The Iranian Horn Goes Underground

Iran building underground nuclear facility: UN watchdog

by Agencies , (Last Updated 2 days ago)

BERLIN: Inspectors from the UN’s atomic watchdog have confirmed Iran has started building an underground centrifuge assembly plant after its previous one exploded in what Tehran called a sabotage attack over the summer, the agency’s head told The Associated Press on Tuesday.

Iran also continues to stockpile greater amounts of low-enriched uranium, but does not appear to possess enough to produce a weapon, Rafael Grossi, director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, told the AP in an interview in Berlin.

Following the July explosion at the Natanz nuclear site, Tehran said it would build a new, more secure, structure in the mountains around the area. Satellite pictures of Natanz analyzed by experts have yet to show any obvious signs of excavation at the site in Iran’s central Isfahan province.

“They have started, but it’s not completed,” Grossi said. “It’s a long process.”

He would not give further details, saying it’s “confidential information.” Iran’s mission to the United Nations did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of Iran’s nuclear department, last month told state television the destroyed above-ground facility was being replaced with one “in the heart of the mountains around Natanz.”

Natanz hosts the country’s main uranium enrichment facility. In its long underground halls, centrifuges rapidly spin uranium hexafluoride gas to enrich uranium.

Natanz became a flashpoint for Western fears about Iran’s nuclear program in 2002, when satellite photos showed Iran building an underground facility at the site, some 200 kilometers (125 miles) south of the capital, Tehran. In 2003, the IAEA visited Natanz, which Iran said would house centrifuges for its nuclear program, buried under some 7.6 meters (25 feet) of concrete. That offers protection from potential airstrikes on the site, which also is guarded by anti-aircraft positions.

Natanz had been targeted by the Stuxnet computer virus previously, which was believed to be a creation of the US and Israel. Iran has yet to say who it suspects of carrying out the sabotage in the July incident. Suspicion has fallen on Israel as well, despite a claim of responsibility by a previously unheard-of group at the time.

Under the provisions of the landmark 2015 nuclear deal with world powers known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, Iran is allowed to produce a certain amount of enriched uranium for non-military purposes.

In return, Iran was offered economic incentives by the countries involved.

Since President Donald Trump pulled the US unilaterally out of the deal in 2018 and re-imposed sanctions, however, the other signatories — Germany, France, Britain, Russia and China — have been struggling to keep the deal alive.

Meanwhile, Iran has been steadily exceeding the deal’s limits on how much uranium it can stockpile, the purity to which it can enrich uranium and other restrictions to pressure those countries to come up with a plan to offset US sanctions.

Still though, Iran has continued to allow IAEA inspectors full access to its nuclear facilities, including Natanz, Grossi said.

In the latest IAEA quarterly report, the agency reported Iran as of Aug. 25 had stockpiled 2,105.4 kilograms (4,641.6 pounds) of low-enriched uranium, well above the 202.8 kilograms (447.1 pounds) allowed under the JCPOA. It was also enriching uranium to a purity of 4.5%, higher than the 3.67% allowed under the deal.

In the next report, due in the coming weeks, Grossi said: “We continue to see the same trend that we have seen so far.”

According to a widely cited analysis by the Washington-based Arms Control Association, Iran would need roughly 1,050 kilograms (1.16 tons) of low-enriched uranium — under 5% purity — in gas form and would then need to enrich it further to weapons-grade, or more than 90% purity, to make a nuclear weapon.

The IAEA’s current assessment is, however, that Iran does not at the moment possess a “significant quantity” of uranium — defined by the agency as enough to produce a bomb — according to Grossi.

“At the moment, I’m not in contact with my inspectors, but by memory, I wouldn’t say so,” he said.

“All of these are projections and the IAEA is not into speculation” he added. “What may happen? What could happen? We are inspectors, we say the amounts that we see.”

Iran insists it has no interest in producing a bomb, and Grossi noted that before the JCPOA, Iran had enriched its uranium up to 20% purity, which is just a short technical step away from the weapons-grade level of 90%. And in 2013, Iran’s stockpile of enriched uranium was already more than 7,000 kilograms (7.72 tons) with higher enrichment, but it didn’t pursue a bomb.

“The idea of a ‘significant quantity’ is a technical parameter … that applies in the context of the safeguards agreement to indicate amounts which could be theoretically used for the development of a nuclear weapon,” he said.

“The fact that there could be such an amount would not indicate automatically that a nuclear weapon is being fabricated, so I think we have to be very careful when we use these terms.”

Grossi personally visited Tehran in late August for meetings with top officials and managed to break a months-long impasse over two locations thought to be from the early 2000s where Iran was suspected of having stored or used undeclared nuclear material and possibly conducted nuclear-related activities.

Inspectors have now taken samples from both of those sites, and Grossi said they are still undergoing lab analysis.

“It was a constructive solution to a problem what we were having,” he said. “And I would say since then we have kept the good level of cooperation in the sense that our inspectors are regularly present and visiting the sites.”

Pestilence and plague comes soaring back: Revelation 16

‘The next wave has started.’ Capital Region braces as COVID-19 numbers grow

ALBANY — A second wave of coronavirus infections, hospitalizations and deaths is well on its way in the Capital Region. But will it be as bad as the first?

