By Ann Marie BarronUpdated May 16, 4:31 AM; Posted May 16, 4:00 AMRubble litters Main Street after an earthquake struck Sunday, Aug. 24, 2014, in Napa, Calif. A report by the U.S. Geological Survey outlines the differences between the effect of an earthquake in the West vs. one in the East. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. – While scientists say it’s impossible to predict when or if an earthquake will occur in New York City, they say that smaller structures — like Staten Island’s bounty of single-family homes — will suffer more than skyscrapers if it does happen.„Earthquakes in the East tend to cause higher-frequency shaking — faster back-and-forth motion — compared to similar events in the West,“ according to a report by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), published on its website recently „Shorter structures are more susceptible to damage during fast shaking, whereas taller structures are more susceptible during slow shaking.“DIFFERENCES IN INTENSITYThe report, „East vs West Coast Earthquakes,“ explains how USGS scientists are researching factors that influence regional differences in the intensity and effects of earthquakes, and notes that earthquakes in the East are often felt at more than twice the distance of earthquakes in the West.Predicting when they will occur is more difficult, said Thomas Pratt, a research geophysicist and the central and Eastern U.S. coordinator for the USGS Earthquake Hazards Program in Reston, Va.„One of the problems in the East Coast is that we don’t have a history to study,“ he said. „In order to get an idea, we have to have had several cycles of these things. The way we know about them in California is we dig around in the mud and we see evidence of past earthquakes.“Yet Pratt wouldn’t rule out the possibility of a high-magnitude event taking place in New York, which sits in the middle the North American Tectonic Plate, considered by experts to be quite stable.„We never know,“ he said. „One could come tomorrow. On the other hand, it could be another 300 years. We don’t understand why earthquakes happen (here) at all.“Though the city’s last observable earthquake occurred on Oct. 27, 2001, and caused no real damage, New York has been hit by two Magnitude 5 earthquakes in its history – in 1738 and in 1884 — prompting many to say it is „due“ for another.While earthquakes generally have to be Magnitude 6 or higher to be considered „large,“ by experts, „a Magnitude 5, directly under New York City, would shake it quite strongly,“ Pratt said.The reason has to do with the rock beneath our feet, the USGS report says.OLDER ROCKSIn the East, we have older rocks, some of which formed „hundreds of millions of years before those in the West,“ the report says. Since the faults in the rocks have had so much time to heal, the seismic waves travel more efficiently through them when an earthquake occurs.„Rocks in the East are like a granite countertop and rocks in the West are much softer,“ Pratt said. „Take a granite countertop and hit it and it’ll transmit energy well. In the West, it’s like a sponge. The energy gets absorbed.“If a large, Magnitude 7 earthquake does occur, smaller structures, and older structures in Manhattan would be most vulnerable, Pratt said. „In the 1920s, ’30s and late 1800s, they were not built with earthquake resistance,“ he said, noting that newer skyscrapers were built to survive hurricanes, so would be more resistant.When discussing earthquake prediction and probability, Pratt uses the analogy of a baseball player who averages a home run every 10 times at bat and hasn’t hit one in the past nine games: „When he’s up at bat, will he hit a home run? You just don’t know.“And though it would probably take a magnitude of 7 to topple buildings in the city, smaller earthquakes are still quite dangerous, he said.„Bookshelves could fall down and hit you,“ he said. „People could be killed.“ A lot of stone work and heavy objects fell from buildings when a quake of 5.8 magnitude struck central Virginia in 2011, he noted, but, fortunately, no one was injured.To be safe, Pratt encourages New Yorkers to keep a few days‘ worth of drinking water and other supplies on hand. He, himself, avoids putting heavy things up high.„It always gets me nervous when I go into a restaurant that has heavy objects high on shelves,“ he said. „It’s unlikely you’ll get an earthquake. But, we just don’t know.“
SCIENCE & TECH
DEC 03, 2020
Humans will be far away from the front line, with machines taking over and fighting our battles for us. Meanwhile, the prospect of a devastating global nuclear war remains as high as ever.
