The Israeli navy and army shot at Palestinian fishermen and farmers in the besieged Gaza Strip on Saturday, Palestinian news agency Wafa reported.
The Israeli navy attacked Palestinian fishermen with bullets and water hoses as they were sailing five nautical miles across from Rafah coast.
No injuries were reported, but one boat was damaged, forcing them all to retreat to the coast, according to Wafa.
In a separate incident, Israeli soldiers stationed at army watch towers east of the city of Khan Yunis and shot at farmers working on their land east of Khuzaa town, forcing them to leave the area. No injuries were reported.
The besieged Gaza Strip rely on fishing for daily sustenance as a tight blockade on the besieged enclave has significantly reduced Gazan access to food.
Gaza has been under Israeli siege for 14 years, creating a major human catastrophe in the enclave.
In 2007, Israel imposed a land, sea and air blockade on the strip, effectively turning the coastal enclave into an open-air prison, where basic necessities such as food, fuel and medicines are severely controlled.
Critics say the blockade amounts to collective punishment of the coastal enclave’s two million residents. The UN and rights groups say Gaza is uninhabitable.
He was once seen as one of the most dangerous militia leaders in the U.S.-occupied Iraq. Now, he has an outsized influence in deciding who should rule the country. When results of the October parliamentary elections were formally announced earlier this week by Iraq’s Independent High Elections Commission, Moqtada al-Sadr’s political bloc, the Sadrist Movement, won 73 seats out of 329. The elections were held amid high volatility. The country has witnessed protests for months. The government of Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi was struggling to ensure law and order amid growing violence by different groups. The Popular Mobilisation Forces, militia groups backed by Iran, remained outside the state control. Above all, Iraq’s economy is in tatters. That Mr. Sadr’s bloc won the most number of seats in an election held in such circumstances shows the Shia cleric’s growing influence and popularity in a country that has never fully recovered from violence unleashed by the 2003 U.S. invasion.
Mr. Sadr derives much of his authority and support from his family name. His father was the revered Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Sadeq al-Sadr, who stood up to Saddam Hussein and was executed by him. The fall of Hussein, whose Ba’ath party ruled Iraq under its tight grip for decades, opened political opportunities for other politicians, especially leaders from Iraq’s majority Shia community. Mr. Sadr mobilised his supporters and launched a political movement with a military wing — the Mahdi Army, named after Muhammad al-Mahdi, the Imam who Shia Muslims believe has disappeared (in “occultation”) and would return to redeem the world. Mr. Sadr rejected the post-Saddam provisional government and asked the U.S. forces to leave. In an interview with CBS immediately after the U.S. invasion, Mr. Sadr said, “Saddam was the little serpent, but America is the big serpent.”
In the post-Saddam chaos, when al-Qaeda in Iraq, under the command of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, unleashed a wave of sectarian attacks against the Shias, Mr. Sadr’s militia emerged as a protector and defender of the Shias community. He built his base in Sadr City of Baghdad (previously Saddam City), particularly among the underclasses, and the Mahdi Army took the fighting often to U.S. troops. As Iraq slid into a sectarian civil war and the U.S. troops found it difficult to establish order, Mr. Sadr rose as a parallel authority among the country’s Shias.
But in Iraq’s fractious polity where it’s impossible for any political leader or bloc to establish dominance, Mr. Sadr has transformed himself to widen his base. He disarmed his militia, formed a political coalition and positioned himself as an Iraqi nationalist, rather than a Shia religious leader. He remained opposed to both U.S. presence and Iran’s growing influence in the country. At home he allied with Sunnis, communists and political independents. He also called for improved ties between Iran and the Sunni Gulf kingdoms, including Saudi Arabia. The transformation was relatively successful. In the 2018 election, Mr. Sadr’s coalition won 54 seats. His bloc emerged as the main rival of Al-Fatah alliance, the bloc comprising the pro-Iran militias and political groups. Three years later, when Mr. Sadr’s seat share in Parliament went up by 19, the al-Fatah coalition suffered a crushing loss and secured only 17 seats.
The election victory doesn’t mean that it’s easier for Mr. Sadr to decide the future course of Iraq. Government formation in Iraq is a painful and prolonged process. Once the results are ratified by the Federal Supreme Court, President Barham Salih will convene the new Parliament, where the largest political bloc (the Sadrist Movement) will be invited to nominate the PM. Mr. Sadr could practically decide whether PM Kandhimi should get one more term or another leader should be chosen. But then, he should start negotiations to form a coalition that will have a majority in the 329-member Parliament. With the Fatah having already dismissed the election results, it would not be easy for Mr. Sadr to put together a sustainable coalition. But notwithstanding the difficulties of day-to-day politicking, the results underscore one thing — Moqtada al-Sadr is the most influential cleric-politician in today’s Iraq.
