The Growing Russian Nuclear Horn: Daniel 7

MIT Corp.The MIT Corporation is the manufacturer of the Aerostat missile. Composite image showing MIT’s headquarters in Moscow and one of its road-mobile ICBMs. (Source)

Aerostat: a Russian long-range anti-ballistic missile system with possible counterspace capabilities

by Bart Hendrickx
Monday, October 11, 2021

Russia has been working for several years on a long-range anti-ballistic missile system named Aerostat. The fact that it is being developed by the country’s sole manufacturer of solid-fuel intercontinental ballistic missiles suggests that it may very well have a range allowing it to double as a counterspace system. The oddly named ABM system (“aerostat” is a general term for unpowered balloons and airships) has never been mentioned in the Russian press or openly discussed by Russian military analysts, but its existence and basic design features can be determined through open-source intelligence.

There has been much debate over whether Nudol is primarily an anti-missile system with a complementary counterspace role or vice versa.

Aerostat has shown up in a number of openly accessible official documents, the first being the 2013 annual report of the Almaz-Antey Air and Space Defense Corporation, established in 2002 to unify dozens of companies producing missiles, anti-aircraft systems, radars, naval artillery, and other systems.[1] As can be learned from other publicly available documents, Almaz-Antey was assigned prime contractor for the project by the Ministry of Defense on July 12, 2013. A court document published last July literally describes the purpose of the July 2013 contract as “the development of a long-range intercept complex for the anti-missile defense of the Russian Federation in the period 2013-2018” and identifies the missile as 106T6.[2] Aerostat is not the first such long-range ABM system developed under the supervision of Almaz-Antey. Another one, named Nudol, has been undergoing test flights for several years and is likely seen primarily as a direct-ascent anti-satellite weapon.

Nudol

Nudol (also known as 14Ts033) is named after a small place some 100 kilometers northwest of Moscow that was one of the deployment sites for the long-range missiles of Moscow’s former A-35M missile defense system. Its main element is a road-mobile solid-fuel rocket called 14A042, developed by OKB Novator in Yekaterinburg. This company belongs to Almaz-Antey and has produced a wide range of surface-to-air and cruise missiles. US intelligence data indicate that the 14A042 missile has flown at least ten test flights from the Plesetsk launch site in northwestern Russia since 2014, but no targets seem to have been involved in any of those.

There has been much debate over whether Nudol is primarily an anti-missile system with a complementary counterspace role or vice versa. US intelligence considers it a direct-ascent anti-satellite system, as is clear from statements placed on the website of US Space Command following the latest two Nudol tests in April and December 2020.[3] It has also been characterized as an anti-satellite system by at least two Russian officials, namely the deputy head of a Ministry of Defense research institute and Russia’s deputy Prime Minister Yuri Borisov.[4] Another factor pointing in the direction of an ASAT role for the 14A042 missile is that the 14A designators are typically used for space launch vehicles (for instance, 14A14 is the Soyuz-2 rocket.) 14A042 is indeed termed a “rocket for space-related purposes” in two official documents that outline safety precautions that need to be taken when the rockets fly over the Nenets Autonomous District east of Plesetsk.[5] Moreover, one court document mentions communications systems needed to connect Nudol with the headquarters of Russia’s space surveillance network in Noginsk-9 (code-named 3006M.)[6]

An analysis of online procurement documents shows that Almaz-Antey was named prime contractor for the project by the Ministry of Defense on August 10, 2009, and awarded a contract to OKB Novator for the development of the 14A042 rocket on the same day. For some reason, Almaz-Antey received a new contract for the project on April 10, 2015.[7]

While OKB Novator is responsible for integrating the rocket, the individual stages are manufactured by NPO Iskra in Perm. The designators 14D807 and 14D809 seen in some documents are likely the ones used for the first and second stage.[8] Nudol appears to have a kinetic kill vehicle that contains a “multispectral electro-optical homing head” (MOEGSN or 14Sh129) developed by KB Tochmash.[9] The State Institute of Applied Optics (GIPO) supplies what is called a “combined frameless television/infrared channel” for 14Sh129.[10] This part of the payload, apparently named TTPS, is presumably described in several technical articles published by GIPO, where the spectral ranges are given as 0.4–0.7 microns (visible) and 3.0–5.0 microns (mid-infrared.)[11] Both KB Tochmash and GIPO also have a role in the air-launched Burevestnik ASAT system.

Aerostat’s organizational background

Almaz-Antey’s main subcontractor for Aerostat is the MIT Corporation (MIT standing for “Moscow Institute of Thermal Technology”), which specializes in solid-fuel intercontinental ballistic missiles. Unlike OKB Novator, it is part of the Roscosmos State Corporation and is a newcomer to the field of anti-ballistic missile defense.

After the break-up of the Soviet Union, the MIT Corporation fielded the Topol-M, YARS, and Bulava ICBMs (the latter a submarine-launched missile.) In the 1990s, it also converted Soviet-era Topol ICBMs into space launch vehicles called Start and Start-1, which were used to launch a number of small satellites into low Earth orbit between 1993 and 2006. The company is also working on the solid-fuel emergency escape system for Russia’s new piloted spacecraft Oryol.

Other subcontractors that can be identified from online sources are:

– KB Tochmash and GIPO: the two companies play the same role as in Nudol, providing the electro-optical system of the missile’s homing head. Actually, some procurement documents indicate that the system is identical or at least very similar to the MOEGSN/14Sh129 system carried by Nudol’s 14A042 rocket.[12] It also includes a diode-pumped laser rangefinder.[13] KB Tochmash has also built laser rangefinders for some of its surface-to-air missiles and several years ago was planning to deliver a laser rangefinder “for spacecraft dockings” to an unidentified foreign partner, most likely China.[14]

– NPTsAP imeni N.A. Pilyugina (further referred to here as the Pilyugin Center): this company produces guidance and control systems for launch vehicles and most likely performs the same task for Aerostat. It has built a test stand called Aerostat that is almost certainly intended for the project.[15]

– GOKB Prozhektor: a company belonging to the MIT Corporation that builds autonomous power supply systems for the corporation’s ICBMs. Aerostat is listed among other MIT Corporation missiles in two of the company’s annual reports.[16]

– PAO Radiofizika: a company under Almaz-Antey, involved among other things in building ground-based radar systems that provide targeting data for anti-missile systems. Aerostat is mentioned in PAO Radiofizika’s annual reports for 2018 and 2019 and in a book dedicated to the company’s 55th anniversary. The 2020 annual report mentions work related to “Product 103T6”, an index similar to 106T6. It is not clear if this is yet another missile or whether there is a typo in one of the two indexes.[17]

– GosNIIAS (State Research Institute of Aviation Systems): this appears to build one or more test stands for Aerostat, including one used to simulate the infrared background against which the missile’s homing head will have to track its targets.[18]

– АО VIKor: a company that provides technical support and consulting for various military projects. Its website mentions work done in 2019 on research projects called Aerostat-Ts-MIT and Aerostat-S-MIT-Nadyozhnost (the latter word meaning “reliability”).[19]

Technical features

Aerostat may have been discussed in an article written by Almaz-Antey’s deputy general director Pavel Sozinov in a 2017 issue of the corporation’s quarterly journal.[20] It deals with mathematical modeling techniques to simulate the performance of various “air and space defense systems.” One of those is literally called “an advanced long-range intercept complex,” with Sozinov hinting that it has a range considerably exceeding that of existing systems. The simulations were needed to “justify technical decisions made to develop the system” and “determine its combat efficiency.” It can be learned from the article that its targets will be both “complex ballistic targets” (a term usually used for multiple independently targetable reentry vehicles) and satellites (included in the models were “calculations of satellite orbits” as well as data provided by the ground-based space surveillance network.) It cannot be ruled out that Sozinov was writing about Nudol, but he portrayed the research as being linked to a future system, whereas Nudol was already making test flights at the time of writing.

SozinovPavel Sozinov. (Source)

The computer models simulated the operation of a “central radar complex” to acquire and track the targets and benefited from experience gathered with a mobile radar system named Demonstrator. This was a truck-mounted phased array radar first demonstrated at various air shows in 2013–2014 and described at the time by PAO Radiofizika’s general director Boris Levitan as a prototype of bigger radar stations needed for space surveillance (although it could also be used for detecting airborne targets.)[21]

What can be concluded from the available information is that Aerostat’s 106T6 rocket is probably a multistage solid-fuel launch vehicle that inherits elements from one or more of the MIT Corporation’s ICBMs.

