Biden to press Iraqi leader to help stop Iran’s attacks on the US

Biden to press Iraqi leader to help stop Iran’s drone strikes on U.S. troops


By Jeff Mordock


President Biden is expected to use his meeting Monday with the Iraqi prime minister to press him to take a stronger role in curtailing Iranian-backed drone attacks against U.S. troops in Iraq in Syria.

But Mr. Biden may not have enough leverage to overcome Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi’s fears of retaliation from Iran, analysts say.

“Iraq is not going to take a hard line against things that are not in the interest of Iraq,” said Robert Rabil, a professor at Florida Atlantic University, who has written books on the region.

“The prime minister is pro-U.S., but he is also a nationalist and pro-Iraq. He knows he can’t make an enemy out of Iran.”

Since President Biden took office in January, at least eight drone attacks and 17 rocket attacks have targeted U.S. troops in Iraq and Syria. An attack earlier this month on an Iraqi airbase hosting U.S. forces wounded two American service members.

The U.S. blamed the attacks on Iranian-backed militias operating inside Iraq and Syria. The militias make up a large part of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces, a state-sponsored umbrella organization composed of roughly 40 mostly Shia Muslim paramilitary groups.

In response to the attacks, Mr. Biden has twice ordered airstrikes against the militia groups operating inside Syria, including a strike near the Iraqi border.

The president is going to need to sell Mr. Mustafa al-Kadhimi on taking a harder and more public line against the drone attacks if he expects to make progress in the region, analysts say.

So far, Mr. Mustafa al-Kadhimi has been reluctant to take a stronger approach, fearing not only retaliation but blowback in his own country, Mr. Rabil said.

“To go against Iran, he will not do,” Mr. Rabil said of the prime minister. “Iraq does not have a political party so he needs to work in consensus. He wants to improve Iraq but has been faced with a lot of challenges. Using Iraq to settle the score between the U.S. and Iran won’t help.”

Complicating matters is the tense relationship between Iraq and the U.S. that has lingered since the Trump administration.

Former President Trump last year ordered a drone strike that killed Iran military leader Qassim Soleimani and senior Iraqi military commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis. The strike took place at the Baghdad International Airport.

Mr. Biden has sought a fresh start in U.S.-Iraqi relations and Mr. Mustafa al-Kadhimi appears to be on board. The visit to the White House is a sign of warming relationships.

Even if the prime minister won’t use harsher rhetoric against the drone strikes, there are still things he can do to assist the U.S.

First, he can share information with the U.S. about what Iraqi intelligence is gathering on the ground about the militias and drone strokes.

Mr. al Kadhimi can also work in the region to assist Mr. Biden in overcoming obstacles to reviving the Obama-era nuclear accord with Iran. There are signs that Iran is looking to curb the attacks on the U.S. military to reengage on a nuclear deal.

Mr. Rabil said the drone strikes appear to be structured to send a message to the United States but cause enough chaos to scuttle negotiations. For example, while the attacks have wounded service members, the U.S. has not sustained any casualties.

“If you look at the attacks, they are not aimed in a way to demand a strong retaliation,” he said. “They want to be able to say that we handled the United States on our terms, but not provoke a strong response.”

The Russian horn tests new hypersonic nuke: Daniel 7

Russia Tests Hypersonic Zircon Missile
Credit: Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation

Russia Tests Hypersonic Zircon Missile

Growing geopolitical rivalries will continue to drive the development of hypersonic and other lethal weapons systems.

Russia has reportedly conducted a successful test launch of a hypersonic cruise missile. Russian President Vladimir Putin said earlier this week that the new hypersonic missile, Tsirkon (Zircon) was “part of a new generation of missile systems without equal in the world.” The Russian defense ministry in a statement said that the missile was fired from the Admiral Gorshkov frigate in the White Sea and hit a ground target located on the coast of the Barents Sea, more than 350 kilometers away, with the missile travelling at seven times the speed of sound. 

The ministry said that “the tactical and technical characteristics of the Tsirkon missile were confirmed during the tests.” Russia plans to equip its submarines and surface ships with these missiles in the coming years. Even as there are questions about hypersonic missile technology, experts acknowledge that “the combination of speed, maneuverability, and altitude of hypersonic missiles makes them difficult to track and intercept.” 

According to one report, given the speed at which they travel, “the air pressure in front of the weapon forms a plasma cloud as it moves, absorbing radio waves and making it practically invisible to active radar systems.” In addition, the reaction time of even the advanced Aegis-class system is too slow to be able to intercept such missiles. Experts estimate that “it would take fewer than a half-dozen of those missiles to sink even the most advanced American aircraft carrier, such as the USS Gerald R. Ford.”  

In 2018, Putin announced that Russia was developing a series of hypersonic weapons including the Avangard that “could hit almost any point in the world and evade a U.S.-built missile shield.” In 2019, he threatened to use hypersonic missiles to target the U.S. directly if Washington deployed intermediate-range missiles in Europe, after the Trump administration withdrew from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. Although the U.S. has not yet deployed such missiles in Europe, Russia continues to worry about possible deployments in the future. The U.S. claims that it withdrew from the INF treaty because of Russian cheating. 

