Coronavirus: Doctor warns of ‘incoming disaster’ outside the Temple Walls (Revelation 11)

Coronavirus: Doctor warns of ‘incoming disaster’ in Gaza

Montreal, Canada – For years, Dr Tarek Loubani has been guided by a simple principle: all patients, no matter where they live, should have equal access to high-quality healthcare. But it is obvious to the Palestinian-Canadian emergency room doctor that this ideal is not yet a reality.

“I practised in Canada and I practised in Gaza, and I could see that my patients in Gaza weren’t receiving the same care,” he told Al Jazeera this week, as the blockaded Palestinian territory confirmed its first two cases of the novel coronavirus.

The global coronavirus pandemic has thrust stark global disparities in access to healthcare and medical equipment into the spotlight, as some countries are being ravaged while others are succeeding so far in staving off a crisis.

The Gaza Strip, one of the most densely populated places in the world, is expected to be among the hardest-hit areas, as experts fear chronic shortages and an already strained healthcare system will exacerbate the spread of the virus.

Medical workers in Gaza are preparing for the worst, said Loubani, who spent two weeks working there last month. “People were so terrified because they knew that they were living in a powder keg,” he said. “And even these two cases represent such an incoming disaster.”

An emergency room physician in the Canadian province of Ontario, Loubani has worked with colleagues in Gaza to address some of the problems plaguing the healthcare system for several years.

In 2015, he raised over $206,000 ($300,000 Canadian) to erect solar panels atop a handful of hospitals across the Palestinian territory and provide a more consistent supply of electricity amid frequent power cuts. He also founded the Glia Project, an open-source charity that produces 3D-printed medical equipment at a low cost. The group has helped deploy 3D-printed stethoscopes and tourniquets in Gaza.

For COVID-19, Glia has shared production plans for medical face shields, which front-line medical workers use when they are treating patients.

The face shields, which are being produced for use in Canadian facilities amid concerns that supplies may run out, are made with mylar and elastic, and they cost seven dollars per unit to produce. They are also reusable, Loubani said.

He said the equipment would help plug a gap in Canada, which is otherwise well-equipped to respond to the coronavirus outbreak and where the government has mobilised various industries to manufacture supplies. But Loubani conceded that face masks alone would not drastically change the reality of COVID-19 in Gaza.

“Face shields in Canada are great because that’s the thing that’s missing. But in Gaza, it’s not the thing that’s missing. It’s like a bridge, but there’s no ends on either side of this bridge.”

‘Nightmare scenario’

Under an Israeli-Egyptian blockade for over a decade, the Gaza Strip faces a dire humanitarian crisis and its medical facilities are stretched thin. Many Palestinians in the territory do not have regular access to electricity, clean water or sanitation, a reality that could exacerbate the outbreak.

Serious concerns have also been raised that Gaza does not have enough coronavirus testing kits to meet the needs of the local population, which numbers nearly two million people.

“The hospitals are not yet really ready,” said Matthias Schmale, director of Gaza operations for the UN Palestinian refugee agency (UNRWA) on March 20, just days before the first coronavirus cases were reported.

Israeli human rights organisation B’Tselem also said on March 23 that the spread of the coronavirus in Gaza would be “a massive disaster resulting entirely” from the conditions created entirely by the Israeli blockade.

“A failing healthcare system, extreme poverty, dependence on humanitarian aid, dysfunctional infrastructure and harsh living conditions that compromise public health … combine with overcrowding to form a nightmare scenario,” the group said in a statement.

Loubani said that in February, when he was last in Gaza, physicians did not have enough gloves, face shields, or M95 protective masks, and many hospitals did not have respirators. That equipment is key to combatting the virus, which makes it difficult for patients to breathe and often requires their intubation.

“The most frustrating part about the health system in Gaza is [that] we actually know the answer, and the answer is an immediate end to the blockade, even if for a short period so that we can get through this crisis,” Loubani said.

“There’s some amount of the coronavirus that’s inevitable in Gaza, but the disaster we’re about to watch unfold is not inevitable.”

Raising Russia’s Nuclear Horn (Daniel 7)

Russia’s Plan To Modernize Its Nuclear Bombers Is Gaining Speed

March 25, 2020

by Mark B. Schneider

Putin’s Russia has been modernizing its strategic nuclear bomber strike capability for two decades. Initially, this involved upgrading the Soviet legacy Tu-95 and Tu-160 bombers plus a few newly produced Tu-160s[1] with more advanced nuclear missiles. Not surprisingly, strategic nuclear upgrades were given first priority.[2] Significantly, the Russians gave either nuclear only or dual capability (nuclear and conventional) with improved accuracy to all of its new long-range cruise missiles and, more recently, moved toward dual-capable hypersonic missiles.[3] These include the dual-capable Kh-555 cruise missile (an adaptation of the Cold War Kh-555), the new stealthy nuclear armed 5,000-km range Kh-102, and the new more accurate stealthy dual-capable 4,500-km range Kh-101, according to President Putin, the Russian Defense Ministry and Russian state media.[4] The officially announced nuclear capability of the Kh-101 long-range cruise missile is virtually ignored in the West, but this development is very important because it gives the Russians the ability to potentially deliver precision or near precision low-yield nuclear strikes. In 2018, Russia announced that it conducted a salvo launch of 12 Kh-101 from a Tu-160 bomber.[5] Today, Russia is reportedly developing the Kh-BD, reportedly a longer-range version of the Kh-101 and Kh-102 cruise missiles for its bombers.[6]

These new missiles substantially increase the strike radius of Russian bombers. Moreover, Russia also retained the Soviet Cold War nuclear systems – the nuclear Kh-55/AS-15 long-range air-launched cruise missile (ALCM), the reportedly now dual-capable (originally nuclear only) short-range Kh-15 (AS-16) and gravity bombs.[7] According to President Putin, “All of them [Tu-95 and Tu-160] must be able to carry both advanced cruise missiles and other powerful weapons.”[8]

In 2015, Russia announced a program to develop and deploy at least 50 much improved Tu-160M2 bombers (new engines with10% better performance or a 1,000-km range increase, new avionics, new electronic warfare equipment, new weapons, an active phased array radar, and a modestly reduced radar cross section).[9] Fabrication of the Tu-160M2 bombers reportedly began in 2018[10]; it is now being tested. Deputy Defense Minister Yuri Borisov has said that the combat effectiveness of the Tu-160M2 will be two and a half times greater than that of its predecessor.[11] Reportedly, two to three Tu-160M2s will be produced each year.[12] Delivery to the troops reportedly will begin in 2021.[13]

It appears that hypersonic missiles will become almost the norm for Russian aircraft, the size of a long-range strike fighter or larger. In February 2020, Russian state media reported that the Tu-160 was being modified to carry the hypersonic Kinzhal (Kh-47M2) dual-capable aeroballistic missiles.[14] The implication of this development is that Russia’s airborne hypersonic missile strike capability will be extended to intercontinental range, probably, eventually, with multiple missile types.