If there’s one thing public health experts and hospital leaders don’t like to do, it’s predict the future — especially when so much of it hangs on the behavior of a weary public and a virus we still don’t know enough about. But they have expressed hope that vigilance on the part of the public, combined with the region’s greatly expanded testing and tracing capabilities, will help shield us from the worst of what could come.

“I feel hopeful, frankly, about the next few months based on how we’ve responded to surges this past month,” said Eli Rosenberg, an associate professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at the University at Albany’s School of Public Health. “I think it’s truly about testing. In March, the virus took off on this scary exponential slope. Suddenly it was this runaway thing and it was so mysterious. Now that it’s less mysterious, now that we have testing and we have tracing, we can react in an intelligent way.”

Signs of a second wave

By nearly every single metric the Capital Region is headed into a second wave.

New daily cases across eight local counties have increased noticeably, coming just 17 cases shy recently of the region’s spring peak of 147 new cases recorded May 1, a Times Union analysis of local county data reveals. The region has topped 100 new daily cases only four times this year — three of which occurred this month.

The five-day rolling average of new daily cases in the region — a more forgiving metric that takes sporadic jumps and anomalies into account — reached its highest point since spring on Monday, with 78 average cases. That average peaked at 117 on May 2, and bottomed out at just 13 on June 17.

The percentage of positive tests performed on residents in the region has also climbed, from 0.5 on Sept. 26 to 1.3 on Oct. 26, according to the state’s COVID-19 dashboard. This metric can be a less reliable indicator, however, depending on testing capacity at any given time, as well as whether repeat testing of essential workers is taking place.

Most concerning to local officials is the recent rise in hospitalizations. Daily hospitalizations in the region have increased more than 400 percent over the past month alone, from 15 on Sept. 27 to 80 on Oct. 27, according to figures published by the state. Leaders from Capital Region hospitals gathered at Albany Medical Center on Wednesday to warn of the increase, and to urge the public to get vaccinated against flu and remain vigilant about mask use, distancing and hand hygiene.

“It seems as though for us, the next wave has started,” said Dr. Fred Venditti, hospital general director for Albany Medical Center.

There is a glimmer of good news. Venditti and other hospital officials say that while cases are rising, their severity is decreasing.

“What’s interesting is we’re seeing a very, very different outcome for patients being hospitalized now than we did in the spring,” Dr. Steven Hanks, chief clinical officer for St. Peter’s Health Partners, told the Times Union. “The mortality rate seems to be much lower. The number of hospitalized patients who go to the ICU is down compared with spring. The number of patients needing to be ventilated is down compared with spring. And the number of patients who are dying with COVID-19 who are hospitalized is down compared with spring.”

The reasons for this remain unclear, though officials have a few ideas. Doctors have learned when and in what combination to administer therapies to patients to produce the best outcomes, Hanks and Venditti said. There’s also a theory circulating that mask use may be shielding people who are exposed to the virus to smaller viral doses than they would have been otherwise.

“That’s all conjecture,” Hanks said. “But these are all things we’re giving consideration to, including possibly just changes in the virus as the virus mutates in the wild. So that’s the good news part of the story. The bad news is the virus continues to spread.”

While mortality appears to be falling, deaths have picked up pace in recent weeks. The region saw a wave of deaths in the first three months of the pandemic, and then sporadically over the summer. Some counties went months without seeing any. In recent weeks, however, those streaks have ended. As of Tuesday, at least 360 residents of the eight-county Capital Region were known to have died from the virus.

‘COVID fatigue is real’

From the beginning, public health experts and epidemiologists worldwide warned that much like the 1918 Spanish Flu, the coronavirus pandemic would occur in waves — hitting hard in the cold months and dying down in the summer. That has generally been true for New York and the Capital Region, though the United States experienced a second wave outside of the Northeast this summer and is now entering its third wave.

Part of the reason is that viruses just have an easier time circulating on dry, cold air. Another reason is that people tend to spend more time indoors when the weather gets cold, and virus from an infected person has fewer places to escape.

Unfortunately, officials fear a confluence of other factors will cause a surge this winter. People are exhausted by the stress and isolation the pandemic has caused, and a sort of “COVID fatigue” has set in that is leading to increased socialization and decreased vigilance, public health officials say.

“COVID fatigue is real,” Rosenberg said. “It’s fatigue at multiple levels — individuals letting their guard down, visiting family more, as the cold season approaches thinking, ‘Oh, I can’t eat outdoors at the restaurants I’ll just try indoors a few times.’ All of that is real.”

While they may have been able to count on people staying away from loved ones in the spring when the virus was new and lockdowns were novel, officials are now worried that the impending holiday season and return of college students from possible hot spots is going to fuel a new surge of cases at the worst possible time.

Albany County Health Commissioner Elizabeth Whalen said people were already associating the reopening of schools and businesses as a green light for pre-pandemic behaviors.

“People were taking that to mean they could be doing other things, like attending parties and socializing in groups and maybe letting their guard down in terms of wearing masks and keeping distance socially and avoiding large gatherings,” she said. “But those latter three strategies are more important than ever and what people need to understand is the ability for us to keep businesses functioning and schools open are entirely contingent on those behaviors.”

Whalen and other health officials who spoke to the Times Union agreed that people should try and avoid holiday gatherings with family and friends outside of their immediate household this year.

“I know it’s difficult,” she said. “But I think this is a different year and I think people need to take that into consideration in their planning. Because the last thing we want is for families to be brought together for a holiday that’s supposed to be about celebrating the things that we’re thankful for and for that to result in a case or sickness of a loved one.