Putin has boasted of developing many weapon systems, including the Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missiles and Burevestnik cruise missile, that could evade U.S. missile defense systems. The Zircon missile itself has been tested many times and in October 2020, commenting on one of those tests, Putin claimed that it is a “great event not just in the life of our armed forces but for all of Russia.”  

Some of Russia’s hypersonic missiles are already claimed to be deployed with its armed forces. According to Russian media reports, the government has “deployed two interceptor jets capable of carrying the hyped Kinzhal hypersonic missile for war games in Syria.” Russia’s defense ministry is quoted in the same report as saying that “a pair of MiG-31K aircraft with the ability to use the latest hypersonic missiles from the Kinzhal complex flew from Russian airfields to the Russian airbase Khmeimim in Syria for exercises.”  

Russia is not alone in these efforts. China has been making consistent efforts at developing hypersonic weapons. In 2019, at the military parade on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China, China showcased the DF-17 missile for the first time. Even though the U.S. has known about the DF-17 prototype for close to a decade, Mike Griffin, the U.S. undersecretary for research and engineering at the Department of Defense, in 2018 revealed that China had done “20 times as many hypersonic weapons tests as has the United States over the last decade.” Like Russia, China’s pursuit of hypersonic missiles appears to have been spurred by U.S. missile defense developments, which could potentially neutralize the traditional ballistic missiles that Russia and China possess.  

Reacting to Russia’s latest test, NATO in a statement said that it “create[s] a greater risk of escalation and miscalculation.” It added that “Russia’s new hypersonic missiles are highly destabilizing and pose significant risks to security and stability across the Euro-Atlantic area.” The statement also said that the NATO allies remain “committed to respond in measured way to Russia’s growing array of conventional and nuclear-capable missiles,” but clarified that it will not undertake efforts to “mirror what Russia does, but we will maintain credible deterrence and defense, to protect our nations.”  

Growing geopolitical rivalries will continue to drive the development of hypersonic and other lethal weapon systems. With the U.S., Russia, and China all pursuing these technologies, it has already given way to a spiraling arms race. Countries like India and Australia have had to respond as well, albeit at different levels.
Authors

Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan
Contributing Author

Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan

Dr. Rajeswari (Raji) Pillai Rajagopalan is the Director of the Centre for Security, Strategy & Technology (CSST) at the Observer Research Foundation, New Delhi.

The invincible Russian nuclear horn: Daniel 7

Placeholder image for youtube video: NFLEe77hHXo

Russia unveils new stealth fighter as Vladimir Putin builds ‘invincible’ arsenal

The launch of the plane came just days after Russia tested a hypersonic missile, stoking fears of a new arms race

By Theo Merz Moscow21 July 2021 • 11:29am

Russia has unveiled a stealth fighter jet named “Checkmate” as Moscow steps up military testing amid increased tensions with the West.

President Vladimir Putin inspected the much-vaunted aircraft, which state manufacturer Rostec hopes to sell to foreign markets, at a trade show outside Moscow this week. 

The next-generation Sukhoi fighter is able to reach twice the speed of sound and can be converted to an unpiloted version, according to its designers, who aim to begin deliveries by 2026. 

The launch of the plane was accompanied by a provocative advertising campaign, which played on a recent standoff between a British warship and the Russian military in the Black Sea.

The fifth-generation single-engine stealth fighter can reach twice the speed of sound
The launch of the plane was accompanied by a provocative advertising campaign

In one advertisement, the Royal Navy’s HMS Defender featured alongside the slogan “See You”. In another, the Checkmate appeared under black tarpaulin, with the question: “Wanna see me naked?”. 

The unveiling came just days after Russia tested a hypersonic missile, part of a growing arsenal that Mr Putin has described as “invincible”, and analysts say is fuelling a new arms race.

Moscow’s defense ministry on Monday announced it had fired the Tsirkon cruise missile at a target on the northern Barents Sea, with the weapon travelling some 200 miles at more than seven times the speed of sound.

A prototype of Russia’s new Sukhoi Checkmate Fighter

Nuclear capable systems

The Pentagon said such missiles, which could be used to target Western navy destroyers in a potential conflict, “are potentially destabilising and pose significant risks because they are nuclear capable systems”.

Moscow has already carried out several tests of the Tsirkon, including one firing last year that Mr Putin described as a “great event not just in the life of our armed forces but for all of Russia.” 

More tests are set for next month, and Russia eventually plans to equip both warships and submarines with the weapon. 

Mr Putin has in recent years announced a number of new weapons that he claims can circumnavigate existing defense systems and have left the West “playing catch-up” with Russia. 

They include Avangard hypersonic missiles, which were deployed in 2019. “The Avangard is invulnerable to intercept by any existing and prospective missile defence means of the potential adversary,” the Russian president said at the time.

