New York Subways at the Sixth Seal (Revelation 6)

How vulnerable are NYC’s underwater subway tunnels to flooding?Ashley Fetters
New York City is full of peculiar phenomena—rickety fire escapes; 100-year-old subway tunnels; air conditioners propped perilously into window frames—that can strike fear into the heart of even the toughest city denizen. But should they? Every month, writer Ashley Fetters will be exploring—and debunking—these New York-specific fears, letting you know what you should actually worry about, and what anxieties you can simply let slip away.
The 25-minute subway commute from Crown Heights to the Financial District on the 2/3 line is, in my experience, a surprisingly peaceful start to the workday—save for one 3,100-foot stretch between the Clark Street and Wall Street stations, where for three minutes I sit wondering what the probability is that I will soon die a torturous, claustrophobic drowning death right here in this subway car.
The Clark Street Tunnel, opened in 1916, is one of approximately a dozen tunnels that escort MTA passengers from one borough to the next underwater—and just about all of them, with the exception of the 1989 addition of the 63rd Street F train tunnel, were constructed between 1900 and 1936.
Each day, thousands of New Yorkers venture across the East River and back again through these tubes buried deep in the riverbed, some of which are nearing or even past their 100th birthdays. Are they wrong to ponder their own mortality while picturing one of these watery catacombs suddenly springing a leak?
Mostly yes, they are, says Michael Horodniceanu, the former president of MTA Capital Construction and current principal of Urban Advisory Group. First, it’s important to remember that the subway tunnel is built under the riverbed, not just in the river—so what immediately surrounds the tunnel isn’t water but some 25 feet of soil. “There’s a lot of dirt on top of it,” Horodniceanu says. “It’s well into the bed of the bottom of the channel.”
And second, as Angus Kress Gillespie, author of Crossing Under the Hudson: The Story of the Holland and Lincoln Tunnels, points out, New York’s underwater subway tunnels are designed to withstand some leaking. And withstand it they do: Pumps placed below the floor of the tunnel, he says, are always running, always diverting water seepage into the sewers. (Horodniceanu says the amount of water these pumps divert into the sewer system each day numbers in the thousands of gallons.)
Additionally, MTA crews routinely repair the grouting and caulking, and often inject a substance into the walls that creates a waterproof membrane outside the tunnel—which keeps water out of the tunnel and relieves any water pressure acting on its walls. New tunnels, Horodniceanu points out, are even built with an outside waterproofing membrane that works like an umbrella: Water goes around it, it falls to the sides, and then it gets channeled into a pumping station and pumped out.
Of course, the classic New York nightmare scenario isn’t just a cute little trickle finding its way in. The anxiety daydream usually involves something sinister, or seismic. The good news, however, is that while an earthquake or explosion would indeed be bad for many reasons, it likely wouldn’t result in the frantic flooding horror scene that plays out in some commuters’ imaginations.
The Montague Tube, which sustained severe damage during Hurricane Sandy.
MTA New York City Transit / Marc A. Hermann
Horodniceanu assures me that tunnels built more recently are “built to withstand a seismic event.” The older tunnels, however—like, um, the Clark Street Tunnel—“were not seismically retrofitted, let me put it that way,” Horodniceanu says. “But the way they were built is in such a way that I do not believe an earthquake would affect them.” They aren’t deep enough in the ground, anyway, he says, to be too intensely affected by a seismic event. (The MTA did not respond to a request for comment.)
One of the only real threats to tunnel infrastructure, Horodniceanu adds, is extreme weather. Hurricane Sandy, for example, caused flooding in the tunnels, which “created problems with the infrastructure.” He continues, “The tunnels have to be rebuilt as a result of saltwater corroding the infrastructure.”
Still, he points out, hurricanes don’t exactly happen with no warning. So while Hurricane Sandy did cause major trauma to the tunnels, train traffic could be stopped with ample time to keep passengers out of harm’s way. In 2012, Governor Andrew Cuomo directed all the MTA’s mass transit services to shut down at 7 p.m. the night before Hurricane Sandy was expected to hit New York City.
And Gillespie, for his part, doubts even an explosion would result in sudden, dangerous flooding. A subway tunnel is not a closed system, he points out; it’s like a pipe that’s open at both ends. “The force of a blast would go forwards and backwards out the exit,” he says.
So the subway-train version of that terrifying Holland Tunnel flood scene in Sylvester Stallone’s Daylight is … unrealistic, right?
“Yeah,” Gillespie laughs. “Yeah. It is.”
Got a weird New York anxiety that you want explored? E-mail tips@curbed.com, and we may include it in a future column.

Taking on the Chinese horn: Daniel 7

The Quad wakes up … to take on threat of China

It has been quite pleasant living on a planet where most of the great powers were not locked up into two hostile nuclear-armed alliances, but nothing lasts forever. Creeping shyly on to the stage via Zoom, the successor to Nato emerged into public view last Friday.

It’s called the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue — the “Quad”, for short. It’s intended to be to China what Nato (the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation) was to the old Soviet Union: an alliance to deter and contain the “evil regime”, now located in Beijing, until it finally collapses.

The core four in the Quad are countries that have all fought China in the past 75 years: the United States and Australia (in the Korean War), Japan (before and during World War II) and India (sporadic border wars).

