The Taliban’s takeover next door immediately poses the sharply higher risk that Pakistani extremists will increase their already sizable influence in Islamabad, threatening at some point to seize full control.
A description once applied to Prussia — where some states possess an army, the Prussian army possesses a state — is equally apt for Pakistan. Islamabad’s “steel skeleton” is the real government on national security issues, the civilian veneer notwithstanding. Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI, has long been a hotbed of radicalism, which has spread throughout the military, to higher and higher ranks. Prime Minister Imran Khan, like many prior elected leaders, is essentially just another pretty face.
During the Soviet war in Afghanistan, ISI extensively supported Afghanistan’s mujahideen against the Soviet military, for religious and national security reasons. Washington made the mistake of funneling much of its assistance to “the muj” through Pakistan, thereby relinquishing control over which politicians and fighters actually received the aid. Pakistan also enabledterrorist groups targeting India, its main regional rival, over Kashmir, a continuing flash point emanating from the 1947 partition and independence from Britain.
After Moscow exited Afghanistan in 1989, ISI unsurprisingly pirouetted to support the Taliban and others who subjugated the country in 1996. Pakistani military doctrine holds that a friendly Kabul regime ensures “strategic depth” against India, which Pakistani leaders believed the Taliban provided. When the U.S. coalition overthrew the Taliban in 2001, ISI provided sanctuaries, arms and supplies inside Pakistan, although Islamabad routinely denied it.
Now, again in power, the Taliban can return the sanctuary favor to Pakistani Taliban — the Pakistani counterpart of the Afghan Taliban — and other radicals. Obviously, the world doesn’t need another terrorist regime, but the risk in Pakistan is of an entirely different order of magnitude, even compared with the menace of al-Qaeda or the Islamic State gaining secure bases in Afghanistan.
While Iran still aspires only to nuclear weapons, Pakistan already has dozens, perhaps more than 150, according to public sources. Such weapons in the hands of an extremist Pakistan would dramatically imperil India, raising tensions in the region to unprecedented levels, especially given China’s central role in Islamabad’s nuclear and ballistic-missile programs. Moreover, the prospect that Pakistan could slip individual warheads to terrorist groups to detonate anywhere in the world would make a new 9/11 incomparably more deadly.
These dangers provided compelling reasons to sustain the U.S. and NATO military presence in Afghanistan. We could have continued overwatch not just of potential new terrorist threats in-country but also observed what was happening across the borders in Pakistan and Iran. Sadly, the Trump-Biden withdrawal policy canceled that insurance policy.
From Cold War conflict against the Soviets in Afghanistan to our own efforts since 9/11, Pakistani-U.S. cooperation has been essential. It led Washington to temper vigorous criticism of Islamabad’s nuclear and pro-terrorist polices. Now, after Kabul’s surrender, America is less dependent on Pakistan’s good will and logistical support. Acknowledging the enormous uncertainty, given Pakistan’s nuclear capabilities, the United States must now come down hard on Islamabad if it continues supporting the Taliban and other terrorists. It has been said that Pakistan is the only government consisting simultaneously of arsonists and firefighters. The firefighters need to step up their game. They must convince their fellow countrymen that the government’s recent path has made Pakistan less secure, not more.
Absent clear evidence that Pakistan has terminated assistance to the Taliban, the United States should eliminate its own aid to Islamabad; strike Pakistan from the list of “major non-NATO allies”; impose anti-terrorist sanctions; and more. Our tilt toward India should accelerate.
Most important, we must devote maximum attention to Pakistan’s nuclear stockpiles and weapons-production facilities. If a future terrorist regime in Islamabad (or even today’s government or like-minded successors) appears ready to transfer nuclear capabilities to terrorists, we should take preventive action. This is highly unpalatable, but the alternative of allowing these weapons’ use is far worse. China must be made very aware of our intentions and seriousness, including that Beijing’s long-standing, vital assistance to Islamabad’s nuclear efforts makes China responsible for any misuse.
Is President Biden sufficiently resolute to do the necessary? Probably not. In George Packer’s recent biography of diplomat Richard Holbrooke, he quotes from Holbrooke’s notes taken during an Obama administration Situation Room meeting on Afghanistan. “Among his notes were private interjections,” Packer writes. “Vice President Joe Biden said that every one of Pakistan’s interests was also America’s interest: ‘HUH?’”
Biden’s assertion was wrong when made and would be dangerously wrong today; Holbrooke was correct, and eloquent in his brevity. Let’s hope Biden has changed his mind.
WASHINGTON/CANBERRA: China on Thursday denounced a new Indo-Pacific security alliance between the United States, Britain and Australia, saying such partnerships should not target third countries and warning of an intensified arms race in the region.
The United States and its allies are looking for ways to push back against China’s growing power and influence, particularly its military buildup, pressure on Taiwan and deployments in the contested South China Sea.
U.S. President Joe Biden, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison did not mention China by name in the joint announcement and senior Biden administration officials, who briefed reporters ahead of time, said the partnership was not aimed at countering Beijing.
But Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said the three countries were “severely damaging regional peace and stability, intensifying an arms race, and damaging international nuclear non-proliferation efforts”.
“China always believes that any regional mechanism should conform to the trend of peace and development of the times and help enhance mutual trust and cooperation… It should not target any third party or undermine its interests,” he told a regular briefing in Beijing.
Johnson said the pact was not meant to be adversarial and said it would reduce the costs of Britain’s next generation of nuclear submarines.
“Now that we have created AUKUS we expect to accelerate the development of other advanced defence systems including in cyber, artificial intelligence, quantum computing and undersea capabilities,” Johnson told parliament.
The three leaders stressed Australia would not be fielding nuclear weapons but using nuclear propulsion systems for the vessels to guard against threats.
“We all recognise the imperative of ensuring peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific over the long term,” Biden said.
“We need to be able to address both the current strategic environment in the region, and how it may evolve because the future of each of our nations and indeed the world depends on a free and open Indo-Pacific enduring and flourishing in the decades ahead,” he said.
Morrison said Australia would meet all of its nuclear non-proliferation obligations.
One U.S. official said the partnership was the result of months of engagements by military and political leaders during which Britain – which recently sent an aircraft carrier to Asia – had indicated it wanted to do more in the region.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern welcomed the focus on the Indo-Pacific but said Australia’s nuclear-powered submarines would not be allowed in its territorial waters.