Also this week, the Russian military released the first footage of a live fire test of its S-500 Prometheus missile system, which it said was “objectively unlike anything in the world” and could protect from attacks from space.

Moscow’s flaunting of its hardware follows increasingly aggressive rhetoric from the Kremlin, with Mr Putin promising a “fast and harsh” response if any foreign country was seen to be crossing Russia’s “red lines”. 

But Pavel Felgenhauer, a Russia-based military analyst, poured some cold water on Moscow’s claims of its capabilities.

Mr Felgenhauer said that the military was still operating with Soviet-designed equipment and a “Soviet mentality,” which prized size over genuine innovation, and spoke of a “technological gap” between Russia and the US.

The test of the Tsirkon was “a gift for the Pentagon” as Washington reviews its military spending, he told The Telegraph. 

“There has to be a threat to convince people to spend on weapons,” he said. 

The administration of US President Joe Biden has already asked for increased funding for research into hypersonic technology, requesting some $3.8 billion for 2022, up from $3.2 billion on the previous year. China has also been developing hypersonic weapons for the last decade.

Putin ‘trying to scare’ the West

Mr Felgenhauer said Moscow was developing such equipment primarily as a deterrence, to convince the US and other Western countries that it was not worth getting involved in what Russia considers its field of influence.

“Putin is trying to scare [the US and Europe], so that when Moscow goes, for example, for Ukraine, the West will sit on the sidelines.”

Russia last month tested a giant new nuclear submarine, the largest developed anywhere in the world in three decades. 

Moscow said the Belgorod submarine would not only act as a mothership for smaller vessels that could cut vital cables on the seafloor, but also carry six Poseidon nuclear torpedoes. 

Russia is currently developing the Poseidon, which it says is a long-range, nuclear-powered autonomous torpedo, potentially capable of destroying coastal cities.

Mr Felgenhauer described the technology as “unethical” as it is aimed at civilian populations and would cause mass loss of life. 

But Pavel Luzin, an independent military analyst, suggested it would be “physically impossible” to deploy the Poseidon. Moscow had vaunted its development for propaganda rather than practical purposes, he said.

Mr Luzin added that Russia’s sabre-rattling was designed to make up for shortcomings in other areas.

“Russia tries to be a superpower without enough economic capacity, without enough technological capacity, without enough human capital,” he said. 

“The only capital of Russia is military capital, and that’s why Russia puts a lot of attention and spends a lot of money on global military capabilities.”

Another Obama deal with empower the Iranian Nuclear Horn: Daniel 8

A New Nuclear Deal Would Empower the Iranian Regime

The current, bumpy negotiations aimed at preventing the Iranian regime from developing nuclear weapons are among the Biden administration’s highest priorities. The administration liftedsanctions on more than a dozen former Iranian officials in June, a move that Iranian officials viewed as a victory.

Iran even claimed that 1,000 more sanctions will soon be lifted, which the US State Department spokesman denied. Days later, it was reported that the Biden administration might remove what it considers symbolic sanctions on Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.

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This all comes as Iran faces new internal pressures. Severe water shortages have triggered six days of massive anti-government protests, including chants of “Death to [Ayatollah] Khamenei.”

As diplomacy continues, Iran is not relenting in pursuing its violent objectives. US troops in Syria were shelled by Iranian rocket fire following US airstrikes on Iranian-backed militias. While US forces responded to the attacks, it was not enough to stop six reprisal attacks by Iranian-backed militias in Iraq and Syria this month alone. “President Biden must put forward a real strategy for deterring and ending these attacks, rather than continuing his bare-minimum, tit-for-tat approach that is failing to deter Iran or its militias and puts American lives at increased risk.” said US Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK).

Iran’s Supreme National Security Council on Tuesday rejected a new draft nuclear agreement because it was incompatible with legislation passed by Iran’s parliament last December. That law prohibits the country from dropping below 20 percent enriched uranium, which would not be allowed in any negotiated nuclear deal.

In 2015, Iran signed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)with the United States, France, the United Kingdom, China, Russia, and Germany. This lifted some sanctions on the Iranian government in exchange for restricting the amount of enriched uranium stockpiles Iran could maintain.

Since then, Iran has ratcheted up its expansionist plans in the Middle East, underwriting terrorist groups and even assassinating dissidents in Western countries.

Those aggressive international terrorist operations continue. Four Iranian nationals were charged in New York on July 14 with attempting to kidnapAmerican journalist Masih Alinejad and take her to Iran. The plot began in 2018, the indictment says.

The 2015 JCPOA clearly benefited Iran, freeing up money to expand its Middle East hegemony. In Lebanon, Hezbollah continues to use force to expand its influence on the state politics. Backed by $700 million in annual Iranian financing, Hezbollah has become Lebanon’s most influential political player.

