NOT EVEN THE PLAGUE COULD SLOW DOWN NUCLEAR SPENDING

NOT EVEN COVID-19 COULD SLOW DOWN NUCLEAR SPENDING

Jon SchwarzJun. 07 2021, 4:00 AM

“IT’S VERY PROFITABLE to prepare for omnicide,” Daniel Ellsberg, famed whistleblower and anti-nuclear weapons activist, said in a recent interview. “Northrop Grumman and Boeing and Lockheed and General Dynamics make a lot of money out of preparing for such a war. The congressmen get campaign contributions, they get votes in their district and almost every state for preparing for that.”

But don’t just take it from Ellsberg. At an investor conference in 2019, a managing director from the investment bank Cowen Inc. queried Raytheon’s CEO on this subject. “We’re about to exit the INF [Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty] with Russia,” said the Cowen executive. Did this mean, he asked, whether “we will really get a defense budget that will really benefit Raytheon?” Raytheon’s CEO happily responded that he was “pretty optimistic” about where things were headed.

new report from the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons released Monday examines in detail just who’s getting all the radioactive cash and why. ICAN received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2017 in recognition for its work “to draw attention to the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons and for its ground-breaking efforts to achieve a treaty-based prohibition of such weapons.”

There are currently nine countries that possess nuclear weapons: the United States, China, Russia, the United Kingdom, France, India, Pakistan, Israel, and North Korea. ICAN calculated that they collectively spent $72.6 billion in 2020 on nukes.

The U.S. was responsible for just over half of this doomsday payout, at $37.4 billion. According to the Congressional Budget Office, U.S. nuclear spending is anticipated to soon increase sharply due to plans for technological upgrades, rising to $41.2 billion next year and totaling $634 billion during the 10 years from 2021-2030.

China came in second in 2020 at an estimated $10.1 billion. Russia was third at $8 billion. Notably, in a year when the world economy was flattened by the coronavirus pandemic, nuclear spending continued on an upward trajectory without a hiccup.

Despite these hefty numbers, they’re probably an underestimate. “There’s always more [nuclear spending] out there … even more still lurking in the shadows,” said Susi Snyder, co-author of the report and managing director of the project Don’t Bank on the Bomb. Snyder points out that “governments, especially U.S., U.K., [and] France are always demanding ‘transparency’ … yet they do not hold themselves to the standards they demand of others.”

A great deal of U.S. nuclear spending consists of profitable contracts with private corporations. The four companies Ellsberg said were raking in cash “preparing for war” indeed received the most money in 2020:

  • Northrop Grumman — $13.7 billion
  • General Dynamics — $10.8 billion
  • Lockheed Martin — $2.1 billion
  • Boeing — $105 million

These enormous contracts create obvious incentives for these companies to lobby for more government expenditures on Armageddon, and they assiduously do so. Indeed, lobbying unquestionably is the most profitable investment these companies make. According to ICAN’s report, for every $1 they spent on lobbying, they received $239 in nuclear weapon contracts.

The specifics are notable here. Northrop reported $13.3 million in lobbying expenses in 2020. Last year it was formally awarded the enormous initial contract to develop a new intercontinental ballistic missile system called the “Ground Based Strategic Deterrent.” It will inevitably receive the contract for the entire program, estimated to be worth $85 billion over its life. In discussion on the GBSD, the Air Force’s assistant secretary for acquisition stated that he didn’t see the pandemic affecting nuclear spending.

There is also much more to lobbying than that which goes by the name. In the 2006 documentary “Why We Fight,” journalist Gwynne Dyer explained that President Dwight Eisenhower considered the military-industrial complex actually to have three components: the military, defense corporations, and Congress. But now, Dyer said, there’s a fourth: think tanks, which generally push their funders’ policies under a thin veneer of scholarship.

