US Raises Threat of Quake but Lowers Risk for TowersNew York TimesBy SAM ROBERTSJULY 17, 2014Here is another reason to buy a megAuthorities Expecting The Sixth Seal? (Revelation 6:12)a-million-dollar apartment in a Manhattan high-rise: Earthquake forecast maps for New York City that a federal agency issued on Thursday indicate “a slightly lower hazard for tall buildings than previously thought.”The agency, the United States Geodetic Survey, tempered its latest quake prediction with a big caveat.“The eastern U.S. has the potential for larger and more damaging earthquakes than considered in previous maps and assessments,” the agency said, citing the magnitude 5.8 quake that struck Virginia in 2011.Federal seismologists based their projections of a lower hazard for tall buildings — “but still a hazard nonetheless,” they cautioned — on a lower likelihood of slow shaking from an earthquake occurring near the city, the type of shaking that typically causes more damage to taller structures.“The tall buildings in Manhattan are not where you should be focusing,” said John Armbruster, a seismologist with the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University. “They resonate with long period waves. They are designed and engineered to ride out an earthquake. Where you should really be worried in New York City is the common brownstone and apartment building and buildings that are poorly maintained.”Mr. Armbruster was not involved in the federal forecast, but was an author of an earlier study that suggested that “a pattern of subtle but active faults makes the risk of earthquakes to the New York City area substantially greater than formerly believed.”He noted that barely a day goes by without a New York City building’s being declared unsafe, without an earthquake. “If you had 30, 40, 50 at one time, responders would be overloaded,” he said.The city does have an earthquake building code that went into effect in 1996, and that applies primarily to new construction.A well-maintained building would probably survive a magnitude 5 earthquake fairly well, he said. The last magnitude 5 earthquake in the city struck in 1884. Another is not necessarily inevitable; faults are more random and move more slowly than they do in, say, California. But he said the latest federal estimate was probably raised because of the magnitude of the Virginia quake.“Could there be a magnitude 6 in New York?” Mr. Armbruster said. “In Virginia, in a 300 year history, 4.8 was the biggest, and then you have a 5.8. So in New York, I wouldn’t say a 6 is impossible.”Mr. Armbruster said the Geodetic Survey forecast would not affect his daily lifestyle. “I live in a wood-frame building with a brick chimney and I’m not alarmed sitting up at night worried about it,” he said. “But society’s leaders need to take some responsibility.”
Iranian society acts like a bomb, may explode anytime
Desk BlitzPublished on November 3, 2021
The Iranian society acts like a bomb that is fast approaching its explosion stage, or according to Ahmadinejad, the former president of the same regime, a flood is on its way that will take everyone away. Writes Hossein Beizayi
The brain drain from any country generally happens for three reasons: economic, social, or political problems. Iran’s ongoing brain drain crisis can be attributed to the compounding effects of many factors, including decades of poor governance, wide and ongoing political and social repression, severe human rights abuses, bleak economic outlook, corruption, and socio-demographic factors.
In Kurdistan province, many people carry goods on their backs and carry them to the other side of the border, known as “kolbars” or border porters. Every month, they are killed by border police who shoot at them with impunity.
Furthermore, widespread and institutionalized corruption in the government has led to unbelievable class divides between the regime’s officials and affiliates and ordinary people. It has been revealed that regime’s officials and affiliates have access to the lower rate foreign currency, which is about one-seventh of the market rate. They sell it in the open market at a much higher price and pocket the gains. That is why Iran is ranked to have the highest number of millionaires in the Middle East.
According to the regime’s published statistics, there are currently 4.4 million addicts in Iran. The real number is much higher, of course. The same statistics state that the number of addicts in the country has doubled in the last ten years. Drug distribution centers are indirectly run and operated by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and the regime’s officials. They operate the drug distribution network with no fear of arrest and accountability. To cover up such a lucrative operation, every now and then, several addicts and drug dealers are arrested and executed. But the growing number of addicts clearly shows that drug distribution networks are immune. In fact, obtaining drugs are now cheaper and easier than obtaining some food items.
