Iranian horn appears committed to nuclear weapons

Iranian regime appears committed to nuclear weapons

Iranian regime appears committed to nuclear weapons

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. (Reuters)

The latest developments concerning Iran’s nuclear program indicate that the Tehran regime has most likely decided to go all-out to develop atomic weapons capability.
Firstly, although Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei continues to claim that his government does not have any interest in obtaining nuclear weapons and that Iran’s nuclear program was designed for peaceful purposes from the outset, several revelations show otherwise.
Some Iranian leaders have acknowledged that the regime’s nuclear program was always designed to manufacture atomic weapons. For example, former deputy speaker of the Iranian parliament Ali Motahari disclosed in April: “From the very beginning, when we entered the nuclear activity, our goal was to build a bomb and strengthen the deterrent forces but we could not maintain the secrecy of this issue.”
In addition, the former head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, Fereydoon Abbasi-Davani, was the first Iranian official to admit that his work was part of a “system” designed to develop nuclear weapons. He said: “When the country’s all-encompassing growth began involving satellites, missiles and nuclear weapons, and surmounted new boundaries of knowledge, the issue became more serious for them.”
Secondly, if we closely examine the Iranian regime’s nuclear file, it becomes crystal clear that secrecy and clandestine activities have always been important elements of the regime’s nuclear program. If the Iranian nuclear program was truly set up for peaceful purposes, the country’s leaders would have declared all nuclear sites and received technological assistance, as outlined in the Non-Proliferation Treaty, to which Iran is still a party.
One of the most alarming issues is that, over recent months, the theocratic establishment has been restricting the ability of inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency to monitor its nuclear activities. Most recently, Iran has started to deactivate 27 cameras that help the IAEA monitor the regime’s nuclear activity. Just prior to this move, the authorities also turned off two UN surveillance cameras.
This comes at a critical time, when the Iranian regime has moved significantly closer to becoming a nuclear state. The IAEA last week acknowledged that Iran is only a few weeks away from having a “significant quantity of enriched uranium.” With this statement, the agency was referring to “the approximate amount of nuclear material for which the possibility of manufacturing a nuclear explosive device cannot be excluded.”
On top of this, the Iranian leaders continue to refuse to provide any explanation for its undeclared nuclear sites that have been identified by the IAEA. Director General Rafael Grossi warned: “We have to sit down urgently if possible to see how we continue with this. Iran has not provided explanations that are technically credible in relation to the agency’s findings at three undeclared locations in Iran.”

Secrecy and clandestine activities have always been important elements of the regime’s nuclear program.

Dr. Majid Rafizadeh

In the past two decades, the only times the Iranian regime has reportedly slowed down or agreed to curb its nuclear advancement have been when drastic economic sanctions have been imposed. These threaten the hold on power of the ruling clerics, thus forcing the leadership to recalculate its political priorities. For example, the four rounds of UN sanctions imposed prior to the 2015 nuclear deal were significant because all five permanent members of the UN Security Council were on board. The sanctions endangered the ruling clergy’s grip on power and ultimately brought the Iranian leaders to the negotiating table between 2013 and 2015.
However, the unilateral US sanctions that are currently in place do not seem to be affecting the Iranian regime’s main source of revenue — oil exports — to such a significant level. The regime has been steadily exporting more oil over the last year and has now almost reached pre-sanctions levels. In fact, President Ebrahim Raisi, who took office last August, said in a live interview on state-run TV last month: “Oil sales have doubled. We are not worried about oil sales.” One important reason is that China has, despite the US sanctions, been buying a record amount of oil from Iran.
All the signs indicate that the Iranian regime appears to be going all-out for a nuclear weapon. If successful, this would have significant ramifications for peace and security in the Middle East and beyond. It is imperative that the international community acts immediately.

  • Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is a Harvard-educated Iranian-American political scientist. Twitter: @Dr_Rafizadeh

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Arab News’ point of view

Antichrist withdraws from political process

Iraqi Shia leader al-Sadr withdraws from political process

Muqtada al-Sadr says he ‘will not participate in the next elections if the corrupt participate’.

Iraqi Shia leader Muqtada al-Sadr said he has decided to withdraw from the political process to avoid involvement with “corrupt” politicians, the state news agency reported.

According to a report on Wednesday, the leader of the Sadrist Movement in the Iraqi parliament insisted he “will not participate in the next elections if the corrupt participate” during a closed meeting with members of his bloc.

He also said that his decision to order his bloc to resign from parliament will not be retracted, in an announcement that came three days after he ordered 73 politicians from his party to quit the assembly.

