Factors increasing both countries’ confrontational risks include the war in Ukraine, rivalries with China and Russia, climate change and pandemics
Why look at India and Pakistan when much of the world is focused on Ukraine? Because of the possibility of the war in Ukraine escalating to the point where the Russians choose to use a nuclear weapon: This would most likely be for tactical gain and psychological effect to force the Ukrainian Government to sue for “peace”.
Yet, if such were to happen, it would be the first time since World War II that nuclear weapons have been used in a conflict since they were successfully banned 75 years ago. It would change the boundaries of confrontation, conceivably forever, as other countries might be encouraged to consider using their nuclear power, and, among the (still) restricted group that has it, India and Pakistan are among those most inclined to do so.
Nuclear weapons analysts estimate that there are currently nine nuclear states — China, France, India, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States, and these numbers are likely to grow.
Possible newcomers include Iran, and Saudi Arabia, the former seen as purposefully seeking nuclear weapon capability, the latter pursuing nuclear development ostensibly for civilian purposes, but notably with the assistance of Pakistani experts, the same country that supported the North Korean weapons program.
The Saudis have not sworn off nuclear weapons and are the largest funders of Pakistan, which became a nuclear state primarily because the Netherlands allowed a nuclear physicist working at the Urenco labs in the Netherlands, Dr. Abdul Quadeer Khan, to take the blueprints of the Dutch nuclear enrichment and centrifuge technology and develop the Pakistani program.
Three countries “voluntarily” gave up their nuclear capability, namely South Africa, Libya, and Ukraine.
With respect to these latter two, their histories probably would be very different today if they had not done so. They serve as warnings for other countries that might think about giving up such capacity.
Overall, few regions of the world– maybe South America– are currently “nuclear arms-free” if you will
A Russian breach of the ban will have implications for all other nuclear-capable or “wannabe” countries, especially those facing confrontation with neighbors—which are nearly all countries.
South Asia is very much such a region with India and Pakistan both nuclear-armed, and with the three largest nuclear powers, China, Russia, and the United States having clients, and chosen sides. Then there is the neighboring failed island state of Sri Lanka, in default and with a history of civil war that had drawn its neighbors into its disputes in the past.
Add to the geopolitical tensions, this comes at a time the region is experiencing unbelievable heat waves, affecting their economies and daily lives.
Everywhere, but surely here, the costs and availability of food, fertilizer, fuel, and access to concessional financing, along with an ongoing Covid pandemic, have created very difficult challenges for any government.
Into this mix are the political and religious differences between India and Pakistan (and China), and religious divide and territorial disputes over Kashmir, which have brought them in the past to armed conflict and lingering mistrust.
India and Pakistan never-ending disputes, plus China and Russia in the mix
India and Pakistan have been at odds since independence in 1947 from Great Britain and have fought four wars over the Kashmir region.
With regard to nuclear policy, India initially declared a No First Use policy, vowing to never use nuclear weapons first in a conflict. However, in 2019 India signaled it was reconsidering this policy.
Unlike India, Pakistan has never declared a No First Use policy and has proceeded to emphasize smaller battlefield or “tactical” nuclear weapons as a counter to India’s larger and superior conventional forces.
Even a small nuclear exchange between India and Pakistan could kill 20 million people in a week.
If a nuclear winter is triggered, nearly 2 billion people in the developing world would be at risk of death by starvation.
India and Pakistan are at odds on many fronts but certainly exacerbated by religious differences, in each case supported by large political majorities, and ultra-national sub-groups, which morph into exclusionary national identity.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have been actively persuading India’s 80% Hindu population that they are under threat—and will only prosper if they support the ideology of Hindutva or Hindu nationalism.
Recent public comments on air by a high-level BJP official disparaging the Prophet Muhammad have exploded across the Moslem world. Despite efforts to distance itself, the actions taken may not be enough to quell what is a diplomatic crisis for India’s relations with countries in the Middle East and elsewhere.
For its external big power support, recently India has moved its alliances more to the United States, and away from Russia, its past primary military hardware supplier.
Pakistan, on the other hand, is officially the “Islamic Republic of Pakistan,” the second-largest primarily Sunni Muslim population in the world. A new Prime Minister, Shehbaz Sharif was elected in April 2022 and in his first address said, “he will expedite the multibillion-dollar China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project and rebuild broken ties with partners and allies.”