The “central radar complex” could be the Don-2 battle management radar currently used by Moscow’s A-135 anti-ballistic missile system or another one known as 14Ts031 or Object 0746-M that is situated near Chekhov, some 60 kilometers southwest of Moscow. This is a modified version of the Dunai-3U radar complex originally built for the earlier A-35M missile defense system and consists of a transmitting and a receiving antenna separated by about three kilometers. In documentation it is called “a specialized space surveillance radar for the detection and monitoring of small-size space objects”. PAO Radiofizika has been closely involved in modernizing the radar complex since early last decade under a project called Razvyazka. Although the radar system has usually been linked to Nudol, it could obviously support Aerostat as well. According to a brochure distributed by PAO Radiofizika at the recent MAKS-2021 aerospace show near Moscow, the modernization of the radar complex has been completed and the main purpose of the P-band phased array radar is to catalog space objects and detect satellites in high orbits.[22]

radar complexThe receiving antenna of the 14Ts031 radar complex is seen on the right side of this image taken from orbit in June 2020. Source: Google Earth.
radarGrainy ground-based picture of the receiving antenna. (Source)

In the same article, Sozinov also discussed techniques to simulate the flight of a multistage solid-fuel rocket carrying a “multispectral electro-optical homing head” (possibly the MOEGSN/14Sh129 system jointly developed by KB Tochmash and GIPO.) He didn’t specifically link the rocket to the “long-range intercept complex,” but the computer models took into account Earth limb background effects, suggesting the rocket is designed to operate outside the Earth’s atmosphere. It has a third stage whose flight path can be corrected using tracking information on the target and its homing head is described as a “two-dimensional tracking system with independent control for each channel” needed to determine the angular velocity of the line of sight. Sozinov’s description of this system is virtually copied and pasted in a paper presented in 2018 by a researcher of the Pilyugin Center (a subcontractor for Aerostat) who has also co-authored several articles as well as a patent on a method to control the thrust of a solid-fuel upper stage.[23] Presumably, targeting data obtained by the sensors will be used by the rocket’s guidance and control system to regulate the upper stage’s thrust.

The link with Aerostat is further supported by the fact that the specific Russian term used for “upper stage” in one of these Pilyugin Center articles (dovodochnaya stupen’, sounding somewhat similar to “kick stage” in English) is seen virtually only in publications of the MIT Corporation. Also, one of the co-researchers, Gennadiy Rumyantsev, is a veteran of the Pilyugin Center who was involved in developing the guidance and control system for the MIT Corporation’s Start launch vehicles back in the 1990s.[24]

These rockets, derived from the Topol ICBM and launched from transporter erector launchers, came in four-stage and five-stage configurations (called Start-1 and Start respectively), with both carrying an additional low-thrust kick stage to deliver the payloads to their final orbits (so strictly speaking they were five-stage and six-stage rockets.) The kick stage had а thrust control system as well as a gas reaction control system to ensure accurate orbital injection of the satellites. In earlier publications, Rumyantsev has pointed out that such kick stages can be used either as an ICBM post-boost stage to deploy nuclear warheads or as the upper stage of a space launch vehicle.[25] Most likely, exactly the same type of stage could be modified to guide an exoatmospheric kill vehicle to its target.

radarSchematic representation of the Start launch vehicle’s “kick stage”. A similar stage may serve as the basis for Aerostat’s kinetic kill vehicle. (Source)

The MIT Corporation has recently proposed to revive the Start project using decommissioned Topol ICBMs, at least several dozens of which are left.[26] The renewed interest in Start is also reflected by a handful of patents of the MIT Corporation that have appeared online in recent years.[27] MIT has also studied modified versions of solid-fuel upper stages [28]. Although impossible to prove, it is tempting to believe that these proposals at least partly draw on work done as part of Aerostat since 2013.

Start-1The Start-1 rocket. Source: MIT Corporation.

Aside from Sozinov’s 2017 article, Almaz-Antey has published two other articles that may be related to Aerostat. One discusses computer simulations of the launch of a “multistage rocket” which “exits the Earth’s atmosphere” and uses both on-board sensors and ground-based radar systems to detect and track its targets. One of its authors has also written an article on modeling the Earth limb’s infrared background radiation as seen by “space-based electro-optical systems.”[29] Considering Almaz-Antey’s background, the research hardly had anything to do with a civilian space project.

There can be little doubt that Russia considers counterspace weapons an integral part of this system, which is often depicted as being targeted against “air-based and space-based attack systems”. From the Russian perspective, one such potential space-based attack system is the US Air Force’s X-37B spaceplane.

What can be concluded from the available information is that Aerostat’s 106T6 rocket is probably a multistage solid-fuel launch vehicle that inherits elements from one or more of the MIT Corporation’s ICBMs (Topol-M, YARS, Bulava, or possibly a lightweight version of YARS known as Rubezh.) Judging by Sozinov’s article, it may use the first two stages of an existing ICBM topped by an exoatmospheric kill vehicle consisting of a solid-fuel “kick stage” (the “third stage” mentioned by Sozinov) and a homing system that relies on data fed by ground-based radars and an on-board visible/infrared sensor.

Situating Aerostat in the Russian ABM program

So where does Aerostat fit in Russia’s anti-ballistic missile program? In May 2016, MIT Corporation general director Yuri Solomonov acknowledged his company’s leading role in a missile defense project, but did not provide additional details other than calling it analogous to the American Aegis system.[30] Aegis is the Navy component of the US missile defense system and is geared toward defending against short-, medium-, and intermediate-range ballistic missiles during their midcourse phase. It also has a limited counterspace capability, which was demonstrated in 2008 when an Aegis Standard Missile-3 was used to destroy a derelict US reconnaissance satellite to prevent it from re-entering the atmosphere in one piece and possibly causing harm to people on the ground (or that, at least, was the official explanation.) While Aegis is primarily a sea-based system, it also has a land-based component (Aegis Ashore) which began deployment in Eastern Europe in 2016. This has drawn strong criticism from Russia, which considers it a breach of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, arguing Aegis Ashore can also be used to launch Tomahawk cruise missiles against targets on Russian territory.

Тhe evidence presented above is not consistent with Aerostat being a theater missile defense system like Aegis. Presumably, Solomonov was referring to Aegis as a well-known example of a US missile defense system rather than meaning to say MIT’s missile defense system is in the same category.

SolomonovMIT Corporation general director Yuri Solomonov. (Source)

Protection against theater missiles is currently provided by the S-300 and S-400 air defense systems. The only ABM system capable of intercepting ICBMs is A-135, deployed around Moscow to intercept incoming warheads targeting the city and its surrounding areas. This was declared operational in 1995 and is the successor to the original A-35 system deployed in the 1970s in compliance with the 1972 ABM Treaty (which limited both the US and the Soviet Union to having only one ABM site, but was abandoned by the US in 2002.) Currently, A-135’s main elements are the Don-2N battle management phased array radar and several dozen short-range 53T6 (NATO reporting name “Gazelle”) endoatmospheric nuclear-tipped missiles developed by OKB Novator. Also part of A-135 was 51T6 (NATO reporting name “Gorgon”), a long-range nuclear-tipped exoatmospheric missile, which has now been retired.

