We really are due for the sixth seal: Revelation 6:12

Opinion/Al Southwick: Could an earthquake really rock New England? We are 265 years overdue

On Nov. 8, a 3.6 magnitude earthquake struck Buzzard’s Bay off the coast of New Bedford. Reverberations were felt up to 100 miles away, across Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and parts of Connecticut and New York. News outlets scrambled to interview local residents who felt the ground shake their homes. Seismologists explained that New England earthquakes, while uncommon and usually minor, are by no means unheard of.

The last bad one we had took place on Nov. 18, 1755, a date long remembered.

It’s sometimes called the Boston Earthquake and sometimes the Cape Ann Earthquake. Its epicenter is thought to have been in the Atlantic Ocean about 25 miles east of Gloucester. Estimates say that it would have registered between 6.0 and 6.3 on the modern Richter scale. It was an occasion to remember as chronicled by John E. Ebel, director of the Weston observatory of Boston College:

“At about 4:30 in the morning on 18 November, 1755, a strong earthquake rocked the New England area. Observers reported damage to chimneys, brick buildings and stone walls in coastal communities from Portland, Maine to south of Boston … Chimneys were also damaged as far away as Springfield, Massachusetts, and New Haven, Connecticut. The earthquake was felt at Halifax, Nova Scotia to the northeast, Lake Champlain to the northwest, and Winyah, South Carolina to the southwest. The crew of a ship in deep water about 70 leagues east of Boston thought it had run aground and only realized it had felt an earthquake after it arrived at Boston later that same day.

“The 1755 earthquake rocked Boston, with the shaking lasting more than a minute. According to contemporary reports, as many as 1,500 chimneys were shattered or thrown down in part, the gable ends of about 15 brick buildings were broken out, and some church steeples ended up tilted due to the shaking. Falling chimney bricks created holes in the roofs of some houses. Some streets, particularly those on manmade ground along the water, were so covered with bricks and debris that passage by horse-drawn carriage was impossible. Many homes lost china and glassware that was thrown from shelves and shattered. A distiller’s cistern filled with liquor broke apart and lost its contents.”

We don’t have many details of the earthquake’s impact here, there being no newspaper in Worcester County at that time. We do know that one man, Christian Angel, working in a “silver” mine in Sterling, was buried alive when the ground shook. He is the only known fatality in these parts. We can assume that, if the quake shook down chimneys in Springfield and New Haven, it did even more damage hereabouts. We can imagine the cries of alarm and the feeling of panic as trees swayed violently, fields and meadows trembled underfoot and pottery fell off shelves and crashed below.

The Boston Earthquake was an aftershock from the gigantic Lisbon Earthquake that had leveled Lisbon, Portugal, a few days before. That cataclysm, estimated as an 8 or 9 on the modern Richter scale, was the most devastating natural catastrophe to hit western Europe since Roman times. The first shock struck on Nov. 1, at about 9 in the morning.

According to one account: ”Suddenly the city began to shudder violently, its tall medieval spires waving like a cornfield in the breeze … In the ancient cathedral, the Basilica de Santa Maria, the nave rocked and the massive chandeliers began swinging crazily. . . . Then came a second, even more powerful shock. And with it, the ornate façade of every great building in the square … broke away and cascaded forward.”

Until that moment, Lisbon had been one of the leading cities in western Europe, right up there with London and Paris. With 250,000 people, it was a center of culture, financial activity and exploration. Within minutes it was reduced to smoky, dusty rubble punctuated by human groans and screams. An estimated 60,000 to 100,000 lost their lives.

Since then, New England has been mildly shaken by quakes from time to time. One series of tremors on March 1, 1925, was felt throughout Worcester County, from Fitchburg to Worcester, and caused a lot of speculation.

What if another quake like that in 1755 hit New England today? What would happen? That question was studied 15 years ago by the Massachusetts Civil Defense Agency. Its report is sobering:

“The occurrence of a Richter magnitude 6.25 earthquake off Cape Ann, Massachusetts … would cause damage in the range of 2 to 10 billion dollars … in the Boston metropolitan area (within Route 128) due to ground shaking, with significant additional losses due to secondary effects such as soil liquefaction failures, fires and economic interruptions. Hundreds of deaths and thousands of major and minor injuries would be expected … Thousands of people could be displaced from their homes … Additional damage may also be experienced outside the 128 area, especially closer to the earthquake epicenter.”