Preparing for round two

While local health officials are hopeful a second wave won’t be as big as the first, they are preparing for possible contingencies in the coming months.

Hospital leaders on Wednesday urged the public to fight the fatigue and stay vigilant about basic precautions such as hand washing and masking while out in public. They also urged people to get vaccinated against influenza — a move that will help divert people from the hospital at a time when COVID-19 is surging. Local hospitals also announced that they will be mandating all staff, including those at private physician practices, to get vaccinated for flu, with exemptions for medical and religious reasons. That should impact roughly 35,000 health care workers in the region, they said.

“We don’t know where that curve is going to go,” said Dr. David Liebers, an infectious disease specialist at Ellis Medicine. “The more we do proactively, the better. It may be a tough winter but we can make it a better winter with sticking to everything we’ve been doing so far.”

Venditti noted that Albany Med spent the summer looking through its emergency response plan and adjusting where appropriate. Surge plans that hospitals developed in the spring remain on file with the state. And hospitals have built up a 90-day supply of PPE as mandated by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo. They’ve also begun disinfecting single-use PPE for re-use — a practice used back in the spring to conserve supplies but which nurses have protested, arguing it puts them at risk.

“We’re definitely trying to be cautious with our use of PPE,” Venditti said. “Having said that, we are only doing what’s been sanctioned by the (Centers for Disease Control) or the Department of Health in terms of re-use … we’re trying to be careful anticipating that two months down the road, a month down the road, we could be in a different circumstance with limited supplies.”

As 2020 comes to a close, hospitals have also filed applications with the state to administer any COVID-19 vaccines that are expected to hit the market for essential workers in January 2021 and the rest of the population by spring.

Until then, individuals have an important role to play in keeping their communities safe, Whalen said.

“If people aren’t compliant and if people keep acting like it’s either a hoax or it doesn’t exist or they don’t like to wear masks, you know, yeah, we could be heading for (another shutdown),” she said. “I sincerely hope that doesn’t come to pass.”

The US-Israeli Plot against Iran WILL FAIL

US-Israeli Plot against Iran Doomed to Failure: Official

TEHRAN (Tasnim) – Secretary of Iran’s Expediency Council Mohsen Rezaei denounced the American-Israeli plot to counter Iran through normalization of ties between the Zionist regime and some Arab governments as a nonstarter.

Tasnim News Agency

Addressing an international conference on the decline of the US, held in the former American embassy in Tehran on Tuesday, Rezaei enumerated the signs of waning US power in various arenas, saying, “The recent plot initiated by the US and Israel to unite the Arabs and Israel against Iran will also end in failure.”

The decline of the US government is a significant issue, because the victory of the Islamic Revolution in Iran presented the region and the world with new ideas in defiance of the Western and American civilization and culture, he added.

The US economy, which shapes the pillar of American power, is lagging behind other emerging economies, Rezaei noted, saying Washington cannot afford to support the oppressing forces outside the US anymore.

Highlighting a steep decline in the US military power under the rule of both Republicans and Democrats, the Iranian official said the American defeats in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria have sapped Washington’s defense power.

“The US has lost its leadership in many parts of the world, while alternative models such as the Saudi-led proxy wars on Yemen have also gone nowhere,” he underlined.

Rezaei also said that Iran should seize the opportunity provided by the decline of the US to make progress and take advantage of new sciences.

In comments in November 2018, Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei highlighted the diminishing influence of the US government in all areas of power, saying Washington has even discredited “liberal democracy” which is known as the basis of Western civilization.

There is a consensus among major international experts that the US power is dwindling in all areas, the Leader underscored, adding that, conversely, the Iranian nation is moving forward and has a bright future.

Ayatollah Khamenei also branded the US government as the loser of confrontation with the Islamic Republic over the past 40 years, saying the fact in confrontation between the US and Iran is that “the victorious side in this challenge has been the Islamic Republic of Iran and the loser has been the US.”

More protests against Macron outside the temple walls

Israel Embassy in France decries ‘anti-French acts’ of Palestinians in Gaza

The Israeli Embassy in France condemned Monday the “anti-French acts” and protesters who burned photos of French President Emmanuel Macron on Saturday night in Gaza.

“We wholeheartedly condemn the anti-French acts and the burning of photos of President Emmanuel Macron by Palestinian activists in the Gaza Strip. Especially when this occurs with the tacit encouragement of Hamas,” the embassy tweeted.

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In the city Khan Younes in the Gaza Strip, a handful of demonstrators burned photos of Emmanuel Macron and called for the defense of the prophet and of Islam, according to witnesses.

More terror in the Pakistani nuclear horn

8 students killed, 136 wounded after bombing at Islamic seminary in Pakistan

PESHAWAR, Pakistan — A powerful bomb blast ripped through an Islamic seminary on the outskirts of the northwest Pakistani city of Peshawar on Tuesday morning, killing at least eight students and wounding 136 others, police and a hospital spokesman said.

The bombing happened as a prominent religious scholar during a special class was delivering a lecture about the teachings of Islam at the main hall of the Jamia Zubairia madrassa, said police officer Waqar Azim. He said initial investigations suggest the bomb went off minutes after someone left a bag at the madrassa.

TV footage showed the damaged main hall of the seminary, where the bombing took place. The hall was littered with broken glass and its carpet was stained with blood. Police said at least 11 pounds of explosives were used in the attack.