The unprecedented mass withdrawal of the al-Sadr bloc has dramatically altered the political landscape in Iraq, throwing government formation talks into further doubt.

It was a huge gamble by al-Sadr, one of the most influential politicians in Iraq with a large street following, putting him outside of parliament for the first time since 2005.

Al-Sadr emerged as the winner of the October vote, giving him 73 of parliament’s 329 seats. The vote was a blow to his Iran-backed Shia rivals who lost about two-thirds of their seats and have rejected the results.

Since then, the two sides have been locked in a competition for power, even as the country faces growing challenges, including an impending food crisis resulting from severe drought and the war in Ukraine.

Al-Sadr has been intent on forming, along with his allies, a majority government that excludes the Iran-backed factions.

But he has not been able to corral enough legislators to parliament to get the two-thirds majority needed to elect Iraq’s next president – a necessary step ahead of naming the next prime minister and selecting a cabinet.

When he ordered his politicians to resign on Sunday, he called it a “sacrifice” he was making for the good of the country.

Yes, Iran is Nuked Up: Daniel 8

Iran's Bushehr Nuclear Power Plant

Iran has enough uranium to build an atomic bomb, U.N. agency says

The U.N. nuclear watchdog also said Tehran has failed to offer credible explanations about nuclear material found at several sites in recent years.

A security force member stands guard at the construction site of the second phase of Iran’s Bushehr nuclear power plant in 2019.Ahmad Halabisaz / Xinhua via Getty Images file

May 31, 2022, 12:56 PM MDT

By Dan De Luce

Iran has accumulated enough enriched uranium to build a nuclear bomb, according to new findings from the United Nations atomic agency.

The International Atomic Energy Agency also said in a separate report that Iran has failed to provide credible explanations about nuclear material found at several sites in recent years, raising questions about the nature of its nuclear work.

The IAEA’s two reports could set the stage for a showdown at a meeting next week of its 35-nation board of governors, as Iran has demanded the watchdog wrap up its probe into uranium particles found at three undeclared locations in the country since 2019.

The U.N. nuclear watchdog said that Iran’s stockpile of uranium enriched to 60 percent had grown to 43.3 kilograms (95 pounds), which represented an increase of nearly 10 kilograms (22 pounds) compared to three months ago.

Experts said that the stockpile would provide roughly enough material for an atomic bomb if Iran took the additional step of enriching the uranium to 90 percent purity. Moving from 60 to 90 percent would not pose a technical challenge for Iran, according to arms control experts.

“Iran has now accumulated enough enriched uranium to be able to quickly produce more than a significant quantity of HEU (highly enriched uranium) for one bomb,” said Daryl Kimball of the Arms Control Association think tank. “The time it would take them to do that can now be measured in days, not months or weeks.”

The IAEA’s findings were sent to the agency’s members and obtained by NBC News and other news outlets. 

The U.N. reports came as international talks aimed at reviving a 2015 nuclear deal with Iran have stalled. The accord imposed limits on Iran’s nuclear program in return for lifting economic sanctions. But then-President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the deal in 2018 and reimposed sanctions.

Iran has since steadily blown past the deal’s restrictions on its nuclear activity, including limits on its use of advanced centrifuges and its stockpile of uranium.

The negotiations between world powers and Iran to salvage the 2015 deal have become bogged down over a demand by Tehran for the U.S. to lift sanctions on Iran’s Revolutionary Guard. Trump placed the organization on a terrorism blacklist.

The IAEA’s findings “underscore the urgency of restoring compliance with this deal,” Kimball said.

The Growing Chinese Nuclear Horn: Daniel 7

Hoffman on Blinken saying Iran could develop nuclear weapon in weeks: 'Major issue for US national security'

China’s growing nuclear arsenal creates new global threat, may topple 70 year old power dynamic: Expert

Experts caution that China is still some years away from achieving its goals

June 14, 2022 8:26am EDT

China’s nuclear ambitions may lead to a tripolar landscape and further proliferation as it seeks to place itself equal to the U.S. and Russia.

“It’s one thing to have a kind of bilateral nuclear superpowers know the world as it is now, but headed towards a trilateral, trilateral situation the potential for accidents and miscalculations just naturally grows,” James Anderson, acting Under Secretary of Defense for Policy under President Trump, told Fox News Digital. “And that’s unfortunate.”

The international landscape has remained in a bipolar dynamic between the U.S. and Russia as the two dominant powers due to a policy of mutually assured destruction (MAD) thanks to their virtually unmatched nuclear arsenals. That power balance has remained in place for over 70 years. 