So even if we don’t worry much about volcanoes, we know that hurricanes and tornadoes are always possible. As for earthquakes, they may not happen in this century or even in this millennium, but it is sobering to think that if the tectonic plates under Boston and Gloucester shift again, we could see a repeat of 1755.

The China Nuclear Horn Grows: Daniel 7

China’s nuclear arsenal grows in capability

ANI | Updated: Dec 15, 2020 07:48 IST

Hong Kong, December 15 (ANI): China’s nuclear forces, under the aegis of the People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force (PLARF), are nowhere as large as those of the USA or Russia, but the inventory is significantly growing and modernizing.

New missiles such as DF-41 and DF-31AG intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) were paraded in Beijing in October 2019, demonstrating the forward strides that the PLARF is making.

An annual report from the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, titled Chinese Nuclear Forces 2020 and authored by Hans Kristensen and Matt Korda, discussed the state of play in the PLARF. It claimed, “China is continuing the nuclear weapons modernization program that it initiated in the 1980s and increased in the 1990s and 2000s, fielding more types and greater numbers of nuclear weapons than ever before.”

It is impossible to say how many nuclear weapons China actually has, but Kristensen and Korda offer their best estimate in the report. They claimed, “We estimate that China has a produced a stockpile of approximately 350 nuclear warheads, of which roughly 272 are for delivery by more than 240 operational land-based ballistic missiles, 48 sea-based ballistic missiles and 20 nuclear gravity bombs assigned to bombers.” The report continued, “The remaining 78 warheads are intended to arm additional land- and sea-based missiles that are in the process of being fielded.”

This figure of 350 is up significantly from the estimated 290 listed in the 2019 edition of the report from the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.

Significantly, these figures vary from those issued in the US Department of Defense’s (DoD) annual report on Chinese military power. The authors acknowledged: “This estimate is higher than the ‘low-200’ warheads reported by the Pentagon in its 2020 report to Congress; however, the Pentagon’s estimate only refers to ‘operational’ Chinese nuclear warheads, and therefore presumably excludes warheads that are attributed to newer weapons still in development. It is also possible that the Pentagon’s estimate does not include dormant bomber weapons. Taking those categories into account, the Pentagon’s estimate is roughly in line with our own.”

Some commentators over the past decade have warned that China has hundreds, some even thousands, of nuclear weapons. The Bulletin of the Atomic Sciences confirms that the more conservative estimates have invariably been correct, “while the higher estimates and projections for significant increases have been incorrect”.

Although US intelligence community projections have predicted greatly increased numbers of nuclear missiles for the PLA, these have generally proved inaccurate. For instance, a Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) estimate from 1999 predicted China might have 460 nuclear weapons by 2020. This obviously did not eventuate.

That makes it more difficult to accept with any degree of certainty current estimates. The DIA’s 2019 report predicted, for example, “Over the next decade, China will at least double the size of its nuclear stockpile.”

The new report highlighted the fielding of the dual-capable DF-26 intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM), as well as the aforementioned DF-31AG and DF-41 ICBMs. All are mounted on enormous road-mobile transporter-erector-launcher (TEL) vehicles, which gives them greater survivability in the event of any conflict. The DF-41 is capable of carrying multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicles (MIRV), much like the older liquid-fueled and silo-based DF-5B also in PLARF service.

The report included a table with all known nuclear weapons fielded by the PLARF. The land-based missiles are: the DF-4 ICBM (x6 launchers, and probably gradually retiring); DF-5A ICBM (x10 launchers); DF-5B ICBM (x10 launchers and with five warheads per missile); DF-21A/E medium-range ballistic missile (x40 launchers); DF-26 (100 launchers, of which 20 missiles have nuclear warheads); DF-31 ICBM (x6 launchers); DF-31A ICBM (x36 launchers); DF-31AG ICBM (x36 launchers); and DF-41 ICBM (x18 launchers with 54 warheads in total).

This gives a total of 244 land-based launchers and 204 warheads. Once those new missiles approaching introduction are added to the equation, the numbers increase to 280 launchers and 258 warheads from land-based assets.

The report listed the upgraded DF-5C ICBM too, which is supposed to be deployed in 2020. It is unclear what modifications it has over the DF-5B, for it has the same 13,000km range and carries MIRVs. Also listed as not yet becoming operational is the DF-17, where 18 launchers carrying missiles with hypersonic glide vehicles are to be formally fielded in 2021. It is not immediately clear who will operate the DF-17, but it could be 627 Brigade in Puning.

