Australian Horn Must Nuke Up: Daniel 7

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Australia Needs To Reconsider Acquisition Of Nuclear Weapons – Analysis

September 13, 2021

There is a risk Australia may be alone in the region

It has been fifty years since Australia made a formal decision not to acquire nuclear weapons. However, since then the regional geo-political environment has starkly changed, and is likely to become more turbulent over the next few decades, as balances are changing. 

US reliance as an alley, and the inferred nuclear protection Australia has been given is uncertain in the future. The competitive strategic positions of China and the US will change drastically over the next decade. US interests under different presidencies are also fluid. Australia is now in the frontline of a strategically changing region, where Australia’s self-perception as a middle power has vanished with some regional military forces much more potent than Australia. 

Australia’s bilateral relationship with its largest trading partner China has greatly deteriorated over recent times, with few signs of improving. Australia is alone in its trade dispute with China, ironically with the US benefitting from Chinese embargoes on Australian goods. Minister to minister communications has long been suspended, as China is decoupling Australia. 

There are a number of potential trouble spots in the region. These include Chinese intentions over Taiwan, North Korea’s acquisition of long-range nuclear weapon delivery systems, and a potentially unstable nuclear Pakistan with Taliban designs of creating a Pashtun Taliban Caliphate in Pakistan.

The nuclear equilibrium in the region is shifting. China’s rise in military force is prompting countries like India to upgrade its nuclear arsenal to much more powerful thermonuclear weapons.

Probably of greatest importance is Indonesian nuclear weapon development intentions. Former Indonesian army four-star general and minister for maritime affairs and investment has been reported as saying Indonesia is underestimated because it doesn’t have nuclear weapons. Indonesia’s development of facilities capable of manufacturing weapons grade materials are well underway. A nuclear Indonesia with a growing Wahhabi-Salafism in Indonesia may one day leave Australia with a government to the north, vastly different to what exists now. 

Australia needs to discuss strategy options in the new realities it faces in the region. There needs to be re-assessments of a post-Afghanistan US alley, very close neighbours to Australia which are adopting a placating response to China, a super-power that is bullying Australia, and the likelihood of a potential nuclear armed neighbour. 

Since the early 1970s, Australian Governments have been strongly supportive of nuclear non-proliferation under the definitions of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), signed by the McMahon Government in 1970 and ratified by the incoming Labor Whitlam Government in 1973. Australia’s anti-nuclear position was even strengthened under Liberal-Coalition Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser, as the “green/anti-nuclear” movement was quickly growing in Australia at the time. With the exception of Prime Minister John Howard, who saw a changing Asia-Pacific nuclear balance, subsequent prime ministers Hawke, Keating, Rudd, and Gillard also strongly followed the non-proliferation line.

Paradoxically, every prime minister supported to various degrees, the development of uranium mining and export as an economic driver. The Fraser and later Rudd Governments argued that uranium exports should be used as a means to strengthen non-proliferation by demanding safeguards from customers.

Uranium exports have been controversial, with strong domestic protests over the years, governments trampling over indigenous wills, and deep party rifts within the Labor movement. Yet on the issue on non-proliferation, Australia had always been at the forefront in international forums.

Prior to the 1970s, Australia took a different view towards nuclear non-proliferation. In 1944, Australia supplied uranium ore to the Manhattan Project. Australian physicist Mark Oliphant played a major role in pushing the atomic bomb program in both Britain and the US before the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941.

However, after World War II, the US Government reneged on its agreement to share nuclear technology with its allies. Then Australian Prime Minister Robert Menzies, granted Australia’s assistance to Britain in its quest for autonomous nuclear weapons, giving technical assistance and allowing nuclear tests in the Mont Bello Islands, Emu Field and Maralinga, on Australian soil between 1952 and 1963. Australia also participated in the development of the Blue Streak and bloodhound missiles, which were potential nuclear weapon delivery systems with Britain during this era.

The significance of Australian participation, which didn’t go unnoticed by Australian bureaucrats and politicians at the time, was that under section IX.3 of the proposed NPT, Australia would be able to claim nuclear status as it had participated in the production and detonation of nuclear weapons prior to 1st January 1967. Historical reports indicate that the Australian Government’s main motivation at the time, (including US pressure), was to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons in the local hemisphere, rather than seeking the abolishment of nuclear weapons.

Bureaucratic support from within the Australian defence and security establishment for a nuclear hedging position was strong at the. Wikileaks publication of diplomatic cables between Australia and the US on Iran’s bid to develop nuclear weapons indicated this. Notable Australian diplomat and former Director-General of the Office of National Assessments, Peter Varghese was reported as saying in his briefings to the United States that Australia didn’t see Iran as a ‘rogue state’ in its development of nuclear weapons as “Tehran’s nuclear program (was) within the paradigm of the laws of difference, noting that Iran’s ability to produce a nuclear weapon may be enough to meet its security objectives”.

Attempts during the 1950s and 1960s were made by a number of defence personnel, high placed public servants, academics, and right-wing elements of the Liberal-Country Party to acquire nuclear weapons. Initially purchasing them from either Britain or the United States was advocated. Later developing an independent nuclear deterrent was favoured.

Most of the active proponents for nuclear weapons were defence related personnel. They developed a number of plans to acquire nuclear weapons from the British, or have the United States deploy them on Australian soil. Sir Philip Baxter, who was head of the Australian Atomic Energy Commission (AAEC) at the time, operated a clandestine research program to isolate the isotope U-235 from uranium, the quality needed in the production of nuclear weapons. 

Some academics like Professor A. L. Burns of the Australian National University also advocated an Australian nuclear option which was aired by the Australian media at the time, especially in relation to the Chinese testing a nuclear bomb and the belief that Indonesia was also developing nuclear weapons. Pressure groups like the Democratic Labor Party and Returned Soldiers League which were both influential during the 1960s also strongly advocated an Australian nuclear weapon option.