Here’s What You Need to Remembers: “The Chinese have plans to at least double their arsenal by the end of the decade. They are departing from what has been known as a minimalist theory,” Gen. Timothy Ray, Commander, Air Force Global Strike Command, told reporters at the 2021 Air Force Association Symposium.
China’s military seems like it is growing in every direction possible.
For example, Chinese shipbuilders are adding new aircraft carriers, amphibs and destroyers at an alarming pace. Chinese armored vehicle engineers are fast-adding new infantry carriers and mobile artillery platforms. Chinese weapons developers are adding large numbers of new drones and attack robots. But the largest and potentially most alarming element of all of this, according to many senior U.S. leaders, is the staggering pace at which China is adding nuclear weapons.
“A troubling revelation has been about the trajectory of the Chinese nuclear program. The Chinese have plans to at least double their arsenal by the end of the decade. They are departing from what has been known as a minimalist theory,” Gen. Timothy Ray, Commander, Air Force Global Strike Command, told reporters at the 2021 Air Force Association Symposium.
Ray’s concern about the fast-growing Chinese nuclear arsenal aligns with and builds upon the Pentagon’s 2020 China Military Report, which states that the number of warheads arming Beijing’s intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) capable of threatening America will likely grow to 200 in the next five years. As an element of this expansion, China is increasing its inventory of long-range land-fired DF-26 Anti-Ship missiles able to fire both conventional and nuclear missiles.
Ray cited a hope that China might be willing to consider joining various ongoing arms treaty discussions, but did not appear extremely optimistic about the possibility given China’s approach to nuclear weapons modernization.
“I think the need to have China in a conversation about arms control is important,” Ray says.
“Combined with a near-complete lack of transparency regarding their (China’s) strategic intent and the perceived need for a much larger, more diverse nuclear force, these developments pose a significant concern for the United States,” the 2020 Pentagon report explains.
The reality of the threat circumstance with China seemed to be one of several reasons why Ray stressed the importance of maintaining and adding to the U.S. nuclear triad, particularly in the Asian theater.
There continues to be successful U.S. and allied Bomber Task Force Patrols, including ongoing work with B-1s in India and integrated flights with nuclear-capable B-2s and B-52s. Ray said the Air Force is working vigorously to expand allied collaboration with Bomber Task Forces beyond its current scope.
“We have the highest bomber aircrew readiness in the history of the command,” he said.
Alongside an effort to emphasize the growing importance of allied operations in the Pacific, Ray stressed a need for the U.S. to maintain its strategic deterrence posture with a modernized nuclear triad.
“There are no allied bombers and no allied ICBMs. These two components are the cornerstone of the security structure of a free world,” Ray said.
What much of this contributes to, Ray explained, is the importance of continuing the current Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent program, a now underway effort to build a new arsenal of 400 U.S. ICBMs.
Kris Osborn is the defense editor for the National Interest. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army—Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also has a Masters Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.
This article first appeared in March 2021 and is being reprinted for reader interest.
The Biden administration has placed a dozen Chinese companies on its trade blacklist on November 23, 2021, citing US national security as well as foreign policy logics. The latest move from Washington is to launch a crack-down on China’s hi-tech defense sector. The US Commerce Department also included 16 entities and individuals from China and Pakistan to the blacklist for contributing to Pakistan’s nuclear activities or ballistic missile program. The US Commerce Department’s action against Chinese companies demonstrates double standards and political reasons for such blacklisting while special favors are afforded to her allies like India and Australia. The move comes as the administration of US President Joe Biden has expressed public alarm over some of Beijing’s rapid military advancements, in particular, the surprise test of a nuclear-capable Chinese hypersonic missile said to be more dangerous than anything the US has yet developed. Jacob Stokes, a fellow at the Centre for a New American Security, a think tank in Washington, said the hypersonic missile test underscored “the massive stakes in the military-technological race between the two superpowers”. As part of that competition, US policymakers are trying to cut off the flow of critical technologies going in and coming out of China. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said in a statement that the new listings will help prevent American technology from supporting the development of Chinese and Russian “military advancement and activities of non-proliferation concern like Pakistan’s unsafeguarded nuclear activities or ballistic missile program” US-China rivalry is at full swing because China overtakes US to become world’s richest nation as global wealth has tripled in last two decades, from $156 trillion in the year 2000 to $514 trillion in 2020.