It was the militaristic Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan who originally proposed Quad 1.0 in 2007 but new Australian, US and Japanese leaders shelved it in 2008. Donald Trump re-launched it as part of his anti-Chinese policy in 2017, and this time the other former players were also up for it. Joe Biden has just given notice that he’s also on board for Quad 2.0.

Most of the “usual suspects” (the other Nato members) also want to join the team as players, or at least as substitutes. A Canadian warship sailed through the Taiwan Strait in January, and the UK, France, Germany and the Netherlands will all deploy warships to the Indo-Pacific region later in the year.

Is “Nato in Asia” really getting ready for another decades-long cold war and/or a possible hot war? Every nuclear weapons power except Israel and perhaps Russia would be part of this confrontation and there are many more potential flash-points in the Asia-Pacific region than there ever were in Europe.

This new alliance will provide employment for a generation of military professionals in many countries and a strategic rationale for pouring money into their arms industries. But what’s driving it is not just the usual exaggerated “threat assessments” of the military.

There is absolutely no evidence that China plans to invade anywhere (except Taiwan, which all members of the Quad acknowledge is technically part of China). In fact, apart from minor border clashes, no Chinese regime, Communist or otherwise, has invaded anywhere at all for centuries. So why worry?

There’s something older and deeper at work here. It’s the age-old “balance of power” strategy that appeared among the Sumerian city-states about 2500 BC, and has dominated international politics for most of the time since.

All the major powers in a given region (Mesopotamia 3,500 years ago), or continent (Europe 350 years ago) or even the entire world (Nato vs. the Soviet Union 35 years ago) see every other big power as a potential enemy. And history teaches that today’s friend can be tomorrow’s enemy, so you must always be stronger.

In particular, countries worry about an emerging great power that might get big enough to upset the whole apple-cart — Spain in the 17th century, France in the 18th, Britain in the 19th, Germany in the early 20th century, Russia in the later 20th — and make alliances against it.

These arrangements have usually ended in great wars, but recently not so much: 40 years of Cold War against the Soviet Union ended without a “world war”. Now China’s growing strength is great enough to set the wheel in motion again and its behaviour would have to be utterly saintly to stop the others from ganging up on it in the time-honoured way.

There are aspects of the Chinese Communist regime that are indeed “evil”: its behaviour towards ethnic minorities in Xinjiang and Tibet, for example, and indeed towards dissenters among its own Chinese people. Moreover, treaty-breaking in Hong Kong and building military bases on disputed islands in the South China Sea in defiance of international law are hardly “confidence-building measures” either.

But there is no need for this Quad alliance. It’s as implausible to believe that China would invade some country beyond its borders now (except Taiwan, of course) as it was to think that the Soviet Union would ever have seriously considered invading West Germany. The Quad is a waste of time and resources, and (given nuclear weapons with many triggers) an unnecessary risk.

One staircase thought, however. Are Mr Biden’s advisers cunning enough to realise (a) that China under current management will eventually invade Taiwan and is bound to win; (b) that it would be suicidally dangerous for the US to intervene; and (c) that all America’s current and prospective allies think the same?

In which case their real aim might be to spread the blame. Maybe they’d rather be just one of the Quad crowd that abandons Taiwan, rather than bearing the blame alone. But I suspect they’re not that clever.

Gwynne Dyer’s new book is ‘Growing Pains: The Future of Democracy (and Work)’.

The capabilities of the Iranian nuclear horn: Daniel 8

Iran’s Nuclear Capabilities Fast Facts

National-World 

Here’s a look at Iran’s nuclear capabilities.

Since 2003, worldwide concern over Iran’s nuclear program has increased as Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) spar over investigation and details of Iran’s program. Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khameneihas repeatedly denied Iran is building a bomb and says weapons of mass destruction are forbidden under Islam.

Timeline

1957 – The United States signs a civil nuclear cooperation agreement with Iran.

1958 – Iran joins the IAEA.

1967 – The Tehran Nuclear Research Center, which includes a small reactor supplied by the United States, opens.

1968 – Iran signs the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Mid-1970s – With US backing, Iran begins developing a nuclear power program.

1979 – Iran’s Islamic revolution ends Western involvement in the country’s nuclear program.

December 1984 – With the aid of China, Iran opens a nuclear research center in Isfahan.

February 23, 1998 – The United States announces concerns that Iran’s nuclear energy program could lead to the development of nuclear weapons.

March 14, 2000 – US President Bill Clinton signs a law that allows sanctions against people and organizations that provide aid to Iran’s nuclear program.

February 21, 2003 – IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei visits Iran to survey its nuclear facilities and to encourage Iran to sign a protocol allowing IAEA inspectors greater and faster access to nuclear sites. Iran declines to sign the protocol. ElBaradei says he must accept Iran’s statement that its nuclear program is for producing power and not weapons, despite claims of the United States to the contrary.

June 19, 2003 – The IAEA issues a report saying that Iran appeared to be in compliance with the Non-Proliferation Treaty, but that it needed to be more open about its activities.

August 2003 – The IAEA announces that its inspectors in Iran have found traces of highly enriched uranium at the Natanz uranium enrichment plant. Iran claims the amounts are contamination from equipment bought from other countries. Iran agrees to sign a protocol of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation treaty that allows for unannounced visits to their nuclear facilities and signs it on December 18, 2003.