The motivation behind most of this immigration is the fact that Iranians cannot tolerate the mullahs’ despotism imposing unbearable political and social limitations. The unfortunate truth is that as long as the mullahs are in power, we will only witness an increasing number of college students and experts leaving Iran for good.
However, according to politicians and sociologists familiar with the situation in Iran, this situation cannot continue for long. This resonates with what some of the Iranian officials are saying. The Iranian society acts like a bomb that is fast approaching its explosion stage, or according to Ahmadinejad, the former president of the same regime, a flood is on its way that will take everyone away.
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The Iran nuclear deal is close to collapsing despite Biden’s efforts, and experts warn ‘there is no Plan B’
John Haltiwanger22 hours ago
- The Iran nuclear deal appears to be on the verge of collapsing.
- Experts warn that if talks aimed at reviving the deal fail, there’s no “Plan B” for Biden.
- If the talks fail, experts say it could also increase the risk of conflict between Iran and Israel.
Reviving the Iran nuclear deal was a top foreign policy goal for President Joe Biden when he entered office. But the landmark agreement appears to be on the verge of irrevocable collapse, as Western leaders grow increasingly impatient with Tehran over the stalled Vienna talks to restore the pact.
If negotiators aren’t able to pump life back into the deal, experts warn there’s no feasible “Plan B” for Biden and the prospect of conflict in the Middle East could increase. Iran is violating the deal’s limits on uranium enrichment, and hawks warn the breakout time to an Iranian nuclear weapon in getting shorter.
Barbara Slavin, director of the Future of Iran Initiative at the Atlantic Council, told Insider that she hasn’t given up all hope that the deal can be salvaged, emphasizing that the Iranian economy is in “a fragile enough state” that the government could see virtue in a return to the deal.
“A couple of factors will be key: how much pressure China exerts to convince Iran it will benefit from even short-lived sanctions relief and whether the Biden administration can craft language … that will provide confidence that the US will stick to the agreement for the duration of Biden’s presidency,” Slavin added.
Biden recently pledged that the US would only break from a revived deal if there’s clear evidence Iran violated its terms.
“There is no ‘Plan B,’ there is only a continuation of ‘Plan A’: diplomacy plus the incentive of easing sanctions,” Slavin said. “There is no military solution to the Iranian nuclear program and past Israeli efforts to slow things down through sabotage and assassinations have only incentivized Iran to speed up.”
“Iran is already a threshold state, with all the necessary expertise and material to build bombs if it decides to do so,” Slavin added. “Iran has not done so because it has always calculated that it could protect its territorial integrity without nukes and that going that route would only spark a dangerous new nuclear arms race in the Mideast.”
Joseph Cirincione, distinguished fellow at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, in a tweet on Monday underscored that diplomacy is the best and “only way” to “contain Iran’s nuclear program and prevent a new Middle East war.”
Israeli officials have signaled a military response against Iran would be necessary if the talks fail. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Sunday did not rule out military options against Iran if the negotiations fail.
“If the Vienna talks were to fail, prospects of a military escalation between Iran and Israel increase,” Randa Slim, a senior fellow at the Middle East Institute, told Insider.
With tensions still high, the US over the weekend flew a B1-B bomber over the Middle East alongside fighter jets from Israel, Bahrain, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia.https://platform.twitter.com/embed/Tweet.html?dnt=true&embedId=twitter-widget-0&features=e30%3D&frame=false&hideCard=false&hideThread=false&id=1454795348698968071&lang=en&origin=safari-reader%3A%2F%2Fwww.businessinsider.com%2Fno-plan-b-biden-iran-nuclear-talks-fail-experts-warn-2021-11&theme=light&widgetsVersion=f001879%3A1634581029404&width=550px
The uncertain future of the Iran nuclear deal
The 2015 nuclear deal, orchestrated under the Obama administration and formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), is designed to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon in exchange for relief from economic sanctions.