According to the report, companies profiting from nuclear weapons contributed $5-10 million to think tanks in 2020. Northrop alone spent at least $2 million funding nine of them, including the Atlantic Council, the Brookings Institution, the Center for a New American Security, and the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

However, ICAN did not produce the report for passive consumption or as an inducement to despair. Instead, it is part of a sophisticated strategy to eventually make nuclear weapons as taboo worldwide as chemical and biological weapons are now.

ICAN was a key force behind the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which was adopted in 2017 at the United Nations. It makes illegal any activities related to nuclear weapons and has been signed by 86 countries and ratified by 54. It entered into force this past January.

None of the nuclear powers are signatories. Yet they need not be for the treaty to create a noose around those countries and their companies that should tighten over time. For instance, Airbus produces missiles for France’s nuclear weapons arsenal. But it is headquartered in the Netherlands, so if that country ratified the TPNW, it could no longer do so.

This financial threat has now attracted the attention of the stockholders of these nuclear corporations. Snyder notes that a 2020 Northrop shareholders resolution stated that the company “has at least $68.3 billion in outstanding nuclear weapons contracts, which are now illegal under international law,” and it received 22 percent support. A similar Lockheed resolution got over 30 percent support. The KBC Group, the 15th-largest bank in Europe, has announced that it will not fund any nuclear weapon-related activity because of the TPNW.

Success here will obviously require a long-term campaign and increased activism across the world. But the trajectory is headed in the right direction. “The days of spending with impunity on WMD,” believes Snyder, “are numbered.”

The Elephant in the Room is an Iranian Nuclear Bomb: Daniel 8

Iran is enriching uranium at levels ‘only countries making bombs are reaching,’ UN’s nuclear watchdog warns

  • The head of the UN’s nuclear watchdog raised alarms about Iran’s uranium enrichment.
  • Rafael Grossi told the Financial Times it’s at a level “only countries making bombs are reaching.”
  • “You cannot put the genie back into the bottle,” Grossi warned.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Iran is enriching uranium up to purity levels that “only countries making bombs are reaching,” the head of the UN’s nuclear watchdog warned in an interview with the Financial Times.

“A country enriching at 60% is a very serious thing — only countries making bombs are reaching this level,” Rafael Grossi, director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), told the Times.

“Sixty percent is almost weapons grade, commercial enrichment is 2, 3 [percent],” Grossi said. “This is a degree that requires a vigilant eye.”

Under the 2015 nuclear deal, formally the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Iran agreed to limit uranium enrichment to 3.67%. 

Then-President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the JCPOA in May 2018, reimposing sanctions on Iran. The decision to pull out of the deal, combined with the Trump administration’s “maximum pressure” campaign on Iran, pushed tensions between Washington and Tehran to historic heights. 

Iran remained in compliance with the deal until roughly a year after Trump withdrew, but then gradually began to take steps away from it.

After Trump in January 2020 ordered a drone strike that killed Qassem Soleimani, Iran’s top general, the Iranian government effectively abandoned the JCPOA altogether. The fallout from the dismantling of the deal and the Soleimani strike sparked fears of a new war in the Middle East, though both sides ultimately stepped back from a broader confrontation. 

In April 2021, Iran announced it was enriching uranium up to 60%. Weapons-grade levels are close to 90%. Iran has also developed more advanced centrifuges to enrich uranium more rapidly.

“You cannot put the genie back into the bottle — once you know how to do stuff, you know, and the only way to check this is through verification,” Grossi told the Times. “The Iranian programme has grown, become more sophisticated so the linear return to 2015 is no longer possible. What you can do is keep their activities below the parameters of 2015.” 

President Joe Biden has made reviving the JCPOA, which was negotiated when he was vice president in the Obama administration, a top priority. The JCPOA was designed to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon in exchange for sanctions relief. 

Iran has consistently said it doesn’t have ambitions of developing a nuclear weapon. But France, Germany, and the UK, all signatories of the JCPOA, last month said that Iran had “no credible civilian need for enrichment at this level.”

An annual threat assessment released by the US intelligence community last month, however, said that “Iran is not currently undertaking the key nuclear weapons-development activities that we judge would be necessary to produce a nuclear device.”

