Starving Outside the Temple Walls (Revelation 11)

A Palestinian child can be seen outside her home in the poverty-stricken quarter of Al-Zaytoon in Gaza City on 29 September 2014 [Ezz Zanoun/Apaimages]

Gaza: Poverty and unemployment rates at 75%

October 18, 2019 at 9:15 am

The Ministry of Social Development in the Gaza Strip said yesterday that the rates of poverty and unemployment in the Gaza Strip reached nearly 75 per cent in 2019.

In a press release it added that 70 per cent of the population of the Gaza Strip is food insecure. This, it continued, was a result of “the aggressive Israeli practices increased since the Second Intifada, which broke out in 2000, and depriving thousands of Palestinians of their jobs.”

As a result, the Palestinian economy could not “create new jobs to accommodate those untrained workers.”

“The Israeli blockade imposed by Israel on the Gaza Strip since 2006, restricting the movement of citizens and goods, in addition to three wars in 2008–2012–2014, and the division of Palestinian forces created a complex and difficult political, economic and social reality.”

It said that poverty indicators in Gaza “are the highest in the world, and that efforts by governmental, international and local institutions arepredominantly categorised as relief activities, meeting only about 50 per cent of the basic needs of poor families.”

The ministry called for “guaranteeing humanitarian work independence away from political tensions, and improve the living standards of the people of the Gaza Strip by opening the border crossings and allowing citizens and goods to move freely.”

It also demanded “strengthening coordination between social institutions working in the Gaza Strip … in order to secure decent living conditions for the poor; in addition toincreasing humanitarian and relief assistance to the Palestinian people through international and regional institutions.”

For 13 years, Israel has imposed a tight siege on Gaza, which resulted in a dramatic increase in poverty and unemployment rates.

Can the U.S. protect its nuclear weapons in Turkey?

Vice President Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo arrive for a news conference after meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in Ankara, Turkey, on Thursday. (Str/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock)

Vice President Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo arrive for a news conference after meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in Ankara, Turkey, on Thursday. (Str/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock)

U.S. forces reportedly came under artillery fire from Turkish troops heading into northern Syria last week — another sign of the sudden plunge in U.S. relations with Turkey.

On Monday, President Trump imposed economic sanctions against Turkey and threatened to “swiftly destroy Turkey’s economy.” Vice President Pence announced a cease-fire agreement with Turkey on Thursday, but this does not appear to fully address the underlying problems in the bilateral relationship. Over the summer, the Pentagon kicked Turkey out of the F-35 joint strike fighter program, marking U.S. displeasure that Turkey was buying advanced Russian military technology.

Here’s the backstory — and the downside of removing this nuclear cache.

This deteriorating relationship is troubling because Turkey is a long-standing NATO ally. But even more worrisome are the nuclear weapons — about 50 B61 gravity bombs — that the United States stores at Incirlik Air Base in Turkey, less than 100 miles from the Syrian border. On Wednesday, Trump appeared to confirm the existence of these weapons in a startling break with past practice, but over the weekend, U.S. officials reportedly were considering plans to withdraw them.

Why does the U.S. have nuclear weapons in Turkey, and what would be the risks of withdrawing them? Here’s what you need to know:

1. These weapons are relics of the Cold War.

The United States first deployed nuclear weapons on Turkish soil in 1959. President John F. Kennedy used them as bargaining chips to end the Cuban missile crisis in 1962, agreeing to withdraw nuclear-armed Jupiter missiles from Turkey in exchange for the removal of Soviet nuclear weapons in Cuba. But Washington has continued to deploy shorter-range tactical nuclear forces since then.

Why does the United States keep nuclear weapons on foreign soil, and how does this strategy advance American interests? Our research reveals that three main strategic drivers behind these deployments.

First, these deployments were once a way of coping with technological limitations. In the early days of the Cold War, before intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) and nuclear-armed submarines became the backbone of the U.S. arsenal, putting nuclear weapons in Europe expanded the U.S. ability to respond quickly to an enemy attack. Today, of course, most of the U.S. nuclear arsenal is carried by ballistic missiles — rather than long-range bombers — so most of the world is within range.

