WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — The National Hurricane Center said Friday a system south of Cuba could form into a tropical depression this weekend.
Forecasters said the low-pressure system, currently located just west of Grand Cayman Island, is gradually becoming better defined.
At 2 p.m. Friday, the chance of forming into a tropical depression is 70 percent.
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It is slowly drifting toward the northwest and could move near western Cuba by Sunday and then across the southeastern Gulf of Mexico by early next week.
South Florida residents should monitor the progress of the disturbance, the NHC said.
Regardless of development, the system could bring more heavy rainfall to South Florida, which has experienced an already soggy week.
Coastal Palm Beach County is under the risk of excessive rainfall Sunday.
Computer models on Oct. 23. 2020, show the center of the storm moving into the Gulf of Mexico, but it could bring more heavy rain to an already saturated South Florida.
The relentless hurricane season ran out of names in September and has already had five named storms with the Greek alphabet.
This is only the second time the Greek alphabet has been used to name storms, which first occurred in 2005.
If this system reaches tropical storm strength, the name would be Zeta.
Misbah Arif*October 23, 2020
Indian anti-satellite missile, Mission Shakti. Photo Credit: DRDO
When the world is fighting with the Coronavirus, employing all their abilities to fight against the pandemic, India is still giving preference to arms buildup over health security. The Indian government issued a statement about the import of 16, 479 light machine guns worth 116 million USD from Israel. The left-wing Communist Party of India CPI-ML, Kavita Krishnan said that “Why is the government of India choosing to spend massively on a military purchase instead of prioritizing a corona relief package, medical infrastructure, free healthcare and testing for all?” However, it didn’t caught attention of the ruling party who is more focused on aggressive military buildup.
The strategic environment of the South Asian region is highly complex these days because of ongoing tensions between historical rivals. PM Modi’s policies are worrisome not only for China and Pakistan but also for other South Asian states. India is the only country in the region who is in conflict with all the other regional states. The main reason behind it is India’s hegemonic ambitions and quest for power maximization. It is obvious that the Indian defense modernization is endangering the regional peace and stability. The 2020, SIPRI yearbook highlighted Indian military spending of 71.1 billion USD and ranked it as the third largest spender for the first time in the world. Along with indigenous developments, PM Modi has been successful in concluding hi-tec defense deals with the U.S., Russia, France, Israel and others. India’s aggressive military build-up is challenging the status-quo.
The Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) has been accelerating the development and deployment of strategic weapons on a scale which is unbelievable and never seen before. The motivation behind this aggressive fast track development of strategic nuclear and conventional missile is so far vague. It could be either to deal with Pakistan and China or to showcase self-sufficiency in missile development. No matter whether they are for security or prestige, the introduction of new technologies such as Anti-satellite (ASAT), hypersonic weapons, thermonuclear weapons, etc may push the region towards further uncertainty leading to irrepressible circumstance.
In past one month India conducted 13 missile tests. It all started with the test of the Hypersonic Technology Demonstrator Vehicle (HSTDV) (7 September); test of nuclear-capable, Prithvi-II ballistic missile with a range of around 350km (23 September & 16 October); the extended range version of the supersonic cruise missile BrahMos (30 September & 18 October); laser guided anti-tank guided missile test ( 22 September & 1 October); the nuclear capable Shaurya missiles that can travel twice to thrice speed of sound (3 October); the supersonic missile assisted release of torpedo that targets submarines (5 October); New Generation Anti-Radiation Missile (NGARM) test from a Su-30MKI fighter jet (9 October); failed test of Nirbhay cruise missile (12 October). Other technology demonstrations included the trials of Supersonic Missile Assisted Release of Torpedo (SMART) weapon, which can be launched from a ship to hit stealth submarines and Standoff Anti-tank missile test .
The HSTDV capability will help India in its upcoming space projects and ICBMs. Likewise, Indian DRDO recently claimed that India can have complete hypersonic missile system in three to four days which is alarming considering the ongoing regional tensions and arms race trend. It will push other competitors to follow suit, destabilizing the strategic equilibrium.
The DRDO is expected to test K-5 submarine launched ballistic missile (SLBM) in next 15 months. This is the third SLBM India is working on. India’s K-15 is already in service with a range of around 750km. It is argued that K-15 cannot hit population and industrial centers of China during crisis, unless the submarines reaches close to the Chinese coastal line in the South China Sea, which will make it more exposed. Thus, India is working on K-4 and K-5 to deal with this restraint. The K-5 can hit the target 5000 km away, which means it can hit targets in China from the Indian Ocean.
