The Iranian horn is still calling the shots in Iraq: Daniel 8:3

Iran’s supreme leader ‘directly ordered Iraqi armed factions to stop attacking US interests after taking UK advice’

It was Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei who last week directly ordered Iraqi armed factions to halt their attacks on US interests after taking advice from the UK, Middle East Eye (MEE) said in an exclusive report on October 22.

Shia armed factions and politicians were cited as saying Khamenei’s orders were “explicit” and demanded the paramilitaries “immediately” cease their attacks.

The US embassy in Baghdad, military bases hosting the US-led coalition forces in Iraq and logistical support convoys were subjected to near daily attacks with Katyusha rockets, explosives and sometimes direct fire over the past three months. In response, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo threatened to close Washington’s embassy in Baghdad unless the attackers were brought to heel. MEE said Iraqi officials informed it that Pompeo also pledged to strike dozens of targets, including secret headquarters and sites belonging to armed factions and Iranian-backed politicians.

Iraqi officials were quoted as saying the US administration was afraid that armed groups linked to Iran would attack the Baghdad embassy to embarrass US President Donald Trump ahead of the November 3 American presidential election.

Avoid provoking Trump”

MEE said it had determined that it was the UK that gave Iran “very important advice”, namely, in the words of a cited politician, “to avoid provoking Trump at this stage as he is serious about his threats and because he is desperate and will not hesitate to do a reckless act that will cost everyone dearly”.

Much on minds in Iran right is how Tehran would respond to Joe Biden’s proposals for bringing the US back into the nuclear deal abandoned by Trump in 2018 should Biden win the White House.

Iran’s reformists and centrists remain badly damaged by the failure of the original agreement, signed by centrist, pragmatic President Hassan Rouhani, to deliver economic benefits to ordinary Iranians. The hardliners were always against signing up to the deal, saying the US could never be trusted.

In a recent interview in Kar Va Kargar, Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, insisted the foreign ministry had not been naive to negotiate with the Americans, but said Trump had “blown up the entire negotiating room”.

Rouhani is due to leave office after Iran’s presidential election in early 2021. As reported by the Guardian on October 22, Iran’s weakened government may only have a few months to negotiate a revived nuclear deal before facing its own electoral challenge by hardliners who oppose any engagement with the West.

Biden has pledged that “if Iran returns to strict compliance with the nuclear deal, the US would rejoin the agreement as a starting point for follow-on negotiations”. But even if he does win the US presidency, Biden would not take office until January 20, leaving only a narrow window for reformists to convince Iranians that the path of engagement is worth trying again.

Iran, meanwhile, would be likely to demand compensation for the massive economic losses caused to it by Trump walking out of the nuclear deal and imposing crushing sanctions.

Extremists want Rouhani impeachment

Al-Monitor reported on October 20 that extremists among the opponents of Rouhani are calling for his impeachment and even execution after he suggested rapprochement with the US could happen.

“Mr. Rouhani! Today, the absolute majority of the Iranian public demands nothing less than your dismissal and punishment,” the publication reported Mojtaba Zolnouri, a hardline lawmaker from the Paydari camp as tweeting. Paydari is shaped by the staunchest Rouhani critics known for their intolerance toward engagement with the West. Zolnouri, who also chairs the Iranian parliament’s influential National Security and Foreign Policy Commission, went further: “The supreme leader should issue a ruling on hanging you a thousand times.”

The Clandestine Iranian Nuclear Horn: Daniel 8

Iran Regime’s Clandestine Pursuit Of Nuclear Weapons – OpEd

Arab NewsOctober 23, 2020

General area of Tehran with Sorkheh-Hessar Iranian nuclear site. (Supplied)

General area of Tehran with Sorkheh-Hessar Iranian nuclear site. (Supplied)

By Dr. Majid Rafizadeh*

Any policy analysts, scholars or politicians who still advocate for a return to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, aka the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), must recognize how the Iranian regime used the agreement as cover to further intensify its controversial nuclear projects.

Several credible reports and statements from senior Iranian officials have made it clear that Tehran was advancing its nuclear development even after the P5+1 (the US, the UK, France, Russia, China, and Germany) and Iran signed the nuclear deal in 2015.

A report published last week by the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) shows that Tehran was lying to the world when it said it had stopped its nuclear activities under the JCPOA. The report claims that the Iranian regime continued to pursue the development of nuclear weapons, particularly at the Organization of Defensive Innovation and Research, which operates within the Ministry of Defense and is controlled by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).

The NCRI had previously been the first to reveal Iran’s clandestine nuclear activities at two major sites, Natanz and Arak, in 2000. Due to its connections in Iran, its information is said to have a high level of credibility. Frank Pabian, an adviser on nuclear non-proliferation matters at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, told The New York Times in 2010 that the NCRI is “right 90 percent of the time.”

This new revelation should not come as a surprise, since the Tehran regime has a history of hiding its nuclear developments from the international community.