President Donald Trump withdrew the US from the deal in May 2018, setting off a series of events that raised tensions between Washington and Tehran to historic heights — prompting a number of skirmishes in the Persian Gulf and sparking fears of war. Amid all of this, Trump engaged in a “maximum pressure” strategy against Iran, employing crippling economic sanctions with the goal of squeezing it into negotiating a more stringent version of the pact — a goal it failed to achieve.
Though Iran initially remained in compliance with the JCPOA, it gradually took steps away from the deal and effectively abandoned it altogether after Trump ordered a drone strike that killed the country’s top general, Qassem Soleimani, in January 2020. This has included enriching uranium up to 60%(the deal caps enrichment at 3.67%, though weapons-grade levels are closer to 90%), and reducing access to international inspectors.
Iran’s nuclear program has developed to a point where the Biden administration has warned that reviving the JCPOA could soon be pointless.
Back in April, indirect negotiations between the US and Iran began in Vienna with the aim of bringing both back into compliance. The US has refused to provide sanctions relief to Iran until it shows that it’s once again adhering to JCPOA’s restrictions, while Iran has demanded that the Biden administration ease sanctions for it to return to compliance.
Initially, the negotiations showed positive signs. But Iran suspended the talks in June after the election of its new hardline president, Ebrahim Raisi, and has dragged its feet on starting the negotiations back up. Iran last week announced it was ready to return to the negotiations by the end of November, but a date has not been set yet. The Biden administration tentatively welcomed this development.
Raisi — a protégé of Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei — is a staunch critic of the US and the West, which has increased concerns that the Vienna talks will fail to revive the agreement.
A series of attacks by Iran-backed militias on US troops in Iraq and Syria have not helped matters. After a recent drone attackon US forces in Syria, the Biden administration last week issued new sanctions against Iran related to its drone program.
Along these lines, Biden at the G20 in Rome on Sunday told reporters that the US is “continuing to suffer from the very bad decisions President Trump made to pull out of the JCPOA.” The president warned Iran that the US would continue to respond to any aggressive actions taken against US troops in the region.
Biden and the leaders of the UK, France, and Germany (all parties to the JCPOA) on Saturday released a joint statement decrying the “provocative nuclear steps”Iran has taken.
The statement urged Iran to “change course,” imploring Raisi to “seize this opportunity and return to a good faith effort to conclude our negotiations.”
Iran has long maintained that it has no desire to develop a nuclear weapon, but Western powers remain deeply skeptical.
But the US is also not without its critics as the negotiations remain at an impasse, and a number of advocacy groups have called for Biden to offer Iran humanitarian relief to bolster the nuclear talks. In an op-ed for Insider, MIANN Group director Mani Mostofi called for Biden to ease sanctions on Iran — particularly as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to wreak havoc in the country.
“The Iranian people’s wellbeing should not be held hostage to the toxic politics between Tehran and Washington,” Mostofi wrote. “The Biden administration has a chance to step in and take action beyond the same old rhetoric.”
Baghdad – Asharq Al-Awsat
Tuesday, 2 November, 2021 – 06:30
Head of the Sadrist movement, cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. (Reuters)
Head of the Sadrist movement, cleric Moqtada al-Sadr is still able to control the political scene in Iraq from his modest home in Najaf city, some 160 kms south of Baghdad.
Sadr had emerged as the victor in last month’s parliamentary elections, handing him the reins in forming the next government. The elections have also created a sharp divide between Shiite parties, with Sadr the victor, on one end, and pro-Iran factions on the losing end.
Sadr on Sunday declared that he wanted to form a government through the political majority. In a statement, he explained that the new parliament should bring together the majority that forms the government and is responsible for reform on all levels, and the opposition that should be consulted for the reforms and government formation.
All of this should take place through democratic means, he stressed.
The government formation process will have to wait, however, as the elections commission continues to manually recount votes that have been appealed. The losing factions are also still holding street rallies in protest against the poll results in an effort to influence the formation process.
On whether a political majority government can be formed, Sunni MP Mashaan al-Jabouri said: “Anyone who wants change in the country has to support a majoritarian government.”
“Our concern, however, is that with such a government, the Shiites that are not part of it could create problems that may threaten civil peace,” he told Asharq Al-Awsat.