The reluctance of the Australian Government to go ahead with the development of its own nuclear weapons all changed after Prime Minister Menzies retirement, when John Gorton unexpectedly became prime minister after the disappearance of Prime Minister Harold Holt in 1967. John Gorton, an ex-RAAF pilot strongly believed that Australia should have its own independent nuclear deterrent with the Chinese in possession of nuclear weapons in the region. Plans went underway to develop a nuclear facility at Jervis Bay on the South Coast of New South Wales that would house both a nuclear reactor, which could produce weapons grade plutonium, and bomb manufacturing facilities.

Gorton tried to develop an Australian nuclear weapon capability before the NPT was signed. However, in March 1971, he was disposed by William McMahon, who cancelled all nuclear weapon development plans. It will always remain a matter of conjecture how much influence the US had in his decision.

Moving back to more contemporary times, two recent reactions to recent events by the former Turnbull Government briefly hinted of a change in thinking about Australia’s strong non-proliferation position.

Firstly, Australia’s tradition of supporting non-proliferation in international forums was broken. Australia failed to support the recent United Nations resolution to outlaw nuclear weapons on the floor of the General Assembly in 2016, to the surprise and astonishment of many interested in this issue. Secondly, former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull failed to give Melbourne based International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) director Beatrice Fihn a congratulatory call after been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. This seems significant in what can be considered Australia’s first Nobel Peace Prize.

In addition, former Foreign Minister Julie Bishop’s rhetoric about nuclear weapons soon about to spread through the region indicates a change in Canberra’s world view. The Morrison Australian government is currently opposed to signing the new intentional Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons

Over the last two years, there have been open public debates on the need of an Australian nuclear deterrent, something that hasn’t occurred for decades. Influential Australian National University academic Hugh White, published a book two years ago, which openly canvassed the possibility of Australia acquiring a nuclear deterrent. Given his close consulting with the Australian government on the subject of national strategic defence, this hints that the topic is being discussed at the highest levels of government. Former National Party deputy prime minister John Anderson openly advocated Australia acquiring a nuclear deterrent very recently.  

This is not yet a policy shift, but perhaps recognition that nuclear weapons for Australia may need to be an option. Today, with Australian citizen perception of China, and as more news of an Indonesian nuclear weapons program intentions surface, public support will increase. Australian society has changed since the anti-nuclear days of French testing in the Pacific, and the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. 

Australia’s capability to develop nuclear weapons is better than most. The Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organization (ANSTO) at Lucas Heights, replacing the AAEC in 1987 is an internationally renowned centre of nuclear research. Australia has also developed some advanced indigenous uranium refining technology, the SILEX process using lasers, which is much more economical and cheaper than the traditional centrifuge technology.

Australia has large reserves of uranium and a stockpile of semi-refined uranium at Lucas heights. Australia also has a certain degree of bomb making technology that it gained from participation with Britain in the nuclear tests during the 1950s and its own endeavours back in the 1970s. Australia has the Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II fighter, Boeing F/A-18a & B Hornet, and the F/A 18F Super Hornet as capable medium range delivery systems.  Australia also has a range of nuclear capable cruise missiles which can be launched from aircraft, ships, and submarines. Submarines are today by far the most stealthy method of delivering nuclear weapons, as they are the most difficult to detect, and delivery time from launch to target is short. 

However, this doesn’t mean developing a nuclear arsenal would be an easy project for any future government. The project would be a major one requiring special budgeting, which would mean curtailing other budget expenditure. This could be very difficult in today’s economic environment.

In the absence of some form of threat to Australia’s security, public debate would probably be one of the most heated and passionate within Australian society. This would be reflected in the finely balanced Australian Parliament. This debate would have the potential to bring down the Government.

In the absence of bi-partisanship between the major parties on the issue, a Labor Government on current policy would firmly squash any potential nuclear program. It may not even need a change of government, a change of leader within the Liberal Party maybe enough to force the cancellation of any nuclear program.

The nuclear weapon debate is an issue politicians can use to gain power, which would prevent Australia developing nuclear weapons. That’s the dynamics of a democratic system. If France or Britain had to develop nuclear weapons from scratch today, it would almost be impossible through their democratic processes.

Even if Australia decided to go ahead with a nuclear program, tacit approval would be needed from the United States. The US has for years been hedging on this. However, with the Biden view of the region, the US may support allies in the Asia-Pacific taking more responsibility for their own defence. The proposal by Australia to develop its own nuclear arsenal may bring big offers of concessions from the US. There are possibilities that the US could deploy nuclear weapons on Australian soil as a deterrent, with joint control or leasing scheme. 

The strongest argument for Australia developing a nuclear deterrent is to gain strategic respect in the region. Australia cannot afford to project itself militarily into the South China Sea in any significant manner on its own. This would need spending 4-5 percent of GDP on defence over a decade. Australia’s transactional diplomacy within the region hasn’t developed close regional military alliances that it should have by now. China is using Australia as a decoupling experiment to see how isolated they can make the country. Australia must quickly see how alone it is now, as no country has jumped to Australia’s assistance. A nuclear deterrent will make it easier for Australia to stand alone. This will now very quickly develop into a serious option.  

Murray’s blog can be accessed here

Russian Horn to Deploy Tactical Nuclear Weapons: Daniel 7

FILE - In this handout photo taken from video released by Russian Defense Ministry Press Service Nov. 10, 2021, a long-range Tu-22M3 bomber of the Russian Aerospace Forces takes-off to patrol the airspace of Belarus.
FILE – In this handout photo taken from video released by Russian Defense Ministry Press Service Nov. 10, 2021, a long-range Tu-22M3 bomber of the Russian Aerospace Forces takes-off to patrol the airspace of Belarus.

Russia Threatens to Deploy Tactical Nuclear Weapons

December 14, 2021 12:28 PM


A top Russian diplomat has warned that Moscow will respond “militarily” and deploy tactical nuclear weapons, if NATO does not guarantee an end to its eastward expansion.