In 2014, Almaz-Antey’s Pavel Sozinov said that Russia’s missile defense system was being considerably upgraded and would comprise equivalents of America’s THAAD and GMD systems. THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense) is intended to intercept short- and medium-range missiles at the end of the midcourse stage and in the terminal stage of flight. GMD (Ground-Based Midcourse Defense) is designed to counter ICBMs in the midcourse stage. According to Sozinov, the THAAD-type system would target medium-range ballistic missiles and have a limited capability against ICBMs as well. The other system would be “somewhat similar to GMD”, but would be mobile and have a “higher intercept efficiency.” [31] In 2017, the chief designer of Russia’s missile early warning system, Sergey Boyev, declared that a “multi-layered national missile defense system” would be deployed by 2025, calling it a response to the “direct threat” posed by the US Aegis Ashore missiles deployed in Eastern Europe.[32]

There can be little doubt that Russia considers counterspace weapons an integral part of this system, which is often depicted as being targeted against “air-based and space-based attack systems”. From the Russian perspective, one such potential space-based attack system is the US Air Force’s X-37B spaceplane, which, according to Sozinov, could carry up to three warheads into space and then deliver them to their targets after evading early warning systems.[33] Even President Vladimir Putin himself has alluded to the offensive potential of the X-37B, saying that “re-usable shuttle type spacecraft” can give the US an edge in the militarization of space and that the deployment of what he called “combat complexes” in orbit poses a greater threat to world security than that of medium-range missiles in Europe[34]. In 2017, Sozinov acknowledged Almaz-Antey’s involvement in the development of counterspace weapons, more particularly electronic warfare systems to be used against radar reconnaissance, optical reconnaissance, and communications satellites, as well as systems for “the direct functional destruction of elements deployed in orbit,” an apparent reference to kinetic ASAT weapons.[35]

X-37BThe US Air Force X-37B is seen by Russia as a potential “space-based attack system”. Source: USAF.

What Sozinov called “the Russian THAAD” appears to be the S-500 system (also known as Prometey and Triumfator-M). As explained by Sergey Surovikin, the commander of the Russian Aerospace Forces, the S-500 system is aimed against both “aerodynamic targets” (including drones and hypersonic vehicles) and “ballistic targets.” Its main goal, he said, is to destroy medium-range ballistic missiles, but if needed it can also intercept ICBM-launched warheads in the terminal stage. He added that, in the future, it will also be able to destroy low orbiting satellites and “space-based attack systems.”[36] Little has been revealed about S-500, but available information suggests that it includes the 40N6M missile (with a reported range of 400 kilometers) for use against aircraft and cruise missiles and the more powerful 77N6-N and 77N6-N1 (with an estimated range of 500–600 kilometers) to counter ballistic missiles and satellites. All these missiles are products of MKB Fakel.

If used in an ASAT capacity, Aerostat should have a range considerably higher than that of Nudol and, hence, be capable of taking out satellites in higher orbits.

The “Russian GMD” is most likely the upgraded Moscow ABM system known as A-235. Work on this began back in 1991 under the strange code-name “Samolyot-M” (“samolyot” means “aircraft”), but progress has been very slow. The short-range component of A-235 appears to be an improved variant of OKB Novator’s 53T6 missile called 53T6M, which has been making test flights from the Sary-Shagan test range in Kazakhstan since early last decade. The long-range component, the replacement for the decommissioned 51T6, has long been rumored to be Nudol, with numerous sources (including Wikipedia) going as far as claiming that Nudol actually is another name for the entire A-235 system (which is clearly not the case.) In reality, there is no convincing documentary evidence that Nudol will become part of A-235.

The index used for Aerostat’s missile (106T6 or possibly 103T6, the same nomenclature as 53T6 and 51T6) does point to it being a future element of A-235. It would have several advantages over 51T6. Likely having a longer range, it would be able to intercept ICBMs earlier in the midcourse phase than has been possible so far. Rather than being installed in silos, it should be mobile (the MIT Corporation’s ICBMs can be launched from transporter erector launchers) and its advanced homing system should allow it to kinetically destroy its targets instead of disabling them by detonating a nuclear warhead in their vicinity.

Nudol’s place in all this remains uncertain (its exact range is unknown). Possibly, A-235 will be a three-tier system with short-range missiles (53T6M), medium-range missiles (Nudol/14A042) and long-range missiles (Aerostat/106T6). Original plans formulated for A-235 in the 1990s did in fact call for such a three-tier system. It is also possible that Nudol is a specialized ASAT system with no anti-missile role at all (the 14A042 index of the Nudol missile is not indicative of it being part of A-235).

Possible counterspace role

So is Aerostat designed to attack satellites as well? If Sozinov was writing about Aerostat in his 2017 article, then it would appear it is. The fact that Aerostat and Nudol seem to share the same tracking sensors may also point in that direction. If used in an ASAT capacity, Aerostat should have a range considerably higher than that of Nudol and, hence, be capable of taking out satellites in higher orbits. In the absence of more specific information on the design, it is difficult to estimate exactly how much higher.

As a rule of thumb, the apogee that a ballistic missile can reach when launched vertically is approximately one half of its maximum horizontal range.[37] Therefore, a missile like Topol, which has a horizontal range of around 11,000 kilometers, would be able to reach a maximum altitude of roughly 5,500 kilometers. By replacing the nuclear warheads with a much lighter kinetic kill vehicle and adding one or more stages (as done on the Start rockets), that ceiling can be significantly increased. Recall that China conducted a high-altitude missile test in May 2013 that was officially billed as a scientific sounding rocket mission, but was later assessed by the Pentagon to have been a possible “test of technologies with a counterpace mission in geosynchronous orbit.”

However, it is highly questionable that Aerostat would be able to reach such altitudes or even those used by America’s GPS/Navstar navigation satellites (around 20,000 kilometers.) Moreover, it would take hours for a direct-ascent ASAT weapon to reach such targets, giving them ample time to perform evasive maneuvers. A more efficient way of disabling satellites in such orbits is by using electronic warfare systems, several of which are known to have been deployed by Russia. Any other US military satellites that could be worthwhile targets for anti-satellite systems orbit the Earth no higher than about 1,000 kilometers, more specifically the KH-11 optical reconnaissance satellites, the X-37B spaceplanes, the Onyx (Lacrosse) and Topaz radar reconnaissance satellites, and the NOSS-3/Intruder ocean reconnaissance satellites. Also added to the list could be a series of European military observation satellites. All of these would likely fall within the range of Aerostat.

Future tests of Aerostat may be complicated by the fact that Russia’s main test range for anti-missile systems (Sary-Shagan) is located in neighboring Kazakhstan.

In short, within several years Russia may possess as many as three anti-missile systems that could double as direct-ascent anti-satellite weapons (S-500, Nudol and Aerostat), whatever the rationale behind that may be. That goal has, in fact, been officially acknowledged for S-500 and Nudol, with the latter possibly even being a dedicated ASAT system. In addition to those, Russia probably already has operational ground-based electronic warfare and laser systems for counterspace purposes and is also working on co-orbital ASAT systems, which already seem to have made test flights under the Burevestnik and Nivelir projects.[38]

Project status

Some insight into the original test schedule for Aerostat is provided by the earlier mentioned court document published this July. The July 2013 contract between the Ministry of Defense and Almaz-Antey and later supplements to the contract called for finishing the preliminary design by November 2014 and conducting a “live experiment” in October 2017. So-called “preliminary tests” were to be completed by November 2020 and followed by “state tests,” after which the system was to be declared ready for serial production in November 2021.

“Preliminary tests” and “state tests” are terms inherited from the Soviet days denoting the test phases that a military product has to go through before it is declared operational. “Preliminary tests” are defined as tests needed to determine if experimental versions of a military product meet technical specifications. “State tests” are needed to establish whether the product meets technical requirements “in conditions as close as possible to those experienced in the field” and to decide whether it can be approved for operational use and serial production.

According to the document, the “live experiment” was eventually carried out on December 26, 2017. No further details are given, but on that day Russia’s Strategic Missile Forces launched a Soviet-era Topol ICBM on a test flight from the Kapustin Yar test range near Volgograd (most likely toward the Sary-Shagan range in Kazakhstan.) In a statement released the same day, the Ministry of Defense announced the flight was designed to test new ballistic missile defense countermeasures.[39] The same goal has also been reported for other Topol test flights from Kapustin Yar and was not unique to this mission. In this particular case, the test may have been aimed at testing ways of evading countermeasures taken by the enemy to prevent its missiles from being intercepted by ABM missiles. The fact that the Aerostat-related test was carried out with a Topol missile does not at all imply that Aerostat itself will also be based on Topol. The aging Topol missiles are used to demonstrate technology for newer ICBMs.

