President Obama: Too Little Too Late

What Nobel Peace Prize?

What Nobel Peace Prize?

The nuclear weapons debate we need

August 28 at 7:34 PM
 
THE COMBINATION of President Obama’s last months in office and the presidential campaign has unleashed a flurry of debate about nuclear weapons. Republican nominee Donald Trump has suggested he might withdraw the U.S. nuclear umbrella from allies such as Japan and South Korea, and his combative style has raised the specter of a hothead with his finger on the button. Meanwhile, Mr. Obama is considering whether to make a “no first use” declaration about nuclear weapons, and may seek renewed support for a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty at the United Nations.

In one way or another, all of these touch on important aspects of nuclear weapons policy. It is obvious that Mr. Trump is being downright reckless, and Mr. Obama may be trying to polish a legacy that never quite fulfilled his 2009 Prague speech proposing a new era of nuclear disarmament . But the remaining weeks of the campaign would be better spent with serious debate about the real problems facing the new president.

At the top of that list is an expensive modernization of the U.S. strategic nuclear deterrent. Updating and replacing weapons that date back to the Cold War is essential, but the next president will have to make tough choices. For example, the Navy is embarking on an ambitious program to build 12 ballistic-missile submarines to replace the existing 14 Ohio-class “boomers,” the most invulnerable leg of the strategic triad. But the $97 billion price tag for the replacement fleet threatens to soak up Navy funding for other programs such as attack submarines, destroyers, aircraft carriers and amphibious warfare ships. In order to do it all, the Congressional Research Service has estimated Navy shipbuilding budgets would have to be boosted by a third over historic levels. Can the United States afford to have it all? This question hangs over the Air Force, too, which is working on a new strategic penetrating bomber and wants a new long-range cruise missile. The missions of these two weapons systems may overlap: Is the cruise missile necessary?

At the same time, Russian President Vladimir Putin and his confrontational approach have thrown into doubt earlier cooperation on arms control and nuclear security. Russia’s violation of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty is unresolved, and Moscow appears to be designing asymmetric weapons such as a nuclear-capable underwater drone, as well as building new missiles and submarines. North Korea has a steadily expanding nuclear arsenal and missile program. Nuclear deterrence is still essential and will be for some time. While continuing U.S. modernization and keeping a wary eye on Mr. Putin, a new president should look for specific areas for engagement with Moscow, such as keeping nuclear material out of the hands of terrorists and reducing the dangers associated with both nations’ launch-ready alert postures, largely unchanged since the Cold War.
Mr. Obama’s early vision of a world without nuclear weapons is a long way off. It is time to work on present-day reality: What kind of strategic nuclear weapons do we need, at what cost and to deter what kind of threats? The campaign could use a debate that acknowledges this and grapples with it.

The Dirty Bomb In London (Daniel 8:4)


Could Isil actually detonate a nuclear ‘dirty bomb’ in Britain?

HAMISH DE BRETTON-GORDON 5 APRIL 2016 • 11:53AM

Last week’s Nuclear Security Summit in Washington DC put the threat of Isil using some sort of fissile or radioactive material in the media spotlight.

If Isil could build an Improvised Nuclear Device (IND) or a “Dirty Bomb” they would certainly use it, and all the better for them if were able to use it in London, Paris or New York.

It would appear that the Isil terror attacks in Belgium two weeks ago were originally planned to have some sort of nuclear element, but through good intelligence-gathering and some luck this nightmare scenario was avoided, for now.

It is possible that some of the 15,000 or more nuclear warheads quoted by Eric Schlosser in his recent book Gods of Metal may be poorly guarded and could fall into terrorist hand, but it is highly improbable. At the end of the Cold War, international efforts were made to secure the most vulnerable storage locations, including the removal of 600 kilograms of weapons-grade uranium under Project Sapphire from Kazakhstan to the US.

“15-20 kilograms of Highly Enriched Uranium…could yield a blast equivalent to 2000 tonnes of TNT, which would be enough to flatten several blocks”

But beyond this, having been involved in nuclear security in the UK, I am acutely aware of the challenges and hurdles required for a terror group to successfully smuggle a viable device to a suitable target location and then override the numerous safety features to detonate such a weapon. It’s all very unlikely.

In my opinion the real areas of concern in future are, firstly, the development of North Korea’s nuclear capability and its “apparent” intercontinental ballistic missile programme; secondly, the possibility of highly enriched, weaponised isotopes falling into terrorist hands through the black market or dark web to build an IND; thirdly, using commonly available radiological sources to create a dirty bomb. These are in ascending order of likelihood.

I am relatively confident that the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, and in particular the US, are keeping a very close eye on North Korea and would take offensive action if it appeared that this country was about to launch some kind of nuclear-tipped missile. It would appear that this is still some way off at the moment.

The next concern is the possibility that nuclear weapons-grade viable material is acquired by Isil and fashioned into an IND. 15-20 kilograms of Highly Enriched Uranium (HEU), with a simple “gun-gadget” initiation device, could yield a blast equivalent to 2000 tonnes of TNT, which would be enough to flatten several blocks. This is probably within the capabilities of Isil’s scientists in Iraq and Syria, technically. But I very much doubt they could explode this type of weapon in any P5 member – except perhaps Russia.

It is here that Isil would most likely get the HEU, and it is Chechen jihadists who appear to be at the heart of Isil’s chemical, radiological and nuclear weapons programmes. It is the Russians who are the Chechens’ greatest enemy, and indeed Chechen militants have used fissile material before to attack the Russian State. With this in mind it is somewhat surprising that President Putin decided to boycott the Nuclear Summit, which aims to prevent such an attack.

What the public appear most afraid of, and what is most likely, is a “dirty” bomb. But this fear is misguided. The only immediate casualties of such an attack would probably be from the blast rather than radiation, which would be unlikely to have many short or long term medical effects. Though radiological material is relatively easy to source, the UK’s sophisticated counter-terrorist apparatus would make it extremely unlikely that Isil could detonate such a bomb here.

In sum, the threat to the UK from an Isil nuclear device is extremely low, and only slightly higher for a dirty bomb attack. Still, the psychological impact would outweigh the physiological by many times to 1. Pre-warned and prepared is the best form of defence in this case.

