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.”
Rockets hit Baghdad airport compound near US airbase
The rockets damaged an out-of-use Iraqi Airways plane; no casualties or injuries reported by police.
At least three rockets have landed in the Baghdad International Airport compound and near an adjacent US airbase, damaging one disused civilian aeroplane, Iraqi police sources said.
The rockets hit Baghdad International Airport’s runways or parking areas, a source at the interior ministry said, noting that a “civilian plane has been hit and damaged”. The attack was not immediately claimed.
The officials did not report any other damage or any injuries in Friday’s attack, adding that the damaged Iraqi Airways aircraft was out of use.
Iraq’s state news agency reported, citing the country’s aviation authority, that there was no disruption to travel.
On its social media pages, Iraqi Airways posted pictures of the damage, consisting of a hole near the nose of the plane. No flights were affected by the attack, the airline added.
The US airbase, known as Camp Victory, is located around the perimeter of Baghdad’s civilian airport.
Rocket attacks, which the United States and some Iraqi officials blame on Iran-aligned Shia armed groups who oppose the US military presence in the region, have regularly hit the complex in recent years.
Earlier this month, at least four rockets targeted the US embassy in Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone, wounding two civilians, according to two Iraqi security officials.
Three of the missiles struck within the perimeter of the embassy, while another hit a school located in a nearby residential complex, injuring two people.
The Green Zone hosts most foreign diplomatic missions, including the US embassy and the Iraqi prime minister’s house.
It has been repeatedly targeted by rocket attacks since the killing of Iran’s General Qassem Soleimani and Iraqi commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis in a US drone attack in January 2020.
The armed groups have pledged revenge for Soleimani’s killing and have conditioned the end of the attacks on the full exit of American troops from the country.
Baghdad and Washington agreed in a fourth and final round of the strategic dialogue on July 26 to withdraw US forces from Iraq by the end of 2021.
Some 2,500 soldiers will remain as the coalition shifts to an advisory mission to continue supporting Iraqi forces.
On January 3, US forces downed two armed drones that targeted the coalition at Baghdad airport, according to a coalition source.
The Nuclear Posture Review Must Account for a Growing Chinese Nuclear Threat
January 27, 2022 8 min read Download Report
SUMMARYOfficials state the Biden Administration’s Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) will be ready for release soon. Since Biden took office, the threat environment has markedly deteriorated, with the revelations of China’s strategic nuclear breakout—a change not accounted for in the Trump Administration’s 2018 NPR—and Russia’s continued nuclear expansion. A strong NPR will be one that focuses on aligning nuclear policy, posture, and capabilities with the current and future threats facing the United States, not on meeting any political promises. To prepare the United States for a future in which it must deter two nuclear peer competitors, the NPR should, at minimum, continue ongoing modernization efforts and maintain current declaratory policy, while considering any needed changes to U.S. force posture.
The Nuclear Posture Review is a vital tool that provides the administration the opportunity to align U.S. policy, capabilities, and posture with current threats.
Since the 2018 NPR, the threat environment has deteriorated substantially, primarily due to China’s and Russia’s expansion of advanced nuclear weapons systems.
Caitlin M. Kenney, “New National Defense Strategy to Be Released Early 2022,” Defense One, December 8, 2021, https://www.defenseone.com/policy/2021/12/new-national-defense-strategy-be-released-early-2022/187385/ (accessed January 14, 2022). The NPR provides the Administration the opportunity to align policy, capabilities, and posture with the current global threat environment. The only real insight into this Administration’s views on nuclear policy was provided in President Joe Biden’s Interim National Security Strategic Guidance, which described a goal of “reducing the role of nuclear weapons in U.S. national security strategy.” It is likely the Administration will seek to carry that theme forward into the NPR.2White House, Interim National Security Strategic Guidance, March 3, 2021, p. 13, https://www.whitehouse.gov/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/NSC-1v2.pdf (accessed January 12, 2022).