Second, nuclear deployments serve as a warning to potential attackers. U.S. leaders during the Cold War believed that putting nuclear weapons in Europe would discourage a Soviet invasion, because Soviet leaders would be worried that a limited conflict would quickly turn nuclear. Even after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Turkish military commanders argued that U.S. nuclear deployments served as a deterrent to aggression by regional rivals such as Iran.

Third, nuclear deployments are also intended to reassure allies — including Turkey. Reassurance is not only about managing intra-alliance relations, however — it can also be an important nonproliferation tool. By mitigating the security concerns of allies, U.S. nuclear deployments could prevent them from launching their own nuclear programs.

2. Nuclear deployments in Turkey bring the United States few benefits.

U.S. nuclear forces in Europe may have served a function during the Cold War, but they are increasingly obsolete.

A recent study we conducted shows that the critical factor for preventing aggression against U.S. allies is a formal alliance relationship with the United States — not the presence of U.S. nuclear weapons. Indeed, our research found that global deployments of nuclear weapons made very little difference for deterrence even during the Cold War.

This makes sense, because the United States doesn’t need to forward-deploy its forces to place allies under its nuclear umbrella. American missiles and submarines give it the capability to hit any target in the world. What matters is the United States’ commitment to defend its partners with nuclear weapons if necessary — not where these nuclear forces are physically located.

U.S. nuclear forces in Turkey might, however, contribute to reassurance and nonproliferation. Political scientist Dan Reiter, for instance, has shown how countries with foreign nuclear weapons on their soil are less likely to explore their own nuclear options. Still, most U.S. allies — including Japan and South Korea after the early 1990s — have remained nonnuclear even without U.S. nuclear forces in place.

3. There are potential dangers to keeping nuclear weapons in Turkey. 

While the benefits of these deployments are modest, the risks are significant. Nuclear weapons on foreign soil could be vulnerable to theft or sabotage. When Greece and Turkey, two NATO allies, were on the brink of war in 1974 the United States had nuclear forces stationed in both countries. Worried about the safety and security of these weapons, Washington secretly removed its nuclear forces from Greece and disabled all of the weapons in Turkey.

The 2016 coup attempt against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan reignited concerns about U.S. nuclear weapons at Incirlik. As tensions escalate today, some analysts and U.S. officials continue to worryabout the safety and security of the B61s in Turkey.

4. Is there a downside to withdrawing the weapons?

Would pulling out the nuclear weapons now mean the end of the U.S.-Turkish alliance? This concern is legitimate, but recent research suggests that it is overstated. The United States has withdrawn nuclear forces from many allied countries: Britain, South Korea and others. In none of these cases did the withdrawals damage the overall alliance relationship, nor embolden adversaries.

There is also a security challenge with withdrawing the weapons in the short term. Removing them from their storage vaults during a period of intense hostility could invite an act of sabotage.

In the long term, the larger risk is that removing the weapons will prompt Turkey to try to acquire its own nuclear weapons. After all, Erdogan reportedly is exploring this option. But as relations with Turkey deteriorate, it is by no means certain that the presence of a few U.S. weapons will prevent this outcome. And there are other political and diplomatic tools for dissuading Turkey from venturing down the nuclear path if the United States pulls out its nuclear forces.

Matthew Fuhrmann (@mcfuhrmann) is professor of political science at Texas A&M University. 

Todd S. Sechser is the Pamela Feinour Edmonds and Franklin S. Edmonds Jr. Discovery Professor of Politics and Public Policy at the University of Virginia and Senior Fellow at the Miller Center of Public Affairs. 

Sechser and Fuhrmann are co-authors of Nuclear Weapons and Coercive Diplomacy(Cambridge University Press, 2017).

4,500 Arabs Take Part in Weekly Riots Outside the Temple Walls (Revelation 11)

4,500 Arabs take part in weekly riots on Gaza border

Hamas-run “health ministry” says 69 injured in weekly “March of the Return demonstrations.

Some 4,500 Palestinian Arabs demonstrated on Friday in several locations near the Gaza border fence, as part of the weekly “March of the Return” protests.

The Hamas-run “health ministry” in Gaza reported that 69 rioters were injured, 26 of whom were wounded by IDF live fire.

The “March of the Return” protests, orchestrated by Hamas, have been going on every Friday since March of 2018.

