A Lack Of Vigilance Before The Sixth Seal (Revelation 6:12)


Faults Underlying Exercise Vigilant Guard

Story by: (Author NameStaff Sgt. Raymond Drumsta – 138th Public Affairs Detachment

Dated: Thu, Nov 5, 2009

This map illustrates the earthquake fault lines in Western New York. An earthquake in the region is a likely event, says University of Buffalo Professor Dr. Robert Jacobi.

TONAWANDA, NY — An earthquake in western New York, the scenario that Exercise Vigilant Guard is built around, is not that far-fetched, according to University of Buffalo geology professor Dr. Robert Jacobi.

When asked about earthquakes in the area, Jacobi pulls out a computer-generated state map, cross-hatched with diagonal lines representing geological faults.

The faults show that past earthquakes in the state were not random, and could occur again on the same fault systems, he said.

“In western New York, 6.5 magnitude earthquakes are possible,” he said.

This possibility underlies Exercise Vigilant Guard, a joint training opportunity for National Guard and emergency response organizations to build relationships with local, state, regional and federal partners against a variety of different homeland security threats including natural disasters and potential terrorist attacks.

The exercise was based on an earthquake scenario, and a rubble pile at the Spaulding Fibre site here was used to simulate a collapsed building. The scenario was chosen as a result of extensive consultations with the earthquake experts at the University of Buffalo’s Multidisciplinary Center for Earthquake Engineering Research (MCEER), said Brig. Gen. Mike Swezey, commander of 53rd Troop Command, who visited the site on Monday.

Earthquakes of up to 7 magnitude have occurred in the Northeastern part of the continent, and this scenario was calibrated on the magnitude 5.9 earthquake which occurred in Saguenay, Quebec in 1988, said Jacobi and Professor Andre Filiatrault, MCEER director.

“A 5.9 magnitude earthquake in this area is not an unrealistic scenario,” said Filiatrault.

Closer to home, a 1.9 magnitude earthquake occurred about 2.5 miles from the Spaulding Fibre site within the last decade, Jacobi said. He and other earthquake experts impaneled by the Atomic Energy Control Board of Canada in 1997 found that there’s a 40 percent chance of 6.5 magnitude earthquake occurring along the Clareden-Linden fault system, which lies about halfway between Buffalo and Rochester, Jacobi added.

Jacobi and Filiatrault said the soft soil of western New York, especially in part of downtown Buffalo, would amplify tremors, causing more damage.

“It’s like jello in a bowl,” said Jacobi.

The area’s old infrastructure is vulnerable because it was built without reinforcing steel, said Filiatrault. Damage to industrial areas could release hazardous materials, he added.

“You’ll have significant damage,” Filiatrault said.

Exercise Vigilant Guard involved an earthquake’s aftermath, including infrastructure damage, injuries, deaths, displaced citizens and hazardous material incidents. All this week, more than 1,300 National Guard troops and hundreds of local and regional emergency response professionals have been training at several sites in western New York to respond these types of incidents.

Jacobi called Exercise Vigilant Guard “important and illuminating.”

“I’m proud of the National Guard for organizing and carrying out such an excellent exercise,” he said.

Training concluded Thursday.

The rising power of the Chinese nuclear horn (Daniel 7)

China now has world’s largest navy, eyes Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Myanmar bases

Rajat Pandit | TNN

Sep 3, 2020, 01:43 IST

NEW DELHI: China now has the largest Navy in the world and is aggressively looking to set up logistical bases in the Indo-Pacific region to enhance its strategic reach, while also working assiduously towards at least doubling the number of its nuclear warheads over the next decade.

This is the latest assessment of China’s expanding military might, ranging from long-range missiles and nuclear submarines to integrated air defence, space and electronic warfare capabilities, by the Pentagon in its detailed report presented to the US Congress on Tuesday.

India needs to take serious note of the Pentagon report in the backdrop of the expanding Chinese naval footprint in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR), which has been further consolidated after Beijing established its first overseas base at Djibouti on the Horn of Africa in August 2017, while also enjoying unfettered access to the Karachi and Gwadar ports in Pakistan.

The Pentagon report said China is actively looking at setting up military logistics facilities in Myanmar, Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, UAE, Kenya, Seychelles, Tanzania, Angola and Tajikistan.

With an overall force of around 350 warships and submarines, including over 130 “major surface combatants”, China has overtaken even the US Navy’s force-level of 293 warships, said the report.

The US Navy, of course, is much more technologically advanced, with as many as 11 “super” 100,000-tonne aircraft carriers (each can carry 80-90 fighters) as compared as to the two of China. But China is building two more aircraft carriers, with the eventual aim of having 10, as per Indian officials.