So Much For Nobel Ideals (Ezekiel 17)

Reduction of Nuclear Arsenal Has Slowed Under Obama, Report Finds
ObamaNobel
By WILLIAM J. BROADMAY 26, 2016

A new census of the American nuclear arsenal shows that the Obama administration last year dismantled its smallest number of warheads since taking office.

The new figures, released by the Pentagon, also highlight a trend — that the current administration has reduced the nuclear stockpile less than any other post-Cold War presidency.

On Thursday, the Federation of American Scientists, a private group in Washington that strongly supports arms control, issued an analysis of the new figures on its Strategic Security blog. The annual Pentagon release did not appear to be linked to President Obama’s visit Friday to Hiroshima, Japan, which was destroyed by an American atomic bomb almost 71 years ago.

Still, the new figures and private analysis underscored the striking gap between Mr. Obama’s soaring vision of a world without nuclear arms, which he laid out during the first months of his presidency, and the tough geopolitical and bureaucratic realities of actually getting rid of those weapons.

The lack of recent progress in both arms control and warhead dismantlement also seems to coincide with the administration’s push for sweeping nuclear modernizations that include improved weapons, bombers, missiles and submarines. Those upgrades are estimated to cost up to $1 trillion over the next three decades.

The new census is an annual public release that the Pentagon has done in recent years detailing how many weapons remain in the nation’s nuclear arsenal and how many retired weapons have been disassembled.

The census, which updates the numbers to include 2015, was posted this month on the Department of Defense’s open government website under the heading “Declassification of Formerly Restricted Data.” The site noted that the figures were current through Sept. 30, 2015, the end of the government’s fiscal year.

Supporters of Mr. Obama say the slowdowns are understandable given the rising level of hostility and intransigence of the Russian president, Vladimir V. Putin, as well as the inherent difficulties involved in arms control and complex technical projects.

The new figures show that in 2015 the Obama administration dismantled 109 warheads, the fewest of his presidency and down from a peak of 356 in 2009, his first year in office.

The slowdown came despite Secretary of State John Kerry’s telling global arms controllers in April 2015 that “President Obama has decided that the United States will seek to accelerate the dismantlement of retired nuclear warheads by 20 percent.”

In March, in its annual report to Congress, the National Nuclear Security Administration, which oversees the nation’s nuclear arsenal, laid responsibility for the slowdown to “safety reviews, unusually high lightning events, and a worker strike at Pantex,” a sprawling dismantlement plant in Texas. Lightning strikes at the plant can set off the high explosives used in destroying nuclear arms.
On Thursday, Hans M. Kristensen, director of the Nuclear Information Project at the federation, questioned the administration’s logic. “Although 2015 was unusually low,” he wrote on his blog of the annual disassembly figure, “the Obama administration’s dismantlement record clearly shows a trendline of fewer and fewer warheads dismantled.”

At the Obama administration’s low rate, Mr. Kristensen added, the nation’s backlog in nuclear arms dismantlement will persist “at least until 2024.”

On Thursday, the federation’s blog also updated a nuclear issue that Mr. Kristensen first raised in 2014 — that Mr. Obama has reduced the size of the nation’s nuclear stockpile at a far slower rate than did any of his three immediate predecessors, including George Bush and George W. Bush.

The new Pentagon census shows that the nation’s nuclear arsenal in 2015 stood at 4,571 warheads — down from 5,273 warheads in 2008, the last nuclear census of the administration of George W. Bush.
The total reduction of 702 warheads, or 13.3 percent, Mr. Kristensen noted, “is no small number,” but nonetheless represented “the smallest reduction of the stockpile achieved by any previous post-Cold War administration.”

To be fair, he added, the modest pace is not all Mr. Obama’s fault.

“His vision of significant reductions and putting an end to Cold War thinking has been undercut by opposition ranging from Congress to the Kremlin,” Mr. Kristensen wrote. “An entrenched and almost ideologically-opposed Congress has fought his arms reduction vision every step of the way.”

Moscow, he added, has rejected cuts beyond modest ones it agreed to in the New Start treaty, which was signed in 2010 and observed beginning in 2011.

Mr. Obama’s visit to Hiroshima takes place in the shadow of his nuclear weapons legacy, Mr. Kristensen argued. His modest gains upset arms controllers, he wrote, not least because his modernization plans are “anything but modest.”

ISIS And The Dirty Bomb (Daniel 8:4)

Nuclear Dirty Bomb

Nuclear Dirty Bomb


The enemy within: What European and Arab histories tell us about ISIS

 Saturday, 14 May 2016
Hisham Melhem

It is the enemy within that a diminished Europe is facing now; the alienated sons and daughters of its former colonial subjects are being inspired by the enchanting sirens coming from the self-appointed high priests of sacred Islamist violence in the faraway former provinces of the empire, calling on them to wage a relentless war of terror to dismantle their societies, and to seek redemption and martyrdom in the thrill to kill.

A diminished continent

It is a sign of these modern brittle times that three men laden with explosives and unfathomable hatreds can bring a European country, nay a continent to a standstill, while casually strolling into an airport and unloading their wrath. It may be too late for Europe to raise its drawbridges, man the ramparts and enlarge the moat; fortified Europe is a thing of the past. In the age of empire, rebellious subjects in distant provinces were subdued by expeditionary forces fighting them on their grounds. Now the enemy is within, living in small enclaves inside the city, and is familiar with Europe’s ways, habits and vulnerabilities. Instead of dispatching bands of would be Jihadists from Arab and Muslim lands to wreak havoc in the heart of Europe, the so-called Caliphate which has attracted tens of thousands of fighters, including a sizable number from Europe, can simply train them in the art of terror and send them back on a last visit to the countries they have abandoned, or just inspire from afar new recruits to attack the enemy from behind.

These new soldiers are not like the traditional Jihadists who volunteered to fight Soviet dominion in Afghanistan, or like those who waged terror against various Arab and Muslim tyrannical regimes with the objective of restoring Islamist rule, they are the new European Lumpenproletariat, lacking Islamic consciousness, although they are part of the Muslim communities living in Europe but not totally of Europe. These young alienated, angry misfits, petty criminals and former convicts living on the margin of society, get religion either in prisons or are recruited to “Jihad” by local heavies, and radical Imams, mostly imported from the Middle East or South Asia. Thus, their empty lives are given meaning and purpose after receiving a rudimentary introduction to Islam, with heavy emphasis on the real and imagined grievances of the Ummah at the hands of the Imperialists and the Crusaders. Their criminal core is finally wrapped in an Islamist veneer.