October 2003 – The Foreign Ministers of Britain, France and Germany visit Tehran, and all parties agree upon measures Iran will take to settle all outstanding issues with the IAEA. Under obligation to the IAEA, Iran releases a dossier on its nuclear activities. However, the report does not contain information on where Iran acquired components for centrifuges used to enrich uranium, a fact the IAEA considers important in determining whether the uranium is to be enriched for weapons.

November 2003 – Iran agrees to halt uranium enrichment as a confidence building measure and accepts IAEA verification of suspension.

December 2003 – Iran signs the Additional Protocol to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty with the IAEA voluntarily agreeing to broader inspections of its nuclear facilities.

February 2004 – A.Q. Khan, “father” of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program, admits to having provided Iran and other countries with uranium-enrichment equipment.

June 1, 2004 – The IAEA states they have found traces of uranium that exceed the amount used for general energy production. Iran admits that it is importing parts for advanced centrifuges that can be used to enrich uranium, but is using the parts to generate electricity.

July 31, 2004 – Iran states that it has resumed production on centrifuge parts used for enriching uranium, but not enrichment activities.

August 8, 2005 – Iran restarts uranium conversion, a step on the way to enrichment, at a nuclear facility, saying it is for peaceful purposes only, and flatly rejects a European offer aimed at ensuring the nation does not seek nuclear weapons.

August 9, 2005 – Iran removes the IAEA seals from its Isfahan nuclear processing facility, opening the uranium conversion plant for full operation. IAEA spokesman Mark Gwozdecky states that the plant “is fully monitored by the IAEA” and “is not a uranium enrichment plant.”

September 11, 2005 – Iran’s new foreign minister, Manouchehr Mottaki, says the country won’t suspend activities at its Isfahan uranium conversion facility and it plans to seek bids for the construction of two more nuclear plants.

January 10, 2006 – Iran resumes research at its Natanz uranium enrichment plant, arguing that doing so is within the terms of an agreement with the IAEA.

January 12, 2006 – Foreign ministers of the EU3 (Great Britain, France, Germany) recommend Iran’s referral to the United Nations Security Councilover its nuclear program.

January 13, 2006 – Mottaki states that if Iran is referred, its government under law will be forced to stop some of its cooperation with the IAEA, including random inspections.

February 4, 2006 – President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad orders Iran to end its cooperation with the IAEA.

April 11, 2006 – Hashemi Rafsanjani, Iran’s former president, states that Iran has increased the number of functioning centrifuges in its nuclear facilities in Natanz and has produced enriched uranium from them.

August 31, 2006 – The IAEA issues a report on Iran saying the Islamic republic “has not suspended its enrichment activities” despite this day’s deadline to do so. Iran can possibly face economic sanctions.

December 23, 2006 – The UN Security Council votes unanimously to impose sanctions against Iran for failing to suspend its nuclear program.

February 22, 2007 – The IAEA issues a statement saying that Iran has not complied with the UN Security Council’s call for a freeze of all nuclear activity. Instead, Iran has expanded its uranium enrichment program.

March 24, 2007 – The United Nations adopts Resolution 1747 which toughens sanctions against Iran. The sanctions include the freezing of assets of 28 individuals and organizations involved in Iran’s nuclear and missile programs. About a third of those are linked to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, an elite military corp.

May 23, 2007 – The IAEA delivers its report to the United Nations on Iran’s nuclear activities. The report states that not only has Iran failed to end its uranium enrichment program but has in fact expanded its activity.

June 21, 2007 – Iran’s Interior Minister Mostapha PourMohamedi claims, “Now we have 3,000 centrifuges and have in our warehouses 100 kilograms of enriched uranium.” …”We also have more than 150 tons of raw materials for producing uranium gas.”

December 2007 – A US intelligence report finds that Iran abandoned a nuclear weapons program in 2003.

February 20, 2009 – The Institute for Science and International Security reports that Iranian scientists have reached “nuclear weapons breakout capability.” The report concludes Iran does not yet have a nuclear weapon but does have enough low-enriched uranium for a single nuclear weapon. An official at the IAEA cautions about drawing such conclusions. The IAEA says Iran’s stock of low-enriched uranium would have to be turned into highly enriched uranium to become weapons-grade material.

February 25, 2009 – Iran runs tests at its Bushehr nuclear power plant using “dummy” fuel rods loaded with lead in place of enriched uranium to simulate nuclear fuel. A news release distributed to reporters at the scene states the test measured the “pressure, temperature and flow rate” of the facility to make sure they were at appropriate levels. Officials say the next test will use enriched uranium, but it’s not clear when the test will be held or when the facility will be fully operational.

September 21, 2009 – In a letter to the IAEA, Iran reveals the existence of a second nuclear facility. It is located underground at a military base, near the city of Qom.

October 25, 2009 – IAEA inspectors make their first visit to Iran’s newly disclosed nuclear facility near Qom.

February 18, 2010 – In a statement, the IAEA reports that it believes Iran may be working in secret to develop a nuclear warhead for a missile.

August 21, 2010 – Iran begins fueling its first nuclear energy plant, in the city of Bushehr.