Fu Cong, center, the director general of the Foreign Ministry's arms control department, attends a press conference on nuclear arms control in Beijing, China, Tuesday, Jan. 4, 2022. The top Chinese arms control official denied Tuesday that his government is rapidly expanding its nuclear arsenal, though he said it is taking steps to ensure its nuclear deterrent remains viable in a changing security environment. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

However, China has recently invested far more heavily in its nuclear arsenal and capabilities, developing a wide array of nuclear weapons in its land, sea and air-based delivery platforms that aim to bring it up to that same level as the U.S. and Russia. John Kirby in Nov. 2021 said the Pentagon’s “number one pacing challenge is the People’s Republic of China.” 

In 2020, the Pentagon estimated China possesses an arsenal in the “low-200s,” but that number is set to “at least double” over the next decade. A report from the Pentagon last year claimed that China “likely intends to have at least 1,000 warheads by 2030, exceeding the pace and size the [Defense Dept.] projected in 2020.”

Should China achieve that level of power, it would upset the bipolar dynamic since MAD would no longer remain effective: If any two powers strike at each other, the third stands to gain significantly from the conflict. Mutual destruction is no longer assured, and that necessarily forces all nations to alter their behavior and policies. 

The one seeming silver lining rests in the difference between the American, Russian and Chinese arsenals: Even with its aggressive expansion, China still has a lot of ground to make up compared to its rivals.

“I think if we’re using pure numbers, they still have a ways to go, especially including on what we kind of consider Russia’s reserve capabilities,” Matt McInnis from the Institute for the Study of War told Fox News Digital. 

“China still has somewhere in the range of, you know, maybe probably around 300 or so, three or 400,” he explained. “The likelihood is they’re going to get up to, based on the current estimates from the US government, up to 700 weapons by 2027, probably a thousand by 2030, and it could be heading north from there … You’re not going to really probably get parity until well, until the middle of the century.”

FILE PHOTO: Chinese President Xi Jinping shakes hands with U.S. Vice President Joe Biden (L) inside the Great Hall of the People in Beijing December 4, 2013. 

China’s aggressive expansion would lead to a potential tripolar international dynamic, in which it sits equal to the U.S. and Russia and offsetting the delicate balance and potentially leading to greater nuclear proliferation in other countries. 

“I think that’s another potential risk that we definitely have to consider,” Anderson explained. “That’s certainly a relevant case here, given the Indian-Chinese rivalry. They have fought border wars and clashed recently, and I think you would be very concerned now and become increasingly so as the PRC embarked upon this nuclear expansion.” 

McInnis also pointed to the Middle East as a candidate for accelerated proliferation should China achieve its goals, but speculated that the countries closest to China – namely South Korea and Japan – would certainly consider changing their non-nuclear policies.

“What Japan and India do is the most interesting question,” McInnis said. “And I think it’s something to be aware of – the risk that they are incurring if they continue to pursue other power that dramatically changes the nuclear balance in the region.”

Treaties remain a critical element of the bipolar landscape, but the developing tripolar landscape has not presented a clear opportunity to try and develop similar agreements: Any agreement on arms control would need Russia’s participation, which seems far off with relations between Moscow and Washington at a low following the invasion of Ukraine. 

“I’m personally not optimistic that now is a realistic time for [negotiations], because the Russians obviously are not interested in any type of cooperative negotiations with us while war is raging in Ukraine,” Heino Klinck, Senior Advisor to the National Bureau of Asian Research, told Fox News Digital. “I don’t think we would even want to broach anything that smacks of any kind of cooperation with the Russians.” 

Chinese naval fleet passes through naval mine threat area during the China-Russia 'Joint Sea-2021' military drill near the Peter the Great Gulf on October 15, 2021 in Russia.

The inability to develop meaningful arms control leaves the U.S. at a disadvantage as it works to find some way to cooperate with China and reign in the pace of proliferation. 

“If you look at Secretary Blinken’s recent speech, obviously, the administration is looking where possible for opportunities to cooperate [with China],” Klinck said. “I think even if an opportunity for some sort of cooperative arms control agreement is unrealistic … it should be part of standard American talking points when engaging with the Chinese.”  

Klinck argued that U.S. is unlikely to get “any kind of positive response” from China.

“I think they’re just going to push back,” he said. 

All three experts also advised that China’s arsenal isn’t the only element that requires strict scrutiny: Any nuclear arsenal is just posturing unless China also changes doctrine.

A key component of the MAD policy focuses on “first strike,”  which maintains that a country is capable of destroying an opponent’s arsenal while surviving the weakened retaliation; therefore, rendering their opponent unable to continue the war. 