“If such an obstacle is overcome, then all of us would support the formation of a political majority government and a strong opposition,” he added.
State of Law MP Mohammed Saadoun al-Sahyoun said the next government can be formed through one of three possible coalitions.
The first coalition could bring the Sadrist bloc with Sunnis and Kurdish forces, the second would see the losing factions side with the Kurdish coalition, and the third, which is the most likely, would see the Sadrists join the losing Shiites in forming the government.
The political disputes between the blocs are great and deep, but not insurmountable, he stated. Rapprochement is needed between rivals because the Iraqi people are awaiting a new government that can address pending problems.
NOVEMBER 2, 2021
It is indeed a misfortune that peace, security and economic prosperity of the South Asian region remain hostage to innate Indian desire for hegemony, its continued occupation of IIOJ&K in contravention of the UNSC resolutions and her hostile posture towards Pakistan, more so since the advent of Modi regime in India.
Indian designs to go nuclear and establish her hegemony in the region became evident even before partition of the sub-continent was announced. As early as June 26, 1946, Jawaharlal Nehru, soon to be India’s first prime minister had announced, “As long as the world is constituted as it is, every country will have to devise and use the latest devices for its protection. I have no doubt India will develop her scientific researches and I hope Indian scientists will use the atomic force for constructive purposes. But if India is threatened, she will inevitably try to defend herself by all means at her disposal.” In pursuance, India tested its first nuclear device in 1974. The test used plutonium produced in the Canadian-supplied CIRUS reactor. This raised concerns about nuclear technology supplied for peaceful purposes being diverted to weapons programme. It is pertinent to mention that the Indian nuclear test stimulated the early work of NSG.
Pakistan, which had fought three wars with India over Kashmir dispute and considered India as a threat to her security, felt alarmed by Indian nuclear test and had no choice but to initiate its own nuclear programme to ward off the Indian threat notwithstanding the fact that it had to face enormous difficulties and sanctions because it rightly thought that security of the country deserved preference over everything else. By the time India exploded nuclear devices in 1998, Pakistan was also in a position to demonstrate its nuclear prowess. The nuclear deterrent developed by Pakistan has not only scuttled Indian designs of hegemony in the region but has also minimized the chances of a full-fledged war between the two nuclear powers unless madness choreographed the future course leading to mutual destruction. Pakistan has also developed a minimum deterrent against the Indian doctrine of “cold start.”
However, India has not given up her attempts to harm and denigrate Pakistan. It is now engaged in a hybrid war against Pakistan. Her efforts to malign Pakistan and portray it as an epicenter of terrorism through fake news network discovered by EU Disinfo Lab, its projection of freedom struggle in IIOJ&K as terrorism supported by Pakistan, stage-managing incidents like Pulwama to win elections, moves to sabotage CPEC and efforts to have Pakistan pushed into the black list of FATF, are ranting testimonies in this regard.
The threat syndrome has assumed greater intensity under the BJP regime headed by Modi and inspired by RSS ideology of Hindutva, which is a racist philosophy, specifically against Muslims
The threat syndrome has assumed greater intensity under the BJP regime headed by Modi and inspired by RSS ideology of Hindutva, which is a racist philosophy, specifically against Muslims. Communal policies and promulgation of anti-Muslim laws within India and move by the Modi regime to bifurcate IIOJ&K into two territories and its annexation to the Indian union followed by enactment of new domicile law to change demographic realities of the state and the continuation of killing-spree in the valley, undoubtedly establish an anti-Muslim stance of the BJP regime. No wonder, a former prime minister of India was forced to say that Modi regime has converted India into a majoritarian state.
Indian leaders are also persisting with threats of surgical strikes within Pakistan to counter the alleged infiltration of terrorists in IIOJ&K. Indian Home Minister Amit Sharma, addressing a function at a university in Goa on October 14, warned Pakistan of more surgical strikes by India if there were transgression at the Indian borders. Speaking in the same vein,Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said that Pakistan had been shown that action against terrorism would be taken not only on this side of the border but also on their side if needed. He also took a dig at the critics who held the view that repealing Article 370 of the Indian constitution would lead to frightful consequences by saying, “People used to say if Article 370 is abolished the entire Kashmir will burn. All in all, Jammu and Kashmir is peaceful except for a few incidents and Pakistan has not been able to gather any support on Kashmir.”
