January 20, 2010New York City isn’t immune to earthquakes; a couple of small tremors measuring about 2.5 on the Richter scale even struck back in 2001 and 2002.But on August 10, 1884, a more powerful earthquake hit. Estimated from 4.9 to 5.5 in magnitude, the tremor made houses shake, chimneys fall, and residents wonder what the heck was going on, according to a New York Timesarticle two days later.The quake was subsequently thought to have been centered off Far Rockaway or Coney Island.It wasn’t the first moderate quake, and it won’t be the last. In a 2008 Columbia University study, seismologists reported that the city is crisscrossed with several fault lines, one along 125th Street. With that in mind, New Yorkers should expect a 5.0 or higher earthquake centered here every 100 years, the seismologists say.Translation: We’re about 30 years overdue. Lucky for us the city adopted earthquake-resistant building codes in 1995.1884 A Forewarning Of The Sixth Seal (Revelation 6:12)
GAZA CITY, Palestine
Israeli warplanes carried out airstrikes against a position of the Palestinian resistance group Hamas in the Gaza Strip late Tuesday, according to the Israeli army.
The airstrikes hit a tunnel allegedly belonging to Hamas, Israeli army spokesman Avichay Adraee said on Twitter.
The attack was carried out in retaliation for rocket fire from Gaza, Adraee added.
According to eyewitnesses, agricultural land east of Deir al-Balah city in central Gaza was targeted with at least three missiles.
No information on casualties has been reported so far.
Anadolu Agency website contains only a portion of the news stories offered to subscribers in the AA News Broadcasting System (HAS), and in summarized form. Please contact us for subscription options.
Photograph Source: United States Department of Energy – Public Domain
On websites where policy makers, scholars, and military leaders gather, concern about the possibility of nuclear war has been rising sharply in recent months as China, the United States, and Russia develop new weapons and new ways of using old ones.
On War on the Rocks, an online platform for national security articles and podcasts, Tong Zhao, a senior fellow at the Carnegie-Tsinghua Center for Global Policy, reported August 11 on public calls in China “to quickly and massively build up its nuclear forces” on the theory that only a “more robust nuclear posture” would prevent war with the United States.
The biggest nuclear arms budget ever is nearing approval in the US Congress, and the Trump administration has raised the possibility of resuming nuclear tests. President Trump has pulled the United States out of the1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty with Russia, while the New Start Treaty capping Russian and U.S. nuclear warheads and delivery systems is set to expire next February if the two countries don’t agree to extend it.
For its part, Russia appears poised to equip its navy with hypersonic nuclear strike weapons, and according to the British newspaper The Independent, “The Russian premier has repeatedly spoken of his wish to develop a new generation of nuclear weapons that can be targeted anywhere on the planet.”
Meanwhile, momentum to stop the proliferation of nuclear weapons has faltered. Nine nations now hold nuclear arms in an increasingly unsettled international scene. Recent research has shown that a nuclear exchange between just two of those with lesser arsenals—India and Pakistan— “could directly kill about 2.5 times as many as died worldwide in WWII, and in this nuclear war, the fatalities could occur in a single week.” Burning cities would throw so much soot into the upper atmosphere that temperatures and precipitation levels would fall across much of the earth—bringing widespread drought, famine, and death.
Clashes between India, Pakistan, and other nuclear armed states have become frequent enough that the International Red Cross marked the 75th anniversary of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki with a warning: “[T]he risk of use of nuclear weapons has risen to levels not seen since the end of the Cold War.”
For 75 years, the nuclear Sword of Damocles has dangled over the earth. There is widespread agreement among analysts that the long lull may soon be over—due in part, to the end of the Cold War. During those decades, the United States and the USSR cooperated not only to avoid bombing each other into oblivion but also to discourage other nations from gaining their own nuclear arms, in part by spreading their nuclear umbrellas over their allies.
That international system has dissolved. In addition to the United States, Russia, and China, other nations have nuclear weapons and more are likely to acquire them. And a new possibility has appeared on the horizon: the increased likelihood that nuclear weapons could be introduced into conventional warfare in regional wars.