Pakistan’s ties to China go back to the time China chose sides in the 2019 India-Pakistan dispute when India revoked Kashmir’s autonomy in August 2019 and sought to incorporate parts of “Xinjiang and Tibet into its Ladakh union territory,” which China considered violating its own dominion of Tibet.
Mass disenfranchisement of Kashmiri Muslims, deteriorating security, economic backsliding, and a contentious political agenda are causing ongoing tensions between India and Pakistan, building on historical friction in the region.
On its parallel track, Pakistan strengthened its relations with Russia, which has continued despite international condemnation of its invasion of Ukraine. An alliance with Russia had been agreed to by former governments, and now goes forward with the Pakistan Stream Gas Project, also known as the North-South gas pipeline, a multi-billion effort to be built with Russian financing and in collaboration with their companies.
In short, territorial, and ethnic tensions remain high, the two countries have chosen different global “sugar daddies,” with both having significant nuclear arsenals.
Not a promising picture for peace.
Two other factors adding to nuclear risks: climate change and pandemics
India and Pakistan are located in a part of the world that is particularly exposed to the threats of climate change and given huge populations and poor health systems are vulnerable to the spread of infectious diseases.
Here is what you can expect in terms of impacts on both countries.
South Asia Feels the Heat: On most climate maps, this is the hottest region on the planet. Scorching temperatures were already reached in March 2022 at degrees not usually happening until June.
This current heat wave in India and Pakistan is not a lone event; on the contrary, with the acceleration of global warming, it is estimated to be 30 times more likely than compared to preindustrial times. And it has led to a deep reduction in agricultural output, as wheat crops withered, and mango crops were lost, exacerbating food insecurity, and threatening Indians and Pakistanis with limited income.
Those at or near the poverty levels have limited alternatives to cooling themselves, with millions of villages without any access to basic electricity, and for those living in urban slums, many are too poor to afford it even if it were available.
Roop Singh, a climate risk adviser with the International Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Center, makes the point that with more middle-income households having air conditioning, this means widespread power outages in part because the need for more cooling strains the electrical grids, and in part because of a coal shortage in India. “This is particularly impactful for people who might have access to a fan or to a cooler but might not be able to run it because they can’t afford a generator,” she said.
Medical and climate scientists have determined there is a “hard limit” when human tolerance is breached, the ‘wet-bulb’ temperature beyond which the human body is no longer viable. The wet-bulb temperature reflects not only heat but also how much water (humidity) is in the air.
“If the wet-bulb temperature reading is higher than our body temperature, that means that we cannot cool ourselves to a temperature tolerable for humans by evaporating sweat and that basically means you can’t survive,” said Tapio Schneider, a California Institute of Technology climate scientist and professor.
A recent Science Advances study found that some places have already experienced conditions too hot and humid for human survival, including Pakistan where there has been a wet-bulb temperature of 95 degrees Fahrenheit. “That kind of temperature would make it impossible to sweat enough to avoid overheating, organ failure and eventual death.”
According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, should global emissions continue as they are, places in India and Pakistan will approach these limits in this century.
Even before reaching “hard limits” at “adaptation levels”, the impact of unbelievably high heat levels is increasingly threatening living conditions throughout South Asia.
Recalling the lessons in Gunnar Myrdal’s historical work “Asian Drama”, when large numbers of people and communities are incapable of dealing with daily life and it becomes intolerable and without hope, the inevitable consequence is that social peace disintegrates.
This translates into civil disorder and widespread popular anger directed at their leaders. And often when leaders are not able or unwilling to provide meaningful assistance, they evoke external threats (real or imagined) and blame outsiders as a way to both distract and unite their subjects.
When disastrous living conditions occur in both urban and rural areas, political leaders in weak governments look to external escapism politics, a scenario with a high realism index in today’s South-Asian sub-continent. And with an obvious fallout on Pakistan’s and India’s nuclear policies.
The COVID Factor: The current pandemic has affected virtually every aspect of human activity, including international efforts in nuclear arms control and disarmament, and the work of the 1968 Treaty on the Non- Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (Non-Proliferation Treaty, NPT).
In South Asia, there was no official ongoing India–Pakistan, China–India, or China–Pakistan nuclear dialogue prior to Covid. The pandemic effectively stopped all in-person, non-official contacts which might have led to such engagement.