In his 2018 speech to the UN General Assembly, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu broke a story when he stated that Iran had a “secret atomic warehouse for storing massive amounts of equipment and material from (its) secret nuclear weapons program,” at a time when the regime claimed it was complying with the terms of the nuclear deal. Although Iranian leaders insisted that the nuclear warehouse was a carpet cleaning facility, traces of radioactive uranium were later detected at the site by International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors.

In addition, Israel’s seizure of documents from a nuclear archive in Tehran, also in 2018, answered some questions that the IAEA had failed to address for decades. The Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) subsequently reported: “Iran intended to build five nuclear warheads, each with an explosive yield of 10 kilotons and able to be delivered by ballistic missile.”

Even the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, Ali Akbar Salehi, openly admitted to quietly purchasing replacement parts for its Arak nuclear reactor while Iran was conducting the negotiations for the JCPOA, under which it was required to destroy the original components. He recalled last year: “The leader (Ayatollah Ali Khamenei) warned us that they (the P5+1) were violators of agreements. We had to act wisely.”

He added of the Arak nuclear reactor core: “There are tubes where the fuel goes. We had bought similar tubes, but I could not declare this at the time. When they told us to pour cement into the tubes… we said: ‘Fine. We will pour.’ But we did not tell them that we had other tubes. Otherwise, they would have told us to pour cement into those tubes as well. Now we have the same tubes.”

Furthermore, IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi in March raised serious concerns about possible clandestine and undeclared nuclear sites in Iran. He said: “The agency identified a number of questions related to possible undeclared nuclear material and nuclear-related activities at three locations in Iran. The agency sought access to two of the locations. Iran has not provided access to these locations and has not engaged in substantive discussions to clarify the agency’s questions.”

These developments demonstrate that the nuclear deal only paved the way for the Iranian regime to intensify its dangerous nuclear activities. The JCPOA provided the regime’s leaders with vast additional funding, most of which was funneled into the treasury of the IRGC for its ballistic missile and nuclear projects.

Now, the Iranian regime’s estimated breakout time — the time required to produce enough weapons-grade uranium for one nuclear weapon — is as short as three and a half months. It is violating all of the restrictions of the JCPOA, including by increasing its stockpile of low-enriched uranium from 1,020.9 kg to 1,571.6 kg as of May 20. That is nearly eight times more than the regime was allowed to maintain under the nuclear deal.

According to an ISIS report released last month: “A new development is that Iran may have enough low-enriched uranium to produce enough weapons-grade uranium for a second nuclear weapon, where the second one could be produced more quickly than the first, requiring in total as little as 5.5 months to produce enough weapons-grade uranium for two nuclear weapons.”

Iran’s clandestine nuclear activities underline the fact that appeasing and providing relief to the regime will only empower and enable it to further pursue its controversial atomic weapon ambitions.

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

This bombshell US-Russia nuclear deal is a diversionary tactic

A bombshell US-Russia nuclear deal? Or a diversionary tactic?

By Tara D. Sonenshine, Opinion Contributor

October 21, 2020 – 07:00 PM EDT

Through enterprising reporting by Michael Gordon in The Wall Street Journal, we first learned that the U.S. and Russia were on the verge of an arms-control deal that would freeze the number of nuclear warheads on each side and extend the New START agreement for a year. That’s a pretty big deal a few weeks before a presidential election at a time when we are concerned about Russian interference in the election.

The landmark New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, set to expire on February 5, is the last treaty between the U.S. and Russia placing limits on the growth of the world’s two largest nuclear arsenals. It put a limit on the number of warheads deployed by each side to 1,550. But the follow-on was left unclear. What seemed like a frozen issue regarding an extension of that nuclear agreement suddenly appears to have thawed with the release of statements from Moscow and Washington:

The United States is prepared to meet immediately to finalize a verifiable agreement. We expect Russia to empower its diplomats to do the same,” said a State Department statement. The Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement that the country “proposes extending New START for one year, and at the same time, it stands ready, together with the U.S., to assume a political obligation on freezing a number of the nuclear warheads possessed by the parties for this period.”

Why now? How serious are these statements?

On the one hand, the news throws a bit of a public diplomacy curve ball to Vice President Biden just days before a presidential debate. Should he embrace this idea or express skepticism? 

First, it is worth underscoring that arms control is always in the national interest, and reducing the dangers of a nuclear conflagration is part of what all Americans should want from their leaders. In the case of Russia, where, together with the United States, 90 percent of the world’s nuclear weapons exist, it is critical that we make progress on reigning in the numbers of weapons with agreements that can be monitored and verified. So, we should all welcome any progress on that front in the sense of a big picture. 

Given its timing, this announcement seems more political in nature than anything else. The details have not been fleshed out or likely negotiated, and with these kinds of treaties, the devil is always in the details. Yes, this is a good step, but we should have a lot of questions about how these goals could actually be met, legally and legislatively. 

We know very little about how the United States and Russia would actually monitor and inspect each other’s nuclear warhead production sites – a new twist, and what legally binding agreements could be reached to see one another’s highly sensitive warhead locations.

Second, noticeably absent from the American and Russian statements are any mention of the inclusion of the Chinese or Europeans – both of whom are critical to long-term arms control success. 