For the last half millennia, the European continent has shaped world history, initiated the scientific and industrial revolutions, and was the repository of great culture and art ; and while it had its dark and ugly side expressed in massive violence and world wars, it nonetheless laid the foundation of the modern world. The Islamist inspired terror that has in recent years visited the great cities of Europe; London, Paris, Madrid and recently Brussels has demonstrated powerfully to what extent the post-modern Europe as embodied in the European Union, with its open borders, and diluted sovereignties has been weakened. Coming after Europe’s failure to check Russia’s aggressive irredentism which is bleeding the Ukraine, and the confusion and contradictory approaches to solving the historic influx of refugees and migrants from the Middle East and Africa, this new strain of terrorism is threatening the very foundations of an exhausted European Union.
A fake state and a state of emergency
A pretend “Islamic Caliphate” straddling the two failed states of Syria and Iraq has declared war on many Muslim lands, the European Union and the United States. Its self-appointed Caliph, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi might have been a ghost, but he knows that none of his Western enemies is willing to engage his forces on the ground. Such is the nature of terrorism against open societies in a globalized and interconnected world that it is rewriting the whole concept of asymmetrical warfare. Never have a small number of people been capable of inflicting so much damage against so many people in so many supposedly powerful countries, for so little a cost and for such a long time. The Caliphate, a non-state fake state, through few men wreaked havoc in Europe, and created a state of emergency and fear in the continent.
Of anarchists
A lot has been written about what Belgium should do technically and administratively to be more effective, in collaboration with the rest of the EU states in anticipating and combatting its growing Islamist inspired terrorism scourge. But ‘Molenbeek’ as the archetype of the impenetrable ISIS infested enclave in the European city, will remain for the foreseeable future an intractable problem for the continent. But modern European history is instructive here. In the 19th and early 20th centuries anarchist violence shook every European capital from Madrid in the West to Moscow in the East. Anarchist terror was so ubiquitous it left its deep impact (and scars) on the politics, literature, philosophy and art of the whole continent. (Anarchism informed the works of some of the greatest novelists of the 19th century; Dostoyevsky, Turgenev, Balzac, Zola and others). Violent men armed with pistols and bombs and helped by philosophers, theoreticians, and pamphleteers justified the anarchists’ utopia, and terrorized their way into the hearts and minds of millions of Europeans by assassinating kings, presidents and Prime Ministers.
It may be too late for Europe to raise its drawbridges, man the ramparts and enlarge the moat; fortified Europe is a thing of the past
Hisham Melhem
They created and relished anarchy, and like the ISIS assassins of today, they enjoyed the thrill to kill. The nihilistic, absolutist impulses that drove the anarchists of Europe in the 19th century in their take- no- prisoner war against the State as the embodiment of evil, are essentially the same nihilistic absolutist impulses that are driving the young, angry and marginalized foot soldiers of ISIS in their all-out war against the ‘Crusader’ states of Europe. It took European societies and governments decades and in some cases generations to eliminate the anarchist’s “culture” and allure by a combination of counter violence, good governance, economic and social development and countervailing intellectual force. It will take European states and institutions similar approaches and tactics and many years to eliminate the threat of the Islamist foot soldiers of ISIS and like-minded groups from their own ‘Molenbeeks’.
…And fake Mahdis
The Caliphate in the Levant and Mesopotamia, and its budding branches in Libya, Yemen and even in faraway Afghanistan can only be defeated by the sword. The ‘Islamist State’ is the last of a long string of radical, millennial, apocalyptic, revivalist and schismatic movements, led by false prophets, fake Caliphs and usurping Mahdis . In fact the dawn of Islam saw the birth of the first such bloody movement. The Kharijites, (or Khawarij) literally ‘the outsiders’ was a rebellious movement that practiced a primitive form of egalitarianism, became infamous when one of its members in 661 AD assassinated the venerable Imam Ali, the last of the four ‘rightly guided’ Caliphs who was Prophet Muhammad’s cousin and son-in-law, thus intensifying the Sunni-Shiite schism. Some of these claimants of prophethood barely deserve a footnote (although the greatest classical Arab poet Al-Mutanabbi, 915- 965 AD, as his name indicate, claimed the mantle of Prophethood in his youth) but others ruled large domains. The most powerful of these movements in modern times was that of the Mahdiyya movement in Sudan. In June 1881 a religious leader named Muhammad Ahmad Ibn Abdallah proclaimed himself the Mahdi (the guided one) who would redeem the Muslim faith. The movement was built on a reservoir of Sudanese resentment against the Egyptian-Ottoman dominion of Sudan, and had roots in the revivalist messianic popular beliefs among the local sects.
The charismatic Mahdi and his successor Abdallah Ibn Muhammad established an Islamic state in Sudan and in parts of Egypt and Ethiopia supported by a large army. The famed British General Charles Gordon fell to the swords of the Mahdi’s holy warriors in the battle of Khartoum in 1885. The Mahdiyya state terrorized the Nile Valley region, and their rampages lasted for 20 years, until another renowned British General, Horatio Kitchener leading an expeditionary British force of 8000 soldiers and an auxiliary 17000 combined Egyptian and Sudanese force, dispatched a larger Mahdist army of 60000 and destroyed the Mahdiyya state at the battle of Omdurman in1898. It is instructive here that the Mahdiyya state was defeated militarily by a combined Muslim-British force.
Terrorism without borders