In a monograph published by Lawrence Livermore Laboratory, US defense policy and strategy analyst John K. Warden writes that “in the capitals of potential adversary countries,” the idea is taking hold “that nuclear wars can be won because they can be kept limited, and thus can be fought—even against the United States.”
What can the United States do to convince adversaries not to introduce nuclear weapons into a conventional war—to make clear, in advance, that taking such a step would lead to fatal consequences for the country that took it?
The answer from the US national security establishment, as the fiscal 2021 defense budget suggests, is a readiness to fight fire with fire: If the “adversaries” of the United States hold out the threat of introducing nuclear weapons in a conventional war, then (the argument goes) they should expect that the United States will respond in kind.
How many weapons and delivery systems would that require? A lot, according to the nuclear budget for the Departments of Defense and Energy now going through Congress. At a time when Covid-19 has shaken the foundations of the federal budget, Congress is close to approving $44.5 billion for fiscal 2121 to modernize nuclear warheads, delivery systems, and the infrastructure that supports them.
Sierra Club Nuclear Policy Director John Coequyt has called on Congress “to resist the current renewal of the nuclear arms race and to ban the use of nuclear weapons,” and Sierra Club members have mobilized to try to stop funding for nuclear war projects in their neighborhoods.
In South Carolina, for instance, Tom Clements, Sierra Club member and director of Savannah River Site Watch, has joined other groups in challenging plans for expanded plutonium pit production at the Savannah River Site. And the Ohio Sierra Club’s Nuclear Free Committee has opposed production at the Portsmouth Nuclear Site in Piketon of “high-assay low-enriched uranium” that could be upgraded for weapons use, in the United States or elsewhere.
While such efforts often focus on local effects of nuclear weapons production, they also manifest a larger concern. Says the Club’s Nuclear Free Core Team’s Mark Muhich, the renewed nuclear arms race is “an existential threat both to human civilization and to the earth.”
This article originally appeared on the Sierra magazine website.
Nuclear imperialism in China’s Xinjiang
19 October 2020
A third of the PRCs uranium for nuclear energy comes from extortion in the Yili basin of Xinjiang. This is also home to a great population of Uighurs.
Today, China has one of the world’s largest nuclear energy development programmes. During the Cold War era, there did not exist a political or economic motivator for commercialising nuclear energy as coal-fired power stations and hydroelectric energy dominated the system. However, after 2005, China has been able to reinvent this narrative. Notably, what this resurrected was a reassertion of spaces of injustice for their minorities. Their lands were first grounds for nuclear weapons’ testing and now used for energy rather than warfare purposes, thus continuing a historical subjugation to nuclear imperialism. This nuclear imperialism situates itself within an already prevalent cyclic violence against China’s far western frontier region of Xinjiang’s ethnic minorities, the predominantly Muslim Uighurs, ever since the establishment of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in 1949.
Given the inherent differentiation between the Uighurs and the Chinese dominant ethnicity, the Hans, the former’s identity was always up for scrutiny. The government came down particularly hard on the Uighurs after the events of 9/11 initiated the Global War on Terror (GWOT), as well as the Ürümqi riots on 5 July 2009 which saw clashes between protesting Uighurs, Han people, and China’s People’s Armed Police, leaving nearly 200 people dead in Xinjiang. The Chinese government has attributed security concerns with the certain ‘terrorist’ acts committed by a handful of them. Taking what some might perceive as an opportunist stand, China was able to claim being victim to global terrorism, to justify crackdown on the minority group. What this terrorist narrative in turn ushered in was a transnational territory of uncontrolled spaces where ‘dangerous populations’ need not be afforded legal protections and therefore be made to quarantine; containing their actions that often correspond to security threats. The antagonism was not restricted to the few Uighurs rioters. Instead the entire Uighur community as a single biological group was treated as the Homo Sacer.  These instances prove showcasing evidence of necropolitical  rule over Uighurs by the PRC, in the face of Hui or Han for instance.
Taking what some might perceive as an opportunist stand, China was able to claim being victim to global terrorism, to justify crackdown on the minority group.