The armed conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh has aptly demonstrated what future warfare will look like, with its swarms of kamikaze drones constantly on their enemy’s tail. Their targets are tanks, anti-aircraft missile systems, various other weapons units and groups of soldiers. The entire process is streamed via video and uploaded online.
It all takes place as if in a computer game, where each mission can be rehashed over and over to achieve better results. In fact, this has already become our new reality: man kills man without even looking him in the face.
The proliferation of high-tech electronics and other cutting-edge technologies has had an immeasurable influence on the way we wage war. Conquering a country, installing a new regime – all of that is doable today, even without employing violence: it’s enough to activate the mechanism of a “color revolution” on social media and the people will go out onto the streets, demanding a power change.
Similar hive-mind mechanisms can be employed on the battlefield. But there, they act first and foremost as a way to unify man and machine. At the annual ‘Amiya’ expo outside Moscow in August 2020, the Russian Ministry of Defense demonstrated for the first time a tablet-sized computer that acts as a modern command center for an entire artillery battery. Using encrypted channels, the miniature device links up to a central command system, receives maps of the terrain, reveals enemy positions and communicates with a whole array of field-based technologies. Meteorological complexes, ballistic stations – all of them ‘talk’ to the small tablet. The artillery commander only needs to use a stylus to point to the target on the touch screen and give the command to eliminate it. In the olden days, artillery operators would have to use a notepad, scribbling coordinates with a pencil.
‘Tactical tablets’ come installed with all modern Russian tanks – the T-72B3, T-90MS and the T-14 ‘Armata’. They are also found in mobile artillery units – the ‘Msta-S’ and ‘Koalitsiya-SV’ and even aboard Russia’s bomber planes. The latter uses a system called SVP-24 ‘Gefest’. It links to a soldier on the ground, who keeps an eye on what’s going on in the sky. Similar to the artillery, tank and other operators, the soldier has a tablet. The difference is that he uses it not to receive – but to send instructions to the bomber. The screen tells him not only of the position of enemy units in the area, but also the weapons they’re carrying. Then it’s all a matter of – again – pressing a button, selecting the appropriate bomb for the task, sending the target’s coordinates and away we go. It is thanks to this system that the Russian SU-24 bombers were so effective in zeroing in on terrorist positions in Syria.
Digital warfare is also about radio-electronic jamming of enemy systems. The Russian army boasts more than 18 versions of such systems: the ‘Krasukha’, ‘Borisoglebsk-2’, ‘Apurgit’, ‘Infauna’ and others. All of them are capable of both defending Russian equipment and soldiers from high-precision rockets and bombs and carry out attacks in ‘invisibility mode’. Meaning that all its users use radio comms and exchange data with machines in the field, while rendering enemy radar systems pointless in the process. The Krasukha system, for example, has been in use by the Russian Khmeimim Air Base in Syria since 2016. Not one enemy kamikaze drone has been able to get even close.
An eye for an eye
Such dominance is, however, only possible in countering a technically inferior enemy. Nagorno-Karabakh is a case in point. The Azeri forces, armed with Turkish and Israeli drones were clearly superior to the lesser-equipped Armenian forces.
But in case of a war between the powerful Moscow and Wasington, for example, in Syria, electronics and gadgets don’t really count. With both sides having access to field control systems and various robots, the conflict would quickly spiral into 20th-century classical ground warfare, using tanks and artillery, before an exchange in nuclear strikes begins.
Americans themselves make this clear in ‘Nuclear Posture Review’ on NPR, published in February 2018. There, they outline clearly the methods they would use to counter Russia, China, Iran and North Korea. For such purposes, small-yield, 5-kiloton nuclear bombs would be used. While also employing ordinary tanks, artillery and tactical aviation, the aforementioned tactics would also prevent a local conflict from becoming a global one. For instance, by destroying an air carrier, or a strategically important or cultural object, before offering to sit down at the negotiating table and talk out a favorable peace deal.