In February 2020, state-run Sputnik News reported, “All the existing [Tu-160] aircraft are set to be upgraded to the advanced ‘M’ and ‘M2’ versions, while a number of Tu-160M2 planes are expected to be produced from scratch.”[15]

Today, the subsonic Tu-95 Bear H bomber is essentially a strategic cruise missile carrier. The Tu-95 carries the same long-range dual-capable cruise missiles as the Tu-160. The two versions of the legacy Tu-95 could carry either six or 16 Kh-55 long-range nuclear cruise missiles.[16] By hook or by crook, Russia managed to obtain 40 former Soviet Tu-95MS16 and 28 Tu-95MS6 bombers.[17] These are being extensively modernized, a process that is still continuing. Russian Tu-95MS bombers are being fitted with improved engines.[18] According to the Commander of Russia’s Long-Range Aviation Lieutenant General Sergei Kobylash, “The complex will be equipped with such advanced systems as: inertial, astroinertial systems, satellite navigation systems, near-navigation radio-technical systems, air signal systems, onboard defence complex, electronic warfare complex.”[19] The Russian Defense Ministry has said that six modernized Tu-95MS will join the strategic bomber fleet in 2020.[20] In February 2020, state-run Rossiyskaya Gazeta reported that the “latest MSM modification [of the Tu-95]…is recognizable by the pylons under the wings for suspending eight Kh-101s. Six more Kh-55s are stored in a fuselage launcher. Thus, the Tu-95MChS reportedly can carry 14 cruise missiles, two more than the Tu-160.”[21] The underwing launchers can also carry the Kh-102. Its maximum load of Kh-555 is also reported to be 14 missiles.[22]

Russia is reportedly developing the KH-MT, a “ram-jet powered hypersonic design apparently intended for internal carriage [on the Tu-95MSM bomber].”[23] This makes more sense than arming them with the Kinzhal hypersonic aeroballistic missile because the subsonic speed of the Tu-95 would reduce the range of the Kinzhal. The range of the Kinzhal depends upon the speed at which it is launched. This is not true for powered hypersonic missiles.

Since 2007, Russia has used both the Tu-160 and the Tu-95 for purposes of nuclear intimidation by routinely flying these aircraft into U.S., NATO and Japanese air defense identification zones.[24] They have been used to launch cruise missile strikes against targets in Syria with the conventional version of Russia’s long-range nuclear capable missiles (Kh-101 and Kh-555).[25] This includes the ridiculous Tu-160 flights all the way around NATO to deliver missiles that could have been launched from Russian territory soon after bomber takeoff.[26] A senior Russian official once threatened to fly a Tu-160 over the territory of a NATO nation.[27] In April 2015, the U.K. press reported that two Russian Tu-95 bombers flying over the English Channel were carrying at least one “nuclear warhead-carrying missile, designed to seek and destroy a Vanguard [strategic ballistic missile] submarine.”[28] According to Russia’s state media, starting in a 2003 Indian Ocean exercise, Russia began to use its heavy bombers in a nuclear strike anti-ship role in conjunction with Russian Naval forces.[29] The publicity given to the nuclear elements of these and other Russian exercises is intended to intimidate. If President Putin gets mad, his default mode is always nuclear threats.

Russia has also upgraded the legacy supersonic Tu-22M3 Backfire bomber with improved dual-capable long-range missiles (reportedly the Kh-555, the Kh-101) and the nuclear capable near hypersonic 1,000-km range Kh-32, the upgraded Kh-32M and the planned upgrading of 30 Tu-22M3M bombers with new engines, new avionics and new weapons.[30] The Backfire reportedly has the capability to carry eight Kh-101.[31] Testing of the improved Backfire has been announced. The legacy Soviet nuclear capable Kh-22 is reportedly still operational on the Backfire.[32] The Backfire bomber will also reportedly carry up to four Kinzhal hypersonic missiles. The Backfire bomber is now not classified as a heavy bomber subject to limitations under the New START Treaty. Yet, the upgrades being reported in Russian state media would make it a heavy bomber under the New START Treaty. Failure to declare it as a heavy bomber would be a violation of the New START Treaty. This will be discussed below.

In an unclassified 2017 report, the Defense Intelligence Agency stated that, “The LRA [Long Range Aviation] has an inventory of 16 Tu-160, 60 Tu-95MS, and more than 50 Tu-22M3 bombers.”[33]

In 2009, Russia announced the development of the subsonic stealth cruise missile carrying Pak-DA bomber.[34] It is rumored to be powered by “a radically new type of engine.”[35] In 2019, Deputy Defense Minister Aleksey Krivoruchko said that the bomber would be operational in 2027.[36] In January 2020, Izvestia reported that three protypes are under contract and that flight testing of the bomber will begin in 2023 and “mass production” of the bomber will begin in 2027.[37] By “mass production,” the Russians usually mean something like we would call low rate production. Reportedly, the Pak-DA can carry “30 tonnes of nuclear weaponry.”[38] The Pak-DA is likely to carry the same cruise missiles as the other Russian bombers, but the whole purpose of giving the aircraft stealth capability is to penetrate air defenses and launch direct attacks or launch limited range missile attacks. There is no need for stealth if the aircraft will only carry 4,500-5,000-km or more range cruise missiles. Thus, it is reasonable to expect that Pak-DA will also carry gravity bombs, short-range and hypersonic missiles. Because it is sub-sonic, it is not a good candidate for the Kinzhal. It is more likely to carry a powered hypersonic missile. Russian state media have reported it will carry hypersonic missiles.[39]

The Russians claim that the Pak-DA will be cheaper than the Tu-160,[40] but this is very unlikely since stealth aircraft have to be built with extreme attention to tolerances. In addition to its bomber role, TASS says it will also function as a “command center or reconnaissance plane.”[41]

In December 2002, former Atomic Energy Minister and then-Director of the Sarov nuclear weapons laboratory, declared, “The scientists are developing a nuclear ‘scalpel’ capable of ‘surgically removing’ and destroying very localized targets. The low-yield warhead will be surrounded with a superhardened casing, which makes it possible to penetrate 30–40 meters into rock and destroy a buried target—for example, a troop command and control point or a nuclear munitions storage facility.”[42] This weapon would have great utility for Russia’s nuclear escalation strategy, which is initially based upon low-yield nuclear strikes. Reliable air delivery of this weapon would require a stealth aircraft. The Pak-DA is the only known manned Russian aircraft today that could have a true stealth capability. Thus, such a weapon is clearly a candidate for the Pak-DA.

In 2012, then-Commander of the Russian Air Force Colonel General Alexander Zelin stated that the Su-34 long-range supersonic strike fighter would be given “…long range missiles…Such work is underway and I think that it is the platform that can solve the problem of increasing nuclear deterrence forces within the Air Force strategic aviation,”[43] The Su-34 is the strike fighter version of the Flanker, similar although much more modern than the U.S. F-15E prior to the recent decision to upgrade it. It is not a stealth aircraft. Its performance in defense penetration is likely similar to large Western 4.5 generation strike fighters, although it is likely to have inferior electronics. An obvious candidate for giving the Su-34 strategic capability would be the Kh-101. Its maximum ferry range is reported to be 4,500-km and its strike radius 1,100-km.[44] Carrying a heavy long-range cruise missile it would have a range that would likely be between these two numbers since it could fly its entire mission at medium or high altitude. With extensive refueling and Russia’s long-range nuclear capable cruise missiles, a strategic capability would be possible. However, the optimum use for this aircraft would probably be theater attack.

In December 2016, Sputnik News revealed that the Russian Su-34 was being equipped with “a new generation of so-called aeroballistic missiles.”[45] This is clearly the Kinzhal hypersonic missile, which will give it a very impressive strike radius in peripheral areas.