His remarks raise the stakes even higher in the confrontation between Russia and Western powers just days after U.S. President Joe Biden and Russia’s Vladimir Putin held a two-hour video conference aimed at defusing a burgeoning crisis over Russian military movements near Ukraine’s borders, where the Kremlin is estimated to have amassed around 100,000 troops.

Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov’s threat comes amid rising fears that Putin is considering a further military incursion into Ukraine in a rehash of Russia’s 2014 annexation of the Crimean Peninsula and its seizure of a large part of the Donbas region in eastern Ukraine, bordering Russia.

In a phone call Monday, Britain’s Boris Johnson repeated to the Russian leader warnings that any repeat of 2014 would have “significant consequences” and any “destabilizing action” by Russia would be met with a united response by Western countries.

Following the call between Johnson and Putin, Ryabkov told the state-run RIA Novosti news agency Russia’s “response will be military,” if NATO continues to arm Ukraine. “A lack of progress towards a political-diplomatic solution would mean that our response will be military and military-technical,” Ryabkov said.

“There will be confrontation,” he added, saying Russia would deploy weapons previously banned under the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, an arms control deal struck in 1987 by then US President Ronald Reagan and Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev.

The treaty expired in 2019 but both Washington and Moscow have not moved to deploy the previously banned nuclear weapons.

According to British officials, Johnson stressed to Putin the importance of having a “dialogue on international and regional security” and that all sides needed to observe the Minsk agreements signed by Russia and Ukraine in 2015 which aimed to bring an end to fighting in Ukraine’s Donbas. Russia and Ukraine accuse each other of failing to comply with the Minsk agreements.
Russian maneuvers.

A Russian army soldier takes part in drills at the Kadamovskiy firing range in the Rostov region in southern Russia, Dec. 10, 2021.
A Russian army soldier takes part in drills at the Kadamovskiy firing range in the Rostov region in southern Russia, Dec. 10, 2021.

Last week, President Biden outlined in his call with Putin the economic sanctions the West would impose if Russian forces invaded Ukraine. A buildup of Russian troops along the border with Ukraine, and on the Crimean Peninsula, has prompted growing alarm in Western capitals and triggered an intense debate among Western policymakers over Putin’s intentions. Russian motorized infantry, artillery and armored units along the border Tuesday appeared to be carrying out drills practicing combat alerts and deploying to assembly points, according to Ukrainian officials.

Kremlin officials maintain Russia is not preparing to invade Ukraine and accuse the Ukrainians of mobilizing military units along their shared border. They say NATO is helping Kyiv to build up its forces and is being supplied with a significant number of weapons, including modern high-tech weapons.

In Kyiv on Tuesday, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian affairs Karen Donfried reassured Ukrainian officials of Washington’s continued commitment to Ukraine’s independence and territorial integrity. Donfried is due to meet Ryabkov in Moscow later this week.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, who is pressing NATO to admit his country as a member, told reporters Tuesday, “Ukraine gave up its nuclear arsenal in exchange of security guarantees from Russia. They were never respected. How can we trust any Russian promises?”

Putin has demanded Western powers guarantee in writing that Ukraine would not be a staging ground for NATO. Last week, Russia’s Foreign Ministry demanded Washington formally close the door on NATO membership for both Ukraine and Georgia. The Foreign Ministry also demanded that the Western alliance guarantee the non-deployment of weapons threatening Russia’s security on its western borders.

Ukraine’s foreign minister on Tuesday accused Putin of trying to return Europe to the Soviet era. “The fact Putin is searching for a new ideological justification concerning Ukraine suggests he’s on the verge of something big: an attempt to fundamentally rewrite the security order in Europe, to divide the continent into new spheres of influence,” Dmytro Kuleba said at a press conference, after his meeting with Donfried.

Western policymakers are split over why Putin has been amassing troops. They are also wrestling with their options for deterring him from making any dramatic military moves on Ukraine. Some former U.S. diplomats and officials believe Washington and its European allies should supply Ukraine with more high-tech weaponry, and sooner rather than later. They see the Kremlin’s anxiety over supplies of Western high-tech weapons as the best policy option to deter Russian adventurism.

The question U.S. and European policymakers must answer is whether they are “going to help Ukraine with the weapons and the training it needs to defend itself,” said Daniel Fried, a former American diplomat who served as assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs and was the U.S. ambassador to Poland from 1997 to 2000. The U.S. has increased its military supplies to Ukraine but Fried would like to see more.

“Ukrainians know how to use them. And I think the equipment needs to be delivered either now to deter the Russians or in the pipelines so the Russians know it can arrive very quickly,” he told VOA recently.

In Moscow, Kremlin officials say Putin planned to discuss the crisis in a call Wednesday with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Antichrist faces growing violence as political rift deepens

Iraqi cleric Muqtada al-Sadr speaks after preliminary results of Iraq's parliamentary election
As the leader of the biggest bloc, Shia leader Muqtada al-Sadr has the upper hand in forming a new government [File: Alaa Al-Marjani/Reuters]

Iraq faces growing violence as political rift deepens

Atacks this week underscore the challenges to forming a government away from ethno-sectarian power-sharing arrangement.

By Shawn YuanPublished On 18 Jan 202218 Jan 2022

Baghdad, Iraq – The threat of worsening violence looms over Baghdad again this week, underscoring the challenges faced by influential Shia leader Muqtada al-Sadr, the leader of parliament’s biggest bloc, in his stated efforts to form a majority government following October’s contested election.

In the latest in a number of attacks to hit the Iraqi capital in just a matter of days, twin explosions late on Sunday targeted two banks associated with Kurdish politicians in central Baghdad’s Karrada district, leaving two people wounded.

It came two days after a hand grenade was thrown at the headquarters of the Taqaddum party, which is led by parliament’s Speaker Mohammed Halbousi. Hours later, a similar attack hit the office of Khamis al-Khanjar, another Sunni politician.

And on January 13, a rocket attack targeting the US embassy in the highly fortified Green Zone wounded several civilians, including a child and a woman.