Terrorism without borders is the natural outcome of globalization and the digital age. Countering this qualitatively new threat requires a strategy without borders too. After the Brussels bombings, President Obama re-iterated his mantra that the Islamic State is not an “existential threat” to the United States – “They can’t destroy us. They can’t defeat us”. And once again the President is framing the issue the wrong way. Just as he criticizes those who accuse him of reneging on his threats and promises regarding Syria, by twisting their words to make them sound as if they were counseling him to invade Syria, his framing of the issue of ISIS’ terror misses the point. Yes, it is true that ISIS and al Qaeda do not constitute an existential threat to America, but that is not what the critics are objecting to. Obama deals with this strain of terror as if we are still living in the ancient world of pre-globalization and the primitive age of the pre-digital possibilities. A war need not be an existential threat to cause tremendous damage. The only war that had the potential to destroy the United States was the civil war. And only during the Cold War the possibility of a thermonuclear exchange with the Soviet Union could have been considered a truly existential threat to America. No war in the twentieth century came close to representing an existential threat to the United States. America by virtue of geography and capabilities fights its wars overseas.
But as the American led minimalist war against ISIS, and the long conflict in Syria have demonstrated, far away wars in our inter-connected world, could have a devastating effects not only on Syria and Iraq, the primary theatre of the conflict, but also on Washington’s allies in the region, and as we have seen with the influx of refugees and migrants from the Middle East and Africa, the very foundations of the European Union are being undermined.
It is not only that the Schengen Agreement which led to the creation of “borderless Europe” is slowly collapsing now, but also the rising power of exclusionist tendencies and the ascendency of right-wing politics, and the potential for mass violence between local radical Islamists and neo-fascist groups that could deal a historic blow to a post-Cold war Europe that was supposed to be ’whole and free’. When hostile terrorist entities like the “Caliphate” control large open spaces that includes universities, labs, hospitals, and scientists, the possibility of assembling and detonating a “dirty” bomb to contaminate a city, or stealing radioisotopes to cause radiation poisoning, cannot be excluded.
What is to be done?
The American reaction to the mayhem in Brussels was somewhat predictable. The reaction of the two leading Republican candidates Donald Trump and Ted Cruz was inflammatory, offensive, ill-advised, impractical and downright idiotic. Senator Cruz betrayed his ignorance of the conditions of America’s Muslim population, called for empowering law enforcement “to patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods before they become radicalized”. Someone on his staff should have told him that there are no American ‘Molenbeeks’ full of resentful and alienated Muslim youths, and that the majority of Muslim Americans, who live throughout the country, are well educated, mostly middle class and at home in America, unlike the relatively, isolated and disenfranchised Muslim communities in European countries like France and Belgium. Yes, we had some radicalized American-born Muslim individuals who were inspired by terrorist groups and theoreticians to commit violence, but we don’t have radicalized, Muslim communities, holed up, in ‘Molenbeek’ like enclaves ready to explode.
There were other ‘remedies’ by candidate Trump like banning Muslims from entering the United States, and re-introducing and legalizing torture to extract quick confessions from detainees. The leading democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton, after criticizing the infantile proposals of her Republican rivals, proposed doing more of what president Obama is already doing, such as intensifying the air campaign, improving coordination with allies, tightening the visa and passenger-list systems. She differed with Obama only on her proposal to establish a safe zone in Syria to stem the flow of refugees.
The Brussel’s bombings, like the Paris attacks last year have heightened the debate about the best way to deal with the ISIS threat. The Islamic State’s impressive prowess in electronic warfare and its early successful use of social media, led to calls for greater emphasis on the virtual battlefield. Candidate Hillary Clinton called for a virtual war on ISIS. “We’ve got to defeat them online. This is where they radicalize, and that’s where they propagandize”. While a countervailing push online is necessary to fight the diabolically creative “electronic brigades” that ISIS has been deploying to wage online hashtag campaigns and to do battle with Twitter, and Google in the end this epic struggle with ISIS will have to be decided on the ground and not online, by sharp swords and not by sharply worded tweets.
The “clanging of the swords”
Defeating ISIS will require good old fashion military muscle. While the air campaign and selective special operations against ISIS leadership, and military installations have degraded the group, the decisive blow can only be delivered by ground troops. The Obama administration’s support for Syria’s opposition groups was invariably, limited, tepid and tactical. President Obama and his senior advisors initially stuck to the mantra that there is no military solution to the conflict, then with the rise of ISIS wanted the nationalist opposition to fight ISIS and ignore the very Assad regime that brought ISIS to Syria in the first place. Since the US is not likely to dispatch an expeditionary force to rout ISIS from its “capital” Raqqa on the Euphrates, as Britain did in 1898 to defeat the Mahdiyya state, conceivably a new American President can adopt some of the well thought out military options proposed by a number of serious experts such as Kenneth Pollack and Frederic Hof et.al.
Time is of the essence. Barring a Deus ex Machina in the form of American direct military intervention, or the formation of a new Syrian opposition force with significant American and Arab support, Syria’s wars will continue and could conceivably in a year or two unravel the Levant region the way we have known it for a century. Only military force could defeat ISIS and the Assad regime; and as ISIS is fond of saying, victory can only be achieved by the “clanging of the swords.”
________
Hisham Melhem is a columnist and analyst for Al Arabiya News Channel in Washington, DC. Melhem has interviewed many American and international public figures, including Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush, Secretaries of State Hillary Clinton and John Kerry, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen, among others. He is also the correspondent for Annahar, the leading Lebanese daily. For four years he hosted “Across the Ocean,” a weekly current affairs program on U.S.-Arab relations for Al Arabiya. Follow him on Twitter : @hisham_melhem