One of the signs of an unresolved non-nuclear conflict with a possibility of nuclear escalation may be the U.S. tactic of rolling out its armored brigade in Eastern Europe, as well as the delivery of F-16 Eurofighter and brand new F-35 Lightning squadrons to Poland and Finland.
It’s not like Russia is taking all of that sitting down, either. In anticipation of a global conflict on its doorstep, Kaliningrad Region (the Russian semi-exclave in Western Europe) could get the tactical ‘Iskander-M’ complex, which uses 9M729 rockets. The area already contains Russian high-altitude MiG-31BM interceptors, which take the hypersonic ‘Kinzhal’ missiles.
The fearsome and devastating Cold War-era cannons and mortars – the 203-mm 2S7M ‘Malka’ and the 240-mm mobile 2S4 ‘Tyulpan’ mortar – have been brought back from Russia’s reserves. In the past, they have been used to fire nuclear mines and it is those weapons that served to emphasize Soviet regional superiority on the border with Western Germany, putting on hold NATO plans of attacking the USSR.
Finally, President Vladimir Putin has signed off on Russia’s nuclear deterrent policy, which states in no uncertain terms that the Kremlin reserves the right to use nuclear weapons if serious threats to Russia bring about an escalation of tensions.
Despite that, there are no guarantees either player will hold back. Washginton recently backed out of the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE), which regulated the amount of equipment and manpower stationed on NATO’s borders with Russia. The same fate befell the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF). Now, the Americans can place their ‘Tomahawk’ cruise missiles in Poland and Romania. Russia, meanwhile, will threaten this deployment with its land attack ‘Kalibr’ 9M729 cruise missiles, stationed in Kaliningrad Region.
There is, likewise, no more Treaty on Open Skies, which allowed Western and Russian militaries to perform aerial surveillance flights over the entire territory of the treaty’s signatories.
The scariest part about all of this is that using ordinary arms by superpowers invariably leads to a spillover of local conflicts across borders. Put simply, they may result in a conflict where it’s impossible to defeat an enemy, without using much stronger weapons. Meanwhile, both sides of the Atlantic have more than enough devastating missiles for mutually assured destruction (MAD). But the interesting part is that they are all robotized, as well.
At the latest meeting between Russia’s defense command and the military-industrial complex in mid-November 2020 in Sochi, Putin announced the near-completion of a state-of-the-art heavily defended nuclear force command center. The facility ups the ante in terms of the capability to analyze the situation in the field and more resistant to radio interference in the area of accurately relaying commands to use force, delivered between the various command centers and units stationed in the field, even if one sustains a nuclear attack.
The West has likened the announcement to the Cold War-era ‘Perimeter’ system, also known as ‘Dead Hand’. It exists in case there’s a communication break between a head of state and the country’s strategic missile arsenal. In the event of this happening, the task will be taken over by artificial intelligence. The computer will launch rockets stationed across Russia’s territory using set coordinates.
Warfare is being continuously digitized. The human element is being pushed further and further to the sidelines, taking on the role of spectator. The machines are taking over calculations, while the outcome of the battle often depends on land-based and airborne robots. Meanwhile, the prospect of conflict spillover leading to a global nuclear war annihilating all life on Earth remains dangerously high.
Dec 2, 2020, 21:15 IST
Ranjit Singh, the author, is a columnist who writes on internal security issues.
In recent years, China has increasingly leaned on Pakistan in South Asia and the Indian Ocean Region to propagate its foreign, economic and military policies through various initiatives like CPEC, BRI etc.
Michel Berkley of the Belfer Centre at Harvard university has succinctly identified the main interests that China has in Pakistan; firstly, preserve Pakistan as viable military competitor to India; secondly, use Pakistan as an overland trade and energy corridor; and thirdly, use Pakistan’s cooperation in severing links between Uighur separatists in Western China and Islamists in Pakistan.
