Babylon the Great tries to stop the Iranian nuclear horn

Exclusive: U.S. to slap sanctions on over two dozen targets tied to Iran arms

Steve Holland and Arshad Mohammed

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States on Monday will sanction more than two dozen people and entities involved in Iran’s nuclear, missile and conventional arms programs, a senior U.S. official said, putting teeth behind U.N. sanctions on Tehran that Washington argues have resumed despite the opposition of allies and adversaries.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, the official said Iran could have enough fissile material for a nuclear weapon by the end of the year and that Tehran has resumed long-range missile cooperation with nuclear-armed North Korea. He did not provide detailed evidence regarding either assertion.

The new sanctions fit into U.S. President Donald Trump’s effort to limit Iran’s regional influence and come a week after U.S.-brokered deals for the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain to normalize ties with Israel, pacts that may coalesce a wider coalition against Iran while appealing to pro-Israel U.S. voters ahead of the Nov. 3 election.

The new sanctions also put European allies, China and Russia on notice that while their inclination may be to ignore the U.S. drive to maintain the U.N. sanctions on Iran, companies based in their nations would feel the bite for violating them.

A major part of the new U.S. push is an executive order targeting those who buy or sell Iran conventional arms that was previously reported by Reuters and will also be unveiled by the Trump administration on Monday, the official said.

The Trump administration suspects Iran of seeking nuclear weapons – something Tehran denies – and Monday’s punitive steps are the latest in a series seeking to stymie Iran’s atomic program, which U.S. ally Israel views as an existential threat.

“Iran is clearly doing everything it can to keep in existence a virtual turnkey capability to get back into the weaponization business at a moment’s notice should it choose to do so,” the U.S. official told Reuters.

The official argued Iran wants a nuclear weapons capability and the means to deliver it despite the 2015 deal that sought to prevent this by restraining Iran’s atomic program in return for access to the world market.

In May 2018, Trump abandoned that agreement to the dismay of the other parties – Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia – and restored U.S. sanctions that have crippled Iran’s economy.

Iran, in turn, has gradually breached the central limits in that deal, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), including on the size of its stockpile of low-enriched uranium as well as the level of purity to which it was allowed to enrich uranium.

“Because of Iran’s provocative nuclear escalation, it could have sufficient fissile material for a nuclear weapon by the end of this year,” the official said without elaborating except to say this was based on “the totality” of information available to the United States, including from the IAEA.

The Vienna-based agency has said Iran only began significantly breaching the 2015 deal’s limits after the U.S. withdrawal and it is still enriching uranium only up to 4.5%, well below the 20% it had achieved before that agreement, let alone the roughly 90% purity that is considered weapons-grade, suitable for an atomic bomb.

“Iran and North Korea have resumed cooperation on a long-range missile project, including the transfer of critical parts,” he added, declining to say when such joint work first began, stopped, and then started again.

Asked to comment on the impending new U.S. sanctions and the U.S. official’s other statements, a spokesman for Iran’s mission to the United Nations dismissed them as propaganda and said they would further isolate the United States.

“The U.S.’ ‘maximum pressure’ show, which includes new propaganda measures almost every week, has clearly failed miserably, and announcing new measures will not change this fact,” the mission’s spokesman, Alireza Miryousefi, told Reuters in an email.

“The entire world understands that these are a part of (the) next U.S. election campaign, and they are ignoring the U.S.’ preposterous claims at the U.N. today. It will only make (the) U.S. more isolated in world affairs,” he said.

The White House declined comment in advance of Monday’s announcements.


The U.S. official confirmed Trump will issue an executive order that would allow the United States to punish those who buy or sell conventional arms to Iran with secondary sanctions, depriving them of access to the U.S. market.

The proximate cause for this U.S. action is the impending expiration of a U.N. arms embargo on Iran and to warn foreign actors – U.S. entities are already barred from such trade – that if they buy or sell arms to Iran they will face U.S. sanctions.

Under the 2015 nuclear deal the U.N. conventional arms embargo is set to expire on Oct. 18.

The United States says it has triggered a “snap back,” or resumption, of virtually all U.N. sanctions on Iran, including the arms embargo, to come into effect at 8 p.m. on Saturday/0000 GMT on Sunday.

Other parties to the nuclear deal and most U.N. Security Council members have said they do not believe the United States has the right to reimpose the U.N. sanctions and that the U.S. move has no legal effect.

On Friday, Britain, France and Germany told the Security Council that U.N. sanctions relief for Iran – agreed under the 2015 nuclear deal – would continue beyond Sunday, despite Washington’s assertion.

In letters to the Security Council on Saturday, China’s U.N. Ambassador Zhang Jun and Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia both described the U.S. move as “illegitimate” and said the U.N. sanctions relief for Iran would continue.

Also on Saturday, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told the Security Council he cannot act on the U.S. declaration that U.N. sanctions had been reimposed because it was not clear whether they had snapped back.

“It is not for the Secretary-General to proceed as if no such uncertainty exists,” he said.


The new executive order will define conventional weapons broadly as any item with a potential military use, meaning it could cover such things as speed boats that Iran retrofits to harass vessels in international waters, the U.S. official told Reuters.

It would also apply to conventional circuit boards that can be used in ballistic missile guidance systems, he added.

The more than two dozen targets to be hit with sanctions on Monday include those involved in Iran’s conventional arms, nuclear and missile programs, the official said, saying some of the targets are already sanctioned under other U.S. programs.

That could prompt criticism that the U.S. move is redundant and designed for public relations purposes to look tough on Iran, a charge critics have made about past U.S. sanctions actions.

Among the targets will be Iran’s “most nefarious arms organizations,” about a dozen senior officials, scientists and experts from Iran’s nuclear complex, members of a procurement network that supplies military-grade dual-use goods for Iran’s missile program, and several senior officials involved in Iran’s ballistic missile program, the U.S. official said.

The official declined to name the targets, saying this would be made public on Monday, and stressed that the United States wants to deter foreign companies from dealing with them even if their governments believe this is legally permitted.

“You might have a split in some countries where a foreign government may claim that the U.N. sanctions don’t snap back but their banks and companies will abide by U.S. sanctions because they want to make sure they are not a future target,” he said.

(Reporting By Steve Holland and Arshad Mohammed; Additional reporting by Michelle Nichols at the United Nations and Francois Murphy in Vienna; Editing by Daniel Wallis)

Russia WILL Lower Its Nuclear Weapons Use Threshold

Will Russia Further Lower Its Nuclear Weapons Use Threshold?}

The day before the snap drill was announced, the Russian Defense Ministry indicated there would be a drill involving the Iskander-M nuclear-capable missile system in the Southern Military , which is one of the areas for the snap drill. In August 2020, Russia announced a “special tactical exercise,” which involved simulated Iskander missile launches and the inspection of the “special hardware of the missile .” “Special” is a word used in Russia to describe nuclear weapons.

In late July 2020, the Russian nuclear-armed ICBM force (the RVSN) staged a major exercise involving operations in a nuclear war, including radiological decontamination of the ICBM launchers, which were on “combat patrol routes.” They were clearly fighting a mock nuclear war. In late June, July and August 2020, there were also threatening flights by Russian nuclear-capable bombers and other aircraft near the U.S., NATO allies, Ukraine and Finland. In August 2020, on the same day as the Iskander exercise involving “special weapons,” General Shoigu participated in an exercise of the mobile ICBM force.[iii]

The Caucasus 2020 (Kavkaz 2020) exercise, the largest planned exercise for 2020, will be, according to the Russian Defense Ministry and its Chief of the General Staff General of the Army Valery Gerasimov, a “special exercise.” The Russian Defense Ministry announced that the exercise will involve 80,000 troops, but Russia will not honor the Vienna document’s mandatory inspection provisions because of a contrived interpretation of this agreement. The probability of Russian simulated nuclear weapons use in such an exercise is very high. Kavkaz-2016 reportedly simulated the Russian launch of cruise missiles carrying non-strategic nuclear weapons.