China’s approach towards the Uighurs has witnessed many stages of crackdown, from a programme trying to integrate them into a Han-dominated society while cracking down on dissent, movement, practices of culture and religion, now to a virtual quarantine of the entire ethnic group by using eugenics to dilute their existence — de-Uighurise Xinjiang. The systematic discrimination of the Uighur feeds into a larger understanding of necro-politics of Uighur lives having become too consequential juxtaposed with a system which is ready to dispense with this minority population. The emphasis here is on China’s first nuclear weapons test in Lop Nor, and the legacy it has translated onto the present day context through states sponsored uranium mining in the Yili Basin, underscoring a new kind of imperialism.
Nuclear weapon testing began in the mid-1960s. Soon a kind of nuclear imperialism started to take root in the existing Han colonisation of Uighur spaces. The latter revolved around a combination of contestation over the sovereignty of the Uighur homeland and the resource-rich soils they inhabited. The aftermath of the Sino-Soviet split meant a collapse in PRCs nuclear relationship with China which acted as a driver for hastening and furthering their ambitious nuclear programmes. The PRC became the fifth nation to develop nuclear weapons during the Cold War. They formally established the 10,000 km sq. Lop Nor Nuclear Test base in 1956. It still stands as the largest site of its kind in the world.
Nuclear weapon testing began in the mid-1960s. Soon a kind of nuclear imperialism started to take root in the existing Han colonisation of Uighur spaces.
Mao Zeadong’s death in 1976 marked the end of the cultural revolution and brought in the economic liberalisation markets. Notably, the Nor test facility sustained through this transition. And the repercussions of this on the region’s Uighur population were detrimental. Environmental degradation, health-related problems, restrictions on their traditional ways are surface examples of the many hardships were made to endure. Professor Jun Takada conducted a study explaining how peak levels of radioactivity from large yield tests might have had prolonged consequences in the biological makeup of the generations to come observing congenital defects and cancer incidents in some. The cancer incidents in the region were approximately 35% higher than the rest of the state. Uighur traditional medicine could not cope with these cases. In short, a biopolitical regime protected the state from liability, meanwhile for the Uighurs, contestation around state assurance and health risks posed a blurring in the causation between sickness and exposition. The Uighurs who were affected by the Lop Nor test therefore have been given no compensation or recognition from the state. Many Hans on the other hand were given assurance from the state especially in terms of healthcare on various occasions. This only furthered the resentment and tension between the Hans and the Uighurs of Xinjiang in the years to come.
Following this, peaceful protests sprung up. In November 1985, protests led by students in Beijing against nuclear weapon tests were met with brute state coercion. In 1993, Uighurs gathered at Log Nor and demanded the ban of nuclear testing but were interrupted by PLA forces, some protestors were shot in the process. The Tigers of Lop Nor were an organisation that even managed to send tanks inside nuclear spaces and blew up planes in protest. Moreover, enveloped in this environment, the Uighur identity that already clashed with Han nationalism was simply made starker; the anti-nuclear movement began to echo separatist tendencies.
A biopolitical regime protected the state from liability, meanwhile for the Uighurs, contestation around state assurance and health risks posed a blurring in the causation between sickness and exposition.
Today, a third of the PRCs uranium for nuclear energy comes from extortion in the Yili basin of Xinjiang. This is also home to a great population of Uighurs. The PRC has placed a moratorium on the manufacturing of fissile material for deterrence purposes, transforming Xinjiang into the primary hub for the nuclear energy industry. The NINT continues to partake in nuclear research, to the north of the Lop Nor test site. There is no state system in place to ensure the safety of those dwelling the Yili. What this reflects is a revival of a past narrative of nuclear imperialism as uranium energy extraction seems to have overtaken nuclear testing. There appears to be no incentive from the ends of the government; a lacking in enforceable nuclear legislations and regional systems of monitoring and regulating nuclear activity.
In 2003, there was a law in place by China for the prevention and control of radioactive pollution coming from the development of Uranium mines. This meant that state council environmental units were delegated the responsibility to inspect this practice. However the “units” were held accountable over legitimate entities which guaranteed that any accident would have the blame falling upon a set of individuals rather than a full-fledged organisation. This left little motivation for organisations such as CNN to foresee protection of the workers. In fact, it is only when dealing with a large batch where occasional checks are made and endorsed by international agreements.