TopolLaunch of a Topol missile. (Source)

The court document does not shed any light on further technical progress made in the Aerostat project after the December 2017 test. The subject of the court case was a lawsuit filed by the Ministry of Defense against Almaz-Antey for delays in the “live experiment” and the delivery of design documentation and software for the project (with the MIT Corporation mentioned only as a third party.) The court also granted a request from the Ministry of Defense to terminate the July 2013 contract, but that does not necessarily mean that the project has been canceled. The contract covered work on Aerostat in the 2013–2018 period and its official termination may have been no more than a bureaucratic move. In fact, procurement documents show that the Ministry of Defense signed a new contract with Almaz-Antey for Aerostat on April 26, 2018 and further work seems to have taken place only under that contract. A similar pattern was seen in the Nudol project, where the government contract with Almaz-Antey was renewed after six years.

The work known to have been performed under the new contract does carry the label “NIR”, which is Russian short for the research phase of a project that precedes actual systems development (referred to as “OKR”.) This may indicate that at least some systems have encountered technical problems that have forced designers back to the drawing boards.

Future tests of Aerostat may be complicated by the fact that Russia’s main test range for anti-missile systems (Sary-Shagan) is located in neighboring Kazakhstan. One anonymous “highly-placed source” in the Russian defense industry told a Russian news outlet in June last year that this is causing problems for tests of long-range air and missile defense systems, particularly S-500. To some extent, the source said, this also applied to Nudol, although the main stumbling block for Nudol were “some unresolved technical issues” that were expected to keep it from entering combat duty until 2021 “at the earliest.”[40] Still, if Nudol and Aerostat have a hit-to-kill capability, that likely would have to be demonstrated before they are declared operational. Russia may prefer to do that using ballistic targets rather than orbiting satellites, considering the vast amounts of space debris that would be generated by such tests. Since it uses the same type of tracking sensors, Nudol could also serve as a pathfinder for Aerostat.

What seems to be a new test range for anti-missile systems (Object 2142) is being constructed near the town of Severo-Yeniseiskiy in the Krasnoyarsk region in Siberia. It is part of a project called Ukazchik-KV, which in one document was associated with “a test range and internal flight path for tests of anti-missile systems and anti-missile countermeasures” (“internal flight path” probably meaning a flight path that doesn’t cross Russia’s borders.)[41] Planned for installation at the new test range are radars and optical tracking systems similar to those used at Sary-Shagan. One map of the test range shows (simulated) warheads coming in from the northwest, indicating the new “internal flight path” will be from Plesetsk to Severo-Yeniseiskiy and complement or replace the currently used flight path from Kapustin Yar to Sary-Shagan.[42] Late last year, Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu said the site near Severo-Yeniseiskiy was needed for tests of the new Sarmat liquid-fuel ICBM, but it clearly will be used for other purposes as well.[43]

mapMap of the “Object 2142” test range, scattered over a large area near Severo-Yeniseiskiy. The arrow in the upper left corner indicates the direction of travel of incoming warheads. (Source)

Ukazchik-KV was assigned to Almaz-Antey on the very same day as Aerostat (July 12, 2013), as was yet another missile defense project called Selektsiya, which seems to be aimed at creating an integrated command structure for Russia’s air and missile defense systems. It is not entirely clear though if there is any connection between these three projects, which were initiated under three different government contracts. But even if Aerostat does not need the new test range, it seems to have fallen far behind the schedule originally set out for it and may still be a long way from reaching operational status.

The Russian horns new nuclear toys Daniel 7

Russian developing 4,000mph hypersonic nuke missile for stealth fighter jets that can hit ANYWHERE on Earth in minutes

14:50 ET,

VLADIMIR Putin’s top weapons designers are developing a 4,000mph hypersonic nuclear missile that is capable of reducing a city anywhere on Earth to ashes within minutes.

The nukes will be fired from fifth-generation fighter Su-57 and travel five times faster than sound — making it almost impossible to shoot down. 

The hypersonic missile will be carried by the new Su-57 stealth fighters
The hypersonic missile will be carried by the new Su-57 stealth fightersCredit: Getty

Russian news agency Interfax reports the missile will be used against sea targets and ports and undergo tests by the end of this year.  

Citing sources in the Russian Defence Ministry, Izvestia newspaper reports the hypersonic weapon is being designed for the Su-57 stealth fighter by the Tactical Missile Corporation under a codename “Larchinka-MD”.

It writes: “It will fly at speeds five or more times faster than sound and will become virtually invulnerable to modern air and missile defence systems.”

Earlier this it emerged that Russia said today it has successfully test-fired its new lethal Zircon hypersonic missile from a submarine for the first time.

Video footage shows the 6,670mph rocket being fired from the nuclear-powered sub-Severodvinsk before streaking into the night sky.

The weapon was launched from the surface in the White Sea and successfully hit a target in the Barents Sea, said the defence ministry in Moscow.

Russia claims the “unstoppable” Mach 9 missile is able to evade all Western defences.

“The Russian navy carried out the first tests of the Zircon hypersonic missile from the Severodvinsk nuclear submarine,” an official statement read.

“The missile was test-fired at a conditional sea target in the Barents Sea.

“The test-firing of the Zircon missile from the nuclear submarine was recognised as successful.”

Russia said last week said it had completed flight tests of the new-age missile from a frigate, the Admiral Gorshkov, and a coastal mount.

Iran Closes in to its First Nuke

Edging close to a bomb’s worth of fuel is seen as a tactic to pressure the Biden administration into agreeing to a quick renewal of the 2015 nuclear deal.

By David E. Sanger and William J. BroadSept. 13, 2021

WASHINGTON — Iran has come within roughly a month of having enough material to fuel a single nuclear weapon, crossing a threshold that may raise pressure on the United States and its allies to improve the terms of a potential deal to restore the 2015 nuclear agreement.

Experts studying new data contained in reports last week by the International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations’ atomic inspection group, say that by enriching nuclear fuel in recent months to near bomb-grade levels, Tehran has gained the capability to produce the fuel needed for a single nuclear warhead within a month or so, under the most extreme timeline. Federal officials who have seen classified estimates are prevented from discussing official assessments but conceded in background conversations that they believed it would take Iran only a few months.

Manufacturing an actual warhead — one that could fit atop an Iranian missile and survive the fiery re-entry into the atmosphere, a technology the Iranians were actively studying 20 years ago — would take considerably longer. Iran continues to insist it has no desire for a nuclear arsenal.

Nonetheless, Iran has not been this close to a weapon capability since before President Obama agreed to the 2015 nuclear accord. That agreement forced the Iranians to ship more than 97 percent of their fuel out of the country, and the United States said it would take at least a year for Iran to succeed at “breakout,” the term nuclear experts use to define a race to build a bomb’s worth of atomic fuel.

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Bolton Warns of the First Nuclear War: Revelation 8

John Bolton warns Taliban may get nuclear weapons amid Afghanistan withdrawal

Mark Moore
John Bolton.


John Bolton warned that if the Taliban takes control of Pakistan, that could mean “150 nuclear weapons in the hands of terrorists. Logan Cyrus/AFP via Getty Images


Former national security adviser John Bolton blasted President Biden’s botched handling of the military withdrawal from Afghanistan and said it could lead to the Taliban getting nuclear weapons.

“The Taliban in control of Afghanistan threatens the possibility of terrorists taking control of Pakistan … that means maybe 150 nuclear weapons in the hands of terrorists,” Bolton told John Catsimatidis in an interview on his WABC 770 radio show on Sunday.

“China, which already has a lot of influence in Pakistan, is going to increase its influence and put more pressure on India. This is a big development in that part of the world,” he continued.

Bolton served as national security adviser from April 2018 to September 2019 in former President Donald Trump’s administration.

The Taliban mounted a rapid military campaign as the Biden administration began removing US forces, seizing territory and capturing provincial capitals, including Kabul, in just nine days.

Troops in Afghanistan.
As the Biden administration began removing US forces from Afghanistan, the Taliban began seizing territory and capturing provincial capitals.
Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images
The White House scrambled to rescue American citizens and Afghan allies after the takeover, but the operation turned into chaos as thousands of Afghans streamed toward the airport in Kabul to flee Taliban rule and 13 US service members were killed in a suicide bombing by ISIS-K terrorists.

Bolton said Biden embarrassed the US on the world stage and now allies are “wondering if he has a grip on his own administration’s foreign policy.”

But Bolton praised Biden for his nuclear submarine deal with Australia that irked France so much it canceled a gala and recalled its envoys from the US and Australia.


“It’s a huge step forward for us in the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean. It’s a real signal to China that we are determined not to let them just run wild,” he said.