India also needs to worry about the fast-emerging collusive China-Pakistan threat in the IOR, with Beijing set to supply eight Yuan-class diesel-electric submarines, four Type-054A multi-role stealth frigates and other naval platforms and weapons, as was reported by TOI earlier.

For now, India has a huge advantage in the IOR due to the tyranny of logistics faced by China, and can if required exploit its “Malacca Dilemma”. But Indian Navy has a force-level of only one aircraft carrier, 10 destroyers, 14 frigates, 11 corvettes as well as 15 diesel-electric and two nuclear-powered submarines in terms of major combatants at present.

While the commissioning of the long-delayed second aircraft carrier (INS Vikrant) will only take place in September 2021, the government is yet to even approve the initial case to build a third carrier.

The Chinese Navy is “an increasingly modern and flexible force that has focused on replacing previous generations of platforms with limited capabilities in favour of larger, modern multi-role combatants”, said the Pentagon report.

Taking note of the way Beijing was pursuing a “nuclear-triad”, the report said, “China’s nuclear forces will significantly evolve over the next decade as it modernizes, diversifies, and increases the number of its land, sea, and air-based nuclear delivery platforms.”

Preparing for the Bowls of Wrath (Revelation 16)

World’s nuclear capabilities are decreasing in overall numbers but growing deadlier

Where do things stand in the world of nuclear weapons?

By Hollie McKay | Fox News

Tensions over potential nuclear warfare – and the ever-alarming concerns that more countries are endeavoring to join the niche arms arena – are once again on the rise.

It was revealed last month that U.S. intelligence agencies are probing Saudi Arabia’s ties with China to enrich its own process uranium capabilities and the potential development of a nuclear weapon.

Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman professed in a 2018 “60 Minutes” interview that the kingdom would only endeavor to acquire such weapons if its nemesis Iran continued its process. A possible Saudi program – beyond the limitations of a developing a nuclear reactor for civilian purposes – has never been officially affirmed.

Meanwhile, China is said to be quietly aiding the Saudis in establishing a covert facility to produce “yellowcake” from uranium ore, which would bring the kingdom closer to being able to enrich uranium for a warhead.

But Saudi Arabia is not the only power player in the region raising concern.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has also expressed interest in developing a program, stating in 2019 that “several countries have missiles with nuclear warheads, not one or two.”

“But [they tell us that] we can’t have them. This I cannot accept,” Erdogan proclaimed on the centennial of the Turkish independence movement. “There is no developed nation in the world that doesn’t have them.”

So, where do things stand in the world of nuclear weapons?

“Over the past several years, disarmament efforts have largely stagnated. Every nuclear-armed country is currently in the midst of modernizing their nuclear arsenals. Many states are also reinvigorating or even expanding the role of nuclear weapons – specifically tactical nuclear weapons – in their military doctrines, meaning that nuclear-armed states are increasingly posturing themselves for nuclear warfighting,” Matt Korda, research associate for the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists (FAS), told Fox News. “This could lower the threshold for nuclear use, and will therefore be a serious nuclear risk factor going forward.”

Korda also claimed that, in recent years, “we have seen the decline – and general disinterest – in arms control writ large.”

According to a recent report published by the Stockholm Institute Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), the number of warheads has been declining over at least the past two years – with the focus being redirected to modernization.

Together, the nine nuclear-armed states – the U.S., Russia, the United Kingdom, France, China, India, Pakistan, Israel, and North Korea – maintain an estimated 13,400 nuclear weapons, as of the beginning of this year, a drop from the 13,865 weapons SIPRI estimated these states had at the beginning of 2019. This follows the trend of the previous year, which saw a decline of over 600 warheads – due to the U.S. and Russia decreasing their inventory, the assessment said.

The U.K., China, Pakistan, North Korea, and likely Israel all bumped up their number of warheads, SIPRI said. India and France saw no changes to the size of their arsenals. The institute’s 2020 review noted that around 3,720 nuclear weapons are now deployed with operational forces, and almost 1,800 “are kept in a state of high operational alert.”

The U.S. remains the only country known to store some – roughly 180 – of its stockpile in other countries, as per the Nuclear Weapons Ban Monitor (NWBM) 2018 report, and has long vowed to use its weapons to aid NATO member states, in addition to South Korea, Japan and Australia.

The U.S. depository is made of numerous nuclear weapons, ranging from warheads borne by air-launched cruise missiles to others in silos.

While the U.S. now possesses a smaller nuclear arsenal, industry experts have pointed to a shift toward modernization and technological advancement – in the name of “modular” reactor designs, low-yield weapons, submarine-launched ballistic missiles, reactor-coolant mixes, and micro-reactors – with other nations following suit.

The biggest cause for concern in terms of development, officials are now underscoring, is China.

“China is in the middle of a significant modernization of its nuclear arsenal,” SIPRI researchers stated. “It is developing a so-called nuclear triad for the first time, made up of new land- and sea-based missiles and nuclear-capable aircraft.”

