear warheads.”

Over several decades, the United States conducted 1,030 nuclear weapons test explosions, more than the combined total of tests by all other countries. The U.S. government stopped its atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons in 1962, shortly before signing the Partial Test Ban Treaty of 1963. It halted underground nuclear tests in 1992 and signed the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty in 1996. (A Republican-controlled Senate blocked ratification of that treaty, but the U.S. and 183 other countries have adhered to its provisions anyway).

But the Trump Administration is engaging in serious discussions to resume nuclear weapons testing. Sen. Tom Cotton, a Republican Trump supporter from Arkansas, has inserted an amendment into the National Defense Authorization Act that allocates “no less than $10 million” for resumption of nuclear weapons testing. The NDAA is currently under debate in Congress.

“Resumption of testing would ‘open the floodgates’ for a new nuclear arms race,” warned Markey.

“Nuclear testing would not make Americans safer but would give justification for North Korea, Pakistan and India to conduct tests,” noted George Smoot III, winner of the Nobel Laureate in Physics.

Prior to the 1963 atmospheric test ban, nuclear tests were carried out above ground, releasing radioactive isotopes that were carried into the atmosphere and slowly returned to the ground. The campaign in the U.S. to stop the testing was led by chemist Linus Pauling, his wife Ava Helen and thousands of scientists. The effort revealed that radioactive strontium-90 from fallout was accumulating in milk, bones and even baby teeth. This campaign, which mobilized mothers across the nation, together with President John Kennedy’s effort to pull back from the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, led the U.S. Senate to ratify the atmospheric test ban treaty in 1963.

The U.S. government possesses nearly half of the world’s nuclear weapons, with thousands on hair-trigger alert. These include the nuclear triad of missiles in silos, bombs carried by long-range bombers and missiles with multiple warheads carried by submarines. The launch of the missiles from one Ohio class submarine could obliterate all the major cities of any country on earth, including Russia, China or India.

Nonetheless, the administration is proposing to spend $2 trillion of our tax dollars over the next 30 years to upgrade all three legs of the nuclear triad. This diversion of national wealth is one of the reasons that, in the richest country on earth, we can’t afford accurate and timely COVID-19 tests or sufficient masks, PPE and ventilators needed to control the pandemic. Nobel Laureate winner Richard Roberts, chief scientific officer of New England Biolabs, pointed out at the press conference, “the nation needs to mobilize its scientific resources to deal with global health threats rather than expanding the capabilities for nuclear war.”

Harvard professor Elaine Scarry, author of “Thermonuclear Monarchy,” said, “The current nuclear architecture in the United States arranges for a solitary person — the president — to launch a nuclear weapon without authorization from Congress or the population or any advisors. Similar arrangements exist in the other nuclear states. Given the extraordinary danger of nuclear catastrophe, any step that further enables nuclear warfare — such as the resumption of testing — should be morally unthinkable.”

The open letter can be found at bit.ly/3g37sGA.

Jonathan Alan King, a Cambridge resident, is a professor of molecular biology at MIT and co-chair of the board of directors of Massachusetts Peace Action.