Singapore said it had long had relations with Australia, Britain and the United States and hoped their grouping would contribute to peace and stability.
Japan said the three countries’ strengthening of security and defence cooperation was important for peace and security.
A U.S. official briefing before the announcement said Biden had not mentioned the plans “in any specific terms” to Chinese leader Xi Jinping in a call last Thursday, but did “underscore our determination to play a strong role in the Indo-Pacific”. read more
U.S. officials said nuclear propulsion would allow the Australian navy to operate more quietly, for longer periods, and provide deterrence across the Indo-Pacific.
The partnership ends Australia’s 2016 deal with French shipbuilder Naval Group to build it a new submarine fleet worth $40 billion to replace its more than two-decades-old Collins submarines, a spokesperson for Morrison told Reuters. read more
“This brutal, unilateral and unpredictable decision reminds me a lot of what Mr Trump used to do,” Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told franceinfo radio. “I am angry and bitter. This isn’t done between allies.”
Biden said the three governments would launch an 18-month consultation period “to determine every element of this programme, from workforce, to training requirements, to production timelines” and to ensure full compliance with non-proliferation commitments.
Among the U.S. firms that could benefit are General Dynamics Corp and Huntington Ingalls Industries Inc.
General Dynamics’ Electric Boat business does much of the design work for U.S. submarines, but critical subsystems such as electronics and nuclear power plants are made by BWX Technologies Inc.
U.S. officials did not give a time frame for when Australia would deploy a nuclear-powered submarine, or how many would be built. They said that since Australia does not have any nuclear infrastructure, it would require a sustained effort over years.
A U.S. official said Washington had shared nuclear propulsion technology only once before – with Britain in 1958.
“This is frankly an exception to our policy in many respects. I do not anticipate that this will be undertaken in other circumstances… We view this as a one-off.”
Biden made the announcement alongside British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who joined the president virtually, as they unveiled a new three-way defense alliance, which will be known as AUKUS. Britain is the only other nation to share U.S. nuclear submarine propulsion technology, an agreement dating back decades and aimed largely at countering the old Soviet Union.
“We all recognize the imperative of ensuring peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific over the long term,” Biden said Wednesday from the East Room of the White House. “We need to be able to address both the current strategic environment in the region and how it may evolve because the future of each of our nations, and indeed the world, depends on a free and open Indo-Pacific, enduring and flourishing in the decades ahead.”
None of the three leaders mentioned China in their remarks, but the objective of the new alliance was clear: challenging the country’s growing economic and military influence. The effort comes amid rising tensions with China over a range of issues including military ambitions and human rights, and Biden has made it clear he views China as the country’s most significant global competitor. The president spoke with Chinese President Xi Jinping last week. Biden initiated that call, but one administration official said Wednesday that the Australian submarine plan was not discussed “in any specific terms.”
China on Thursday slammed the agreement for “seriously undermining” regional stability and accused the three counties of inciting an “arms race.” At a regular press briefing in Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian criticized the United States and Britain for “extremely irresponsible” behavior.
The three countries will work over the next 18 months to hash out the details of submarine effort and will pay special attention to safeguards and nonproliferation measures, Biden said Wednesday.
Nuclear-powered submarines are faster, more capable, harder to detect and potentially much more lethal than conventional-powered submarines. The Chinese navy is thought to possess six nuclear attack submarines and many more conventional ones, with plans to expand the nuclear-powered fleet over the next decade.
The Navy’s three most powerful nuclear submarines were all deployed to the Pacific region over the summer. U.S. defense officials have warned of a Chinese naval buildup that challenges U.S. navigation in what the United States and its allies say is international water.
U.S. officials who spoke to reporters ahead of the announcement also avoided any direct mention of China and sidestepped questions about what message the United States was sending to its adversary with the new partnership. The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity to preview the announcement ahead of the president’s remarks.
“I do want to just underscore very clearly this partnership is not aimed or about any one country,” one senior official said. “It’s about advancing our strategic interests, upholding the international rules-based order and promoting peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific.”
Biden declined to answer questions about China after he concluded his remarks.
Countries “should not build exclusionary blocs targeting or harming the interests of third parties. In particular, they should shake off their Cold War mentality and ideological prejudice,” Liu Pengyu, a spokesman at the Chinese embassy in Washington, told Reuters.
The announcement came as a surprise in Australia, where recent reports suggested France, not the United States, would be deepening military ties as it moved ahead with a plan to build $66 billion worth of diesel submarines for Australia. But then news broke late Wednesday in Australia that Morrison had convened top-secret cabinet meetings.
The arrangement could also lead to damaged relations with France, with one former French ambassador to the United States saying on Twitter the countries “stabbed” France in the back.
In a joint statement, the French minister of foreign affairs and minister of the armed forces said the decision was “regrettable” and “contrary to the letter and spirit of the cooperation that prevailed between France and Australia.”
“The American choice to exclude a European ally and partner such as France from a structuring partnership with Australia, at a time when we are facing unprecedented challenges in the Indo-Pacific region, whether in terms of our values or in terms of respect for multilateralism based on the rule of law, shows a lack of coherence that France can only note and regret,” the leaders said.
In response to the announcement, one Australian politician is calling for an inquiry into the agreement, saying it raised questions around nuclear nonproliferation.
“If it’s a U.S. submarine, they have highly enriched uranium in their reactors and that creates a proliferation issue in terms of Australia standing up saying, no one should have this sort of fuel available to them,” Australian Sen. Rex Patrick, a former submariner in the Australian navy, told his country’s ABC.
Nuclear propulsion is different from nuclear weaponry, and Morrison said Australia remains committed to remaining a nonnuclear weapons state.
“Let me be clear,” he said. “Australia is not seeking to acquire nuclear weapons or establish a civil nuclear capability, and we will continue to meet all our nuclear nonproliferation obligations.”
But some experts worry about how the new arrangement will impact the global nuclear power landscape.
“I think if Australia goes down this route and builds nuclear-powered submarines and removes nuclear material from safeguards, it sets a very damaging precedent,” said James Acton, the co-director of the Nuclear Policy Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
Acton said he is particularly concerned about how Iran will react to the announcement and whether the country will attempt to skirt safeguards of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) by saying it is using nuclear material to build a submarine. Before the U.S. announcement, Acton said he would expect China and Russia to vehemently oppose any efforts by Iran to take such actions, but he said the calculus could change after the United States shares nuclear propulsion technology with Australia.