Yet even since Biden took office, the threat environment has markedly deteriorated, with the revelations of China’s strategic nuclear breakout—a change not accounted for in the Trump Administration’s 2018 NPR—and Russia’s continued nuclear expansion.3
Aaron Mehta, “Stratcom Chief Warns of Chinese ‘Strategic Breakout,’” Breaking Defense, August 13, 2021, https://breakingdefense.com/2021/08/stratcom-chief-warns-of-chinese-strategic-breakout/ (accessed January 12, 2022). If, as has been advertised, the NPR is to truly be “informed by the current and projected global security environment,” these new developments should logically lead the Administration to conclude it needs at least the nuclear programs proposed in the previous NPR—and quite possibly more.4C. Todd Lopez, “Nuclear Posture Review, National Defense Strategy Will Be Thoroughly Integrated,” U.S. Department of Defense, June 25, 2021, https://www.defense.gov/News/News-Stories/Article/Article/2671471/nuclear-posture-review-national-defense-strategy-will-be-thoroughly-integrated/ (accessed January 10, 2022).
The Growing Nuclear Threat
The nuclear threat environment has considerably worsened since the 2018 NPR.
- Most significantly, analysts have discovered that China is building over 300 new missile silos capable of carrying intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) that can hold multiple warheads each, and the Pentagon’s 2021 China Military Power Report revealed that China is on its way to becoming a nuclear peer to the United States and Russia, as it might have at least 1,000 nuclear weapons by the end of the decade.5U.S. Department of Defense, Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China,2021, Office of the Secretary of Defense, November 2021, p. 90, https://media.defense.gov/2021/Nov/03/2002885874/-1/-1/0/2021-CMPR-FINAL.PDF (accessed January 12, 2022). For the first time in its history, the United States will have to face two peer nuclear competitors at once.
- China has improved its arsenal of medium- to intermediate-range dual-capable missiles capable of striking U.S. assets in the Indo–Pacific region. It has also tested nuclear-capable hypersonic missiles, including one that orbited the globe before reentering the atmosphere to glide to its target.6Patty-Jane Geller, “China’s Test of an Orbital Hypersonic Missile Is a Big Deal,” October 20, 2021, https://www.19fortyfive.com/2021/10/chinas-test-of-an-orbital-hypersonic-missile-is-a-big-deal/ (accessed January 12, 2022).
- Russia has tested and begun to deploy multiple types of hypersonic nuclear weapons, in addition to new exotic capabilities such as a nuclear-powered cruise missile. It also continues to grow its stockpile of non-strategic nuclear weapons, which are not constrained by the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty.7“The Arms Control Landscape ft. DIA Lt. Gen. Robert P. Ashley, Jr.,” Panel Discussion, Hudson Institute, May 29, 2019, p. 24, https://s3.amazonaws.com/media.hudson.org/Hudson%20Transcript%20-%20The%20Arms%20Control%20Landscape.pdf (accessed January 12, 2022).
Bottom line, the United States is facing an unprecedented nuclear threat from two major powers and will need to ensure its nuclear posture can evolve to ensure strong nuclear deterrence.
An Objective NPR Reflective of the Growing Nuclear Threat
An NPR to best posture the United States to maintain a strong national security against the rising nuclear threats would:
Depart from the Goal of Reducing the Role of Nuclear Weapons in U.S. Strategy. This goal may have had some basis during the comparatively more benign world of 2010, when President Barack Obama used nearly the exact same language in his NPR.8
The second objective outlined in Obama’s 2010 NPR is “[r]educing the role of U.S. nuclear weapons in U.S. national security strategy.” U.S. Department of Defense, Nuclear Posture Review Report, Office of the Secretary of Defense, April 2010, p. iii., Today, this goal seems almost absurd given the current reality in which adversaries are assigning more prominence to their own nuclear forces. The revelations of China’s missile buildup and strategic breakout, which occurred just months after Biden released his interim strategic guidance, allow for a change in course. It is not uncommon for presidents to adjust agendas when confronted with unexpected changes. Biden’s NPR should shift from the original goal of reducing the role of nuclear weapons to one that prioritizes deterring the increasingly challenging threats of the future. In the face of a significant change in threat, such a shift would signal strong leadership.9Thomas Spoehr, “Blue Pill or Red Pill: Which Will Joe Biden Pick?” Washington Times, January 5, 2022, https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2022/jan/5/blue-pill-or-red-pill-which-will-joe-biden-pick/ (accessed January 10, 2022).