There appears to be no incentive from the ends of the government; a lacking in enforceable nuclear legislations and regional systems of monitoring and regulating nuclear activity. Image © Kevin Frayer/Getty
The PRC moved towards a stronger development of uranium after 2008. China now possesses over 44 nuclear reactors in operation and 18 others under construction and is striving towards ensuring that 1/5th of their energy comes from their power plants by 2030. Activism from the minorities in the region is often counted by officials as acts of Islamism or cultural protests rather than a legacy of activities against the nuclear industry which is another layer of discrimination that has been recognised by the Uighurs. More anti-nuclear activism seems to be entering the eastern provinces of Shandong, Jiangsu, and Guangdong as a result of general community concerns against an unprotected nuclear policy. Online petitions and active media are slowly entering the scene to influence and mobilise public opinion. However, it is only perhaps a matter of time before the PRC silences them too.
Activism from the minorities in the region is often counted by officials as acts of Islamism or cultural protests rather than a legacy of activities against the nuclear industry.
Censorship is often used to subdue this kind of opposition online. What is worse is that the Uighurs of Xinjiang lack the agency to voice their grievances while practitioners in the east who are often familiar with the political systems and often well-educated are able to make negotiations with the state in terms of the relocation of nuclear power plants. Moreover, this relocation continues to happen at the expense of those lives perceived as less influential and whom the state already actively curtailing. Protected Han communities show little concern over the successor communities who not only receive the plant in their stead but also remain oblivious to the entangled intranational network whereby novel nuclear energy in the East is fueled by uranium extraction and milling in the West of the PRC.
Xinjiang, therefore, occupies the status of the core nuclear hub of the PRC who still perpetuates measures to curb challenges surrounding their Uighur minority in a bid to wipe them off completely both culturally and politically, and showcase a biopolitics of hatred and cultural genocide. Without enough mounting pressure and deft interception from the International realm, Xinjiang remains a necropolitical space where the “.. the lines between resistance and suicide, sacrifice and redemption, martyrdom and freedom are blurred.”
 Categories of minority may be described as Homo Sacre (“sacred” or “accursed” man), within a modern environment of biologically excluding those deemed unproductive or dangerous in modern conflicts.
 Necropolitics describes the utilisation of socio-political power to determine how some people may live and how some must die.
Tara Rao is a research intern at ORF.
The views expressed above belong to the author(s).
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Moscow(CNN) — Russia said it is willing to agree to freeze its nuclear arsenals in order to extend key arms reduction treaty New START if the US does not pose any other requirements, the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement Tuesday.
“Russia proposes to extend the New START Treaty by one year and is ready, together with the United States, to make a political commitment to ‘freeze’ the number of nuclear warheads held by the parties for this period,” the statement said.
“This can be implemented strictly and exclusively if there is understanding that the ‘freezing’ of warheads will not be accompanied by any additional demands from the United States,” it said, in reference to the US’ rejection of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s offer last week to extend the deal for a year without any preconditions.
On Tuesday, US State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus said: “We appreciate the Russian Federation’s willingness to make progress on the issue of nuclear arms control.”
“The United States is prepared to meet immediately to finalize a verifiable agreement. We expect Russia to empower its diplomats to do the same,” Ortagus added in a statement.
The landmark New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, set to expire on February 5, is the last treaty between the US and Russia placing limits on the growth of the world’s two largest nuclear arsenals since the US formally withdrew from the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces treaty in August 2019.
The US has previously offered Russia an option to sign a presidential memorandum that would serve as a blueprint for the next comprehensive deal and that would address points of concern for the US, including China’s nuclear potential and Russia’s tactical nuclear weapons. China refused to partake in any discussions.
In August, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that Russia respected that stance and that he refused to “persuade” China to sit down at the negotiation table. Russia has now also rejected a number of US proposals to get it to agree to a series of additional commitments in order to renew the deal.
An election-timed agreement?
US President Donald Trump has been urging his national security team to secure a nuclear deal with Russia before the November election, sources familiar with the efforts told CNN.
Trump’s arms control envoy Marshall Billingslea previously told Russian newspaper Kommersant that if Russia doesn’t agree to the deal before the election, the “entrance fee will rise,” suggesting that the US would demand additional requirements to keep the deal alive or move forward without any treaty at all.