“I do believe the damage to the nuclear nonproliferation regime will be very significant, and I strongly believe it will outweigh the defense benefits of Australia acquiring nuclear-powered submarines,” he said.
The Biden administration said the United States has informed the IAEA about the announcement and will pay close attention to any nonproliferation implications from the effort.
“I do want to underscore that the Biden administration remains deeply committed to American leadership in nonproliferation,” the senior official said. “This is nuclear propulsion. Australia has no intention of pursuing nuclear weapons, and Australia is, in fact, the leader in all nonproliferation efforts in the NPT and elsewhere.”
The agreement also marks an expansion of U.S. military cooperation with Australia. The country has long been a close military ally, but it is now more on a par with Great Britain, America’s foremost military ally. The United States and Australia have an existing military and diplomatic partnership known as Ausmin, short for the annual ministerial level meetings among the four defense and foreign secretaries. Australia and Britain are also part of the select intelligence grouping known as the Five Eyes.
“This new architecture is really about deepening cooperation on a range of defense capabilities for the 21st century and again these relationships with Great Britain and Australia are time-tested, our oldest allies generally,” the senior administration official said. “This is designed not only to strengthen our capabilities in the Indo-Pacific but to link Europe and particularly Great Britain more closely with our strategic pursuits in the region as a whole.”
Matt Pottinger, the former deputy national security adviser in the Trump administration and chairman of the China program at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, praised the new effort.
“We are going to be pooling technological advances in important defensive capabilities,” he said, making “the sum of the alliance greater than its parts.”
Pottinger, who was briefed by the White House ahead of the announcement, added the new alliance also fulfills Biden’s promise to make the Indo-Pacific region a priority of his foreign policy.
“It adds more teeth to our collective deterrence and that helps give confidence to countries in the region to stand up for their sovereignty and push back against coercion from Beijing,” he said.
Biden and Xi have only spoken twice since Biden took office, the second call taking place last week. The 90-minute call, which an administration official described as familiar and candid, did not yield any specific announcements, including whether Biden and Xi would hold an in-person summit later this fall.
Both leaders had been expected to travel to Europe for a climate summit in Scotland, but whether Xi still plans to attend remains unclear. Biden has confirmed his attendance, which will come just after a Group of 20 meeting in Rome.
Michael Miller in Sydney and Lily Kuo in Taipei contributed to this report.
Newswise — New Brunswick, N.J. (Sept. 15, 2021) – Nuclear war would cause many immediate fatalities, but smoke from the resulting fires would also cause climate change lasting up to 15 years that threatens worldwide food production and human health, according to a study by researchers at Rutgers University, the National Center for Atmospheric Research and other institutions.
The study appears in the Journal of Geophysical Research – Atmospheres.
Scientists have long understood that nuclear weapons used on cities and industrial areas could initiate large-scale fires whose massive amounts of smoke injected into the stratosphere could cause global climate change, leading to the term “nuclear winter.”
But in the new study, researchers for the first time used a modern climate model, including aerosols and nitric oxide emissions, to simulate the effects on ozone chemistry and surface ultraviolet light caused by absorption of sunlight by smoke from regional and global nuclear wars.
This could lead to a loss of most of our protective ozone layer, taking a decade to recover and resulting in several years of extremely high ultraviolet light at the Earth’s surface and further endangering human health and food supplies.
“Although we suspected that ozone would be destroyed after nuclear war and that would result in enhanced ultraviolet light at the Earth’s surface, if there was too much smoke, it would block out the ultraviolet light,” said one of the study’s authors Alan Robock, a Distinguished Professor in the Department of Environmental Sciences at Rutgers University-New Brunswick. “Now, for the first time, we have calculated how this would work and quantified how it would depend on the amount of smoke.”
The study’s results showed that for a regional nuclear war between India and Pakistan that would generate five megatons of soot, the enhanced ultraviolet light would begin within a year. For a global war between the United States and Russia generating 150 megatons, it would only begin after about eight years. For intermediate amounts of smoke, the effects would fall between these extreme cases.
For a global nuclear war, heating in the stratosphere and other factors would cause a 15 year-long reduction in the ozone column, with a peak loss of 75% globally and 65% in the tropics. This is larger than predictions from the 1980s, which assumed large injections of nitrogen oxides but did not include the effects of smoke.
For a regional nuclear war, the global column ozone would be reduced by 25% with recovery taking 12 years. This is similar to previous simulations but with a faster recovery time due to a shorter lifetime for soot in the new simulations.
“The bottom line is that nuclear war would be even worse than we thought, and must be avoided,” Robock said. “For the future, in other work, we have calculated how agriculture would change based on the changes of temperature, rain and sunlight, but have not yet included the effects of ultraviolet light. In addition, the ultraviolet light would damage animals, including us, increasing cancer and cataracts.”
The study, which included Rutgers Research Associate Lili Xia, also included researchers from the University of Colorado, NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, Columbia University, Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, and Autonomous University of Barcelona.
ABOUT RUTGERS—NEW BRUNSWICK Rutgers University–New Brunswick is where Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, began more than 250 years ago. Ranked among the world’s top 60 universities, Rutgers’s flagship is a leading public research institution and a member of the prestigious Association of American Universities. It has an internationally acclaimed faculty, 12 degree-granting schools and the Big Ten Conference’s most diverse student body.
It has become commonplace to talk about the climate crisis as the greatest threat to the planet. It is certainly right to focus on an existential issue which we can do something about. But I fear there are other problems which could – at very short notice – prove even more pressing. Pandemics we know about. But the risks around nuclear war and weapons proliferation have slipped out of public consciousness. They mustn’t.
My awareness of this set of issues was triggered by two things. The first was the reappearance of Little Rocket Man in North Korea. He seems to have been slimming his own girth but increasing his nuclear capability. The country has been developing a cruise missile described as “strategic” and capable of delivering nuclear weapons around 1000 miles – to Japan as well as South Korea and to US bases and aircraft carriers. North Korea is also reported to have restarted a nuclear power station capable of producing weapons-grade plutonium.