Two DF-41 brigades are thought to exist, one of which may be nearing operational capability. These are assumed to be 634 Brigade in Tongdao and 644 Brigade in Hanzhong. Furthermore, 662 Brigade in Luanchuan could be upgrading to the DF-41. Additional DF-41 TELs are in production, so we can expect more to be added. As it replaces the DF-5, the DF-41 could also be launched from silos and railcars. Indeed, several new silos have been constructed in the Jilintai training area in Inner Mongolia, and there is possibly silo construction for 662 Brigade in Henan Province.

The DF-26 is an interesting case. This years’ Pentagon report on China’s military listed 200 such weapons, but Kristensen and Korda take this to be a typographic error, as the US Indo-Pacific Command only estimates 100 DF-26s, plus this lower figure better corresponds to known base infrastructure. It is estimated that 20 of the 100 IRBMs possess a nuclear warhead, with the rest of them carrying conventional high-explosive payloads. The primacy of the older DF-21 family has been overtaken by the DF-26, and users, in order of conversion, are the PLARF’s 666 Brigade in Xinyang, 626 Brigade in Qingyuan, 625 Brigade in Jianshui, and 654 Brigade in Dengshahe.

China also has nuclear-tipped missiles assigned to its fleet of ballistic missile submarines (SSBN). The table in the report thus listed the 7,200km-range JL-2 submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM), with four submarines carrying 48 missiles (12 JL-2 missiles per boat), plus two more submarines and associated 24 missiles becoming operational next year.

In April this year, the PLA Navy (PLAN) actually debuted these two extra Type 094 SSBNs, and these give an added second-strike ability to China. These submarines are based at the Yulin base on Hainan Island on the periphery of the South China Sea.

Given that the Type 094 is a relatively noisy design, perhaps two orders of magnitude louder than the best American or Russian SSBNs, Beijing is now developing the Type 096 SSBN that will carry the newer JL-3 SLBM with potential 9,000km range. Production of the Type 094 will thus probably remain at six hulls, with the newer design to begin construction in the early 2020s. The PLAN could eventually have 8-10 SSBNs in service.

China has never confirmed that its SSBNs have conducted patrols with JL-2 SLBMs aboard, but potential adversaries must assume this is the case. A Reuters report last year revealed that the USA, Japan, Australia and the UK “are already attempting to track the movements of China’s missile submarines as if they are fully armed and on deterrence patrols”. Nonetheless, entrusting nuclear weapons to a submarine crew would represent a momentous step for the PLA.

Moving on to the PLA Air Force (PLAAF), the report mentioned, “China has recently reassigned a nuclear mission to its bombers and is developing an air-launched ballistic missile (ALBM) that might have nuclear capability.” The table lists 20 H-6N bomber aircraft, each of which can carry a single ALBM (called the CH-AS-X-13 by the USA).

The H-6N can be refueled in midair, and one of the first such operational units is thought to be the 106th Brigade at Neixiang Air Base in Henan Province. Once the ALBM is functional, it will complete China’s viable nuclear triad of delivery systems encompassing land, sea and air. China is currently developing the H-20 stealth bomber that will replace the H-6 family, and it will assuredly have a nuclear mission.

With the navy and air force inventory added to the aforementioned land-based missiles, China currently has312 launchers (soon to be 372) and 272 warheads (soon to be 350).

Obviously, the fielding of MIRVs will greatly enhance China’s nuclear stockpile. However, Kristensen and Korda believe that the number of MIRVed warheads per missile will be three to five only, rather than the ten that some analysts predict. Furthermore, some of their missile payload will be assigned to decoys and penetration aids. “This is because we believe that the purpose of the MIRV program is to ensure penetration of US missile defenses, rather than to maximize the warhead loading of the Chinese missile force.”

China’s use of hypersonic glide vehicles is another trend, as this will allow China to ensure the credibility of its retaliatory strike force as the US strengthens its missile defensive shield.

The US government thinks China could have 400-500 nuclear warheads by later this decade, apparently achieved “without new fissile material production”. The latter is an indication that China has not resumed production of fissile material for weapons.

Such predictions of nuclear weapon expansion also trigger speculation as to China’s intentions when it comes to nuclear posture. One wild claim from a Trump official was that “China no longer intends to field a minimal deterrent,” and is instead striving for “a form of nuclear parity with the United States and Russia”. Such exaggerations are more related to Trump’s efforts to include China in strategic nuclear arms control talks with Russia, than having any basis in reality.