The existing Su-34 program is for about 200 aircraft.[46]

The Impact of New START on the Expansion of Russia’s Bomber Delivered Nuclear Weapons

The permissiveness of the New START Treaty regarding bomber weapons is almost the equivalent of having no arms control limitations at all. Under the New START Treaty, a full load of nuclear weapons carried by a heavy bomber “is counted as one warhead toward this limit [deployed warheads]”, according to the U.S. Department of State.[47] In 2010, The New York Times reported that Hans Kristensen of the Federation of American scientists characterized the New START treaty bomber weapons counting rule as “totally nuts[48] Writing during New START ratification, Russian Major General (ret.) Vladimir Dvorkin pointed out, “Firstly, it [New START] does not provide a real reduction of strategic offensive armaments by the number of nuclear warheads as compared with the Moscow Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty [SORT] of 2002 due to the new rules in counting nuclear armaments of heavy bombers: one heavy bomber—one warhead.”[49] He calculated that the 77 then-existing Russian heavy bombers could carry over 850 actual nuclear warheads. Now, almost certainly, because of the New START Treaty counting rule, an additional 50 Tu-160M2 bombers will be added. As noted above, in 2018, a Tu-160 bomber actually launched 12 nuclear capable cruise missiles in an exercise. In March 2020, Hans Kristensen and Matt Korda wrote that the Tu-95 and Tu-160 “have approximately 580 bomber weapons” but with no sourcing.[50] Even if this number is accepted as accurate, there is no indication that the U.S. plans a remotely similar number of uncounted bomber weapons.

Under the original START Treaty, air-launched ballistic missiles with ranges over 600-km were prohibited. In 2019, then-Under Secretary of State Andrea Thompson stated that the Kinzhal hypersonic ballistic missile was not limited by the New START Treaty.[51] This means that it can be legally carried by anything that flies and does not count against New START limitations in any way. It would almost double the strike radius of the existing version of the Backfire as well as vastly improving its capability against advanced air defenses.

The New START Treaty, Protocol, Part 1, definition 23 defines the term heavy bomber. It states:

The term “heavy bomber” means a bomber of a type, any one of which satisfies either of the following criteria:

(a) Its range is greater than 8000 kilometers; or

(b) It is equipped for long-range [600-km] nuclear ALCMs.

TASS reports that the range of the current version of the Backfire bomber (Tu-22M3) is 7,000-km.[52] TASS also says the new NK-32-02 engines to be put on the upgraded Backfire (Tu-22M3M) are the same engine to be used in the new Tu-160M2 heavy bomber, which Russian Deputy Defense Minister Yury Borisov said will increase its range about 1,000-km (about 600 miles).[53] An equal or greater range improvement should be expected for the Backfire. The use of the Backfire in two recent Russian strategic nuclear exercises, announced by the Russian Ministry of Defense, may reflect its reported new long-range nuclear cruise missile capability. Thus, if the TASS range report is accurate, it is possible that the engine upgrade alone could push the Backfire above the heavy bomber threshold as defined in the New START Treaty, although the Russians won’t declare it to be one because that would make it accountable under the New START Treaty limits. If the Russian state media reports that the Backfire can now deliver the new nuclear capable Kh-32 (according to Russia state media and the U.S. Nuclear Posture Review report)[54] and if reports the nuclear capable Kh-101 and Kh-555 (according to Putin, the Russian Defense Ministry and Russian state media)[55] are true, the Backfire has already been turned into an undeclared heavy bomber under the New START heavy bomber definition and Russia is in violation of the New START Treaty.

If the Russian state media reports about the range and nuclear capability of the Kh-32, the Kh-101 and Kh-555 cruise missiles are true, the Russian Backfire force or at least the 50 Tu-22M3 models are currently undeclared heavy bombers and, hence, constitute a major violation (i.e., material breach) of the New START Treaty. This issue is being almost completely ignored in the West. This is particularly relevant today because of the debate on the extension of the New START Treaty. Similarly, giving the Su-34 a long-range nuclear cruise missile capability without declaring it to be a heavy bomber would be a clear violation of the New START Treaty.

Conclusion

Absent an economic collapse in Russia, the Russian strategic nuclear bomber force will continue to expand in terms of the number of platforms, the number of nuclear weapons they carry and their strike range. The New START Treaty has virtually no effect on these developments. The problem will be made worse by the Backfire bomber and the Su-34 strike fighter reportedly being given prohibited nuclear long-range cruise missile capability. Russian strategic bombers will also be given nuclear capable hypersonic missiles.

During the next decade, best case, the U.S. nuclear bomber strike capability, will continue to decline. In the words of General (ret.) John M. Loh, former commander of Air Force Combat Command:

In the Air Force’s fiscal 2021 budget request, one-third of the B-1 fleet is set for retirement, B-2 survivability modernization is canceled, and the new B-21 is at least a decade away from contributing significantly to the bomber force. The venerable B-52 requires new engines and other upgrades to be effective. The number of bombers is at their lowest ever, but demand for bombers increases every year, particularly in the vast and most-stressed region of the Indo-Pacific….At the end of the Cold War in 1989 and just prior to the Gulf War in 1990, America had over 400 bombers. After these proposed cuts, there will be only 140…. Among the 140 bombers that remain, only the 20 stealthy B-2s have the ability to penetrate modern air defenses to strike critical targets — a priority of the National Defense Strategy. Yet the FY21 budget request cancels the B-2’s Defensive Management System Modernization program and puts our only operational stealth bomber on a path to early retirement.[56]

These are not the only problems we face in maintaining nuclear bomber capability. In June 2017, General John Hyten, then-Commander of the U.S. Strategic Command, stated that replacing the existing AGM-86B nuclear ALCM is particularly needed because it is so old. He also observed, “It’s a miracle that it can even fly,” its reliability was “already unacceptable” and would get worse every year.[57] The only enhancement in U.S. nuclear capabilities before the late 2020s will be the B-61 Mod 12 bomb. Yet, just after his retirement, General Herbert J. (Hawk) Carlisle stated that to penetrate the last few miles through Russian air defense our bombs had to have maneuverability and stealth.[58] The B-61 and the older B-83 do not have these capabilities since even the B-61 Mod 12 is only a nuclear JDAM and the B-83 is a gravity bomb.[59] Under current plans, the U.S. will never get a nuclear capable hypersonic missile.

U.S. air-delivered strategic nuclear weapons capability will continue to erode until the B-21 becomes available in significant numbers — if it ever does — in view of the left-wing drift in American politics which could kill it. If we get the B-21, it will most likely be substantially better than the Russian Pak-DA, but it will face vastly more extensive and advanced strategic air defenses in Russia and China.

Dynamics of the First Nuclear War (Revelation 8 )

Dynamics Of Escalation In South Asia And Pakistan’s Nuclear Threshold – OpEd

Haris Bilal Malik*March 25, 2020

South Asia. Source: United Nations, Wikipedia Commons.