I am also one of the millions gripped by Vigilon BBC on Sunday evening. Like Line of Duty, its predecessor series, the plot doesn’t bear too much analysis. But, in a very compelling way, it brings to life something we have rather taken for granted: the fact that, operating out of a base in Argyll in Scotland, there is a fleet of submarines carrying Britain’s nuclear deterrent – one of which is continually patrolling at sea.
Eac submarine has 40 warheads (eight operational) out of our stockpile of 180: a number which is currently being lifted to 260. Each warhead has 100 kiloton destructive power: about six times the Hiroshima bomb. I suspect, and sincerely hope, that the safety arrangements are rather better than on Vigil, which seems to be permanently on the brink of disaster. The series reminds us of the awesome duty of those politically and operationally responsible.
Yet Britain is a nuclear minnow (even with the new and bigger Trident programme of submarines and missiles currently approved and on order). We are a merely intermediate member of the family of known nuclear powers (the US, Russia, China, France, India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea), which was supposed to diminish not increase in numbers.
In the rosy, optimistic days after the collapse of the USSR and the end of the Cold War, there were hopes that nuclear disarmament would be agreed. The numbers of warheads and missiles in the US and Russia was greatly reduced. The Ukraine and Kazakhstan gave up the nuclear weapons left behind by the Soviet Union. South Africa and Brazil, which had embryonic programmes, renounced nuclear weapons. A strict non-proliferation regime was put in place to stop new states joining the club – which seemed to have been enough to deter Iran from converting its nuclear technological capability into weapons.
In the last few years, however, this progress has been reversed. Russia and the US have been modernising and expanding their nuclear arsenals, while technological advances, like autonomous AI based systems, are making the old treaties obsolete. In the increasingly toxic environment in East Asia there are reports that China has deployed more missiles and as yet there appears to be no direct engagement with the US to calm the atmosphere. I explore the poisoned relationship between the two powers in my book released this week, The Chinese Conundrum: Engagement or Conflict.
Meanwhile, the withdrawal of the Trump administration from the non-proliferation agreement with Iran has threatened a revival of Iran’s nuclear programme. Trump’s face-to-face diplomacy with Kim Jong-un produced headlines but no agreement, as we are reminded this week.
As President Biden dusts himself down after the political disaster of the evacuation of Afghanistan, nuclear proliferation should be close to the top of his agenda. He is trying to revive the multilateral talks with Iran. The stakes are high since failure to check the Iranian programme could lead to unilateral military action by Israel. And there is the risk of a nuclear arms race in the Middle East with Saudi Arabia, and possibly Turkey joining the club.
The Middle East is a haven of stability compared with the volatile and dangerous situation in South Asia. One of the big unknowns is how the Taliban victory will affect Pakistan, which has had its own Taliban and its own religious fanatics. The Pakistan military is sitting on a nuclear stockpile and, while Pakistan has an impressively disciplined army, the nightmare scenario of terrorists getting hold of nuclear weapons is a risk that has to be contemplated.
East Asia is more complex still and no less dangerous. The erratic behaviour of Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un is profoundly destabilising not just for South Korea but also for Japan. Both countries rely on US military protection, but the protection is less explicit than in Nato and the US withdrawal from Afghanistan has sowed doubts about its reliability, especially in a nuclear confrontation. Japan has the technological capability to proceed quite quickly to nuclear weapons if necessary; it is largely its own history which acts as a restraint. South Korea is also technologically very advanced.
For both those countries a key uncertainty is China. No one is sure if and how Xi acts as a constraint on its ally North Korea. Moreover, there are simmering disputes between China and Japan over offshore islands. China would certainly regard a move by Japan to nuclear weapons as a provocation. And regional factors are to be seen against the background of growing political tension between China and the US.
When we consider that nuclear China is also a close ally of Pakistan and that nuclear India is nervously watching developments across the border, there is a real witches’ brew of geo-political toxins. My novel, Open Arms, which fantasised about the dangers in those relationships five years ago is beginning to read like non-fiction.
In a worst-case scenario, it is possible to see conflict breaking out between several pairs of adversaries: Iran and Israel; Iran and Saudi Arabia; India and Pakistan; India and China; China and the US; China and Japan; North Korea and several of its neighbours and the US. In each case there would be one or more parties with nuclear weapons. In several cases there is no “no first use” policy and minimal risk mitigation to stop nuclear war breaking out by accident.
“Thinking the unthinkable” is not conducive to peace of mind or a good night’s sleep. But someone has to do it. We have had several very improbable events recently – Trump; Brexit; Covid; the Taliban victory. There will be shocks to come. It is profoundly to be hoped that the use of nuclear weapons isn’t one of them. But time spent now on nuclear proliferation issues, risk reduction and nuclear disarmament would be a very good investment.
Rabbi Abraham Cooper is the associate dean and director of the Global Social Action Agenda at the Simon Wiesenthal Center. Rev. Johnnie Moore is president of the Congress of Christian Leaders and founder of the KAIROS Company.
The ignoble withdrawal of the US military from Afghanistan – a withdrawal commanded before vulnerable American civilians and military assets were safely evacuated – only served to benefit Iran’s apocalyptic vision for the Middle East, despite the Biden administration’s efforts to frame the decision differently.
Whatever Washington says about Afghanistan, Americans need to recognize this withdrawal was never about numbers. It was about a creeping change of heart, and it augurs potential disengagement from America’s loyal friends and allies and an eroding resolve to defend endangered minorities from threats of oblivion.
Before we get to the potential losers, we want to be crystal clear: If the Biden administration continues this course, there will be only one big winner – Iran’s megalomaniac Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, whose innate hatred for the United States is only matched by his genocidal loathing for Israel and Saudi Arabia.
Only one nation in the world has been the target of more terrorist missiles than the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia: the State of Israel. In the case of Israel, the treatment is courtesy of Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Hizbullah. In the case of Saudi Arabia, it comes from the Houthis in Yemen.
Whatever the source of the deadly trajectories, the missiles flung toward Saudi Arabia and Israel are virtually identical. That’s because they come from the same source: Iran. They also serve the same purpose: Kill innocent people to destabilize the Middle East in order to advance a Khamenei-led Iranian apocalyptic death cult. Khamenei’s vision – whatever his numerous suave puppets and apologists profess – involves the total destruction of the State of Israel and the total subjugation of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
This is why the Biden administration announced on July 27 its intention to also withdraw from Iraq altogether (another dream of Tehran), and why their “come hell or high water” approach to withdrawing from Afghanistan, whatever the human or reputational cost, continued undeterred. Could the US contingent in Syria be far behind?