The Truth About The Coming Dirty Bomb (Daniel 8:4)

  
The dirty truth about nuclear terrorism

Terrorism and nuclear security experts are increasingly concerned about the possibility of radicals launching a nuclear attack.

Olivia Ward
FOREIGN AFFAIRS REPORTER

Under a wintry sun in January 2010, a group of young people vaulted a sagging chain link fence in the Belgian countryside and walked toward a group of low, domed buildings, like a scout troop on an outing.
But they were the Bombspotters: peace activists whose goal was to get into hardened shelters storing some of the last Cold War nuclear weapons in Europe. They wanted to highlight the insecurity of the deadliest weapons on Earth.
That the group reached the “secure” area near the buildings unchallenged — and returned a few months later to enter one of the shelters before being arrested — sent a chill through experts.
The possibility that poor security could lead to nuclear terrorism was raised earlier this month by a global summit, which cited a terrorist group like Daesh.
“In last couple of years we’ve seen terrorists who are as motivated by a nihilist ideology as Al Qaeda, who seem to be more capable, hold more territory and have more financial resources, people and expertise than Al Qaeda ever had,” says William Tobey of the Harvard Kennedy School, a former senior U.S. official on nuclear policy.
“If you look at the equation for measuring risk of nuclear terrorism, it’s equal to terrorist capabilities times motivation, minus efforts to counter them,” he adds.
Tobey, who co-wrote a report titled Preventing Nuclear Terrorism, released earlier this month by Harvard’s Belfer Center, said the equation is now tipping to the dark side.
Although dozens of countries have improved nuclear security since 2010, says the Washington-based monitoring group the Nuclear Threat Initiative serious problems remain. They include physical protection, control and accounting of nuclear material, preventing insider threats, security during transport, response capabilities and cybersecurity of nuclear facilities.
Furthermore, it says, there is also a trend toward increasing stockpiles of weapons-usable nuclear materials in countries including Japan, Pakistan and the Netherlands. And the global system for securing dangerous radiological materials has “significant gaps.”
The weaknesses raise the spectre of four kinds of nuclear terrorism:
A hijacked nuclear weapon
The most apocalyptic scenario is also the most unlikely.
The possibility of a terrorist gang making off with a nuclear weapon is limited but not zero, says Jeffrey Lewis of the Middlebury Institute of International Study in Monterey, Calif.
Belgium — the site of a recent Daesh attack — is one of five countries that harbour some of the 180 tactical nuclear weapons stationed in and near Europe by the United States during the Cold War. The others are the Netherlands, Germany, Italy and Turkey.
In Belgium, says Lewis, a non-proliferation expert, “all the relevant security officials say that the security is terrible.”
Since the Bombspotters’ forays into the Kleine Brogel airbase, more sinister developments have come to light.
Recently, investigators of last November’s attack by Daesh (also known as ISIS or ISIL) on Paris found surveillance footage of a senior Belgian nuclear official in a suspect’s apartment — a warning that the group may have nuclear ambitions.
The solution to the insecurity of Belgium-based nuclear weapons, Lewis argues, is for Washington to consolidate the European nuclear bombs at two U.S. airbases where they would be better secured. “They could do it at the stroke of a pen. But they don’t want to admit there is a problem, because of the political cost.”
A homegrown nuke
Less than eight kilograms of plutonium or 25 kilograms of highly enriched uranium are sufficient to make a nuclear bomb, says the Washington-based Nuclear Control Institute. “But these materials circulate in civilian nuclear commerce by the ton.”
With extremism as well as worldwide trafficking networks increasing, former Soviet nuclear facilities vulnerable to corruption, and inadequate protection of many Western facilities, obtaining the material is feasible.
“The most stressful test of security would be an outside group aided by an insider,” says Tobey. “Even effective screening (of nuclear employees) may not work because radicalization can happen quite quickly.”
Experts say it would take less than a year for terrorists to engineer a Hiroshima-style bomb — which killed about 140,000 people.
A dirty bomb
Unlike homemade weapons built from a nuclear bomb blueprint, the “dirty bomb” would take far less risk, money, effort and expertise.
“The source of the material isn’t rare or isolated,” says Joe Cirincione, the president of the Washington-based Ploughshares Fund. “It’s factories, companies making radio isotopes for medical uses and others. Most of the material is as well-guarded as library books.”
A dirty bomb works by exploding relatively small amounts of radioactive substances over limited areas: “50 grams of cesium in a (five-kilogram) satchel of dynamite could irradiate tens of square blocks of a city,” Cirincione says.
The radioactive cloud would send nuclear fallout over roads and buildings, where it would cling. Inhaling the stuff would increase the risk of cancer.
“It’s like contaminating a building with asbestos,” he adds. “People wouldn’t die immediately, but the danger is there.” Whole areas of cities would be shut down, destroying the economy as well as public health.
Attacking a nuclear plant
A massive radioactivity release from a power plant could contaminate hundreds of thousands of square kilometres, including food and water supplies for entire countries. The Chernobyl and Fukushima disasters are still unresolved, and in Russia an accidental explosion of nuclear waste in 1957 at the Mayak plant in southern Siberia made it the world’s most highly contaminated area.
Worldwide, there are 444 nuclear power plants operating in 30 countries and 243 smaller nuclear reactors, says Allison Macfarlane, former chair of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, in The Conversation.
Although the U.S. boosted its nuclear security after 9/11, she adds, Europe is lagging.
Protesters have broken into power plants in Sweden and France. In Belgium, two employees of the Doel nuclear power station left to fight in Syria. In 2014, an unknown saboteur tampered with a turbine’s lubricant, causing the Belgian plant to shut down for five months.
“Nuclear reactors are built to withstand attack,” says Cirincione. But they could be severely damaged by a 9/11-style jumbo jet crash, or blasts from a series of truck bombs. Cyber attacks are also a worrying possibility, as shown by the 2010 Stuxnet attack on computers at Iran’s Nantaz nuclear facility, reportedly an American-Israeli operation.
Whatever the scenario, the first step toward preventing nuclear terrorism is acknowledging the problem.
“There’s a lot of denial about nuclear terrorism,” says Cirincione. “Because it has never happened people assume it never will. So many of us who are always warning about it seem like Cassandras. But Cassandra’s curse was not that she was wrong — it’s just that nobody believed her.”
Nuclear numbers
2,000
Tons of weapons-usable plutonium and highly enriched uranium stored in 25 countries around the world
3.2
Tons of non-weapons-grade nuclear material stored around the world
30
Countries, out of 57, that have eliminated weapons-usable material from their territory
85
Percentage of weapons-usable material that is defined as military, and not subject to international security guidelines
$500M
Amount earmarked by the U.S. for international nuclear security in 2016, a decline of $300 million since 2012
$1 trillion
Estimated spending on a U.S. modernization plan for nuclear defences over the next 30 years
Sources: European Leadership Network, Harvard Project on Managing the Atom, Nuclear Threat Initiative, The New York Times

ISIS, Pakistan, and the Dirty Bomb (Daniel 8:4)

Islamic State could steal Pakistan’s nuclear weapons and make ‘dirty bomb’, defence analysts warn

Updated earlier today at 4:17am
 
The mounting concern of an Islamic State presence in Pakistan has put the spotlight on the security of the country’s nuclear arsenal.