In last Friday’s protests, the rioters threw explosives and firebombs at the border fence and toward a military keep. Several suspects crossed the fence in the northern Gaza Strip and returned immediately to Gazan territory.

Two weeks ago, Hamas claimed a Palestinian Arab was killed by Israeli fire during the weekly clashes.

(Arutz Sheva’s North American desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)

Antichrist calls on followers to stage anti-government protests


The firebrand Iraqi cleric and politician Muqtada al-Sadr has called for Shia worshippers to mark today’s Arbaeen pilgrimage with continued anti-government protests.

Since protests began in Baghdad on October 1, at least 110 people have been killed. The government has responded by cutting internet access for up to 75% of Iraqis, enforcing curfews in Baghdad and arresting some 1,000 demonstrators.

Disillusionment with the current government, corruption and high unemployment are chief concerns among the protesters. With $450 billion of government funds unaccounted for since 2003, Transparency International last year ranked Iraq the world’s 13th most corrupt country. Meanwhile, only 50,000 jobs are added to the economy annually for some 700,000 Iraqis seeking work.

For his part, Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi has offered housing, training and loan subsidies to the unemployed, compensation to the families of the 110 killed and the prosecution of 1,000 corrupt civil servants.

Nonetheless, al-Sadr—who holds no official political office, but is a spiritual leader of a powerful Shia alliance—is using his influence to call for Abdul-Mahdi’s resignation and fresh elections. With Abdul-Mahdi struggling to quell the protests and millions backing al-Sadr as both a religious and political figure, expect violence to escalate.

Deadly protests set stage for the Antichrist

Iraq’s recent wave of protests saw more than 100 people killed | © AFP | AHMAD AL-RUBAYE

Deadly protests set stage for Iran, US tug-of-war over Iraq

Iraq’s deadliest wave of protests since the 2003 ouster of dictator Saddam Hussein has made the country vulnerable to a battle for influence between its two main competing allies, the United States and Iran, analysts say. October 12, 2019

Baghdad (AFP) |

The anti-government protests that erupted on October 1 echoed the demands that young Iraqis have made over recent years.

But the demonstrations played out differently this time, as tensions spiralled between the US and Iran.

“Without this context, Iran would not have intervened,” Iraqi political analyst Munqith Dagher said.

Tehran denounced the week of demonstrations that shook Baghdad and southern Iraq as a “conspiracy” that “failed”.

This response cost Iran “a lot of credit and support in Iraq, especially among Shiites,” said Dagher.

“But it sacrificed that in order to maintain the system in place in Iraq and to guard the country as an asset in negotiations with the United States.”

– ‘Conspiracy’ –

The wave of unrest left more than 100 people dead, mostly protesters, and put Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi in a weaker position than ever.

Even before this Abdel Mahdi headed an unwieldy government.

The coalition includes Shiite populist cleric Moqtada al-Sadr — who won the most seats in the last parliamentary elections — and Fatah, the political arm of Hashed al-Shaabi, the paramilitary force dominated by pro-Iran groups.

Protesters burnt tyres as they held huge rallies demanding a complete overhaul of the political system | © AFP | AHMAD AL-RUBAYE

As protests peaked, Sadr called for the government he helped form to resign.

The Hashed took the opposite position, saying it was ready to crush the “conspiracy” aiming to bring down the government.

Since then state institutions have been paralysed by division, effectively preventing concrete responses to protester demands for jobs, services and ending corruption.

Caught in the middle, Abdel Mahdi is “even weaker and more vulnerable to pressure from the largest political blocs,” said Maria Fantappie, an International Crisis Group Iraq analyst.

This could favour Tehran, she said, as “the prime minister will be increasingly dependent on Iran’s ally Fatah, which has stood by his side during the crisis”.

Polarisation is complicating the premier’s pursuit of “a foreign policy aimed at insulating the country from the unfolding US-Iran competition,” Fantappie said.

But in a crisis-ridden and increasingly fractured region, a country like Iraq — which attempts to maintain relations with all, from Iran to the United States, Saudi Arabia to Syria — is a major asset for all.

Neither Washington nor Tehran “would like to see the situation spin out of control,” Fantappie said.

A stable Iraq is vital for Iran. Stifled by US sanctions, Tehran is committed to maintaining its six billion euro ($6.6 billion) annual exports to Iraq.