December 5, 2010 – Ali Akbar Salehi, Iran’s atomic chief and acting foreign minister, announces that Iran’s nuclear program is self-sufficient and that Iran has begun producing yellowcake, an intermediate stage in processing uranium.

January 8, 2011 – Salehi reports that Iran can now create its own nuclear fuel plates and rods.

September 4, 2011 – Iran announces that its Bushehr nuclear power plant joined the electric grid September 3, making it the first Middle Eastern country to produce commercial electricity from atomic reactors.

September 5, 2011 – In response to Iran’s nuclear chief stating that Iran will give the IAEA “full supervision” of its nuclear program for five years if UN sanctions are lifted, the European Unionsays that Iran must first comply with international obligations.

November 8, 2011 – The IAEA releases a report saying that it has “serious concerns” and “credible” information that Iran may be developing nuclear weapons.

January 9, 2012 – The IAEA confirms that uranium enrichment has begun at the Fordo nuclear facility in the Qom province in northern Iran.

January 23, 2012 – The European Union announces it will ban the import of Iranian crude oil and petroleum products.

January 29, 2012 – A six-member delegation from the IAEA arrives in Tehran for a three-day visit, shortly after the EU imposes new sanctions aimed at cutting off funding to the nuclear program.

January 31, 2012 – In Senate testimony James Clapper, Director of National Intelligence, says there’s no evidence Iran is building a nuclear bomb. CIA Director David Petraeusagrees.

February 15, 2012 – Iran loads the first domestically produced nuclear fuel rods into the Tehran research reactor.

February 21, 2012 – After two days of talks in Iran about the country’s nuclear program, the IAEA expresses disappointment that no progress was made and that their request to visit the Parchin military base was denied.

March 28, 2012 – Discussions regarding Iran’s nuclear future stall.

April 14, 2012 – Talks resume between Iran and six world powers over Iranian nuclear ambitions in Istanbul, Turkey.

May 25, 2012 – An IAEA report finds that environmental samples taken at the Fordo fuel enrichment plant near the city of Qom have enrichment levels of up to 27%, higher than the previous level of 20%.

June 18-19, 2012 – A meeting is held between Iran and the P5+1 (United States, France, Russia, China, Great Britain and Germany) in Moscow. No agreement is reached.

June 28, 2012 – Iranian negotiator,Saeed Jalili writes to European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton warning world powers to avoid “unconstructive measures” such as the oil embargo that’s about to go into effect and that was agreed upon by the EU in January.

July 1, 2012 – A full embargo of Iranian oil from the EU takes effect.

August 30, 2012 – A UN report finds that Iran has stepped up its production of high-grade enriched uranium and has re-landscaped Parchin, one of its military bases, in an apparent effort to hamper a UN inquiry into the country’s nuclear program.

September 24, 2013 – During a speech at the UN General Assembly, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani says, “Nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction have no place in Iran’s security and defense doctrine, and contradict our fundamental religious and ethical convictions.”

October 16, 2013 – The latest discussions between Iran and the six world powers center on a proposal put forth by Iran to recognize the peaceful nature of its nuclear energy pursuits. The meeting is described as “substantive and forward-looking.”

November 24, 2013 – Six world powers and Iran reach an agreement over Iran’s nuclear program. The deal calls on Iran to limit its nuclear activities in return for lighter sanctions.

January 12, 2014 – It is announced that Iran will begin eliminating some of its uranium stockpile on January 20.

January 20, 2014 – Iran’s nuclear spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi tells state-run news agency IRNA that Iran has started suspending high levels of uranium enrichment.

January 20, 2014 – The European Union announces that it has suspended certain sanctions against Iran for six months.

February 20, 2014 – Following talks in Vienna, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif announce that a deal on the framework for comprehensive negotiations over Tehran’s nuclear program has been reached.

November 24, 2014 – The deadline for a final nuclear agreement between Iran and the UN Security Council’s P5+1 countries has been set for July 1, 2015.

April 2, 2015 – Negotiators from Iran, the United States, China, Germany, France, Britain and Russia reach a framework for an agreement on Iran’snuclear capabilities, which includesreducing its stockpile of low-enriched uranium by 98%. The deadline for the complete agreement is July 1.

April 9, 2015 – Rouhani announces that Iran will only sign a final nuclear agreement if economic sanctions are lifted on the first day of implementation.

July 14, 2015 – A deal is reached on Iran’s nuclear program. The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) reduces the number of Iranian centrifuges by two-thirds. It places bans on enrichment at key facilities, and limits uranium research and development to the Natanz facility.

July 20, 2015 – The UN Security Council endorses the nuclear deal.

January 16, 2016 – IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano says Iran has completed all the necessary steps agreed under the nuclear deal, and that all participants can begin implementing the JCPOA.

March 8-9, 2016 – Iran test-fires two Qadr ballistic missiles during a large-scale military drill, according to Iran’s state-run Press TV. US officials say that the tests do not violate the JCPOA but are very likely in breach of a UN resolution calling on Iran not to undertake ballistic missile activity.

January 29, 2017 – Iran launches a medium-range ballistic missile, its first missile test since Donald Trumpbecame US president, but the test fails, according to information given to CNN by a US defense official. National Security Adviser Michael Flynn says the United States has put “Iran on notice.”