In pursuit of her strategic interests in Indo-pacific region, the US has key strategic partnership with India to counterweight China and perceives Pakistan to be siding with China. On the contrary, Pakistan does not want any confrontation in the region and stands with China for a peaceful economic engagement. Pakistan and China consider each other as trustworthy and all weather friends. The two countries enjoy a history of defense cooperation but Pakistan pursues a policy which aims not to target someone or to become a part of any confrontation. United States has adopted Indo-pacific strategy with India and AUKUS with Australia and UK to counter growing influence of China from East Asia. On May 24, 2021, the U.S. Senate advanced a sweeping package of legislation intended to boost the country’s ability to compete with Chinese technology, as Congress increasingly seeks to take a tough line against Beijing. By a vote of 68 to 32, the 2,400-page US Innovation and Competition Act of 2021 brought together a coalition of progressives, moderates and conservatives who, despite their intense disagreements on nearly every other consequential policy issue, have become united in their view the Chinese government under the rule of Xi Jinping has become a threat to global stability and American power. The bill includes a number of China-specific provisions, including the prohibition of the social media app TikTok from being downloaded on government devices. The purchase of drones manufactured and sold by Chinese state enterprises would also be blocked under the legislation. Chinese organizations engaged in US cyber-attacks or theft of US intellectual property from US firms would face sanctions too. Reacting on the latest ban of Chinese companies, Chinese Commerce Ministry spokesperson, Shu Jueting revealed in a press conference that China has strongly opposed the listing and intends launching solemn representation with the US. Zhao Lijian, spokesman of Chinese Foreign Ministry has warned that China will take necessary steps to defend its companies and reserves its right to take countermeasures. China’s embassy in Washington charged that the United States “uses the catch-all concept of national security and abuses state power to suppress and restrict Chinese enterprises in all possible means.” China is firmly opposed to that, embassy spokesperson Liu Pengyu said. He said the United States should “follow the spirit” of a virtual meeting between U.S. President Joe Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping last week and “meet China halfway instead of going further down the wrong path”.
Pakistan and China consider each other as trustworthy and all weather friends. The two countries enjoy a history of defense cooperation but Pakistan pursues a policy which aims not to target someone or to become a part of any confrontation.
The 21st century is considered a landmark in the history of Indo-US strategic relationship; it indicates the major shift in foreign policy of the US as well as that of India. The US supported India for becoming strong power in the region by favoring India in obtaining waiver from non-proliferation regimes with special reference to strategic trade with US and world. The US modified her municipal laws for granting civil nuclear technology. US also assisted India for getting approval for unique “waiver” from International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and Nuclear Supplier Group (NSG) for civilian nuclear trade. USA has tried to help India in becoming a permanent member of NSG and if this happened it would be first non-signatory country of Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) member of NSG. Being a US strategic partner, India is modernizing and diversifying its nuclear forces against China and Pakistan. Parts of its efforts are focused on developing Multiple Independently-targetable Reentry Vehicles (MIRVs) for its nuclear-capable ballistic missiles and Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD). The development of MIRV technology will enhance the Indian nuclear threat to both China and Pakistan. While the BMD development will give India a false sense of security, India is also developing the hypersonic technologies for military uses. It vividly highlights the double standards being followed by United States. On the one hand, it is supporting non-proliferation and on the other it is involved in proliferation of arms. The Indo-US civil nuclear agreement violates a very important article of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which prohibits members from assisting or inducing any non-nuclear weapon state to acquire nuclear weapons, a group of non-proliferation. US has adopted confrontation policy against China and giving access to India in NSG. US is undermining NSG and NPT regime by supporting India. The US biased approach may lead to instability and new arms race in South Asia.
Nuclear security is a state responsibility and it receives the highest level of attention in Pakistan in accordance with our domestic and international obligations. Pakistan has established a comprehensive and effective national nuclear security regime, which covers nuclear material and other radioactive materials, and associated facilities and activities throughout their lifecycle. In order to keep abreast of the emerging threats and challenges, national nuclear security regime is regularly reviewed and updated in the light of national obligations, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) guidance documents and international best practices. A robust nuclear security culture has evolved over a period of time that helps in strengthening and sustaining the national nuclear security regime. Just like India, Pakistan also faces short fall of energy. Peaceful use of nuclear technology to meet its energy requirement is right of the state and people of Pakistan. Like India, Pakistan also requires provision of safe nuclear energy. However, preferential treatment with India and setting aside Pakistani needs by the US speaks of the double standards with two countries having almost similar nuclear credentials. It has double standards on non-proliferation as it provides arms to its allied non-nuclear weapons states for their defense whereas it sanctions those states which have acquired weapons for their security. Pakistan has an indigenous nuclear program and has capacity to further develop its national resources. However, to meet its energy requirements, Pakistan also requires transfer of peaceful nuclear energy for which China is cooperating with Pakistan.