Sadly, my generation had to relearn the lessons of Vietnam in Iraq and Afghanistan. But in coming to terms with our defeat, we have a chance to ensure that we do not sacrifice future generations to such folly.
– Timothy Kudo, Iraq and Afghanistan veteran, from a NYC op-ed
I’m sure President-Elect Joe Biden had some choice words when he heard about the assassination of Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh in an ambush on an Iranian highway. Killings like this are naturally furtive acts undertaken by experts in the art of wetwork. Yet, it’s a no-brainer that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is behind it with a stubby thumbs-up from Lameduck US President Donald Trump. The question on everyone’s mind is: Can this odious duo (with the help of Saudi butcher Mohammed bin Salmon) permanently destroy a serious peace effort and replace it with a new Middle East war fever?
The legacies of our two Middle East/SW Asia Wars have come in for some pretty bad analysis and conclusions lately. I expect even Joe Biden, who supported those wars enthusiastically, would admit they both turned out to be ill-advised and very costly adventures. The cost to US tax-payers for these debacles is estimated to be as high as $6 trillion — that’s with a “t.” While we’re at it, we might as well add the Drug War to that list of debacles. To the many militarists in our government, they all seemed like the right thing to do at the moment.
George W. Bush’s Iraq War was going to bring democracy to Iraq; yet, what it actually did was turn the keys to Iraq over to the Shiite majority that had been brutally oppressed for years by Iraq’s Sunni minority. Those Shiites, of course, were close allies with neighboring Shiites in Iran. During WWI, the Brits had helped set up the Sunni/Shiite arrangement that eventually led to the Sunni rule of Saddam Hussein, the despotic leader we were certain was amassing nuclear weapons. This led to brutal house-to-house assaults, torture and targeted killings in Sunni Anbar Province in Iraq, which, in turn, led to the rise of a truly psychotic insurgency called ISIS. This motley band of vengeance-minded crazies lacked the highly sophisticated weapons of terror the United States likes to employ against benighted places like Iraqi. But ISIS was nothing if not creative and made up for its shortcomings in weaponry by relying on sensational videos of heroic, young Sunni warriors slicing off the heads of their enemies, some of them Americans. The horror stunned Americans and made them more inclined to endorse massive bombings as the only workable policy.
In the end, Iraq — a nation that under Saddam Hussein had been approaching first-world levels of sophistication in some areas of culture and society — was driven to ground to become for the foreseeable future a basket case. In 2003 and 2004, I made two 12-hour trips via SUV from Amman, Jordon, to Baghdad through Anbar Province; at truck stops and other opportunities along the way, I met a number of talkative Iraqis who made it quite clear to me they viscerally hated my leader, George W. Bush. I’m convinced some of these men likely become part of ISIS.
One of the diplomatic efforts the Obama/Biden team did that much of the world applauded was the Iran Nuclear Deal; Secretary of State John Kerry worked hard on this with the Iranian foreign minister. As did Jake Sullivan, now designated by Biden as his national security adviser. But, then, Donald Trump — with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s encouragement — torpedoed the peace deal and lay new, crippling sanctions on Iran. Trump went on to assassinate Iran’s rock star military leader, Qasem Soleimani. Now, Trump and Netanyahu are determined to do all they can to destroy any chance for re-vitalizing the Iran peace deal once Biden takes office.
So why doesn’t Joe Biden say something? The suggestion is he’s reluctant to heat up an already hot situation. Is he reluctant because it would entail criticism of Israel? You’d think he’d have no qualms about calling Donald Trump out for such a belligerent and illegal act. But to tangle over a Mossad murder with Likud’s Benjamin Netanyahu? So far, we’ve heard from the head of the Obama/Biden Administration’s CIA, John Brennon, who wrote on Twitter that, “This was a criminal act & highly reckless. It risks lethal retaliation & a new round of regional conflict.” But nothing from Biden, himself.