In Iraq, the Popular Mobilization Forces PMF, which was allegedly formed to curb ISIS’ rapid expansion in 2014, has become an Iranian proxy, committing atrocities and assassinating citizens. Iraqi authorities arrested PMF commander Qasem Muslah in May, charging him in connection with the assassinations of pro-democracy activists.

Since winning election as Iran’s new president last month, hardliner Ebrahim Raisi has said that he will not negotiate over Iran’s missile program or meet with Biden, even if both sides agreed on terms to revive the JCPOA. No one has proposed such a meeting, but it is a sign that Iran’s hard-line policies are not going to change.

While Iran’s economy struggles, its support for terrorist groups continues. Despite May’s Gaza war, Hamas has enough Iranian money to continue its operations, said Hamas chief Yahya Sinwar. “All the thanks to the Islamic Republic of Iran, which never spared any expenses on us or other Palestinian factions, Sinwar said in a May 30 news conference. “They provided us with money, arms and expertise.” Hamas will “scorch the earth,” he threatened, if Gaza’s problems are not solved.

Threats of Israel’s annihilation are consistent with Hamas’ founding charter. But they also match Iran’s repeated goal. Former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad described Israel in 2005 as “disgraceful blot” that should be “wiped off the face of the earth.”

In 2017, Iranian authorities installed a doomsday clock, ticking toward 2040, the year Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei predicted Israel would be destroyed. But in a sign of Iran’s misplaced priorities, the clock stopped working earlier this month due to power shortages in the country.

In the meantime, Iran is closer to producing its first nuclear bomb.

For the past six months, the Biden administration has been sendingmessages that it intends to deescalate the situation with Iran, but Iranian officials interpret that as a sign of weakness. Iranian Revolutionary Guard intelligence chief Hussein Taeb last week urged an escalation in attacks against US forces in Iraq.

“History has repeatedly proven that appeasement will only embolden and empower a rogue state. But the Biden administration and the EU appear determined to pursue this dangerous policy with a regime that is a top state sponsor of terrorism, according to the US State Department, and a leading human rights violator,” wrote Iranian-American political scientist Majid Rafizadeh in the Arab News.

Iran is technically capable of enriching uranium to weapons-grade should it choose so, said outgoing Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. After six rounds of talks in Vienna, an agreement still seems far away.

In spite of President Biden’s declarationthat Iran will not acquire nuclear weapons on his watch, it is becoming clearer that the current US administration has no tangible plan to counter or deal with the Iranian threat to the Middle East and US interests there, and is simply improvising. Accordingly, if the Iranian regime is capable of creating all the above mentioned havoc while still under US sanctions, how much worse will it behave when sanctions are lifted?

Investigative Project on Terrorism Senior Fellow Hany Ghoraba is an Egyptian writer, political and counter-terrorism analyst at Al Ahram Weekly, author of Egypt’s Arab Spring: The Long and Winding Road to Democracy and a regular contributor to the BBC.

A version of this article was originally published by the Investigative Project on Terrorism.

Nuclear officials discuss modernization of Babylon the Great: Daniel 7

An undated photograph shows Technical Area 3 at Los Alamos National Laboratory, Los Alamos, New Mexico.

Nuclear officials discuss modernization of arsenal in online forum

Scott Wyland

(Tribune News Service) — A group of nuclear weapons managers agreed Tuesday that making more plutonium cores for warheads will be key to modernizing the nation’s arsenal as a deterrent against rival countries.

But during an online forum, a few of the managers who work at facilities with nuclear weapons programs also delved into a military leader’s assertion in recent months the U.S. is unable to produce a brand-new nuclear weapon, unlike Russia and China.

Peter Heussy, a defense consultant, asked the panel to interpret the comments by Adm. Charles Richard, head of U.S. Strategic Command, based on their work in the field.

“My thinking is: By policy we’re not supposed to be designing new [weapons]. We’re not being asked to do it, either,” said Mark Martinez, who oversees mission support and testing at the Nevada National Security Site.

The current focus is on life extension, Martinez said, referring to the program to replace or upgrade aging components, including the softball-sized plutonium cores — or pits — that detonate warheads.

Plans call for Los Alamos National Laboratory to produce 30 pits by 2026 and Savannah River Site in South Carolina to make 50 pits in the 2030s.

In April, Richard told the House and Senate armed services committees that Russia is overtaking the U.S. in nuclear modernization and China was gaining ground.

Richard contended America had made zero upgrades recently while Russia had modernized 80 percent of its stockpile. He also said the U.S. was stalled when it came to engineering weapons.

“We have no capability right now to actually make a new weapon,” Richard told lawmakers.

His comments spurred a backlash from anti-nuclear watchdogs, who accused him of making alarmist and misleading statements to lobby for more nuclear spending.

They argued some of the future pits would equip new warheads being developed for land-based and submarine-launched missiles.

“That accounting might surprise Congress and defense contractors that are in the midst of a $1.5 trillion nuclear modernization program launched after the Obama administration negotiated the New START agreement with Russia,” the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation said in a newsletter. “The contractors are having a field day.”