China warned that it is “unrealistic to expect China to join the two countries in a negotiation aimed at nuclear arms reduction,” given that its inventory lags so far behind America’s and Russia’s.

China keeps most nuclear warheads at a central storage facility in the Qinling mountain range, but with others held at smaller regional centers. This is in keeping with its “low alert level” posture, enough to maintain a credible second-strike capability. Indeed, the Pentagon report states “China almost certainly keeps the majority of its nuclear force on a peacetime status – with separated launchers, missiles and warheads”.

Nonetheless, the PLARF “maintains a high degree of combat readiness,” according to the US military. Brigades regularly conduct combat readiness duties, assigning a battalion ready to launch and rotating to standby sites as often as every month.

A Chinese delegation explained last year, “In peacetime, the nuclear force is maintained at a moderate state of alert. In accordance with the principles of peacetime-wartime coordination, constant readiness and being prepared to fight at any time, China strengthens its combat readiness support to ensure effective response to war threats and emergencies. If the country faced a nuclear threat, the alert status would be raised and preparations for nuclear counterattack undertaken under the orders of the Central Military Commission to deter the enemy from using nuclear weapons against China. If the country were subjected to nuclear attack, it would mount a resolute counterattack against the enemy.”

The Pentagon warns that China may adopt a “launch-on-warning” posture in the future, whereby missiles already have nuclear warheads installed.

The PLARF is increasing its number of missile bases to accommodate the expansion in warheads/missiles. The number of brigades may have increased 35% in just the past three years. Indeed, the PLARF now probably has 40 brigades equipped with ballistic and cruise missiles, of which half could be nuclear-armed. (ANI)

Joe Biden WILL NOT avert a new arms race: Revelation 16

Nuclear stand-off: can Joe Biden avert a new arms race?

Analysis: new president will face threats on multiple fronts, including from Russia and Iran, and must decide future of US arsenal

Julian Borger in Washington

Mon 11 Jan 2021 01.00 EST

Joe Biden will have to make critical decisions on arms control in his first days in the White House that could determine whether a new nuclear arms race can be averted, and possibly reversed.

When the new president takes the oath of office on 20 January, there will be 16 days left before the 2010 New Start treaty with Russia expires, and with it the last binding limit on the world’s two biggest nuclear arsenals left standing in the wake of the Trump era.

At the same time, there will be urgent pressure on the incoming administration to salvage the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, which has been unraveling at an accelerating speed since Donald Trump withdrew from it in 2018.

Last week, the International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed that, for the first time since the deal was agreed, Iran had begun the process of producing 20% enriched uranium, a major step towards the capability of making weapons-grade material.

The Biden national security team will also be expected within a couple of months to produce its first defence budget request, which involves making decisions on whether to continue, pause or kill new nuclear weapon programmes begun by Trump.

On New Start (which limits each country’s deployed strategic arsenal to 1,550 warheads each) Biden and his close aides have signalled they are interested in extending the treaty, and that would be technically feasible even in the very limited time remaining, as extension requires only an exchange of notes between Washington and Moscow.

Iran says it would rejoin nuclear deal within an hour of US doing so

Russia has indicated its readiness to extend but there is still the question of how long for. Anthony Blinken, Biden’s nominee for secretary of state, told the New York Times in November that the new administration would favour five years, the maximum term possible, but there have since been reports that some in the new national security team believe the extension should be shorter, as a way of keeping pressure on Russia to negotiate a successor treaty.

Rose Gottemoeller, who was chief US negotiator on New Start, rejects those arguments.

“We would be wasting our time fighting over who had the leverage in hand when what we need to get done is to negotiate the next phase of reductions,” Gottemoeller, now at Stanford University, told the Guardian. “We also need the five-year period to create a predictable environment for our own nuclear arsenal modernisation.”

Biden’s team will also have to decide how to balance New Start extension with a desire to take a tougher line with Moscow on other issues, particularly its recent cyber attacks on US institutions.

Kingston Reif, director for disarmament and threat reduction policy at the Arms Control Association, said: “Within the first 100 or 200 days of the administration, the US and Russia should resume strategic stability talks that would hopefully cover a wide range of topics and help to set the stage for more formal negotiations.”

Almost as urgent as New Start will be the fate of the multilateral 2015 Joint Comprehensive Programme of Action (JCPOA), by which Iran accepted limits on its nuclear activities in return for sanctions relief. Trump attempted to destroy the agreement (not least because it was negotiated by his predecessor), by withdrawal and then a relentless campaign of sanctions. In response, Iran began shrugging off the deal’s constraints, culminating in the move to 20% enrichment.