All we hear is stories about the dozens of WestExec corporate militarists — like Anthony Blinken and Michele Flournoy — being appointed to lead Biden’s foreign policy team. These talented people have lined their pockets with defense industry connections; if the Trump/Netanyahu gambits are able to foment a 21st century de-centered war with Iran, are these corporate warriors going to resist — or feel force to go along?
I know it’s graceless to say, “We told you so!” But the responsible peace and anti-war movement advocated and protested against the debacles in Iraq and Afghanistan until we were blue in the face. From my vantage point as a Vietnam veteran peace activist, American corporate militarism always seems to trump (if the pun works, so be it) those advocating for peaceful and diplomatic responses to international problems. These humble, constructive approaches are often relegated to the aftermath of our debacles, after the hatred has reached murderous levels, when peace-seeking becomes a pathetic, last-ditch, often futile, exercise.
Vis-a-vis Iran, it would be good if, for a change, we practiced preemptive peace-making — rather than operating as if peace can only be obtained through domination. That is, the approach expressed by my neighbor’s bumper sticker:
PEACE THROUGH SUPERIOR FIREPOWER!
Recently, an Iraq and Afghanistan Marine combat veteran named Timothy Kudo wrote a powerful op-ed in the New York Times. He opens his piece by noting that Trump’s reduction of forces in Iraq and Afghanistan to 2,500 soldiers in each warzone began as a high in Iraq of 170,000 soldiers and Afghanistan of 100,000.
“This drawdown makes explicit what those of us who served in the military have long realized: We lost. . . . For the roughly three million service members whose boots touched soil in Iraq and Afghanistan over the past 19 years, our defeat is a uniquely personal loss.”
Unlike President Trump, Captain Kudo is an honest, courageous and compassionate man unafraid to recognize Truth when it’s in front of his face and courageous enough to articulate the unpleasant fact that the US “lost” those very costly wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, both launched in an ignorance- and fear-driven haze following the attacks on September 11th. As FDR eloquently warned, fear-itself took hold of American leaders and made them do some really stupid things like invade Iraq when Iraq had nothing to do with the attack on the World Trade Towers and the Pentagon.
For what its worth, Osama bin Laden and his ilk were “guests” in Afghanistan, according to Muslim law. Plus, the United States had supported and armed bin Laden’s fighters as religious guerrillas to turn the Soviet invasion/occupation of Afghanistan into “the Soviet Vietnam.” Osama bin Laden, then, turned his hostility against the United States and bit us. One of his goals, which he wrote about, was to do what Ronald Reagan bragged about vis-a-vis the Soviet Union: Make Americans nuts so they bankrupt themselves!
“I’m resigned that these wars will finally enter the history books not only as defeats but also as stains on our national honor,” Kudo says.
He quotes Michael Walzer from his book Just and Unjust Wars: “It still seems important to say of those who die in war that they did not die in vain. And when we can’t say that, or think we can’t, we mix our mourning with anger.”
Kudo again: “I would add that we also mix it with shame. [But] shame is not a very American trait.”
Indeed. If shame were an encouraged American trait, can one imagine Manifest Destiny, the winning of the west and the rise of American imperial expansion in the world? No. Reflection in these enterprises was virtually outlawed. Shameless killers were instrumental to pulling it all off. Making killers into cultural heroes is a preeminent American trait.
We can only hope Joe Biden is able to look into the future and envision a different path, a path that prepares the nation for a post-pandemic, post-depression reality that avoids shameless wars, especially one with Iran. There’s a tragic failure of logic at work in the minds of men like Trump, Netanyahu and the Pompeo. They think if they use whatever underhanded methods they have in their quiver — assassinations, bombings, cyber attacks and crippling sanctions — to damage Iran’s economy and cause suffering in the lives of individual Iranians, somehow that kind of belligerence is going to make us safe here in The Land of Plenty. That somehow such cold-blooded hostility is going to stop Iran from eventually obtaining a nuclear weapon. And the most illogical delusion, that somehow conventional weapons can’t hurt us or won’t be used against us.