In February, the director-general of Pakistan’s intelligence bureau, Aftab Sultan, said hundreds of fighters from his country were joining IS in Syria, generating concerns about their links and activities when they returned home.

He also said an undisclosed network in Pakistan had been broken up.

More recently, US President Barack Obama declared at a nuclear summit in Washington: “The threat from terrorists trying to launch a nuclear attack is real. It would change the world.”

The warnings have triggered debate in Pakistan about the possibility of a “dirty” nuclear bomb.
“There is a possibility of making a dirty bomb if the militants abduct some nuclear scientists, metallurgists with some fissile materials and uranium from Iraq and Syria,” said retired Brigadier Said Nazir.

The brigadier, now a defence analyst, spent much of his career in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), bordering Afghanistan.

The FATA are home to 60 militant organisations, some sympathetic to IS, according to Mr Sultan.
Zia Ur Rahman Zia, an international politics professor at Qurtaba University in Peshawar, said he believed IS could make a dirty bomb.

“They have safe havens in Iraq and Syria where it can set up a laboratory to satisfy its nasty plans,” he said.

“Pakistan’s nuclear weapons might be secure but not safe.

“An ever growing danger persists of the militants putting their hands on the country’s nuclear arsenals.”

Professor Zia pointed to the attacks in recent years on the army’s general headquarters in Rawalpindi and airbases in Mehran, Karachi, Kamra and Peshawar.

“These are not a soft target, keeping in view the track record of militant attacks on the highly secured installations in Pakistan, one can gauge the threat,” he said.

Nuclear terror attack ‘not possible’: analyst

However, according to now retired Lieutenant General Talat Masood, a defence analyst in Islamabad, a terrorist-instigated attack is “technically not possible”.

 

“The nuclear warheads, the safety mechanism and the electronic code words all lie in different hands. How could the militants therefore know how to trigger [a device]?” General Masood asked.

As further evidence of the security of the current arsenal, retired army officer and now social sciences dean at the National University of Science and Technology, Tughral Yameen, pointed to Pakistan’s track record.

“Compared to 2000 incidents of leakages around the world, Pakistan has never witnessed a single incident of its nuclear weapons or fissile materials being stolen,” Mr Yameen said.

“It’s launching techniques are very complicated and hard to be triggered, at least by those with no know-how.”

Pakistan’s history of nuclear weapons

After Pakistan’s defeat in the 1971 war against India, Islamabad formally initiated its nuclear program the following year and now has around 120 warheads.

Pakistan’s nuclear security was dealt a devastating blow over a decade ago with the admission by Abdul Qadeer Khan, the father of the Pakistani bomb, that he had secretly provided Iran, North Korea and Libya with the technical ability to develop nuclear weapons.

Pakistan’s military has long been accused of links with terrorist groups and allowing the rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan, which neighbours its lawless and porous FATA.

But some experts dismiss IS as having no viable command and control structure in Pakistan, or Afghanistan.

“How many militants are we talking of [on the ground]. On the other hand we are talking of over 700,000 professionals in the army, well trained and well equipped,” said Brigadier Mehmood Shah, a former Secretary of Security for FATA.

ISIS WILL Dirty Bomb London (Daniel 8:4)


Nato raises ‘justified concern’ that Isil is plotting nuclear attack on Britain

Members of ISIL in a propaganda video CREDIT: AY-COLLECTION/SIPA/REX
Tom Whitehead, security editor

19 APRIL 2016 • 7:30PM

Isil terrorists are plotting to carry out biological and nuclear attacks on Britain and Europe, EU and Nato security chiefs have warned.

There is a “justified concern” that Islamist fanatics in Syria and Iraq are trying to obtain substances of mass destruction such as biological, chemical and radiological weapons.

The terror group is also trying to develop new ways of avoiding security measures to carry out attacks such as bombs implanted in human bodies and hacking driverless cars, an international security conference in London heard.

Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) is also feared to have obtained a stockpile of former Iraqi short range missiles such as surface to air rockets.

Jorge Berto Silva, deputy head of counter terrorism for the European Commission, said Isil had shown an interest in obtained chemical, biological, radioactive and nuclear (CBRN) materials.
It emerged after the Brussels terror attacks last month that the terror cell had been secretly filming a senior Belgian nuclear official outside his home, fuelling fears they were looking at ways of how to obtain such substances.

Mr Silva told the annual Security and Counter Terror Expo: “With CBRN, there is a justified concern.”

Dr Jamie Shea, deputy assistant secretary general for emerging security threats at Nato, added: “We know terrorists are trying to acquire these substances.”

Dr Shea also warned that Isil may be splitting in two, with one part trying to protect the so-called caliphate in Syria and Iraq, which is increasingly losing ground from coalition airstrikes, but a second part focusing on setting up terror cells around Europe to launch attacks in the future.
He said the threat is likely to “get worse before it gets better”.

Yes, ISIS Could Get A Dirty Bomb (Daniel 8:4)


Could the Islamic State Group Get a Nuclear Weapon?

Progress has been made to limit the global supply of materials, but still more needs to be done.
By Jeff Nesbit Apr 18, 2016

Is nuclear terrorism now a real threat? It’s a question that security experts and think tanks alike are asking in earnest in the wake of the Paris and Brussels bombings carried out by suicide bombers connected to the Islamic State, or ISIS.

“Paris was a warning,” reads the forward to the latest issue of Islamic State group’s propaganda magazine, Dabiq. “Brussels was a reminder. What is yet to come will be more devastating and more bitter by the permission of Allah.”

Experts wonder whether the Islamic State group could legitimately secure the elements needed to carry out an act of nuclear terrorism. The jihadist group clearly has the means, and the ability, to carry out conventional weapons attacks outside the Syrian conflict. It may be planning more such attacks in Europe, say counter-terrorism experts.

“Other Islamic State cells are highly likely to be in existence across Western Europe, preparing and organizing further operations, and awaiting direction from the group’s central leadership to execute,” Matthew Henman, the head of IHS Jane’s Terrorism and Insurgency Center in London, told the New York Times.

But bombs that explode and kill dozens of innocent bystanders are one thing. An act of nuclear terrorism, even with a dirty bomb, is something entirely different.