The pandemic and its accompanying worldwide panic shed light on why it is a mistake for governments to expend huge sums on building nuclear arsenals and war-fighting capabilities at the expense of basic economic and social needs.
The prospect of new variants of Covid-19, such as Omicron, and/or another potential readily transmissible virus underscores the fact that these can be very costly and destabilizing events, epidemics, and pandemics that undermine stability and even nations’ survival.
Covid infections in India– at least during the first two years– went massively unreported both in terms of morbidity and mortality. In Pakistan, both numbers were and have been considerably lower than its neighbor, but massive underreporting is likely there as well.
According to recent data, these figures in both countries have declined. As of April 2022 reported cases in Pakistan were down while inIndia, by the end of May 2022, an average of 2,574 cases per day were reported, withdeaths having decreased by 11 percent.
The reported drop in COVID-19 infection rates at present has meant less attention in the public space in both countries—at least for the moment.
Again, there is no assurance that new variants and a wave of infections will not happen, which could cumulatively add to inter-country political tensions, especially if there are accusations that new infections came from across the border.
Overwhelming heat currently affecting South Asia means that tens of millions are living with very harmful dehydration, exhaustion, food insecurity, and the possibility of added infectious disease from the ongoing Covid pandemic.
Such conditions potentially pose a level of political unrest which very well may influence the political class of these two nuclear countries.
With fanatic groups on both sides of their borders looking for ways to undermine stability, it will not take much for either India or Pakistan leaders to feel pressed to react, then counter-react, each step bringing them to the brink of choosing nuclear.
Let us hope such a tipping point is never reached, that both cooler weather and heads prevail
Baghdad – Asharq Al-Awsat
Iraqi Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr warned on Thursday that members of his bloc will quit parliament if he is thwarted from forming a national majority government.
He made his remarks days before the deadline he set to his rival Shiite pro-Iran Coordination Framework to reach a solution to the country’s political impasse.
In a televised speech, Sadr said he was ready to join the country’s opposition if the deadlock were to continue.
The deadlock is “deliberate,” he charged, saying his MPs should prepare their resignation letters because the Framework was continuing to impede the government formation efforts.
Sadr’s latest warning is the starkest since the eruption of the crisis erupted in wake of the parliamentary elections that saw the influential cleric emerge as the clear winner with 75 MPs. The Framework has challenged the results, dismissing them as a sham.
Sadr has since formed a coalition with Sunni and Kurdish MPs to form a comfortable majority bloc in parliament.
As the Framework demonstrated it was unwilling to help form the government, Sadr announced he would grant them three months to form one and yet, no progress has been made. The deadline ends soon.
“If the Sadrist bloc is seen as an obstacle in the formation of a government, then they are ready to quit,” Sadr declared on Thursday.
Parliament went into recess on Thursday and will convene again in July. It seems unlikely that that will be enough time for the deadlock to be resolved.
Observers have expressed alarm at Sadr’s latest announcement, with some viewing it as a sign that he has no solution to ending the impasse.
It will also leave his Sunni and Kurdish allies at a loss over what position they will make in wake of his dramatic announcement.
Iran-backed militias’ attacks against U.S. targets are up. The U.S. hasn’t responded with force since last year.
Officials say that just because Washington is not responding with airstrikes doesn’t mean it is ignoring the attacks.
June 10, 2022, 4:00 AM MDT
Attacks by Iranian proxies against bases housing U.S. military personnel in Iraq and Syria are increasing, U.S. officials say, and Washington has not responded with force since 2021.
There were seven attacks in May, as many attacks that month as February, March and April combined, and there have been a total of 29 since October without a kinetic U.S. response.
No Americans have been killed in these incidents, but a U.S. intelligence assessment found Iran may believe its proxy groups have killed and injured Americans, according to two U.S. officials familiar with the assessment. Iranians often boast about battlefield successes that are not substantiated. Earlier this year, Iranian officials claimed to have killed Israelis at a safe house in Irbil, which turned out to be untrue.
The attacks have been carried out by Iranian-backed militias, the U.S. officials say.
In a statement, the White House National Security Council said, “There is nothing that President Biden takes more seriously than the security of U.S. personnel deployed overseas. Shortly before we entered office, U.S. personnel and facilities were under regular attack in Iraq and Syria. This included the largest rocket attack against our embassy in Baghdad in over a decade, which took place in late 2020. We immediately deployed a number of tools, including military strikes, diplomatic engagement, sanctions, and other measures to both protect our personnel and decrease risks of further attacks. The spate of attacks has decreased significantly since the middle of last year.”