February 3, 2017 – In reaction to the January 29 missile test, the US Treasury Department says it is applying sanctions on 25 individuals and companies connected to Iran’s ballistic missile program and those providing support to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Qods Force. Flynn says the tests were in defiance of a UN Security Council resolution that bars Iran from taking steps on a ballistic missile program capable of launching nuclear weapons.

September 20, 2017 – Rouhani says, “It will be a great pity if this agreement were destroyed by rogue newcomers to the world of politics,” in a clear reference to Trump’s address to the UN General Assembly on September 19th, where he offered scathing criticism of both Iran and the 2015 international agreement.

October 13, 2017 – Trump decertifies Iran’s compliance with the nuclear agreement, declaring that the Obama-era pact was not in US interests and unveiling a tough new policy toward the Islamic Republic. The move stops short of completely scrapping the agreement, instead kicking it to Congress, who then has 60 days to determine a path forward. Congress allows the 60-day deadline to pass without action.

January 12, 2018 – Trump agrees to waive key nuclear-related sanctions against Iran as part of the 2015 deal, but delivers a stark ultimatum to European allies: “Fix the deal’s disastrous flaws, or the United States will withdraw.” Trump couples his waiver announcement with new sanctions on 14 Iranian individuals and entities that have committed human rights abuses or supported Iran’s ballistic missile programs, which are outside the scope of the nuclear deal. The most prominent of the targets in the latest sanctions is Ayatollah Sadeq Amoli Larijani, the head of Iran’s judicial system.

May 8, 2018 – Trump announces that the United States will withdraw from the JCPOA and will be imposing “the highest level of economic sanction” against Iran. In Tehran, Rouhani says Iran will take a few weeks to decide how to respond to the US withdrawal, but Rouhani says he had ordered the country’s “atomic industry organization” to be prepared to “start our industrial enrichment without limitations.”

May 21, 2018 – Speaking at the Heritage Foundation, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says the Trump administration is “open to new steps” with Iran, including a diplomatic relationship. Part of 12 preconditions: Iran must acknowledge past military dimensions of its nuclear program and expand access given to nuclear inspectors. The United States will then be willing to end sanctions, re-establish commercial relationships and allow Iran to have advanced technology.

March 22, 2019 – The US State and Treasury departments sanction 14 individuals and 17 entities linked to SPND, Iran’s organization for defense, innovation and research. In announcing the sanctions, senior administration officials suggest repeatedly that the existence of SPND and its subordinate organizations could provide cover for them to continue missile-related activity.

May 8, 2019 – Rouhani announces a partial withdrawal from the JCPOA.

May 16, 2019 – A US official with knowledge of the situation tells CNNthat there are multiple images of commercial Iranian ships carrying missiles and other munitions.

June 17, 2019 – Iran has increased its low-enriched uranium production and in 10 days will pass the 300 kilogram limitit is allowed to stockpile under the nuclear deal, according to Kamalvandi.

July 7, 2019 – At the end of a 60-day ultimatum which Iran gave to the JCPOA’s European signatories to ease sanctions, spokesman Ali Rabiei says Iran will enrich uranium past the agreed upon limit of 3.67% purity.

September 23, 2019 – In an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, Zarif outlines a proposal for an agreement that would augment the defunct nuclear deal. In return for lifting sanctions, Iran would be prepared to sign an additional protocol, allowing for more intrusive inspections of the country’s nuclear facilities at an earlier date than that set out previously. Khamenei would also enshrine a ban on nuclear weapons in law, Zarif says.

September 26, 2019 – Rouhani confirms a report by Reuters that Iran is using advanced models of centrifuges to enrich uranium. He says Iran has no plans to increase the enrichment level and will resume talks with the United States if sanctions are lifted.

November 5, 2019 – Rouhani announces Iran will begin injecting uranium gas into 1,044 centrifuges that had been spinning empty at its Fordow plant. The move marks a break from the terms of the accord, which limited Iran to operating around 5,000 older-model centrifuges.

November 8, 2019 – In a statement following a November 7 special meeting of the IAEA Board of Governors, Pompeo expresses concern about the temporary detention of an IAEA inspector and “potential undeclared nuclear materials” in Iran.

December 4, 2019 – The United Nations releases a letter authored by ambassadors from France, Germany and the United Kingdom who allege that Iran has developed nuclear-capable ballistic missiles. The letter lists four examples and cites footage of a test flight of a new Shahab-3 ballistic missile, which has a booster “technically capable of delivering a nuclear weapon.”

January 5, 2020 – After a cabinet meeting in Tehran, Iran announces that it will no longer limit itself to restrictions contained in the JCPOA. In a statement, Iran indicates it “will return to JCPOA limits once all sanctions are removed from the country.”

March 3, 2020 – In a report to member states, and obtained by CNN, the IAEA says that Tehran’s stockpiles of low enriched uranium now far exceed 300 kilograms, the limit set by the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. The report notes that Iran has nearly tripled its stockpile of low enriched uranium since November 2019, indicating a significant jump in production.

November 27, 2020 – According to Iran’s semi-official news agency, ISNA,Iran’s top nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh is killed in an apparent assassination. Fakhrizadeh was head of the research center of new technology in the Revolutionary Guards, and was a leading figure in Iran’s nuclear program.