In August 2020, Russia conducted a major naval exercise near Alaska, involving 50 ships and 40 aircraft, which involved cruise missile launches.

This pattern of preparation for war will likely continue and involve nuclear-capable forces.

In June 2020, Russia released a decree by President Putin on Russian nuclear deterrence policy, the first of its kind made public, which indicated a much lower threshold for nuclear weapons first use than was evident in the unclassified military doctrine publications released in 2010 and 2014. While much of the substance of Putin’s nuclear decree apparently goes back a long time, it clearly has new elements in it. Secretary of the Security Council of Russia Nikolay Patrushev has characterized it as a “new Doctrine.” As Dr. Stephen Blank observed over 20 years ago, in Russian military doctrine, “Essentially there is no clear firebreak between conventional and nuclear scenarios in the open sources.” The 2020 decree presents a major but incomplete victory for the most hardline elements in the Russian military. The most fanatic of Russia’s generals want an open declaration of nuclear preemption as Russian strategy. In November 2018, the Russian Federation Council voted to urge the Kremlin to adopt a pre-emptive nuclear strike strategy against NATO and authorized it. (It already was secret Russian policy).

Putin’s decree indicates that Russian state-run RT (formerly Russia Today) and the independent Interfax[iv] news agency were accurate when they both reported Russian nuclear doctrine allows for nuclear weapons first use “…if the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Russian Federation are under threat.” [v] (Emphasis in the original). Paragraph 4 of Putin’s 2020 decree states, “The state nuclear deterrence policy is of a defensive nature and is directed at supporting the capabilities of nuclear forces at a level sufficient to ensure nuclear deterrence and to guarantee the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the state and to deter a potential adversary from aggression against the Russian Federation and (or) its allies in the event of the emergence of an armed conflict by preventing the escalation of military activities and ending them on conditions acceptable to the Russian Federation and (or) its allies.”[vi]

In reviewing Putin’s decree, Russian expatriate Dr. Nikolai Sokov has pointed out, “Today, it is also easy to imagine a situation when the “existence” of Russia would not be threatened, but its ‘territorial integrity’ would—for example, an attempt to use force to return Crimea to Ukraine. The change of language may be explainable, but the presence of two very different definitions of nuclear threshold is not.” It actually is. The decree is not the entire Russia nuclear weapons use policy, which has always been included in classified documents.

In 2014-2015, there were a number of high level Russian nuclear threats relating to Ukraine, which were inconsistent with the announced Russian nuclear doctrine. Dmitry Adamsky of the Lauder School of Government, Diplomacy and Strategy noted regarding Ukraine that Russia was “…engaged in nuclear signaling aimed to distance Western support out of fear of escalation, possibly also to soften further sanctions.” In 2015, President Putin said that during the Crimea crisis, he would have put Russian nuclear forces on alert if it were necessary. In July 2014, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov made a nuclear threat relating to Crimea by referencing their nuclear doctrine. In September 2014, then-Ukrainian Minister of Defense Colonel General Valeriy Heletey wrote, “The Russian side has threatened on several occasions across unofficial channels that, in the case of continued resistance, they are ready to use a tactical nuclear weapon against us.”

The importance of these nuclear threats is that they were made to support blatant Russian aggression. Putin’s justification for the possible use of nuclear weapons in the Crimea crisis was that Crimea “is our historical territory. Russian people live there. They were in danger. We cannot abandon them.” As Dr. Stephen Blank has pointed out, protection of ethnic Russians was the rationale for Russian military intervention in Georgia, Crimea, Donbas, and Moldova. In 2015, Putin linked the protection of ethnic Russians to nuclear weapons use. Thus, the territorial integrity of Russia was changed to include the just conquered territory. In June 2017, Putin declared Russia would defend Crimea “with all means available to us.”[vii] The reason these statements appear to go beyond published Russian nuclear doctrine at that time is that that the published version was never complete. It still isn’t complete, but it is apparently closer to it than ever before.

Russian linkage of nuclear weapons first use to “sovereignty” is very disturbing because of the ambiguous nature of this concept and its potential permissiveness. In 2008, General of the Army Yuriy Baluyevskiy, then-Chief of the General Staff, declared that to “defend the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Russia and its allies, military forces will be used, including preventively, including with the use of nuclear weapons.” In 2007 Putin declared, “The nuclear weapons remain the most important guarantee of Russia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and play a key role in maintaining the regional balance and stability.” Putin has said some amazing things about the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Russia, making these criteria potentially very permissive. President Putin has characterized cyber espionage (not cyber-attack) as “a direct violation of the state’s sovereignty…” In August 2020, President Putin stated that the Union State Treaty with Belarus obliges the parties to “to help each other protect their sovereignty, external borders and “stability. This is exactly what it says.”

Paragraph 19 of Putin’s decree listed four specific conditions for nuclear weapons first use:

The conditions which determine the possibility for the use by the Russian Federation of nuclear weapons are:

a) the receiving of creditable information concerning the launch of ballistic missiles attacking the territories of the Russian Federation and (or) its allies;

b) the use by an enemy of a nuclear weapon or other types of weapons of mass destruction against the territories of the Russian Federation and (or) its allies;

c) enemy actions against critically important state or military facilities of the Russian Federation, the disablement of which will lead to a disruption of retaliatory operations of the nuclear forces;

d) aggression against the Russian Federation involving the use of conventional weaponry, which threatens the existence of the state itself.[viii]

All four of Putin’s announced conditions allow for nuclear weapons first use in non-nuclear warfare. Paragraph 19(A), (B) and (C) all contain conditions for first use that are somewhat lower than even what appeared in the most alarming of the open source reports concerning Russian willingness to use nuclear weapons first. The supposed limitation of nuclear weapons first use in conventional war in previous editions of Russian military doctrine to situations in which there was an existential threat to Russia turned out to be a deception since all four of the conditions allow for first use of nuclear weapons in non-nuclear war.

The condition allowing for a nuclear response to the use of “other types of weapons of mass destruction…” (paragraph 19[C]) is broader than the three previous formulations in the military doctrine documents which spoke specifically about chemical and biological attack. This is clearly a change in declaratory policy. Michael Kofman from the Center for Naval Analysis has pointed out it is “…unclear how weapons of mass destruction are defined, some Russian military writing posits conventional capabilities as having strategic effects similar to nuclear weapons.” There are other possibilities, such as a very damaging cyber-attack.

The condition on the use of nuclear weapons in response to non-nuclear attacks on “nuclear forces” rather than “strategic nuclear forces” in paragraph 19(C) opens up the possibility of a nuclear response to a non-nuclear attack on a vast number of Russian military facilities, airbases, naval ships and Army bases and units. This is because dual capability (conventional and nuclear capability) is almost universal in Russia.[ix] The Russians are trying to use the threat of nuclear escalation to negate effectively our conventional and cyber capabilities. If they impose this targeting constraint upon us, we lose the war. Kofman’s suggestion that this is limited to cyber-attacks on nuclear command and control facilities contradicts the plain meaning of the provision. It clearly includes nuclear delivery vehicles and weapons. The provision can also be read to include cyber-attacks, but it certainly is not limited to cyber-attacks on nuclear command and control, which are not even mentioned. State documents on nuclear weapons use issues that do not contain “sloppy language.” Russian doctrinal writing in 1999 indicated that a nuclear strike might be used in response to conventional attacks on targets that are not even military.