For the first time on Tuesday, in its report to Congress, the Pentagon released the number of warheads it believes China possesses – at least 200 – underscoring in a new report that Beijing is on track to double that number over the next 10 years. The significantly more sophisticated arsenal is expected to include more high-end discharge methods such as road-mobile carriers, ground-based silos, bombers and submarines.

The latest SIPRI data shows China has much more – around 320 warheads.

A 2019 U.S. Department of Defense evaluation highlighted that the country was also on its way to developing its own nuclear triad, a capacity that only the U.S. and Russia is publicly known to have staunchly maintained in recent times. Beijing – on paper – is committed to a “no first use” policy.

“I worry most about China. Given China’s self-stated goal of becoming the world’s hegemon by 2049, there is an ever-increasing risk of nuclear confrontation,” said Guy Roberts, former assistant secretary of defense for nuclear, chemical, biological defense programs.

Meanwhile, data collated by the Federation of American Scientists (FAS) shows that Russia “retains a stockpile of thousands of nuclear weapons, with more than 1,500 warheads deployed on missiles and bombers capable of reaching U.S. territory.”

The 2018 National Defense Strategy also identifies the reemergence of long-term, strategic competition with Russia and China as the “the central challenge to U.S. prosperity and security,” and the challenges associated with continued stockpile advancement.

Foreign policy observers have also looked at the ongoing efforts made by neighboring rivals Pakistan and India to seek new sea-based delivery systems. Though little is known about their arsenals, SIPRI data estimates that India has up to 140 warheads and Pakistan up to 160 with both slightly increasing their stock each year. Questions routinely swirl as to whether the “first no-use” mandate will stand.

Israel has never publicly conceded to possessing nuclear weapons, although international bodies widely assume it has at least 90 warheads. The country is believed to be continuing its technological enhancement amid growing concerns regarding Iranian capabilities.

Indeed, rogue actors remain a threat to global security, analysts emphasize.

Tehran’s nuclear ambitions have long been a worry for foreign governments. Even after signing the controversial Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which was designed to stop it from developing nuclear weapons in the immediate future, Iran stood accused by the U.S. of breaching the terms. Trump yanked the U.S. from the deal more than two years ago.

Last week, German intelligence reportedly affirmed that Iran is pursuing technology for weapons of mass destruction and missile carrier systems. It does not currently possess a nuclear bomb, but analysts have cautioned that it does have the expertise necessary to build such a weapon.

The former chief of Israel’s intelligence agency, the Mossad, also warned in July that despite its best efforts, his country could not stop Tehran from building a nuclear bomb – it could only work to deter it from using such a devastating weapon.

This Friday, Aug. 16, 2019, photo provided Saturday, Aug. 17, by the North Korean government, shows test firings of an unspecified new weapon at an undisclosed location in North Korea. North Korea on Saturday said leader Kim Jong Un supervised another test-firing of an unspecified new weapon that extended a streak of weapons demonstrations seen as an attempt to pressure Washington and Seoul over slow nuclear negotiations and their joint military exercises. The content of this image is as provided and cannot be independently verified. Korean language watermark on image as provided by source reads: “KCNA” which is the abbreviation for Korean Central News Agency. (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP)

Furthermore, North Korea is committed to its nuclear goals in blatant infringement of denuclearization pledges made in years past, showing little transparency other than declaring tests after the fact. SIRPRI estimates the hermit nation’s inventory to stand at around 30-40 warheads, an increase of 10-20 compared to 2018.

Satellite images unveiled by the Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS) in early August also show a possible clandestine development base, while information submitted to the United Nations Security Council last month revealed that Pyongyang has seemingly developed nuclear mechanisms that can be attached to ballistic missiles.

North Korea has conducted six known nuclear tests – one each in 2006, 2009, 2013 and 2017, and two in 2016.

Syria has also been a concern in recent years. In 2007, Israel conducted an airstrike in Syria on what Washington said was the apparent construction of a nuclear research reactor. Investigations since have pointed to alleged cooperation between Pyongyang and Damascus regarding nuclear facilities, although the extent of the relationship is unclear. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has also pointed fingers at Syria for failing to clarify procurement efforts potentially related to a nuclear program.

Officially, only five states – the U.S., Russia, China, the United Kingdom and France – are recognized as being nuclear-capable by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and bound by its international obligations. India, Israel and Pakistan never signed the NPT.

But the future of paper pledges – especially between the United States and Russia, which together own some 90% of the planet’s nuclear capabilities – is murky. The overall reduction of nuclear weapons over the past year is a result of the two countries demolishing retired weapons in accordance with the 2010 Treaty on Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms (New START). Inked by then Presidents Barack Obama and Dmitry Medvedev, the landmark accord aimed to reduce stockpiles by a third in the coming decade. So far, though, Washington and Moscow remain at odds over the terms of a renewed agreement.