Continue the Modernization Program Initiated by President Obama and Continued by President Donald Trump. The United States is pursuing an overdue effort to upgrade its nuclear forces to include delivery systems, warheads, and the supporting infrastructure, all of which were built during the Cold War. Many capabilities, like the Minuteman III ICBMs, must be retired within years due to aging issues.
Any delay or cancelation in these programs would result in unilateral force reductions, providing an advantage to our adversaries as they increase their own forces. In the past, groups like Global Zero cited the improving global threat environment to justify their proposals to forgo nuclear modernization programs.10
Global Zero, “Modernizing U.S. Nuclear Strategy, Force Structure and Posture,” May 2012, p. 6, https://www.globalzero.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/gz_us_nuclear_policy_commission_report.pdf (accessed January 12, 2022). Since the threat has now gone in the opposite direction, the NPR should reject these proposals and continue to embrace modernization.
Continue Pursuit of the Sea-Launched Cruise Missile-Nuclear (SLCM-N). The Trump NPR proposed development of a SLCM-N to address a gap in our deterrent threat against Russia’s and China’s growing regional or non-strategic nuclear weapons. Currently, the United States has only a meager capability to threaten a proportional response to the limited employment of nuclear weapons in a regional conflict. This imbalance is extremely concerning as the prospect for conventional conflict to escalate to the nuclear level in both the European and Indo–Pacific theaters increases. It is critical the NPR continue SLCM-N development to improve nuclear deterrence at lower levels of the escalation ladder.11
Patty-Jane Geller, “Dangerous Nuclear Policy Idea No. 4: Defunding the Nuclear Sea-Launched Cruise Missile,” Heritage Foundation Issue Brief No. 5217, September 27, 2021, https://www.heritage.org/defense/report/dangerous-nuclear-policy-idea-no-4-defunding-the-nuclear-sea-launched-cruise-missile.
Consider the Need to Make Force Posture Adjustments Beyond the Current Modernization Program to Account for China’s Strategic Breakout. The basic design of the current U.S. nuclear force posture, on which the modernization program is based, dates to around 2010, when Russia was the only near-peer nuclear competitor and the overall nuclear threat environment was expected to lessen over time.12
Brad Roberts, “Orienting the 2021 Nuclear Posture Review,” Washington Quarterly, Vol. 44, No. 2 (Summer 2021), pp. 124–125. This assumption of a more benign threat environment impacted decisions about future nuclear force structure, such as the design for the Columbia-class nuclear submarine, which will have four fewer missile tubes than its predecessor, the Ohio-class, and therefore less firing capacity.13Frank G. Klotz and Alexandra T. Evans, “Modernizing the U.S. Nuclear Triad: The Rationale for a New Intercontinental Ballistic Missile,” RAND Corporation, January 3, 2022, p. 13, https://www.rand.org/pubs/perspectives/PEA1434-1.html (accessed January 11, 2022).
With previous threat assumptions now invalidated by China’s nuclear breakout and Russia’s continued nuclear expansion, the NPR must reconsider whether the current modernization program will suffice to deter the growing threat for the decades to come and how plans should be revised to account for a more threatening future than was previously envisioned. At minimum, the NPR should examine how a significantly larger Chinese arsenal will affect deterrence requirements.
It should also begin to study how the size and composition of the nuclear force can be adjusted to improve our ability to hedge against an uncertain future. For instance, the Administration should consider questions including whether acquiring 12 Columbia-class submarines will be enough, the feasibility of uploading warheads held in reserve to the current force, and if the United States will eventually need to produce more than the required 80 plutonium pits per year.14
For more on plutonium pit production, see Michaela Dodge, “Nuclear Weapons: United States Should Rebuild Its Plutonium Pit Manufacturing Capability,” Heritage Foundation Backgrounder No. 3581, February 1, 2021, https://www.heritage.org/missile-defense/report/nuclear-weapons-united-states-should-rebuild-its-plutonium-pit-manufacturing. While this NPR should not be expected to have final decisions made for future posture changes, it must begin the dialogue now, since any changes to the force will take time to implement.