Several of the wounded students were in critical condition, and hospital authorities feared the death toll could climb further. Authorities said some seminary teachers and employees were also wounded in the bombing.

Initially police said the bombing killed and wounded children studying at the seminary but later revised their account to say that the students were in their mid-20s.

Shortly after the attack, residents rushed to the seminary to check up on their sons or relatives who were studying there. Many relatives were gathering at the city’s main Lady Reading Hospital, where the dead and wounded students were brought by police in ambulances and other vehicles.

Some Afghan students studying at the seminary were also among the wounded, officials said.

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan condemned the bombing and asked authorities to ensure the provision of best possible medical aid to the victims.

“I want to assure my nation we will ensure the terrorists responsible for this cowardly barbaric attack are brought to justice,” Khan said.

The bombing drew condemnation from the country’s opposition party, which has been holding rallies meant to force Khan’s government to quit.

From his hospital bed, a wounded student, Mohammad Saqib, 24, said religious scholar Rahimullah Haqqani was explaining verses from the Quran when suddenly they heard a deafening sound and then cries and saw blood-stained students crying for help.

“Someone helped me and put me in an ambulance and I was brought to hospital,” he said. Saqib had bandages on both arms but he was listed in a stable condition.

Another witness, Saeed Ullah, 24, said up to 500 students were present at the seminary’s main hall at the time of the explosion. He said teachers were also among those who were wounded in the bombing.

A video filmed by a student at the scene showed the Islamic scholar Haqqani delivering a lecture when the bomb exploded. It was unclear whether the teacher was among the wounded.

Mohammad Asim, a spokesman at the Lady Reading Hospital, said eight students died and they received dozens of wounded people, mostly seminary students.

The attack comes days after Pakistani intelligence alerted that militants could target public places and important buildings, including seminaries and mosques across Pakistan, including Peshawar.

India Pakistan conflict:Nuclear war between India and Pakistan could kill up to 125 million and launch a global climate catastrophe

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack in Peshawar which is the provincial capital of Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province bordering Afghanistan. The province has been the scene of such militant attacks in recent years, but sectarian violence has also killed or wounded people at mosques or seminaries across Pakistan.

The latest attack comes two days after a bombing in the southwestern city of Quetta killed three people. The Pakistani Taliban have been targeting public places, schools, mosques and the military across the country since 2001, when this Islamic nation joined the U.S.-led war on terror following the Sept. 11 attacks in the United States.

Mohammad Khurasani, a spokesman for the Pakistani Taliban, condemned Tuesday’s bombing. In a statement, he described the attack as a cowardly act, claiming that the country’s institutions were behind it.

Since then, the insurgents have declared war on the government of Pakistan and have carried out numerous attacks, including a brutal assault on an army-run school in the city of Peshawar in 2014 that killed 140 children and several teachers.

The Iranian horn continues to expand: Daniel 8

Rafael Grossi, director-general of the IAEA, talked to the AP news agency in Berlin [Markus Schreiber/AP]

Iran starts building underground nuclear facility: IAEA | Middle East | Al Jazeera

UN’s atomic watchdog confirms Iran has started building an underground centrifuge assembly plant.

Inspectors from the United Nations’ atomic watchdog have confirmed Iran has started building an underground centrifuge assembly plant after its previous one exploded in what Tehran called a sabotage attack, according to the agency’s head.

Iran also continues to stockpile greater amounts of low-enriched uranium, but does not appear to possess enough to produce a weapon, Rafael Grossi, director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), told The Associated Press on Tuesday in an interview in Berlin.

Following the July explosion at the Natanz nuclear site, Tehran said it would build a new, more secure, structure in the mountains around the area.

Satellite images of Natanz analysed by experts have yet to show any obvious signs of construction at the site in Iran’s central Isfahan province.

“They have started, but it’s not completed,” Grossi said. “It’s a long process.”

He would not give further details saying it’s “confidential information”. Iran’s mission to the UN did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Flashpoint for Western fears

Natanz hosts the country’s main uranium enrichment facility. In its long underground halls, centrifuges rapidly spin uranium hexafluoride gas to enrich uranium.

Natanz became a flashpoint for Western fears about Iran’s nuclear programme in 2002, when satellite photos showed Iran building an underground facility at the site, about 200km (125 miles) south of the capital, Tehran.

In 2003, the IAEA visited Natanz, which Iran said would house centrifuges for its nuclear programme, buried under about 7.6 metres (25 feet) of concrete. That offers protection from a potential air attack on the site, which also is guarded by anti-aircraft positions.

Natanz had been targeted by the Stuxnet computer virus previously, which is believed to be a creation of the United States and Israel.

Iran has yet to say who it suspects of carrying out the sabotage in the July incident. Suspicion has fallen on Israel, despite a claim of responsibility by a previously unheard-of group at the time.

Under provisions of the landmark 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, Iran is allowed to produce a certain amount of enriched uranium for non-military purposes but receives strict inspections to ensure it is not developing weapons.

In return, Iran was offered economic incentives by the countries involved and significant sanctions relief.

Since President Donald Trump pulled the US unilaterally out of the deal in 2018 and re-imposed sanctions, the other signatories – Germany, France, the United Kingdom, Russia and China – have struggled to keep the deal alive.