It’s a new version of an old idea often floated by former Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. He advocated for a so-called “new security framework” in the Middle East which – as a prerequisite – involved the expulsion of the Americans.
“We need a strong region, not a strong man in the region. We have to recognize, all of us in the [Arabian] Gulf region, need to join Iran in recognizing that nobody can be the hegemon of the region. All of us need to work together in a strong region,” Zarif said in 2018.
With a heavy dose of Persian chutzpah, Zarif lauded with a straight face the virtues of “territorial integrity” and called for “no interference in the internal affairs of others” and “respect for national boundaries.”
All one needed to do was to start with “confidence-building measures.”
The confidence-building measures imagined by Zarif look a lot like what we’re seeing in the Middle East today as America disengages while Iran plays host to a regime whose new government is the most extreme since the onset of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s revolution.
No one seems to notice or care but one party in the Gulf isn’t buying it: the actual Iranian people. Iranians have had it with less food on the table, less water to drink, more misery, and more repression. This is why Iran’s summer was marked by more protests and more brutal crackdowns by the regime’s revolutionary guards. While the rest of the Gulf is planning for a brighter 21st century, the Iranian people are stuck with a regime fueled by the hatreds of the 12th century.
Rather than expending so much energy trying to change the Iranian government’s trajectory, it’s time for the Biden administration to read the region and amplify the voices of those in the line of Tehran’s fire, beginning with the Iranian people and continuing with those whose cities face Iranian rocket fire and the threat of nuclear blackmail.
Instead of pushing its Arab allies into normalizing their relations with Iran, the Biden administration ought to be building upon the peace-through-strength successes of the Abraham Accords. That’s what the American people supported and that’s what our allies in the Middle East desperately need. The nations of the Gulf, along with Egypt, Israel and other nations near Iran, don’t have the luxury of waiting for the results of the 2022 midterm US elections, let alone the 2024 presidential elections. They will instead have to forge their own collective path to defend themselves from more “confidence-building” demands from Tehran.
In the meantime, it behooves American citizens – Democrats and Republicans – to demand action from their elected representatives in Congress. They must declare in a clear bipartisan voice: There will be no deals with Iran that endanger our allies. It’s time to show the pollsters and pundits at least that the American people are paying attention and do care about the fate of the Middle East.
If there is an actual, attainable deal with Iran that really reduces terrorism, violence, and nuclear threats, share those details with the American people, but from where we sit all we see are American diplomats promising Tehran everything they’ve demanded and more for the privilege of a useless piece of paper and the privilege of being serially lied to.
The author of this blog or other opinion piece is a third-party contributor who is independent of The Media Line Ltd and its partners or supporters. All assertions, opinions, facts, and information presented in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and are not necessarily those of The Media Line and/or all parties related thereto, none of whom assumes any responsibility for its content.
After al-Qaeda targeted the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001, then-US President George W. Bush declared his (in)famous doctrine of the global war on terror, which will continue to have a great effect on the Middle East and the world for the coming decades, if not centuries. The framework implemented an aggressive foreign policy against Iraq, Iran and North Korea, singled out as the “axis of evil” in the new world order.
After 20 years of the doctrine in action, which saw the occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq that further ignited regional instability, President Joe Biden has withdrawn US troops from Afghanistan and is determined to end the combat mission in Iraq by the end of the year. Without concluding whether two decades of aggression succeeded in defeating terrorism, it can be said that the war on terror opened a new area of influence for one of the axis of evil, namely Iran in Iraq.
Opening the Gates
Thanks to its Shia population, Iraq has been a significant target of Iranian foreign policy since the Islamic Revolution of 1979. Due to both geographic and sectarian proximity, Iran, which sees Washington as an enemy and a source of instability in the region, was suspicious of the 2003 US invasion of Iraq.
Deeming Baathist Iraq as a major threat to its national security, the regime in Tehran has meddled in its neighbor’s internal politics and strategic tendencies ever since coming to power. With the US toppling of Saddam Hussein, however, Iran succeeded in courting Iraq’s Shia population by taking advantage of its shared border and cultural, religious and economic ties.
The fact that significant Shia figures opposed to the Iraqi regime took refuge in Iran in the early 1980s strengthened Tehran’s relations with these groups in the post-invasion period. During this time, the Shia population has become influential in the Iraqi state and society. For example, Hadi al-Amiri, the leader of the Badr Organization militia, and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the recently deceased vice president of the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), count among some of the most prominent pro-Iranian figures in the current Iraqi political and military establishments.
The Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, a Shia resistance group headed by Ayatollah Mohammad Baqir al-Hakim hoping to topple Saddam Hussein’s regime, was established in Iran in 1982. It became a pioneer organization for various Shia militias and political groups with connections to Tehran, incorporating the Badr Organization, then known as the Badr Brigades.
While Iran benefitted from the support of Iraqi militias during the inconclusive war with Iraq in the 1980s, Tehran redirected this mobilization against the US forces following the 2003 invasion. The Iraqi militia group Kataib Hezbollah was formed in early 2007, followed by Asaib Ahl al-Haq, as part of the campaign by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Quds Force against US forces.
Iran’s presence in Iraq came to light when the Americans captured several Iranian operatives in 2006 and 2007, among them Mohsen Chizari of the IRGC. Asaib Ahl al-Haq kidnapped and killed five US soldiers in January 2007, but two months later, coalition forces captured the militia’s leader, Qais al-Khazali, alongside an operative of Hezbollah, Tehran’s proxy in Lebanon, Ali Musa Daqduq. It is well known that the Jaish al-Mahdi militias led by Muqtada al-Sadr, who still has distant dealings with Iran, received intensive Iranian support to fight against the United States.
The disbanding the Iraqi army and establishing the interim government by the US after 2003 provided Iran with new opportunities to secure many significant positions in the bureaucracy. In this process, many members of the Badr Brigades were integrated into the new army and police forces, their political connections winning many rapid promotions. Today, Badr is still one of the most active groups within the police, the army and the Ministry of Interior.