Maintain the Long-standing Nuclear Declaratory Policy of Calculated Ambiguity. The NPR should reject any changes to declaratory policy, such as a “no first use,” “sole purpose,” or “existential threat” policy.15
Demetri Sevastopulo, “U.S. Spooks Allies by Seeking Ways to Clarify Nuclear Weapons Posture,” Financial Times, December 9, 2021, https://www.ft.com/content/8787240e-e7b6-438e-b1df-5b19e2e76272 (accessed January 12, 2022). The current policy of ambiguity leaves nuclear weapons on the table for a growing range of strategic non-nuclear threats (such as chemical and biological weapons attacks), which forces adversaries to consider the risks of nuclear retaliation when contemplating such attacks.16Matthew Costlow, “Believe It or Not: U.S. Nuclear Declaratory Policy and Calculated Ambiguity,” War on the Rocks, August 9, 2021, https://warontherocks.com/2021/08/believe-it-or-not-u-s-nuclear-declaratory-policy-and-calculated-ambiguity/ (accessed January 12, 2022). As nuclear and non-nuclear threats increase, any changes that would reduce options for deterrence would only unsettle U.S. allies and embolden adversaries.17Patty-Jane Geller, “Dangerous Nuclear Policy Idea No. 2: A U.S. Policy of No First Use or Sole Purpose,” Heritage Foundation Issue Brief No. 6047, February 16, 2021, https://www.heritage.org/defense/report/dangerous-nuclear-policy-idea-no-2-us-policy-no-first-use-or-sole-purpose. For example, in the case of a Chinese incursion against Taiwan, former Japanese Minister of Defense Taro Kono, explains that “‘no first use’ draws a red line, and below the red line, anything goes. That’s the wrong message.”18“U.S. Nuclear Declaratory Policy and the Future of Extended Deterrence,” The Heritage Foundation, December 7, 2021, https://www.heritage.org/defense/event/us-nuclear-declaratory-policy-and-the-future-extended-deterrence.
A strong NPR will be one that focuses on aligning nuclear policy, posture, and capabilities with the current and future threats facing the United States, not on meeting any political promises. To prepare the United States for a future in which it must deter two nuclear peer competitors, the NPR should at minimum continue ongoing modernization efforts and maintain current declaratory policy, while considering any needed changes to U.S. force posture.
Patty-Jane Geller is Policy Analyst for Nuclear Deterrence and Missile Defense in the Center for National Defense, of the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for National Security and Foreign Policy, at The Heritage Foundation.
“There’s a chance for a deal, and there’s also a pretty good chance there’s not going to be a deal,” he added. “If there’s no deal, we’re very prepared for that scenario.”
Brett McGurk, then-US envoy for the global coalition against Islamic State, at a news conference at the US embassy in Baghdad, Iraq, on June 7, 2017. (Hadi Mizban/AP)
US and Iran ‘in ballpark’ of possible nuclear deal, says White House official
Still, Brett McGurk also cautions that ‘these talks could collapse very soon’; Bennett uses Holocaust commemoration to slam possible deal
By JACOB MAGID27 January 2022, 9:54 pm
A senior White House official said Thursday that the United States and Iran are “in the ballpark of a possible [nuclear] deal” in Vienna, while also clarifying that Washington is “very prepared” for the “pretty likely” scenario that there won’t be an agreement.
Iran and world powers are in the midst of an eighth round of negotiations aimed at reviving the tattered 2015 nuclear deal known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. Former US president Donald Trump withdrew from the deal in 2018, launching a “maximum pressure” sanctions campaign, which Tehran responded to with escalating violations of the multilateral accord.
Trump’s successor, US President Joe Biden, is seeking a joint US-Iran return to compliance with the JCPOA, but has been met by a new, more hardline Iranian president in Ebrahim Raisi, who has demanded the removal of all US sanctions in exchange for the Islamic Republic’s return to the deal.Keep Watching
Asked to comment on the status of negotiations in Vienna during a virtual event hosted by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, White House National Security Council coordinator for the Middle East Brett McGurk said, “We’re in the ballpark of a possible deal. But again, I’m not going to put odds on this. There’s [also] a very real chance that these talks could collapse very soon.”