Meanwhile, Iran has been steadily exceeding the deal’s limits on how much uranium it can stockpile, the purity to which it can enrich uranium, and other restrictions to pressure those countries to come up with a plan to offset US sanctions.

Still though, Iran has continued to allow IAEA inspectors full access to its nuclear facilities, including Natanz, Grossi said.

In the latest IAEA quarterly report, the agency reported as of August 25 Iran had stockpiled 2,105.4kg (4,641.6 pounds) of low-enriched uranium, well above the 202.8kg (447.1 pounds) allowed under the nuclear deal.

It was also enriching uranium to a purity of 4.5 percent, higher than the 3.67 percent allowed under the accord.

In the next report, due in coming weeks, Grossi said: “We continue to see the same trend that we have seen so far.”

‘Significant quantity’

According to a widely cited analysis by the Washington-based Arms Control Association, Iran would need about 1,050kg (1.16 tonnes) of low-enriched uranium – under 5 percent purity – in gas form and would then need to enrich it further to weapons-grade, or more than 90 percent purity, to make a nuclear weapon.

The IAEA’s current assessment is, however, that Iran does not at the moment possess a “significant quantity” of uranium – defined by the agency as enough to produce a bomb – according to Grossi.

“At the moment, I’m not in contact with my inspectors but by memory, I wouldn’t say so,” he said.

“All of these are projections and the IAEA is not into speculation,” he added. “What may happen? What could happen? We are inspectors, we say the amounts that we see.”

Iran insists it has no interest in producing a bomb and Grossi noted before the nuclear agreement, Tehran enriched its uranium up to 20 percent purity, which is just a short technical step away from the weapons-grade level of 90 percent. And in 2013, Iran’s stockpile of enriched uranium was already more than 7,000kg (7.72 tonnes) with higher enrichment, but it did not pursue a bomb.

“The idea of a ‘significant quantity’ is a technical parameter … that applies in the context of the safeguards agreement to indicate amounts which could be theoretically used for the development of a nuclear weapon,” he said.

“The fact that there could be such an amount would not indicate automatically that a nuclear weapon is being fabricated, so I think we have to be very careful when we use these terms.”

Grossi personally visited Tehran in late August for meetings with top officials and managed to break a months-long impasse over two locations thought to be from the early 2000s where Iran was suspected of having stored or used undeclared nuclear material and possibly conducted nuclear-related activities.

Inspectors have now taken samples from both of those sites, and Grossi said they are still undergoing lab analysis.

“It was a constructive solution to a problem what we were having,” he said. “And I would say since then we have kept the good level of cooperation in the sense that our inspectors are regularly present and visiting the sites.”

Source : AP

The danger of the Russian and China nuclear horns: Daniel 7

Russia and China’s Nuclear Weapons are Becoming More Dangerous

What does that mean for U.S. nuclear doctrine and strategy? One top U.S. official has some ideas. 

The U.S. must massively “revise” its nuclear weapons-oriented 21st-Century Strategic Deterrence Theory to reinvigorate its arsenal of current and future weapons of mass destruction as a way to stay in front of fast-modernizing rivals, the Commander of U.S. Strategic Command said. 

Adm. Charles Richard told a prominent think tank that the U.S. must quickly and efficiently prepare to face two major nuclear-armed rivals in the coming years, citing Chinese and Russian nuclear-weapons modernization as well as fast-emerging threats posed by North Korea and Iran. 

Having not faced a major nuclear rival in decades, the U.S. needs to fortify and strengthen its deterrence posture through the construction of new nuclear-weapons and maintenance of current systems, Richard said, according to a Pentagon report. 

“Given Russia and China’s expanding capabilities in increasingly aggressive behavior, and those posed by nuclear North Korea and possibly Iran, we must reinvigorate the national conversation on the importance of strategic deterrence,” Richard told the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

The fundamental concept of deterrence theory is of course grounded upon the premise that the massive amount of destructive power contained in nuclear weapons help, if even somewhat paradoxically, keep peace and prevent war. The current climate, however, is one in which major rivals such as Russia have built new low-yield nuclear weapons and, as Richard put it, blurred the line between conventional and nuclear weapons. This blurring, some suggest, could lower the threshold to nuclear war of some kind. 

Russia’s addition of new low-yield tactical nuclear weapons is likely one reason why the Trump administration’s Nuclear Posture Review has inspired the U.S. to create new, low-yield sea-launched nuclear-armed cruise missiles and ballistic missiles.

 “Our post-Cold War experiences of operating in uncontested domains are over. Our adversaries took advantage of this period, emboldened … their aggressive behavior, expanded their capabilities and reconsidered their tactics and strategies.” 

What would it mean to revise deterrence theory?

Perhaps an even larger nuclear arsenal than that which is currently planned? Richard could be referring to a number of possibilities, including the continued acceleration of the Pentagon’s new ICBM program, Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent. DoD plans to build as many as 400 new, more resilient, reliable and accurate ICBMs to replace the 1960s-era Minuteman IIIs. As part of this strategy, Richard also stressed the importance of upgrading and maintaining the Minuteman IIIs for the purpose of preventing a lapse in weaponry as GBSD comes online. 

It may also be possible that Richard intends to advocate for the Pentagon to acquire larger numbers of its now-in-development SLBM, Submarine Launched Ballistic Missile. This nuclear-armed SLBM has already been engineered as a new, lower-yield variant of the well known Trident II D5 weapon. 