An Iraqi man checks the scene of an explosion outside the Kurdish Cihan Bank in the Karrada district of Iraq

There has been no claim of responsibility for any of these attacks, which came days after the newly elected parliament’s first session on January 9, during which chaos reigned and physical altercations broke out. The dramatic meeting, which saw Halbousi reelected thanks to support from the Sadrist Movement and the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) – despite strong objection by al-Sadr’s opponents – inaugurated what is expected to be a long period of political wrangling to pick a new president and prime minister.

Analysts say the escalation tests the limits of al-Sadr’s bid to create a government that would, to a certain extent, steer away from the ethno-sectarian power-sharing arrangement established after the United States-led invasion that overthrew Saddam Hussein in 2003.

Known as muhasasa, the system distributes power and state resources between Iraq’s three main religious and ethnic groups – Shia, Sunni and Kurdish – but has been reviled by protesters who in recent years took to the streets to demand a complete overhaul of the country’s political system.

Since his strong election showing in October, al-Sadr has frequently reiterated his commitment to form a “national majority government”, essentially sidelining the Shia Coordination Framework that includes figures such as former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, one of Sadr’s old foes, and the Fatah alliance, the political bloc that houses the pro-Iran Popular Mobilization Forces and which suffered a devastating loss in the elections.

“A majority government can certainly be a responsible and effective government with clear tasks, expectations and responsibilities,” said Kamaran Palani, a research fellow at the Middle East Research Institute. “However, this idea is rejected by the Coordination Framework and every major party besides Sadr’s.”https://www.youtube.com/embed/ajcx1kTw7t4?version=3&rel=1&showsearch=0&showinfo=1&iv_load_policy=1&fs=1&hl=en-US&autohide=2&wmode=transparent

Some pro-Iran militia groups had previously warned of intensified violence if Sunni and Kurd groups decided to join al-Sadr’s camp.

But al-Sadr – once the leader of the formidable Mahdi Army, a powerful militia group that vehemently fought US forces during Iraq’s occupation and was a major player in the post-invasion sectarian conflict – has stood firm.

“Today, there is no place for sectarianism or ethnic division, but a national majority government where the Shia defend the rights of minorities, the Sunnis and Kurds,” al-Sadr, whose party won 73 seats in the polls, tweeted one day before the first parliamentary session.

“Today there is no place for militias, and everyone will support the army, police and security forces.”

‘No good alternatives’

By defending his Sunni and Kurd allies, al-Sadr is treading further down the road of alienating groups such as Fatah, which, until the recent elections, wielded undeniable levels of power in Iraqi politics. Should al-Sadr managed to form a majority government with his Sunni and Kurd allies, al-Maliki’s State of Law party and Fatah could be pushed into the opposition – a dramatic blow to the status quo.

Analysts say such a rift between Iraq’s Shia groups would be unprecedented, and if either al-Sadr or the Shia Coordination Framework were to be pushed aside, a backlash would be almost inevitable.

“In either scenario, the opposite side will not only try to overthrow the government with legal and political tools but will escalate violently,” warned Lahib Higel, an Iraq analyst at Crisis Group.

“Political assassinations among Shia parties and armed groups hav[e] already occurred and may become more frequent and high-profile.”https://www.youtube.com/embed/0YKRh6aqqDU?version=3&rel=1&showsearch=0&showinfo=1&iv_load_policy=1&fs=1&hl=en-US&autohide=2&wmode=transparent

Faced with the spectre of instability, some ordinary Iraqis say a majority government would bring about much-needed accountability, which has been largely absent under the current muhasasa system.

“I am not an al-Sadr supporter, but at this point, I’d love to see a majority government led by him because we don’t have any other good alternatives,” said Ahmed al-Haddad, a Baghdad resident.

“Also, if he forms a majority government and still drives the country to chaos, he wouldn’t have any excuse for the next election.”

Yet not all is rosy on the path to establishing a majority government in a country scarred by years of ineffective governance and sectarian violence.

“The whole point behind pushing for a majority government was to move beyond muhasasa,” said Hamzeh Hadad, an Iraqi political analyst. “But the latest election of parliament’s speaker and deputies reveals that we are far from abolishing muhasasa, as long as parties run based on ethno-sectarian identity where no party can win a majority in elections.”

The History of Earth­quakes In New York Before the Sixth Seal (Revelation 6:12)

      The History of Earth­quakes In New YorkBy Meteorologist Michael Gouldrick New York State PUBLISHED 6:30 AM ET Sep. 09, 2020 PUBLISHED 6:30 AM EDT Sep. 09, 2020New York State has a long history of earthquakes. Since the early to mid 1700s there have been over 550 recorded earthquakes that have been centered within the state’s boundary. New York has also been shaken by strong earthquakes that occurred in southeast Canada and the Mid-Atlantic states.

Courtesy of Northeast States Emergency ConsortiumThe largest earthquake that occurred within New York’s borders happened on September 5th, 1944. It was a magnitude 5.9 and did major damage in the town of Massena.A school gymnasium suffered major damage, some 90% of chimneys toppled over and house foundations were cracked. Windows broke and plumbing was damaged. This earthquake was felt from Maine to Michigan to Maryland.Another strong quake occurred near Attica on August 12th, 1929. Chimneys took the biggest hit, foundations were also cracked and store shelves toppled their goods.In more recent memory some of the strongest quakes occurred On April 20th, 2002 when a 5.0 rattled the state and was centered on Au Sable Forks area near Plattsburg, NY.Strong earthquakes outside of New York’s boundary have also shaken the state. On February 5th, 1663 near Charlevoix, Quebec, an estimated magnitude of 7.5 occurred. A 6.2 tremor was reported in Western Quebec on November 1st in 1935. A 6.2 earthquake occurred in the same area on March 1st 1925. Many in the state also reported shaking on August 23rd, 2011 from a 5.9 earthquake near Mineral, Virginia.