Consolidation of Iranian Power
The Baghdad government was formed along ethnic and sectarian quotas. As per the country’s 2005 constitution, the presidency was allocated to the Kurds, the prime minister’s office to the Shia and the position of parliament’s speaker to the Sunnis. The allocation of the executive position to Shia leaders strengthened Iran’s elbow room in Iraqi politics.
The sectarian policies of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, who held office between 2006 and 2014, disquieted the Sunni society further. In addition to the fact that the Shia occupied a central position in the administrative system, the American inability to understand Sunni expectations has marginalized Sunni society. Radicalization led to the resurgence of al-Qaeda and later the formation of the even more extreme Islamic State (IS) group in the Sunni regions or Iraq.
After capturing Mosul in June 2014, IS has taken control of almost a third of Iraqi territory. All Shia groups fighting against the new threat were united under the banner of the Popular Mobilization Units — an umbrella organization controlled mainly by pro-Iran armed groups — after Iraq’s top Shia cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, called for all those able to carry a weapon to take up arms.
The PMU militias were provided with American and Iranian-made weapons during their fight against IS. Pro-Iranian militias such as the Badr Organization, Kataib Hezbollah and Asaib Ahl al-Haq dominated the PMU. Active support by the IRGC provided to Iraqi militias and the presence of Qassem Soleimani, a Quds Force commander, at the front lines pointed to Iran’s effectiveness in the field.
Integrating the PMU as a legal part of the Iraqi security mechanism in 2016 further legitimized Iranian influence in the political and military establishments. For instance, almost $1.7 billion was allocated to the PMU, which consists of some 100,000 militants, from the $90-billion Iraqi budget in 2021.
Defeating the Islamic State
After the declaration of victory against IS in 2017, tensions between Iran and the US, placed on the back burner during the campaign, reignited. While US officials argued that the PMU completed their mission and should be dissolved, pro-Iranian groups reassumed their anti-American tone.
Thanks to their active role in the fight against IS, Iran-backed militias secured their position in the military bureaucracy and were able to establish themselves politically. The Fatah Alliance, under the leadership of Hadi al-Amiri and backed by pro-Iranian militias, gained victory in the 2018 election, becoming the second-largest group in the Iraqi parliament. Iran has thus become one of the decision-makers in post-IS Iraq.
Tensions increased in 2018 after President Donald Trump decided to unilaterally withdraw the United States from the nuclear deal with Iran. Pro-Iranian forces began to attack US forces on the ground in Iraq. While Iran seemed to want to punish the US via the Iraqi militias, these attacks also aimed at forcing Americans to withdraw from Iraq. The situation has come to an apogee with the killing of Soleimani and Muhandis in the US drone strike in Baghdad on January 3, 2020.
The assassinations shifted the tensions to the political arena. On January 5, under the leadership of pro-Iranian groups, a resolution was passed in Iraq’s parliament to call on the government to expel foreign troops from the country. In addition to political pressures, as a result of ongoing attacks by pro-Iranian militias on American bases and soldiers in Iraq, the US abandoned many of its bases in the country. As a result of strategic dialogue negotiations with Baghdad, Washington decided to withdraw its combat forces and retain only consultant support. To a large degree, Iran managed to get what it wanted — to drive the US out and reassert its own influence in the region.
Pro-Iranian militias, already active in the Shia regions, started to show their presence in Sunni-dominated areas such as Mosul, Anbar and Saladin after the defeat of IS. Furthermore, Iran-backed groups pursue a long-term strategy to seize control of disputed areas between the central government and the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. Iran-backed groups, including the Badr Organization, Asaib Ahl al-Haq, Kataib Imam Ali, Kataib Sayyid al-Shuhada and Saraya al-Khorasani, have been active in the disputed territories since 2014.
At the same time, these militias under the PMU umbrella reject control by Baghdad and threaten the central government. So much so that Abu Ali Askari, a spokesman for Kataib Hezbollah, was able to say that “the time is appropriate to cut his ears as the ears of a goat are cut,” referring to Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi, while militias were able to flex their muscle against the government in the streets of Baghdad amid tensions leading up to the anniversary of Soleimani’s assassination.
Make Sense of the World
Aiming to limit US influence, Iran has been gradually reshaping Iraq‘s internal and security policy since 2003. While millions are still paying the price of the war on terror in Iraq, which resulted in the collapse of the political and economic systems followed by a campaign of terror by the Islamic State, Iran continues to consolidate its power, both in military and political spheres.
After an 18-year-long story of invasion and with the US poised to withdraw its combat forces, Iran’s hegemony over Iraq will inevitably come to fruition. The sectarian and ethnic emphasis within the framework of the government quota system not only prevents the formation of independent Iraqi identity but also keeps fragile social fault lines dynamic, an opportunity that Iran will, without doubt, continue to exploit.
It has been fifty years since Australia made a formal decision not to acquire nuclear weapons. However, since then the regional geo-political environment has starkly changed, and is likely to become more turbulent over the next few decades, as balances are changing.
US reliance as an alley, and the inferred nuclear protection Australia has been given is uncertain in the future. The competitive strategic positions of China and the US will change drastically over the next decade. US interests under different presidencies are also fluid. Australia is now in the frontline of a strategically changing region, where Australia’s self-perception as a middle power has vanished with some regional military forces much more potent than Australia.
Australia’s bilateral relationship with its largest trading partner China has greatly deteriorated over recent times, with few signs of improving. Australia is alone in its trade dispute with China, ironically with the US benefitting from Chinese embargoes on Australian goods. Minister to minister communications has long been suspended, as China is decoupling Australia.
There are a number of potential trouble spots in the region. These include Chinese intentions over Taiwan, North Korea’s acquisition of long-range nuclear weapon delivery systems, and a potentially unstable nuclear Pakistan with Taliban designs of creating a Pashtun Taliban Caliphate in Pakistan.
The nuclear equilibrium in the region is shifting. China’s rise in military force is prompting countries like India to upgrade its nuclear arsenal to much more powerful thermonuclear weapons.
Probably of greatest importance is Indonesian nuclear weapon development intentions. Former Indonesian army four-star general and minister for maritime affairs and investment has been reported as saying Indonesia is underestimated because it doesn’t have nuclear weapons. Indonesia’s development of facilities capable of manufacturing weapons grade materials are well underway. A nuclear Indonesia with a growing Wahhabi-Salafism in Indonesia may one day leave Australia with a government to the north, vastly different to what exists now.