The opposite, a “no first use” doctrine, instead posits that a country will not use nuclear weapons unless first attacked by such. China has so far maintained a NFU policy, and would likely change it in the event that it planned to stand equal to the U.S. and Russia. 

“We need to seriously think about … reevaluating our own policy in that regard if we are facing a world power like China willing to adopt a first strike,” McInnis said. “I think that we need to be thinking – we need to be communicating our willingness to shift policy if we see China move in that direction.”

Peter Aitken is a Fox News Digital reporter with a focus on national and global news

The Antichrist has just caused a ‘tectonic shift’

By Nadeen Ebrahim, CNN

CNNJune 14, 2022

Iraq’s most powerful politician has just caused a ‘tectonic shift’

Cairo, Egypt (CNN) – After eight months of political paralysis, the kingmaker of Iraqi politics has ordered his bloc to withdraw from parliament.

The stepdown of Shia Muslim cleric Moqtada al-Sadr’s entire group of 73 lawmakers is the largest shakeup in Iraqi politics since an October election saw Iran-backed Shiite blocs losing seats to the Sadrists. The Sadrists now appear to have stepped back from parliamentary politics.

“This is a tectonic shift that threatens to derail the post-2003 political order in its entirety,” said Ranj Alaaldin, nonresident fellow in the Foreign Policy program at the Brookings Institution, a think tank in Washington, DC.

In a handwritten statement, Sadr said that his request for his lawmakers to resign was “a sacrifice from me for the country and the people to rid them of the unknown destiny.”

Sajad Jiyad, a fellow at The Century Foundation think tank in Washington DC, said the move “has changed the political discourse.”

The cleric is immensely popular in Iraq. For years he has positioned himself against both Iran and the United States, and in October emerged as the biggest winner in a parliamentary election that threatened to sideline Iran-aligned Shiite blocs that have long dominated the oil-rich country’s politics.

But politics has since been in a stalemate as bickering and accusations of corruption have stalled the presidential election and hindered the formation of a government.

“If the Sadrist bloc remaining [in parliament] is an obstacle to government formation, then all lawmakers of the bloc are honorably ready to resign from parliament,” said Sadr in a televised speech on Thursday, as he set the stage for the resignation.

Experts say that according to the procedure, once a lawmaker resigns and the process is finalized, the next lawmaker with the largest batch of votes steps in as a replacement.

“This will redistribute 73 parliamentary seats among various political blocs,” wrote Abbas Kadhim, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council think tank, on Twitter, adding that Iran-aligned Shiites are expected to take over those seats, along with some independents.

So is Sadr giving in to Iran-backed groups, or is this simply an attempt to showcase his power in the streets, where he has tremendous influence? Analysts say it is likely to be the latter.

“Sadr’s secret weapon is his vast grassroots network of supporters and dominance on the street,” said Alaaldin, adding that “the withdrawal of Sadrist MPs is a signal of intent to confront his rivals on the street.”

The resignations came after the Iran-aligned Shiite blocs opposed Sadr’s government formation initiative, said Ihsan Al-Shammari, a politics professor at Baghdad University and head of the Iraqi Centre for Political Thought. It also comes as Sadr realizes that he cannot create a national majority government with the obstruction of the rival bloc.
Sadr may be signaling to his supporters that he has done all he can to try to form a government with his Iran-aligned Shiite rivals, said Jiyad. The move may also be a threat to other parties, showing them that they cannot do without him, he added.

The cleric’s influence is far from diminished, said Al-Shammari. “Sadr will continue in the direction of popular opposition … I think [this] will double his political power.”

Analysts say that sidelining Sadr and his party from government will result in chaos, and that any government born out of Sadr’s isolation “will be a dead one.”

“This will lead to anger from Iraqis and from Sadr’s supporters,” Al-Shammari said. “They will not agree to see their leader politically broken or isolated.”

Sadrists quit Iraq’s parliament, but the Antichrist isn’t going away

Iraqi cleric Muqtada al-Sadr speaks after preliminary results of Iraq's parliamentary election
Muqtada al-Sadr remains popular amongst many Iraqi Shia [File: Alaa Al-Marjani/Reuters]

Sadrists quit Iraq’s parliament, but al-Sadr isn’t going away

The Sadrist bloc’s resignation from parliament throws up a number of scenarios, including new elections in Iraq.

Baghdad, Iraq – After nearly eight months of the Iraqi parliament’s repeated failure to form a government, influential Shia religious leader – and the biggest winner of Iraq’s October parliamentary elections – Muqtada al-Sadr decided enough was enough.