The South Asian region has always been regarded vulnerable to military escalation based on its ever-changing complex security dynamics and volatile relations between India and Pakistan. Since the year 2019, the prevalent security environment of the South Asian region has once again become a dominant regional and global concern. The world witnessed India’s continued brutalities in Kashmir and a prospective fear of a nuclear confrontation between India and Pakistan against the backdrop of the Balakot crisis. Moreover, in August 2019 India changed the special constitutional status of the Kashmir region by revoking Article 370 and 35A thus further adding to the volatility of the region. Despite the international criticism, India imposed a lockdown in the disputed region which is still reportedly continuing. This demonstrates India’s motives for dominating the escalation in the region with its provocative strategies. All these factors would likely provoke Pakistan revisiting its nuclear threshold level vis-à-vis India’s aggressive and provocative policies to dominate the region.

Based on India’s provocative strategies, there remains a continuous fear of escalation in the South Asian region which is adversely impacting regional security, stability, and strategic equilibrium. In recent years, India has continuously enhanced its counter-force offensive posture vis-à-vis Pakistan with the notion of ‘Surgical Strikes’ and its proactive war doctrines which include the 2017 Joint Doctrine of the Indian Armed Forces (JDIAF) and the 2018 Land Warfare Doctrine (LWD). All of them are based on proactive strategies and indirect threats of preemptive strikes against Pakistan aimed at challenging Pakistan’s nuclear threshold.

Furthermore, the recent technological advancements which form the very basis of India’s military expansion include its supersonic and hypersonic missile development programs, provision of an enhanced air defence shield, space capabilities for intelligence, reconnaissance, and surveillance (ISR), and its nuclear-capable submarines fleet. India’s anti-satellite (ASAT) weapons test back in March 2019 is also indicative of this continuing trend. These technological advancements are clear indicators that India’s policies seem to deliberately dominate the escalation in South Asia and ultimately destabilize the deterrence equilibrium in the region.

India’s approach to challenging Pakistan’s nuclear threshold is also evident in the February 2019 short-lived military engagement between India and Pakistan. India, under its notion of limited war and proactive strategy, threatened Pakistan with a ‘preemptive splendid first strike’ and had reportedly entered Pakistan’s air space with fighter jets; this led to a dangerous escalation of hostilities at the political and military levels between both countries. The whole episode has also questioned the existence of Pakistan’s nuclear deterrence and, ever since there has been an ongoing debate at the domestic and international levels about nuclear deterrence and its applicability to such a critical situation. India’s sub-conventional aggression was appropriately met by Pakistan at the same level the very next day. Still, Pakistan’s nuclear threshold remained relevant during the whole episode because of the widely regarded perception that if both countries escalate further, the situation might turn into an all-out nuclear war.

Pakistan’s threat perception has, over the years, become even more inclined towards India primarily based on its conventional asymmetry vis-à-vis India. Furthermore, India’s quests for limited conventional or sub-conventional aggression (which it expects would remain below Pakistan’s nuclear threshold) would likely provoke Pakistan to further intensify its nuclear threshold. This would further strengthen Pakistan’s resort to neutralize the Indian challenge of breach of sovereignty in the form of low-intensity conflict in a much better position. In the same vein, Pakistan’s nuclear deterrence approach which over the years has evolved from ‘minimum credible deterrence’ to ‘full spectrum deterrence’ would likely remain a key component of the overall security apparatus. This posture provides deterrence against all forms of aggression from India with the combination of conventional forces and nuclear capabilities.

It is worth mentioning here that, Pakistan’s timely and calculated responses have all played a significant role in the preservation of minimum credible deterrence and the assurance of full-spectrum deterrence at the strategic, operational and tactical levels. The responses such as the development of intermediate-range ballistic missiles (Shaheen III), short-range ballistic missiles (Nasr), multiple independently reentry targetable vehicle (MIRV-Ababeel), air and sea-launched cruise missile (Ra’ad and Babur) and the speculated development of a naval second-strike capability all have played their role. Moreover, Pakistan’s induction of the tactical nuclear-capable ‘Nasr’ missile is also perceived as battlefield nuclear weapons in response to India’s aggressive and proactive strategies. It has further enhanced the deterrent value of Pakistan’s nuclear threshold and would likely serve as a ‘weapon of deterrence’, which aims to deny space for conventional or sub-conventional aggression and avoid any escalation-domination from India.

Hence, at present, Pakistan has been threatened by India’s conventional and unconventional military modernization and its proactive strategies, which India hopes would likely stay below Pakistan’s nuclear threshold. At the same time, Pakistan has been in an asymmetric equation of conventional forces vis-à-vis India, an equation that has led the former to preserve its security with the assurance of credible nuclear deterrence. However, time and again India has tested Pakistan’s nuclear threshold notably at the sub-conventional level as evident from the recent examples. Pakistan, which has been relying on its nuclear program to overcome both conventional and unconventional threats from India, needs to further enhance its deterrence posture at the sub-conventional level as well. This would likely remain a plausible determinant of the nuclear threshold in the years to come.

*The writer is working as a Research Associate at Strategic Vision Institute (SVI) Islamabad, Pakistan.

Even the Iran horn is preparing for Trump’s second term

The Islamic Republic is preparing for a second Trump term

Tue, Mar 24, 2020

IranSource by Maysam Behravesh

A man holds a poster of Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf one of the parliamentary candidates in Tehran, Iran (Reuters)

Iran’s eleventh parliamentary elections, on February 21, were held in quite extraordinary circumstances, not least in terms of public trust in state institutions, government credibility, and state-society relations more broadly.

Against a backdrop of US “maximum pressure,” which commenced in May 2018 after the Trump administration scrapped the Iran nuclear deal—officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)—and reimposed blanket sanctions on the Iranian economy, Tehran witnessed the first major wave of nationwide unrest instigated in part by sanctions, albeit indirectly. The November 2019 protests erupted, and were successfully crushed, following a government decision to compensate for its depleting coffers by sharply raising gasoline prices and cutting fuel subsidies. The ensuing brutal crackdown left an unprecedented 631 people dead—with the Trump administration citing as high as 1,500—and thousands more injured. (The death toll has yet to be officially announced.)

Less than two months later, on January 3, the US assassination of Iran’s top military official Qasem Soleimani and Tehran’s retaliatory missile strikes against Iraqi bases housing American forces brought the two adversaries to the brink of war. On the heels of what Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei had dubbed Iran’s “harsh revenge” for the Soleimani killing, the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) accidentally shot down a Ukrainian passenger plane departing from Tehran, killing all 176 people onboard. Worse yet, the government tried to cover up the real cause of the fatal crash for three days—blaming it on “technical flaws”—before mounting international and domestic pressure compelled it to come clean.

The parliamentary elections were overshadowed by “maximum pressure” and with a strategic view to its continuation for another four years—given the potential likelihood of US President Donald Trump’s reelection in 2020 unless the coronavirus pandemic upsets the odds—as well as the approaching challenge of leadership succession.

Notably, most state officials including Khamenei himself—who were rightly concerned about a remarkably low turnout—appealed to the disenchanted constituents’ sense of patriotism and passion for their country to urge “maximum participation” in the vote.

“Everyone who is interested in Iran and its security should take part in the elections,” the Supreme Leader said in a speech on February 5. “Someone might not like me, but if they like Iran, they should come to the ballot box [and vote].”

Yet, the same centers of power, relying on the Guardian Council—a hardline constitutional vetting body—did not hesitate to disqualify around 7,000 out of some 14,000 hopefuls, including a record 90 incumbent lawmakers who aspired to run for reelection. In fact, despite its desire for a show of legitimacy and popularity in the face of growing external threats, the Iranian leadership took an unmistakable step towards cultivating a more homogeneous political system to be dominated by hardliners.