This handout satellite image provided by Maxar Technologies on 8 January shows an overview of Iran’s Fordow Fuel Enrichment Plant, northeast of the Iranian city of Qom. Photograph: Satellite image ©2021 Maxar Tech/AFP/Getty Images

“If Iran moves back into compliance with its nuclear obligations, I will reenter the JCPOA as a starting point and work with our allies in Europe and other world powers to make the deal longer and stronger,” Biden told the Council for a Livable World, in a series of questions and responses that the transition team still points to on nuclear weapons issues.

Reentry might not be straightforward, however. The sequence in which the US lifts sanctions and Iran returns to JCPOA limits could be contentious, as will be Biden’s desire to begin talks on a separate agreement limiting ballistic missiles.

‘We are at an inflection point’

A further set of critical decisions will have to be made by March, by which time the incoming administration will be expected to put together its first defence budget, including items for a nuclear modernization programme that was already set to cost more than $1tn when Trump took office and has become even more bloated since then. The Trump administration deployed a low-yield variant of the Trident missile warhead, and began work on a nuclear submarine-launched cruise missile (SLCM). It increased spending on making and maintaining nuclear warheads by 50%.

“I regard those programs with a degree of skepticism and I think others do as well,” Gottemoeller said. “So I do think that there will be a thoroughgoing review of some of these ‘add ons’ and whether we actually need them.”

Lynn Rusten, who served as senior director for arms control and nonproliferation in the Obama National Security Council (NSC), said: “I’m sure they’ll take a hard look at the nuclear SLCM which is really just a research activity at the moment.”

A more radical departure would be to slow down work on a new generation intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), while it is in its early stages, pending a wider review of the nuclear weapons triad: ICBMs, submarine-launched missiles and air-launched weapons.

In this file photo taken in 2015, a deactivated Titan II nuclear ICMB is seen in a silo at the Titan Missile Museum in Green Valley, Arizona. Photograph: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

Many arms control advocates argue ICBMs are the shakiest, most dangerous, leg of the triad. Because they are static, they have to be launched on warning of an incoming attack, or potentially be lost altogether.

“We are at an inflection point where the ICBMs are not yet being produced,” said Pranay Vaddi, a former senior state department arms control official, now at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, which has presented proposals for disarmament in the Biden era.

“It makes sense to us to say: hey, we’re willing to have two or three hundred ICBMs instead of 400 now deployed and see what the Russians are willing to reduce in response.”

Although most observers expect a Biden administration to revert to an Obama-era policy of continuing with the broad modernisation of the US arsenal while seeking a new bilateral deal with Russia, there is some reason to believe that it might take a more comprehensive look at the usefulness of the nuclear triad.

In 2017, Colin Kahl, who has been nominated as undersecretary of defence for policy, raised the question of whether the US could make do with a dyad, without ICBMs altogether.

In his book, The Bomb: Presidents, Generals, and the Secret History of Nuclear War, journalist Fred Kaplan tells the story of a simulation carried out by the Obama NSC in which Russia invades one of the Baltic States and fires a low-yield nuclear weapon at a Nato base. Most of the generals in the wargame advocated a nuclear response. But Kahl, then vice president Biden’s national security adviser, spoke up, saying they “were missing the big picture.”

Responding in kind, Kahl argued, would forfeit an opportunity to rally the world against Russia, and help normalise the use of nuclear weapons. He advocated a non-nuclear response.

“I don’t think there is just going to be a back to normal,” said a former arms control official. “The threats we’re enduring right now have nothing to do with weaponry. Security is so much more than just guns and bombs and tanks.”

Israel Tries to Provoke Another War

Airstrikes, allegedly carried out by Israel, targeted dozens of sites in the Deir al-Zor region of eastern Syria and in Albukamal near the Syria-Iraq border on Tuesday night.

Israeli airstrikes near Syria-Iraq border targeted Iranian weapons’

According to the reports, approximately 30 people were killed in the strikes.

The strikes were aimed at dozens of warehouses and sites belonging to pro-Iranian militias and the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) throughout the area, according to local news source Deir EzZor 24.Two residents in the regional capital, Deir al-Zor City, said they could hear the distant sound of huge explosions, apparently from arms depots destroyed in the raids.

The IDF did not immediately comment. Community Affairs Minister Tzachi Hanegbi, who spoke to KAN Bet, declined to discuss the specific reports but said that Israel hits Iranian targets in Syria “whenever our intelligence dictates it and according to our operational capability.”