Bolton also said he doesn’t think the Biden administration is “focused” enough to deal with the threats posed by China.

“I think the United States must look at China and the threat it poses across the board. They’ve been stealing our intellectual property for decades … They discriminate against foreign companies and investors. They manipulate the World Trade Organization. They are building up their military… And they are very aggressive politically,” Bolton said.
“The United States needs to come to grips with this threat … and needs to be prepared for a long struggle across the full spectrum of potential power — economic, political and military … I don’t think the administration is focused,” he said.

Twenty years after 9/11, terrorists will l go nuclear: Revelation 16

Twenty years after 9/11, terrorists could still go nuclear

By Matthew Bunn | September 16, 2021

As Americans reeled after the 9/11 attacks 20 years ago, one question was at the front of many minds: Could even worse be coming? If the terrorists who attacked on September 11 had a crude nuclear bomb on the plane, it wouldn’t have been just the twin towers—the whole lower half of Manhattan could have been turned to rubble and ash, with hundreds of thousands dead and injured.

Unfortunately, that possibility was all too real. Investigations after the attacks uncovered focused al Qaeda efforts to get nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons. The nuclear program reported directly to Ayman al-Zawahiri, now the leader of the group, and got as far as carrying out crude but sensible conventional explosive tests for the bomb program in the Afghan desert. Weeks before 9/11, Osama bin Laden and Zawahiri met with two senior Pakistani nuclear scientists and discussed how al Qaeda could get nuclear weapons.

But that was then. Today, both al Qaeda and another major jihadist terror group, the Islamic State, have suffered tremendous blows, with their charismatic leaders dead and many others killed or captured. A US-led counterterrorism coalition destroyed the Islamic State’s geographic caliphate in Iraq and Syria. In recent years, many terrorist attacks have not been much more sophisticated than driving a van into a crowd. Al Qaeda has not managed to carry out a single successful attack in the United States since 9/11. Is a terrorist nuclear attack still something to worry about?

The short answer, unfortunately, is “yes.” The probability of terrorists getting and using a nuclear bomb appears to be low—but the consequences if they did would be so devastating that it is worth beefing up efforts to make sure terrorists never get their hands on a nuclear bomb’s essential ingredients. To see the possibilities, we need to look at motive, capability, and opportunity.

Motive. Violent Islamic extremists desperately want to strike back at the “crusader forces” who have inflicted such punishing blows on their organizations. And both the Islamic State and al Qaeda would like a spectacular action to put them firmly back at the forefront of the violent Islamic extremist movement. Years ago, al Qaeda spokesman Sulaiman Abu Ghaith argued that because Western actions had killed so many Muslims, al Qaeda had “the right to kill four million Americans, one million of them children.” That kind of hatred still festers. (Abu Ghaith is serving a life sentence in a US prison.)RELATED: The US government’s comic approach to information warfareNuclear explosives are only one of the paths to mass slaughter that terrorists have pursued. Nuclear efforts must compete for terrorists’ attention with tried-and-true conventional weapons, biological weapons—whose dangers the pandemic has highlighted—chemical weapons, and more. Many of these other types of weapons would be easier for terrorists to acquire, and so their use may be more likely. But the history-changing power of a mushroom cloud rising over a major city has proved attractive to terrorists in the past and may again.Capability. Government studies make clear that if a sophisticated, well-funded terrorist group got hold of the needed plutonium or highly enriched uranium (HEU), they might well be able to put together a crude nuclear bomb. Unfortunately, it does not take a Manhattan Project to build a bomb, when you have weapons-usable fissile material. Indeed, the group needed to make a crude bomb might not have a footprint much bigger than the 9/11 attackers had. Despite the enormous destruction that has been rained on al Qaeda and the Islamic State over the last 20 years, a cell of terrorists could be working on a nuclear project even now, somewhere far from US attention and drone strikes.The intense counterterrorism campaigns of the last two decades have surely reduced terrorists’ ability to plan and carry out such a complex effort. But we simply do not know what capability might remain. The Taliban’s rapid return to power in Afghanistan could add to that capability, making that country a terrorist haven again—but there are many other largely ungoverned or terrorist-controlled places where such a project could be undertaken.And the capability side of the equation can change at remarkable speed. In January 2014, the US intelligence community did not mention the Islamic State in its annual assessment of threats to US security. By summer, the group had seized much of Iraq and Syria and declared a global caliphate.Opportunity. Fortunately, around the world, security for plutonium and HEU is far better than it once was, making it far harder for terrorists to get their hands on the needed ingredients for a bomb. More than half of all the countries that once had such material on their soil have gotten rid of it. While stolen HEU or plutonium was once showing up in parked cars and airplane luggage racks in Europe, there hasn’t been a major seizure of potential nuclear bomb material for a decade now.RELATED: Climate conversations neglect an essential component of a healthy planet: the oceanNevertheless, with the Obama-era nuclear security summits now far in the rearview mirror, the momentum of nuclear security improvement has slowed. There is still a need to ensure that nuclear weapons, materials, and facilities are protected against the full range of plausible threats—especially from insiders, who appear to pose the biggest nuclear security problem. The rise of domestic violent extremists in the United States and other advanced democracies makes the insider threat even more challenging. There is still a need for realistic tests and assessments of nuclear security systems’ real capabilities against intelligent adversaries looking for ways to beat them. And there’s still a need to strengthen nuclear security culture—to make sure the staff and guards at nuclear facilities are giving security the priority it needs, day-in and day-out.If terrorists ever did manage to turn the heart of a modern city into a smoldering radioactive ruin, they would change history. The economic, political, and social consequences would reverberate far and wide. Fears that it could happen again—possibly stoked by terrorist claims that they had more bombs already hidden in cities and would detonate them unless their demands were met—could lead people to flee major cities. The reactions after 9/11—a more aggressive US foreign policy, racist animosity, expanded government powers, cutbacks in civil liberties—would be expanded manyfold, particularly once people realized that the material for such a bomb could be hidden in any suitcase.President Biden has warned of these dangers. Now is the time for him to act. Despite the many other priorities on his desk, it is time for him to launch a new, expanded nuclear security initiative, working to ensure that nuclear stockpiles worldwide are secure and accounted for to the highest standards, that major obstacles are placed in the path of nuclear smugglers, that states are deterred from helping terrorists with nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons, and that terrorist nuclear plots are found and stopped. The risk of a nuclear 9/11 will persist as long as high-capability terrorists and the materials needed to make a nuclear bomb both exist in the world.

The War on Terror Has United the Shi’a Horn: Daniel 8

Mehmet Alaca, Iran news, Iraq news, Islamic State terrorism, war on terror at 20, 20 anniversary of 9 11, US invasion of Iraq, Iraq militias, Middle East news, Iraq politics news, Qassem Soleimani assassination

The War on Terror Drove Iraq Into Iran’s Orbit

By Mehmet Alaca

September 13, 2021

© Andy.LIU / Shutterstock

After al-Qaeda targeted the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001, then-US President George W. Bush declared his (in)famous doctrine of the global war on terror, which will continue to have a great effect on the Middle East and the world for the coming decades, if not centuries. The framework implemented an aggressive foreign policy against Iraq, Iran and North Korea, singled out as the “axis of evil” in the new world order.

After 20 years of the doctrine in action, which saw the occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq that further ignited regional instability, President Joe Biden has withdrawn US troops from Afghanistan and is determined to end the combat mission in Iraq by the end of the year. Without concluding whether two decades of aggression succeeded in defeating terrorism, it can be said that the war on terror opened a new area of influence for one of the axis of evil, namely Iran in Iraq.

Opening the Gates

Thanks to its Shia population, Iraq has been a significant target of Iranian foreign policy since the Islamic Revolution of 1979. Due to both geographic and sectarian proximity, Iran, which sees Washington as an enemy and a source of instability in the region, was suspicious of the 2003 US invasion of Iraq. 

Deeming Baathist Iraq as a major threat to its national security, the regime in Tehran has meddled in its neighbor’s internal politics and strategic tendencies ever since coming to power. With the US toppling of Saddam Hussein, however, Iran succeeded in courting Iraq’s Shia population by taking advantage of its shared border and cultural, religious and economic ties.