Kris Osborn is Defense Editor for the National Interest. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army—Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also has a Masters Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.

Image: Creative Commons. 

How Israel is Striking the Shi’a Horn

Covert strikes against Iran recount Israeli campaign against Iraq

Ted SniderOctober 27, 2020

A handout image supplied by the IIPA (Iran International Photo Agency) shows a view of the reactor building at the Russian-built Bushehr nuclear power plant as the first fuel is loaded, on August 21, 2010 in Bushehr, southern Iran. (Photo: IIPA/Getty Images)

The country had become an existential threat. It was ruled by a megalomaniac who wanted Israel eliminated. And now he wanted a nuclear bomb. 

The leader claimed his nuclear program was purely a civilian program, but Israel knew that was not true. So, it set the program back. Israel undertook covert assassinations of nuclear scientists. And, when that did not work, it blew up a nuclear facility.

But the country wasn’t Iran. This was Iraq under Saddam Hussein who came to power in 1979 and ruled for 24 years. To challenge the nuclear program, Israel used assassinations, sabotage and targeted strikes in Iraq, a signature that is today found in Iran. 

Over the summer, an explosion obliterated the Natanz nuclear enrichment facility in central Iran. Early sources placed responsibility for the July 3, 2020 strike on Israel, although responsibility is unconfirmed. Subsequent reporting, including by The New York Times, continued to lay the blame on Israel. Making the case stronger, former Israeli defense minister Avigdor Liberman, on July 6, named the Middle Eastern intelligence source who leaked Israel’s role as Mossad chief Yossi Cohen.

Yet Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz denied the allegation, saying “Not every incident that transpires in Iran necessarily has something to do with us. … All those systems are complex, they have very high safety constraints and I’m not sure they always know how to maintain them.” Leaving aside Gantz’ humor, the explosion was not the result of an accident.

BBC reporter Jiyar Gol said he received an email from an unknown group called the Homeland Cheetahs that claimed responsibility for an attack on the Natanz nuclear site two hours earlier. It was only several hours later that Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization announced that there had been an explosion at the Natanz nuclear plant. The group is likely not real, but the email shows that someone knew about the act of sabotage long before it happened.

An unnamed Middle Eastern security official told the Washington Post, “There was an opportunity, and someone in Israel calculated the risk and took the opportunity.”

Looking back to Israel’s intervention in Iraq offers insights into the more current spat of bombings. By 1973, Iraq’s nuclear program began under then Prime Minister Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr, although by 1973 Saddam was fully in charge and al-Bakr was a figurehead only. Israel responded by establishing a team called New Era whose job was to frustrate Iraq’s plan to acquire nuclear weapons. One of the first strategies they tried was assassinating nuclear scientists who were key to the program.

Israeli historian Ronen Bergman reported in “Rise and Kill First: The Secret History of Israel’s Targeted Assassinations,” on April 6, 1979 operatives from Mossad’s especially clandestine Bayonet unit blew up a hangar in France. It housed machines that formed a part of the nuclear reactor France was selling to Iraq. The explosion set back the Iraqi nuclear program.

According to Bergman the switch to target assassinations began with Yehia al-Mashad, an Egyptian nuclear physicist who was hired as a senior scientist in Iraq’s nuclear program. Allegedly, the Mossad began to follow him in early 1980, tracking him for about four months. Then they allegedly killed him in a French hotel by cracking his head with a large, heavy ashtray.

Six months later, the Mossad allegedly checked off the second name on its list: Abd al-Rahman Rasoul. Rasoul was a civil engineer in charge of the construction of buildings for the nuclear project. He was shot to death but a postmortem found a strange virus in his system. He reported feeling like he had food poisoning. In a way, he did. The next to die was Salman Rashid al-Lami. Al-Lami was an engineer who was training to enrich uranium in Geneva. But Switzerland was no safer than France for an Iraqi nuclear scientist. He was killed by a mysterious virus.

Three down.

The assassination program did not stop Saddam. Slain scientists were replaced by new scientists, and the program went on. After a year of extra-judicial killings, the Mossad knew their plan wasn’t working. Assassinations yielded to bombs.

On June 7, 1981, 14 Israeli aircraft took off and headed into Iraqi airspace in an illegal act of war. They dropped bomb after bomb on Iraq’s Osirak nuclear reactor, utterly obliterating it. 

Three decades later, the pattern would repeat itself. 

Almost exactly 30 years after Yehia al-Mashad, the Mossad allegedly detonated a remote controlled bomb planted on a motorcycle next to the car of Massoud Ali Mohammadi. The bomb killed the Iranian physicist. Ten Iranians who were accused of working for the Mossad were arrested. One of them, Jamali Fashi, said in a confession that aired on Iranian state TV and cannot be independently verified, he was given a computer by the Mossad in general and instructions to assassinate Ali Mohammadi. Fashi was convicted and hung in 2012.

In November 2010, a motorcycle was again used to kill Majid Shahriyari. Motorcycle riders attached a magnetized bomb to his car. The future head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Association, Fereydoun Abbasi-Davani, escaped being killed in the same way on the same day when he jumped out of his car.

In the fourth assassination attempt with a motorcycle, the Iranian physicist and nuclear scientist Darioush Rezainejad was killed when two gunmen on motorcycles shot him. Rezainejad played a key role in Iran’s nuclear program. A source in Israel’s intelligence community told Germany’s Der Spiegal that Mossad was behind the assassination of Rezainejad.