On the campaign trail, even some top IRGC commanders appeared in promotional videos rooting for prominent hardline candidates, indicating the die was already cast and the odds were stacked in their favor in a premeditated fashion. In a stark instance, General Amir Ali Hajizadeh, commander of the IRGC’s aerospace division, praised Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf profusely and in particular highlighted his “unrivaled role” as the former head of the IRGC air force (1997 – 2000) in the “quantitative expansion” of Iran’s missile industry.

“The presence of transformationist brothers, jihadi and revolutionary managers of Qalibaf’s ilk must solve the country’s economic problems,” Hajizadeh asserted.

Unsurprisingly, the result was a 42.5 percent turnout, the lowest in the legislative history of the Islamic Republic, and, as predicted, conservatives won by a large margin, gaining 221 seats in the 290-seat parliament. A second round of voting, originally scheduled for April, has now been postponed to September 11, as a precautionary measure to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

The capital city Tehran, which registered one of the lowest turnouts across the country at just over 25 percent, produced the most significant victory for hardliners who won all its 30 seats, with Qalibaf at the top of the “principlist” list.

A former mayor of Tehran and presidential candidate, Qalibaf is widely notorious for a long track record of corruption and mismanagement, and yet has been groomed for the critical post of parliament speaker. In that role, if successfully secured, he is expected to advance several key strategic policies in conjunction with the Revolutionary Guards and the executive, which seems to have ideally been reserved for another principlist loyal to the Supreme Leader.

For all intents and purposes, the Iranian leadership is bracing itself for a second Trump victory in the US presidential elections, in which case his administration’s “maximum pressure” policy against the Islamic Republic will probably continue in one way or another for the foreseeable future. This means if Iran persists with its asymmetrical resistance and retaliation and if diplomatic efforts fail to achieve deescalation and sanctions relief, two scenarios will become likely: either a military confrontation between Tehran and Washington at some point or recurring waves of unrest and ensuing state suppression.

Even if war is averted, thanks potentially to regional mediation and fear of consequences, continuation of crippling sanctions for a few more years will only result in further death and destruction in Iran. As the violent suppression of gasoline protests in November 2019 clearly demonstrated, the Islamic Republic will not hesitate to kill its way out of popular revolt while trying to use the public as a buffer against increasing threats to its survival. The state-sanctioned fuel price spike was arguably an instance of how the government is transferring the external pressure on to society in critical circumstances when its grip on power is undermined.

Operationalizing such a ruthless survivalist strategy requires a relatively homogeneous system of decisionmaking and governance that would ensure maximum cooperation and synergism among otherwise competing political and security branches of the state. The synergism is also deemed necessary for a smooth and successful transition of power if Khamenei, 80-years-old at the moment, passes away at any moment over the next four years.

This is where a hardline-dominated parliament, to be possibly headed by Qalibaf, will come in handy. In concert with the IRGC, he will do his best to prepare the ground for the election of a like-minded president who at least does not hamper the implementation of the aforementioned strategy.

Now with the addition of the coronavirus pandemic to Iran’s threat basket, and as experts have already pointed out, the authoritarian tendencies of the Islamic Republic are likely to strengthen over the coming years, unless external pressure eases up, creating much-needed breathing room for the Iranian polity, society and economy alike.

Maysam Behravesh is a PhD candidate in political science at Lund University in Sweden. He is also a a political analyst at the US-based geopolitical risk consultancy Gulf State Analytics. Follow him on Twitter: @MaysamBehravesh.

History Expects the Sixth Seal in NYC (Revelation 6:12)

According to the New York Daily News, Lynn Skyes, lead author of a recent study by seismologists at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory adds that a magnitude-6 quake hits the area about every 670 years, and magnitude-7 every 3,400 years.

A 5.2-magnitude quake shook New York City in 1737 and another of the same severity hit in 1884.

Tremors were felt from Maine to Virginia.

There are several fault lines in the metro area, including one along Manhattan’s 125th St. – which may have generated two small tremors in 1981 and may have been the source of the major 1737 earthquake, says Armbruster.

“The problem here comes from many subtle faults,” explained Skyes after the study was published.

He adds: “We now see there is earthquake activity on them. Each one is small, but when you add them up, they are probably more dangerous than we thought.”

Armbruster says a 5.0-magnitude earthquake today likely would result in casualties and hundreds of millions of dollars in damage.

“I would expect some people to be killed,” he notes.

The scope and scale of damage would multiply exponentially with each additional tick on the Richter scale. (ANI)

Two Centuries Before The Sixth Seal (Revelation 6:12)

The worst earthquake in Massachusetts history 260 years ago

It happened before, and it could happen again.

By Hilary Sargent @lilsarg

Boston.com Staff | 11.19.15 | 5:53 AM

On November 18, 1755, Massachusetts experienced its largest recorded earthquake.

The earthquake occurred in the waters off Cape Ann, and was felt within seconds in Boston, and as far away as Nova Scotia, the Chesapeake Bay, and upstate New York, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

Seismologists have since estimated the quake to have been between 6.0 and 6.3 on the Richter scale, according to the Massachusetts Historical Society.

While there were no fatalities, the damage was extensive.

According to the USGS, approximately 100 chimneys and roofs collapsed, and over a thousand were damaged.

The worst damage occurred north of Boston, but the city was not unscathed.

A 1755 report in The Philadelphia Gazette described the quake’s impact on Boston:

“There was at first a rumbling noise like low thunder, which was immediately followed with such a violent shaking of the earth and buildings, as threw every into the greatest amazement, expecting every moment to be buried in the ruins of their houses. In a word, the instances of damage done to our houses and chimnies are so many, that it would be endless to recount them.”

The quake sent the grasshopper weathervane atop Faneuil Hall tumbling to the ground, according to the Massachusetts Historical Society.

An account of the earthquake, published in The Pennsylvania Gazette on December 4, 1755.

The earthquake struck at 4:30 in the morning, and the shaking lasted “near four minutes,” according to an entry John Adams, then 20, wrote in his diary that day.

The brief diary entry described the damage he witnessed.

“I was then at my Fathers in Braintree, and awoke out of my sleep in the midst of it,” he wrote. “The house seemed to rock and reel and crack as if it would fall in ruins about us. 7 Chimnies were shatter’d by it within one mile of my Fathers house.”

The shaking was so intense that the crew of one ship off the Boston coast became convinced the vessel had run aground, and did not learn about the earthquake until they reached land, according to the Massachusetts Historical Society.

In 1832, a writer for the Hampshire (Northampton) Gazette wrote about one woman’s memories from the quake upon her death.

“It was between 4 and 5 in the morning, and the moon shone brightly. She and the rest of the family were suddenly awaked from sleep by a noise like that of the trampling of many horses; the house trembled and the pewter rattled on the shelves. They all sprang out of bed, and the affrightted children clung to their parents. “I cannot help you dear children,” said the good mother, “we must look to God for help.”

The Cape Ann earthquake came just 17 days after an earthquake estimated to have been 8.5-9.0 on the Richter scale struck in Lisbon, Portugal, killing at least 60,000 and causing untold damage.

There was no shortage of people sure they knew the impretus for the Cape Ann earthquake.