At the moment, US and Iranian diplomats are engaged in indirect talks in Vienna — with the help of European intermediaries — aimed at restoring the JCPOA. Iran has insisted that the US must lift sanctions before it fully returns to the deal. But the Biden administration has maintained it will not provide sanctions relief until Iran shows that it’s once again complying with the terms of the 2015 agreement.  

The general aim of the Vienna talks is to reach an agreement that would see both countries return to compliance with the JCPOA simultaneously. Though disagreements remain, all the involved parties have said the talks have shown positive signs. 

Iran this week agreed to a one-month extension of limited inspections of its nuclear activities by the IAEA, providing a boost to the Vienna talks. Negotiators in Vienna began a fifth and potentially final round of the talks on Tuesday.

IAEA Inspections of the Iranian Nuclear Horn Ends

Iran says IAEA access to nuclear sites images has ended, extension possible

Sat, 22 May 2021, 11:06 PM

By Parisa Hafezi

DUBAI (Reuters) -The speaker of Iran’s parliament said on Sunday a three-month monitoring deal between Tehran and the U.N. nuclear watchdog had expired and that its access to images from inside some Iranian nuclear sites would cease.

The announcement raised further questions about the future of indirect talks under way between the United States and Iran on reviving the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.

The International Atomic Energy Agency and Tehran struck the three-month monitoring agreement in February to cushion the blow of Iran reducing its cooperation with the agency, and it allowed monitoring of some activities that would otherwise have been axed to continue.

IAEA chief Rafael Grossi is in talks with Iran on extending it.

European diplomats said last week that failure to agree an extension would plunge the wider, indirect talks between Washington and Tehran on reviving the 2015 deal into crisis. Those talks are due to resume in Vienna this week.

The IAEA had planned for Grossi to hold a news conference on Sunday but it said he was still “consulting with Tehran” and that his news conference had been postponed until Monday morning.

“From May 22 and with the end of the three-month agreement, the (IAEA) agency will have no access to data collected by cameras inside the nuclear facilities agreed under the agreement,” state TV quoted parliament speaker Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf as saying.

An unnamed official was also quoted as saying that the agreement between the IAEA and Tehran could be extended “conditionally” for a month.

“If extended for a month and if during this period major powers … accept Iran’s legal demands, then the data will be handed over to the agency. Otherwise the images will be deleted forever,” according to the member of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council.

WESTERN ENVOYS’ WARNINGS

Western diplomats have said that not extending the IAEA deal could seriously harm efforts to salvage the 2015 nuclear accord, which aims to keep Iran from being able to make nuclear arms, which Tehran says it has never wanted to build.

Iran and global powers have held several rounds of negotiations since April in Vienna, working on steps that Tehran and Washington must take, on sanctions and nuclear activities, to return to full compliance with the nuclear pact.

Iran began gradually breaching terms of the 2015 pact with world powers after former President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the deal in 2018 and re-imposed sanctions.

Without commenting on the parliament speaker’s earlier announcement, Iran’s pragmatist president, Hassan Rouhani, said on Sunday that Tehran would continue the talks in Vienna “until reaching a final agreement”.

He also repeated an earlier statement that “Washington has agreed to lift sanctions” on Iran, according to Iranian state media.

Other parties to the talks and Iran’s top nuclear negotiator have said some important issues need further discussion for revival of the nuclear deal.

To pressure President Joe Biden’s administration to return to the nuclear pact and lift sanctions, Iran’s hardline-dominated parliament passed a law last year to end its obligation to allow the IAEA short-notice inspections to check nuclear work is not being covertly put to military ends.

To give diplomacy a chance, the watchdog and Iran agreed in February to keep “necessary” IAEA monitoring and verification activities in the Islamic Republic.

Qalibaf told parliament’s open session, aired by state TV, that Iran’s ultimate authority, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, backed the law.