The fact that significant Shia figures opposed to the Iraqi regime took refuge in Iran in the early 1980s strengthened Tehran’s relations with these groups in the post-invasion period. During this time, the Shia population has become influential in the Iraqi state and society. For example, Hadi al-Amiri, the leader of the Badr Organization militia, and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the recently deceased vice president of the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), count among some of the most prominent pro-Iranian figures in the current Iraqi political and military establishments.

The Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, a Shia resistance group headed by Ayatollah Mohammad Baqir al-Hakim hoping to topple Saddam Hussein’s regime, was established in Iran in 1982. It became a pioneer organization for various Shia militias and political groups with connections to Tehran, incorporating the Badr Organization, then known as the Badr Brigades. 

While Iran benefitted from the support of Iraqi militias during the inconclusive war with Iraq in the 1980s, Tehran redirected this mobilization against the US forces following the 2003 invasion. The Iraqi militia group Kataib Hezbollah was formed in early 2007, followed by Asaib Ahl al-Haq, as part of the campaign by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Quds Force against US forces.

Iran’s presence in Iraq came to light when the Americans captured several Iranian operatives in 2006 and 2007, among them Mohsen Chizari of the IRGC. Asaib Ahl al-Haq kidnapped and killed five US soldiers in January 2007, but two months later, coalition forces captured the militia’s leader, Qais al-Khazali, alongside an operative of Hezbollah, Tehran’s proxy in Lebanon, Ali Musa Daqduq. It is well known that the Jaish al-Mahdi militias led by Muqtada al-Sadr, who still has distant dealings with Iran, received intensive Iranian support to fight against the United States.

The disbanding the Iraqi army and establishing the interim government by the US after 2003 provided Iran with new opportunities to secure many significant positions in the bureaucracy. In this process, many members of the Badr Brigades were integrated into the new army and police forces, their political connections winning many rapid promotions. Today, Badr is still one of the most active groups within the police, the army and the Ministry of Interior.

Consolidation of Iranian Power

The Baghdad government was formed along ethnic and sectarian quotas. As per the country’s 2005 constitution, the presidency was allocated to the Kurds, the prime minister’s office to the Shia and the position of parliament’s speaker to the Sunnis. The allocation of the executive position to Shia leaders strengthened Iran’s elbow room in Iraqi politics.

The sectarian policies of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, who held office between 2006 and 2014, disquieted the Sunni society further. In addition to the fact that the Shia occupied a central position in the administrative system, the American inability to understand Sunni expectations has marginalized Sunni society. Radicalization led to the resurgence of al-Qaeda and later the formation of the even more extreme Islamic State (IS) group in the Sunni regions or Iraq.

After capturing Mosul in June 2014, IS has taken control of almost a third of Iraqi territory. All Shia groups fighting against the new threat were united under the banner of the Popular Mobilization Units — an umbrella organization controlled mainly by pro-Iran armed groups — after Iraq’s top Shia cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, called for all those able to carry a weapon to take up arms.

The PMU militias were provided with American and Iranian-made weapons during their fight against IS. Pro-Iranian militias such as the Badr Organization, Kataib Hezbollah and Asaib Ahl al-Haq dominated the PMU. Active support by the IRGC provided to Iraqi militias and the presence of Qassem Soleimani, a Quds Force commander, at the front lines pointed to Iran’s effectiveness in the field.

Integrating the PMU as a legal part of the Iraqi security mechanism in 2016 further legitimized Iranian influence in the political and military establishments. For instance, almost $1.7 billion was allocated to the PMU, which consists of some 100,000 militants, from the $90-billion Iraqi budget in 2021.  

Defeating the Islamic State

After the declaration of victory against IS in 2017, tensions between Iran and the US, placed on the back burner during the campaign, reignited. While US officials argued that the PMU completed their mission and should be dissolved, pro-Iranian groups reassumed their anti-American tone. 

Thanks to their active role in the fight against IS, Iran-backed militias secured their position in the military bureaucracy and were able to establish themselves politically. The Fatah Alliance, under the leadership of Hadi al-Amiri and backed by pro-Iranian militias, gained victory in the 2018 election, becoming the second-largest group in the Iraqi parliament. Iran has thus become one of the decision-makers in post-IS Iraq.

Tensions increased in 2018 after President Donald Trump decided to unilaterally withdraw the United States from the nuclear deal with Iran. Pro-Iranian forces began to attack US forces on the ground in Iraq. While Iran seemed to want to punish the US via the Iraqi militias, these attacks also aimed at forcing Americans to withdraw from Iraq. The situation has come to an apogee with the killing of Soleimani and Muhandis in the US drone strike in Baghdad on January 3, 2020.

The assassinations shifted the tensions to the political arena. On January 5, under the leadership of pro-Iranian groups, a resolution was passed in Iraq’s parliament to call on the government to expel foreign troops from the country. In addition to political pressures, as a result of ongoing attacks by pro-Iranian militias on American bases and soldiers in Iraq, the US abandoned many of its bases in the country. As a result of strategic dialogue negotiations with Baghdad, Washington decided to withdraw its combat forces and retain only consultant support. To a large degree, Iran managed to get what it wanted — to drive the US out and reassert its own influence in the region.

Pro-Iranian militias, already active in the Shia regions, started to show their presence in Sunni-dominated areas such as Mosul, Anbar and Saladin after the defeat of IS. Furthermore, Iran-backed groups pursue a long-term strategy to seize control of disputed areas between the central government and the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. Iran-backed groups, including the Badr Organization, Asaib Ahl al-Haq, Kataib Imam Ali, Kataib Sayyid al-Shuhada and Saraya al-Khorasani, have been active in the disputed territories since 2014.

At the same time, these militias under the PMU umbrella reject control by Baghdad and threaten the central government. So much so that Abu Ali Askari, a spokesman for Kataib Hezbollah, was able to say that “the time is appropriate to cut his ears as the ears of a goat are cut,” referring to Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi, while militias were able to flex their muscle against the government in the streets of Baghdad amid tensions leading up to the anniversary of Soleimani’s assassination.

Make Sense of the World

Aiming to limit US influence, Iran has been gradually reshaping Iraq‘s internal and security policy since 2003. While millions are still paying the price of the war on terror in Iraq, which resulted in the collapse of the political and economic systems followed by a campaign of terror by the Islamic State, Iran continues to consolidate its power, both in military and political spheres. 

After an 18-year-long story of invasion and with the US poised to withdraw its combat forces, Iran’s hegemony over Iraq will inevitably come to fruition. The sectarian and ethnic emphasis within the framework of the government quota system not only prevents the formation of independent Iraqi identity but also keeps fragile social fault lines dynamic, an opportunity that Iran will, without doubt, continue to exploit.

The French Nuclear Horn Is A Powerful – But Fragile – Ally Against Russia

French Leclerc tank.

France’s Military Is A Powerful – But Fragile – Ally Against Russia, Says U.S. Study

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France fields a powerful military with sophisticated capabilities, including advanced jets, well-trained commandos and nuclear weapons.

But the French military is also fragile, lacking reserves of munitions and manpower for a sustained conflict with Russia, according to a study by a U.S. think tank. 

“France currently possesses one of Western Europe’s most capable militaries, owing to the country’s commitment to maintaining as wide a range of military capabilities as possible and preserving its capacity to handle any kind of conflict, including high-intensity conventional warfare, without the necessity of allies,” according to a report by U.S. think tank RAND Corp.

France has always been the odd bird of the Western alliance. A founding member of NATO in 1949, it withdrew its troops from NATO command in 1966 – only to rejoin in 2009. Mindful of its history as a great power – the armies of Louis XIV and Napoleon once dominated Europe – France since 1945 has pursued a fiercely independent foreign policy that has sometimes exasperated U.S. leaders.

But facing possible conflict with Moscow over Eastern Europe and the Baltic States – and with the U.S. calling for Europe to spend more on its own defense – NATO needs all the help it can get. 

France is well-positioned to help. With around 300,000 active-duty military personnel backed by the world’s seventh-largest economy, France boasts an impressive range of capabilities for a medium-sized power. Its Leclerc tanks, Rafale jet fighters and CAESAR 155-millimeter self-propelled howitzers are in the same league as advanced American or Russian equipment. France has a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier and four nuclear-powered submarines armed with nuclear-tipped ICBMs, as well as spy satellites and cyberwarfare capabilities. 