But Heussy said the nuclear stockpile was reduced to 3,800 warheads and has remained at that level for a while.

The U.S. also quit developing new platforms or delivery systems, he said, adding the next one isn’t scheduled to be deployed until 2029.

“We literally took a holiday,” Heussy said.

Martinez said the life-extension program is strengthening the nation’s capability to produce nuclear arms as needed, which he described as working “the large muscle groups.”

New pits will enable existing warheads to be rebuilt into modernized ones that are essentially as good as new, said the head of Savannah River’s primary contractor.

“I think pit manufacturing is going to be the real challenge,” said Stuart MacVean, president and CEO of Savannah River Nuclear Solutions LLC.

Officials at the National Nuclear Security Administration have said the earlier estimate of Savannah River meeting its pit production target in 2030 was unrealistic and that it could take until 2035.

Meanwhile, the most recent cost estimate for bringing Savannah River’s pit plant online has swelled to $11 billion from $4.6 billion.

Critics have said Savannah River has no experience producing pits.

But MacVean said they don’t need to reinvent the wheel. They will use similar equipment that Los Alamos lab is employing.

“LANL is making great progress,” MacVean said. “We’re connected to them to make sure we’re learning from them.”

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Iran intensifies attacks on US bases in Syria to win nuclear negotiations: Daniel 8:4

Elements of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) on the Syrian-Turkish borders (AFP)

Enab Baladi – Jana al-Issa

United States’ bases in Syria and Iraq have been heavily targeted over the past two weeks, with the US Defense Department (the Pentagon) blaming Iran for the attacks.

In a press briefing held on13 July, Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby responded to a question regarding Iranian attacks by saying, “These attacks are dangerous and potentially lethal, and the Pentagon takes them seriously.”

The recent attacks indicate that Iran has been planning on escalating its military targeting of US bases. On 13 July, Reuters cited three sources from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and two Iraqi security sources who said that IRGC chief Hossein Taeb headed an Iranian delegation to Iraq and urged Iraqi Shi’ite militias to step up attacks on US targets during a meeting in the Iraq capital, Baghdad, last week.

Iranian officials advised the Iraqis not to go too far in their attacks on US forces in Syria to avoid a big escalation, Reuters quoted the sources.

Reuters cited a senior official in the region, who was briefed by Iranian authorities on Taeb’s visit, that Taeb met several Iraqi militia leaders during the trip and conveyed “the supreme leader’s message to them about keeping up pressure on US forces in Iraq until they leave the region.” 

Would Iran force US troops out of Syria and Iraq?

report by the Iranian al-Alam news TV channel entitled “Messages of the Five Targeting Operations Against American Occupation Bases in Syria” mentioned on 16 July that Iran’s long-term motives behind these attacks are to force US forces out of Syria by “popular resistance adopted by Iran through the attacks.”

Meanwhile, the short-term Iranian target is to pressure the US to “change its policy in Syria and ease sanctions,” the report said.

Iranian affairs researcher Alaa al-Sa’id told Enab Baladi that the Iranian targeting of US bases in Syria and Iraq does not put any pressure on America to leave these countries.

Al-Sa’id added that the US withdrawal from any country is not subject to Iranian pressures or the pressures of other sides. Such a decision is “purely American,” taken according to US interests with the aim of protecting national security.

Syrian writer and political analyst Zakariya Malahfji told Enab Baladi that Iranian attacks are not up to the aim of forcing US troops to withdraw from their bases in Syria or Iraq. Iran is involving itself in shenanigans, targeting US bases to win a pressure card on negotiating tables.

Iran’s attacks in Syria coincided with fiercer ones in Iraq targeting US interests there, opening the door to the possibility of Washington withdrawing its troops from the country it entered in 2003 to overthrow the regime of former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein.

On 17 July, the US Associated Press news agency reported that a meeting between US President Joe Biden and Iraq’s Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi would take place in the White House on 26 July.

The meeting comes at a pivotal point in the US-Iraq relationship, and amid growing concerns about more frequent attacks against US troops in Iraq and Syria, the Associated Press said.

Since Biden took office in January, there have been at least eight drone attacks targeting the US presence, as well as 17 rocket attacks, according to the Associated Press.

An ostensible objective

Al-Sa’id said that Iran’s claim that its attacks aim to pressure the US to ease economic sanctions against the Syrian regime is nothing but an “ostensible objective.”

He added that Iran’s real objective behind attacking US bases in Syria is to use the Syrian regime’s forces on battlefields and drain their sources in case Iran was attacked back.

Since the US imposed the Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act, also known as the Caesar Act, entailing sanctions on the Syrian regime, Iranian officials released many statements rejecting US sanctions claiming that they “affect the lives of Syrian people.”

The statements also mentioned Iran’s assistance and support to the regime in the face of US sanctions in various sectors, chiefly oil derivatives.