Initially, Russia dismissed the idea to make any concessions to fit that time frame.
Last week, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Rybakov said that Russia will not make any agreement with the US on strategic offensive arms “timed to coincide with their elections.”
“If the Americans need to report to their superiors about something they’ve allegedly reached an agreement on with the Russian Federation before their elections, then they will not get it,” he said.
Trump’s need to gossip about nukes provokes anxiety
Earlier this month, Putin indicated that he would be willing to work with Former Vice President Joe Biden on extending the deal if he won the presidential election, saying that he sees strategic treaties as “one of the potential points for cooperation.”
“Candidate Biden has publicly said that he is ready to extend New START or to conclude a new treaty on the limitation of strategic offensive arms,” Putin said on October 7. “And this is already a very serious element of our possible cooperation in the future.”
On Friday, in a meeting with his advisers, Putin had proposed to extend the nuclear arms reduction treaty for a year without preconditions.
That proposal was swiftly rejected by the US with White House national security adviser Robert O’Brien calling the offer a “non-starter.”
“President Putin’s response to extend New START without freezing nuclear warheads is a non-starter,” he said.
He threatened a “costly” arms race if Russia did not come back to the table with a better proposal: “The United States is serious about arms control that will keep the entire world safe. We hope that Russia will reevaluate its position before a costly arms race ensues.”
The top US negotiator Billingslea suggested in a tweet later Friday that talks between the two countries were over.
“The United States made every effort. It is disappointing that the Russian Federation backtracked on an agreement covering all nuclear warheads for the first time. This would have been an historic deal, good for the U.S., Russia, and the world,” he wrote.
CNN’s Kara Fox and Jennifer Hansler contributed to this report.
Epsilon, which threatens Bermuda, puts 2020 one storm away from tying 2005 record.
Tropical Storm Epsilon on Monday morning. (RAMMB/CIRA)
October 19, 2020 at 11:58 AM EDT
Tropical Storm Epsilon formed Monday in the open Atlantic Ocean, a little more than 735 miles southeast of Bermuda. With maximum sustained winds of 40 mph, it is the 26th named storm of the extraordinarily busy 2020 Atlantic hurricane season, and puts us one tropical storm away from tying 2005′s record.
The storm is forecast to intensify, attaining hurricane status before making a run toward Bermuda later in the week. The only other Epsilon to form, in 2005, didn’t do so until Nov. 29 that year, putting us more than five weeks ahead of that record pace.
Seven infamous October hurricanes that struck the U.S. and Central America
The current track forecast favors a glancing blow to Bermuda rather than a direct hit, but that could change. Bermuda has already had a number of tropical scares this year, including from Paulette, a Category 1 hurricane that made landfall with 90-mph maximum sustained winds on Sept. 14.
A satellite scatterometer pass early Monday morning revealed the winds in the developing system, then dubbed Invest 94L, that would later be designated Tropical Storm Epsilon. (NOAA)
While Epsilon was a minimal tropical storm at midday Monday, gradual strengthening is likely over the next several days, and Epsilon is likely to become a hurricane by Thursday, the National Hurricane Center said. It is forecast to pass near or just to the east of Bermuda on Friday and Saturday.
A close pass would mean probable tropical storm conditions for the British territory of nearly 65,000, with winds exceeding 40 mph and heavy rains. A closer shave could bring the ring of Epsilon’s stronger winds closer, with the potential for hurricane-force winds of 74 mph and above.
After departing from near Bermuda and pulling north, Epsilon may never really weaken as a tropical system. Instead, Epsilon will begin to transition into a different type of storm, acquiring the characteristics of a nor’easter-like mid-latitude low-pressure system. In fact, energy from the jet stream may even briefly intensify the storm as its wind field expands in size.
Looking ahead, hurricane season may take a breather, but it won’t be fully over even after Epsilon. While a less-favorable atmosphere and cooling waters increasingly hinder tropical storms as autumn progresses, there are other factors that could encourage storm development — like the arrival of broad-scale rising motion that will overspread the western Atlantic in the coming weeks.
That will make it easier for any systems that do form to develop and intensify.