Another big sticking point will be Senate ratification of any upcoming agreement that might flow from this framework agreement. With the Senate potentially about to change in complexion, it seems highly unlikely that hearings will be scheduled immediately to examine the intentions of both sides. With U.S.-Russia relations at a low point, this is not going to be an easy road.

Nobody wants a nuclear war. That’s the easy part. The rest is very complex. America and Russia have been negotiating treaties to limit nuclear weapons since the now-famous SALT negotiations in the early 1970s. The Strategic Arms Limitation Talks were aimed at curtailing the manufacture of strategic missiles capable of carrying nuclear weapons.

Subsequent agreements were reached in the early 1990s and then the major milestone in a New Start Treaty signed in February 2011 – the one due to expire in February.

But so much has happened between the United States and Russia with investigations of hacking, charges of cyber intrusions in Western elections, alleged poisoning of Russians and the minefield of issues around Russia and Ukraine that culminated in impeachment hearings. It is fair to be skeptical about whether or not this is really an arms control announcement or just a diversion from COVID-19 and other global unpleasantness. 

My advice would be to embrace the big picture goal of arms control but not get backed into a corner on the details. Where we can all agree is on the need to put restraints on nuclear weapons. In a time of massive disagreement, that’s a useful place to begin. 

Tara D. Sonenshine is former U.S. under secretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs.

Babylon the Great coerces countries to withdraw from UN nuke ban treaty

Iran nuclear deal: UN rejects US bid to 'snapback' Iran sanctions - BBC News

US urges countries to withdraw from UN nuke ban treaty – The Washington Post

UNITED NATIONS — The United States is urging countries that have ratified a U.N. treaty to ban nuclear weapons to withdraw their support as the pact nears the 50 ratifications needed to trigger its entry into force, which supporters say could happen this week.

The U.S. letter to signatories, obtained by the Associated Press, says the five original nuclear powers — the U.S., Russia, China, Britain and France — and America’s NATO allies “stand unified in our opposition to the potential repercussions” of the treaty.

It says the treaty “turns back the clock on verification and disarmament and is dangerous” to the half-century-old Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, considered the cornerstone of global nonproliferation efforts.

“Although we recognize your sovereign right to ratify or accede to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), we believe that you have made a strategic error and should withdraw your instrument of ratification or accession,” the letter says.

The treaty requires that all ratifying countries “never under any circumstances … develop, test, produce, manufacture, otherwise acquire, possess or stockpile nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.” It also bans any transfer or use of nuclear weapons or nuclear explosive devices — and the threat to use such weapons — and requires parties to promote the treaty to other countries.

Beatrice Fihn, executive director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize-winning coalition whose work helped spearhead the nuclear ban treaty, told The Associated Press Tuesday that several diplomatic sources confirmed that they and other states that ratified the TPNW had been sent letters by the U.S. requesting their withdrawal.

She said the “increasing nervousness, and maybe straightforward panic, with some of the nuclear-armed states and particularly the Trump administration” shows that they “really seem to understand that this is a reality: Nuclear weapons are going to be banned under international law soon.”

Fihn dismissed the nuclear powers’ claim that the treaty interferes with the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty as “straightforward lies, to be frank.”

“They have no actual argument to back that up,” she said. “The Nonproliferation Treaty is about preventing the spread of nuclear weapons and eliminating nuclear weapons, and this treaty implements that. There’s no way you can undermine the Nonproliferation Treaty by banning nuclear weapons. It’s the end goal of the Nonproliferation Treaty.”

The NPT sought to prevent the spread of nuclear arms beyond the five original weapons powers. It requires non-nuclear signatory nations to not pursue atomic weapons in exchange for a commitment by the five powers to move toward nuclear disarmament and to guarantee non-nuclear states’ access to peaceful nuclear technology for producing energy.

“That the Trump administration is pressuring countries to withdraw from a United Nations-backed disarmament treaty is an unprecedented action in international relations,” Fihn said. “That the U.S. goes so far as insisting countries violate their treaty obligations by not promoting the TPNW to other states shows how fearful they are of the treaty’s impact and growing support.”

The treaty was approved by the 193-member U.N. General Assembly on July 7, 2017 by a vote of 122 in favor, the Netherlands opposed, and Singapore abstaining. Among countries voting in favor was Iran. The five nuclear powers and four other countries known or believed to possess nuclear weapons — India, Pakistan, North Korea and Israel — boycotted negotiations and the vote on the treaty, along with many of their allies.

The treaty currently has 47 ratifications and needs 50 ratifications to trigger its entry into force in 90 days.

Fihn said there are about 10 countries that are trying very hard to ratify to get to 50, “and we know that there are a few governments that are working towards Friday as the date. … We’re not 100 percent it will happen, but hopefully it will.”

Friday has been an unofficial target because it is the eve of United Nations Day on Oct. 24 which marks the anniversary of the entry into force in 1945 of the U.N. Charter. The day has been observed since 1948 and this year is the 75th anniversary of the founding of the U.N.