“Yesterday it was discussed and the decision was made. The law passed by the parliament will be implemented. The supreme leader has underlined the importance of implementing the law as well,” Qalibaf said.

(Additional reporting by John Irish in Paris and Francois Murphy in Vienna; Writing by Parisa Hafezi; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle, Alexander Smith and Timothy Heritage)

Iran Closes In On A Nuclear Bomb: Daniel 8

Without a Nuclear Deal, How Close Is Iran to a Bomb?


Jonathan Tirone
May 20, 2021, 10:00 PM MDT
Three years after former President Donald Trump withdrew the U.S. from a landmark nuclear agreement with Iran, Tehran’s government is closer to having the material needed for a nuclear weapon than if the deal had remained in place. Iranians have enriched more uranium to higher levels using more sophisticated technologies than they would otherwise have had access to under a strict monitoring regime. Those developments have led President Joe Biden’s administration to join diplomats from Europe, China and Russia in seeking to revive the 2015 agreement, which reined in Tehran’s atomic program in exchange for relief from economic sanctions.

  1. How close is Iran to making a bomb?

Iran has accumulated enough enriched uranium (meaning it has an increased concentration of the isotope uranium-235) to construct several bombs should its leaders choose to purify the heavy metal to the 90% level typically used in weapons. For the first time, the nation is producing small quantities of highly enriched uranium, purified to levels of 60%, demonstrating that its engineers could quickly move to weapons-grade. International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors report the country has stockpiled more than 3,000 kilograms of low-enriched uranium, which typically has 3%-5% concentration of U-235. That’s 10 times the volume allowed under the 2015 agreement.

Iran’s 5% Enriched Uranium Stockpile

Iran’s low-enriched inventory up 10 fold since Trump broke deal
Source: IAEA data compiled by Bloomberg

  1. Why is enrichment so important?

Obtaining the material necessary to induce atomic fission is the most difficult step in the process of making nuclear power or bombs. Countries need to develop an industrial infrastructure to produce uranium-235 isotopes, which comprise less than 1% of matter in uranium ore but are key to sustaining a fission chain reaction. Thousands of centrifuges spinning at supersonic speeds are used to separate the material. The IAEA keeps track of gram-level changes in uranium inventories worldwide to ensure the material isn’t being diverted for weapons. Whether or not Iran retains the right to enrich uranium has been at the heart of its nuclear conflict with the U.S. for two decades.

Iran’s History of War and Weapons

  1. Did the 2015 deal slow Iran’s progress?

The latest in global politicsGet insight from reporters around the world in the Balance of Power newsletter.
Yes. The deal was written to ensure that even if it was someday broken, Iran would need at least a year to restore weaponization capacity. Iran forfeited some 97% of its enriched uranium and mothballed three-quarters of the industrial capacity needed to refine the heavy metal. Before the accord, Iran had enough to potentially build more than a dozen bombs. Iran always maintained it was pursuing nuclear energy, not nuclear weapons, but world powers doubted that claim.

  1. Why did Iran break its part of the agreement?

President Hassan Rouhani waited a year after the Trump administration reimposed sanctions before giving the orders to break the nuclear covenants set out by the accord. Over the last 18 months, Iran has shown it could steadily lift its atomic capacity despite the best efforts of saboteurs and assassins to derail the program.

  1. Can the deal be revived?

Biden promised during his presidential campaign that if Iran returned to compliance with its obligations under the 2015 deal, the U.S. would also return to the deal and lift sanctions. Diplomats bunkered down in Vienna have conducted intensive talks over two months to revive the accord. As of mid-May, they’d made substantial progress and were close to reinstituting the safeguards needed to ensure Iran can’t construct a weapon. Envoys are under pressure to seal a return to the accord before Iran’s presidential election in June, when the outcome is expected to favor political hardliners.