This love-affair with Power that men like Donald Trump, Benjamin Netanyahu and Mohammed bin Salmon share is the key ingredient in the classic formula for tragedy that Aristotle famously wrote about and Shakespeare made into compelling theater. Power and arrogance too often lead human beings to make stupid decisions that lead inexorably to their death.
The trouble is, Trump & Company are playing tragedy with our lives.
I made a one-sided contract with Joe Biden: I agreed to hold my nose and vote for him — and to encourage progressives to vote for him — in order to get rid of the disease known as Donald Trump. The other part of my one-sided contract was that, once elected, the gloves were off. Some liberal friends have asked me, why pick on Biden so soon? Because smart progressives and supporters of diplomacy over war know who Joe Biden is and how susceptible he is to following the patriotic, gravitational pull of bi-partisan Power into things like the Drug War and the disastrous wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
We need to hear from President-Elect Biden. What will he do? What won’t he do? Let’s hope he agrees with former CIA chief Brennon that the killing of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh was a “reckless” and “criminal” act that Iran is justified to be outraged about. Let’s hope our president-elect doesn’t come to see the latest Trump/Netanyahu murder as entrapping him and his administration in a crazy, corporate-militarist bind that, as Captain Kudo put so well, further “stains our national honor.”
JOHN GRANT is a member of ThisCantBeHappening!, the new independent, uncompromised, five-time Project Censored Award-winning online alternative newspaper.
Situation Report Source OCHA Posted 2 Dec 2020 Originally published 2 Dec 2020 Origin View original
• Unprecedented surge in COVID-19; active cases double in the oPt, triple in Gaza.
• Cumulative total of COVID-19 cases surpasses 100,000, with some 80,000 recoveries.
• Another 178 people die, including 62 in Gaza.
The reporting period witnessed an unprecedented surge in COVID-19 cases in the oPt, with over 23,000 additional Palestinians testing positive, and approximately 10,000 recovering. The number of cumulative cases has now surpassed 100,000. Active cases across the oPt more than doubled during the reporting period, from 9,748 to 23,336, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health (MoH). Sixty-seven patients are in intensive care units (ICU), 14 of whom require mechanical ventilation.
Some 178 people died, bringing to 854 the cumulative number of fatalities due to the virus, 736 in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and 118 in the Gaza Strip. The Case Fatality Rate (CFR), the proportion of deaths among identified confirmed cases, has remained at 0.8 per cent in the oPt since the beginning of the outbreak, the same figure as in Israel and Lebanon, but lower than Jordan (1.3 per cent), and Egypt (six per cent).
Although the health sector in the oPt is still coping with the rise in people requiring treatment for the disease, the World Health Organization (WHO) warns of an increasing risk of the system becoming overwhelmed. According to WHO, the respective authorities should put measures in place to promote greater adherence to public health.
The rise is particularly pronounced in Gaza, where active cases tripled during the reporting period. Gaza now accounts for 43 per cent of all active cases in the oPt, followed by the governorates of Nablus (15 per cent), Bethlehem (seven per cent), Hebron (6.5 per cent), Jenin (five per cent), and Ramallah (five per cent). An increase in the number of infected health workers is also raising concerns about adherence to infection prevention and control measures in hospitals. Since the start of the academic year, more than 220 schools across the oPt have closed for up to 14 days, following confirmed COVID-19 cases among pupils or staff, or in Gaza, due to their location in a ‘red zone’.
UNRWA’s financial crisis continues, despite the Agency securing a loan of US$20 million from the Central Emergency Relief Fund (CERF). Several smaller contributions have helped to reduce an immediate funding gap of $114 million, but are still insufficient to cover salaries, in full, for 28,000 staff for November and December. The Gaza Strip, with 13,000 employees, will be the most affected across the Agency’s five fields of operations in the Middle East.