Earthquakes in the northeast U.S. and southeast Canada are not as intense as those found in other parts of the world but can be felt over a much larger area. The reason for this is the makeup of the ground. In our part of the world, the ground is like a jigsaw puzzle that has been put together. If one piece shakes, the whole puzzle shakes.In the Western U.S., the ground is more like a puzzle that hasn’t been fully put together yet. One piece can shake violently, but only the the pieces next to it are affected while the rest of the puzzle doesn’t move.In Rochester, New York, the most recent earthquake was reported on March 29th, 2020. It was a 2.6 magnitude shake centered under Lake Ontario. While most did not feel it, there were 54 reports of the ground shaking.So next time you are wondering why the dishes rattled, or you thought you felt the ground move, it certainly could have been an earthquake in New York.Here is a website from the USGS (United Sates Geologic Society) of current earthquakes greater than 2.5 during the past day around the world. As you can see, the Earth is a geologically active planet!Another great website of earthquakes that have occurred locally can be found here.To learn more about the science behind earthquakes, check out this website from the USGS.

US worried about the Russian Nuclear Horn in Europe

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US worried Russia could deploy nuclear weapons in Belarus: top official

Washington: The United States is worried that draft constitutional reforms in Belarus could lead to the deployment of Russian nuclear weapons in the country, a senior State Department official told reporters Tuesday.

Joint Russia-Belarus military exercises announced Tuesday by Minsk as Russian troops arrived in the country were “beyond normal,” and could preview a permanent Russian military presence involving both conventional and nuclear forces, the official said.

Biden has taken its eyes off the ball on Iran

For Putin, Kazakhstan is a domino too big to fall

America has taken its eyes off the ball on Iran

(CNN) — All but lost in the noise of Russia’s “drumbeat of war” on Ukraine is an even more pressing warning siren — getting Iran back into the agreement that would keep it from building a nuclear weapon. And that is looking increasingly chancy. 

“We are reaching a point where Iran’s nuclear escalation will have eliminated the substance of the JCPOA,” the Arms Control Association said earlier this month of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the Iran nuclear agreement signed by Britain, France, Germany, Russia, China, the United States, as well as Iran, in 2015.Three years later, President Donald Trump withdrew the US from the pact and reimposed sanctions on Iran. While the JCPOA is still recognized by the remaining signatories, Iran has since embarked on an accelerated program of enriching uranium that could allow it to create a weapon more quickly.Every delay in the negotiations that have just resumed after a brief break in the eighth round in Vienna allows Iran time to make further progress toward the ability — if not the will — to make at least a testable nuclear weapon. And indeed there is a theoretical off-ramp barely two weeks away when the sixth month of negotiations is reached and the talks could come to a real, and toxic, end.Even now, there is considerable belief that Iran may be desperately close to the ability to create a nuclear device.

“Iran today is probably within a month or two of having enough material that could, with further enrichment, be sufficient to actually build a bomb,” Gary Sick, head of Columbia University’s Gulf/2000 project and the Iran expert on the National Security Council under President Jimmy Carter, told me via email interview.

“The skill and experience that they have developed in this round, however, will not be forgotten. So even if Iran returns to the original status of 2015, it will be better poised to get there quicker the next time, if there is a next time,” Sick added.However Sick and others believe that Iran has not yet made the final determination to go that last step toward a testable nuclear device. The Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who will make such a decision, has said an atomic bomb is “haram” or forbidden in Islam. Moreover, Sick points out that Iran is at least a year or two away from producing a device that could be mounted on a missile and fired at a neighboring country or beyond.Meanwhile the White House is playing the blame game — ever more vocally laying Iran’s accelerating progress toward a bomb on Trump’s withdrawal from the process. But in fact, the US is at risk of taking its eye off the ball, focusing intently on talks with Russia over Ukraine, without seeing how they might in some fashion be tied together. 

Since the breakup of the Soviet Union, Moscow no longer shares a land border with Iran, but the last thing Russia wants is another nuclear power that close by. Bring China into the equation and this quickly becomes three-dimensional chess. While concerned about a broader conflict in the Middle East that could disrupt some of its energy supplies, China shares few of Russia’s fears of a nuclear-armed Iran.At the same time, as one of the very few customers for Iranian oil under sanctions, China has few incentives to see sanctions lifted. The White House insists, however, that the administration has been able to engage with Russia and China within the JCPOA format and that it is still only Iran that is dragging its heels. Still, both Secretary of State Antony Blinken and his top negotiator Wendy Sherman, the original architect of the JCPOA under President Barack Obama, have been focusing intently on the Russia-Ukraine talks and seeking European agreement to sanctions should Putin invade. Indeed, when Blinken was interviewed on NPR last week, he spent much of his time talking about Russia and Ukraine. At the end, when talk turned to Iran, Blinken devoted most of his energy to blaming Trump. There is no question that the immediate impact of a Russian invasion of Ukraine would be most appalling, but the inexorable moves by Iran toward enrichment of uranium and the evidence that the US appears at least to have prioritized negotiations with Russia over Ukraine cannot be lost on a very savvy Iranian leadership.Senior Biden administration officials have told me that they believe they are able to engage with Russia and China with respect to the JCPOA. The key evidence will be where the negotiations stand when they reopen following the current break.Indeed now, virtually everyone with a stake in Iran’s nuclear capabilities is beginning to reposition itself in the event of a breakdown in the negotiations.At a meeting of Chinese and Iranian foreign ministers last week, the countries announceda 25-year cooperation agreement aimed at strengthening economic and political ties. China has become a major customer for Iranian oil, importing some 590,000 barrels per day last year, the highest level since Trump reimposed sanctions. Lifting sanctions could threaten that exclusivity.At the same time, Russia and Iran are also strengthening links, with President Vladimir Putin to host his counterpart President Ebrahim Raisi later this month amid plans for a 20-year trade and military agreement. Other nations in the region have also begun hedging their bets. Israel and Russia have big stakes in Iran’s nuclear capabilities — perhaps even larger than Western Europe or the United States, which is outside the range of any Iranian missile that’s been tested so far.Earlier this month, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Putin “agreed on continued close cooperation on this area,” according to theIsraeli prime minister’s office. The two countries already have a “deconfliction” agreement that allows Israeli warplanes to attack Iranian bases and weapons convoys in Syria — deconfliction being an essential extension if Israel were to mount an air strike against Iranian nuclear facilities. Elsewhere, Saudi Arabia has begun cozying up to Beijing. China is helping the Saudis with everything from a missile development program to a massive desalination network, and is already one of Saudi Arabia’s largest trading partners. It’s a relationship that could prove a fruitful source of nuclear technology should Iran develop its own weapon. Back at the JCPOA negotiating table, Iran’s key conditions remain all but unchanged. Nournews, a news service affiliated with Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, reported last week that “verification and assurances” — code for the continued demand that all sanctions be lifted — are a precondition for Iran consenting to resume the agreement. But there are more questions on which any successful outcome at the Iran talks may well hinge.Will Iran settle for being a state permanently on a nuclear threshold and will that satisfy the security needs of its neighbors and potential targets? For the moment, the US must thread this impossibly slim eye of a needle. It is difficult to see how the JCPOA process could survive an utter breakdown in East-West security talks or more particularly any incursion into Ukraine by Russian forces.But the Biden administration must find a way to stay focused on Iran. At the next round of Vienna talks, there must be some real, concrete evidence of progress.