Yet Defense Secretary Mark Esper earlier this year accused Russia of being “noncompliant in the treaty for years, specifically when it comes to their allowance of overflights and near flights [of] Kaliningrad and Georgia.”

Last August, the Trump team also pulled out of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty – signed in 1987 by U.S. President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev – on the premise that Russia wasn’t playing by the rules.

“In terms of strategic nuclear force modernization, the U.S. as compared with Russia is in catch-up mode. It is approximately five to 10 years behind,” asserted John Wood, a defense analyst and author of “Russia, the Asymmetric Threat to the United States.” “The Russian triad is more complex and varied than its U.S. counterpart. While all U.S. ground-based missiles are currently in silos, and therefore easy targets, Russian ground-based missiles, such as Topol-M and Yars are mobile, and therefore a lot harder to take out in the initial boost phase of flight.”

Nonetheless, the lack of written compliance between the two has anti-proliferation proponents deeply concerned that the arms control era is about the end.

However, other industry experts say such policy wielders disproportionally target Washington.

“The so-called arms control community confuses arms control with disarmament, and those that advocate disarmament focus almost exclusively on the U.S. unilaterally doing so,” Roberts added. “In all of human history, I’ve been unable to find a single case where a state unilaterally disarmed to its benefit. Usually, it meant the end of that state or people.”

Will Israel strike the Iranian Nuclear Horn?

Will Israel strike Iran?

Could the prospect of US elections prompt Israel to attack?

The year 2020 has seen significant changes in the handling of the Iran’s malevolent behavior by the US and Israel. From the American targeted assassination of Qasem Soleimani, the brains of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Quds Force, along with Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis the leader of the most significant Iranian-controlled Shi’ite militia in Iraq (Kataib Hezbollah), to the mysterious explosions throughout Iran’s infrastructure including sensitive locations for Iran’s nuclear weapons industrial complex, to Israel’s increased attacks on Iranian assets in Syria, this year may well be decisive in determining if a northern regional war is on the horizon.

In response to the escalating situation, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mark Milley flew to Israel this summer to speak to Israel’s military, security and intelligence leadership. As Efraim Inbar, president of the Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security said, “The strike on Soleimani warns Iran that the option for expanded US use of force against Iran is on the table.” But make no mistake about it, Iran is a sophisticated enemy who has made a strategic decision to accelerate its nuclear program in coordination with its increased activity in Lebanon and Syria. It has directed Hezbollah to act more provocatively from both Lebanon and Syria, while pursuing its never-ending transfer of precision guided missile technology, which threatens all of Israel. It continues to challenge Israel by further entrenching itself in Israel’s neighbors, moving into southern Syria opposite the Israeli Golan to fortify its new frontier from the northeast.

In response, Israel not only continues its relentless strikes on Iranian infrastructure in Syria but has allegedly been behind the attacks within Iran proper that have unnerved its revolutionary leadership. A “pandemically” dazed world has hardly taken notice of the significant geopolitical changes happening in the region.

Not since the Stutnex cyberattack more than 10 years ago has the Iranian nuclear weapons infrastructure been so significantly damaged, at least publicly. Of course, Israel’s legendary heist of Iran’s nuclear plans in 2018 should have reminded the world that despite Iranian promises and the ayatollahs alleged fatwa against nuclear weapons, the West remains oblivious to its practice of taddiyah, religiously sanctioned dissimulation i.e. lying, for the greater good of Iran’s Twelver Shia Islamist project.

The most important take-away lesson from all of these reported attacks is that Iran remains vulnerable to both cyber and conventional sabotage at its most guarded sites in Iran, as well as conventional attacks of its forces and assets in Syria, Iraq and Lebanon.

So the question is, if Israel has shown that it can delay Iran’s march to nuclear weapons capabilities, why does it still contemplate a complex air and missile attack in the Iranian homeland, knowing all the political risks and inevitable international fallout?

The answer is that there is only so much that clandestine espionage and advanced computer attacks can do, even with Israel’s impressive intelligence capabilities. Sooner or later Israel will have to make a monumental choice regarding preemptive strikes on targets in Iran, if it concludes that Iran is getting too close to possessing nuclear weapons, an existential threat that no Israeli leader across its political spectrum could countenance. Every year Iran’s “zone of immunity” increases, where their “nuclear infrastructure becomes so well-protected or dispersed that an attack would be futile.” The Iranian regime is extremely patient, and its vision to destroy the Jewish state is not necessarily in one blow. Its goal is to demoralize Israeli society over time with the constant fear of missiles being indiscriminately sent into its population’s centers, hoping over time that the Jews will abandon their homeland and with-it Zionism.