“Not every response will be seen or visible, but Iran fully understands that the United States is prepared to respond directly to any threat against U.S. personnel.”
The Trump administration made clear it would respond if Americans were injured or killed in an attack, but the Biden administration has not drawn a similar red line for retaliation and a possible response would not be contingent on a U.S. casualty.
Michael Knights of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, who follows the militias closely, says “there’s been an increase” since April in attacks that appeared to be designed to send a warning.
The impetus for the uptick in attacks was likely the stalled negotiations on the 2015 nuclear deal and signals from Washington that it may increase economic pressure on Tehran if the talks completely collapse, he said. He believes the attacks are meant to send a message to Washington that more pressure on Iran will trigger more attacks on U.S. troops in Iraq and Syria.
“A lot of this stuff seems to be in the manner of a warning, like — ‘We’re coming. We’re warming up. This is what we could do if we wanted to. [T]hey’re reminding us that they could [kill us],’” Knights said.
“I think it’s an indication that they are warming up their capabilities and they’re showing us that they are warming up their capabilities.”
When contacted by NBC News, Iran’s U.N. mission said it had no role in incidents in Iraq or Syria.
“We do not interfere in the internal affairs of other countries and therefore are not responsible for what is happening there,” said Shahrokh Nazemi, spokesperson for Iran’s mission to the United Nations.
He added that events in Iraq or Syria had no connection to the 2015 nuclear deal, known as the JCPOA.
“The developments in the region have nothing to do with the JCPOA,” the spokesperson said, adding the U.S. “must honor its commitments” under the nuclear deal.
In October 2021, five so-called suicide drones packed with explosives and shrapnel attacked the U.S. garrison at al-Tanf in southern Syria. No U.S. troops were killed in the assault, but several structures were badly damaged. Iran was behind the attack, according to three U.S. defense officials and two administration officials, with its proxy forces carrying out the attack with the intention of killing U.S. troops.
Iran launched the attack in retaliation for an Israeli strike targeting advanced missiles parts in Syria that killed and wounded Iranian citizens, the U.S. officials said. The U.S. military had a warning that the drones were inbound and was able to move most of the 200 U.S. troops away from the base, which the officials said may have been the only reason no troops were injured or killed.
After the al-Tanf attack, the U.S. sent a message to Iran through diplomatic channels, warning it not to strike again. Since then, U.S. troops have been attacked on at least 29 separate occasions, according to a list provided by a senior defense official. The most recent attack was last week when an Iranian-backed group fired five Katyusha rockets into al-Asad air base in western Iraq.
The Biden administration carried out airstrikes in Syria in February 2021 in retaliation for rocket attacks, and against Iraqi militia targets in June 2021 in response to drone attacks, but has not retaliated against Iranian proxies for any attack since al-Tanf.
The Biden administration has told the Iranian regime it holds Tehran responsible for attacks from militia groups in Iraq and Syria and officials insist Iran knows that the U.S., from President Joe Biden to the U.S. military, is fully prepared to respond.
Officials also insist that just because the U.S. is not responding with airstrikes does not mean it is ignoring the attacks.
The Iranian-backed groups may be trying to draw the U.S. into a situation that could escalate, and some Biden administration officials argue it is smarter to work with the Iraqi military, focus on diplomatic messaging or consider sanctions. The U.S. shares intelligence with the Iraqis and their counterterror forces have been effective in hunting down militia groups after attacks.
Most of the recent attacks have been ineffective or easily defeated, and the Biden administration takes the scale of the attack into account before deciding on a possible response.
The Biden administration has not seen any indication that Iran’s Revolutionary Guard has made a decision to escalate attacks against the U.S. in Iraq or Syria, but officials warn that could change and a significant escalation against the U.S. could close the door to a new nuclear agreement.
Most of the attacks were carried out by indirect fire, but U.S. officials are concerned about the increasing number of unmanned one-way drones, often referred to as suicide drones. There was also a probable SA-6 surface-to-air missile attack on two U.S. F-16s in Dayr az Zawr, Syria, that has not been disclosed.