France’s problem isn’t breadth of capabilities, but depth. Not just limited numbers of weapons and munitions, but also crucial support services, such as electronic warfare, air defense and airlift capacity. 

“France’s capacity to sustain a high-end, conventional conflict is limited,” RAND said. “The French military might be able to accomplish all its assigned missions at once, but it lacks depth, meaning that such demanding operations would quickly exhaust both its human and material resources.”

Ironically, while France and America have had their squabbles, both find themselves caught in the same dilemma. Like the U.S. military, the French armed forces entered the post-9/11 era configured for Cold War mechanized combat. And like the U.S. military, they had to reorient themselves for counterinsurgency warfare. For years, France has been fighting Islamic militants in the former French colonies in the Sahel — or Saharan — region of Africa, including the nations of Mali, Mauritania, Chad, Niger and Burkina Faso. Since Operation Barkhane began in 2014, up to 5,000 French soldiers have been deployed in Africa, as well as small numbers of troops fighting Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

TOPSHOT – Soldiers from the French Army holds [+]AFP via Getty Images

But in June 2021, French President Emmanuel Macron announced that Operation Barkhane would end, though France will still maintain a military presence in the Sahel. France now has to prepare for both major-power conflict and small wars. 

The result is that the French military is designed for segment median, or “middle-segment” warfare, defined as “heavy enough to survive on a conventional battlefield yet light enough to remain expeditionary—i.e., deployable to austere environments, such as Mali, in the absence of ample logistical capabilities,” RAND noted.

“France has been careful to maintain the ability to do full spectrum operations, including for a conventional war in Europe,” Stephanie Pezard, a RAND researcher who co-authored the study, told me. “However, this ability has not been their main focus over the past few years, resulting recently in a new turn toward high-intensity conflict and the means necessary to wage this type of war.”

U.S. leaders such as Donald Trump have long accused Europe of not spending enough on European defense, forcing American taxpayers to pick up the tab. Yet France does see itself as defending Europe – just not in Europe. “The French consider their military’s active overseas operations, especially in the Sahel but also in Iraq and Syria, as burden-sharing—a form of in-kind contribution that enhances NATO and European security even when not conducted under a NATO or European Union mandate,” RAND noted. 

Nonetheless, NATO since its inception has focused on the Russian threat. And the French military would be an invaluable asset in a NATO-Russia conflict. “France could support a U.S.-led war in Eastern Europe; it has and is developing the capabilities required to take on a sophisticated peer and help meet some of the needs identified to participate in high-intensity conventional warfare,” RAND noted.

But France couldn’t battle Russia for long without U.S. support. “France is able to conduct military operations across the full spectrum of conflict, but it does not have the ability to sustain the fight during a protracted conflict against a highly capable adversary, such as Russia,” said RAND. “From a U.S. perspective, this means that France could participate in a large-scale conventional war in Eastern Europe for a limited time. Several capability areas, such as electronic warfare and air defenses, might benefit from increased U.S.-French collaboration and could improve France’s ability to sustain this type of conflict.”

Which leads to an even deeper question: how willing would France be to fight Russia? That depends, says Pezard. “If France becomes convinced that the security situation in Europe warrants a larger presence, then this would likely take precedence over overseas commitments — unless these overseas commitments aim at securing France’s overseas territories. Until France becomes convinced that the situation in Europe warrants more involvement on its part, it will continue to secure the next circle, such as the Mediterranean and the Sahel.”

How the Beast of the Sea Failed: Revelation 13:1

The roots of America’s defeat

The foundations of failure were laid in the days, weeks and months that followed the Sept. 11 attacks, when the guiding assumptions of the “War on Terror” were put together.

Caroline Glick(August 29, 2021 / JNS)

Afghanis crowd the airport in Kabul after U.S. troops get ready to withdraw and the Taliban wait to take over the country, Aug 18, 2021. Credit: John Smith 2021/Shutterstock.

Even before the suicide bombings outside the Kabul airport on Thursday evening, the U.S. media was acting with rare unanimity. For the first time in memory, U.S. media organs across the ideological and political spectrum have been united in the view that U.S. President Joe Biden fomented a strategic disaster for the United States and its allies with his incompetent leadership of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. Some compare it to the 1961 Bay of Pigs; others to Saigon in 1975; others to the U.S. embassy in Tehran in 1979. Whatever the analogy, the bottom line is the same: Biden’s surrender to the Taliban has already entered the pantheon of American post-war defeats.

Biden is personally responsible for the humanitarian and strategic disaster unfolding before our eyes. He is the only American leader in history who has willfully abandoned Americans and American allies to their fate behind enemy lines. But while Biden is solely responsible for the decision to leave Afghanistan in its current condition, it isn’t Biden’s fault that after 20 years of war, the Taliban was still around, stronger than it was on Sept. 11, 2001, and fully capable of seizing control of the country. The foundations of that failure were laid in the days, weeks and months that followed the Sept. 11 attacks.

In the aftermath of Sept. 11, then-President George W. Bush and his national security team put together the guiding assumptions for what came to be known as the global war on terror. In the years since, some of the assumptions were updated, adapted or replaced as conditions on the ground evolved. But three of the assumptions that stood at the foundation of America’s military, intelligence and diplomatic planning and operations since then were not revisited, save for the final two years of the Trump administration. All three contributed significantly to America’s defeat in Afghanistan and its failure to win the war against global terror as a whole. The first assumption related to Pakistan, the second to Iran and the third to Israel.

By rights, Pakistan should have been the first domino to fall after the Sept. 11 attacks. The Taliban were the brainchild of Pakistan’s jihad-addled ISI intelligence agency. Al-Qaeda operatives also received ISI support. But aside from a few threats and temporary sanctions around the time of the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in October 2001, the United States took no significant actions against Pakistan. The reason for America’s inaction is easy to understand.

In 1998 Pakistan tested nuclear weapons. By Sept. 11, 2001, Pakistan fielded a significant nuclear arsenal. Following the attacks, Pakistan made clear its view of nuclear war, and the connection between its position and its sponsorship of terror.

In October and December 2001, Kashmiri terrorists sponsored by Pakistan attacked the Jammu and Kashmir parliament and the Indian parliament. When India accused Pakistan of responsibility and threatened reprisals, then-Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf placed the Pakistani military on alert. India began deploying troops to the border and Pakistan followed suit.

Rather than side with India, the United States pressured Delhi to stand down, which it did in April 2002. In June 2002, Pakistani-backed terrorists carried out suicide bombings against the wives and children of Indian soldiers. The countdown to war began again. In June 2002, again bowing to U.S. pressure, India pledged it would not be the first to introduce nuclear weapons to the conflict. Musharraf refused to follow suit.

Rather than rally behind India, the Bush administration wrested an empty promise from Musharraf that he would stop sponsoring terrorism and then pressured India to stand down again. The U.S. message was clear. By credibly threatening to use its nuclear weapons, Pakistan deterred the Americans. Less than six months later, North Korea expelled United Nations inspectors from its nuclear reactor at Yongbyon and withdrew from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Iran escalated its covert nuclear activities at Isfahan and Natanz.

The U.S. decision to dodge a confrontation with Pakistan following the Sept. 11 attacks empowered the ISI to rebuild the Taliban and Al-Qaeda after the United States decimated both in its initial offensive. Taliban leaders decamped to Pakistan, where they rebuilt their forces and waged a war of attrition against U.S. and NATO forces and the Afghan army and government they built. Osama bin Laden was living in what amounted to a Pakistani military base when he was killed by U.S. commandos. That war ended with Biden’s surrender and the Taliban’s recapture of Kabul this month.

This brings us to Iran. In their post-Sept. 11 deliberations, Bush and his advisers decided not to confront Iran, but instead seek to reach an accommodation with the mullahcracy. This wasn’t a new policy. Since the Reagan administration, the dominant view in Washington has been that it is possible to reach an accord with the Iranian regime that would restore the strategic alliance between Washington and Tehran that existed prior to the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Bush and his advisers were not moved to reassess that view when they learned that Iran provided material support to the September 11 hijackers. They didn’t reconsider their assumption after Al-Qaeda’s leadership decamped to Tehran when the Taliban was routed in Afghanistan. They didn’t reconsider it when Iran served as the headquarters and the arms depot for Al-Qaeda in Iraq or the Shi’ite militias in their war against U.S. and coalition forces in Iraq.