On Sunday, he ordered the Sadrist Movement bloc, 73 members of parliament, to submit its resignation – which it duly did.

If, and when, the resignations are finalised, they will allow the second-place vote winner from October’s elections in each vacated district to take the empty seat.

The question now is – why has al-Sadr chosen to go down this route, and what will happen next

According to analysts, the resignations will not spell an end to Iraq’s political crisis. Instead, the process of refilling the vacant seats will likely lead to a new wave of intense debate, and potentially street protests.

“It will reconfigure the balance of powers, which means that extension of post-election uncertainty period,” said Abbas Kadhim, director of the Iraq Initiative at the Atlantic Council. “Don’t expect a government formed soon.”

For months, al-Sadr, who presents himself as a critic of both Iranian and American influence in Iraq, has tried to form a “national majority government”, essentially placing his Sadrist Movement and its allies as the majority while creating an opposition that would largely consist of Iran-backed political groups.

If it had succeeded, it would have brought about an unprecedented deviation from the current muhasasa (quota-based) arrangement which is built on ethno-sectarian power sharing among Shia, Sunni, and Kurdish groups.

It would also have struck a huge blow to Iran’s political influence in Iraq, as Iran has largely backed Shia groups that have been able to come together with other Shia Muslims and form a majority.

However, despite al-Sadr’s impressive win in the election, which helped his bloc secure 73 out of 329 seats, Iraqi law requires a supermajority, namely two-thirds of the vote, to elect a president.

Al-Sadr’s efforts to create alliances have fallen short of passing that threshold.

“He may have won the most seats in 2021, but it is not the most we have seen in the past and those with seats in the 90s range have struggled to form a government,” said Hamzeh Hadad, a visiting fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations.

Al-Sadr is not going away

On the surface, al-Sadr’s withdrawal signals that he has given up on participating in Iraq’s increasingly complex politics, as he threatened to do in the past. However, the reality is that al-Sadr will remain politically influential, whether his supporters are in or out of parliament.

Should the withdrawal materialise, the ball will be in the court of the Coordination Framework Alliance (CFA), al-Sadr’s main opponent during the government formation process.

Many of the seats vacated by the Sadrists will be filled by the Shia parties in the CFA, such as former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s State of Law and the Fatah Alliance, the political wing of the Iran-backed Popular Mobilisation Forces, or Hashd, militia.

Yet their trajectory in Iraqi politics will not be as rosy as it may seem.

By quitting the parliament, one of al-Sadr’s goals is to delegitimise his more sectarian rivals, according to Thanassis Cambanis, director of the Century Foundation’s Center for International Research and Policy, a New York-based think tank.

“With no Sadrist in Parliament, rivals cannot claim [to] represent [the] entire Shia house … legitimacy further erodes [because of the] optics of a losing minority taking overwhelming power,” he wrote on Twitter.

Al-Sadr’s visible effort to break the gridlock and align with Sunni parties and the Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP), which stands in contrast with the Iran-backed groups in the Coordination Framework, will also be used by al-Sadr to claim that he “went the further out of any party to break this form of [consensus] government,” according to Hadad.

As the political showdown drags on, al-Sadr can use this round of resignations to showcase that he is committed to democratic and majority rule, but that it had only been hindered by the tight grip of other political parties on power under the muhasasa arrangement.

New elections?

A potential government without the biggest winner in the parliamentary election might lead to a few scenarios, according to Kadhim, including another round of elections if parliament decides to dissolve itself, or a compromise government that will be tasked with holding an early election.

“A new election is always on the table, whether it happens now by not being able to form a government, or … after a government is finally formed,” said Hadad.

Mass grassroots protests might also occur as the Iraqi political landscape scrambles to fully understand what this means and how to properly handle al-Sadr’s withdrawal.

“Even groups who don’t trust Sadr will join against [the] corrupt and broken system,” Cambanis said. “By defecting from [the] system, Sadr escapes responsibility while retaining [a] network of state bureaucrats.”

As for the people Iraqi politicians are supposed to represent, many are even more frustrated, especially those who participated in the Tishreen mass demonstrations in 2019 that eventually brought down the former prime minister, Adil Abdul-Mahdi.

The systematic change the protesters demanded has not occurred and now, as Iraq enters its deadly hot summer, anger at the lack of government services is exacerbated by what many describe as a “political game”.

“Sadr and his foes could play all the games they want, but the Iraqi people are continuing to suffer from heat and sandstorms,” said Ali Mohammed, a 24-year-old from Baghdad. “They only care about their political gains and losses.”