After the al-Tanf attack, the Biden administration called for options to respond. Within hours, the commander of U.S. Central Command at the time, Gen. Frank McKenzie, briefed Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin on options to retaliate, which included airstrikes in Iran that could lead to the deaths of Iranians.
White House officials bristled at the possibility of Iranians being killed and called for more options. After several rounds of possibilities presented, the Biden administration decided on a diplomatic message rather than a military response, angering some U.S. military leaders who wanted to respond with strikes. A U.S. military response against Iran would require White House approval.
If clear approval to conduct a retaliatory strike does not come within 72 hours of the original attack, the strike is very unlikely to happen, according to U.S. military statistics, which show that to be true of every strike against Iran since 2007.
The more the White House and the National Security Council ask for various options, the less likely the U.S. is to do anything kinetic, the statistics and U.S. military officials say.
One U.S. military official described the situation between the U.S. and Iran as being on “an escalation ladder,” citing the assassination of a senior Quds Force leader in Tehran, Iran’s seizure of two Greek oil tankers, and Israel’s recent military exercise simulating strikes on Iran.
As if we didn’t have enough to worry about: This week Iran escalated its war against the West.
On June 8 the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) passed a resolution calling on Iran to explain traces of uranium that it found at three undisclosed sites of nuclear activity. Hours before the IAEA vote, Iran disconnected security cameras from one of its declared nuclear sites. Then Iran began taking down IAEA cameras throughout its territory. The world’s nuclear watchdog is flying blind. “When we lose this,” IAEA director Rafael Mariano Grossi told reporters, “then it’s anybody’s guess” what Iran is doing.
But we know what Iran is doing. Iran is playing hardball. For over a year now, the Biden administration and its European partners have attempted to lure Iran back into the 2015 nuclear deal, a.k.a. the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Those negotiations have failed. Iran keeps upping the ante. It wants Biden to drop sanctions on the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, its terrorist army, and to guarantee that future presidents won’t back out of the deal. The first demand is harmful to national security and a political hot potato. The second is impossible. Result: deadlock.
Deadlock that favors Iran. The mullahs have used the months of jaw-jaw to prepare for war-war. Ayatollah Khamenei has placed radicals in top positions, including the presidency. His proxy forces have spread violence in Iraq, Yemen, and throughout the Greater Middle East. He has plotted to assassinate U.S. officials. He has evaded sanctions. And he has built up his stockpile of nuclear fuel.
Iran has enough enriched uranium for a nuclear weapon. Last week, David Albright and Sarah Burkhard of the Institute for Science and International Security (the good ISIS) wrote that “Iran’s breakout timeline is now at zero.”
The complacency is maddening. The other day, when a reporter asked National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan for his thoughts on Iran’s dispute with the IAEA, Sullivan said, “From our perspective, we have to view these on separate tracks, and that’s how we’re going to proceed.” Translation: We won’t let Iran’s hostile behavior get in the way of appeasement.
Swell. How does President Biden respond? He says there is still time to make a deal that even his lead negotiator, State Department official Robert Malley, admits is “tenuous at best.”
On June 9, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that Iran’s moves against the IAEA are “counterproductive and further complicate our efforts to return to full implementation of the JCPOA.” Also, the sky is blue. What’s Blinken going to do about it? “We continue to press Iran to choose diplomacy and de-escalation instead,” he said.
This is willful blindness. Iran made its choice. It rejected diplomacy and de-escalation. It opted for confrontation and resistance.
Yet America is too preoccupied, too distracted, too overwhelmed to act accordingly. Inflation, crime, the border, guns, abortion, and Ukraine command the public’s attention. The growing danger from Iran does not. Meanwhile, the secretary of defense is a background player. The secretary of state and the national security adviser are staffers, not independent leaders. The president is 79 years old and not good at his job. This moment demands confidence, willfulness, boldness, imagination, and risk. What we get are odd ramblings from Biden on Kimmel.
Things must change. Iran policy is a good—and urgent—place to start. Step one is to face reality. Close the open hand that the ayatollah has spat upon. Demand enactment of snap-back sanctions. Adopt the bipartisan Senate bill that would integrate air and missile defenses in the Greater Middle East. Call for a massive defense buildup. Ease restrictions, limits, and delays on lend-lease to Ukraine, then take the same approach to arming Israel and our Gulf partners (as well as Taiwan). Recognize the importance of the Abraham Accords as the foundation for regional stability. And revive the military option to demonstrate our seriousness.