On 29 November, following the resumption of coordination with the Palestinian Authority (PA), the Israeli security cabinet approved the transfer of NIS 2.5 billion in tax funds it had been withholding. The PA had refused to accept these transfers since May, in response to Israel’s plans to formally annex parts of the West Bank. The renewal of coordination and tax clearance is expected to alleviate the PA’s severe financial deficit, and facilitate the import of COVID-related supplies to, and the movement of patients and staff within the oPt.
ET Online | 02 Dec 2020, 01:18 PM IST
The nuclear nine
The nine nuclear-armed states—the US, Russia, the United Kingdom, France, China, India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea—together possessed an estimated 13,400 nuclear weapons at the start of 2020. This marked a decrease from the 13,865 nuclear weapons that SIPRI estimated these states possessed at the beginning of 2019. Around 3,720 of the nuclear weapons are currently deployed with operational forces and nearly 1,800 of these are kept in a state of high operational alert.
China ups the ante
According to a June 2020 report by ET, India and China have increased their nuclear arsenal over the last year, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). The Swedish think-tank that researches on conflict, armaments and arms control also pointed out that China is significantly modernising its nuclear arsenal.
China, Pakistan beat India
China and Pakistan have more nuclear warheads as compared to India, according to the SIPRI Yearbook 2020. India has 150 nuclear warheads, while China and Pakistan have 320 and 160. The figures are until January. Last year, India had 130-140 warheads, while China had 290 and Pakistan 150-160.
Focus on new systems
China’s pace of growth of its nuclear weapons has increased in recent years with the fielding of new weapon systems, according to the report. Around 240 warheads are assigned to China’s operational land and sea based ballistic missiles and nuclear configured aircraft. The rest are assigned to non-operational forces, such as new systems in development. (Representative Image)
Indian nuclear capabilities
Aircraft are the most mature component of India’s nuclear strike capabilities. SIPRI estimates that there are about 48 nuclear bombs assigned to aircraft. To create a second strike capability, India is also developing the naval component of its nuclear triad. About 12 nuclear warheads have been delivered for potential deployment by the nuclear submarine, INS Arihant. (Representative Image)
By Julia Masterson
Iran’s stockpile of low-enriched uranium continues to expand, according to a Nov. 11 report by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Tehran has now accumulated 2,443 kilograms of uranium enriched to 4.5 percent, roughly 12 times the limit of 202 kilograms of 3.67 percent enriched uranium set by the 2015 nuclear deal, known formally as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
Iranian Amb. Kazzem Gharibabadi speaks to a virtual meeting of the IAEA Board of Governors on Nov. 20. Attending the meeting in a sparsely attended board room are IAEA Director-General Rafael Mariano Grossi (left) and Amb. Heidi Alberta Hulan of Canada, who began her one-year term as board chairperson in September. (Photo: Dean Calma/IAEA)
The latest quarterly report describes these ongoing JCPOA breaches and suggests that Iran is moving carefully to avoid steps that could impede a U.S. reentry to the nuclear deal or its own future return to full compliance with the accord. The Trump administration withdrew from the deal in 2018, and Iran has subsequently exceeded a number of the agreement’s limitations.
The IAEA report states that Iran’s enriched uranium production has slowed significantly over the last quarter when compared to the previous three reporting periods. Tehran produced 338 kilograms of enriched uranium over the last quarter, down from 533 kilograms in June–September 2020 and the smallest increase in a year. Iran has also not taken any additional steps to violate the accord since announcing in January 2020 it would no longer be bound by any of the deal’s operational restrictions. (See ACT, January/February 2020.)