What the Indian government has done in IIOJ&K constitutes defiance of the UNSC resolutions, breach of international law and the 4th Geneva Convention. Pakistan has been warning the international community about the new threat to peace and security in the region and the likely repercussion of the implementation of policies inspired by the RSS ideology, which is very much like Nazism.
But regrettably, no credible action has been taken either by the UN or the powers that can use their influence to stop India in her tracks and facilitate resolution of the Kashmir dispute, notwithstanding the fact that the UN has reiterated its stance on resolving the Kashmir dispute as per UNSC resolutions. The international community has refused to buy Indian narrative that its actions in IIOJ&K were her internal affair. The unfortunate reality is that the strategic partners of India like the US see the whole affair through the prism of their strategic and commercial interests. They are not concerned about the humanitarian tragedy unfolding in IIOJ&K and the likelihood of the two nuclear powers confronting each other militarily. Kashmir is admittedly a nuclear flash point.
As far as the threats regarding surgical strikes by the Indian leaders are concerned, Pakistan is fully capable of responding to them befittingly as was demonstrated when India sent its planes to bomb imagined terrorist camps at Balakot in February 2019. But it surely and rightly does not want any escalation in the situation. That is why it has made several peace overtures towards India without any reciprocity. Now Pakistan has taken a right stand by refusing to have any dialogue with India unless it revoked its actions of August 5, 2019, in IIOJ&K.
The reality is that India is facing a stiff resistance in IIO&JK in spite of unrelenting use of military might by its security forces. Its attempts to feign normalcy in the state are a cruel joke. The international community and UN need to intervene before it is too late. The Indian leaders must also understand that they cannot subdue the freedom struggle in IIOJ&K with military might. By holding onto IIOJ&K using military force and adoption of hostile stance towards Pakistan, they are not only jeopardizing peace and security in the region but are also laying the foundation for undermining their own long-term strategic and economic interests. They need course correction in their own interest.
The writer is a retired diplomat, and a visiting professor at Riphah International University, Islamabad.
Robert Burns, The Associated PressNov 1, 04:13 AM
WASHINGTON (AP) — China’s growing military muscle and its drive to end America predominance in the Asia-Pacific is rattling the U.S. defense establishment. American officials see trouble quickly accumulating on multiple fronts — Beijing’s expanding nuclear arsenal, its advances in space, cyber and missile technologies, and threats to Taiwan.
“The pace at which China is moving is stunning,” says Gen. John Hyten, the No. 2-ranking U.S. military officer, who previously commanded U.S. nuclear forces and oversaw Air Force space operations.
At stake is a potential shift in the global balance of power that has favored the United States for decades. A realignment more favorable to China does not pose a direct threat to the United States but could complicate U.S. alliances in Asia. New signs of how the Pentagon intends to deal with the China challenge may emerge in coming weeks from Biden administration policy reviews on nuclear weapons, global troop basing and overall defense strategy.
For now, officials marvel at how Beijing is marshaling the resources, technology and political will to make rapid gains — so rapid that the Biden administration is attempting to reorient all aspects of U.S. foreign and defense policy.
The latest example of surprising speed was China’s test of a hypersonic weapon capable of partially orbiting Earth before reentering the atmosphere and gliding on a maneuverable path to its target. The weapon system’s design is meant to evade U.S. missile defenses, and although Beijing insisted it was testing a reusable space vehicle, not a missile, the test appeared to have startled U.S. officials.
Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the test was “very close” to being a Sputnik moment, akin to the 1957 launching by the Soviet Union of the world’s first space satellite, which caught the world by surprise and fed fears the United States had fallen behind technologically. What followed was a nuclear arms and space race that ultimately bankrupted the Soviet Union.
Milley and other U.S. officials have declined to discuss details of the Chinese test, saying they are secret. He called it “very concerning” for the United States but added that problems posed by China’s military modernization run far deeper.