Likewise Washington needs Iraq to contain the danger of a resurgent Islamic State group, and to keep Iran’s regional influence in check.

– ‘Pandora’s box’ –

The danger now, Fantappie said, is that some in the US administration interpret anti-Iran slogans by protesters as evidence of mounting anti-Iranian sentiment overall.

The recent wave of protests was the deadliest in Iraq since the 2003 fall of Saddam Hussein | © AFP | AHMAD AL-RUBAYE

US officials who see Abdel Mahdi as indecisive and powerless may even push to replace him in light of the demonstrations, she said.

But this “could be like opening a Pandora’s box, given a stagnating political system, mounting popular frustrations and the perennial difficulty of forming a government” in a country caught between rival powers.

The shifts in Iraq’s political arena go beyond the pro-US and pro-Iran camps — other factions have also made moves since the start of the month.

Firebrand Sadr maintains the ability to paralyse the country with sit-ins — as he has done in the past.

Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, Iraq’s highest Shiite spiritual leader, said in his sermon Friday that he “had no interest in any party in power” and only defended “the interests of the people”.

Even as calm appears to have returned to Iraq, the protests may yet be rekindled, particularly if public anger grows as videos showing last week’s crackdown continue to circulate online.

© 2019 AFP

History Warns New York Is The Sixth Seal (Revelation 6:12)

Friday, 18 March 2011 – 9:23pm IST | Place: NEW YORK | Agency: ANI

If the past is any indication, New York can be hit by an earthquake, claims John Armbruster, a seismologist at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.

If the past is any indication, New York can be hit by an earthquake, claims John Armbruster, a seismologist at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.Based on historical precedent, Armbruster says the New York City metro area is susceptible to an earthquake of at least a magnitude of 5.0 once a century.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.

There’s another fault line on Dyckman St and one in Dobbs Ferry in nearby Westchester County.

“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.”

“Considering population density and the condition of the region’s infrastructure and building stock, it is clear that even a moderate earthquake would have considerable consequences in terms of public safety and economic impact,” says the New York City Area Consortium for Earthquake Loss Mitigation on its website.

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.

Putin Prepares for Nuclear War (Revelation 16)

Putin directs exercise of Russian nuclear forces

October 17, 2019, 4:30 PM UTC

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting at the Russian Defense Ministry in Moscow, Russia, Thursday, Oct. 17, 2019. (Alexei Druzhinin, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

Russian President Vladimir Putin, center, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, left, and The Head the Russian General Staff’s Main Operational Department Col. Gen. Sergei Rudskoi attend a meeting in the Russian Defense Ministry in Moscow, Russia, Thursday, Oct. 17, 2019. (Alexei Druzhinin, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

MOSCOW (AP) — Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday oversaw sweeping war games intended to test the readiness of the nation’s strategic forces for a nuclear conflict.

The drills featured practice launches of several intercontinental ballistic missiles as well as warships and strategic bombers firing cruise missiles at test targets — a massive check-up of the land, sea and air components of the nation’s nuclear triad.

The Defense Ministry said the Grom (Thunder) -2019 exercise involved 12,000 troops, 213 missile launchers, 105 aircraft, 15 surface warships and five submarines. Putin directed the maneuvers from the Defense Ministry’s headquarters.

Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said the exercise was intended to check “the military’s capability to fulfill tasks in an armed conflict and a nuclear war.”

Russia has expanded the scope of its military drills in recent years amid rising tensions with the West. Relations plummeted to post-Cold War lows after Russia’s 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula, and the Kremlin described NATO’s drills near Russian borders as a demonstration of the alliance’s hostile intentions.

Briefing foreign military attaches about the drills earlier this week, Maj. Gen. Yevgeny Ilyin, the head of the Russian Defense Ministry’s international cooperation department, said they weren’t directed against any specific country, but noted that the maneuvers simulated a response to a build-up of tensions near the Russian frontiers.

“The maneuvers’ scenario envisages an escalation of the situation in conditions of a remaining potential for conflict alongside Russia’s borders that poses a threat to sovereignty and territorial integrity of the state,” Ilyin said.

The statement echoed the Russian military doctrine, which states that nuclear weapons could be used in response to a nuclear attack or an aggression involving conventional weapons that “threatens the very existence of the state.”