India tested the K-4 SLBM with a range of 3500km multiple times. In January 2020, the missile was tested twice in five days. The development phase is complete and it is ready to enter production series. Furthermore, India’s second SSBN, INS Arighat, is currently undergoing trials, it is likely to enter service in the next six months
Along with strategic missiles, India is also focusing on its armored warfare capabilities as it tested indigenously developed Anti-Tank Guided Missile (ATGM) with a range of 4km. India is looking to purchase Spike anti-tank missiles from Israel. It is also aimed to purchase 100 Smart, Precise Impact, Cost-Effective (SPICE) bombs, which have a stand-off range of 60 km.
The 2020 Belfer Centre Report on the “The Strategic Postures of China and India” highlighted that Indian missile forces are located closer to Pakistan than China. Likewise, India is also developing a missile shield that could offer incentive to its decision makers for a pre-emptive first strike. Indian officials have been talking about the preemption and counter-force targeting which signals a clear deviation from its declared policies of NFU, massive retaliation and credible minimum deterrence. All these tests shows that India is determining flexible response options by having both counter-value and counter force targeting capabilities. The apparent shift in its NFU can also be attributed to the military technologies that India has acquired and developed. The advanced technologies and capabilities give confidence to India leading towards escalation dominance strategy. These development will obviously persuade the other side to take effective remedial measures to ensure the credibility of its deterrence.
Pakistan and India have some CBMs in place such as the pre-notification of missile tests and non-attack on each other’s nuclear facilities, however the recent trend shows an urgent need to have more. Both sides should start talking about non-deployment of ABM, moratorium on ASAT and hypersonic weapons. India has always been reluctant to do so because of its aggressive policies. In absence of any regional arms control arrangement, the South Asian strategic landscape will further deteriorate. With the increasing convention and non-conventional imbalance, the deterrence stability of the region will face consequences.
*Misbah Arif, Visiting Faculty at Fatima Jinnah Women University, The Mall Rawalpindi
Oct 23, 2020
Iran is now back in the market to buy and sell conventional weapons after a U.N. arms embargo imposed in 2007 over concerns about Tehran’s nuclear program expired. | WANA / VIA REUTERS
Iran secured a significant diplomatic victory earlier this month when the United Nations arms embargo, imposed in 2007 over concerns about Tehran’s nuclear program, expired. Efforts by the Trump administration to extend it in the Security Council ended in an embarrassing American failure, as did the effort to invoke the grievance mechanism within the 2015 nuclear deal.
The Islamic Republic’s beleaguered President Hassan Rouhani cited the expiration of the embargo as a major accomplishment of the nuclear agreement. At least in theory, Iran is now back in the market to buy and sell conventional weapons. Russia and China are eager to supply it with advanced jets, tanks and missiles.
This is alarming for its Gulf Arab neighbors, and especially for its primary adversaries, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. They will be tempted to enter an arms race with Iran, using their deeper pockets — and easy access to American weapons systems — to maintain their substantial technological edge over Tehran. It has been suggested that the UAE’s eagerness to acquire F-35 jets, for instance, anticipates the Iranian purchase of new planes to update its air force.
But the greatest threat to Iran’s neighbors will come, not from any big-ticket spending by Tehran, but from its acquisition of technologies that enhance the its homemade weapons. State-of-the-art targeting and guidance systems for missiles and drones can help Iran inflict more damage than planes and tanks.
If the Russians and Chinese are willing to brave American sanctions — and give a cash-strapped Tehran very generous terms — it is conceivable that the Iranians will order jets and heavy armor. The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps hasn’t been able to import advanced hardware in decades.
It may not be possible to prevent Iran from following Turkey in acquiring the Russian S-400 missile-defense system, which would be a significant upgrade from its existing S-300s. Moscow will likely argue that the S-400 is defensive, and therefore represents no threat to Iran’s neighbors. (The Russians are keen to sell it to Gulf Arab countries, as well.)
But defensive weapons such as missile-defense systems form a part of an overall integrated military structure, and as significant for offensive as defensive actions. Upgrading its capabilities in this area would greatly strengthen Iran’s strategic position. Even more alarming for the Arab states are prospects of Iran acquiring new offensive missiles and drones. Presumably, a great deal of American effort, whether diplomatic or punitive, will be directed at preventing this.