Fihn stressed that the entry into force of the treaty will be “a really big deal” because it will become part of international law and will be raised in discussions on disarmament, war crimes and weapons.

“And I think that over time pressure will grow on the nuclear-armed states to join the treaty,” she said.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

The Iranian horn continues to grow: Daniel 8

Report: Iran continues to develop nuclear weapons

Two reports on different websites indicate that Iran continues to develop nuclear weapons despite the sanctions and the various intelligence efforts to thwart the program. It’s not a surprise

Ami Rojkes Dombe | 20/10/2020

The website of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), the Iranian opposition, has published the location of sites belonging to the nuclear weapon development program in Iran. “SPND has continued its work following the JCPOA. The structure and the personnel of SPND remain intact and part of the institution has been expanded,” said Alireza Jaffarzadeh, deputy director of the NCRI U.S. Office, at a briefing. The added that Brig. Gen. Mohsen Fakhrizadeh Mahabadi continues to be head of the SPND.    

The report disclosed the site located in Sorkh-e Hesar near Tehran. The site is located north of the Khojir missile development facility. “Around 2017, some sections of various groups of SPND, including the geophysics, known at the Chamran Group gradually moved in, as the construction of other sections of the site were later completed,” said Jaffarzadeh. “Moreover, by being located in a military area, it has found an appropriate cover to keep commutes by, and the identities of, the personnel working there a secret.”    

According to information of the Iranian opposition, the head of the geophysics group is Dr. Mohammad Javad Zaker, a lecturer at Beheshti university, and he has a deputy named Hamed Aber. “Geophysics group of the SPND works on projects related to underground nuclear tests such as discovery of underground tunnel and registration of the impact of explosion,” said Jaffarzadeh.    

The second SPND site presented by the Iranian opposition, called the Marivan Site, is located near the town of Abadeh in Isfahan province. The site was reported by NCRI for the first time in 2017. “What we have found out is that this site and the area surrounding it is completely controlled by the IRGC. Locals are not allowed in the area,” said Jaffarzadeh.        

This site is connected to the operations of the “Center for Research and Expansion of Technologies on Explosions and Impact (METFAZ),” a subsidiary of SPND involved in the building of nuclear weapons. An IRGC engineer named Hashemi Tabar oversees the secret projects being carried out at the site. 

This report follows one at the beginning of the month on the website of the ISIS research institute (also based on information from the Iranian nuclear archive) claiming that Iran is building a new centrifuge assembly facility in Natanz, a replacement for the one that blew up at the end of June in an operation attributed to the Israeli Mossad.  

“While highly useful as part of an effort to make nuclear weapons, Iran’s advanced centrifuge will remain uneconomic, compared to buying enriched uranium overseas, and an on-going threat to the international and regional communities. If Iran’s true goal is the development of a large-scale civilian nuclear power program, it would be far more likely to succeed if it abandoned its domestic centrifuge program, starting with not building a new advanced centrifuge assembly center,” the ISIS report concludes.

Trump asked for the impossible out of China

US wants China, new nuclear weapons included in Russia deal

Russia and the United States on Tuesday were edging closer to breaking an impasse in long-running talks aimed at extending a landmark nuclear arms deal, due to expire within months. US officials said they were ready to meet Russian diplomats as soon as possible, shortly after Moscow stated it could compromise on an American demand.

The two sides have struggled to find common ground over the fate over the New START treaty, which limits both sides to 1,550 deployed warheads but is due to expire next February.

While the US wants to rework the deal to include China and cover new kinds of weapons, Russia is willing to extend the agreement for five years without any new conditions — and each side has repeatedly shot down the other’s proposals. The agreement was signed in 2010 at the peak of hopes for a “reset” in relations between the two countries.

Together with the Cold War-era Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty, it was considered a centrepiece of international arms control. However, the United States withdrew from the INF last year after accusing Moscow of violations.

Election pressure

As recently as last week, the US seemed unwilling to compromise on New START — officials dismissing a proposal from Russian President Vladimir Putin to extend the deal for a year without restricting new weapons development as a “non-starter”.

But with US President Donald Trump trailing in polls for next month’s election, his administration has indicated it would support preserving the treaty.

And Russia’s foreign ministry on Tuesday signalled a willingness to compromise, saying it would agree to a US demand for a one-year freeze on developing weapons.

“We appreciate the Russian Federation’s willingness to make progress on the issue of nuclear arms control,” state department spokeswoman Morgan Ortgaus said. “The United States is prepared to meet immediately to finalise a verifiable agreement. We expect Russia to empower its diplomats to do the same.”

Over the course of months of talks, Washington had demanded that tactical nuclear weapons be covered by the treaty and insisted China must be included — even though Beijing had shown no interest. But Russia is believed to hold a bigger, more varied arsenal of tactical weapons.

In general, the Kremlin sees nuclear weapons as a key strategic asset, as it is massively outspent on defence by Washington.

Russia had 6,375 nuclear warheads at the start of the year, including those that are not deployed, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

AFP with additional input by GVS News Desk

Russia growing nuclear horn: Daniel 7

It Looks Like Russia’s Nuclear-Powered Cruise Missile Test Program Is Back In Business

Satellite imagery indicates that work on the controversial Burevestnik missile has resumed at a test site in the Russian Far North.