According to many ministers in and around Boston, “God’s wrath had brought this earthquake upon Boston,” according to the Massachusetts Historical Society.

In “Verses Occasioned by the Earthquakes in the Month of November, 1755,” Jeremiah Newland, a Taunton resident who was active in religious activities in the Colony, wrote that the earthquake was a reminder of the importance of obedience to God.

“It is becaufe we broke thy Laws,

that thou didst shake the Earth.

O what a Day the Scriptures say,

the EARTHQUAKE doth foretell;

O turn to God; lest by his Rod,

he cast thee down to Hell.”

Boston Pastor Jonathan Mayhew warned in a sermon that the 1755 earthquakes in Massachusetts and Portugal were “judgments of heaven, at least as intimations of God’s righteous displeasure, and warnings from him.”

There were some, though, who attempted to put forth a scientific explanation for the earthquake.

Well, sort of.

In a lecture delivered just a week after the earthquake, Harvard mathematics professor John Winthrop said the quake was the result of a reaction between “vapors” and “the heat within the bowels of the earth.” But even Winthrop made sure to state that his scientific theory “does not in the least detract from the majesty … of God.”

It has been 260 years since the Cape Ann earthquake. Some experts, including Boston College seismologist John Ebel, think New England could be due for another significant quake.

In a recent Boston Globe report, Ebel said the New England region “can expect a 4 to 5 magnitude quake every decade, a 5 to 6 every century, and a magnitude 6 or above every thousand years.”

If the Cape Ann earthquake occurred today, “the City of Boston could sustain billions of dollars of earthquake damage, with many thousands injured or killed,” according to a 1997 study by the US Army Corps of Engineers.

The UK and US Nuclear Horns (Daniel 8:7)

A nuclear explosive revelation

Britain’s WMD warhead replacement is being undertaken in collaboration with the US behind the back of parliamentary scrutiny, writes DAVID LOWRY

Dr David LowryThursday, February 27, 2020

HMS Vigilant at HM Naval Base Clyde, Faslane, which carries Britain’s Trident nukes

DEFENCE Secretary Ben Wallace issued a written statement late on Tuesday afternoon, asserting: “To ensure the government maintains an effective deterrent throughout the commission of the Dreadnought class ballistic missile submarine we are replacing our existing nuclear warhead to respond to future threats and the security environment.”

This followed an exclusive in Sunday’s Observer that broke probably the most important news story of the week, although for reasons hard to fathom, the editor placed it on page 20.

Broken by investigative reporter Jamie Doward — who has a track record of breaking nuclear stories governments don’t want the media to report — it concerned the long-expected development, now confirmed by the MoD, of Britain collaborating with the US to replace the ageing Trident nuclear warheads — jointly designed by Aldermaston and Los Alamos weapons labs scientists — in its stockpile.

Wallace added: “We will continue to work closely with the US to ensure our warhead remains compatible with the Trident Strategic Weapon System.

“Delivery of the replacement warhead will be subject to the government’s major programme approvals and oversight.”

Doward had revealed that “earlier this month, Pentagon officials confirmed that its proposed W93 sea-launched warhead, the nuclear tip of the next generation of submarine-launched ballistic missiles, would share technology with the UK’s next nuclear weapon, implying that a decision had been taken between the two countries to work on the programme.

The Observer explained that last week Admiral Charles Richard, commander of the US strategic command, told the Senate defence committee that there was a requirement for a new warhead, which would be called the W93 or Mk7.

Richard said: “This effort will also support a parallel replacement warhead programme in the United Kingdom, whose nuclear deterrent plays an absolutely vital role in Nato’s overall defence posture.”

Hans Kristensen, director of the nuclear information project at the Federation of American Scientists, said the development of the new warhead posed significant geopolitical problems.

“Britain and the US have come a long away from being leaders in reducing the role of nuclear weapons and contemplating the possible road toward potential disarmament to re-embracing nuclear weapons for the long haul.

“They are obviously not alone in this, with Russia, China and France doing their own work.

“So, overall, this is a serious challenge for the international non-proliferation regime,” he pointed out.

SNP defence spokesperson Stewart McDonald rightly raised the question about how the decision could affect Britain’s commitment to the 1968 nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), saying: “This is a quite astonishing story. The [NPT] makes it clear that nuclear armed states are required to ‘pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament.’

“This programme clearly rips up that commitment and that is of utmost concern.

David Cullen, director of technical research group the Nuclear Information Service, told the Observer: “The UK’s reliance on US knowledge and assistance for their nuclear weapons programme means they will find it almost impossible to diverge from any development path the US decides to take.

“We are legally bound to take steps towards disarmament under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, but this would take us in the opposite direction.”

The concern over nuclear warhead development for Britain’s nuclear WMD — including contemporaneously the rented rockets from the US Trident missile stocks at King’s Bay, in Georgia — has a long legacy.

This has been raised in Parliament over the past 60 or so years by a very small number of MPs who have scrutinised this least transparent of defence procurement exercises.

One such MP with a consistently strong record of serious scrutiny is outgoing Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn.

For example, he asked the MoD in June 1990 what information in support of British nuclear weapons and warhead design and development had been made available by the United States under the 1958-59 as amended mutual-defence agreement on atomic-energy matters.

Defence minister Alan Clark said helpfully in response: “It has been the policy of successive British governments not to disclose information exchanged under the terms of the 1958 United Kingdom/United States defence agreement.”

Corbyn also asked: What would be the financial savings made if the planned number of warheads for the Trident D5 programme were reduced by (i) 50 per cent and (ii) 75 per cent?

Clark added again, helpfully: “It has been the policy of successive governments not to reveal details of this nature, for security reasons.

A decade later, Corbyn brought up the issue on Trident nuclear warheads, this time with Labour defence secretary Geoff Hoon, whom he asked what information senior officers on Trident submarines were given on the specific yields and likely targets of the missiles they were responsible for.

Hoon replied: “The Trident missiles on which our nuclear deterrent is based have been detargeted since 1994. In the circumstances of our having to use our nuclear weapons, members of the patrolling submarine crew would be provided with the information they need to discharge their duties,” adding, ever helpfully: “I am withholding the details of this information under Exemption 1 of the Code of Practice on Access to Government Information relating to defence, security and international relations.”

Hoon also stressed: “The United Kingdom’s minimum nuclear deterrent is consistent with international law. It follows that UK military personnel engaged in the operation or support of Trident are acting legally under the Nuremberg principles.

“This has been made clear down the chain of command and members of the armed services who seek further guidance on these issues can in the first instance do so through their chain of command.

A further decade later, in late March 2009, and Corbyn was still probing the MoD on Trident warheads, asking the MoD what was its most recent estimate is of the cost of the replacement of the Trident nuclear warhead system.

Labour’s defence secretary John Hutton — then the MP for Barrow-in Furness, where Trident submarines are built — responded, stating: “We published our initial estimate of the costs for the possible refurbishment or replacement of the warhead for our future nuclear deterrent capability in the December 2006 nuclear white paper.

“This is in the range of £2 billion to £3 billion at 2006-07 prices. We have not yet made a decision to develop a new UK nuclear warhead. However, work is being undertaken to inform decisions, likely to be taken in the next parliament, on whether and how we might need to refurbish or replace our current warhead.”