Iran began this project decades ago in Lebanon with Hezbollah, then turned to Gaza with Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, then turned to Syria making Assad dependent on its militias, with its next goal a revolution in Jordan and the West Bank, with the emergence of an Islamist leadership there under Iran’s thumb or at least in cahoots with it.

Now add to this puzzle a Joe Biden presidency and a Democratic victory in Congress this November, with the promised reversal from US President Donald Trump’s approach that withdrew from the nuclear deal and imposed maximal sanctions. The stakes may never be higher for an Israeli decision to prevent Iran from crossing the threshold as an established nuclear power with all of its perilous consequences. It is possible this is Israel’s last realistic chance to strike, but that ship may have already sailed.

Biden is not alone in wanting to reengage with Iran. Trump, despite withdrawing from the Iran agreement (JCPOA), in part due to his administration’s assessment that the deal undermined long-term American interests, has said he too wants to renegotiate a grand deal if reelected, and it’s not too far-fetched to believe that the Iranians may decide that they cannot survive another four years of the maximum pressure campaign without risking a popular rebellion.

The stark difference is that Biden is willing to re-enter the Obama-era nuclear deal and ease sanctions before renegotiating significant outstanding issues, while Trump has said he will not end any sanctions until a deal is concluded. Some fig-leaf concessions from Iran before re-joining the JCPOA will be attempted by a Biden administration to camouflage what is really going on. Giving away the store first with the hope for reciprocity is always a losing strategy in the Middle East, perceived as a sign of weakness. As Biden said, “I would rejoin the agreement and use our renewed commitment to diplomacy to work with our allies to strengthen and extend it.” This spring, Biden’s top foreign policy adviser Tony Blinken said that if Iran came back into full compliance of its obligations to the JCPOA, Biden “would come back into compliance as well.” If this is true, and there is no reason to believe otherwise, all of the maximum sanctions leverage would disappear, which would also mean according to the deal’s provisions, allowing Iran to buy an unlimited number of conventional weapons, as the sunset provision for arms sales to Iran expires October 2020.

Knowing that a Biden victory is a strong possibility, Israel may decide to act in its national interest and attack Iran’s nuclear infrastructure sooner rather than later, before Biden could be in office to stop it. Although Trump has said in the past that he would back an Israeli strike, there is no guarantee he would give Israel a green light if he believes it would drag America into a Middle East war.

Americans have been hearing about the threat of a nuclear Iran for three decades with still no bomb. For much of the US foreign policy establishment, Israel is like the boy who cries wolf, threatening to strike but never acting. It should be recalled that Netanyahu and his former defense minister, Ehud Barak, were in favor of attacking Iran, but were thwarted in 2010 by then-IDF chief Gabi Ashkenazi. Then in 2011, the security cabinet, heeding the advice of intelligence agencies, voted against a strike.

Iran has now breached the nuclear limits of the JCPOA by enriching past the 3.67% limit, shortening the breakout time from a year to just a few months to cross the uranium enrichment threshold, so counting on cyber and small clandestine targeted strikes will likely not be enough. Just as signal intelligence cannot completely replace human intelligence, there is only so much cyber-terrorism can do.

The JCPOA mistakenly or deliberately allowed Iran to continue research and development on advanced centrifuges, increasing the chance for a quick breakout to just a month or two, way too late for Israel to act. That clearly means that a coordinated attack to select sites throughout Iran that could cripple its breakout capacity for years is already being considered.

Even proponents of the JCPOA have to acknowledge that the restrictions of the Iran deal, modest as they are, will all sunset over time, and barring a regime change, the Islamic Republic will also then have the international community’s seal of approval for its terrorist state to possess nuclear weapons.

All of this may be a house of cards, as the West only looks at Iran’s declared nuclear program. The JCPOA did not allow IAEA inspections of military sites for suspected nuclear development, and believing that they are not actively working at military sites requires the willing suspension of disbelief. Based on Israel’s outing of Iran’s past nuclear work two years ago, the IAEA finally requested permission to inspect two undeclared Iranian sites.

Is Israel’s alleged activity this summer against Iranian nuclear facilities a harbinger of a large-scale attack? According to John Hannah at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, “Between an exclusive reliance on additional sanctions and a dangerous military strike, there may still be room for coercive diplomacy to play an important role. Specifically, the United States, Israel, or preferably both could communicate to Iran a set of red lines regarding its current nuclear expansion that, if crossed, would dramatically increase the likelihood of a forceful response.” Unfortunately this won’t work with the Europeans, who have little problem pretending they don’t see what Iran is doing, so long as they can make money dealing with the regime. As an example, in July 2020 Josep Borrell – the EU high representative for foreign affairs and security policy in charge of the JCPOA – said, “Owing to the unprecedented level of access… IAEA was able to confirm… Iran had met all its obligations under the deal.” Yet just a month earlier, according to The Wall Street Journal, “Member states from the United Nations atomic agency board voted to condemn Iran for failing to cooperate with its probe of Tehran’s nuclear activities.” This is because inspections for clandestine work at military sites was not included in either the JCPOA or UNSC 2231.