Earlier this year, the United States withdrew from the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, citing Russian violations, a claim denied by Moscow.

Putin criticized the U.S. move, saying it undermined strategic stability. He pledged that Russia wouldn’t deploy missiles previously banned by the INF Treaty to any area before the U.S. does that first.

During Thursday’s drills, Russia’s nuclear submarines launched intercontinental ballistic missiles from the Barents Sea and the Sea of Okhotsk and a land-based Yars ICBM was launched from the military’s launch facility in Plesetsk, in northwestern Russia.

Kalibr cruise missiles were fired by warships in the Black and Caspian Seas, while land-based Iskander cruise missiles were launched from the military’s firing ranges of the military’s Southern and Eastern Military Districts.

As part of the maneuvers, Tu-95 strategic bombers also conducted practice launches of cruise missiles at firing ranges in the Arctic and on the far-eastern Kamchatka Peninsula, the Defense Ministry said.

Babylon the Great’s Doomsday Nuke

Meet the Ohio-Class: America’s Nuclear Doomsday Submarines

Key point: America’s missile submarines are an important leg of the nuclear triad.

Nine years after the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Ishirō Honda’s Godzilla depicted a monster awakened from the depths of the ocean to wreak havoc on Japanese cities. A giant fire-breathing reptile, however, was less horrifying than what was to come. In less than a decade’s time, there would be dozens of real undersea beasts capable of destroying multiple cities at a time. I’m referring, of course, to ballistic-missile submarines, or “boomers” in U.S. Navy parlance.

The most deadly of the real-life kaiju prowling the oceans today are the fourteen Ohio-class ballistic-missile submarines, which carry upwards of half of the United States’ nuclear arsenal onboard.

If you do the math, the Ohio-class boats may be the most destructive weapon system created by humankind. Each of the 170-meter-long vessels can carry twenty-four Trident II submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) which can be fired from underwater to strike at targets more than seven thousand miles away depending on the load.

As a Trident II reenters the atmosphere at speeds of up to Mach 24, it splits into up to eight independent reentry vehicles, each with a 100- or 475-kiloton nuclear warhead. In short, a full salvo from an Ohio-class submarine—which can be launched in less than one minute—could unleash up to 192 nuclear warheads to wipe twenty-four cities off the map. This is a nightmarish weapon of the apocalypse.

The closest competitor to the Ohio-class submarine is the Russia’s sole remaining Typhoon-class submarine, a larger vessel with twenty ballistic-missile launch tubes. However, China, Russia, India, England and France all operate multiple ballistic-missile submarines with varying missile armaments—and even a few such submarines would suffice to annihilate the major cities in a developed nation.

What possible excuse is there for such monstrous, nation-destroying weaponry?

The logic of nuclear deterrence: while a first strike might wipe out a country’s land-based missiles and nuclear bombers, it’s very difficult to track a ballistic-missile submarine patrolling quietly in the depths of the ocean—and there’s little hope of taking them all out in a first strike. Thus, ballistic-missile submarines promise the unstoppable hand of nuclear retribution—and should deter any sane adversary from attempting a first strike or resorting to nuclear weapons at all. At least that’s the hope.

As such, the Trident-armed Ohio-class submarines will have succeeded in their mission if they never fire their weapons in anger.

The Ohio-class boats entered service in the 1980s as a replacement for five different classes of fleet ballistic-missile submarines, collectively known as the “41 for Freedom.” Displacing more than eighteen thousand tons submerged, the new boomers remain the largest submarines to serve in the U.S. Navy—and the third largest ever built. With the exception of the Henry M. Jackson, each is named after a U.S. state, an honor previously reserved for large surface warships.

In the event of a nuclear exchange, a boomer would likely receive its firing orders via Very Low Frequency radio transmission. While a submarine’s missiles are not pretargeted, like those in in fixed silos, they can be assigned coordinates quite rapidly. The first eight Ohio-class boats were originally built to launch the Trident I C4 ballistic missile—an advanced version of the earlier Poseidon SLBM. However, by now all of the boomers are armed with the superior Trident II D5 ballistic missile, which has 50 percent greater range and is capable of very accurate strikes, which could enable them to precisely target military installations as a first-strike weapon.