First the good news: The world has made considerable progress in the past few years on efforts to secure vulnerable nuclear weapons-usable material, according to a recent special report on nuclear terrorism in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. There is a lot less of this material available.
“More than half of the countries — 30 of 57 — that have had weapons-usable nuclear material on their soil eliminated it, in nearly all cases with U.S. help,” academic researchers Matthew Bunn, Martin B. Malin, Nickolas Roth and William Tobey wrote in their special report for the Bulletin. “Security for nuclear weapons and materials at scores of sites around the world has been dramatically improved. Essentially every country that still has nuclear weapons or weapons-usable nuclear materials has tightened its security requirements over the past two decades.”

The bad news is that commitments to improve security for nuclear weapons, fissile materials and nuclear facilities appear to have stalled or even lapsed in many countries. Whether world leaders choose to commit to real, sustained efforts “will shape the chances that terrorist groups, including the Islamic State, could get their hands on the materials they need to build a crude nuclear bomb,” Bunn and his colleagues wrote.

In fact, when it comes to nuclear security, two of the most important players — Russia and the United States — are going backwards.

“At the end of 2014, Russia cut off most nuclear security cooperation with the United States. The Obama administration is proposing its lowest-ever budget for programs to improve nuclear security around the world,” they wrote.

Meanwhile, the news that an Islamic State operative may have been intensively monitoring a senior official at a Belgian facility with significant stocks of highly enriched uranium has put the potential for acts of nuclear terrorism on the front burner again.

While the potential for a devastating nuclear terrorist act is still quite small, the same group of scientists who wrote for Bulletin explained in the March journal for the Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs that there are three potential types of “nuclear or radiological terrorism.”

The first, which isn’t at all realistic, is that terrorists build and detonate a nuclear bomb in a major city. The second is that they set off a “dirty bomb” made of radioactive material attached to conventional explosives — a scenario that experts in this field see as likely (if not inevitable). A third, somewhere between these two, is an effort by terrorists to sabotage a nuclear facility, the Belfer Center report said.

One thing is certain. We may be entering a time where nuclear terrorism is a very legitimate possibility — and world leaders need to pay attention in ways they haven’t been until now.

“Making a crude nuclear weapon — not one that would be delivered by a missile in space, but one that would be put in the back of a truck and detonated in a major city — is well within the know-how and capability of an awful lot of people out there,” former Georgia Sen. Sam Nunn, now the the co-chairman and CEO of the Nuclear Threat Initiative, told the Bulletin in an interview. “So we think the best way to prevent that is to protect nuclear material and get rid of as much of it as possible. There are no guarantees in this area, but we can certainly reduce the risk.”

Time for the Dirty Bomb (Daniel 8:4)

Isis dirty bomb fears: Paris suspect Salah Abdeslam had files on German nuclear site

Belgium nuclear sites
Belgian and German nuclear sites were monitored by the jihadi cell behind the Paris and Brussels attacks EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images
Paris attacks suspect Salah Abdeslam researched a German nuclear site and had documents about it in his apartment, adding to fears that Islamic State (Isis) plans to obtain radioactive material for a ‘dirty bomb’.

Print-outs of online articles on nuclear research centre Juelich – located just off the Belgian border – and a photo of its chairman Wolfgang Marquardt were reportedly retrieved by police at a flat in the infamous Molenbeek district of Brussels, where the 26-year-old Abdeslam lived and was arrested in March.

The information was disclosed by Hans-Georg Maassen, the head of Germany’s domestic intelligence agency (BfV), to a parliamentary control committee overseeing the country’s secret services, according to sources within the committee quoted by the Redaktionsnetzwerk Deutschland (RND) media group.

Juelich, which stores nuclear waste for scientific research, said they were co-operating with authorities but there was no evidence of immediate danger to the facility. “Juelich has no indications of any threat,” it said in a statement. “We are maintaining close contact with the relevant safety and nuclear regulatory authorities in this matter.”

Belgian officials had earlier warned that atomic sites in Europe were attractive targets to IS (Daesh) militants willing to obtain nuclear material for a dirty bomb. Interior minister Jan Jambon said he had demanded a throughout intelligence assessment on possible Islamist infiltrations at nuclear facilities after it was revealed that two of the Brussels suicide bombers had secretly monitored a senior scientist working at a local plants.

After the 22 March attacks security officials said that brothers Khalid and Ibrahim el-Bakraoui had filmed a scientist’s home to record his daily routine as part of a plan to obtained radioactive material. The plot was discovered as police investigating the November Paris attacks retrieved the related videotape during a raid in the Flanders town.

Months later, Khalid and Ibrahim el-Bakraoui blew themselves up at Brussels’s Maelbeek metro station and Zaventem airport. On 13 April they were identified by IS as key players in both the Brussels and Paris bombings. “These two brothers gathered the weapons and the explosives,” the jihadi group’s propaganda magazine wrote in an obituary.

Salah captured

The Upcoming ISIS Dirty Bomb (Daniel 8:4)

The dirty bomb

Discussion in ‘World Affairs‘ started by thesolar65, Yesterday at 6:36 PM.

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As the lights in the hall dimmed and the film started playing on the large overhead screen at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, the 50 heads of state, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who had assembled for the fourth Nuclear Security Summit in Washington DC on April 1, watched with rapt attention. Just before that, US President Barack Obama had shooed the media out of the hall and informed the leaders that the film simulated a possible nuclear attack by terrorists and its aftermath. It was similar to a war-gaming session where leaders were expected to react to a developing nuclear terror attack.

A collective gasp went up at the scenes of terrorists flying a crop duster, spraying deadly radioactive material extracted from radiological equipment found in medical institutions over a densely populated area, causing horrific sickness and death among the citizens. The film ended with the grim message of how the world will have to combat terrorists intent on causing mass casualties by afflicting population centres with radiation sickness, as the film depicted.

The ingredients of a radiological dispersal device, or dirty bomb as it is called, are the same isotopes that make cancer treatment and blood transfusion possible. When these are packaged along with explosives and detonated in a city centre, those in the immediate vicinity will be killed by the blast. But the radioactive fallout will cause fatal radiation sickness to thousands in an area of 3 sq km-the size of Connaught Place in New Delhi-leaving behind a smouldering radiological ruin. Worse, the area would have to be cordoned off for years till disaster management forces, wearing protective gear, scrub the area clean of contamination. It is a nuclear Armageddon that the world can ill afford-the psychological, political and economic aftershocks could be felt for years after such an attack.