The implicit meaning of the condition in paragraph 19(A) is that the launch of a single ballistic missile at Russia would be a justification for a Russian nuclear strike even before it was known what type of warhead the missile carried. This was made explicit in August 2020 when two senior officers of the Russian General Staff, Major General Andrei Sterlin and Colonel Alexander Khryapin, writing in the official newspaper of the Defense Ministry Red Star, noted that “. . . there will be no way to determine if an incoming ballistic missile is fitted with a nuclear or a conventional warhead, and so the military will see it as a nuclear attack.” They added, “Any attacking missile will be perceived as carrying a nuclear warhead” and, “The information about the missile launch will be automatically relayed to the Russian military-political leadership, which will determine the scope of retaliatory action by nuclear forces depending on the evolving situation.”

This is irresponsible in light of the potential consequences to Russia, but it is classic Putin. Indeed, in 2015, Putin declared that “Fifty years ago, the streets of Leningrad taught me one thing: If a fight’s inevitable, you must strike first.” Applying street fighting tactics to nuclear war is not the smartest thing to do if a nation wants to survive. Yet, In March 2018, Alexander Velez-Green of the Harvard Belfer Center wrote, “Military Thought has published at least 18 articles in support of preemption against NATO from 2007 to 2017.” Military Thought is the journal of the Russian General Staff. In 2014, Dr. Sokov wrote that “nuclear exercises have been conducted with targets in Europe, the Pacific, Southeast Asia, the Indian Ocean, and even the continental United States,” further adding that, “…all large-scale military exercises that Russia conducted beginning in 2000 featured simulations of limited nuclear strikes.” In January 2016, the annual report by the Secretary General of NATO indicated Russia in its Zapad (West) exercises not only simulated nuclear attacks against NATO but that in 2013 Russia simulated nuclear attacks against Sweden, which is not a NATO nation. This is inconsistent with Russia’s declaratory policy concerning so-called negative assurances. Negative assurances pledge no nuclear weapons use against non-nuclear nations that are not allied with a nuclear power.

This emphasis on pre-emption is particularly dangerous because Russia plans to use nuclear weapons, including nuclear armed ICBMs, as part of its “escalate to de-escalate” or “escalate to win” strategy.[x] Part of it is the concept of “escalation dominance.” According to Dr. Blank, “arguably [escalation dominance] is merely a part of a much broader nuclear strategy that relies heavily upon the psychological and intimidating component of nuclear weapons.” In 2009, Lieutenant General Andrey Shvaychenko, then-Commander of the Strategic Missile Force (RVSN), outlined the role of the nuclear ICBM force in conventional war. He said, “In a conventional war, [the nuclear ICBMs] ensure that the opponent is forced to cease hostilities, on advantageous conditions for Russia, by means of single or multiple preventive strikes against the aggressors’ most important facilities.”[xi] The most amazing thing about this statement is the implication that the introduction of strategic nuclear weapons in conventional war would not start a nuclear war.

In 2017, then-Defense Intelligence Agency Director Lieutenant General Vincent Stewart affirmed that Russia is “the only country that I know of that has this concept of escalate to terminate or escalate to deescalate but they do have that built into their operational concept, we’ve seen them exercise that idea and it’s really kind of a dangerous idea…”[xii] He also said that he had seen no evidence that this policy was changing.[xiii]

Despite what Russia says about its possible response to the launch of even a single Western ballistic missile, Russia will clearly be launching nuclear-capable Kinzhal ballistic missiles against NATO in the event of a war. Paragraph 19(A) and (C) may be intended to deter conventional attacks on Russian territory in the event of a Russian invasion of NATO Europe. Paragraph 19(C) can justify a nuclear response to a conventional attack on almost any Russian military facility because virtually all Russian forces are nuclear-capable. Indeed, in 2018, President Putin stated Russia is developing nuclear weapons for “all types of forces.”

Putin’s decree contained implicit nuclear attack threats directed against NATO. In August 2020, the government-owned Russian newspaper Rossiyskaya Gazeta made these threats explicit:

We will not analyse what kind of warheads they have, nuclear or not, and in any case, at the time of launch, decision will be made on a retaliatory strike to deliver a missile strike on the territory of the state from which the launch was carried out in our direction,” said military analyst Alexander Perendzhiev, member of the Officers of Russia expert council. Moreover, according to him, we are talking not only about countries where such missiles are produced but also about the countries that have allowed to host such missiles.[xiv]

Putin’s June 2020 nuclear decree clearly is not the entirety of Russia’s nuclear first use strategy. It did not supersede Putin’s 2017 decree on the Russian Navy. There are classified elements, including provisions for pre-emptive nuclear strikes. (Russian announced in 2009 that is was classifying its nuclear doctrine. Putin’s 2020 decree appears to be a partial reversal of this policy.) [xv] In September 2014, General of the Army (ret.) Yuriy Baluyevskiy, who developed the 2010 revision of Russia’s nuclear doctrine when he was Deputy Secretary of the Russian National Security Council, stated that the “…conditions for pre-emptive nuclear strikes…is contained in classified policy documents.”[xvi] In 2003, then-Russian Minister of Defense Colonel General Sergei Ivanov explained why these plans were kept secret. He told a reporter:

What we say is one thing. That sounds cynical, but everything that we plan does not necessarily have to be made public. We believe that from the foreign policy viewpoint, it is better to say that. But what we actually do is an entirely different matter.

There are certainly other secret aspects of Russian nuclear weapons use doctrine. According to state-run RT, “It follows from the document that nuclear deterrence is aimed at ensuring that the potential adversary understands the inevitability of retaliation in the event of aggression against Russia and its allies.” This is more permissive than Paragraph 19. In March 2020, state-run Sputnik News said that Russian nuclear doctrine provided for nuclear first use “…in response to large-scale conventional aggression.” This could allow a nuclear response to a conventional attack that would not be a threat to Russia’s existence. Moreover, what Russia is really talking about is not a response to aggression against Russia but a counterattack against Russian aggression, as was indicated in their nuclear threats related to Ukraine.

A hardline but very well-connected Russian journalist, Colonel (ret.) Nikolai Litovkin talked about what it would take for Russia to “push the button.” (Emphasis in the original). He wrote that while Russian strategy was defensive:

At the same time, a number of scenarios have been identified in which Russia could deploy nuclear weapons.

First, this pertains to the “build-up of general forces, including nuclear weapons delivery vehicles, in territories adjacent to the Russian Federation and its allies, and in adjacent offshore areas.”

Second, the “deployment of anti-ballistic missile defense systems and facilities, medium- and shorter-range cruise and ballistic missiles, precision non-nuclear and hypersonic weapons, strike drones, and directed-energy weapons by states that consider the Russian Federation to be a potential adversary.”

Third, the “creation and deployment in space of anti-ballistic missile defense facilities and strike systems.”

Fourth, the “possession by countries of nuclear weapons and (or) other types of weapons of mass destruction able to be used against the Russian Federation and (or) its allies, as well as the means to deliver them.”

Fifth, the “uncontrolled proliferation of nuclear weapons, their means of delivery, and technologies and equipment for their manufacture.”

And sixth, the “deployment of nuclear weapons and their delivery vehicles in non-nuclear states.”

Moscow also sets forth additional situations in which it is ready to take “extreme measures.” Among them is the “receipt of reliable information about the launch of ballistic missiles attacking the territory of Russia and (or) its allies,” as well as the “enemy deployment of nuclear or other weapons of mass destruction against Russia and (or) its allies.”

Furthermore, the command to deploy nuclear weapons will be given in the event of an “enemy attack on critical state and military facilities of the Russian Federation which, if incapacitated, would disrupt a nuclear response,” as well as “aggression using conventional weapons that threatens the existence of the Russian state.”