“That’s just one weapon system,” he said in a Bloomberg Television interview. “The Chinese military capabilities are much greater than that. They’re expanding rapidly in space, in cyber and then in the traditional domains of land, sea and air.”
On the nuclear front, private satellite imagery in recent months has revealed large additions of launch silos that suggest the possibility that China plans to increase its fleet of land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles, or ICBMs.
Hans Kristensen, a nuclear weapons expert at the Federation of American Scientists, says China appears to have about 250 ICBM silos under construction, which he says is more than 10 times the number in operation today. The U.S. military, by comparison, has 400 active ICBM silos and 50 in reserve.
Pentagon officials and defense hawks on Capitol Hill point to China’s modernization as a key justification for rebuilding the U.S. nuclear arsenal, a project expected to cost more than $1 billion over 30 years, including sustainment costs.
Fiona Cunningham, an assistant professor of political science at the University of Pennsylvania and a specialist in Chinese military strategy, says a key driver of Beijing’s nuclear push is its concerns about U.S. intentions.
“I don’t think China’s nuclear modernization is giving it a capability to pre-emptively strike the U.S. nuclear arsenal, and that was a really important generator of competition during the Cold War,” Cunningham said in an online forum sponsored by Georgetown University. “But what it does do is to limit the effectiveness of U.S. attempts to pre-emptively strike the Chinese arsenal.”
Some analysts fear Washington will worry its way into an arms race with Beijing, frustrated at being unable to draw the Chinese into security talks. Congress also is increasingly focused on China and supports a spending boost for space and cyber operations and hypersonic technologies. There is a push, for example, to put money in the next defense budget to arm guided-missile submarines with hypersonic weapons, a plan initiated by the Trump administration.
For decades, the United States tracked China’s increased defense investment and worried that Beijing was aiming to become a global power. But for at least the last 20 years, Washington was focused more on countering al-Qaida and other terrorist threats in Iraq and Afghanistan. That began to change during the Trump administration, which in 2018 formally elevated China to the top of the list of defense priorities, along with Russia, replacing terrorism as the No. 1 threat.
For now, Russia remains a bigger strategic threat to the United States because its nuclear arsenal far outnumbers China’s. But Milley and others say Beijing is a bigger long-term worry because its economic strength far exceeds that of Russia, and it is rapidly pouring resources into military modernization.
At the current pace of China’s military investment and achievement, Beijing “will surpass Russia and the United States” in overall military power in coming years “if we don’t do something to change it,” said Hyten, who is retiring in November after two years as vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. “It will happen.”
The Biden administration says it is determined to compete effectively with China, banking on a network of allies in Asia and beyond that are a potential source of strength that Beijing cannot match. That was central to the reasoning behind a Biden decision to share highly sensitive nuclear propulsion technologies with Australia, enabling it to acquire a fleet of conventionally armed submarines to counter China. Although this was a boost for Australia, it was a devastating blow to Washington’s oldest ally, France, which saw its $66 billion submarine sale to Australia scuttled in the process.
Taiwan is another big worry. Senior U.S. military officers have been warning this year that China is probably accelerating its timetable for capturing control of Taiwan, the island democracy widely seen as the most likely trigger for a potentially catastrophic U.S.-China war.
The United States has long pledged to help Taiwan defend itself, but it has deliberately left unclear how far it would go in response to a Chinese attack. President Joe Biden appeared to abandon that ambiguity when he said Oct. 21 that America would come to Taiwan’s defense if it were attacked by China.
“We have a commitment to do that,” Biden said. The White House later said he was not changing U.S. policy, which does not support Taiwanese independence but is committed to providing defensive arms.
Associated Press writer Nomaan Merchant in Washington contributed to this report.
Nov 1st, 2021 4 min read
Policy Analyst, Nuclear Deterrence and Missile DefensePatty-Jane is the policy analyst for nuclear deterrence and missile defense at The Heritage Foundation.An self-propelled intercontinental ballistic missile system prepares to leave after the Victory Day military parade in Red Square in Teikovo, Russia, on May 11, 2021.Sergei Fadeichev / TASS / Getty Images
After years of debate over the necessity of U.S. intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), commonsense in Congress has ultimately prevailed.