Nevertheless, frustration with the nuclear deal appears to be mounting in Tehran. The Iranian Parliament voted on Nov. 3 to approve provisionally a bill requiring the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran to enrich uranium up to 20 percent at the Fordow facility and to take other steps in further violation of the nuclear deal. Although the resolution is not binding, it could signal an effort by Iranian lawmakers to pressure the incoming Biden administration to reenter the nuclear deal quickly and without conditions.
In addition, Iran continues to operate advanced centrifuges in violation of the JCPOA, but the Nov. 11 report details Iran’s decision to transfer cascades of centrifuges from the pilot plant to the main enrichment hall at Natanz instead of building three new equivalent cascades, as it had previously announced. In July, Tehran notified the IAEA that it would move three cascades comprised of IR-2m, IR-4, and IR-6 centrifuges to the Natanz enrichment facility. But in September, the IAEA reported that Iran would instead construct three new cascades at Natanz and that it would cease operation of the corresponding machines at the pilot plant.
Iran’s decision to duplicate its IR-2m, IR-4, and IR-6 cascades was worrisome in part because it would have left Iran with additional advanced centrifuges to use in the event that it chose to accelerate its production of enriched uranium. Moving the existing cascades from the pilot plant to the enrichment hall reduces the total number of centrifuges that could have been installed in Iran.
The Nov. 11 report indicates that only the cascade of IR-2m centrifuges had been moved to the Natanz enrichment hall and that they were not yet enriching uranium. One week later, however, in his Nov. 18 remarks to the agency’s Board of Governors, IAEA Director-General Rafael Mariano Grossi noted the release of a new report containing an update on Iran’s nuclear activities. That report has not been made public, but a section from the report quoted in a Nov. 18 article by Reuters outlines that, on Nov. 14, the IAEA “verified that Iran began feeding [uranium hexafluoride gas] into the recently installed cascade of 174 IR-2m centrifuges” at Natanz.
Kazzem Qaribabadi, Iranian ambassador and permanent representative to the IAEA, confirmed the information on Nov. 18.
The enrichment of uranium using IR-2m machines at Natanz marks another violation of the JCPOA, which dictates that Iran operate only 5,060 first-generation IR-1 centrifuges at that facility. In her Nov. 18 statement before the Board of Governors, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Jackie Wolcott condemned Iran’s decision to enrich uranium with IR-2m centrifuges at Natanz and urged Tehran to “reverse these steps immediately.”
As noted in the Nov. 11 report, Tehran informed the agency that the decision to move the centrifuges was made “with the aim that eventually all of the enrichment [research and development] activities will be concentrated in this area,” but it is possible that Iran was also motivated to move the cascades after an apparent act of sabotage on its centrifuge assembly facility in July caused significant damage to its advanced machines. The Natanz enrichment hall is underground and presumably more protected from sabotage attacks.
Iran has since begun construction of a building to replace the centrifuge assembly facility at Natanz that was damaged during the July attack although that new facility is not mentioned in the IAEA report. But Grossi made clear during an Oct. 27 interview that the IAEA is monitoring Iran’s construction activities at Natanz, indicating that Iran is committed to maintaining compliance with its safeguards agreement.
The IAEA has “not observed any change in the level of cooperation by Iran,” according to the Nov. 11 report, which outlines that Iran continues to provisionally implement an additional protocol to its safeguards agreement and is cooperating with the continuous monitoring measures put in place by the nuclear deal.
The IAEA generally does not disclose information related to Iran’s comprehensive safeguards agreements in its quarterly monitoring reports, but the Nov. 11 report notes Iran’s failure to provide a satisfactory response to the IAEA investigation into isotopically altered uranium particles found during a visit to an undeclared site in February 2019. The agency has made clear that these particles date to before 2003, when Iran was assessed by the IAEA to have had a nuclear weapons program.
The Nov. 11 report details that although Iran told the IAEA on Oct. 21 that “the evidence of such contamination is under investigation” and later provided more information to the agency in a Nov. 5 letter, Iran’s response was “not technically credible” and so far has been unsatisfactory.