Until the Iranian people overthrow their repressive regime, Iran’s current leadership will not change its spots, and Tehran will want nuclear weapons if only for the immunity it provides against offensive attacks. Which brings us back to the possibility of a strike on Iran’s nuclear infrastructure to kick the can much farther down the road than cyber-terrorism, assassinations, or sabotage can do, assuming the zone of immunity has not already been reached.

If an Israeli attack is possible, knowing Iran will never negotiate honestly, it seems inevitable that Israel will have to decide at some point whether it can live with the possibility of an Iranian nuclear weapon protected by a non-foolproof missile defense. Then Israel would live with the hope that mutually assured destruction, as the US and Soviet Union did during the Cold War, would restrain Iran. That could be a miscalculation of the highest order.

How should Israel approach the future? According to Maj.-Gen. (ret.) Yaakov Amidror of the Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security, “a nuclear Iran could pose an existential threat to Israel in the future, or at least launch a very aggressive policy against it, under a nuclear umbrella… Preventing Iran’s military nuclearization is Israel’s biggest challenge.” Yet he cautions Israel to “navigate its path based on the assumption that it cannot… fundamentally change the situation in the Middle East, neither by political agreements nor by using military force.” Knowing there are no easy answers with the stakes so high, the question is, would a Biden or Trump presidency increase the chance that Israel would choose to act sooner rather than later. We have been down this road before, but one day it may become a reality. 

The writer is the director of MEPIN (Middle East Political Information Network), and regularly briefs members of Congress and their foreign policy aides, as well White House advisers.

The Iran Nuclear Disaster (Daniel 8:4)

The Iran Nuclear Deal

By Jonathan Tirone | Bloomberg

New fuel rods sit in wrapping ahead of use in a storeroom beside the main reactor hall at the Dukovany nuclear power plant operated by CEZ AS in Dukovany, Czech Republic, on Sunday, April 6, 2014. CEZ AS, the largest Czech power producer, sees potential for two new reactors at its Dukovany nuclear complex once the current four units are retired in 2035. Photographer: Martin Divisek/Bloomberg (Bloomberg)

Iran’s nuclear capabilities have been the subject of global hand-wringing for more than two decades. While Iran’s leaders long insisted the country was not building nuclear weapons, its enrichment of uranium and history of deception created deep mistrust. In 2015, after more than two years of talks and threats to bomb the country’s facilities, Iran and world powers reached a deal that limits the Islamic Republic’s nuclear work in exchange for relief from economic sanctions that had cut off oil exports and hobbled its economy. After President Donald Trump withdrew the U.S. from the pact and reinstated sanctions in 2018, Iran began violating the deal’s restrictions and, in early 2020, said it was no longer bound by any of its limits.

The 2015 Iran nuclear deal, though under threat, isn’t dead yet. The other parties to it — China, France, Russia, Germany, the U.K. and the European Union — have continued to talk to Iran about preserving the deal in some form. The Trump administration, in an effort to bury it for good, pressed the United Nations to restore its sanctions against the Islamic Republic but was rebuffed by other members of the UN Security Council. Of particular U.S. concern is the UN arms embargo against Iran, which lapses in October 2020 unless sanctions are snapped back. The deal’s future could turn on the outcome of the Nov. 3 U.S. presidential election, in which Trump is seeking a second four-year term. His opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden, has said he would rejoin the deal if Iran resumes complying with it. Iran had expected the pact to stimulate an economic revival, but new and reinstated U.S. sanctions instead provoked an economic contraction. 

Iranian statements and international contacts with Pakistani scientists prompted the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency to warn in 1992 that the Persian Gulf country could develop a nuclear weapon. While Iran reaffirmed its commitment to the 1968 nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, it wanted the country’s “right” to enrich uranium recognized before it made concessions. A breakthrough came after Iran elected a relative moderate, Hassan Rouhani, president in 2013. The 2015 deal he made recognized Iran’s right to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes, and Iran was allowed to keep 5,000 centrifuges to separate the uranium-235 isotope needed to induce a fission chain reaction. But Iran agreed that for 15 years it would not refine the metal to more than 3.7% enrichment — the level needed to fuel nuclear power plants — and would limit its enriched-uranium stockpile to 300 kilograms, or 3% of the amount it held in May 2015. The International Atomic Energy Agency verified that Iran eliminated its inventory of 20%-enriched uranium, which can be used to make medical isotopes and to power research reactors but could also be purified to weapons-grade material at short notice. Inspectors also confirmed that Iran destroyed a reactor capable of producing plutonium. U.S. officials under then-President Barack Obama estimated that the pact extended the time it would take Iran to produce enough fissile material for a bomb from a few months to a year. 