Epsilon is the fifth letter in the Greek alphabet. Its use comes after that of Alpha, a subtropical storm that hit Portugal; Beta, which drenched Texas; Gamma, which dumped heavy rains over the Yucatán Peninsula before falling apart over the Bay of Campeche; and Delta, which also struck both the Yucatán region of Mexico and southwest Louisiana as a Category 2 hurricane.
Only one other year has necessitated dipping into the Greek alphabet. That was 2005, the same season that featured Hurricanes Rita, Wilma and Katrina. That year made it six names into the Greek list, concluding with Zeta.
Since the hurricane season doesn’t officially wrap until Nov. 30, there is plenty of room for more this year. So get ready for Eta, and Theta, and possibly even Iota.
Recently, meteorologists have been monitoring a zone of disturbed weather that could take shape in the western Caribbean. Weather models, originally bullish on its eventual development and maturation, have since peddled back in their simulations of the instigating feature. The National Hurricane Center estimates a 20 percent chance of development.
In the unlikely event a system forms, it would likely track northeast, potentially passing over Cuba and portions of the Bahamas and perhaps eventually close to the U.S.
Matthew Cappucci is a meteorologist for Capital Weather Gang. He earned a B.A. in atmospheric sciences from Harvard University in 2019, and has contributed to The Washington Post since he was 18. He is an avid storm chaser and adventurer, and covers all types of weather, climate science, and astronomy. Follow
© 1996-2020 The Washington Post
Edward CarneyOctober 19, 2020
Sunday marks the formal expiration of a UN arms embargo on the Islamic Republic of Iran, but it still remains to be seen whether the relevant restrictions will actually be lifted in practice.
The United States had vigorously campaigned for an extension of the embargo, albeit with limited success. A Security Council vote in September garnered support for the U.S. proposal from only one of the council’s rotating members: the Dominican Republic. And even if other U.S. allies had joined in voting for the extension, they would have certainly been vetoed by Russia and China, two of the body’s five permanent members and two of the nations most likely to participate in an emerging Iranian arms trade.
Tehran’s Illusions over Lifting Arms Embargo
The prospect of exchanges with these eastern powers was eagerly highlighted by the Iranian government in advance of Sunday’s deadline. In a weekly press briefing on Monday, Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh declared that October 18 would be “the day of U.S. defeat.” And in a subsequent interview with Newsweek, the spokesperson for the Iranian mission to the UN argued that the ostensible failure of U.S. efforts was a sign of growing American isolation in the face of a strategy that was meant to isolate Iran.
“It is abundantly clear that the UN – and the overwhelming majority of its member states – reject the U.S.’s so-called maximum pressure policy on Iran,” said Alireza Miryousefi. But be that as it may, there is little expectation that those same countries will actively stand against American efforts to maintain such pressure via measures that include the arms embargo.
After the failure of its proposal to the Security Council, the White House quickly put a back-up plan into action, invoking the “snapback” provision of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal in order to declare the re-imposition of all UN sanctions that had been suspended under that deal.
This plan was similarly rejected by fellow signatories of the agreement formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. In their view, the U.S. waived its right to invoke the provision when President Donald Trump pulled out of the agreement in May 2018. But even though this can be expected to prevent the embargo and related sanctions from going back onto the books, it may ultimately be sufficient for the U.S. to simply act as if they have done so.
The Ayatollahs Count on Europeans as Their Savior
French, and German, and to a lesser extent British opposition to the American strategy is a matter of public record. But their formal rejection of the embargo extension does not presuppose that they will actually take steps to prevent the U.S. from trying to enforce it. In fact, there is a clear precedent for them to not do so. And this extends to much of the international community.
As the U.S. re-imposed and then expanded its unilateral sanctions following its JCPOA withdrawal, it was regularly reported that countries with trade ties to both the U.S. and Iran were reducing or entirely severing their ties to the latter, rather than risking U.S. enforcement actions or loss of access to much more valuable American markets.
The same pattern may very well repeat in the context of the arms embargo and other UN sanctions, with various governments formally denying those sanctions’ legitimacy but effectively upholding them anyway.
Nonetheless, the Iranian government continued to present a confident and even boastful tone in the final days before the embargo’s technical expiration date. Toward that end, officials hinted that some prospective weapons vendors would be eager to take advantage of that expiration either because they intend to expressly defy U.S. enforcement or because they believe themselves capable of engaging in trade with the Islamic Republic without putting other forms of global commerce at risk.