The drift toward global disorder began after former president Obama decided not to enforce his red line against chemical weapons in Syria. That was almost a decade ago. One way to repair the jagged breach in American credibility and American deterrence would be to make good on our longstanding promise that Iran won’t obtain the world’s most terrible weapon.
The current path leads to a world where America is ignored, where Israel’s existence is threatened, and where the risk of nuclear war is greater than it is even today. We’ve been telling ourselves for a while that such a world would be unacceptable. Let’s act like it
Arun JoshiPublished: 10th June 2022 2:45 pm IST
Developments in Pakistan cannot be ignored as something which is a country-specific problem. Before and after the ouster of Imran Khan’s government in early April, Pakistan has been on a roller coaster ride with no idea where it would land, and this would have serious repercussions for its immediate neighbours in particular and the world at large. Pakistan’s biggest advantage of its geo-strategic location in South Asia also is its bane, that’s why the world should be worried about what is happening over there.
There is now direct clash between the political class( es) and the establishment, which unmistakably is read as army, having its control over the domestic and foreign policies – sometimes it is in the open, and on other occasions maneuvering is done behind the façade of the civilian leadership. Imran Khan has been particularly critical of the army and has even warned that if it failed to act, the country may disintegrate and the nuclear power status would also be at risk. This is blasphemy in Pakistan, where nuclear weapons have been sanctified and above any criticism. Imran has violated that sanctity in Pakistan , and the result is that army spokespersons have warned him and others who have dragged the establishment into the middle of their political battles. There have been many direct attacks and insinuations by Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e- Insaaf ( PTI) and also by the ruling alliance’s leading partner Pakistan Muslim League ( Nawaz) or PML-N. The leading light of PML ( N) Maryam Nawaz, also information and broadcasting minister has been no less harsh on the role of the army. However, her grudge is against the former ISI chief Faiz Hameed, whom she accused not only being eyes and ears of Imran Khan but also “ hands though which political opponents were throttled.”
Confrontation between the government and opposition is escalating. Imran Khan’s “ Long March” on Islamabad may have failed for various reasons, ranging from low attendance to the government action against protestors before and after the “ march, but former Prime Minister continues to target the coalition government led by his bête noire Shehbaz Sharif. He has got more ammunition to fire at the government, in addition to his “ conspiracy and collaborators “ theory, which he alleges was responsible for his ouster. the fuel prices have gone up, food shortage is staring at the country and the inflation is in a long and high jump mode. The government has nothing to defend itself, except blaming the Khan government’s legacy of insolvency that it inherited. But that is not convincing for the commoners who think differently from the corridors of power.
Such is the alarming nature of the crisis that some of the Pakistan watchers have forecasted intervention of the army to put a lid on the troubles rocking the country. These scenarios are fraught with dangerous consequences – one, it would mean the reversal of the revival of democracy since the 2008 elections after a nearly- decade long military dictatorship under Gen. Pervez Musharraf, secondly, the army is not having any magic wand to pull the country of the economic collapse in which it has landed because of the political turmoil, mal-governance and strategy deficit. Loans by friendly countries like China and Saudi Arabia, or by international organisations like International Monetary Fund are not charities. Those are to be paid back. Given the current economic situation in the country, Pakistan is in no position to pay back the loansu, rather the bitter truth is that it cannot survive without getting more financial support from these countries or the international organizations. The army, too, would be cautious in taking over in these times when it knows that costs are far heavier than the benefits. That will lead to further drifting.
Why should world be worried? Pakistan is not an ordinary country, in a sense that it is home to what it itself admits to “non-state actors”- read terrorists and terror groups, be that Jamat-ul- Dawa of Hafiz Saeed, the front for Lashkar-e-Taiba , Masood Azhar’s Jaish-e-Mohammad and so on. These groups have been staging attacks on Indian soil, especially in Kashmir. There also are groups active in the border areas close to Afghanistan. the skirmishes between Afghan and Pakistan’s security forces have escalated into full-fledged mini-wars. The conflict is raging on. This means highly destabilizing forces are at work in Pakistan and Afghanistan. That is a recipe for the disaster. The origin of 9/11 was this belt and if terrorism flourishes, it is bad news for the world and particularly in South Asia, the region in which Pakistan is located. India has to worry more: the country has been on the target list of terrorist groups. Of all hues. India will have to be watchful, but it is also a universal phenomenon that terrorists retain element to surprise. Pakistan might be grappling with its problems of catastrophic nature but when it comes to advancing anti-India activities, it has a huge kitty of drug money.