December 2, 2020 – Iran’s parliament passes a bill that would boost uranium enrichment to pre-2015 levels and block nuclear inspections if sanctions are not lifted, in the wake of the assassination of Fakhrizadeh.

January 4, 2021 – Iran announces that it has resumed enriching uranium to 20% purity, far beyond the limits laid out in the 2015 nuclear deal, in a move likely to further escalate tensions with the United States.

February 18, 2021 – The Biden Administration announces that the US is willing to sit down for talks with Tehran and other signatories to the Iran nuclear deal and achieve a mutual return to compliance with JCPOA. “The United States would accept an invitation from the European Union High Representative to attend a meeting of the P5+1 and Iran to discuss a diplomatic way forward on Iran’s nuclear program,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price said in a statement. Less than two weeks later Iran rejects an offer by the European Union for direct talks with P5+1 countries.

The Russian and China nuclear horns: Daniel 7

The Integrated Review: What it says about nuclear weapons, China and Russia

The year-long review was published on Tuesday.

The Integrated Review into the future of the UK’s foreign, defence and security policy has been published.

Billed as the most radical reassessment of Britain’s place in the world since the end of the Cold War, here is what is contains:

– What are the major changes?

The Integrated Review commits to increasing the amount of nuclear warheads Britain has at its disposal to 260, reversing a move to reduce the stockpile to 180.

In a “tilt” in strategic direction and diplomacy, the UK will look to become a bigger player in the Indo-Pacific, reflecting the region’s “growing importance”.

“By 2030, it is likely that the world will have moved further towards multipolarity, with the geopolitical and economic centre of gravity moving eastward towards the Indo-Pacific,” the document says.

The shift will be underlined by the deployment of the HMS Queen Elizabeth carrier strike group to the region on its maiden operational mission later this year and a visit by Boris Johnson to India in April.

The review says a “minimum, credible, independent nuclear deterrent” remains “essential in order to guarantee our security”.

But ministers have concluded that, with a “developing range of technological and doctrinal threats”, it is not the time to press on with 2010 plans to lower the overall stockpile of nuclear warheads but increase them to “no more than” 260.

The UK will remain committed to Nato and the so-called Five Eyes security alliance, made up of the US, Britain, Australia, Canada and New Zealand.

The UK wants to keep strong ties with Washington (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky) / AP

The review, detailed over 114 pages, confirms it will hold to the Nato pledge to spend 2% of gross domestic product (GDP), and the relationship with Washington will remain close as the US is “our most important bilateral relationship”.

The strategy acknowledges the risks posed by increased competition between states, including a more assertive China along with terrorism, organised crime, climate change and the “realistic possibility” of another pandemic.

There is also a “realistic possibility” that a terrorist group will launch a successful chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear attack by 2030, the report added.

– Is the UK cutting ties with China as part of the review?

Not exactly. The year-long study recognises China as a “systemic challenge” but says trade relations and environmental co-operation will still be pursued.

“China’s increasing power and international assertiveness is likely to be the most significant geopolitical factor of the 2020s,” the review said.

Open, trading economies like the UK will need to engage with China and remain open to Chinese trade and investment, but they must also protect themselves against practices that have an adverse effect on prosperity and security.

China represents a ‘systematic challenge’, according to the Integrated Review / PA Wire

“Co-operation with China will also be vital in tackling transnational challenges, particularly climate change and biodiversity loss.”

The Prime Minister due to address the House of Commons on Tuesday about the findings, will argue that China’s “military modernisation and growing international assertiveness” within the Indo-Pacific region and beyond “will pose an increasing risk to UK interests”.

– What about Russia – will the UK distance itself from Moscow?

Russia will, according to the foreign policy brief, “remain the most acute direct threat to the UK”.

Ministers judged that European and Atlantic partnerships will remain key to dealing with the threat from Moscow, along with growing threats in Asia.

Efforts will be made through legislation and by beefing up surveillance to tackle Russian disinformation, the report said.

The review also predicted that Russia would be just one of the players looking to “destabilise” the globe, with Iran and North Korea also mentioned.

– What will happen to the military?

Further details on how the review will impact the armed forces are due to be published on Monday.

The review does commit to Britain deploying “more of our armed forces overseas more often and for longer periods of time” for training and exercises.

It also confirmed there will be a £9 million “situation centre” installed in the Cabinet Office, similar to the White House situation room where former president Barack Obama was able to watch the US special forces operation to kill Osama bin Laden in real time.

The Prime Minister announced in November a £16.5 billion increase in defence spending over the next four years, focusing on the future battlefields of space and cyber.