But in the medium-term, the greatest threat would come from relatively small purchases of precision-guidance technology, to greatly upgrade Iran’s domestic production. Many of Iran’s home-made missiles are based on models acquired from North Korea; these have been significantly altered and, in some cases, improved by Iranian engineers. Iran has also developed substantial drone-making capabilities.
Its enemies have already experienced the potency of these missiles and drones, whether executed by the IRGC or its proxy militias in the Middle East. The most dramatic demonstration came in the missile-and-drone swarm attack against Saudi oil installations last year. Now imagine how much more mayhem might be unleashed if those firing off the missiles and drones had better guidance and targeting technology.
In all of this, the first line of defense for the Gulf Arab states will be the U.S. Treasury’s secondary sanctions on companies, and possibly even countries, engaging in major weapons deals with Tehran. But Iran’s neighbors will also want to be forearmed against the new threats.
While the question of F-35 sales to the UAE has made the headlines recently, the real game-changer in the current proposed package from Washington is the EA-18G Growler, which comes with the latest electronic-warfare technology, including jamming pods and communication countermeasures. This is the kind of weapon Arab states will hope to deploy against more sophisticated Iranian attacks.
But the best way for the Saudis and Emiratis to respond to an Iran armed with more potent conventional weapons to work with the U.S. to create an effective secondary sanctions regime: The Treasury Department will do the heavy lifting, but they can help by refusing to cooperate with entities and individuals that go too far in arming their enemy. They should press China, Russia and former Soviet against providing Tehran with greatly expanded conventional firepower.
The would also be wise to find a way to end their quarrel with Qatar and present a more unified Gulf Arab front. If they’re willing to be more ambitious, they should create a collective Gulf Arab missile-defense system. And, of course, the whole point of a robust military stance is to facilitate effective diplomacy with adversaries.
All of this can be achieved without an indiscriminate, wasteful arms race.
Hussein Ibish is a senior resident scholar at the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington.
The Pentagon’s cost estimate for a new fleet of nuclear missiles to replace the Minuteman 3 arsenal has been raised to $95.8 billion — an increase of about $10 billion dollars from 2016 estimates, The Associated Press reported Monday.
The new fleet is composed of weapons known as intercontinental ballistic missiles, or ICBMs, that are part of a plan to replace the majority of the American nuclear force over the next several decades. The project will cost a total of more than $1.2 trillion.
While some critics of the plan’s cost, including former Defense Secretary William J. Perry, say United States national security can be secured without ICBMs, the Pentagon believes they are crucial to preventing war.
After reviewing nuclear policy in 2018, the Trump administration echoed the Pentagon’s views and solidified its commitment to developing a new ICBM generation.
“The ICBM force is highly survivable against any but a large-scale nuclear attack,” the review stated according to The Associated Press. “To destroy U.S. ICBMs on the ground, an adversary would need to launch a precisely coordinated attack with hundreds of high-yield and accurate warheads. This is an insurmountable challenge for any potential adversary today, with the exception of Russia.”
Four hundred Minuteman missiles based in underground silos in Montana, North Dakota, Wyoming, and Nebraska make up the current fleet. Each missile is armed with one nuclear warhead.
The number of nuclear warheads is partly managed by the New START treaty with Russia. Set to expire in February, the Trump administration has set new conditions that must be met in order to extend the treaty, but Moscow has yet to accept the new terms.
The United States is also in the process of building a new taskforce of ballistic missile submarines. The new fleet would replace the current Ohio-class strategic submarines. Additionally, the Pentagon is building a new “long-range nuclear-capable bomber” and a “next-generation air-launched nuclear cruise missile,” The Associated Press reported.
Updated warheads are also underway, including a roughly $14.8 billion ICBM warhead replacement.
President Trump has continued the nuclear modernization program that was launched under the previous administration, but Democrat presidential candidate Joe Biden has said he would look for ways to scale back the program if he is elected in November.
This post was last modified on October 23, 2020 5:58 am
It was Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei who last week directly ordered Iraqi armed factions to halt their attacks on US interests after taking advice from the UK, Middle East Eye (MEE) said in an exclusive report on October 22.
Shia armed factions and politicians were cited as saying Khamenei’s orders were “explicit” and demanded the paramilitaries “immediately” cease their attacks.