Ohio-class submarines also come armed with four twenty-one-inch tubes that can launch Mark 48 torpedoes. However, these are intended primarily for self-defense—a ballistic missile submarine’s job isn’t to hunt enemy ships and submarines, but to lie as low and quiet as possible to deny adversaries any means of tracking their movements. The submarine’s nuclear reactor gives it virtually unlimited underwater endurance and the ability to maintain cruising speeds of twenty knots (twenty-three miles per hour) while producing very little noise.

While other branches of the military may be deployed in reaction to the crisis of the day, the nuclear submarines maintain a steady routine of patrols, and communicate infrequently so as to remain as stealthy as possible. Each Ohio-class submarine has two crews of 154 officers and enlisted personnel, designated Gold and Blue, who take turns departing on patrols that last an average of seventy to ninety days underwater—with the longest on record being 140 days by the USS Pennsylvania. An average of a month is spent between patrols, with resupply facilitated by three large-diameter supply hatches.

Currently, nine boomers are based in Bangor, Washington to patrol the Pacific Ocean, while five are stationed in Kings Bay, Georgia for operations in the Atlantic. The end of the Cold War, and especially the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, resulted in the downsizing of U.S. nuclear forces. However, rather than retiring some of the oldest boats as originally planned, the Navy decided to refit four of the eighteen Ohio-class subs to serve as cruise missile carriers to launch conventional attacks against ground and sea targets—starting with the USS Ohio.

Meanwhile, the New START treaty which came into effect in 2011 imposes additional limits on the number of deployed nuclear weapons. The current plan is to keep twelve Ohio-class subs active at time with twenty Trident IIs each, while two more boomers remain in overhaul, keeping a total of 240 missiles active at a time with 1,090 warheads between them. Don’t worry, restless hawks: that’s still enough to destroy the world several times over!

The Ohio class will serve on until the end of the 2020s, and may even receive some additional acoustic stealth upgrades until they are replaced by a successor, tentatively dubbed the Columbia class. With estimated costs of $4–6 billion each to manufacture, the next-generation boomers may be fewer in number and will use new reactors that do not require expensive overhauls and refueling, allowing them to serve on until 2085.

Sébastien Roblin holds a Master’s Degree in Conflict Resolution from Georgetown University and served as a university instructor for the Peace Corps in China. He has also worked in education, editing, and refugee resettlement in France and the United States. He currently writes on security and military history for War Is Boring. This first appeared in April 2017.

Image: Reuters

A Nuclear Dilemma in Turkey

The US military stores nuclear bombs at Turkey’s Incirlik Air Base, which raises grave security concerns. Image: Flickr Commons

Turkey could seize US nukes stored at air base

Ankara doesn’t have access codes for devices, but they could be cracked over time and the fissile material could be used to make homemade weapons

By STEPHEN BRYEN

The United States has nuclear bombs stored in Turkey at Incirlik Air Base. Will Turkey try to grab them? How will the drama play out?

The US has a large arsenal of nuclear gravity bombs – relatively small 700-pound nuclear weapons with fearsome power. There are different types but the most important are its B-61 series bombs. There are 540 B-61 bombs in service today, with another 415 on inactive status that can be upgraded if needed.  These are known as “dial-a-blast” bombs, since the users can set the size of the nuclear blast needed for a mission – anywhere from 0.3 to 340 kilotons. (The Hiroshima atomic bomb was about 15 kilotons.)  The latest MOD bomb is capable of a fixed blast of 50 kilotons.

The latest operational version is the B-61 MOD 11, which has been developed into a bunker-busting nuclear gravity bomb that can be dropped by a nuclear bomber like the B-1 or B-2, or from a combat fighter aircraft such as the F-15E or the F-16. It isn’t completely clear what model of B-61 nukes are in Turkey, nor is the number certain, but the generally accepted count of B-61 bombs stored at Incirlik Airbase is 50. Another 40 B-61s were supposed to be committed to the Turkish air force, but according to reports since the 1990s, the Turks stopped training pilots for a nuclear mission and the 40 Turkey-designated bombs were withdrawn.

The F-15s and F-16s that could deliver the bombs are special-version aircraft and not standard flightline models. They are not stationed on Turkish territory.