It goes beyond saying that India has hegemonic designs in the region and US is protecting India’s stance. Pakistan hasn’t ever compromised on its defense needs. For development of its nuclear arsenal, Pakistan is not dependent on any country and fully understands its legal responsibilities and dynamics as a responsible nuclear nation. However, China has become a large supplier of important defense systems to Pakistan. It appears that by blacklisting the Chinese firms, the US wants to slow down the development of various technologies needed for the defense of Pakistan.
The writer is a civil servant by profession, a writer by choice and a motivational speaker by passion!
The B61-12 bomb will extend its operational life by almost twenty years.
The United States has released the first production prototype of its upgraded B61 atomic bomb, which will encourage the country’s defence industry to create an estimated 480 of the weapons and also integrate four existing variants of the bomb.
The US Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Safety Administration (NNSA) recently said the product—the B61-12 bomb—was produced on November 23. The upgraded version will replace three of the four existing modifications of the B61 ammunition, which entered service in 1968: the B61-3, B61-4 and B61-7.
According to the NNSA, as a result of the modernisation, the duration of the bomb’s operational life will increase “by at least 20 years”.”NNSA expects full-scale [batch] production of [B61-12] to begin in May 2022, with completion of all [these] necessary [nuclear warheads] in FY2026,” the statement said.
The B61-12 bomb will differ from its predecessor, in particular, by the absence of a parachute and the presence of a new tail section with an inertial guidance system, which increases the accuracy of the application. According to Jill Hruby, the head of the NSNS, as a result of the modernisation, the power of the bomb in TNT equivalent will also decrease.
However, Hruby added, there will be “no changes in the military characteristics” of the ammunition and also increases its safety and reliability.
NATO’s most significant nuclear modernisation
According to the information she presented, the B61-12 bomb is intended for both currently available and future platforms, that is, delivery vehicles. As a result of the modernisation, all nuclear and non-nuclear components of the bomb were updated or replaced, the NNSA explained.
The first test of the B61-12, not accompanied by the detonation of an atomic charge, took place in the United States on July 1, 2015. Hans Christensen, director of information projects related to the nuclear sphere at the Federation of American Scientists, had told TASS about the US developing the first guided atomic bomb. A Senior Fellow at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), Christensen had termed the B61-12 bomb—which can be delivered by a fifth-generation American F-35 fighter-bomber—as “NATO’s most significant nuclear modernisation since the 1980s”.
Recently, there has been a trend towards developing ammunition with a low-power warhead (less than 50 kilotons) and a relatively low emission of radiation. According to experts, the new B61-12 aerial bomb can significantly lower the threshold for the use of nuclear weapons and, instead of a military-political deterrent, become a potential weapon off the battlefield. In Russia, typically nuclear weapons are also moving into the high-precision class, and their power has been significantly reduced compared to the warheads of the 1960s-1970s.
The US’s bombing of Nagasaki, Japan, in the final stages of World War II in 1945 was the second and last time a nuclear weapon was deployed in combat. Source: TRTWorld and agenciesLEARN MORE
GAZA, Saturday, December 4, 2021 (WAFA) – In separate incidents, the Israeli navy and army opened fire today at Gaza fishermen and on farmers at the borders in the south of the besieged Gaza Strip, reported WAFA correspondent.
He said the navy opened fire and water hoses at fishing boats sailing five nautical miles across from Rafah coast, damaging at least one boat but without causing any injury, and forcing the fishermen to return to shore.
Soldiers stationed at army watch towers east of Khan Yunis also opened fire at Gaza farmers working on their lands and bird hunters, east of Khuzaa town, forcing them to leave the area. No one was hurt.
Israelis forces constantly harass fishermen and farmers at border areas and prevent them from earning a living.