Israeli military vehicles found outside the Temple Walls carrying out sabotage operations: Revelation 11

Nine Israeli military vehicles found in Gaza Strip carrying out sabotage operations

January 18, 2022

Nine Israeli military vehicles were found north of the town of Beit Lahia in the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, according to the Palestinian News Agency WAFA. 

WAFA said that the military vehicles were carrying out combing and sabotage operations in the area, noting that seven other vehicles were found carrying out similar activities east of Khuza’a, south of the Gaza Strip.

According to eyewitnesses on Monday, Israeli bulldozers moved into these areas amid sweeping operations and intermittent shooting, but no injuries were recorded.

Meanwhile, Israeli Occupation Forces arrested three Palestinians from Hebron.

Security sources told WAFA that the occupation forces stormed Hebron and arrested a young man and a 57-year-old Palestinian from the town of Al-Shuyoukh after searching their homes. 

Muhammad Awad, a media activist in the town of Beit Ummar, north of Hebron, told WAFA that Israeli forces stormed the town and arrested former mayor Farhan Musa Hussein Alqam as well.

Israeli forces also raided several neighbourhoods in the city of Hebron and set up military checkpoints to stop and search vehicles and check citizens’ cards, obstructing citizens’ movement.

The Russian Nuclear horn moves into Europe Daniel 7

Russia moves troops to Belarus for joint exercises near Ukraine border

Move likely to stoke invasion fears as war games also planned near borders of Nato members Poland and Lithuania

Russia has begun moving troops to Ukraine’s northern neighbour Belarus for joint military exercises, in a move likely to increase fears in the west that Moscow is preparing for an invasion.

The joint military exercises, named United Resolve, are to take place as Russia also musters forces along Ukraine’s eastern border, threatening a potential invasion that could unleash the largest conflict in Europe for decades.

Social media videos from Belarus appeared to show artillery and other military vehicles arriving on flatbed carriages owned by the Russian state railway company, and Alexander Volfovich, the head of Belarus’s security council, said in a briefing that troops were already arriving before exercises scheduled for February.

Some military analysts have suggested Russiacould send its forces through Belarus in the case of a broad invasion, effectively stretching out Ukraine’s defences by taking advantage of the two countries’ nearly 700-mile border. Others believe Belarus would not play a serious role in the conflict if Russia were to launch an attack on Ukraine.

The Belarusian leader, Alexander Lukashenko, has responded to international pressure and isolation by strengthening ties with Russia, giving vocal support for Putin’s military buildup as he receives diplomatic and economic support from the Kremlin to battle western sanctions. He has also abandoned his country’s supposedly neutral stance on the Ukraine conflict and publicly endorsed Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea.

The exercises are to be held in the west of Belarus, near the borders of Nato members Poland and Lithuania, and its southern flank with Ukraine, Lukashenko said.

“Set an exact date and let us know, so we aren’t blamed for massing some troops here out of the blue as if we are preparing to go to war,” he told top military officials.

Reports from Russia have also shown more military equipment, including tanks and short-range ballistic missiles, being transported across the country toward Ukraine within the last week.

The German foreign minister, Annalena Baerbock, said before a meeting with her Russian counterpart on Tuesday that she hoped the tensions could be resolved by diplomacy but if not Moscow would pay a “high price” for aggressive acts toward Ukraine.

No concrete troop numbers or timeframe have been named for the joint Russia-Belarus exercises, which Putin announced during a summit with Lukashenko in late December. Lukashenko said on Monday that the exact dates in February were still being determined.

He said during the briefing that the exercises were needed because of the presence of Nato forces in neighbouring Poland and the Baltic states, as well as Ukraine’s deployment of troops to the border in response to the migrant crisis that he helped create last year.

“Why are we and Russia being reproached for holding manoeuvres, exercises and so forth when you’ve come from far away?” said Lukashenko in heated remarks in which he said western countries had stationed nearly 30,000 troops near his country’s borders. “There are some hot-heads calling for war. We hear these statements.”

He also echoed aggressive Kremlin rhetoric that may be used to justify a military intervention in Ukraine, claiming that Kyiv was preparing battalions of “radical nationalists”. A Ukrainian official called the remarks manipulative and “part of an information war”.

Volfovich said the exercises would involve Belarusian and Russian soldiers training to repel air and land attacks, neutralise enemy saboteurs and practise other manoeuvres. He also played down the significance of their timing, saying that there was “nothing extraordinary” in them because they were announced late last year, according to a report in the state-run Belta news agency.

There are signs, however, that Belarus has taken a more active role in its support of Russia in its ongoing conflict with Ukraine and the west.