  1. What happens if the agreement is revived?

To return to compliance with the deal’s limits, Iran would have to dramatically reduce uranium stockpiles and sideline much of its enrichment technology. International inspectors would again have full access to places where nuclear material is produced, an important consideration as monitors continue parsing information about the country’s alleged historical weapons-related activities. Iran would win reprieve from sanctions that hamstrung its exports of oil and other economic activities. While some of the nuclear limitations in the deal begin to expire in 2025, diplomats expect follow-on talks to take place that would focus on regional security and Iran’s production of ballistic missiles.

  1. What happens if there’s no deal?

After entering the original deal in 2015, then-President Barack Obama said the alternative might have been a military conflict with major disruptions to the global economy. Over the last three years, the dispute between Washington and Tehran has roiled the wider Middle East, fueling conflicts where Iran and American allies are on opposing sides, with Iran blamed for attacks on shipping in key waterways.

The Beast of the Sea Adds His Insight on Iran: Revelation 13

George W. Bush: ‘Iranian influence’ is behind Hamas attacks on Israel


By Steven Nelson
Former President George W. Bush said in a new interview that Iran helped spur the Hamas terrorist group to attack Israel.

Bush told Fox News that what “you’re seeing playing out is Iranian influence targeted toward Israel.”

“I think the best approach with regard to Iran is to understand that their influence is dangerous for world peace,” he said.

The Republican former commander in chief said “they are very much involved with extremist movements in Lebanon and Syria and Yemen, and they are aiming to spread their influence.”

Hamas is a Palestinian offshoot of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, a Sunni Islamist movement that seeks to infuse religious fundamentalism into government. The US has condemned the group — which has controlled Gaza since 2007 — as a terrorist organization.

Although Iran opposed Sunni extremists in civil wars in Syria and Yemen, it allegedly supports the Palestinian group in fighting common enemy Israel.

The Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah, which is closely linked to Iran, joined the current fighting by firing its own missiles at Israel this week.

Other Republicans, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) have speculated that Iran arms Hamas, which launched about 3,750 rockets over nine days from poverty-stricken Gaza toward Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.

McConnell said Iran backs Hamas and “keeps their rocket arsenals full.”

Hamas launched a barrage of missiles into Israel beginning last week after clashes in Jerusalem sparked by an Israeli court decision that ordered the eviction of Palestinian tenants who stopped paying rent in East Jerusalem.

Although Iran’s precise involvement in regional conflicts often is murky, the head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, Gen. Hossein Salami, said Wednesday that “Tehran backs the Palestinians’ fight against the Zionist regime.”

Salami boasted, “The Palestinians have emerged as a missile-equipped nation.”

Bush, who was president from 2001 to 2009, led the US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 after 9/11 and ordered the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, making claims about weapons of mass destruction that turned out to be bogus.

Rockets fired by Hamas from Gaza City heading towards Israel on May 18, 20219.
Rockets fired by Hamas from Gaza City heading toward Israel on May 18, 2021.
Photo by MAHMUD HAMS/AFP via Getty Images
US military involvement in the Middle East later divided Republicans, with former President Donald Trump calling the invasion of Iraq one of the worst decisions in US history, in part because it allowed Iran’s influence to expand during a long-running insurgency against US troops.

Bush has rarely commented on political issues since leaving office, but told Foxnews.com that he’s concerned about efforts by the Biden administration to resurrect a nuclear deal with Iran that was brokered under former President Barack Obama. He said a new deal should be “comprehensive.”

“Any deal that is done has got to not only focus on its nuclear capabilities, but also its influence in the Middle East,” Bush said. “And you know, any deal, you’ve got to keep in mind the dangers of an aggressive Iran to our allies, and to stability, so it has to be a comprehensive look.”

Bush also offered support for the Abraham Accords negotiated by Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner. The accords resulted in the recognition of Israel by four Arab countries.

“Once the sit-in settles down, and if those Abraham Accords hold, it will make it easier to establish peace,” Bush said. “But right now, those who don’t want peace are provoking and attacking Israel, and Israel is, of course, responding for national security reasons.”