Trump administration officials say the 2015 deal emboldened Iranian activities that destabilize the Middle East and didn’t adequately address Iran’s ballistic missile program. They had some company in criticizing the deal. Middle East powers including Israel and Saudi Arabia say it empowered Iran’s theocratic regime to the detriment of regional security. And some members of the U.S. Congress say Iran can’t be trusted to make any fissile material, whether for energy, medicine or bombs. Like other enriching countries such as Argentina, Brazil, Japan and South Africa, the technology gives Iran the ability to pursue nuclear weapons should it choose to break its commitments. Supporters of the deal say Iran would never agree to abandon enrichment entirely and that a decade’s worth of sanctions failed to stop its nuclear program. Keeping an enrichment capability was important to Iran, for reasons of national pride and because it was previously denied access to uranium on world markets. Defending the agreement, Obama has said that it prevented another war in the Middle East. Without a deal, supporters say, Iran would have been left free to pursue its nuclear ambitions unchecked.

• Related QuickTakes on U.S.-Iran tensions, how close Iran might be to a nuclear bomb, and Iran’s proxy network. 

• Text of the July 2015 agreement and a New York Times graphic on the outcome.

• Bloomberg published a layman’s guide to the Iran talks and a timeline about the country’s history of deception.

• Council on Foreign Relations web page on the Iran nuclear talks.

• Carnegie Endowment for International Peace April 2013 report estimating the costs and risks of Iran’s nuclear program.

For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com

Hamas in Gaza ‘strikes deal to reduce violence’ outside the Temple Walls (Revelation 11)

Hamas in Gaza ‘strikes deal to reduce violence’

Hamas in Gaza has announced it has reached a deal to end the latest escalation in violence with Israel.

“An understanding was reached to rein in the latest escalation and end aggression against our people,” the office of the Palestinian territory’s Gaza leader, Yahya Sinwar, is quoted as saying by the Agence France-Presse.

Israel has been attacking Gaza in recent days after incendiary balloons and kites were launched across the border.

A Hamas source said there had been “a total halt” to balloon and other attacks against Israel, in agreement with other factions in the coastal strip, which is home to about two million people.

“Fuel supplies will return and the power station will be restarted from Tuesday,” the source said.

An Egyptian delegation had been moving between the two sides to try to broker a renewal of an informal truce under which Israel committed to ease its 13-year blockade of Gaza in return for calm on the border.

It was joined by Mohammed Al Emadi, the Qatari envoy to Gaza, who also held talks with Israeli officials in Tel Aviv.

Cogat, Israel’s liaison agency to the Palestinian territories, confirmed that Gaza’s main goods crossing would reopen and fishermen would be allowed back to work, up to 15 nautical miles from the shore.

The developments were “subject to the continuation of the calm and the security stability” but Cogat warned that if Hamas failed to deliver, Israel would “act accordingly”.

Updated: September 1, 2020 01:56 PM

Saudis Build Up Their Nuclear Horn (Daniel 7)

ARMS CONTROL TODAY

September 2020

By Julia Masterson and Shannon Bugos

With Chinese support, Saudi Arabia may be constructing a new uranium processing facility to enhance its pursuit of nuclear technology, The Wall Street Journal reported on Aug. 4. Citing unnamed Western officials, the report said that a facility near Al Ula is intended to be used to produce concentrated uranium, known as yellowcake, from mined ore. The reported development comes as U.S. and Saudi officials have been unable to agree on the terms of a nuclear cooperation agreement to support Saudi plans to develop nuclear energy.

The Saudi Energy Ministry reportedly has categorically denied the existence of such a facility at that location. If confirmed, such a facility could signify Saudi progress toward constructing an indigenous uranium enrichment program, as yellowcake production is a key step in refining uranium for civilian or military uses.

Saudi officials have stated their intent to pursue a uranium enrichment program to as part of the country’s plan to build 16 civilian power reactors over the next 20 to 25 years at a cost of more than $80 billion. (See ACT, October 2019.) Companies from the United States, Russia, South Korea, China, and France are competing for a contract to build the first two of the planned 16 nuclear power reactors, but Riyadh has yet to select a vendor.

Israel also raised concerns about the new facility to the Trump administration, Axios reported on Aug. 19. There are “worrying signs about what the Saudis might be doing, but it is not exactly clear to us what’s going on in this facility,” said one senior Israeli intelligence official.

Saudi Arabia is not believed to have any uranium enrichment program as of now, but mastery of the enrichment process could embolden Riyadh to enrich to weapons-grade levels.