Barack Obama embraced Bush’s assumption on Iran. Instead of confronting Tehran, he tried to realign the U.S. Middle East alliance system toward Iran and away from America’s Arab allies and Israel. He effectively handed Iran control over Iraq when he withdrew U.S. forces. He paved Iran’s path to nuclear arsenal with the 2015 nuclear deal.

After a prolonged fight with the Washington establishment and its representatives in his cabinet who embraced Bush’s assumptions, in his last two years in office, Donald Trump partially abandoned the strategic assumption that Iran could and should be appeased. Biden, for his part, is committed to reinstating and escalating Obama’s policies towards Iran.

As for Israel, in the immediate aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks, then secretary of state Colin Powell convinced Bush to adopt two related assumptions on Israel. First, he determined that terrorism against Israel was different—and more acceptable—than terrorism against everyone else. And second, Bush determined that the war against terror would be directed at terror groups, but not at governments that sponsored terrorism (except Iraq). As former Bush administration official David Wurmser, who was involved in the post-Sept. 11 deliberations, recalled recently, Powell argued that terrorism threatened the Arabs no less than it threatened America. This being the case, the trick to winning them over to the U.S. side was to give them a payoff that would make it worth their while.

Israel was the payoff. The United States would be able to bring Syria on board by getting Israel to give the Golan Heights to the Assad regime. Washington would bring in the Saudis and the rest of the Sunnis by forcing Israel to give Judea, Samaria, Gaza and Jerusalem to the PLO.

Ahead of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, then-Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon tried to unravel Washington’s guiding assumption about Iran. He told Bush and his advisers that Iraq hadn’t posed a strategic threat to Israel or anyone else in the region since the 1991 Gulf War. If the United States wanted to defeat global terror, Sharon explained, it should act against Iran. The administration ignored him.

As for the administration’s assumptions about Israel, a week after the attacks, Bush deliberately left the terrorism against Israel out of the war on terror when he told the joint houses of Congress that the war would be directed against terror groups “with global reach.”

Recognizing where the Americans were headed, in October 2001, Sharon gave what became known as his “Czechoslovakia speech.”

Following a deadly terror attack in Gaza, Sharon said, “I call on the Western democracies, and primarily the leader of the free world, the United States: Do not repeat the dreadful mistake of 1938, when enlightened European democracies decided to sacrifice Czechoslovakia for ‘a convenient temporary solution.’

“Do not try to appease the Arabs at our expense—this is unacceptable to us. Israel will not be Czechoslovakia. Israel will fight terrorism. There is no ‘good terrorism’ and ‘bad terrorism,’ as there is no ‘good murder’ and ‘bad murder.’”

The administration’s response to Sharon’s statement was swift and furious. Sharon was harshly rebuked by Powell and the White House and he beat a swift retreat.
A month later, Powell became the first senior U.S. official to officially endorse the establishment of a Palestinian state.

Sharon’s failure to convince the Americans to rethink their false assumptions owed to his incomprehension and fear of Washington. Benjamin Netanyahu, in contrast, had an intimate familiarity with the ways of Washington. As a result, his efforts to convince the Americans to reconsider their assumptions about Iran and Israel met with significant success. Netanyahu’s first success in relation to Iran came through the Arabs.

Netanyahu recognized that the Arab Gulf states were as threatened by Iran—and by Obama’s efforts to appease Iran—as Israel was. So he reached out to them. Convinced by Netanyahu, Saudi Arabia led the Arab Gulf states and Egypt in embracing Israel as their ally in their existential struggle against Iran. Confronting Iran, the Saudis explained, was far more important to the Arabs than helping the Palestinians.

Israeli-Arab unity on Iran stymied Obama’s efforts to win congressional approval for his nuclear deal. It also stood at the foundation of Trumps’ decision to abandon Obama’s deal.

Netanyahu used his operational alliance with the Arabs as well in his effort to undo the U.S.’s false assumptions about Israel, particularly in regard to the Palestinians. He also used public diplomacy geared towards influencing Israel’s congressional supporters and public opinion. Netanyahu’s efforts derailed Obama’s plan to dictate the terms of a “peace” settlement to Israel. Under Trump, Netanyahu’s efforts influenced Trump’s decision to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem and convinced Trump to support Israeli sovereignty over parts of Judea and Samaria.

Distressingly, Netanyahu’s successes are being swiftly undone by the Biden administration and the Bennett-Lapid government.

There is a growing sense that Biden’s catastrophic withdrawal from Afghanistan is setting the world back 20 years. But the truth is even more dire. In 2001, the United States was far more powerful relative to its enemies than it is today. And as has been the case for the past 20 years, the situation will only start moving in the right direction if and when America finally abandons the false assumptions it adopted 20 years ago.

Caroline Glick is an award-winning columnist and author of “The Israeli Solution: A One-State Plan for Peace in the Middle East.”

This article first appeared in Israel Hayom.

More Iranian Nuclear Lies: Daniel 8

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Iran stresses nuclear programme peaceful after IAEA observations

(MENAFN – Gulf Times) Iran has stressed its nuclear activities are peaceful and conform to safeguard obligations, after the UN nuclear watchdog said it has established a process to accelerate production of highly enriched uranium. International Atomic Energy Agency director Rafael Grossi informed IAEA member states that Iran was boosting such capacity at its Natanz enrichment plant.
“All of (Iran’s) nuclear programmes and actions are in complete compliance with the NPT (Non-Proliferation Treaty), Iran’s safeguards commitments, under IAEA supervision and previously announced,” Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said in a statement on Tuesday.
The UN agency verified on Saturday that“Iran had configured a new operational mode for the production of UF6 enriched up to 60 percent U-235,” Grossi said in a statement to AFP.
This involved using two centrifuge cascades compared with one previously, he added. Iran had started in mid-April to enrich uranium to 60%. The Islamic republic has gradually rolled back its nuclear commitments since 2019, a year after then US president Donald Trump withdrew from a multilateral nuclear deal and began imposing sanctions. The 2015 deal known formally as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA, gave Iran relief from sanctions in return for curbs on its nuclear programme.
Iran“will pursue its peaceful nuclear programme based on its needs, sovereign decisions and within safeguard obligations’ framework until the full and unconditional implementation of the JCPOA by America and other parties,” Khatibzadeh said.
Six rounds of nuclear talks between Iran and world powers – with the US indirectly taking part – were held in Vienna between April and June in an attempt to revive the accord. The last round concluded on June 20, with no date set for another.

The European Horns are very worried about Iran’s uranium enrichment

FILE PHOTO: The Iranian flag waves in front of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) headquarters, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, in Vienna, Austria May 23, 2021. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger/File Photo

France, Germany, UK very worried about Iran’s uranium enrichment

August 19, 20218:19 AM MDTLast Updated 2 days ago

BERLIN, Aug 19 (Reuters) – France, Germany and Britain voiced grave concern on Thursday about a report that Iran had accelerated its enrichment of uranium to near weapons grade, saying this was a serious violation of its commitments.

At a time when the West and Iran are looking to resume talks on reviving a nuclear deal, the U.N. atomic energy watchdog said in a report seen by Reuters that Iran had accelerated its enrichment of uranium. read more 

In a joint statement, the three countries said they were worried about IAEA reports confirming that Iran has produced uranium metal enriched up to 20% fissile purity for the first time and lifted production capacity of uranium enriched to 60%.

Both are key steps in the development of a nuclear weapon, they said.

Uranium metal can be used to make the core of a nuclear bomb, but Iran says its aims are peaceful and it is developing reactor fuel.

“Iran must halt activities in violation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPoA) without delay,” said the joint statement from the three foreign ministries.

“We urge Iran to return to the negotiations in Vienna as soon as possible with a view to bringing them to a swift, successful conclusion. We have repeatedly stressed that time is on no-one’s side,” they added.

The accelerated enrichment is the latest move by Iran breaching restrictions imposed by a 2015 nuclear deal, which capped the purity to which Tehran can refine uranium.

The United States and its European allies have said such moves threaten talks on reviving the deal, which is currently suspended.

Writing by Madeline Chambers; Editing by Douglas Busvine and Gareth Jones

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.