The B-61s at Incirlik are kept at heavily guarded storage sites. They cannot be used by any US aircraft stationed at Incirlik, and they would either need Turkish government approval to be used or they would need to be moved elsewhere, also requiring Ankara’s approval. In short, the nuclear weapons at Incirlik are frozen in place unless an agreement is reached to remove them.

The B-61 is generally considered a tactical nuclear weapon, although the different variants suggest different missions, some of them strategic. For example, the B-61 MOD 11 bunker-buster was designed to attack Russia’s deep underground “continuity of government” complex at Kosvinsky Kamen or Kosvinsky Rock, Russia’s analog of America’s Cheyenne Mountain where NORAD (North American Aerospace Defense Command) and other facilities are located. Kosvinsky Kamen, in the Ural mountains, was supposed to be able to resist a direct nuclear attack, like Cheyenne Mountain. The MOD 11 bomb was designed to be able to destroy the complex.

Today, penetrating a sophisticated enemy’s airspace with piloted aircraft against high-value targets appears challenging, if not impossible. Russia, the main concern of NATO (and thus for the B-61 nuclear gravity bombs) today has sophisticated layered air defenses including the S-400, and Russia is well along on an even more sophisticated evolution of the S-400 to the S-500 Prometey (Prometheus).  The most important feature of Russia’s S-400 and S-500 systems is long-range interceptor defense missiles that can hit a target 482 km away. Penetration into Russia against targets such as Kosvinsky Kamen or Russian ICBM sites with conventional aircraft lacking very long standoff capability seems unlikely.

That explains one of the reasons why the US is building a B-61 variant called the MOD 12, which is designed to fit into the F-22 or F-35 stealth fighter bombers. Theoretically, these aircraft might be able to evade Russian air defenses, although that may be a declining value since the Russians and Chinese are working hard on anti-stealth radars and VHF detection systems that along with greatly improved electro-optic sensors, could soon identify and target stealth aircraft.  In any case, there are no MOD 12 variants yet in service, and the program is encountering serious delays.

Most nuclear weapons experts think that the B-61 series bombs are obsolete and all should be retired. But given the rise of other dangerous actors such as Iran, or even Pakistan, with nuclear weapons, having such an arsenal might make sense. Incirlik is well-positioned to deal with either of these threats, if and when it could be required to do so to stop an impending use of nuclear weapons by an unstable Pakistan or a rogue play by Iran. Unfortunately, Turkey is quite unlikely under any foreseeable circumstance to allow Incirlik to be used against Pakistan or Iran, much like how Turkey blocked the use of Incirlik in 2003 against Iraq.

Will Turkey try and grab the US nuclear bombs? Here are some of the possibilities:

(1) Turkey does nothing.  From Erdogan’s point of view, there may be more negatives than positives in grabbing the US nuclear bombs at Incirlik. Those 50 bombs are there as part of a NATO cooperative program, and while Turkey has walked back from that agreement to some extent, any action by Turkey taken to sequester or seize the US bombs would virtually require NATO to demand their immediate return and could result in a suspension of Turkey from NATO.

It would also raise serious concerns in the EU and would harm Turkey’s trade and access to weapons and spare parts from NATO countries. While Turkey could eventually shift to other sources (Russia, China), that transition would take years and Turkey’s military will be substantially weakened in the interim. Since the bombs are not really usable because Turkey does not have the nuclear codes to activate them, and any tampering might set off a small non-nuclear explosion destroying the bomb or bombs, the only gain for Turkey might be political. But the price would be very high and Turkey would never be trusted again. Turkey has no credible argument to make against the bombs on its territory.

(2) Turkey could order the US to remove the bombs. The US would have to accept Turkey’s request and take them out. There would not be much fallout in NATO because US nukes have already been removed from Greece and the UK, at their request. While the US-Turkey relationship is greatly stressed over the Kurdish situation and other matters (including Fethullah Gülen, who is blamed for the 2016 coup attempt and is living in the United States), the political impact on removing the bombs would be minimal.

(3) Turkish army seizes the bombs. Perhaps the greatest worry about nuclear weapons in Turkey is that the Turkish army will move in and seize them. That might also include ejecting the US air force from Incirlik Air Base. The other NATO components at the airbase might be permitted to stay, but if the US was kicked out, the others would probably leave as well.