While avoiding taking any sort of definitive stance on where the talks might head, McGurk said they had reached a “culmination point and [that] we’re going to know very soon whether or not it is possible for the Iranians to return to compliance with the nuclear deal on terms that we and the international community can accept.”Get The Times of Israel’s Daily Editionby email and never miss our top stories.
“The prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran is something that would keep anyone up at night, but I can assure you that it’s never going to happen,” McGurk said, adding that a diplomatic path in Vienna is the best way to ensure that.
On Wednesday, the White House said that US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan told his Israeli counterpart Eyal Hulata that the Biden administration is already “preparing alternative options” to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon if Vienna talks fail.
In an effort to defend the Biden administration’s push to return to the JCPOA, McGurk referenced an interview published in Maariv hours earlier in which former IDF chief of staff Gadi Eisenkot called Trump’s withdrawal a “strategic mistake.”
Eisenkot argued that the move, backed by then-prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, “freed the Iranians from certain shackles [and that] when the Iranians [then] began violating the agreement, they had legitimacy for these violations because of the American withdrawal.”
The Biden administration has been leaning hard on such remarks from current and former Israeli officials as it has doubled down on its blame of the Trump administration for causing the still-unfolding nuclear crisis with Iran.
McGurk was also asked to comment on the recent decision by the US deputy special envoy on Iran to step down from the negotiating team in Vienna along with two others.
Richard Nephew, a longtime State Department official credited with crafting the sanctions that brought Iran to the negotiating table ahead of the 2015 agreement, advocated for a tougher stance against Iran in the Vienna talks than his boss, Rob Malley, and others on the team, the Wall Street Journal reported on Monday. Two other negotiators resigned from the team along with Nephew for the same reasons, according to the paper.
Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator Ali Bagheri Kani leaves the Palais Coburg, venue of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) meeting that aims at reviving the Iran nuclear deal, in Vienna, on December 27, 2021. (Alex Halada/AFP)
McGurk avoided criticizing Nephew, calling him an “incredibly talented teammate” and saying that he had gone on to take a different position at the State Department.
He proceeded to offer implicit criticism of those demanding the US take a maximalist approach in the negotiations. He said the Biden administration could have walked out of negotiations when Iran returned to the negotiation table in December for the first time since Raisi’s election, with completely different demands and ones that reneged on previous agreements reached under his predecessor, Hassan Rouhani.
Instead, the US presented a united front with Russia and China against those proposals, McGurk recalled, saying it led the Iranian rial to collapse.
“The Iranians came back a week later with completely different proposals,” he continued. “That in my view is pretty good diplomacy.”
Separately on Thursday, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett appeared to take a cue from his predecessor, Benjamin Netanyahu, using his International Holocaust Remembrance Day speech to invoke the threat posed by Iran.
“When we hear the Iranian regime’s daily calls to annihilate the State of Israel, as we speak they continue talking about murdering and destroying the State of Israel, the Jewish state, and when we see their rapid progression towards nuclear weapons, indifference is silent acceptance,” Bennett said in a video address to diplomats. “A country who talks about annihilating the Jewish state should not be a legitimate partner for anything.”
“Those who continue to try to attack Jews, to murder Jews, must know the Jew is no longer a punching bag. We swing back and we swing back hard,” he added.
With the United States warning that Iran is just weeks from developing the capacity to make a nuclear weapon, there is disagreement among Washington experts on the likelihood of Iran rushing to build such a weapon, and how the U.S. and its allies should deal with that risk.
“[Iran] is getting to the point where its breakout time, the time it would take to produce fissile material for a bomb, is getting down to a matter of a few weeks,” said U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken at a virtual event Monday.
The U.S. and Iran have been negotiating indirectly since last April to see if they can secure a mutual return to compliance with a 2015 deal in which Tehran promised to curb nuclear activities that could be weaponized in return for sanctions relief from the U.S. and other world powers.
“I think that will be decided in the next few weeks, because again, given what Iran is doing, we can’t allow this to go on,” Blinken said.
Iran says its nuclear activities are for civilian use and denies seeking nuclear weapons.
The U.S. left the 2015 deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA, in 2018 when then-President Donald Trump said it was not tough enough on Tehran and unilaterally reimposed U.S. sanctions. Iran retaliated a year later by starting a process of increasingly exceeding JCPOA limits on its nuclear work.