Corbyn followed up with a perspicacious question — in the light of the Observer revelations that the WMD warhead replacement was being undertaken behind the back of parliamentary scrutiny – requesting the defence secretary to assure the House of Commons that there would be “no expenditure on developing a new warhead without the specific approval of the House of Commons,” and added the supplementary seeking assurance that the MoD was “satisfied that the development of a whole new warhead system is legal within the terms of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.”

Unsurprisingly, but disingenuously, Hutton retorted: “Yes, I believe that it certainly would be within the framework of the Non-Proliferation Treaty. The NPT did not require unilateral disarmament on the part of the United Kingdom, and we are able to maintain very properly within the terms of the NPT our minimum nuclear deterrent; and, yes, I believe that there should be a vote in this House before such a decision was taken.”

It may be noted that Corbyn asked nothing about unilateral nuclear disarmament, but this was gratuitously included in the answer.

Dr David Lowry is a senior international research fellow at the Institute for Resource and Security Studies, Cambridge, Massachusetts, US.

The History of the Australian Nuclear Horn (Daniel 7)

The lesser known history of the Maralinga nuclear tests — and what it’s like to stand at ground zero

By Mike Ladd for The History Listen

Mon at 2:00pmMon 23 Mar 2020, 2:00pm

Posted Mon at 2:00pm

Photo: It’s not until you stand at ground zero that you fully realise the hideous power of these nuclear tests. (ABC News)

I thought I knew all the details about Maralinga, and the nuclear bomb tests that took place there six decades ago.

But when I set out to visit ground zero, I realised there were parts of this Cold War history I didn’t know — like Project Sunshine, which involved exhuming the bodies of babies.

Maralinga is 54 kilometres north-west of Ooldea, in South Australia’s remote Great Victoria Desert.

Between 1956 and 1963 the British detonated seven atomic bombs at the site; one was twice the size of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima.

There were also the so-called “minor trials” where officials deliberately set fire to or blew up plutonium with TNT — just to see what would happen.

Photo: Years ago it would have been dangerous to visit this area. (ABC RN: Samantha Jonscher)

One location called “Kuli” is still off-limits today, because it’s been impossible to clean up.

I went out to the old bomb sites with a group of Maralinga Tjarutja people, who refer to the land around ground zero as “Mamu Pulka”, Pitjantjatjara for “Big Evil”.

“My dad passed away with leukaemia. We don’t know if it was from here, but a lot of the time he worked around here,” says Jeremy Lebois, chairperson of the Maralinga Tjarutja council.

Photo: Jeremy Lebois is hopeful that one day, the landscape will return to normal. (ABC News: Samantha Jonscher)

Thirty per cent of the British and Australian servicemen exposed to the blasts also died of cancer — though the McClelland royal commission of 1984 was unable to conclude that each case was specifically caused by the tests.

It’s not until you stand at ground zero that you fully realise the hideous power of these bombs.

Even after more than 60 years, the vegetation is cleared in a perfect circle with a one kilometre radius.

“The ground underneath is still sterile, so when the plants get down a certain distance, they die,” explains Robin Matthews, who guided me around the site.

Photo: Robin Matthews works as a guide in the area, which is now safe to visit. (ABC News: Samantha Jonscher)

The steel and concrete towers used to explode the bombs were instantly vaporised.

The red desert sand was melted into green glass that still litters the site.

Years ago it would have been dangerous to visit the area, but now the radiation is only three times normal — no more than what you get flying in a plane.

The Line of Fire

Australia was not the first choice for the British, but they were knocked back by both the US and Canada.

Robert Menzies, Australia’s prime minister at the time, said yes to the tests without even taking the decision to cabinet first.

David Lowe, chair of contemporary history at Deakin University, thinks Australia was hoping to become a nuclear power itself by sharing British technology, or at least to station British nuclear weapons on Australian soil.

“In that period many leaders in the Western world genuinely thought there was a real risk of a third world war, which would be nuclear,” he says.

Photo: Prime Minister Robert Menzies believed the nuclear tests were a chance to work with Britain. (Getty: PA Images)

The bombs were tested on the Montebello Islands, at Emu Field and at Maralinga.

At Woomera in the South Australian desert, they tested the missiles that could carry them.

The Blue Streak rocket was developed and test-fired right across the middle of Australia, from Woomera all the way to the Indian Ocean, just south of Broome.

This is known as “The Line of Fire”.

“The Line of Fire from Woomera to Broome is, funnily enough, the same distance from London to Moscow,” Mr Matthews says.

Photo: The Line of Fire, from Woomera in South Australia to Broome in Western Australia. (Google Maps)

Just as the Maralinga Tjarutja people were pushed off their land for the bomb tests, the Yulparitja people were removed from their country in the landing zone south of Broome.

Not all the Blue Streak rockets reached the sea. Some crashed into the West Australian desert.

The McClelland royal commission showed that the British were cavalier about the weather conditions during the bomb tests and that fallout was carried much further than the 100-mile radius agreed to, reaching Townsville, Brisbane, Sydney and Adelaide.

“The cavalier attitude towards Australia’s Indigenous populations was appalling and you’d have to say to some extent that extended towards both British and Australian service people,” Professor Lowe says.

There are also questions over whether people at the test sites were deliberately exposed to radiation.

“You can’t help but wonder the extent to which there was a deliberate interest in the medical results of radioactive materials entering the body,” Professor Lowe says.

“Some of this stuff is still restricted; you can’t get your hands on all materials concerning the testing and it’s quite likely both [British and Australian] governments will try very hard to ensure that never happens.”

We do know that there was a concerted effort to examine the bones of deceased infants to test for levels of Strontium 90 (Sr-90), an isotope that is one of the by-products of nuclear bombs.

These tests were part of Project Sunshine, a series of studies initiated in the US in 1953 by the Atomic Energy Commission.

They sought to measure how Sr-90 had dispersed around the world by measuring its concentration in the bones of the dead.

Young bones were chosen because they were particularly susceptible to accumulating the Sr-90 isotope.

Around 1,500 exhumations took place, in both Britain and Australia — often without the knowledge or permission of the parents of the dead.

Photo: The faded crest of Maralinga’s Range Support Unit. (ABC RN: Mike Ladd)

Again, it was hard to prove conclusively that spikes in the levels of Strontium 90 during the test period caused bone cancers around the world.

The Maralinga tests occurred during a period that Professor Lowe describes as “atomic utopian thinking”.

“Remember at that time Australians were uncovering pretty significant discoveries of uranium and they hoped that this would unleash a vast new capacity for development through the power of the atom,” he says.

Project Ploughshare

Photo: A painting from the old servicemen’s bar at Maralinga. (ABC News: Samantha Jonscher)

Some of the schemes were absurdly optimistic.

Project Ploughshare grew out of a US program which proposed using atomic explosions for industrial purposes such as canal-building.

In 1969 Australia and the US signed a joint feasibility study to create an instant port at Cape Keraudren in the Kimberley using nuclear explosions.

The plan was dropped, but it was for economic not environmental or social reasons.

The dream (or was it a nightmare?) of sharing nuclear weapons technology with the British was never realised.

Walking Together

An ABC-wide initiative to reflect, listen and build on the shared national identity of Indigenous and non-Indigenous people.

All Australia got out of the deal was help building the Lucas Heights reactor.

The British did two ineffectual clean-ups of Maralinga in the 1960s.