While Syrian state media and Iranian media have refrained from reporting on casualties, large numbers of ambulances were reported in the area soon after the strike. Independent reports on the number of casualties ranged between 25 and 50.

Hezbollah-affiliated Al-Mayadeen news cited a security source in Baghdad who stated that there were no casualties, as the sites that were targeted were evacuated beforehand, but it also reported that ambulances rushed to the scene to transport people who were wounded in the strikes.Regional media described the strikes as some of the largest and most intense in eastern Syria in recent years. Images from the site showed a number of buildings had been completely destroyed.

A regional intelligence source said the targets included Syrian security compounds inside Albukamal and Deir al-Zor, while in the past raids had struck only the cities’ outskirts.

The latest raids were notable for having hit “advanced weaponry and weapons depots… in a large combat arena,” the regional intelligence source said.

According to the Step News Agency, strikes by unidentified aircraft, believed to be affiliated with the international coalition, targeted sites belonging to the IRGC in Albukamal also on Tuesday.

Sites belonging to Iranian forces and Iranian-backed militias in the Deir al-Zor area have been hit repeatedly by airstrikes, often by “unidentified aircraft,” in recent years.

The strikes were based on intelligence provided by the United States and were aimed at warehouses storing Iranian weapons and components for Iran’s nuclear program, an American intelligence source told The Associated Press early Wednesday.

The US official, who spoke to AP anonymously, claimed that US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo discussed the strike with Mossad chief Yossi Cohen during a meeting that the two held in the US capital this week. They were spotted dining on Monday at Cafe Milano in Washington, DC.

INSS director-general and former Military Intelligence head Amos Yadlin tweeted that the strikes served as a reminder to Iran that Israel will not stop fighting to stop Iranian activity in Syria, even during the Biden administration.

The strikes also served to remind Syria that “there is a heavy price for the free hand you give to the Iranians in Syria,” and to remind the incoming Biden administration that the challenge from Iran includes conventional military threats, not just the nuclear issue, added Yadlin.

While it remains unclear whether the strikes had any direct connection to threats by Iran to retaliate against assassinations and attacks blamed on Israel, Yadlin stressed that “in light of the results of the significant strike [on Tuesday night], Iran’s ‘open account’ with Israel will swell.”

This is the third alleged Israeli airstrike reported in Syria in the past three weeks.

Last week, an airstrike targeted locations in southern Syria, and explosions were heard in the skies over Damascus. The strike reportedly targeted weapons depots, observation points and radar sites belonging to the Syrian military and pro-regime militias.

In December, two strikes targeted sites near the Lebanon-Syria border in al-Zabadani and Masyaf.THE AIRSTRIKES come amid the last days of US President Donald Trump’s administration, with some analysts concerned that Israel and the US could try to carry out military action against Iran before the Biden administration enters the White House.

The IDF has reportedly increased air defenses in the Eilat area and remains on alert along the northern border due to concerns that Iran could carry out an attack against Israel from Lebanon, Syria or Yemen. Tensions have been high in light of an alleged Israeli airstrike last year in which a Hezbollah terrorist was killed and the assassination of Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, which Iranian officials accuse Israel of conducting.

Iran also recently marked the one-year anniversary since the assassination of IRGC Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani, and officials threatened to carry out revenge attacks on American and Israeli targets in the region.

Reuters contributed to this report.

Terrorist Groups Join Outside the Temple Walls: Revelation 11

Hamas, Islamic Jihad leaders meet, seek Palestinian unity

By Aaron Boxerman12 Jan 2021, 8:24 pm

Hamas terror group leader Ismail Haniyeh meets with Islamic Jihad terror group chief Ziyad al-Nakhaleh in Doha to “discuss renewing Palestinian unity,” the groups say in a joint statement.

“The two sides agreed on the necessity of restoring Palestinian unity so as to achieve a national unified strategy based on total resistance,” the terror groups say.

Both terror organizations, which avowedly seek to destroy Israel, have fought successive wars against the Jewish state from Gaza over the last decade.

Talk of Palestinian reconciliation has come back to the forefront in recent days as Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has again declared his intention to hold pan-Palestinian elections. Several previous such announcements have flopped before, however, most recently this past September.

What Biden’s nuclear policy will look like

What could Biden’s nuclear policy look like?

King County sits only miles away from one-third of the deployed U.S. nuclear arsenal.