Again employing a motorcycle and a magnetized bomb, this time placed on the roof of the car, Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan, a scientist involved in purchasing equipment for Iran’s nuclear program, was assassinated on January 11, 2012. Thirteen were arrested two weeks later on suspicion of working for Israel.

In November 2011, Major General Hassan Moqqadam, a pioneer in Iranian missile development, was killed in a massive explosion at a military arms depot that houses Iran’s long-range Shahab missiles. That was the second time there had been an explosion at a Shahab missile base. Time magazine revealed that a western intelligence source said that he assumes Mossad was behind the explosion.

Two senior officials in the Obama administration told NBC news that the assassinations were carried out by the Mujahideen-e-Khalq (MEK), an Iranian opposition group that spent many years on America’s terrorist list. They also alleged that the MEK was “financed, trained, and armed” by Israeli intelligence. 

In Iran, as in Iraq before it, assassinations proved insufficient to kill the nuclear program. But history has shown us, the pattern of extra-judicial killings and covert strikes will endure. 

Iran Slams Macron for the Truth

Tehran slams France’s Macron over Islamophobic remarks

TEHRAN – Iran has strongly criticized French President Emanuel Macron over his anti-Islam stance after Macron described Islam as a religion “in crisis” worldwide.

“#Macron’s irrational behavior in public #AntiIslamism shows his crudeness in politics, otherwise he would not have dared to embrace Islam in his quest for leadership in #Europe,” Ali Shamkhani, secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council (SNSC), wrote in a tweet on Monday.

“I suggest that he read more history and not rejoice in the support of a declining America & #Zionism,” Shamkhani added.

Earlier this month, Macron pledged to fight “Islamist separatism”, which he said was threatening to take control in some Muslim communities around France.

“In extremism the bodies of people are targeted and in insult their souls,” Velayati says.

His comments, along with his backing of satirical outlets publishing caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), has led to a social media campaign calling for the boycott of French products from supermarkets in Arab countries and Turkey.

Hashtags such as the #BoycottFrenchProducts in English and the Arabic #NeverTheProphet trended across countries including Kuwait, Qatar, Palestine, Egypt, Algeria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Turkey.

“Muslims and monotheists of the world condemn in the strongest form the blatant enmity of the foolish and stubborn leaders of France toward the prophet of mercy (PBUH) unanimously,” Parliament Speaker Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf tweeted on Monday.

Ghalibaf added that such wickedness shows the French leaders’ enmity toward all the heavenly religions.

On Friday, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) condemned what it said was France’s continued attack against Muslims by insulting religious symbols.

The secretariat of the Jeddah-based organization said in a statement it is surprised at the official political rhetoric issued by some French officials that offend French-Islamic relations and fuels feelings of hatred for political party gains.

Velayati calls extremism and offending the prophet two sides of the same coin

Ali Akbar Velayati, a top foreign policy adviser to the Leader of the Islamic Revolution, said extremism and offending the prophet are two sides of the same coin which the international Zionism and the global arrogance have adopted against Islam.

“In extremism the bodies of people are targeted and in insult their souls,” Velayati said, criticizing the French government’s pretext of freedom of expression to foment hatred between people.

The veteran politician also called on all Muslims across the world to be vigilant in the face of such conspiracies against Islam.

France has for long tried to impose its own secular culture on its Muslim population, but this has disastrously backfired.

With this regard, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has said that the West’s imposition of its culture on others is a form of “silent violence”, saying that terrorist groups such as Daesh are the result of such cultural invasion.

“I do not deny the importance and value of cultural interaction,” Ayatollah Khamenei wrote in an open letter to the youth in Western countries after the November 2015 attacks in France.

“Whenever these interactions are conducted in natural circumstances and with respect for the receiving culture, they result in growth, development and richness. On the contrary, inharmonious interactions have been unsuccessful and harmful impositions,” Ayatollah Khamenei stated.

“Vile groups such as Daesh are the spawn of such ill-fated pairings with imported cultures,” he added.

Ayatollah Khamenei maintained that if the issue of terrorism was simply theological, “we would have had to witness such phenomena before the colonialist era, yet history shows the contrary.”

“Historical records clearly show how colonialist confluence of extremist and rejected thoughts in the heart of a Bedouin tribe, planted the seed of extremism in this region,” he said.

“How then is it possible that such garbage as Daesh comes out of one of the most ethical and humane religious schools which as part of its inner core, includes the notion that taking the life of one human being is equivalent to killing the whole of humanity?” Ayatollah Khamenei noted.

The China horn balks at U.S. efforts for nuclear arms talks: Daniel 7

China balks at U.S. efforts for nuclear arms talks

Ramesh Thakur

Sep 30, 2020

Beijing perceives U.S. policy as being increasingly aggressive and aimed at containing China. Nuclear forces are seen as the ultimate guarantor of national security. | REUTERS

During the Cold War, the nuclear landscape was dominated by the globe-spanning U.S.–Soviet bipolar rivalry. Russia and the United States still account for over 90 percent of the world’s stockpile of nuclear weapons. The emerging strategic rivalry, however, is between the U.S. as the weakening hegemon and China as the rising comprehensive national power. This is why Washington decided it could no longer ignore the nuclear challenge to its interests in the vast Indo–Pacific maritime space posed by China’s absence from the missile prohibitions of the INF treaty. About 95 percent of China’s missiles are in the INF range, enabling it to target forward-deployed U.S. forces and allied territory, including Japan, Guam and Australia, with relatively inexpensive precision-strike conventional capability.