According to Marek Menkiszak, head of the Russian Department at Poland’s Centre for Eastern Studies in Warsaw, “…the list of moves which could fall under the Russian definition of ‘threatening’ is impressive, and contains both offensive and defensive actions by a potential adversary.” The Litovkin version of Russian nuclear first-use policy indicates that these “concerns” are really conditions for “pressing the button.” He is apparently saying that in addition to Paragraph 19 criteria in the Putin decree, just about any serious threat to Russia justifies first use of nuclear weapons. Moreover, it appeared in Russian state media without any disclaimer concerning whether or not this is state policy. Litovkin’s conditions for nuclear weapons’ first use are actually similar to Russia’s nuclear missile targeting threats, which have involved missile defense facilities, troop deployments and non-existent U.S. INF missile deployments in Europe. Russia, including President Putin, has even threatened nuclear decapitation attacks against the U.S. with hypersonic missiles. Under Putin’s information warfare policy, nuclear threats are used “to achieve immediate strategic advantage.”

An August 2020 Red Star article, attributed to the General Staff, characterized the four conditions in the Putin decree as “redlines.” It also indicated that the political leadership would determine the scale of the nuclear response before they knew if the ballistic missile attack against Russia was nuclear. The response to a single missile launch against Russia, even without knowing the kind of warhead it carried, “will no doubt be crushing.”[xvii] Again, this is monumental stupidity because the consequences to Russia are ignored. This is irresponsibility turned into an art form.

The strong emphasis on escalation control in the original public discussion of nuclear first use in 1999 may be eroding, although there is still a considerable difference on initial nuclear first use. Keep in mind that the description of Russian targeting by General Shvaychenko cited above involves nuclear ICBM attacks “against the aggressors’ most important facilities.” This sounds more Soviet-like than the description of escalation in the doctrinal literature of 1999, which said Russia would “not to provoke the aggressor into escalating the use of nuclear weapons without a justified reason,” according to a First Deputy Defense Minister.

The new Russian nuclear doctrine in the context of massive modernization of Russian nuclear forces and constant nuclear first use exercises is very disturbing. It makes it critically necessary to modernize the U.S. nuclear deterrent capability.

Dr. Mark B. Schneider is a Senior Analyst with the National Institute for Public Policy. Before his retirement from the Department of Defense Senior Executive Service, Dr. Schneider served in a number of senior positions within the Office of Secretary of Defense for Policy including Principal Director for Forces Policy, Principal Director for Strategic Defense, Space and Verification Policy, Director for Strategic Arms Control Policy and Representative of the Secretary of Defense to the Nuclear Arms Control Implementation Commissions.  He also served in the senior Foreign Service as a Member of the State Department Policy Planning Staff.


[i] “Are Russian Military Deliveries to Armenia during Fighting in Tovuz Accidental?,” Turan News Agency, August 13, 2020, available at 2433241217/ fulltext/1735CF59B993DB8DD7A/2?accountid=155509&site=professionalnewsstand&t:ac=1735CF59B993DB8DD7A/1&t:cp=maintain/resultcitationblocksbrief&t:zoneid=transactionalZone_173f7746b79

[ii] “In a Broad Context,” Krasnaya Zvezda Online, April 30, 2011. Translated by World News Connection. World News Connection is no longer available on the internet

[iii] “Russian defence chief visits nuclear missile unit – TV report,” BBC Monitoring Former Soviet Union, August 11, 2020, available at 5CFAB5F96948C9F9/3?accountid=155509&site=professionalnewsstand&t:ac=1735CFAB5F96948C9F9/1&t:cp=maintain/resultcitationblocksbrief&t:zoneid=transactionalZone_173f785a34a

[iv] “Updated Russian military doctrine has no preemptive nuclear strike provision – source,” Interfax, December 10, 2014, available at

[v] “Preemptive nuclear strike omitted from Russia’s new military doctrine – reports,” RT, December 10, 2014, available at

[vi] “Putin approves state policy on nuclear deterrence – text,” BBC Monitoring Former Soviet Union, June 4, 2020, available at 171E6F03B7B7D7382ED/2?accountid=155509&site=professionalnewsstand&t:ac=171E6F03B7B7D7382ED/1&t:cp=maintain/resultcitationblocksbrief&t:zoneid=transactionalZone_1728171393a

[vii] “Russia will defend Crimea with all possible means: Putin,” United News of India, June 15, 2017, available at

[viii] “Putin approves state policy on nuclear deterrence – text,” op. cit.

[ix] Alexander Mladenov, “Best in the Breed,” Air Forces Monthly, May 2017, p. 51

[x] “Senate Committee on Armed Services Hearing on U.S. Strategic Command Programs,” Political Transcript Wire, April 4, 2017, available at professional/professionalnewsstand/docview/ 1902238886/fulltext/167BE8951294B52C4B4/1?accountid=155509&site=professionalnewsstand&t:ac=1 67BE8951294B52C4B4/1&t:cp=maintain/Resultitationblocksbrief&t:zo neid=transactionalZone_16859081e63

[xi] “Russia may face large-scale military attack, says Strategic Missile Troops chief,” BBC Monitoring Former Soviet

Union, December 16, 2009, available at 460433852/fulltext/173438170CB2F81FF58/1?accountid=155509&site=professionalnewsstand&t:ac=173438170CB2F81FF58/1&t:cp=maintain/resultcitationblocksbrief&t:zoneid=transactionalZone_173de004188

[xii] “S Armed Services Hearing on Worldwide Threats,” Political Transcript Wire, May 23, 2017, available at  https: //

[xiii] Ibid.

[xiv] “Russian pundits discuss new rules for use of nuclear weapons,” BBC Monitoring Former Soviet Union, August 19, 2020, available at 60686/ fulltext/1738C5577584F127A6B/1?accountid=155509&site=professionalnewsstand&t:ac=1738C5577584F127A6B/1&t:cp=maintain/resultcitationblocksbrief&t:zoneid=transactionalZone_17426d445a8

[xv] “Army; Closed Part of New Military Doctrine to Define Legal Aspects Of Forces’ Employment, Nuclear

Weapons―Gen. Staff,” Interfax, August 14, 2009, available newsstand/ docview/443749342/fulltext/173D4BAD9862D0C73B8/1?accountid=155509&site=professionalnewss tand&t:ac=173D4BAD9862D0C73B8/1&t:cp=maintain/resultcitationblocksbrief&t:zoneid=transactionalZone_1746f39a927

[xvi] “Russia classifies information on pre-emptive nuclear strikes – military,” BBC Monitoring Former Soviet Union, September 5, 2014, available at Interfax-AVN military news agency, Moscow, in Russian 0728,0752,0826Sep

14/BBC, available at 17344A2E7A6775A1A7F/1?accountid=155509&site=professionalnewsstand&t:ac=17344A2E7A6775A1A7F/1&t:cp=maintain/resultcitationblocksbrief&t:zoneid=transactionalZone_173df21b673

[xvii] “Russian pundits discuss new rules for use of nuclear weapons,” op. cit.

Antichrist Calls for Political Solution to Ending Foreign Presence in Iraq

Sadr Calls for Political Solution to Ending Foreign Presence in Iraq

Saturday, 19 September, 2020 – 05:15

The leader of the Sadrist movement, Muqtada al-Sadr, warned on Friday against dragging Iraq to a “dark tunnel” by targeting cultural and diplomatic centers with missiles and explosives. Instead he called for using “political and parliamentary means” to deal with the US presence in the country.

“Attacking diplomatic and cultural centers will push Iraq to a dark tunnel,” Sadr wrote on Twitter.

The leader of the Sadrist movement called for using political means and resorting to the parliament “to end the occupation” and stop foreign interference in Iraq’s internal affairs.