New presidency, new goals

On 19 June, Ebrahim Raisi won the Iranian presidential elections after receiving the highest percentage of votes with 63 percent of the voters.

Al-Sa’id said that Iran’s new presidency and intensified attacks are interrelated in the sense that the new presidency led by Raisi wants to show itself strong at the beginning of its term. 

Raisi wants to appear strong to silence his opponents, on the one hand, and to send a message to the US on Iran’s force to ease pressures related to nuclear talks in Vienna, al-Sa’id added.

Political analyst Malahfji pointed out that Raisi is a hardliner who is accused of several war crimes and that his election to the presidency indicates Iran’s intentions of escalation. 

The new Iranian presidency is trying to pressure the US indirectly to win the Vienna talks between Tehran, the US, and world powers on reviving the 2015 nuclear deal in Vienna, which restricted Iran’s nuclear activity in exchange for lifting international sanctions.

In July, the US base in the al-Omar oil field in the eastern countryside of Deir Ezzor was targeted three times, according to the state-run Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA).

Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby denied the targeting of the US base in the al-Omar oil field and said that there were no military exercises for the US-led International Coalition Forces (ICF) in the area.

Iran has officially declared on many occasions that its presence in Syria is for advisory reasons at the Syrian government’s demand. However, since its early intervention in Syria, Iran has supported the regime politically, militarily, and economically and expanded its influence in Syria during the past years in various military, economic, and cultural fields.

The Russian nuclear Horn threatens WW3: Daniel

Russia claims it successfully trialled the fastest hypersonic missile in the world
Russia claims it successfully trialled the fastest hypersonic missile in the worldCredit: East2West

WW3 fears as Russia warns US not to deploy hypersonic missiles in Europe

6:05 ET,

RUSSIA has warned US plans to deploy hypersonic missiles in Europe could spark World War III.

The Russian Embassy in the US warned of an “inadvertent conflict” if the US pushed ahead with the deployment of the long-range rockets in Europe.

Recent Russian wargames in Europe have caused tensions to rise in the region
Recent Russian wargames in Europe have caused tensions to rise in the regionCredit: East2West
Russian president Vladimir Putin has been accused of greenlighting 'destabilizing activities' in Europe
Russian president Vladimir Putin has been accused of greenlighting ‘destabilizing activities’ in EuropeCredit: AP

“We would like to remind @PentagonPressSec that potential deployment of any [American flag] hypersonic [missile] in Europe would be extremely destabilizing,” a tweet from the Embassy’s official Twitter account read.

“Their short flight time would leave [Russian flag] little to no decision time and raise the likelihood of inadvertent conflict.”

Washington says it’s checking Russia’s “destabilizing activities” in the region, which has included a British destroyer coming under fire from Russian fighter jets in the Black Sea and the allegedly successful testing of the Tsirkon hypersonic cruise missile.

“It’s important to note that Russia’s new hypersonic missiles are potentially destabilizing and pose significant risks because they are nuclear-capable systems,” Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby shot back.

Kirby said the US was working “closely with allies and partners, including NATO, to try to check those destabilizing activities”.

‘TRULY UNPARALLED’

The deadly Zircon – or Tsirkon was unleashed at a speed of Mach 8 at a land target from the frigate Admiral Gorshkov in the White Sea off the northwest coast of Russia on Sunday.

The target more than 220 miles away was hit in the Zircon’s first state trial and the missile’s “tactical and technical characteristics were confirmed”, reported state-owned RIA Novosti and Defence Ministry TV channel Zvezda.

No further details were immediately given of the White Sea trial.

Last week it was revealed Russia was set to begin final tests of the hypersonic missile.

The Zircon has been identified by Moscow’s state-controlled TV as Putin’s weapon of choice to wipe out coastal American cities in the event of a nuclear conflict. 

The Kremlin leader has called the Zircon missile “truly unparalleled in the world”, and the Russians have boasted it is “unstoppable” by Western defences.

A key use of the missile is taking out enemy ships and reports suggested its maximum range is between 188 and 620 miles. 

It is one of a number of hypersonic missiles Russia is developing including the 188-tonne Sarmat – known in the West as Satan-2 and the biggest beast in Russia’s nuclear arsenal, due for tests in the autumn, and to go into service next year.

GOING NUCLEAR

Washington has tried to reduce their number of nukes but says foreign powers have moved in the opposite direction.

According to a bombshell Pentagon report, no potential adversary to the US “has reduced either the role of nuclear weapons in its national security strategy of the number of nuclear weapons it fields”.

The report warns of potential regional conflicts involving nukes in several parts of the world.

Russia’s strategic nuclear modernization has greatly increased, meaning Moscow can expand its warhead numbers, according to the report.

Beijing is reportedly considering whether to develop autonomous nuclear weapons systems, the New York Post reports.

Ambassador Robert Wood told reporters earlier this month that if foes of the US were to continue developing these kinds of weapons and aerial systems then it would have “the potential to change the strategic stability environment in a dynamic way.”