The proper clean-up between 1995 and 2000 cost more than $100 million, of which Australia paid $75 million.

It has left an artificial mesa in the desert containing 400,000 cubic metres of plutonium contaminated soil.

The Maralinga Tjarutja people received only $13 million in compensation for loss of their land, which was finally returned to them in 1984.

Photo: The red dirt and scattered trees of the Maralinga landscape. (ABC RN: Mike Ladd)

As we were leaving the radiation zone, the Maralinga Tjarutja people spotted some kangaroos in the distance.

Over the years some of the wildlife has started to return.

Mr Lebois takes it as a good sign.

“Hopefully, hopefully everything will come back,” he says.

Walking Together is taking a look at our nation’s reconciliation journey, where we’ve been and asks the question — where do we go next?

Join us as we listen, learn and share stories from across the country, that unpack the truth telling of our history and embrace the rich culture and language of Australia’s First People.

Fragile health care system ‘cannot survive’ outside the Temple Walls (Revelation 11)

Gaza officials warn fragile health care system ‘cannot survive’ coronavirus

Health officials in the Gaza Strip are sounding the alarm after two cases of the novel coronavirus were reported in the besieged territory. The densely populated strip announced its first confirmed cases of COVID-19 March 22.

“We are more concerned now than we have been by the Israeli military attacks over the past 20 years,” Dr. Abdullatif al-Haj, an official in Gaza’s Ministry of Health, told Al-Monitor. “Our already fragile health system cannot survive,” said Haj.

According to the Hamas-controlled Ministry of Health, two Palestinian men who had recently returned from Pakistan and entered Gaza through Egypt have contracted the virus. Both are in stable condition and under quarantine in the town of Rafah near the Egyptian border, officials said.

Hamas, which rules Gaza, has introduced a series of new restrictions including the closure of schools and restaurants, a ban on large gatherings and the suspension of Friday prayers in mosques. Hospitals, schools and hotels have been designated quarantine centers and are currently housing some 1,200 travelers who have recently returned from abroad.

Health and medicine Palestinians jailed in Israel fear coronavirus outbreak

According to The Jerusalem Post, Hamas is calling for “Palestinian unity at the national level” in the face of the coronavirus pandemic. The newspaper reports Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem urged Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas to lift economic sanctions imposed on the Gaza Strip in 2017.

In a statement, Hamas said it “invited Palestinian factions and the Ministry of Health to contribute to the fight against COVID-19.”

Experts previously warned an outbreak of COVID-19 in the tiny enclave of some 2 million people, many of whom live in crowded refugee camps, would present a massive challenge for Gaza’s health care system. Military conflict with Israel, internal political instability and a 13-year Israeli-Egyptian blockade have left hospitals overburdened and understaffed.

According to Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, Gaza’s hospitals are equipped with just 70 intensive care unit beds and face a shortage of oxygen devices and protective equipment.

In Israel, where coronavirus cases surged to 1,238 on March 23, authorities have already taken sweeping measures to further restrict the movement of Palestinians entering the country. Over the weekend, the Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories, which coordinates Israeli policy in the Palestinian territories, announced the closure of all border crossings to Gaza and the West Bank.

“The health of all citizens in the region stands above all and is our top priority,” Maj. Yotam Shefer, head of the international department of the civil administration, said on Twitter. “We will continue in collaboration with the [PA] in a joint effort to eradicate the continuous spread of the virus.”

Officials in the West Bank announced March 22 a mandatory two-week isolation period for residents. Palestinian health officials have so far confirmed 53 cases of the coronavirus.

How the Shi’a Horn is exploiting Covid-19

How Islamists are exploiting Covid-19

Jihadist groups say this is a golden opportunity to unleash waves of lethal terror.

While most look on a crisis like this with worry, and view it as a challenge to be overcome, there are extremists who consider troubling times to be a golden opportunity.

Under the Covid-19 global pandemic, the UK is faced with its worst health crisis for generations. Indeed, its gravest social challenge in the postwar period. The current death toll in the UK stands at 335, and will rise exponentially in the coming weeks and months. But where there is a crisis, there is opportunity for some.

Islamists across the world – both abroad and closer to home – are exploiting the Covid-19 crisis to pursue their extremist objectives and spread hate. Looking to take advantage of the uncertainties and insecurities brought on by this deadly virus, which we still know relatively little about, Islamists of different shades feel they have been given a boost.

This initially began with the peddling of the classic Islamist theory that viruses are a punishment from God. The fact that this new virus broke out in the Chinese city of Wuhan was used to push the narrative that God was punishing China for the systematic oppression of Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang province.

Elsewhere, Salafists in the Middle East and North Africa labelled the new coronavirus a ‘Soldier of God’ that was targeting disbelieving infidels who follow the ‘godless’ ideology of communism or Buddhist philosophy. This is despite the fact that this supposed Soldier of God has now claimed the lives of people in Sunni-majority countries such as Turkey, Indonesia, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Morocco.

The Covid-19 pandemic is also being integrated into Islamists’ anti-Western worldview. Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, refused American assistance for the country’s coronavirus outbreak, peddling a completely unfounded conspiracy theory that the virus might have been manufactured in the US, and that medicinal supplies offered by the US could be designed to exacerbate Iran’s health crisis. At the time of writing, coronavirus has cost the lives of nearly 2,000 people in Iran.

This follows the suggestion made by Hossein Salami – the commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards – that the new coronavirus was a US-made biological weapon designed to fundamentally weaken Iran as well as China.

In neighbouring Iraq, notorious cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has also said that any US-made vaccine should be rejected. Sadr added that he and his supporters would only depend on God for the treatment of diseases. It is quite remarkable that such ‘leaders’ are using Covid-19 to fuel anti-American sentiment and spread their extremist hate against non-Muslims – including those who are offering medical resources to tackle the new coronavirus.

There are also indications that Islamic State is revving up its jihadists. According to this bloodthirsty death cult, this is the perfect time to pounce and unleash deadly acts of terror in countries such as the UK. In an editorial produced in its weekly newspaper, Al-Naba, titled ‘The Crusaders’ Worst Nightmare’, ISIS members are encouraged to step up their efforts and exploit the West’s preoccupation with the Covid-19 pandemic. As security services and national armies are ‘stretched’ to help government efforts to tackle outbreaks, Western countries are perceived to be ‘restricted’ in terms of fighting jihadists abroad – meaning the conditions are ideal for them to ‘strike’. Terrorist organisations view these troubling times as a golden opportunity to unleash waves of lethal terror.

The Covid-19 pandemic serves as a timely reminder of the extreme lengths taken by sinister radical Islamists to exploit and weaponise human misery in the name of their warped fundamentalist ideology. This ranges from peddling ludicrous conspiracy theories designed to exacerbate anti-Western sentiment to framing deadly viruses as a deathly punishment from God to punish the ‘enemy’. And so, utterly consumed by their hatred of non-Muslims, clerics are rejecting the offer of medical help for their affected populations.

At the most severe, these troubling times demonstrate how national crises and perceived social panic in the Western world whet the appetite of jihadist terrorists, who are deperate to cause untold misery and suffering through deadly acts of terror.

Dr Rakib Ehsan is a research fellow at the Henry Jackson Society. Follow him on Twitter: @rakibehsan.

Picture by: Khamenei.ir, published under a creative-commons licence.