The U.S and Iran decided to start indirect talks in Vienna last year, through the mediation of world powers, after President Joe Biden succeeded Trump and pledged to rejoin the JCPOA if Iran would return to limiting its nuclear activities under the deal.
The agreement was intended to prevent Iran from producing enough highly enriched uranium to make one nuclear bomb. The International Atomic Energy Agency says 25 kilograms of the uranium-235 isotope, which is accumulated when about 28 kilograms of uranium is enriched to 90% purity, is the breakout quantity at which the “possibility of manufacturing a nuclear explosive device cannot be excluded.”
Israel long has viewed a nuclear-armed Iran as an existential threat because of repeated calls by the Islamic Republic for the destruction of the Jewish state. Israeli officials have estimated it would take Iran two years after attaining a breakout capacity to develop, if it wanted, a nuclear-armed missile that could reach Israel.
U.S. physicist David Albright, president of the Institute for Science and International Security, told VOA Persian in a recent interview that Iran also could develop a cruder nuclear weapon in a much shorter time once it achieves a breakout capacity.
Georgetown University international relations professor Matthew Kroenig, who previously served as a U.S. Defense Department adviser on nuclear deterrence policy, told VOA that Iran could use that time to build a “gun-type” nuclear bomb.
“This is such a simple bomb design that the United States didn’t even test it before dropping one on Hiroshima in 1945,” Kroenig said.
Kroenig said Iran could deploy such a weapon by dropping it from a plane, driving it to a target in a truck, or putting it in a container on a ship that sails into a port. “There is a lot of mayhem that Iran could cause before it gets to a fully deliverable warhead on a ballistic missile,” he said.
Other analysts interviewed by VOA said there is little point in speculating about weaponization steps Iran could take post-breakout, because it does not appear to have made a decision to reach the breakout stage, let alone go beyond it.
Israeli military intelligence chief Major-General Tamir Hayman told Israeli news site Walla in October that Iran was “not heading toward a bomb right now.” Similarly, U.S. CIA chief William Burns told a Wall Street Journal forum on December 6 that he did not “see any evidence that Iran’s Supreme Leader has made a decision to move to weaponize,” according to CBS News.
Ploughshares Fund President Emma Belcher, whose grant-making organization seeks to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons, said ongoing IAEA inspections of Iran’s declared nuclear sites and Iranian leaders’ own statements also indicate a lack of intent to weaponize. “So, I am not concerned right now that Iran is going to do that,” she said.
Daryl Kimball, executive director of advocacy group Arms Control Association, said Iran also would see little benefit in making a crude nuclear bomb to use for blackmail or as a terrorist weapon against another country.
“Iran is a state with territory to defend and is concerned with regime preservation,” Kimball said. “Why would it, at great cost, give its terrorist proxies a nuclear device? The world would know where the fissile material came from. There are radiological fingerprints. So, there’s no escaping the attribution problem,” he added.
Even if Iran were to produce a breakout quantity of fissile material, Belcher said the U.S. and its allies could use diplomacy to try to secure Tehran’s agreement not to make it into a bomb.
“You could have a deal for Iran to down-blend that material so that it is no longer highly enriched, or you could ship that material elsewhere so that Iran cannot use it to create a nuclear weapon,” Belcher said.
Kimball said the international community also could use economic pressure, military strikes or covert action to make it difficult for a post-breakout Iran to build a nuclear bomb. He said if Iran tried to weaponize fissile material in secret by ejecting IAEA inspectors, further sabotage against Iranian nuclear sites would be “very likely.”
Scott Roecker, deputy vice president of the Nuclear Threat Initiative organization that advocates for reducing nuclear threats to humanity, said Iran has shown an increased desire in recent weeks to reach a deal to revive the JCPOA. But if that does not happen, he said continued diplomacy still would be the best way for the U.S. and its allies to deal with an Iran that has enough fissile material for one nuclear bomb.
“I don’t think there needs to be any drastic steps in the next few weeks, should Iran get to that point, because it still would have to take more steps to achieve a true nuclear weapon capability,” Roecker said.
But hoping that a post-breakout Iran will decide not to weaponize, and assuming that countermeasures will work in case it does, is a strategy that could backfire on the U.S., warned Kroenig and Albright.