A senior Indian official, who was present in the hall, told India Today that, after the movie ended, Modi, who was among the first to offer comment, told the gathering, “The only way to reduce the scope of terrorists using such weapons of mass destruction is greater international cooperation and action including information sharing, intelligence exchange and developing human resources on a mass scale to tackle the threat.” Leader after leader who spoke after the Indian prime minister agreed that only their collective action could stem what Obama described as “one of the greatest threats” the world had ever faced-of terrorists using nuclear devices to cause havoc. The attacks in Mumbai, Paris and, more recently, in Brussels and Lahore, are clear indications that terrorists are looking for far bigger and more dramatic strikes which imbued the summit its sense of urgency.

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Just how serious the danger of a nuclear attack by terrorists is comes from information collated by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which maintains an Incident and Trafficking Data Base (ITDB) of nuclear and radioactive materials. As of December 31, 2014 (the latest figures available), the ITDB reported a total of 2,734 confirmed incidents of either unauthorised possession and related criminal activities, including theft of sensitive nuclear material and radioactive sources across the world since 1993. As the IAEA observed, “Incidents reported to the ITDB show that problems persist with regard to illicit trafficking in nuclear and other radioactive material, and with thefts, losses and other unauthorised activities and events.”

For India, the threat of nuclear terrorism is frighteningly real. It has a vast nuclear complex encompassing the full spectrum of capabilities -making nuclear weapons (it now possesses around 120 nukes), 22 reactors that generate power including some that produce weapons-grade nuclear materials, large amounts of radioactive nuclear waste (spent fuel) stored in special containment areas, and over 7,000 institutions that use radiological devices, particularly hospitals, for both diagnosis (X-rays) and treatment (cancer). While a majority of the nuclear complexes are safeguarded and agencies tasked with monitoring the movement of nuclear material in the country regarded as thorough, there are growing concerns that terrorists are employing increasingly sophisticated means to penetrate these institutions and facilities.

There are three mains ways terrorists could stage nuclear attacks in India and the rest of the world:

1. Detonate a nuclear bomb-either a weapon stolen from a state’s arsenal or an improvised nuclear device made from weapons-grade nuclear material that they smuggled out
2. Sabotage a major nuclear facility and cause it to release large amounts of harmful radiation
3. Detonate a dirty bomb or radiological dispersal device in a city centre

How vulnerable are Indian nukes?

In India, it is extremely difficult for terrorists to either steal a nuclear weapon or carry significant amounts of weapons-grade nuclear material from the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) complexes and use it to build a bomb. India’s nuclear weapons reportedly lie dispersed in several sites across the country and are preserved in reinforced concrete vaults that can survive a nuclear attack from an enemy country or bunker-busting missiles. These sites are heavily guarded and accessible to only a chosen few.

Given India’s no-first-use doctrine (which means it will use its nuclear weapons only if another country employs atomic bombs to attack it), the vast arsenal remains recessed in guarded silos. Only if the threat of war escalates are these removed and mated with missiles. India has a strong command-and-control system that goes right up to the prime minister (who has the codes to give the order) and the Nuclear Command Authority, which controls all movements of nuclear weapons. It is a tightly closed loop, which operates behind an extra-thick curtain of secrecy, and has remained impenetrable not just to other wings of government but also any terrorists who plan to lay their hands on them.

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US President Barack Obama with PM Narendra Modi at the 2016 Nuclear Security Summit

This is true of all major complexes across the country responsible for making weapons-grade nuclear material and building bombs. The two key agencies that do this are the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC), which makes the nuclear core, and the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), which makes the explosives required for the detonation of bombs as well as the missiles used to deliver them. Complexes of these behemoths are protected by the “defence in depth” system, which has rings of fences, barriers and security-which makes them almost impenetrable. Still, as the recent terror attack on the Pathankot airbase has shown, India’s critical defence facilities remain vulnerable and call for even more stringent security.

Are India’s nuclear power plants well protected?

While stealing a bomb is almost impossible, the threat that terrorists might actually make one, especially a dirty bomb, by collecting weapons-grade nuclear material or harmful radioactive substances used or stored in India’s nuclear complexes is not insignificant. Just as in all such facilities across the world, the danger comes from an “insider threat”-the large number of personnel employed in nuclear institutions with authorised access to facilities, materials and sensitive information.
The global summit last week advocated, with good reason, that all participating countries beef up their personnel monitoring. In Belgium, whose capital Brussels was subjected to horrific terrorist attacks last month, there was a major sabotage at its Doel-4 nuclear power reactor in August 2014. One of the personnel is thought to have tampered with a critical cooling valve, which caused the turbine to overheat and destroy itself. Though it was in the non-nuclear area of the plant, it cost over $200 million and had to be shut down for several months. Belgian authorities have not caught the saboteur, but investigations revealed that an outside contractor cleared for inspecting plants had left to fight for the ISIS two years earlier. Though not a suspect in the Doel-4 incident, it is matter of concern that there was a potential jihadist who had access to vital areas of the plant.

The fears were compounded when it was discovered that some of the ISIS operatives involved in the recent Brussels attack had in their possession hours of surveillance video taken in November 2015 of the home of a senior official in a Belgian nuclear research centre that had substantial quantities of Highly Enriched Uranium (HEU), which could be used to make nuclear explosives. Investigators suspect that they planned to kidnap the official or his family in an effort to gain access to the facility and its sensitive uranium. This is being regarded as the first confirmation of ISIS’s nuclear intent. It is well known that its forerunner Al-Qaeda was after nuclear explosives and even appointed a “nuclear CEO” to obtain them but failed to do so.

Indian nuclear establishments already have a robust Personnel Reliability Programme (PRP) for all employees working in their facilities. There are measures to vet and verify all those being inducted, including family and criminal history, apart from screening them for serious medical conditions. Periodic reviews are done to study employee behavioural patterns and the company they keep. But a report last year by Dr Rajeshwari Pillai Rajagopalan, Senior Fellow of the Observer Research Foundation, found that protocols for hiring of contractors and short-term labourers were erratic even though restricted to the outer periphery of the nuclear complex.