The Growing UK Nuclear Horn: Daniel 7

Britain plans strategic pivot towards Asia and expanded nuclear arsenal in landmark foreign policy review

• The report concluded that cooperation with China will be vital in tackling various transnational challenges, in particular climate change and biodiversity loss

• It report identifies the Indo-Pacific – including major Asian powers such as India, Japan and South Korea, as well as Indonesia and Vietnam – as ‘critical’ to UK economy

Britain on Tuesday unveiled plans to pivot its strategic focus towards Asia, counter Russia and controversially bolster its nuclear stockpile, in one of the biggest overhauls of security, defence and foreign policy since the Cold War era. The conclusions of the government’s so-called Integrated Review, crafted over the past year as London recalibrates its post-Brexit foreign policy, include labelling China a “systemic competitor” that also requires engagement. The 120-page document – entitled “Global Britain in a Competitive Age” – identifies Russia as the “most acute direct threat to the UK” which poses “the full spectrum” of dangers. It also notably announces an increase to Britain’s nuclear arsenal, reversing a previous commitment to reduce the stockpile to 180 warheads by pledging to increase it to 260 by the end of the decade, “in recognition of the evolving security environment”

“History has shown that democratic societies are the strongest supporters of an open and resilient international order,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson wrote in a foreword to the review. “To be open, we must also be secure. Protecting our people, our homeland and our democracy is the first duty of any government.”

Johnson said that boosting Britain’s nuclear deterrent, which is maintained via four nuclear-armed submarines, was part of the UK’s biggest programme of investment in defence since the end of the Cold War.

“This will demonstrate to our allies, in Europe and beyond, that they can always count on the UK when it really matters,” he said.

The Integrated Review comes as Britain’s relations with both Moscow and Beijing have become increasingly strained, on issues ranging from espionage and cyberattacks to human rights. The report identifies the Indo-Pacific region – including major Asian powers such as India, Japan and South Korea, as well as emerging economies like Indonesia and Vietnam – as “critical” to Britain’s economy, security and “global ambition to support open societies”.

The UK has already applied for partner status at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), while Johnson is due to make his first post-EU visit to India in April. Despite describing Beijing as a “systemic competitor”, the integrated review noted its growing power and international assertiveness were likely to be the most significant geopolitical factor of the decade. The report concluded that cooperation with China would be vital in tackling various transnational challenges, in particular climate change and biodiversity loss.

“Open, trading economies like the UK will need to engage with China and remain open to Chinese trade and investment,” it said, while flagging the need to protect against “practices that have an adverse effect on prosperity and security”.

Meanwhile, the review paints a more pessimistic outlook for future relations with Russia.

“Russia will remain the most acute direct threat to the UK,” it stated, adding “until relations with its government improve, we will actively deter and defend against the full spectrum of threats” from Moscow.

Other key areas addressed by the review include plans for the military to adopt cutting-edge technologies such as drones and artificial intelligence. There will also be a new focus on space and cyber, as well as a revamp of Britain’s ability to respond to security threats with the creation of a White House-style situation room. A new counterterrorism Operations Centre is also proposed.

The review is said to be a response to a changing world in which Britain “cannot rely solely on an increasingly outdated international system”. It stresses the continuing importance of alliances, including with Nato, but set out a new foreign policy of “increased international activism… to shape a more open international order in which democracies flourish”.

Immediate attention will likely be on nuclear weapons, given repeated calls for Britain’s Trident programme to be scrapped given global moves towards disarmament after the Cold War.

The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) and the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) both condemned the move. ICAN executive director Beatrice Fihn accused Britain of “pushing for a dangerous new nuclear arms race”. She said it was “irresponsible, dangerous and violates international law”, adding: “This is toxic masculinity on display.”

The Security Risk of the Russian Nuclear Horn: Daniel 7

UK labels Russia top security threat, issues warning on China, and promises to build more nuclear warheads

By Brad Lendon, CNN

Updated 10:16 AM EDT, Tue March 16, 2021

CNN) Russia is Britain’s top security challenge, the UK will build more nuclear weapons and London will expand its presence in the high-tech realms of space and cyberspace, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced Tuesday in a sweeping review of British military and foreign policy.

To accomplish its goals, the British government wants to increase defense spending by £24 billion ($33.3 billion) over the next four years, a large increase on the £42.2 billion it spent in 2019-2020.

The government also pledged tens of billions of pounds in investment in other areas, including £15 billion for research and development for science and technology, more than £17 billion to fight climate change and promote biodiversity, and £13 billion in the fight against the coronavirus.

The document reaffirms the UK’s defense and economic partnerships with the US as its most important in the world, and it makes a strong commitment to the NATO alliance but pledges to expand Britain’s role worldwide, recognizing a tilt toward the Indo-Pacifc in the coming decade.

From that region, it calls out challenges posed by China.

Britain challenges China at UN over access to Xinjiang

“China’s increasing power and international assertiveness is likely to be the most significant geopolitical factor of the 2020s,” the review says, describing Beijing as “the biggest state-based threat to the UK’s economic security.”

Speaking in parliament after the release of the report, Johnson criticized China for its mass detention of Uyghur people in Xinjiang province and treatment of democracy advocates in Hong Kong, but said London must work with Beijing to solve global issues.

“There is no question that China will pose a great challenge to an open society such as ours, but we also work with China where that is consistent with our values and interests including building a strong and positive economic relationship and in addressing climate change,” Johnson said.

The 116-page report, titled “Global Britain in a Competitive Age,” reserves its most significant criticisms for Russia.

“Russia will remain the most acute direct threat to the UK,” it says at one point.

“Russia is the most acute threat in the region and we will work with NATO Allies to ensure a united Western response, combining military, intelligence and diplomatic efforts,” it says in another, pledging to work within the alliance to “deter nuclear, conventional and hybrid threats to our security, particularly from Russia.”