North Korean officials have fast-tracked testing of missiles capable of reaching American shores while Iran reportedly has the technology and capacity to create a nuclear weapon within a year, MailOnline reports.

Pyongyang reportedly poses the “most immediate and dire proliferation threat” to the international order, according to the defense report.

Officials are also concerned about Iran’s “aggressive strategy,” which could destabilize relations in the Middle East, and experts are suspicious about Tehran’s commitment to reducing their nuclear arsenal.

The report recommended: “Flexible and limited US nuclear response options can play an important role in restoring deterrence following limited adversary nuclear escalation.”

And Washington’s nuclear program must only be used in “extreme circumstances” and government officials must communicate in ways that are understood by rogue powers.

The publication of the report comes as the US and Russia extended the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty for five years.

Moscow and Washington withdrew from the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty in 2019.

The pact mandated the US and Soviet Union to eliminate nuclear missiles that had ranges of 500-5,500km.

Alarms go up on the Iranian Nuclear Horn: Daniel 8

An Iranian national flag.

Alarm grows among sidelined monitors about Iran’s nuclear program

Peter Millard and Jonathan Tirone

International monitors are watching Iran’s fast-expanding nuclear program with growing alarm as Tehran refuses to extend an expired inspections pact and insists the experts must trust that it’s accurately documenting uranium-enrichment activities.

Iran claims it’s still preserving data captured by International Atomic Energy Agency monitoring equipment, the agency’s director general, Rafael Mariano Grossi, said in an interview in Rio de Janeiro. But officials won’t give his investigators access to it until Iran concludes stalled talks with world powers to restore a broader 2015 agreement that lifted sanctions.

“It’s a rather uncomfortable situation for us because this assurance is informal in nature and we don’t know whether this is the case or not,” Grossi said on Monday. “But we do not have a choice.”

The deal struck six years ago this month restricted Iran’s nuclear activities, but it has crumbled since then-President Donald Trump withdrew the U.S. in 2018. After Trump reimposed sanctions, Iran started breaking caps on its nuclear work, and it has now stockpiled nearly enough highly-enriched uranium to build a warhead.

“We need to verify that all this material at those higher grades is going to remain in peaceful uses,” Grossi said. “The only way to do that is to cooperate with the IAEA. If they don’t do it, they are outlaws.”

While the Biden administration, along with China, France, Germany, Russia and the U.K., have been trying to revive the 2015 accord since April, diplomats are expected to reconvene only next month after new Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, a hard-line cleric, is installed in office.

The discussions are being closely watched by energy markets anticipating a surge in Iranian oil and gas exports if sanctions on the country’s sales are lifted.

Grossi spoke amid reports that policymakers in Washington could start raising the pressure on Iran if talks to revive their agreement fail. Dow Jones reported that the U.S. might target Iran’s oil sales to China, which have surged since President Joe Biden entered the White House, if the talks break down.

That’s simply one among a number of alternative scenarios the U.S. is thinking about if there’s no return to the multinational nuclear accord, according to a U.S. official who asked not to be identified discussing internal deliberations. China is where Iran exports most of its oil today, and the U.S. has conveyed the possibility of new sanctions to China, the official said.

Iran has more than tripled its stockpile of uranium enriched to 60% to 19.6 pounds (8.9 kilograms) from 5.3 pounds (2.4 kilograms) verified by international inspectors in a June report, according to a tweet from Iran’s foreign minister last week. That purity of uranium is technically indistinguishable from the material needed to make nuclear weapons, with as little as 10 to 15 kilograms of the highly-enriched metal needed to manufacture a crude nuclear device.

Iran has always maintained that its nuclear program is for civilian uses, but concern in Western capitals and Israel over the potential for bombmaking helped prompt the original agreement.

“We will have to see what the new government decides in terms of returning to the format,” said Grossi, whose agency isn’t represented at the talks but plays a key role enforcing the deal’s nuclear covenants.

Grossi said that his inspectors continue having a presence inside Iran but that their visits are restricted to declared nuclear sites. The IAEA’s probe into trace amounts of decades-old uranium found at several locations and linked to Israeli revelations remains at a standstill.

“That is basically stopped,” Grossi said. “We have exchanged a few letters, but there is no real engagement.”

The failure to clarify the source of the material opens another potential pathway for the U.S. to mount pressure on Iran. Washington’s IAEA envoy Louis Bono has suggested the Islamic Republic could face formal censure if progress isn’t made in the investigation before September.

Russia Warns the American and European Nuclear Horns: Daniel 7

russia missiles
The Russian Defense Ministry said it has carried out successful test launch of its new Tsirkon hypersonic cruise missile. Russia Defense Ministry

Russia Warns Pentagon That Hypersonic Missiles in Europe Could Lead to Conflict

By Brendan Cole On 7/20/21 at 5:35 AM EDT

Moscow has warned the Pentagon that the U.S. deploying hypersonic missiles in Europe could unintentionally spark hostilities, just hours after Russia test-fired a weapon it wants to equip its warships and submarines with.