Thomas NewdickOctober 21, 2020

Russian MOD

Recent satellite imagery suggests that Russia may be working to resume testing of its 9M730 Burevestnik nuclear-powered cruise missile program in Novaya Zemlya, an archipelago above the Arctic Circle. This highly controversial missile, which is codenamed SSC-X-9 Skyfall by NATO, has suffered a number of mishaps during development work in the past, including a deadly explosion last year.

CNN was first to report that work might have resumed at the test site, drawing upon satellite images from Planet Labs that had been analyzed by researchers Michael Duitsman and Jeffrey Lewis at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey. Two U.S. officials also told CNN that they were aware that Russia “has been preparing to test missiles as part of its advanced weapons program.”

The images of Novaya Zemlya from September 2020 show that new structures have appeared at the Pankovo site, a test facility that experts believe previously hosted the weapon for at least one live flight trial in late 2017. Recent “high levels of activity” suggests that further weapons trials are now planned here. 

“The activity and new construction are consistent with a resumption of test flights of the Burevestnik nuclear-powered cruise missile,” Duitsman and Lewis contend.

In their own blog post about the developments, the two researchers point to activity at three different locations at the Pankovo site.

The work includes the reconstruction of a launch pad that is believed to have been used for previous missile launches. It now appears to have been reconfigured to fire the Burevestnik in a different direction. According to The Barents Observer, in the November 2017 test, the missile headed toward a weapon range at Sukhoy Nos, north of the Matochkin Shar. This area had previously hosted Soviet-era nuclear weapons tests, including “Tsar Bomba,” the world’s most powerful nuclear detonation.

Second, “large numbers” of shipping containers have appeared at different support areas around the site, one of which the researchers identify as the likely missile checkout building. The arrival of these containers seems also to be linked to increased activity by cargo vessels in local waters.

Finally, a new helicopter pad has been built, which would allow for the transporting of crews and payloads around the site. 

The first known test flight of the Burevestnik at Pankovo reportedly took place in November 2017 and U.S. intelligence sources claimed the missile had crashed in the Barents Sea. Duitsman and Lewis say that at least four Burevestnik tests took place between then and February 2018, but none were considered successful. The limited information to have emerged about the results of those four tests was discussed in more detail here.

Russia test-fired four Burevestniks in total between November 2017 and February 2018, according to the new information. The longest test flight reportedly lasted over two minutes and saw the weapon travel a total of 22 miles, while the shortest experiment saw the missile fail within seconds, but it still managed to cover a distance of five miles. The missile reportedly uses a nuclear reactor to power its propulsion system, giving it theoretically unlimited range.

In March 2018, Russia released a purported video of a Burevestnik test that showed a launch from what appeared to be the Pankovo test site. President Vladimir Putin also released details of the weapon to the Russian parliament, saying it had “unlimited range” and was “invincible against all existing and prospective missile defense and counter-air defense systems.” 

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Крылатая ракета с ядерным двигателем «Буревестник»

However, it appears that the Burevestnik work at Pankovo came to an end the same year and the test site was dismantled. Testing then moved to Nyonoksa, also written Nenoksa, in the northwestern Russian region of Arkhangelsk on the White Sea. 

In August 2019, what may have been efforts to raise a Burevestnik missile from the seabed near the Nyonoksa test site resulted in an explosion that killed five scientists and injured three more from Russia’s state-run nuclear corporation Rosatom and left a radioactive cloud over the city of Severodvinsk. The Russian Ministry of Defense attributed the accident to the explosion of what it called a liquid-propellant rocket engine and denied that any dangerous substances were released. Rosatom later admitted its employees had been working on an experimental “isotope power source” when it exploded.

Whether or not the Burevestnik test effort has simply switched from Nyonoksa back to Pankovo or if testing is occurring at multiple locations is unclear.  

GOOGLE EARTH

A map showing the location of the Pankovo test site on the Novaya Zemlya archipelago.

Overall, little is known about the exact design of this nuclear-powered cruise missile, but it’s thought to employ a nuclear-powered ramjet engine. Reportedly, the weapon uses rocket boosters to accelerate it to an optimal speed, after which the fast-moving air blows over the hot reactor, emerging from an exhaust nozzle to generate thrust.

Whatever way it works, a fully functional Burevestnik — should it prove technically feasible — offers the advantage of virtually unlimited endurance, making it extremely hard to defend against. On the downside, the missile will carry a potentially hazardous radioactive payload whether it’s flying with a warhead or unarmed. Its emissions could also be hazardous. 

RUSSIAN MINISTRY OF DEFENSE SCREENCAP

A capture from the official video released in 2018 showing a Burevestnik test round in its launch canister, plus others under tarpaulins in the background. 

It may not be entirely coincidental that renewed work at Pankovo comes as Russia and the United States are negotiating the future of the  New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) that is due to expire in February 2021. The Kremlin has indicated it would be willing to extend the deal for a year without preconditions, while the United States is seeking a freeze in the total number of nuclear warheads on both sides. There are conflicting reports about what the two countries may have agreed to so far.