Australia needs to discuss strategy options in the new realities it faces in the region. There needs to be re-assessments of a post-Afghanistan US alley, very close neighbours to Australia which are adopting a placating response to China, a super-power that is bullying Australia, and the likelihood of a potential nuclear armed neighbour.
Australia’s past stance on nuclear weapons
Since the early 1970s, Australian Governments have been strongly supportive of nuclear non-proliferation under the definitions of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), signed by the McMahon Government in 1970 and ratified by the incoming Labor Whitlam Government in 1973. Australia’s anti-nuclear position was even strengthened under Liberal-Coalition Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser, as the “green/anti-nuclear” movement was quickly growing in Australia at the time. With the exception of Prime Minister John Howard, who saw a changing Asia-Pacific nuclear balance, subsequent prime ministers Hawke, Keating, Rudd, and Gillard also strongly followed the non-proliferation line.
Paradoxically, every prime minister supported to various degrees, the development of uranium mining and export as an economic driver. The Fraser and later Rudd Governments argued that uranium exports should be used as a means to strengthen non-proliferation by demanding safeguards from customers.
Prior to the 1970s, Australia took a different view towards nuclear non-proliferation. In 1944, Australia supplied uranium ore to the Manhattan Project. Australian physicist Mark Oliphant played a major role in pushing the atomic bomb program in both Britain and the US before the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941.
However, after World War II, the US Government reneged on its agreement to share nuclear technology with its allies. Then Australian Prime Minister Robert Menzies, granted Australia’s assistance to Britain in its quest for autonomous nuclear weapons, giving technical assistance and allowing nuclear tests in the Mont Bello Islands, Emu Field and Maralinga, on Australian soil between 1952 and 1963. Australia also participated in the development of the Blue Streak and bloodhound missiles, which were potential nuclear weapon delivery systems with Britain during this era.
The significance of Australian participation, which didn’t go unnoticed by Australian bureaucrats and politicians at the time, was that under section IX.3 of the proposed NPT, Australia would be able to claim nuclear status as it had participated in the production and detonation of nuclear weapons prior to 1st January 1967. Historical reports indicate that the Australian Government’s main motivation at the time, (including US pressure), was to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons in the local hemisphere, rather than seeking the abolishment of nuclear weapons.
Attempts during the 1950s and 1960s were made by a number of defence personnel, high placed public servants, academics, and right-wing elements of the Liberal-Country Party to acquire nuclear weapons. Initially purchasing them from either Britain or the United States was advocated. Later developing an independent nuclear deterrent was favoured.
Most of the active proponents for nuclear weapons were defence related personnel. They developed a number of plans to acquire nuclear weapons from the British, or have the United States deploy them on Australian soil. Sir Philip Baxter, who was head of the Australian Atomic Energy Commission (AAEC) at the time, operated a clandestine research program to isolate the isotope U-235 from uranium, the quality needed in the production of nuclear weapons.
Some academics like Professor A. L. Burns of the Australian National University also advocated an Australian nuclear option which was aired by the Australian media at the time, especially in relation to the Chinese testing a nuclear bomb and the belief that Indonesia was also developing nuclear weapons. Pressure groups like the Democratic Labor Party and Returned Soldiers League which were both influential during the 1960s also strongly advocated an Australian nuclear weapon option.
The reluctance of the Australian Government to go ahead with the development of its own nuclear weapons all changed after Prime Minister Menzies retirement, when John Gorton unexpectedly became prime minister after the disappearance of Prime Minister Harold Holt in 1967. John Gorton, an ex-RAAF pilot strongly believed that Australia should have its own independent nuclear deterrent with the Chinese in possession of nuclear weapons in the region. Plans went underway to develop a nuclear facility at Jervis Bay on the South Coast of New South Wales that would house both a nuclear reactor, which could produce weapons grade plutonium, and bomb manufacturing facilities.
Gorton tried to develop an Australian nuclear weapon capability before the NPT was signed. However, in March 1971, he was disposed by William McMahon, who cancelled all nuclear weapon development plans. It will always remain a matter of conjecture how much influence the US had in his decision.
Moving back to more contemporary times, two recent reactions to recent events by the former Turnbull Government briefly hinted of a change in thinking about Australia’s strong non-proliferation position.
Firstly, Australia’s tradition of supporting non-proliferation in international forums was broken. Australia failed to support the recent United Nations resolution to outlaw nuclear weapons on the floor of the General Assembly in 2016, to the surprise and astonishment of many interested in this issue. Secondly, former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull failed to give Melbourne based International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) director Beatrice Fihn a congratulatory call after been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. This seems significant in what can be considered Australia’s first Nobel Peace Prize.
This is not yet a policy shift, but perhaps recognition that nuclear weapons for Australia may need to be an option. Today, with Australian citizen perception of China, and as more news of an Indonesian nuclear weapons program intentions surface, public support will increase. Australian society has changed since the anti-nuclear days of French testing in the Pacific, and the Chernobyl nuclear disaster.
Are nuclear weapons technically possible for Australia?
Australia’s capability to develop nuclear weapons is better than most. The Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organization (ANSTO) at Lucas Heights, replacing the AAEC in 1987 is an internationally renowned centre of nuclear research. Australia has also developed some advanced indigenous uranium refining technology, the SILEX process using lasers, which is much more economical and cheaper than the traditional centrifuge technology.
Australia has large reserves of uranium and a stockpile of semi-refined uranium at Lucas heights. Australia also has a certain degree of bomb making technology that it gained from participation with Britain in the nuclear tests during the 1950s and its own endeavours back in the 1970s. Australia has the Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II fighter, Boeing F/A-18a & B Hornet, and the F/A 18F Super Hornet as capable medium range delivery systems. Australia also has a range of nuclear capable cruise missiles which can be launched from aircraft, ships, and submarines. Submarines are today by far the most stealthy method of delivering nuclear weapons, as they are the most difficult to detect, and delivery time from launch to target is short.
However, this doesn’t mean developing a nuclear arsenal would be an easy project for any future government. The project would be a major one requiring special budgeting, which would mean curtailing other budget expenditure. This could be very difficult in today’s economic environment.
In the absence of some form of threat to Australia’s security, public debate would probably be one of the most heated and passionate within Australian society. This would be reflected in the finely balanced Australian Parliament. This debate would have the potential to bring down the Government.