A seizure could be promoted under a number of different banners: the weapons are not safe enough, the US might use them without Turkish permission, the weapons are a regional threat or they might be otherwise grabbed by the Kurdish PKK (Kurdistan Worker’s Party). An action like a seizure, if it happened, would most definitely provoke an angry US response with unpredictable future consequences. There is also a risk that fighting could break out on the base between US and Turkish troops.

Could the Turkish army use the Incirlik-based weapons? Unless the Turkish army had the computer codes for the weapons, the answer is that the weapons cannot be used. These US weapons include what are called Permissive Action Links (PAL), meaning encrypted locks that make detonating a nuclear device impossible unless the PAL system can be defeated. Over time, PAL has become increasingly sophisticated and it depends on what is built into the weapons that are in Turkey (models vary in the degree of sophistication) and on a control box set up that also is needed for unlocking the PAL blocks.  It isn’t known if the US has already removed the control boxes, but this should have been done as a security precaution. But even if the boxes are at Incirlik, they won’t function without authorization codes coming from the United States.

In the short run, the B-61s at Incirlik are not a present danger. But the bombs are a future danger, since in time the codes can be figured out or the bombs taken apart and the fissile material used to make homemade nuclear weapons.

Dr Stephen Bryen has 40 years of leadership in government and industry. He has served as a senior staff director of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, as the deputy undersecretary of defense for trade security policy, as the founder and first director of the Defense Technology Security Administration, as the president of Delta Tech Inc, as the president of Finmeccanica North America, and as a commissioner of the US China Security Review Commission.

The Terror of the Iranian Nuclear Horn (Daniel 8:4)

State Department official says Iran has been transferring missiles to terrorists

Administration says transfers justify abandoning the Iran nuclear deal

The State Department on Wednesday revealed that Iran has been transferring ballistic missiles to regional partners that the United States views as terrorists.

The revelation by the special envoy for Iran policy, Brian Hook, came at the start of a contentious Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing. Hook argued that evidence of Iran’s transfer of ballistic missile technology to regional extremist groups justified the Trump administration’s 2018 decision to abandon the Iran nuclear deal.

“While the United States was still in the JCPOA, Iran expanded its ballistic missile activities to partners across the region, including Hezbollah, Palestinian terrorist groups and Shia militias in Iraq,” Hook said, referring to the acronym for the multinational nuclear accord. “Beginning last year, Iran transferred whole missiles to a separate designated terrorist group in the region.”

Hook did not name the specific terrorist group that received complete ballistic missiles.

Iran has been transferring missiles to terrorists, says State Department official

Hook, who recently was in the running to be President Donald Trump’s national security adviser, said Iran is developing missile technology “solely” for the purpose of exporting it to regional proxies. “This arsenal is then used to target our ally, Israel.”

But ranking member Robert Menendez, D-N.J., one of the few Senate Democrats to vote against the Iran nuclear deal when it came up for a vote in 2015, charged it is Trump who is now endangering Israel’s security with his apparently impetuous decision to withdraw U.S. special forces from northern Syria.

Menendez asked Hook if the administration has secured any agreements from the Turkish or Iraqi governments to prevent Iran from moving troops and supplies through northern Syria to the border with Israel.

Hook said multiple meetings on the subject have taken place but he did not disclose whether any agreements have been secured.

“We have the possibility of a land bridge that Iran has sought over Syria to attack our ally, the state of Israel,” Menendez said. “Iran isn’t an agent of Russia, they have their own interests. They have spent their own blood. Russia is not going to tell them ‘Okay now, thank you for your help. It’s time to get out.’”

“They’re going to have their own interests and all we have done here is perpetuate their interest and created a greater risk for our ally, the state of Israel,” Menendez said of Iran.

Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo are traveling to Turkey this week to try to flesh out agreements with Ankara around the withdrawal of U.S. troops, whose presence had effectively deterred Russia and Iran from trying to push into northern Syria.

Trump announced last week he was ordering the withdrawal of hundreds of U.S. soldiers. In response, the Syrian Kurds, who had formerly been aligned with the United States, announced on Sunday they had reached a deal with Russia and Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad that would allow Russian and Syrian forces into northern Syria to better defend against the Turkish incursion.