As part of its deterrence strategy, the UK will increase its number of nuclear warheads to 260, a substantial increase from a previously announced goal of 180.

HMS Vanguard, the lead boat in the current class of British ballistic missile submarines, is due to be replaced in the 2030s.

The Royal Navy will keep four nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines from which to launch those warheads, ensuring that at least one submarine is on duty at all times, the report said.

The submarine fleet will get new vessels beginning in the early 2030s, when the first of the Dreadnaught class is delivered, replacing Vanguard-class subs which have been in service since the early 1990s, the report says.

The document also reaffirms Britain’s nuclear commitment to NATO, saying the force could be committed to defending its European allies as well as the UK itself.

“Global Britain is not a reflection of old obligations, much less of as a glorious gesture, but a necessity for the safety and prosperity of the British people in the decades ahead. And I am determined that the UK will join our friends in ensuring that free societies flourish after the pandemic, sharing the risks and burdens of addressing the world’s toughest problems,” Johnson said.

“Britain will remain unswervingly committed to NATO and preserving peace and security in Europe, and from this secure basis we will seek out friends and partners wherever they are found, building a coalition of openness and innovation and engaging more deeply in the Indo-Pacific.

In going along with the “Global Britain” theme, more UK troops will be deployed overseas more often, the report says, highlighting the deployment later this year of the aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth strike group to the Mediterranean, Indian Ocean and the waters of the Asia-Pacific.

UK says its aircraft carrier strike group is ready to deploy. China’s already watching

The carrier strike group’s deployment on a 20,000-mile voyage, and the exercises it wiil hold with allies and partners along the way, shows the UK’s commitment to freedom of the seas, Johnson said.

Britain will also revamp its overseas military installations in places like Singapore, Oman, Kenya and Gibraltar.

The report also promises an expanded commitment to UK operations in outer space. The British military will form a Space Command, “ensuring that the armed forces have cutting-edge capabilities to advance UK interests on Earth and in space” by this summer.

By next year, Britain plans to have the ability to launch commercial satellites into space from Scotland.

In the cyber realm, the report says the UK is the world’s third strongest cyber power. It will try to harness that power in a new National Cyber Force which will be integrated with counterterrorism and military forces.

“By strengthening our armed forces we will extend British influence while simultaneously creating jobs around the United Kingdom, reinforcing the union and maximizing our advantage in science and technology,” Johnson said.

Commander Justin Codd, left, chats with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson aboard Vanguard-class submarine HMS Victorious during a visit to the Faslane naval base north of Glasgow, Scotland on July 29, 2019.

“With the extra investment and new capabilities of the integrated review I believe the UK can thrive in an ever more competitive world and fulfill our historic mission as a force for the good,” the Prime Minister concluded.

The opposition pounced on what it said were holes in the document, including no mention of possible cuts to British armed forces that have appeared in media reports in recent days.

“This review has been built on foundations that have been weakened over the last decade,” said Labour leader Kier Starmer. “Our armed forces, our numbers have been cut by 45,000 and there is still a black hole of 17 million in the defense equipment plan.”

“The Prime Minister can’t avoid the question that everyone in our armed forces and their families will be asking today: will their be further cuts to the strength of our army and our armed forces?”

The document’s tough lines on Russia and China belie recent government actions concerning those countries, he said.

“Eighteen months ago the Russia review concluded that the threat was urgent and immediate. So why have none of its recommendations been implemented?” Starmer said.

And concerning China, he said the new toughness was a decade too late.

“Conservative governments have spent 10 years turning a blind eye to human rights abuses whilst inviting China to help build our infrastructure. Now that basic inconsistency is catching up with them,” Starmer said.

CNN’s Christopher Johnson contributed to this report.

7 Rockets Hit US Embassy

7 rockets hit military base housing US troops in Iraq

 SAMARRA, IRAQ MID-EAST MAR 15, 2021 10:33 PM GMT+3Aerial photo taken from a helicopter shows Ain al-Asad air base in the western Anbar desert, Iraq on Dec. 29, 2019. (AP File Photo)

Seven rockets targeted an Iraqi air base housing U.S. troops north of Baghdad on Monday, a security source said, the latest in a string of attacks Washington routinely blames on Iran-linked factions.

Previously, an American sub-contractor was killed in a similar attack against another air base, Ain Al-Assad, in Iraq’s western desert.

Rocket attacks have frequently targeted the U.S. presence in Baghdad, including the U.S. Embassy, as well as convoys ferrying materials for the U.S.-led coalition. The frequency of attacks diminished late last year ahead of U.S. President Joe Biden’s inauguration, though now Iran is pressing America to return to Tehran’s 2015 nuclear deal.

The U.S. under the previous Trump administration blamed Iran-backed groups for carrying out the attacks. Tensions soared after a Washington-directed drone strike that killed top Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani and powerful Iraqi militia leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis last year. Trump had said the death of a U.S. contractor would be a red line and provoke U.S. escalation in Iraq.

The December 2019 killing of a U.S. civilian contractor in a rocket attack in Kirkuk sparked a tit-for-tat fight on Iraqi soil that brought the country to the brink of a proxy war. U.S. forces have been significantly reduced in Iraq to 2,500 personnel and no longer partake in combat missions with Iraqi forces in ongoing operations against the Daesh group.