ICBMs’ ability to be launched quickly helps convince an adversary that any nuclear attack will be met with immediate retaliation.
As the U.S. must confront unprecedented nuclear threats, sustaining an effective ICBM capability must remain a top priority.
After years of debate over the necessity of U.S. intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), commonsense in Congress has ultimately prevailed.
Despite heavy pressure from groups arguing that ICBMs are unnecessary, costly, and even dangerous, both the House and Senate recently demonstrated resounding bipartisan support for modernizing the land leg of the nation’s nuclear triad.
And with good reason. Russia is adding to its nuclear arsenal, deploying novel nuclear capabilities, and integrating nuclear weapons into its warfighting doctrine. Earlier this year we discovered that China’s ongoing massive nuclear expansion includes the construction of up to 360 additional ICBM silos and development of novel hypersonic capabilities.
Meanwhile America’s ICBMs, built 60 years ago, continue to age. Now, however, it looks like the storyline will take a sharp turn for the better.
Both House and Senate versions of the annual defense policy bill fully fund the Biden administration’s request for the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD), the replacement for our outdated Minuteman III missiles. Both chambers approved their versions with overwhelming bipartisan support—in the House by 316-113, and the Senate Armed Services Committee by 23-3.
Further, the Senate Armed Services Committee unanimously passed an amendment that expresses support for the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent program, carefully detailing how the program is necessary to retain an effective ICBM capability as our current missiles pass their useable lifespan in the next decade.
The language in the amendment explicitly describes how this capability provides an important “hedge” in the nuclear triad and how continuing to sustain our existing fleet of aging missiles is not in America’s best interests.
Despite persistent efforts by disarmament advocates to force the Pentagon to continue to sustain, rather than replace, its aging fleet of missiles, it seems Congress was finally persuaded by objective studies that showed a new missile would cost significantly less in the long run and be more reliable.
After years of debate, Congress has arrived at the proper conclusion. ICBMs’ ability to be launched quickly helps convince an adversary that any nuclear attack will be met with immediate retaliation. With 400 of them spread out across the U.S., ICBMs also make it nearly impossible for our adversaries to contemplate the scale of attack that would be required to destroy our nuclear forces.
The committee passed its amendment after hearing testimony from multiple witnesses, including some who proclaimed the supposed dangers of ICBMs and advocated for reductions in nuclear forces. Their arguments were apparently so unconvincing that the amendment passed by unanimous voice vote. Even perpetual nuke foe Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) did not object.
Similarly, the full House overwhelming rejected an amendment that would have delayed the GBSD program and allowed our current ICBMs to atrophy. The amendment was defeated 118-299 with the Progressive Caucus accounting for most of the amendment’s slender support.
Even House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-Wash.), a long-time skeptic of the need for the land leg, arrived at the same conclusion, stating “We’ve got to keep [the GBSD program] alive.”
Both House and Senate bills would also prohibit a reduction in the current number of 400 deployed ICBMs. They wisely acknowledge that any reduction would be dangerous, as it would make it easier for our adversaries to neutralize our nuclear forces and threaten our security.
Now that Congress has made this important decision, it’s time to get busy making sure the modernization program is successful. Burning more time and resources re-litigating the necessity of ICBMs will only allow China and Russia to keep cranking out new and diverse nuclear systems, leaving the United States behind.
Fortunately, the House and Senate defense policy bills reflect the commonsense idea that the drastic rise in nuclear threat makes for a terrible time to unilaterally cut U.S. nuclear forces.
With Russian and Chinese nuclear threats dramatically increasing, it is now past time to move on from debate over whether we need to replace our ICBMs, and instead focus on fast and efficient program execution. The Senate bill would establish “accountability matrices” for GBSD to ensure the program remains on track, which is a good place to start. As the U.S. must confront unprecedented nuclear threats, sustaining an effective ICBM capability must remain a top priority