Commenting on Sadr’s statements, Ihsan Al Shameri, the head of the Political Thought Center in Baghdad, told Asahrq Al-Awsat that the leader of the Sadrist movement is trying to improve his image.

The position of the Shiite cleric came as armed factions continued to attack the Green Zone in Baghdad, where the US embassy is located.

On Friday, an explosion inside the American Institute for Teaching English in central Najaf, 160 km south of Baghdad, caused extensive damage to its building.

The Najaf Police Command said initial information indicates that an explosive device blew up at the Institute, without causing any casualties.

Shortly before the Najaf attack, an explosive device detonated on the highway in Al-Musayyib district in Babylon governorate, targeting a convoy transporting equipment for the international coalition by Iraqi transport companies, Iraq’s Security Media Cell announced.

It said the explosion did not cause human losses or material damage.

Also, the Salah al-Din Operations Command announced the explosion of a pile of ammunition in an abandoned building inside the Spyker base, denying rumors of the bombing of a Popular Mobilization Forces warehouse at the base.

The Operations Command stated that the ammunition exploded as a result of poor storage and high temperatures.

Iran promises Trump nuclear payback

IRGC Chief Dismisses Trump’s Threat, Pledges Harsh Revenge for Gen. Soleimani Assassination – Politics news – Tasnim News Agency

Tasnim News Agency

In an address to a gathering of IRGC personnel on Saturday, Commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps Major General Hossein Salami hit back at US President Donald Trump for threatening military action against Iran.

In a tweet on Monday, Trump said any attack by Iran would be met with a response “1,000 times greater in magnitude”, after a Politico report alleged that Iran has plans to avenge the assassination of top commander Lt. General Qassem Soleimani by killing US Ambassador to South Africa Lana Marks.

The IRGC commander made it clear that the “decisive, serious and real” revenge for the assassination of Lt. General Soleimani would be taken in an honorable, fair and just manner, not on a female ambassador to South Africa.

“We will hit the people who, directly and indirectly, played a role in the martyrdom of the great man (General Soleimani),” Major General Salami underlined, giving a serious warning that anybody with a role in the January assassination plot will be hit.

Downplaying the American threat of a response 1,000 times greater in magnitude, the IRGC commander said hundreds of Iranian missiles had been prepared to “devastate” the US targets in a possible confrontation after the retaliatory strike on the US airbase of Ain al-Assad in Iraq in January.

The enemy is being monitored by the IRGC everywhere and would get hit if necessary, Salami added.

The commander described the termination of the US as an undeniable reality, denounced Washington’s bid to trigger the so-called snapback mechanism to reinstate the sanctions on Iran, and said not a single bullet would be fired even if the US pulls such a trigger.

He finally highlighted the growing capabilities of the Iranian Armed Forces, saying the Islamic Republic has enhanced its influence as far as the Mediterranean and would chase the enemies.

Iranian military and political officials have repeatedly warned the enemies about the dire consequences of a military action against the Islamic Republic.

In comments in April 2018, Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei said the US is aware of the crushing response it will have to face in case of taking military action against Iran.

The era of hit and run is now over, and the US knows that if it gets entangled in military action against Iran, it will receive much harsher blows, Ayatollah Khamenei underlined.

The US is seeking a way to evade the costs of standing against Iran and place them on regional countries, the Leader said, reminding certain regional countries that if they confront Iran, “they will definitely suffer blows and defeat”.

Saudi Arabian Horn is ready to produce nukes: Daniel 7

Saudi Arabia likely has enough mineable uranium ore reserves to begin domestic production of nuclear fuel, according to a new report.

Confidential documents prepared by Chinese geologists and obtained by the Guardian show that those geologists had been rushing to help the kingdom map out its uranium reserves as part of their nuclear energy cooperation agreement with the Communist nation.

The geologists identified reserves that would be able to produce more than 90,000 tons of uranium from three “major deposits” in the center and northwest of the country.

Riyadh’s interest in a nuclear weapon has been aided in more ways than one by the Chinese government.

Bloomberg News reported Tuesday that the International Atomic Energy Agency is working with a Chinese-linked institute to find and develop uranium for the Saudis — despite the fact the UN nuclear watchdog’s inspectors are still not permitted in the kingdom.

The IAEA published a document detailing how it was helping the kingdom develop nuclear fuel, something necessary for nuclear power and weapons.

The geologists’ work was also referenced in a statement from the Beijing Research Institute of Uranium Geology, which stated that promising locations were presented to the Saudis’ vice minister for mining affairs at the end of last year.

Saudi Arabia has said it wants to develop uranium for peaceful uses, but Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman has said it would develop nukes if regional rival Iran did.

Last month, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called nuclear proliferation by Saudi Arabia a real “risk.”

“We’ve made it a real priority in this administration, working on these proliferation issues,” Pompeo told The Post during an exclusive interview last month.

“We’re trying to take down risk of proliferation all across the world, whether that’s in Iran, Saudi Arabia, or North Korea, or Russia,” he said, naming the oil-rich country along with basket-case regimes.

Iran Attacks US School: Daniel 8:4

Pro-Iran militias suspected of attack on US school in Iraq

BAGHDAD – An explosive device blew up late Thursday night inside the American Institute for English Learning in the holy city of Najaf, adding to concerns about an increase in such attacks in the country.

The blast damaged the facade of the institute without causing any casualties, Iraqi police said in a statement, noting that an investigation has been launched into the incident.

The American Institute is an educational centre that teaches English language. It is not formally affiliated with any institution in the US and all of its employees are Iraqis.

Security forces stand guard near site of the attack on the American Institute for English Learning in Najaf, Sept. 18, 2020. (AP)

Shia militia leader Muqtada al-Sadr warned against targeting cultural and diplomatic sites in Iraq, which he said could lead the country to a “dark tunnel” and into a “spiral of violence.”

“Whoever is behind the attack exposes Iraq and Iraqi to danger,” he added.

Iran-backed militias are suspected of targeting the US presence in Iraq.

Hours before the attack on the English-language site Thursday, a roadside bomb targeted an Iraqi convoy transporting equipment destined for the US-led coalition in the Babylon governorate without causing any casualties.

Over the past few weeks, attacks targeting the US presence and forces of other countries in the international coalition against ISIS have been on the rise.

Washington accuses armed Iraqi factions linked to Iran of being behind the attacks. Such factions have previously targeted the US embassy and military bases where American soldiers are deployed.

Security forces stand guard after the attack near the American Institute for English Learning in Najaf,  Sept. 18. (AP)

Analysts see that these attacks as part of efforts to embarrass the US administration before the November presidential elections, while others see them as aimed at pressuring the Iraqi government to follow through with an earlier vote in parliament demanding the withdrawal of US forces.

Armed Shia militia, including the Iraqi Hezbollah Brigades, threatened to target American troops in the country if they did not withdraw, in compliance with the Iraqi parliament’s decision.

Babylon the Great imposes sanctions on Iran

Pompeo: Iran Will Not Purchase Chinese or Russian Military Weapons | The National Interest

The United States now faces widespread opposition to imposing further international sanctions on Iran, even as the government in Tehran has progressively stepped up its nuclear activities in the past two years.  

by Peter Suciu

There is little doubt that Beijing and Moscow would love to make Tehran a happy customer and sell the Islamic Republic of Iran all the weapons it could buy. However, on Tuesday Secretary of State Mike Pompeo vowed that Washington will absolutely not allow it to happen even as the end of the UN arms embargo against Tehran approaches.  

Last month Pompeo addressed the fifteen member nations of the United Nations Security Council and said that the Trump administration would continue its maximum pressure campaign to rein in the Islamic State’s missile and nuclear weapons programs. 