Kyiv initially said it believed a hacking team tied to Belarusian state intelligence may have played a role in a major cyber-attack on government websites late last week, and Russian nuclear-capable bombers have recently flown over western Belarus.

Lukashenko has strengthened ties with Putin since 2020, when he launched a bloody crackdown on protests sparked by vote-rigging during presidential elections. He was driven further into international isolation after he grounded a RyanAir flight in order to arrest a critic of his government and helped manufacture a migrant crisis on EU borders, prompting a humanitarian emergency.

Belarus adopted an ostensibly neutral position in 2014 and avoided recognising Russia’s annexation of Crimea, but the dynamic has changed considerably as the country has relied more on Russian diplomatic and material support in the last two years.

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The threat of nuclear conflict is high: Revelation 16

Opinion: The threat of nuclear conflict is high. We need a new commitment to de-escalation.

“A nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.” That statement, which President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev issued in 1985, helped end the Cold War. It meant something because until then, both countries believed the other was ready and almost willing to destroy the other with its large nuclear arsenal. They backed up their words by reducing their armories and banning their most dangerous weapons.

Almost 40 years later, the risk of a nuclear conflict erupting between the United States and Russia, and increasingly between the United States and China, is dangerously high. Without concrete steps to de-escalate tensions and reduce reliance on nuclear weapons, the United States could end up in a nuclear war it says must not be fought.

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Tensions over Ukraine or Taiwan could get out of hand quickly, with uncertain outcomes. Just this past week, Russia made veiled threats of deploying more battlefield nuclear weapons in and around Ukraine. Worse, the United States, Russia and China are all rapidly modernizing or expanding their nuclear and missile capabilities, as are Britain, India, Pakistan and North Korea.

It is understandable that the international community welcomed the Jan. 3 statement by the United States, Russia, China, France and Britain, the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council collectively known as the P-5, that adopted the historic 1985 Reagan-Gorbachev statement for the first time. But despite their stated rejection of nuclear war in reality, the United States and Russia exercise daily for such war, and both invest heavily in nuclear weaponry.

The United States continues to target high-value Russian and Chinese military targets — nuclear and otherwise — the destruction of which, U.S. leaders believe, would produce “favorable” outcomes. Russia does the same to U.S.- and European-based targets. The goal: to control the battlefield and to create an outcome that political and military leaders can, inconceivably, consider a “victory.” If that is not a nuclear war, what is?

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When it comes to nuclear weapons, the United States should be precise about its intentions. Declaratory policy can be a powerful tool in reducing nuclear risks. It is conventional wisdom that America stopped a Soviet invasion of Western Europe by declaring that it was prepared to use nuclear weapons in response to such an attack. The same can work in reverse. Adopting a more limited role for nuclear weapons can reduce the concern that a country might cross the nuclear threshold early in a conflict. Clarity on this stance, backed by changes on operations and forces to make it credible, can reduce the risks of nuclear preemption.

The Biden administration is preparing its own Nuclear Posture Review, which will lay out President Biden’s policies. As a senator, vice president and presidential candidate, Biden indicated that he might be ready to accept a more restrictive set of nuclear policies, including adopting a clear statement that the sole mission for U.S. nuclear forces is to deter and, if necessary, respond to a nuclear attack on the United States or its allies. The Nuclear Posture Review would be just the place for issuing this overdue statement of clarity. But U.S. statements must be credible, which means also implementing changes to force structures, targeting and procurement.

Saying that Washington opposes nuclear war-fighting while pursuing more than $1.2 trillionover the next three decades in nuclear modernization — including new missiles, submarines, stealth bombers and hard-to-track cruise missiles — damages America’s credibility. Moscow’s own modernization, and signs that China is increasingly seeking some form of nuclear parity with Russia and the United States, further undermine the value of the P-5′s feel-good statement. Though that statement was a step in the right direction, the words remain hollow and even dangerous if not followed by concrete actions.

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Being specific about when nations would use nuclear weapons is one way to ease, if not eliminate, the pressure. But more must also be done to reduce the risk of clashes that could escalate to nuclear conflict. For example, members of the P-5 and the other nuclear-weapon states should adopt and implement proven risk-management tools to deal with the new challenges in space, cyberspace, missile and air defenses, and conventional weapons that are becoming more accurate, fast-moving and stealthy.

High-level strategic stability discussions should also seek concrete moves to prove that nuclear war-fighting is not part of the plan for members of the P-5. This can include taking weapons off alert status, cutting back modernization programs, pursuing binding reductions of nuclear forces and adopting observable norms on other weapons that threaten to undermine stability.

The danger of escalation to nuclear war remains all too real. Rejecting nuclear war-fighting in all of its forms should be a minimum approach for Biden. Failure to do so would only worsen the ongoing arms race among the United States, Russia and China.

What does the Antichrist want?

What does Muqtada Al-Sadr want

What does Muqtada Al-Sadr want?

Salah Nasrawi , Tuesday 18 Jan 2022

Full of energy and certitude, Al-Sadr is out to remake Iraq’s political order in his image, writes Salah Nasrawi

Iraq faces a pressing roster of crises, including government dysfunction, factional tensions, unabated terrorism, and Covid-19 infections that are spiralling dramatically upwards.

But prominent Shia cleric Muqtada Al-Sadr, who has emerged as Iraq’s most powerful leader, says he aims for his beleaguered country to end its prolonged misery and halt its tumble into chaos.

To that end, Al-Sadr is proposing sweeping changes to the way the country has been run since the US-led invasion in 2003. But first of all, Al-Sadr needs to be in charge.

Al-Sadr’s party was the largest vote-winner in the Iraqi parliamentary elections in October. The party, Saaroon, won 73 seats in the 329-seat parliament, more than any other and up from 54 in 2018. It beat an alliance of Iran-aligned militias led by the Fatah Coalition.

The election victory has given Al-Sadr major influence in the formation of Iraq’s next government, and he is relying on that to extend his hold over the country for as long as he deems fit.