In the absence of bi-partisanship between the major parties on the issue, a Labor Government on current policy would firmly squash any potential nuclear program. It may not even need a change of government, a change of leader within the Liberal Party maybe enough to force the cancellation of any nuclear program.
The nuclear weapon debate is an issue politicians can use to gain power, which would prevent Australia developing nuclear weapons. That’s the dynamics of a democratic system. If France or Britain had to develop nuclear weapons from scratch today, it would almost be impossible through their democratic processes.
Even if Australia decided to go ahead with a nuclear program, tacit approval would be needed from the United States. The US has for years been hedging on this. However, with the Biden view of the region, the US may support allies in the Asia-Pacific taking more responsibility for their own defence. The proposal by Australia to develop its own nuclear arsenal may bring big offers of concessions from the US. There are possibilities that the US could deploy nuclear weapons on Australian soil as a deterrent, with joint control or leasing scheme.
The strongest argument for Australia developing a nuclear deterrent is to gain strategic respect in the region. Australia cannot afford to project itself militarily into the South China Sea in any significant manner on its own. This would need spending 4-5 percent of GDP on defence over a decade. Australia’s transactional diplomacy within the region hasn’t developed close regional military alliances that it should have by now. China is using Australia as a decoupling experiment to see how isolated they can make the country. Australia must quickly see how alone it is now, as no country has jumped to Australia’s assistance. A nuclear deterrent will make it easier for Australia to stand alone. This will now very quickly develop into a serious option.
The ‘Bulletin Of The Atomic Scientists’ report said that the country currently has approximately 165 warheads and is looking to expand with more warheads, more delivery systems, and a growing fissile materials production industry
Pakistani spectators watch the Shaheen-II long range missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead on its launcher. AFP
In news that should worry India, Pakistan continues to expand its nuclear arsenal with more warheads, more delivery systems, and a growing fissile materials production industry, according to a report in the US-based ‘Bulletin Of The Atomic Scientists‘ dated 9 September.
According to the publication, if the country continues in the same manner, it will have 200 warheads by 2025. “We estimate that the country’s stockpile could more realistically grow to around 200 warheads by 2025 if the current trend continues,” read the report prepared by Hans M Kristensen, director of the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists, and Matt Korda, research associate for the NIP.
It added that Pakistan as of date has a nuclear weapons stockpile of approximately 165 warheads. However, the Pakistani government has never publicly disclosed the size of its arsenal and media sources frequently embellish news stories about nuclear weapons.
Pakistan’s nuclear stance
Pakistan is pursuing what it calls a “full spectrum deterrence posture,” which includes long-range missiles and aircraft for strategic missions, as well as several short-range, lower-yield nuclear-capable weapon systems in order to counter military threats below the strategic level.
According to former Pakistani officials, this posture – and its particular emphasis on non-strategic nuclear weapons – is specifically intended as a reaction to India’s perceived “Cold Start” doctrine.
This alleged doctrine revolves around India maintaining the capability to launch large-scale conventional strikes or incursions against Pakistani territory below the threshold at which Pakistan would retaliate with nuclear weapons.
The medium-range missiles include Shaheen-II and newer Shaheen-III missiles. Once fully operational, researchers point out that the Shaheen-III missiles, with a projected range of 2,750 km, would bring Israel within range of Pakistani nuclear missiles for the first time. For this, these missiles will have to be deployed in the western parts of Balochistan province.
The paper further pointed out that Pakistan is also developing a multiple independent reentry vehicle (MIRV) technology-enabled nuclear-capable ballistic missile Ababeel.
Pakistan Air Force’s (PAF) Mirage III and Mirage V fighter squadrons are likely to have nuclear delivery capabilities as well. Masroor Air Base near Karachi housing three Mirage squadrons has a “possible nuclear weapons storage site” nearby that, according to the authors, has been witnessing continuous underground constructions and expansions. “This includes a possible alert hangar with underground weapons-handling capability,” said the publication.
Moreover, Pakistan has a well-established and diverse fissile material production complex that is expanding. It includes the Kahuta uranium enrichment plant east of Islamabad, which appears to nearing completion, as well as the enrichment plant at Gadwal to the north of Islamabad.
The New Labs Reprocessing Plant at Nilore, east of Islamabad, which reprocesses spent fuel and extracts plutonium, has been expanded. Meanwhile, a second reprocessing plant located at Chashma in the northwestern part of Punjab province may have been completed and become operational by 2015.
According to the report, the National Defence Complex in the Kala Chitta Dahr mountain range is ground zero to produce nuclear-capable missiles and launchers. Researchers suspect that the Pakistan Ordnance factories near Wah could be linked to nuclear warhead production.
According to the International Panel on Fissile Materials, Pakistan had approximately 3,900 kg of weapon-grade highly enriched uranium and about 410 kg of weapon-grade plutonium in early 2020. But the authors of the nuclear notebook argue that calculating stockpile size solely based on fissile material inventory could be a wrong approach.
In 1999, the US Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) published a report titled ‘A Primer on the Future Threat: the Decades Ahead 1999-2020,’ estimating Pakistan’s nuclear weapons to be between 60 and 80. In september 2021, according to a nuclear notebook published in the journal Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Pakistan’s nuclear stockpile had grown to over 165 weapons. The Federation of American Scientists estimates that Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal may reach about 200 weapons by 2025 if present trends continue. Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal has never been made public. Pakistan’s nuclear capabilities are expected to grow in the next years, according to the newspaper. According to experts, analysing Pakistan’s nuclear capabilities is riddled with ambiguity because the government has never officially declared the amount of its arsenal. In early 2020, pakistan possessed around 3,900 kg of weapon-grade highly enriched uranium and about 410 kg of weapons-grade plutonium, according to the study. According to a report, the National Defence Complex in the Kala Chitta Dahr mountain range is where nuclear-capable missiles and launchers are developed. The pakistan Ordnance facilities in Wah are suspected of being involved in the development of nuclear warheads, according to researchers. At least six nuclear-capable land-based ballistic missiles are active in Pakistan. The Shaheen-III missiles, with an estimated range of 2,750 kilometres, would bring israel inside range for the first time, according to researchers. The nuclear capabilities of Pakistan’s F-16s and JF-17s aircraft are not included in the notebook due to “uncertainties.”