The US embassy in Baghdad, military bases hosting the US-led coalition forces in Iraq and logistical support convoys were subjected to near daily attacks with Katyusha rockets, explosives and sometimes direct fire over the past three months. In response, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo threatened to close Washington’s embassy in Baghdad unless the attackers were brought to heel. MEE said Iraqi officials informed it that Pompeo also pledged to strike dozens of targets, including secret headquarters and sites belonging to armed factions and Iranian-backed politicians.
Iraqi officials were quoted as saying the US administration was afraid that armed groups linked to Iran would attack the Baghdad embassy to embarrass US President Donald Trump ahead of the November 3 American presidential election.
MEE said it had determined that it was the UK that gave Iran “very important advice”, namely, in the words of a cited politician, “to avoid provoking Trump at this stage as he is serious about his threats and because he is desperate and will not hesitate to do a reckless act that will cost everyone dearly”.
Much on minds in Iran right is how Tehran would respond to Joe Biden’s proposals for bringing the US back into the nuclear deal abandoned by Trump in 2018 should Biden win the White House.
Iran’s reformists and centrists remain badly damaged by the failure of the original agreement, signed by centrist, pragmatic President Hassan Rouhani, to deliver economic benefits to ordinary Iranians. The hardliners were always against signing up to the deal, saying the US could never be trusted.
In a recent interview in Kar Va Kargar, Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, insisted the foreign ministry had not been naive to negotiate with the Americans, but said Trump had “blown up the entire negotiating room”.
Rouhani is due to leave office after Iran’s presidential election in early 2021. As reported by the Guardian on October 22, Iran’s weakened government may only have a few months to negotiate a revived nuclear deal before facing its own electoral challenge by hardliners who oppose any engagement with the West.
Biden has pledged that “if Iran returns to strict compliance with the nuclear deal, the US would rejoin the agreement as a starting point for follow-on negotiations”. But even if he does win the US presidency, Biden would not take office until January 20, leaving only a narrow window for reformists to convince Iranians that the path of engagement is worth trying again.
Iran, meanwhile, would be likely to demand compensation for the massive economic losses caused to it by Trump walking out of the nuclear deal and imposing crushing sanctions.
Extremists want Rouhani impeachment
Al-Monitor reported on October 20 that extremists among the opponents of Rouhani are calling for his impeachment and even execution after he suggested rapprochement with the US could happen.
“Mr. Rouhani! Today, the absolute majority of the Iranian public demands nothing less than your dismissal and punishment,” the publication reported Mojtaba Zolnouri, a hardline lawmaker from the Paydari camp as tweeting. Paydari is shaped by the staunchest Rouhani critics known for their intolerance toward engagement with the West. Zolnouri, who also chairs the Iranian parliament’s influential National Security and Foreign Policy Commission, went further: “The supreme leader should issue a ruling on hanging you a thousand times.”
Palestinian sources said Israeli military hit two agricultural areas in Khan Younis and Deir al-Balah.
Flames are seen following an Israeli air attack in the town of Deir al-Balah in the central Gaza Strip [Said Khatib/AFP]
Israeli warplanes have carried out an air raid targeting Hamas positions in the besieged Gaza Strip, according to the Israeli army.
Israeli army spokesman Avichay Adraee said on Twitter that the raids late on Tuesday hit a purported tunnel belonging to the Palestinian group Hamas, adding that the attack had been carried out in response to rocket fire from Gaza.
However, Palestinian witnesses on the ground said two agricultural areas in Khan Younis and Deir al-Balah were hit by three missiles.
Earlier, the Israeli army said a rocket fired from the Khan Younis area had been “intercepted by the Iron Dome” aerial defence system, without indicating if it had caused any casualties or damage.
No group has claimed responsibility for the rocket, nor has any comment been made about it by Palestinian authorities.
No information on casualties from either attack has been reported so far.
Several hours before the rocket was fired from Khan Younis on Tuesday, the Israeli army announced it had found a tunnel that crossed “dozens of metres into Israel from Gaza”.
Israeli army spokesman Jonathan Conricus said Israel did not know who had dug the tunnel, but said it held Hamas responsible for all activity in the Palestinian enclave.
Palestinians have used underground tunnels to smuggle all manner of commercial goods into Gaza.
The impoverished and densely populated Gaza Strip has been under a crippling Israeli blockade since 2007, after Hamas took over the coastal enclave.
Hamas and Israel reached an agreement at the end of September to cease hostilities, although attacks continued.
Israel has launched three offensives against the Gaza Strip since 2008, and there have been numerous flare-ups.