“I have not had a single world leader or one of my counterparts tell me that they think it makes any sense at all for the Iranians to be able to purchase and sell high-end weapons systems, which is what will happen on Oct. 18 of this year, absent the actions that we took at the United Nations yesterday,” Pompeo told CNBC in August. 

Pompeo added that Iran has remained “the world’s largest state sponsor of terror,” and further suggested, “We’re not going to let them have a nuclear weapon, we’re not going to let them have hundreds of billions of dollars in wealth from selling weapons systems. Every leader around the world knows it’s a bad idea.”

The secretary of state doubled down on his vow this week and said that Washington would do all in its power to prevent Iran from purchasing Chinese tanks or Russian air defense systems as the embargo against Tehran is set to end. His stark message comes as the European Union and United Nations continues to disagree with the U.S. decision to withdraw from an international nuclear deal in 2018, which followed unilateral sanctions. 

“We are going to act in a way—and we have acted in a way—that will prevent Iran from being able to purchase Chinese tanks and Russian air defense systems and resell weapons to Hezbollah to undermine the very efforts that (French) President (Emmanuel) Macron is ably trying to lead in Lebanon,” Pompeo said on Tuesday.  

However, the United States now faces widespread opposition to imposing further international sanctions on Iran, even as the government in Tehran has progressively stepped up its nuclear activities in the past two years.  

Very Strange Bedfellows 

In recent years Iran has moved closer to Russia, but whether such a partnership could be long-lasting isn’t clear. Moscow and Tehran are historic enemies whose differences have re-emerged now that they have achieved their mutual objective of preventing a breakdown of the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria. Russia and Iran may even now see each other as competitors now that Assad’s regime is more secure.

Yet, Moscow has still seen Tehran as a potential customer for its weapons platforms, including the Rezonans-NE radar, which Iran claimed was used to successfully spot and track American F-35 fighter jets near its borders last winter.  

It is more likely that Beijing could forge a stronger partnership with Tehran, especially as India’s investments in the Islamic Republic have become impacted by the Chinese. Indian companies have reportedly been dropped from Iranian transport and energy deals while China continues to invest heavily in those sectors. Beijing could drive India out of Iran, but this could move India closer to the United States.

Such a partnership between China and Iran won’t be welcome by the United States, but it could also put China at odds with Russia. However, it plays out Iran should still be seen as a regional pawn of the larger powers—and it could also be a pawn without the ability to reach the other side of the border at least in terms of getting the weapons it desires.  

Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on 

The dangerous China nuclear horn: Daniel 7

The Dangerous Myths About China’s Nuclear Weapons

Early this summer, as American and Russian diplomats gathered in Vienna to discuss extending the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, much of the focus was on a country that was not represented at the summit: China. In the lead up to the meeting, Marshall Billingslea, the U.S. special presidential envoy for arms control, tweeted that “China just said it has no intention to participate in trilateral negotiations. It should reconsider … No more Great Wall of Secrecy on its nuclear build-up. Seat waiting for China in Vienna.” To highlight China’s absence, American negotiators placed Chinese flags in front of empty chairs, in what Beijing would later rebuke as “performance art.” Once talks began, American officials reportedly even delivered a classified briefing to their Russian counterparts outlining China’s modernization of its nuclear arsenal and the risks such forces pose.

As China’s growing nuclear forces have garnered new attention, so have some persistent myths about them. There are many legitimate concerns about China’s nuclear arsenal. China’s nuclear expansion and modernization is loosening longstanding technical constraints that have guided the country’s nuclear policies. The potential entanglement of Chinese conventional and nuclear forces raises the risks of misperception leading to nuclear first use in a crisis or conflict. And China’s opacity in the nuclear domain exacerbates dangerous misperceptions and misunderstandings between Washington and Beijing. Unfortunately, these real risks are frequently overshadowed by more dubious claims. Too many analysts have focused on the wrong problems when it comes to China’s nuclear forces, including claims that China is hiding a vast nuclear warhead stockpile, that its no-first-use policy is a sham, and that it has developed and fielded tactical nuclear weapons. The misguided focus on these claims can exacerbate distrust, heighten threat perceptions, and make it more difficult to address more genuine concerns. Three myths in particular deserve attention.

Three Persistent Myths About China’s Nukes

Since its first nuclear test in 1964, China’s approach to nuclear weapons has often diverged from that of the other nuclear-armed states, puzzling scholars and analysts alike. While nuclear-armed regional powers like France and Pakistan fielded asymmetric escalation postures consisting of high-alert tactical nuclear systems, China was slow to develop a limited arsenal of affixed, hulking liquid-fueled intercontinental ballistic missiles. While the Cold War superpowers engaged in arms racing, China committed to building a “lean and effective” force. Since obtaining a nuclear weapons capability, China has publicly claimed a categorical no-first-use  policy and has asserted that “China does not engage in any nuclear arms race with any other country and keeps its nuclear capabilities at the minimum level required for national security.” Scholars have attributed China’s historically reserved nuclear strategy and policies to a range of factors, from leadership beliefs and domestic and organizational constraints to strategic culture and civil-military relations.

But whatever the sources of China’s nuclear doctrine, misperceptions about it continue to endure. These misperceptions are likely the byproduct of several factors, including confusion over the historical divergence between China’s nuclear policies and those of the United States, alarm at Beijing’s increasingly challenging behaviors in other security domains, and suspicion over the People’s Liberation Army’s troubling opacity in the nuclear realm. Together, these factors create a space for worst-case assumptions on the part of policy-makers, permitting the emergence and propagation of enduring and counterproductive myths.

The first myth is that China maintains a vast hidden arsenal of potentially thousands of nuclear warheads in the country’s underground tunnels. As the United States has called for a trilateral arms control agreement with both Russia and China, an op-ed contributor to The Wall Street Journal alleged that any reluctance on Beijing’s part only confirms the existence of this secret nuclear force. Writing in The Hill, two observers claimed that “Estimates of the size of the Chinese nuclear arsenal vary considerably, from fewer than 300 warheads to a significantly larger number” [emphasis added]. Indeed, claims of a wildly expansive Chinese nuclear arsenal are not new — similar claims were made in major American newspapers nearly a decade ago.

There is, however, little evidence to support these claims. The most credible estimates of China’s nuclear forces from both the U.S. government and independent experts attest to Beijing’s relatively limited — though increasingly sophisticated — nuclear forces. The Pentagon’s most recent annual report on the Chinese military estimates that China has roughly 100 intercontinental ballistic missiles and puts China’s nuclear warhead stockpile “in the low 200s,” even lower than many well-respected independent estimates.

Related to the myth of a vast secret warhead stockpile are ongoing concerns that China may attempt a so-called “sprint to parity” by quickly expanding its nuclear arsenal to the size of the American one. The U.S. government predicts that China will double its nuclear warhead stockpile over the next decade (though similar past predictions about growth in China’s nuclear arsenal have not come to pass). Given the current size of that stockpile, a doubling would amount to fewer than 500 weapons compared to the 1,550 deployed warhead limit established by the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty.

However, and perhaps most significantly, China lacks the fissile material necessary to build a significantly larger nuclear arsenal. The International Panel on Fissile Materials reports that China stopped production of fissile material for weapons in the 1980s and that Beijing possesses relatively limited stocks of both uranium and plutonium. Additionally, Chinese warhead designs may be comparatively conservative, requiring more nuclear fuel than those of other states.

Some skeptics have fixated on the extensive system of underground tunnels China reportedly uses to shelter and move some of its missiles, arguing that the tunnels themselves are evidence of a vast nuclear stockpile. Why would China create such an elaborate underground network if its arsenal were truly so small? The answer: to shelter this vulnerable nuclear deterrent. Not surprisingly, China sought to protect its relatively modest deterrent force by hiding it. As one expert has argued, Beijing could have enhanced the survivability of its force by expanding its size. Beijing’s reliance on concealment enhanced the force’s survivability at lower cost and with the added benefit of not introducing arms race pressures.