Research Associate, Allison Center for Foreign PolicyNicole is a research associate in the Allison Center for Foreign Policy at The Heritage Foundation.Iraqi Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr speaks during a press conference in the northern Iraqi Kurdish city of Arbil on April 26, 2012.SAFIN HAMED/AFP/GettyImages
America has two main objectives in Iraq: counter Iranian influence and combat radical Islamists.
Sadr has become more aligned with American objectives in Iraq.
Sadr’s opposition to Iranian domination of Iraq and his political majority in parliament make him a critical partner to bring Kadhimi back to power.
America has two main objectives in Iraq: counter Iranian influence and combat radical Islamists. Fortunately, the official results of Iraq’s recent parliamentary elections create an opportunity for the U.S. to advance these objectives.
The big winner was Muqtada al-Sadr, a nationalist Shiite cleric and firebrand. His Sadrist Movement gained 20 seats to increase its total to 73 seats out of 329, while the pro-Iran Fateh bloc lost 31 seats for a total of 17.
The results of the Oct. 10 elections sparked immediate backlash from pro-Iran factions, which led to unrest and an assassination attempt against Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi early last month.
But Iraq’s electoral commission on Tuesday confirmed the election results. The outcome gives Sadr the biggest bloc in Iraq’s parliament and thus the largest say in forming a government.
Sadr is well known to American policymakers, especially since he led militia forces against U.S. troops in the earlier days of the Iraq War. However, Sadr has since become more aligned with American objectives in Iraq and likely will serve as a kingmaker by leveraging his electoral majority to nominate the U.S.-friendlyKadhimi to continue as prime minister.
The son of a prominent Shia cleric, Sadr gained a cultlike following in 2004 while leading the so-called Mahdi army against U.S. forces in central and southern Iraq. Throughout the Iraq War, Sadr received training, supplies, and financing to combat U.S. forces from the terrorist organizations Hezbollah and Quds Force, the latter a branch of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard.
However, as Sadr’s Mahdi army weakened under U.S. pressure, he fled in 2008 to Qom, Iran to bolster his religious credentials at a prominent Shiite clerical center. He returned to Iraq and reentered the political scene in 2011 after striking a deal with Iran’s preferred candidate for Iraqi prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki.
However, the Maliki-Sadr alliance proved short-lived. By 2014, Sadr openly opposed the Maliki government, calling Maliki a “dictator who runs an authoritarian tyranny.”
Deteriorating security conditions that year presented the perfect opportunity for Sadr to strengthen his popular base. With Iraqi security forces unable to stop advances by the Islamic State terrorist group, also know as ISIS, Sadr and other Shia Muslims in contested areas formed paramilitary forces known as the Popular Mobilization Forces.
These groups ultimately turned the tide against ISIS in Iraq. Following the territorial defeat of the terrorist group in 2019, the Popular Mobilization Forces were expected to integrate into Iraq’s military establishment.
Sadr’s force, known as the Peace Brigades, integrated with the Iraqi armed forces but remain an autonomous unit under the direct control of the prime minister. Others, particularly Iranian-backed Popular Mobilization Forces, resisted and remain outside the control of the Iraqi government.
The integration of Sadr’s Peace Brigades increased his popularity in Iraqi politics. Since 2019, his political organization, the Sadrist Movement, quietly has expanded his influence across state institutions in the past two years.
Although Sadr’s anti-Iran stance and proximity to Kadhimi could make him an important actor to advance U.S. objectives in Iraq, he remains a tricky figure for America. In 2004, Sadr was responsible for the deaths of countless American and coalition troops, but also became an important partner for the U.S.-led coalition in defeating ISIS.
There are signs, however, that Sadr has become more pragmatic. He has stated that all foreign embassies are welcome, including that of the United States, so long as they “do not interfere in Iraqi affairs and government formation.”
Sadr also has encouraged better relations with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, both of which have friendly ties with the U.S. He has echoed calls to rein in militia groups that weren’t responsive to previous decrees issued by Iraqi prime ministers, saying that weapons “should be controlled by the state only.”
Although it’s not clear how much influence Sadr retains with his former Peace Brigades, he previously acknowledged that militias are not good for state-building and therefore must be integrated into existing security frameworks to create a more unified, cohesive Iraq.
Washington must take a sophisticated and nuanced foreign policy approach to Iraq, a country with economic, social, and political challenges situated in one of the world’s most complicated regions.
Sadr’s opposition to Iranian domination of Iraq and his political majority in parliament make him a critical partner to bring Kadhimi back to power.
Then, Kadhimi could take steps to reposition Iraq as a counterweight to Iran, rather than a subservient client state.