Aaron Kunkler

Tuesday, January 12, 2021 11:47am

The ballistic-missile submarine USS Henry M. Jackson (SSBN 730) arrives home at Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor following a strategic deterrent patrol in this 2015 file photo. (U.S. Navy photo by Lt. Cmdr. Brian Badura/Released)

For Leonard Eiger, having the U.S. Navy’s entire Pacific fleet of nuclear-armed submarines only a short excursion away doesn’t sit well with him.

The longtime anti-nuclear weapons activist and former North Bend resident has for decades worked to educate Puget Sound residents about Naval Base Kitsap Bangor, which houses around one-third of the nuclear weapons that are actively deployed. Eight of the 14 Ohio-class submarines, which carry powerful nuclear weapons, are stationed out of the base in Kitsap County.

For me there’s a real futility in thinking of, and preparing to fight, a nuclear war,” Eiger said. “Because any nuclear war, any nuclear exchange between the U.S. and Russia, is game over.”

Eiger lived in North Bend for 26 years, before recently moving to the San Juan Islands. He’s been involved with the Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action, which stages demonstrations against — and education campaigns about — nuclear weapons.

As the Donald Trump administration winds down, he’s hoping that a Joe Biden presidency will mark a turning point in the way the U.S. approaches nuclear weapons.

The Trump administration didn’t make significant progress toward renewing the New START Treaty, which expires on Feb. 5 and began deploying “low-yield” nuclear weapons on submarines, he said. The administration also did not subscribe to a “no first use” policy. It also pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal.

In its 2018 nuclear stance position paper, which outlined scenarios where nuclear weapons could be used, it retained the right to use nuclear weapons in retaliation for conventional or cyber attacks against the U.S.

New nukes, old problems

These policy decisions could be reversed or changed under a Biden administration.

The new “low-yield” nuclear warheads are some eight kilotons, about half as powerful as the nuclear bomb dropped on Hiroshima during World War 2. They’re designed to take out the nuclear weapon silos of potential adversaries, and are more accurate than their predecessors.

“For me, this is a hugely destabilizing act because it lowers the threshold of nuclear war,” Eiger said. “Essentially, the idea of deterrence is we have a large enough and credible deterrent, a threat of mutually assured destruction, if you will.”

And if a nuclear weapon was fired at one country, other nuclear powers wouldn’t know where it was destined, and could launch their own nukes, fearing an attack, he said.

These missiles are something that Hans Kristensen, director of the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists, is thinking about. He said that this could make military leaders more comfortable using them from technical and humanitarian points of view because there could be less collateral damage and fallout.

“It is generally a concern that, over the last decade especially, both Russia and the United States seem to talk about the role of low-yield weapons in a different way than they did a decade ago,” Kristensen said.

However, using nuclear weapons is still politically taboo, and would be exceeding difficult for any administration to use, Kristensen said.

The Biden administration could choose, if it wanted, to remove these smaller nuclear weapons from submarines.

On the first use of nuclear weapons, Biden’s policy platform states that he believes the sole purpose of the U.S. nuclear arsenal is to deter other countries from attacking the U.S. with nuclear weapons. If he holds to this statement, then he would enact a no first use policy, according to Kristensen.

Treaties

Biden is also hoping to resurrect two important nuclear treaties. The first is the Iran nuclear deal, which was negotiated by the Obama administration while he served as vice president. Trump withdrew from the treaty and put additional sanctions on Iran.

The nuclear deal allowed outside observers to certify that Iran wasn’t building nuclear weapons. In exchange, the country was allowed to continue to build its nuclear energy capabilities. Iran has breached the nuclear deal, more than a year after Trump withdrew the U.S. from the agreement.

Biden has vowed to re-enter the agreement using “hard-nosed diplomacy” to extend it. Kristensen said Iran has signaled interest in returning to the deal as well. If they do, Congress would likely need to lift sanctions in exchange for reinstating monitoring and things like uranium enrichment.

Scott Montgomery, University of Washington affiliate member with the Jackson School of International Studies, agreed that Biden will likely try and restart negotiations. But there will be distrust from the Iranian government.

“Mr. Trump showed that even the most difficult and long-suffering agreements — the agreements that took a great amount of time and energy — can be completely wiped away by a succeeding president,” he said.

Iran may look for long-term guarantees in a renewed treaty. But it’s unclear whether Biden would be able to promise these, Montgomery said.