The second myth about China’s nuclear forces is that Beijing’s no-first-use policy is a fraud. China claims to adhere to a no-first-use policy, meaning that it would use its nuclear weapons only in response to a nuclear strike by another country. This policy has been reaffirmed repeatedly over the decades, including in last year’s defense white paper.

However, American observers have a long tradition of doubting the sincerity of that policy. The 2006 version of the Defense Department’s annual report on the Chinese military, drawing in part on faulty translations of Chinese writings, implied that China might adjust its no-first-use policy in the future. At a congressional hearing this February the head of U.S. Strategic Command, Adm. Charles Richard, said that he could “drive a truck through that no first use policy.” One writer in the editorial pages of The Hill recently dismissed China’s declared no-first-use policy as a “disinformation campaign.”

But evidence from public and classified Chinese military texts reaffirming the no-first-use policy suggests that no-first-use is still intact. China’s nuclear warheads are reportedly not mated to delivery vehicles, a practice which would confound attempts at nuclear first-use. Chinese military reporting continues to describe People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force units conducting exercises under conditions of nuclear attack, indicating that China’s nuclear missile forces plan to operate after an adversary’s nuclear strike. The Pentagon’s 2019 report on the Chinese military, while acknowledging elements of concern in China’s nuclear forces and policies, is straightforward in its conclusion: “There has been no indication that national leaders are willing to attach such nuances and caveats to China’s existing NFU [no-first-use] policy.”

The third myth is that China has developed and deployed an array of nuclear war-fighting capabilities, including tactical nuclear weapons. While there is no strict definition of tactical nuclear weapon, they are usually defined as lower-yield warheads affixed to shorter-range delivery vehicles and intended for use against military targets on the battlefield or other high-value theater targets. Over the last year, several American media outlets have published claims that China is fielding or has already fielded an array of tactical nuclear weapons. But such claims lack merit.

China certainly has the industrial and technical base to produce tactical nuclear weapons if such a decision were made. There are scattered reports that Beijing may have initiated projects to develop such weapons during the Cultural Revolution. But those projects were ultimately canceled before deployment because they conflicted with China’s nuclear strategy. China conducted successful tests of a neutron bomb in the 1980s, though it’s unclear how readily those designs might translate into a modern nuclear war-fighting capability.

More than three decades ago, U.S. intelligence estimates were predicting that China would soon field these kinds of capabilities. But 35 years later, those predictions have yet to come true as Defense Department and independent assessments of China’s capabilities continue to make no mention of deployed tactical nuclear weapons.

Misplaced Attention: The Real Risks of Beijing’s Nukes

Although there is little evidence to support claims that China possesses a vast covert nuclear arsenal, that its no-first-use policy is a sham, or that it has developed an extensive array of tactical nuclear weapons, there are still several reasons to be concerned about China’s nuclear forces. Unlike the above myths, which often focus on China’s force modernization and potential arms racing dynamics, these legitimate concerns often relate to actual nuclear use.

First, China’s nuclear expansion and modernization, though modest in comparison to the much larger and sophisticated arsenals of the United States and Russia, ease the technical constraints that have influenced its nuclear policies, making it easier for Beijing to shift to a more alerted posture if the country’s leadership ever decides to do so. China is deploying more and increasingly sophisticated solid-fueled and road-mobile land-based missiles, fielding a fleet of nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines, and has reassigned a nuclear role to its air force.

The development of more accurate, mobile, and survivable missiles, and the realization of a complete nuclear triad of land-, air-, and sea-based delivery systems will expand Beijing’s nuclear policy options. More accurate missiles improve the potential value of using nuclear weapons on the battlefield against opposing military units. Calls by some within China’s military to raise the alert status of its nuclear forces raise questions about the long-term trajectory of China’s nuclear policies. China is reportedly working on a space-based early warning system which could support a move to a launch-on-warning posture, if such a decision were made in the future. Last year, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that his country would assist China in developing an early warning capability. In fact, the 2020 Department of Defense report on the Chinese military claims that “China intends to increase the peacetime readiness of its nuclear forces by moving to a launch-on-warning posture with an expanded silo-based force.” Some developments, like the deployment of a nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine fleet, may create new pressures for mating warheads in peacetime or pre-delegating launch authority in certain situations. China’s expanding fissile material production capabilities, though intended for commercial purposes, could be used to support a larger expansion of its nuclear weapons arsenal. Recent reports have suggested increased activity at China’s nuclear weapons labs and testing site.

Together, these developments either create new opportunities for China to use its nuclear forces or introduce new pressures on longstanding nuclear weapons policies and practices. They also, in part, drive American skepticism of Chinese nuclear policies. In the past, the operational and technical characteristics of China’s nuclear arsenal lent inherent credibility to Beijing’s claims of maintaining only a retaliatory capability. China may have pursued these new capabilities primarily to ensure the survivability of its nuclear deterrent. But today, thanks to those modernization efforts, China’s nuclear forces may nonetheless be capable of more than simply retaliation. This has occurred against the backdrop of growing U.S.-Chinese strategic competition and mutual suspicion, further heightening threat perceptions.

Second, experts have increasingly warned that the possible entanglement of China’s conventional and nuclear forces could introduce dangerous escalation risks in a crisis or conflict. China fields the world’s largest and most sophisticated array of conventional and nuclear ground-based ballistic missiles. All of these missiles are under the control of the People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force. Some of these missiles, such as the DF-21, feature both conventional- and nuclear-armed variants. One missile system, the DF-26, appears technologically capable of switching between either a conventional or nuclear payload and Chinese military reporting describes DF-26 units rapidly transitioning from conventional strikes to nuclear ones. The mobility of these systems increases the possibility of nuclear and conventional units operating far from home garrisons and within proximity of one another. This organizational, technological, and geographic overlap may make it difficult for the United States to determine which systems are nuclear and which are conventional.

In a crisis or a conflict, U.S. strikes against China’s conventional capabilities might inadvertently degrade Beijing’s nuclear deterrent, introducing dangerous escalation pressures. U.S. efforts to locate and track Chinese conventional missiles could be misinterpreted in Beijing as preparations for a disarming first strike against its nuclear forces. Similarly, the United States might mistake the launch of a conventional Chinese missile as a nuclear attack. These risks stemming from entanglement are more pronounced given evidence that the United States misperceives the drivers of Chinese entanglement. Several American analysts have suggested that Beijing may have deliberately entangled its conventional and nuclear forces in order to increase the risks of nuclear use and deter the United States. While the logic is compelling and some Chinese strategists may have come to appreciate the potential deterrent benefits of entanglement, the evidence suggests that Chinese entanglement, to the degree it exists, developed from more parochial organizational dynamics (i.e., saving costs by using similar systems), not a desire to manipulate risk. This mismatch between what Americans and Chinese analysts perceive to be the drivers of entanglement could exacerbate escalation dynamics, with U.S. officials falsely believing that China is well prepared for the risks of entanglement and Chinese officials falsely believing that U.S. actions (inadvertently) targeting China’s nuclear weapons are part of a campaign to erode China’s nuclear deterrent. Together, this entanglement could increase pressures on China to use its nuclear weapons or for the United States to target them, raising the likelihood of a dangerous escalation spiral.