Without INF restrictions, the U.S. can develop and station ground-launched intermediate-range cruise missiles in Guam, Japan, South Korea, and northern Australia that could reach deep into China’s interior. However, the search for Pacific allies prepared to host intermediate range conventional U.S. missiles aimed at China will be challenging, with the downsides in bilateral relations with China and domestic political opposition likely to outweigh potential military advantages.

Speaking after the INF’s demise in August last year, U.S. President Donald Trump said he wanted Beijing to be party to any new nuclear pact with Moscow. China has rejected requests to save the INF by trilateralizing it. Its stockpile of 320 nuclear warheads is not comparable to 6,375 Russian and 5,800 U.S. warheads. On Aug. 6, 2019, Disarmament Ambassador Li Song expressed China’s deep regret and opposition to the “irresponsible unilateral” U.S. withdrawal from the INF. On the same day Fu Cong, director of arms control in China’s Foreign Ministry, cautioned Asia-Pacific countries against permitting INF-ranged missiles to be deployed on their territory.

In an agenda-resetting speech in October 2018, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence outlined a thick catalog of predatory practices and aggressive behavior across a broad front by China. American Secretary of State Mike Pompeo updated the administration’s strategic approach to China in a speech on July 23, depicting China as an existential threat and calling for “a new alliance of democracies.” Where then-President Ronald Reagan had based his arms control dealings with the Soviet Union on the bon mot “trust but verify,” Pompeo said with China’s communist regime, “we must distrust and verify.”

At a news conference on Jan. 22, Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang bluntly rejected U.S. calls for trilateral arms control talks: “The U.S. constantly makes an issue of China on this to dodge and shift its responsibilities for nuclear disarmament.” Beijing has concluded that Trump doesn’t believe in arms control is scapegoating China to pursue his real goal of dissolving the existing U.S.–Russia nuclear arms control regime in order for his country to compete more effectively with China. Nuclear analyst Tong Zhao explains: “China views the U.S. push for trilateral arms control as purely insincere, hypocritical, and hostile against China.” Beijing is also suspicious of arms control as a tool for the strong to undermine the security of the weak.

Washington has remained persistent. In May the new presidential senior envoy on arms control, Marshall Billingslea, expressed interest in a new far-reaching accord to limit all Chinese, Russian, and U.S. nuclear warheads, including those on short-range delivery systems and those kept in storage. This would replace New START but would also require very intrusive verification measures to cover stockpiles. It will be challenging either to persuade China to accept significantly lower numbers of warheads than Russia and the U.S., or alternatively to persuade Moscow and Washington to permit China to reach parity. A third way doesn’t exist. Fu Cong said, “if the U.S. says that they are ready to come down to the Chinese level, China will be happy to participate the next day.” However, “we know that’s not going to happen.”

Especially when Beijing perceives U.S. policy as being increasingly aggressive and aimed at containing China, nuclear forces are seen as the ultimate guarantor of national security. To the Chinese, U.S. refusal to acknowledge mutual vulnerability and efforts to enhance damage-limitation and long-range precision strike capabilities signal a higher nuclear risk threshold. This is an updated version of the classic security dilemma where one side’s defense-cum-deterrence preparedness to bolster national security is perceived by the other side as strengthened offensive capability and hence a threat to its security. This is why China has warned against the development and deployment of missile defense systems that could trigger a “high-tech arms race” which aggravates “the international strategic imbalance.”

Hu Xijin, editor-in-chief of the militantly nationalistic Global Times, argues that “China needs to expand the number of its nuclear warheads to 1,000 in a relatively short time and procure at least 100 DF-41 strategic missiles.” But Zhao responded: “If China were to significantly build up its nuclear arsenal, it would seriously damage its international image and potentially threaten the efficacy and stability of the international nonproliferation regime.” This would undermine China’s “own interest in maintaining regional and international stability.” He notes that China successfully safeguarded its national security against far superior numbers of U.S. and Soviet nuclear warheads during the Cold War. Its current nuclear technological prowess is comparable to Russia and the U.S., and it has hugely better survivability and counter-attack capabilities compared to its assets during the Cold War. Zhao’s warning that “a major expansion of nuclear weapons may bring more fear than respect” deserves to be taken to heart by all nuclear-armed states.

China’s stockpile has remained stable over decades, despite fluctuations in Russian and U.S. numbers, because Beijing doesn’t believe nuclear weapons can be used militarily to fight a war. Rather, they are political weapons to deter nuclear attack and prevent nuclear blackmail. This permits China to adopt asymmetric deterrence postures vis‑a‑vis the U.S. with significantly lower stockpiles. Instead of engaging in a sprint to parity that would fuel the nuclear arms race, China relies on buttressing the survivability and penetrability of its nuclear forces. For example greater maneuverability of the DF-21D missiles makes it difficult for enemy weapons to intercept them, while enhancing the precision of their munitions makes it easier to target moving enemy vessels with them. Multilateral nuclear arms control agreements will have to accommodate the asymmetries in numbers and types of warheads and missiles, doctrines and force postures as they affect the relative military balance of the countries concerned.

Ramesh Thakur is an emeritus professor at the Crawford School of Public Policy, The Australian National University.