Regardless, Moscow has argued in the past that the Burevestnik does not fall within the New START framework, which is focused on limiting each country’s arsenals of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM), submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBM), and heavy bombers. At the same time, the Kremlin had also suggested previously that its nuclear-armed Avangard hypersonic boost-glide vehicle, which is launched using a converted ICBM rocket booster, would also not be subject to this agreement, but subsequently changed its position and allowed American officials to inspect at least one of these weapons under the auspices of the treaty.   

While the exact status of the test program for Russia’s Burevestnik nuclear-powered cruise missile remains unclear, the latest imagery and analysis does at least indicate that work on the missile is very much ongoing.

Contact the author: thomas@thedrive.com

1884 A Forewarning Of The Sixth Seal (Revelation 6:12)

January 20, 2010New York City isn’t immune to earthquakes; a couple of small tremors measuring about 2.5 on the Richter scale even struck back in 2001 and 2002.But on August 10, 1884, a more powerful earthquake hit. Estimated from 4.9 to 5.5 in magnitude, the tremor made houses shake, chimneys fall, and residents wonder what the heck was going on, according to a New York Timesarticle two days later.The quake was subsequently thought to have been centered off Far Rockaway or Coney Island.It wasn’t the first moderate quake, and it won’t be the last. In a 2008 Columbia University study, seismologists reported that the city is crisscrossed with several fault lines, one along 125th Street. With that in mind, New Yorkers should expect a 5.0 or higher earthquake centered here every 100 years, the seismologists say.Translation: We’re about 30 years overdue. Lucky for us the city adopted earthquake-resistant building codes in 1995.1884 A Forewarning Of The Sixth Seal (Revelation 6:12)

Nuclear War Makes a Comeback: Revelation 16

Photograph Source: United States Department of Energy – Public Domain

On websites where policy makers, scholars, and military leaders gather, concern about the possibility of nuclear war has been rising sharply in recent months as China, the United States, and Russia develop new weapons and new ways of using old ones.

On War on the Rocks, an online platform for national security articles and podcasts, Tong Zhao, a senior fellow at the Carnegie-Tsinghua Center for Global Policy, reported August 11 on public calls in China “to quickly and massively build up its nuclear forces” on the theory that only a “more robust nuclear posture” would prevent war with the United States.

The biggest nuclear arms budget ever is nearing approval in the US Congress, and the Trump administration has raised the possibility of resuming nuclear tests. President Trump has pulled the United States out of the1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty with Russia, while the New Start Treaty capping Russian and U.S. nuclear warheads and delivery systems is set to expire next February if the two countries don’t agree to extend it.

For its part, Russia appears poised to equip its navy with hypersonic nuclear strike weapons, and according to the British newspaper The Independent, “The Russian premier has repeatedly spoken of his wish to develop a new generation of nuclear weapons that can be targeted anywhere on the planet.”

Meanwhile, momentum to stop the proliferation of nuclear weapons has faltered. Nine nations now hold nuclear arms in an increasingly unsettled international scene. Recent research has shown that a nuclear exchange between just two of those with lesser arsenals—India and Pakistan— “could directly kill about 2.5 times as many as died worldwide in WWII, and in this nuclear war, the fatalities could occur in a single week.” Burning cities would throw so much soot into the upper atmosphere that temperatures and precipitation levels would fall across much of the earth—bringing widespread drought, famine, and death.

Clashes between India, Pakistan, and other nuclear armed states have become frequent enough that the International Red Cross marked the 75th anniversary of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki with a warning: “[T]he risk of use of nuclear weapons has risen to levels not seen since the end of the Cold War.”

For 75 years, the nuclear Sword of Damocles has dangled over the earth. There is widespread agreement among analysts that the long lull may soon be over—due in part, to the end of the Cold War. During those decades, the United States and the USSR cooperated not only to avoid bombing each other into oblivion but also to discourage other nations from gaining their own nuclear arms, in part by spreading their nuclear umbrellas over their allies.

That international system has dissolved. In addition to the United States, Russia, and China, other nations have nuclear weapons and more are likely to acquire them. And a new possibility has appeared on the horizon: the increased likelihood that nuclear weapons could be introduced into conventional warfare in regional wars.

In a monograph published by Lawrence Livermore Laboratory, US defense policy and strategy analyst John K. Warden writes that “in the capitals of potential adversary countries,” the idea is taking hold “that nuclear wars can be won because they can be kept limited, and thus can be fought—even against the United States.”

What can the United States do to convince adversaries not to introduce nuclear weapons into a conventional war—to make clear, in advance, that taking such a step would lead to fatal consequences for the country that took it?

The answer from the US national security establishment, as the fiscal 2021 defense budget suggests, is a readiness to fight fire with fire: If the “adversaries” of the United States hold out the threat of introducing nuclear weapons in a conventional war, then (the argument goes) they should expect that the United States will respond in kind.