Third, China’s longstanding opacity about its nuclear forces and policies is risky, especially given the evidence of misperceptions and misunderstandings between Beijing and Washington. China and the United States appear to have dangerously different views of escalation dynamics and the ability of countries to control the scope and intensity of a conflict. For one, while American experts frequently highlight potential escalation pathways in a crisis or conflict, Chinese strategists appear overly sanguine about the escalatory potential of steps China might take with its nuclear forces to signal resolve. This mismatch in perceptions could lead each side to misjudge the actions or intentions of the other. For example, Chinese military texts describe potentially escalatory signaling practices for demonstrating resolve in a crisis, including broadcasting operations involving its strategic forces and even launching an intercontinental ballistic missile armed with a conventional warhead against an adversary’s territory. Though there is no indication that China ever deployed conventionally armed intercontinental ballistic missiles, such future actions could be easily mistaken for preparations of an actual nuclear strike. American skepticism about China’s nuclear policies, including its no-first-use pledge, exacerbates these risks.

Similarly, although skepticism about China’s no-first-use policy may be overblown, it would be dangerous to assume that it is inviolable in all possible circumstances. In a crisis or a conflict, plans can change. There are occasional reports of Chinese strategists and military officers debating the merits of the no-first-use policy, including expressing concerns about potential adversary efforts to exploit China’s no-first-use policy by mounting a conventional first strike against China’s nuclear forces. Versions of this debate have been going on for decades and there is no hard evidence that China’s no-first-use policy has changed (indeed, the existence of the debate is itself evidence that the policy is still in place). But that should not lead U.S. military planners to assume that there is no risk in non-nuclear operations intended to degrade Chinese warfighting capabilities or impose costs on China.

Addressing the Risks

These myths can exacerbate dangerous nuclear dynamics between China and the United States. The belief that China’s no-first-use policy is a sham increases the risk of Washington misidentifying a Chinese signal of resolve as preparations for a nuclear strike. Increased distrust can lead Beijing to wrongly believe that American reconnaissance of its missile forces signals an impending strike against Beijing’s nuclear deterrent. Similarly, the belief that Beijing has hidden away an arsenal of tactical nuclear weapons can increase U.S. anxieties about a possible Chinese nuclear strike.

The myths can also hobble efforts to address more legitimate risks. Many of these risks, particularly those rooted in different perceptions, could be mitigated through formal dialogue. Beijing and Washington can share and refine understandings about escalation dynamics or their aims in a crisis or conflict. But misperception and miscommunication, sometimes rooted in the very myths discussed above, can make it difficult carry out such dialogues. For example, some of these dynamics can be seen in previous Track-1.5 and Track-2 dialogues, where skeptical American participants have presented imaginative hypotheticals to their Chinese counterparts in efforts to determine the bounds of Beijing’s no-first-use policy. Chinese participants may view these hypotheticals not as illustrative thought experiments, but as potential threats, derailing attempts at more substantive discussions.

Perhaps most significantly, a misguided focus on the myths could, perversely, make those myths realities. American concerns about China’s current and future nuclear policies (both real and imagined) can drive the United States to adopt policies which hedge against an uncertain nuclear future, such as developing more robust ballistic missile defenses or fielding more sophisticated counterforce targeting capabilities. Those American actions, in turn, can raise China’s concerns about the survivability of its own nuclear deterrent, making Beijing more likely to adopt the kind of practices the United States fears: fielding a larger and more diverse arsenal, adopting a higher alert status, and adjusting its no-first-use policy.

Observers have rightly criticized China’s dismissive response to U.S. arms control overtures, however insincere or misguided those overtures might be viewed in Beijing. But fixating on poorly sourced or unfounded claims makes any dialogue both less likely to occur and less effective if it does happen. There are enough real concerns about China’s nuclear modernization that need to be addressed without being distracted by myths.

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David C. Logan is a Ph.D. candidate at Princeton University’s School of Public and International Affairs and an expert consultant at the Center for the Study of Chinese Military Affairs, which is part of the National Defense University’s Institute of National Strategic Studies. The views expressed are his own, not those of the National Defense University, the Department of Defense, or the U.S. government.

Image: Official Twitter Account of U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Arms Control Marshall S. Billingslea

The Saudi Horn is ready to Nuke up: Daniel 7

Saudi may have enough uranium deposits to make nuclear fuel

Saudi Arabia may possess uranium ore reserves of more than 90,000 tonnes, enough to successfully produce its own nuclear fuel, The Guardian newspaper reported on Thursday.

The news outlet cites survey reports by Chinese geologists, helping Riyadh to identify its uranium reserves, per the nuclear energy cooperation agreement between the two countries.

According to the documents, the geologists have identified three major deposits in the central and northwestern areas capable of producing more than 90,000 tonnes of uranium.

It added that these were inferred deposits and that further exploration is needed.

Nevertheless, the survey does suggest it is possible that they could provide Saudi Arabia with both fuel for reactors and enough surplus to export.

In August, Saudi Arabia was reported to have constructed an undisclosed facility for processing uranium into so-called yellowcake, which is used in producing nuclear weapons.

Saudi authorities categorically deny such reports.

Meanwhile, The German Foreign Minister, Heiko Maas, said The U.S. disengagement from Afghanistan and Africa affects the security and defence policy of the EU, which will require the latter to improve its set of tools to deal with regional conflicts.

“The COVID-19 pandemic is likely to lead to even greater instability in our region.

“We are dealing with destabilising actors in a number of countries – just think of Ukraine, Syria or Libya.

“The U.S. is withdrawing not only from Afghanistan but also from Africa.’’

“For the EU, this can only mean one thing: we need a set of tools to resolve conflicts in neighbouring countries.

“And this toolbox, ladies and gentlemen, is our common security and defence policy,’’ Maas said at the opening of the European Centre of Excellence for Civilian Crisis Management in Berlin.

According to the minister, during its presidency in the EU Council, Germany wants to make the coordination of the EU countries in the field of security and defence more effective and permanent.

“To achieve sustainable peace, we need an ‘integrated approach’.

“Consequently, civil crisis management should be at the centre of European foreign and security policy,’’ Maas added.

The Centre of Excellence for Civilian Crisis Management was established in February at Germany’s initiative.

The institution will serve as a centre of knowledge for gathering and sharing national models as well as experiences.

It will also draw up concrete proposals on how European civilian crisis management can be further developed in terms of concept and practice.

On Tuesday, Tehran relayed its concern about alleged secret nuclear-related activities by the Saudis to the International Atomic Energy Agency. (Sputnik/Streetjournal

Britain threatens the Iranian nuclear horn

UK says Iran must be prevented from acquiring nuclear weapon

LONDON: Iran must be prevented from acquiring a nuclear weapon, UK foreign secretary Dominic Raab said during a meeting Wednesday with US Vice President Mike Pence.

Raab posted a tweet saying he and Pence discussed the “latest on progress in Middle East peace, our commitment to Hong Kong, the need to prevent Iran’s pursuit of a nuclear weapon and support for COVID-19 vaccine development,” following the meeting at the White House.

The US pulled out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear deal with Iran in May 2018 and has since called on Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany to follow suit.
Raab’s comments came a day after a joint statement from UK, Germany and France called on Iran to fully fulfil its nuclear obligations and maintain the JCPOA.
The statement said that Tehran’s failure to fulfil its obligations was a matter of concern, and seriously damaged the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.
The three countries expressed their concern about Iran’s announcement to construct a building to produce advanced centrifuges near the Natanz nuclear plant and called on Tehran to halt production.
Last month, the International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed that Iran has exceeded the limit on uranium enrichment stipulated in the agreement, and had increased its stockpile tenfold.
The UN nuclear watchdog confirmed that it is still investigating Iran’s undeclared materials and activities and that is working to verify the nuclear materials declared by Iran are not diverted according to the agreement.
The meeting took place a day after a historic US-brokered signing ceremony where the UAE, Bahrain and Israel inked the Abraham Accord, officially recognizing and normalizing ties with the Jewish state.