The second significant nuclear agreement is the New START Treaty between Russia and the U.S. The treaty limits the number of nuclear weapons that the countries can own, and have deployed, at any given time. It includes all three legs of the U.S. nuclear triad, including submarine, bomber and land-based missiles.

It is the last nuclear treaty still in effect between the U.S. and Russia after the U.S. withdrew from the INF Treaty in 2019.

The New START Treaty went into effect in 2011, and is up for renewal on Feb. 5. Trump’s administration said in October that it wasn’t “a good deal.” Russia has violated the treaty by testing mid-range cruise missiles.

Biden’s policy platform states he will try to renew and extend the New START Treaty. The treaty could be extended up to five years, but Kristensen said the administration could choose a shorter term.

If Biden chose to go with a longer five year renewal, it would likely have a calming effect on nuclear competition between the U.S. and Russia. However, a shorter term would send signals that the two countries need to address the problems with the treaty and create something stronger, Kristensen said.

In a March 2020 column in Foreign Affairs, Biden wrote that he would use a renewed New START Treaty as a foundation for new arms control agreements. Montgomery expects the incoming administration to propose new agreements, but views New START as an anchor.

“That is essential, and I think everyone understands, who is knowledgeable about arms control and the global nonproliferation situation, that this is essential,” he said.

Biden will also need to think about how to engage China in nuclear discussions, Kristensen said. He said Trump was correct in pushing for China to be involved in nuclear discussions, even if the tactics weren’t productive.

Montgomery said the Chinese government will likely not agree to reducing its amount of nuclear weapons because the U.S. and Russia have far more warheads. China has around 320 warheads, according to Arms Control International based off estimates from Kristensen, while the U.S. has some 5,800 and Russia 6,375.

Having served in Obama’s administration, Biden has a broader understanding of nuclear issues than past presidents, including Obama and George W. Bush, who have come into office with plans to rework how the U.S. handles its nuclear arsenal. Kristensen said new presidents are often flooded with briefs by advocates of nuclear arms within the government.

“When presidents run for office, even the first month of when they come in, they often have very ambitious statements, and when they come in they get briefed to death,” he said.

This leads them to back off more ambitious plans. Biden has experience receiving these kinds of briefings from his terms as vice president, and he may not be as easily swayed, Kristensen said.

Still, any changes will likely be gradual. Nuclear policy changes slowly, he said.

And nuclear stances do need to change, Eiger said. Even a relatively small nuclear war, like one between India and Pakistan, would trigger a global famine.

For activist Leonard Eiger, the world of today is only here because of a series of fortunate events. He cited the Cuban Missile Crisis, where the U.S. and Russia came close to nuclear war in 1962.

“We still live under the threat of either accidental or intentional nuclear war,” he said. “So long as nuclear weapons exist, that threat will continue to exist.”

Montgomery said the world today is in the most precarious position it’s been in for decades. He described the situation as tense, not just between the U.S. and Russia, but also between China, India and Pakistan, and between North Korea and its neighbors.

“The global security framework has decayed significantly,” he said. “Countries are more hostile toward one another, more suspicious toward one another, and more willing to believe the worst or worse things of each other than they have been for a long time.”

Please share your story tips by emailing editor@kentreporter.com.

European Horns Make Plea to the Iranian Nuclear Horn : Daniel

Iran must undo uranium enrichment, help nuclear diplomacy, EU says

FILE PHOTO: European Union flags flutter outside the European Commission headquarters, where Brexit talks are taking place, in Brussels, Belgium, December 24, 2020. REUTERS/Yves Herman

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Iran must reverse its decision to enrich uranium at higher levels and give international diplomacy a chance to save the 2015 nuclear accord, the European Union said in a statement.

“The initiation of uranium enrichment to up to 20% by Iran at the underground Fordow Fuel Enrichment Plant … is a very serious development and a matter of deep concern,” the EU’s 27 governments said in a statement released late on Monday.

“At this critical juncture, Iran’s action also risks undermining efforts aimed at building upon the existing diplomatic process. We urge Iran to refrain from further escalation and reverse this course of action without delay.”

Iran started pressing ahead with plans to enrich uranium to 20% fissile strength at its underground Fordow nuclear plant last week, a level Tehran achieved before striking the deal with world powers to contain its disputed nuclear ambitions.

The head of the global atomic watchdog told Reuters on Monday that world powers and Iran had weeks, not months to save the nuclear accord once U.S. President-elect Joe Biden takes office on Jan. 20.

Reporting by Robin Emmott, editing by Marine Strauss