“Iran has many friends and trading partners,” said Miryousefi in his further remarks to Newsweek. And according to him, at least some of those partners are eager to contribute to Iran’s “robust domestic arms industry” and “ensure its defense requirements against foreign aggression.”
This claim was arguably lent some additional credence earlier in the month when the Russian ambassador to Iran publicly mulled over the notion of selling an advanced S-400 surface-to-air missile system to the Islamic Republic.
This, Levan Jagarian determined, would be “no problem” for Moscow. And those remarks recall attention to the fact that Russian authorities had previously demonstrated their eagerness to participate in an Iranian arms trade by selling the marginally less advanced S-300 missile system.
Controversy over that sale erupted even before nuclear negotiations concluded with the signing of the JCPOA in 2015. The mere promise of that deal was initially viewed by Russia as reason enough to move forward with the sale, which had been arranged years earlier but then put on pause by the multilateral sanctions targeting Tehran’s nuclear program.
However, it also bears mentioning that when fellow participants in the nuclear negotiations protested, the sale remained delayed for several more months, with installation of the new missile defense system concluding only in 2017. This all goes to show that Russia certainly takes a favorable view of engaging in arms sales with the Islamic Republic but is not insensitive to Western pressures aimed at mitigating or halting those sales.
Some expert commentary on the present situation even suggests that Moscow’s sensitivity has increased since 2017, as the country has grown more cash-strapped while also concluding outstanding deals with Iran which had been put on pause during times when UN sanctions were still in full effect. Under those circumstances, Russia may be less open to the sort of barter agreements that are often used in sanctions-evasion schemes to avoid interaction with the American financial system.
And even if U.S. sanctions enforcement were not a concern, serious questions would remain about Iran’s ability to pay for Russian arms, considering that a longstanding Iranian financial crisis has been made exponentially worse by the Trump administration’s maximum pressure campaign.
On the other hand, Iran has variously sought to downplay the effectiveness of that campaign, by portraying itself as finding new sources of revenue that are independent of American markets.
Tehran Looks for Iraqis’ Aids
In one recent example, the head of Iran’s Central Bank declared that a pending agreement would unlock Iranian funds from Iraqi banks, where they had been frozen at the behest of Washington. Abdolnasser Hemmati also stated that this agreement had been accompanied by “extensive talks on trade relations between Iran and Iraq, implying not only resistance to U.S. sanctions but also growing Iranian influence in a sphere where the U.S. is also present.
This is significant in part because it hints at some of the ways in which Iran’s access to advanced weaponry might be put to use if the US fails to keep the UN embargo in place. One of the Trump administration’s key arguments in favor of an extension was that if Iran’s arsenal grew, some of the weapons would inevitably end up in the hands of regional terrorist groups. That claim is arguably strengthened by the fact that there have been approximately 90 rocket attacks against U.S. assets by Iraqi militant groups, just since January.
Those largely Iran-backed groups recently announced their willingness to adopt a ceasefire, but only on the condition that the United States outlines a timetable for its full withdrawal from Iraq.
Currently, there is approximately 5,200 American personnel in the country, but plans are already in place for this number to go down to 3,000. What’s more, the White House responded to the recent spate of rocket attacks by threatening to close down the US embassy in Baghdad – a move that critics say would effectively cede Iraq to Iranian influence.
On Wednesday, one of the militias’ representatives in the Iraqi government, Ahmed al-Assadi, reiterated their demands and emphasized that any ceasefire arrangement would only be short-term. “In my estimation, at its earliest, it could end around the U.S. elections, or it could last until the end of the year,” he said. “A truce lasting longer than the end of the year doesn’t make much sense. We’re only giving the government more time to negotiate the withdrawal.”
Such commentary seems to imply similar expectations – or at least similar public positions – by the Iranian government and its militant proxies. The seemingly confident insistence upon American withdrawal reflects the same hardline rhetoric as Iran’s Foreign Ministry displayed in predicting that the expiration of the UN arms embargo would mark “the day of U.S. defeat” in the Middle East.