Beyond that, no one really knows how he plans to steer the country through its multiple crises.

Al-Sadr, 47, hails from one of the most prestigious Shia religious families in Iraq and is widely seen as one of the most influential Shia political leaders to have emerged from the shadows of the US-led invasion.

For nearly two decades, Al-Sadr has outmanoeuvred other Shia leaders by manoeuvering himself into a position of power and individual prestige within the community. He has reinvented himself not just as the leader of a Shia faction, but effectively as a king-maker.

Al-Sadr has helped form Iraq’s successive governments, controlled one of the biggest political blocs in parliament, led a massive movement, and commanded a powerful militia. His power is undeniable, thanks to his grassroots party that is influential in working-class neighbourhoods across Iraq’s Shia-populated provinces.

Even more strikingly, Al-Sadr has installed allegiance to the legacy of his late father Ayatollah Mohammad Mohammad Sadiq Al-Sadr as the movement’s way of thinking. This has given him a platform to exercise more power and greater legitimacy among many Iraqi Shia.

Over the years, Al-Sadr’s political strategy has witnessed a sea change that has seen him shift from being a militant Shia cleric who advocates communalism to becoming a populist political leader who champions non-sectarianism in order to help forge a national-unity platform that can reform Iraq’s fundamentally flawed political system.

Since his Saaroon bloc came first in the country’s 2018 elections, winning 52 seats in parliament, the Sadrist Movement has come to control the Iraqi government. Through appointees in top posts, Al-Sadr has been able to clear government departments of unaffiliated bureaucrats and bring Sadrists in their place.

Through this carefully planned strategy to infiltrate the state apparatus, his followers have been taking up top jobs within local administrations and key ministries such as defence, the interior, communications, oil, electricity and transport.

In addition to being able to dominate Iraq’s huge civil service, Al-Sadr’s supporters now exert control over the country’s financial resources through the state budget and their own economic influence.

They wield enormous power in Iraq’s three state-owned banks and even in Iraq’s Central Bank.

Al-Sadr’s journey towards being Iraq’s paramount Shia leader was highlighted in the October parliamentary elections. Since he was declared the winner of most seats in the new assembly, he has refused to form a coalition with other Shia blocs as has been the norm after the polls since the US-led invasion.

Instead, Al-Sadr has been pushing for a “national majority” government that would put his Sadrist faction at the helm of an administration that would bring in Sunni Muslim and Kurdish representatives.

The formula would disfranchise nearly a dozen Shia political groups and their affiliated militias and give Al-Sadr overall authority.

Apart from his declared intention to uproot rival militias and rhetoric about fighting corruption and transcending sectarianism, neither Al-Sadr nor his top aides seem to have a desire to go into details about their strategy.

What Al-Sadr is working fervently to achieve is a dream project that flows from his intention to consolidate his power base among the Iraqi Shia and then to move to tighten his grip on the country as a whole in ways big and small.

To understand what is happening in Iraq following Al-Sadr’s bid to impose his model of leadership and ultimately to make it familiar to the region and the world, it helps to understand what Al-Sadr himself thinks, believes, and acts upon.

As Al-Sadr has started to signal his supremacy in Iraq’s politics, he has also adopted a more aggressive posture on the national stage, drawing new borders to circumscribe existing Shia power struggles and thus make Iraq well placed for further conflicts.

There is nothing that can explain Al-Sadr’s strategy better than his insistence on controlling the next government and running the country’s affairs. His worst nightmare is that his Shia foes will maintain their political power and have militias that may fight him over influence and authority in the country.

Therefore, Al-Sadr’s two imperatives are to exclude politically affiliated officials from government departments and to stuff them with his own cronies and to get rid of dozens of Shia militias and replace them with his own powerful Jaish Al-Mahdi, or Mahdi Army, a paramilitary organisation.

The death of Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani, Iraq’s most revered Shia clergyman, could create a tremendous opportunity for Al-Sadr’s leadership.

Al-Sadr is not a mujtahid, or scholar of theology, making him ineligible to join those vying for Al-Sistani’s succession, but his influence might still be more than that enjoyed by many of the presumed contenders.

In December, Al-Sadr issued guidelines for his supporters in Iraq to follow fatwas, or legal rulings, issued by his late father, who was assassinated in 1999. The instructions are important because they underline Al-Sadr’s intention to keep power over the Hawza, or Shia school of theology in the city of Najaf, within his family line.

Meanwhile, the world is watching Al-Sadr’s rise with keen interest. Some of Iraq’s neighbours and world powers have geopolitical grievances, particularly about Iran’s influence and the role of its proxies in Iraq.

World and regional powers have been sending signals of support to Al-Sadr, whom they believe could stand up to Iran and the Iran-backed Shia groups in Iraq.

In recent weeks, the Western media, which used to describe Al-Sadr as a hardliner and a radical, has started to promote him as a moderate politician and the “face of reform in Iraq” in an apparent attempt to accept him as Iraq’s next leader.

The New York Times has even dubbed Al-Sadr as an “unlikely US ally.”

Al-Sadr may have grand ambitions and the self-confidence to match, but he has yet to show how he will deliver. He has no clear strategy for rebuilding the Iraqi state and nation or for consolidating its democratic and federal system as stipulated in its post-invasion constitution.

Al-Sadr remains a controversial figure, and to many of his critics he is out to remake Iraq’s order in his image. For all the bold headlines and focus from the media and the Iraq expert community about Al-Sadr transforming himself into a statesman, he is still a Shia clergyman with a strictly religious agenda that stokes sectarian politics.

When newly elected lawmakers from Al-Sadr’s parliamentary group arrived at the inaugural session of the new parliament in Baghdad last week, they donned the white shrouds that Muslims use to wrap their dead bearing inscriptions of Jaish Al-Mahdi on their backs.

The scene was reminiscent of numerous episodes of the rise to power of others, most strikingly the ascent of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in 1979 that began the newly established Islamic Republic in Iran.