With China breathing down in eastern Ladakh, the Indian army is overstretched, and it would find it difficult to get right things all the time. So, Pakistan’s internal issues would not take long to escalate and impact the neighbourhood.
The Associated PressJun. 9, 2022
Iran plans to install two new cascades of advanced centrifuges that will allow Tehran to rapidly enrich more uranium, the UN’s nuclear watchdog said Thursday, the latest escalation in the standoff over the country’s atomic program.
The decision to add the two IR-6 centrifuges cascades at its underground Natanz nuclear facility comes as countries at an International Atomic Energy Agency meeting in Vienna voted Wednesday night to censure Iran. The rebuke deals with what the watchdog refers to as Iran’s failure to provide “credible information” over man-made nuclear material found at three undeclared sites in the country.
But even before the vote, Iran shut off two devices the IAEA uses to monitor enrichment at Natanz. Iranian officials also threatened to take more steps amid a yearlong crisis that threatens to widen into further attacks.
The IAEA said Thursday that its Director-General Rafael Mariano Grossi told members that Iran informed the agency that it planned to install two new cascades of the IR-6 at Natanz. A cascade is a series of centrifuges hooked together to rapidly spin uranium gas to enrich it.
An IR-6 centrifuge spins uranium 10 times as fast as the first-generation centrifuges that Iran was once limited to under its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers. As of February, Iran already had been spinning a cascade of IR-6s at its underground facility at Fordo, according to the IAEA.
At Natanz, located some 200 kilometers (125 miles) south of the capital, Tehran, Iran earlier said it planned to install one cascade of IR-6s. The IAEA said it “verified” the ongoing installation of that cascade Monday, while the newly promised two new cascades had yet to begin.
Iran and world powers agreed in 2015 to the nuclear deal, which saw Tehran drastically limit its enrichment of uranium in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions. In 2018, then-President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew America from the accord, raising tensions across the wider Middle East and sparking a series of attacks and incidents.
Talks in Vienna over Iran’s tattered nuclear deal have been stalled since April. Since the deal’s collapse, Iran runs advanced centrifuges and has a rapidly growing stockpile of enriched uranium.
Nonproliferation experts warn Iran has enriched enough up to 60 percent purity — a short technical step from weapons-grade levels of 90 percent — to make one nuclear weapon should it decide to do so.
Iran insists its program is for peaceful purposes, though UN experts and Western intelligence agencies say Iran had an organized military nuclear program through 2003.
Building a nuclear bomb would still take Iran more time if it pursued a weapon, analysts say, though they warn Tehran’s advances make the program more dangerous. Israel has threatened in the past that it would carry out a preemptive strike to stop Iran — and already is suspected in a series of recent killings targeting Iranian officials.
Iran already has been holding footage from IAEA surveillance cameras since February 2021as a pressure tactic to restore the atomic accord.
The censure resolution at the IAEA meeting in Vienna, sponsored by Germany, France, the U.K. and U.S., passed with the support of 30 of 35 governors. Russia and China voted against, Russian ambassador Mikhail Ulyanov wrote on Twitter. India, Libya and Pakistan abstained.
After the vote, a joint statement from France, Germany, and the U.K. and the U.S. said the censure “sends an unambiguous message to Iran that it must meet its safeguards obligations and provide technically credible clarifications on outstanding safeguards issues.” Iran’s Foreign Ministry meanwhile criticized the censure as a “political, incorrect and unconstructive action.”
An Iranian official earlier warned IAEA officials that Tehran was now considering taking “other measures” as well.
“We hope that they come to their senses and respond to Iran’s cooperation with cooperation,” said Behrouz Kamalvandi, a spokesman for the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran. “It is not acceptable that they show inappropriate behavior while Iran continues to cooperate.”
Wednesday night, a drone exploded in the northern Iraqi city of Irbil in its Kurdish region, slightly wounding three people and damaging cars and a nearby restaurant, officials said. While no one immediately claimed the attack, Iran has targeted Irbil in the past amid the regional tensions.