How many weapons and delivery systems would that require? A lot, according to the nuclear budget for the Departments of Defense and Energy now going through Congress. At a time when Covid-19 has shaken the foundations of the federal budget, Congress is close to approving $44.5 billion for fiscal 2121 to modernize nuclear warheads, delivery systems, and the infrastructure that supports them.

Sierra Club Nuclear Policy Director John Coequyt has called on Congress “to resist the current renewal of the nuclear arms race and to ban the use of nuclear weapons,” and Sierra Club members have mobilized to try to stop funding for nuclear war projects in their neighborhoods.

In South Carolina, for instance, Tom Clements, Sierra Club member and director of Savannah River Site Watch, has joined other groups in challenging plans for expanded plutonium pit production at the Savannah River Site. And the Ohio Sierra Club’s Nuclear Free Committee has opposed production at the Portsmouth Nuclear Site in Piketon of “high-assay low-enriched uranium” that could be upgraded for weapons use, in the United States or elsewhere.

While such efforts often focus on local effects of nuclear weapons production, they also manifest a larger concern. Says the Club’s Nuclear Free Core Team’s Mark Muhich, the renewed nuclear arms race is “an existential threat both to human civilization and to the earth.”

This article originally appeared on the Sierra magazine website.

The Rising Chinese Nuclear Horn: Daniel 7

Nuclear imperialism in China’s Xinjiang

19 October 2020

TARA RAO

A third of the PRCs uranium for nuclear energy comes from extortion in the Yili basin of Xinjiang. This is also home to a great population of Uighurs.

Today, China has one of the world’s largest nuclear energy development programmes. During the Cold War era, there did not exist a political or economic motivator for commercialising nuclear energy as coal-fired power stations and hydroelectric energy dominated the system. However, after 2005, China has been able to reinvent this narrative. Notably, what this resurrected was a reassertion of spaces of injustice for their minorities. Their lands were first grounds for nuclear weapons’ testing and now used for energy rather than warfare purposes, thus continuing a historical subjugation to nuclear imperialism. This nuclear imperialism situates itself within an already prevalent cyclic violence against China’s far western frontier region of Xinjiang’s ethnic minorities, the predominantly Muslim Uighurs, ever since the establishment of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in 1949.

Given the inherent differentiation between the Uighurs and the Chinese dominant ethnicity, the Hans, the former’s identity was always up for scrutiny. The government came down particularly hard on the Uighurs after the events of 9/11 initiated the Global War on Terror (GWOT), as well as the Ürümqi riots on 5 July 2009 which saw clashes between protesting Uighurs, Han people, and China’s People’s Armed Police, leaving nearly 200 people dead in Xinjiang. The Chinese government has attributed security concerns with the certain ‘terrorist’ acts committed by a handful of them. Taking what some might perceive as an opportunist stand, China was able to claim being victim to global terrorism, to justify crackdown on the minority group. What this terrorist narrative in turn ushered in was a transnational territory of uncontrolled spaces where ‘dangerous populations’ need not be afforded legal protections and therefore be made to quarantine; containing their actions that often correspond to security threats. The antagonism was not restricted to the few Uighurs rioters. Instead the entire Uighur community as a single biological group was treated as the Homo Sacer. [1] These instances prove showcasing evidence of necropolitical [2] rule over Uighurs by the PRC, in the face of Hui or Han for instance.

Taking what some might perceive as an opportunist stand, China was able to claim being victim to global terrorism, to justify crackdown on the minority group.

China’s approach towards the Uighurs has witnessed many stages of crackdown, from a programme trying to integrate them into a Han-dominated society while cracking down on dissent, movement, practices of culture and religion, now to a virtual quarantine of the entire ethnic group by using eugenics to dilute their existence — de-Uighurise Xinjiang. The systematic discrimination of the Uighur feeds into a larger understanding of necro-politics of Uighur lives having become too consequential juxtaposed with a system which is ready to dispense with this minority population. The emphasis here is on China’s first nuclear weapons test in Lop Nor, and the legacy it has translated onto the present day context through states sponsored uranium mining in the Yili Basin, underscoring a new kind of imperialism.

Nuclear weapon testing began in the mid-1960s. Soon a kind of nuclear imperialism started to take root in the existing Han colonisation of Uighur spaces. The latter revolved around a combination of contestation over the sovereignty of the Uighur homeland and the resource-rich soils they inhabited. The aftermath of the Sino-Soviet split meant a collapse in PRCs nuclear relationship with China which acted as a driver for hastening and furthering their ambitious nuclear programmes. The PRC became the fifth nation to develop nuclear weapons during the Cold War. They formally established the 10,000 km sq. Lop Nor Nuclear Test base in 1956. It still stands as the largest site of its kind in the world.

Nuclear weapon testing began in the mid-1960s. Soon a kind of nuclear imperialism started to take root in the existing Han colonisation of Uighur spaces.