On Monday, Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby was asked about Russia’s claims that it had successfully tested a Tsirkon hypersonic cruise missile.

Russia’s Defense Ministry had earlier said that the Admiral Gorshkov frigate had successfully test-fired the missile. Fired from Russia’s Arctic region, it reached a speed of Mach 7 and hit a surface target about 217 miles away, on the coast of the Barents Sea, Tass news agency reported on Monday.

“The tactical and technical characteristics of the Tsirkon missile were confirmed during the tests,” the Defense Ministry said, also releasing video of the weapon, which President Vladimir Putin had previously boasted would be able to reach speeds of Mach 9, and hit targets up to 700 miles away.

When asked about the test, Kirby said: “We’re certainly aware of President Putin’s claims, […] it’s important to note that Russia’s new hypersonic missiles are potentially destabilizing and pose significant risks because they are nuclear capable systems.”

Kirby added: “By contrast, the United States is developing solely non-nuclear hypersonic strike capabilities. So alongside our NATO allies we remain committed to deterrence while promoting greater stability in the region.”

With Moscow still upset over alliance-led military exercises in the Black Sea, Kirby’s comments spurred a stern response from the Russian Embassy in Washington.

In a tweet in which it shared a screen grab of a transcript of Kirby’s remarks, a red exclamation mark, a missile and flag emojis, the embassy said: “We would like to remind @PentagonPresSec that potential deployment of any [U.S flag] hypersonic [missile] in Europe would be extremely destabilizing.”

“Their short flight time would leave [Russian flag] little to no decision time and raise [the] likelihood of inadvertent conflict.”

Meanwhile, Russian Senator Alexei Pushkov also took a swipe at Kirby’s comments.

He wrote on Telegram that Russia was acting within the context of “the approach of NATO towards Russia’s borders,” the U.S. withdrawal from the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty as well as within the context in which “the introduction of 75 different sanctions are a series of acts of economic war.”

“Is Kirby aware of all this?” Pushkov wrote.

Western experts are still examining the capability of Russia’s new generation of hypersonic weapons, of which the speed and maneuverability are acknowledged as making them difficult to track and intercept.

After boasting in 2018 that Russia was developing a range of new hypersonic weapons, Putin then threatened to station them on ships and submarines near American territorial waters if the U.S. deployed intermediate-range nuclear weapons in Europe.

In April, the Russian Black Sea Fleet’s Moskva missile cruiser test-fired the Vulkan missile in a a show of force to NATO.

Newsweek has contacted the Pentagon for comment.

The Iranian Nuclear Horn Says They Will Breakout Soon

Iran rejects EU proposal to lengthen ‘breakout time’

The reactor building at the Russian-built Bushehr nuclear power plant in southern Iran, located 1,200 kilometers (745 miles) south of Tehran, Iran, Oct. 26, 2010. (AFP Photo)by Anadolu AgencyJul 18, 2021 2:03 pm

European officials offered a new three-pronged approach for Iran that included lengthening its “breakout time,” but Tehran has rejected it, The Wall Street Journal said in a report.

The breakout time refers to the time period required to enrich uranium for a nuclear bomb.

“In addition to keeping advanced centrifuges in storage and under seal, they (European officials) want Iran to rip out the electronic infrastructure it is currently using to run machines banned under the deal and reduce Iran’s capacity for producing new centrifuges at its assembly plants,” the newspaper said.

The newspaper did not specify whether the European offer was made to the Iranian side in the context of the Vienna talks.

Iran started producing highly advanced uranium silicide fuel for its Tehran research reactor earlier this month amid soaring tensions with the United States fueled by a deadlock over the 2015 nuclear deal.

The country’s envoy to the United Nations nuclear agency, Kazem Gharibabadi, said the agency had been “informed” of Iran’s move, which he said is intended to produce high-quality radiopharmaceuticals.

It instantly drew criticism from the U.S. and three European powers engaged in marathon talks with Iran in Vienna to salvage the nuclear deal that Washington abandoned in May 2018.

They warned that it would complicate or even torpedo the ongoing talks, which have been effectively put on the back burner after six rounds lasting three months.

While the U.K., France and Germany expressed “grave concern” about the measure, the U.S. termed it an “unfortunate step backwards,” but emphasized that the window for diplomacy remains open.

The Wall Street Journal said Western diplomats think Iran is using the slow pace of the talks to acquire “irreversible technical knowledge on uranium metal, centrifuges and production of higher-grade enriched uranium.

”In June, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned that Iran’s breakout time could be in a matter of weeks if not stopped.”

It remains unclear whether Iran is willing and prepared to do what it needs to do come back into compliance,” Blinken said.

“Meanwhile, its program is galloping forward. … The longer this goes on, the more the breakout time gets down … it’s now down, by public reports, to a few months at best. And if this continues, it will get down to a matter of weeks.”

Last Update: Jul 18, 2021 3:22 pm