Revelation of the facility and Saudi Arabia’s possible lack of transparency has spurred renewed concern from members of Congress about how the Trump administration might address Saudi nuclear ambitions.

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) told Arms Control Today that “President Donald Trump’s cozying up to Saudi Arabia has threatened our national security interests and undermined our values,” referring in particular to the administration’s lack of response to the October 2018 murder in Turkey of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a Virginia resident.

“The return on this investment is now clear: a purported ally turning to China to accelerate a nuclear arms race in the Middle East,” said Kaine.

Meanwhile, three Democratic members from the House Foreign Affairs Committee—Reps. Joaquin Castro (Texas), Ami Bera (Calif.), and Ted Deutch (Fla.)—sent a letter on Aug. 17 to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo requesting information and a briefing on the recent revelation as it “raises further questions about whether Riyadh’s nuclear program is exclusively for peaceful purposes.”

Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) led a bipartisan group of senators in writing an Aug. 19 letter to Trump also demanding further information and a briefing on the status of U.S.-Saudi civil nuclear cooperation negotiations and the state of U.S. discussions with China on Riyadh’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

“Riyadh’s apparent lack of transparency regarding its nuclear efforts coupled with a growing ballistic missile program poses a serious threat to the international nonproliferation regime and United States objectives in the Middle East,” the senators wrote.

Concerns about Riyadh’s nuclear intentions have been exacerbated by rhetoric from Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, who in 2018 pledged that “if Iran developed a nuclear bomb, we will follow suit as soon as possible.” (See ACT, June 2018.)

A U.S. intelligence analysis circulated in early August detailed a second newly constructed structure near Riyadh, according to an Aug. 5 report by The New York Times. Analysts speculated it could be an undeclared nuclear facility, but the confidence with which that assessment was made is not clear.

Reports of the existence of the site near Al Ula allege that Saudi Arabia was aided by China in its construction. Asked about China’s role in Saudi Arabia’s nuclear development, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Webin said Aug. 7 that “China and Saudi Arabia are comprehensive strategic partners,” who “maintain normal energy cooperation.” He did not address the suspected yellowcake facility, but said that Beijing “will continue [its] strict fulfillment of international obligations in nonproliferation and pursue cooperation in peaceful uses of nuclear energy with other countries.” China and Saudi Arabia’s nuclear collaboration dates back to 2012, when the two countries signed their first cooperative pact.

Saudi Arabia has also received help from China on the significant expansion of its domestic ballistic missile program, according to U.S. intelligence agencies in June 2019. (See ACT, July/August 2019.)

Currently, Saudi Arabia has a comprehensive safeguards agreement in place with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that is complemented by an outdated small quantities protocol, reflective of the negligible size of its nuclear program at the time its safeguards agreement was concluded in 2005. Under that protocol, Saudi Arabia is not obligated to invite IAEA inspectors into its nuclear facilities, including any potential yellowcake production facilities.

IAEA officials have been pushing for Saudi Arabia to transition to a full-scope comprehensive safeguards agreement for several years as Riyadh has moved to expand its civilian nuclear program. Following the revelation of the possible yellowcake facility, Iran’s permanent representative to the IAEA, Kazem Gharibabadi, urged Riyadh on Aug. 8 to strengthen its agreement with the agency and invite inspectors in.

U.S.-Saudi negotiations on the nuclear energy cooperation deal, called a 123 agreement after the section of the 1954 Atomic Energy Act requiring it, have stalled over the past year.

An April report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office suggested that U.S.-Saudi talks have faced two unresolved issues. First, Riyadh has not agreed to sign an additional protocol to its limited safeguards agreement, which would provide the IAEA with a broader range of information on its nuclear-related activities. Second, Saudi Arabia has so far declined to promise to forgo nuclear fuel production activities, a step that is called a nonproliferation “gold standard.” (See ACT, June 2020.)

A 123 agreement sets the terms and authorizes cooperation for sharing U.S. peaceful nuclear technology, equipment, and materials with other countries. A 123 agreement can include a gold standard commitment in which a cooperating country agrees to refrain from enriching uranium or reprocessing plutonium, as those activities can be used to produce weapons-grade material. By forgoing those, countries adhering to a gold standard signal their commitment to nuclear nonproliferation.

In September 2019, Energy Secretary Rick Perry reportedly sent a letter to Saudi officials stating that the United States would require Saudi Arabia to adopt an additional protocol with the IAEA and commit to the gold standard. (See ACT, October 2019.)

Kaine questioned U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Arms Control Marshall Billingslea during his July 21 hearing for the top arms control job at the State Department on whether he would maintain that requirement. The State Department leads negotiations on 123 agreements, which, once complete, require congressional approval.

“You have my commitment that I will pursue the so-called gold standard in these 123 agreements,” said Billingslea. “I believe [it] should also be pursued with the Saudis.” He did not address the additional protocol.