Mao Zeadong’s death in 1976 marked the end of the cultural revolution and brought in the economic liberalisation markets. Notably, the Nor test facility sustained through this transition. And the repercussions of this on the region’s Uighur population were detrimental. Environmental degradation, health-related problems, restrictions on their traditional ways are surface examples of the many hardships were made to endure. Professor Jun Takada conducted a study explaining how peak levels of radioactivity from large yield tests might have had prolonged consequences in the biological makeup of the generations to come observing congenital defects and cancer incidents in some. The cancer incidents in the region were approximately 35% higher than the rest of the state. Uighur traditional medicine could not cope with these cases. In short, a biopolitical regime protected the state from liability, meanwhile for the Uighurs, contestation around state assurance and health risks posed a blurring in the causation between sickness and exposition. The Uighurs who were affected by the Lop Nor test therefore have been given no compensation or recognition from the state. Many Hans on the other hand were given assurance from the state especially in terms of healthcare on various occasions. This only furthered the resentment and tension between the Hans and the Uighurs of Xinjiang in the years to come.

Following this, peaceful protests sprung up. In November 1985, protests led by students in Beijing against nuclear weapon tests were met with brute state coercion. In 1993, Uighurs gathered at Log Nor and demanded the ban of nuclear testing but were interrupted by PLA forces, some protestors were shot in the process. The Tigers of Lop Nor were an organisation that even managed to send tanks inside nuclear spaces and blew up planes in protest. Moreover, enveloped in this environment, the Uighur identity that already clashed with Han nationalism was simply made starker; the anti-nuclear movement began to echo separatist tendencies.

A biopolitical regime protected the state from liability, meanwhile for the Uighurs, contestation around state assurance and health risks posed a blurring in the causation between sickness and exposition.

Today, a third of the PRCs uranium for nuclear energy comes from extortion in the Yili basin of Xinjiang. This is also home to a great population of Uighurs. The PRC has placed a moratorium on the manufacturing of fissile material for deterrence purposes, transforming Xinjiang into the primary hub for the nuclear energy industry. The NINT continues to partake in nuclear research, to the north of the Lop Nor test site. There is no state system in place to ensure the safety of those dwelling the Yili. What this reflects is a revival of a past narrative of nuclear imperialism as uranium energy extraction seems to have overtaken nuclear testing. There appears to be no incentive from the ends of the government; a lacking in enforceable nuclear legislations and regional systems of monitoring and regulating nuclear activity.

In 2003, there was a law in place by China for the prevention and control of radioactive pollution coming from the development of Uranium mines. This meant that state council environmental units were delegated the responsibility to inspect this practice. However the “units” were held accountable over legitimate entities which guaranteed that any accident would have the blame falling upon a set of individuals rather than a full-fledged organisation. This left little motivation for organisations such as CNN to foresee protection of the workers. In fact, it is only when dealing with a large batch where occasional checks are made and endorsed by international agreements.

There appears to be no incentive from the ends of the government; a lacking in enforceable nuclear legislations and regional systems of monitoring and regulating nuclear activity. Image © Kevin Frayer/Getty

The PRC moved towards a stronger development of uranium after 2008. China now possesses over 44 nuclear reactors in operation and 18 others under construction and is striving towards ensuring that 1/5th of their energy comes from their power plants by 2030. Activism from the minorities in the region is often counted by officials as acts of Islamism or cultural protests rather than a legacy of activities against the nuclear industry which is another layer of discrimination that has been recognised by the Uighurs. More anti-nuclear activism seems to be entering the eastern provinces of Shandong, Jiangsu, and Guangdong as a result of general community concerns against an unprotected nuclear policy. Online petitions and active media are slowly entering the scene to influence and mobilise public opinion. However, it is only perhaps a matter of time before the PRC silences them too.

Activism from the minorities in the region is often counted by officials as acts of Islamism or cultural protests rather than a legacy of activities against the nuclear industry.

Censorship is often used to subdue this kind of opposition online. What is worse is that the Uighurs of Xinjiang lack the agency to voice their grievances while practitioners in the east who are often familiar with the political systems and often well-educated are able to make negotiations with the state in terms of the relocation of nuclear power plants. Moreover, this relocation continues to happen at the expense of those lives perceived as less influential and whom the state already actively curtailing. Protected Han communities show little concern over the successor communities who not only receive the plant in their stead but also remain oblivious to the entangled intranational network whereby novel nuclear energy in the East is fueled by uranium extraction and milling in the West of the PRC.

Xinjiang, therefore, occupies the status of the core nuclear hub of the PRC who still perpetuates measures to curb challenges surrounding their Uighur minority in a bid to wipe them off completely both culturally and politically, and showcase a biopolitics of hatred and cultural genocide. Without enough mounting pressure and deft interception from the International realm, Xinjiang remains a necropolitical space where the “.. the lines between resistance and suicide, sacrifice and redemption, martyrdom and freedom are blurred.”

[1] Categories of minority may be described as Homo Sacre (“sacred” or “accursed” man), within a modern environment of biologically excluding those deemed unproductive or dangerous in modern conflicts.

[2] Necropolitics describes the utilisation of socio-political power to determine how some people may live and how some must die.

Tara Rao is a research intern at ORF.

The views expressed above belong to the author(s).

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