“Once Iran gets the first bomb’s worth of weapons-grade uranium, we could try to negotiate with it for a year or two. But why would Iran invest billions of dollars and endure sanctions and threats of military strikes to get one screwdriver turn away from a nuclear weapon, and then voluntarily stop short in a negotiation?” Kroenig asked. “If Iran has a clear path to the nuclear-armed club, it eventually will build an arsenal like North Korea and Pakistan did.”
If Iran were to build a crude nuclear bomb and use it without claiming responsibility, Kroenig said nuclear forensic scientists would look at the explosion and try to determine what triggered it, but the process could take months and lead to several countries being identified as possible culprits. “In this scenario, it’s not obvious that the U.S. would take decisive action, given the uncertainty of where the bomb came from and the risk of escalation if Iran retaliates with another nuclear explosion,” he said.
Albright said a post-breakout Iran also could detonate a crude nuclear device underground within months in a symbolic test of its capabilities. He said such a test likely would heighten regional tensions and lead to nuclear proliferation, with Iran’s Gulf Arab rivals wanting to start nuclear weapon programs.
“These scenarios create more urgency for us to put up firebreaks so that Iran doesn’t cross the nuclear breakout threshold,” Albright said. “We are close to failing in that effort.”
Geneva, (Business News Report) – About 1.5 million of the Gaza’s total population of 2.3 million have become impoverished due to the Israeli blockade and restrictions imposed on the Strip since 2006, Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor said in a report.
Euro-Med Monitor released Tuesday a report, titled “Bitter 16: A Generation Bred in Captivity”, documenting dire effects of the Israeli blockade on the social, economic, and humanitarian levels.
The report said indicators of the humanitarian crisis in Gaza multiplied due to the blockade.
Poverty has risen sharply among Gaza’s population due to Israeli closures and bans, from 40% in 2005 to 69% in 2021, said the report.
Since the beginning of the blockade, Gaza’s economy has been crippled with the almost complete closure of commercial crossings. As a result the the economic movement was paralyzed, especially during the Israeli attacks over the past three decades, according to the report.
Thousands of economic, service, and production facilities were disrupted, destroyed, or damaged during the Israeli military attacks during the years of the blockade.
The last military attack in May 2021 alone resulted in the destruction of hundreds of economic facilities, with total losses of about $400 million, the report said.
The health sector is one of the most affected by the blockade since Israel prevents or limits the entry of medicines and medical supplies into Gaza, causing health care services to decline by 66%, according to the report.
The report indicated that Israel only allows limited—mostly humanitarian—cases to move through the Erez Crossing, which is the only Israeli crossing designated for the entry and exit of individuals to and from Gaza.
According to the Gisha, the monthly average of cases Israel allowed to exit through the Erez Crossing was 30,000 cases before the blockade was imposed. The average fell by 70% since then, to reach 8,954 cases a month.
Euro-Med Monitor called on the international community to pressure Israel to end its illegal blockade.
Against the backdrop of the US’s outrageously aggressive attitude towards Russia, it was reported that at least two Russian nuclear submarines with nuclear weapons on board could already be deployed off the coast of the United States.
According to unconfirmed reports, one of the Russian submarines is located near the east coast of the United States, while the second one is off the west coast. Presumably, another Russian submarine could be staying in Arctic waters.
Tensions in the relationship between the United States and Russia are reaching a climax. Russia took measures to try to solve the crisis through diplomacy, but the United States prefers to turn to increasingly aggressive measures instead by building up NATO troops in Eastern Europe, closer to the Russian borders.
The Russian nuclear submarines on duty off the coasts of the United States will thus be able to respond to any act of aggression immediately.
“The Russian submarines can presumably be located off both the western and the eastern coasts of the United States. Given their stealthiness, the Pentagon may not even be aware of their whereabouts. It is more than likely that another Russian submarine is staying in the Arctic, deep under the ice,” Sina Military publication said.
It is impossible to either confirm or deny these reports today. Russian nuclear-powered submarines with nuclear weapons on board are indeed on duty both in the Pacific and in the Atlantic Ocean. They are probably located a thousand kilometers off the US coast, Avia.pro publication reports.