The Fate of the Planet is Prophetic: Revelation 16

The Fate of the Planet: Unconventional Takes On Pandemics and Nuclear Defense Could Protect Humanity From Catastrophic Failure
By American Physical Society on May 16, 2021

From engineered pandemics to city-toppling cyber attacks to nuclear annihilation, life on Earth could radically change, and soon. Scientists forecasted the fate of the planet at a press conference during the 2021 APS April Meeting.

“Our Earth is 45 million centuries old. But this century is the first when one species—ours—can determine the biosphere’s fate,” said Martin Rees, the United Kingdom’s Astronomer Royal and a founder of the Centre for the Study of Existential Risks at Cambridge University.

“Our globally-linked society is vulnerable to the unintended consequences of powerful new technologies—not only nuclear, but (even more) biotech, cyber, advanced AI, space technology,” he added.

Royal astronomer predicts the world in 2050 and beyond

Rees thinks biohackers pose a particularly underappreciated threat to humanity. In the near future, simple equipment will enable people to reengineer the human genome irrevocably or build a superspreading influenza. Like drug laws, regulations could never prevent all such actions—and in a world more interconnected than ever before, the consequences would spread globally.

He will discuss other dangers: population rise leading to plummeting biodiversity, disastrous climate change, uncontrollable cybercriminals, plans for artificial intelligence that erodes privacy, security, and freedom.

But Rees is an optimist. He will offer a path toward avoiding these risks and achieving a sustainable future better than the world we live in today.

“If all of us passengers on ‘spaceship Earth’ want to ensure that we leave it in better shape for future generations we need to promote wise deployment of new technologies, while minimizing the risk of pandemics, cyberthreats, and other global catastrophes,” he said.

Scaling back missile defense could prevent a nuclear attack

A single nuclear weapon could kill millions and destroy a city instantaneously. Hundreds of weapons could wipe out functioning society in a large nation. Even a limited nuclear war could cause a climate catastrophe, leading to the starvation of hundreds of millions of people.

Recently, Russia, China, and North Korea have deployed new types of nearly unstoppable missiles.

“Missile defense is an idea that can sound appealing at first—doesn’t defense sound like the right thing to do?” said Frederick Lamb, astrophysicist at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, cochair of the 2003 APS Study of Boost-Phase Missile Defense, and chair of the current APS Panel on Public Affairs Study of Missile Defense and National Security.

“But when the technical challenges and arms race implications are considered, one can see that deploying a system that is intended to defend against intercontinental ballistic missiles is unlikely to improve the security of the United States,” he said.

Lamb points to the United Kingdom’s decision to increase its nuclear arsenal by 44%, possibly motivated by Russia’s new missile defense system around Moscow. He sees the move as yet another sign that existing limits on nuclear weapons are unraveling. Even missile defenses that would never work in practice can catalyze the development of new nuclear weapons and increase global risk.

Lamb will share what may happen if the United States ramps up new missile defense systems.

“What is done about nuclear weapons and missile defenses by the United States and other countries affects the safety and survival of every person on the planet,” he said.

Biden’s Decisions This Year Will Determine US Nuclear Weapons Policy for the END: Revelation 16

Biden’s Decisions This Year Will Determine US Nuclear Weapons Policy for Decades

Nuclear weapons policies and the trillions of U.S. dollars proposed to fund them come into sharp focus this month and through next year as Congress and the Biden Administration engage the nuclear weapons threat.

A threat viewed as existential by bombmakers, presidents, and arms control activists since the first nuclear weapons were detonated over Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945, nuclear weapons deployed today have a capacity to destroy all life on Earth.

Salvaging U.S. nuclear policy from the wreckage left by the Trump Administration, President Biden quickly renewed for five years the New START Treaty which limits the number of deployed nuclear warheads at 1,550 each for the U.S. and Russia

President Biden has also entered negotiations with Iran to rejoin the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA or the Iran nuclear deal) which Trump abrogated in 2017. The JCPOA had been negotiated by the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council — China, Russia, France, Great Britain, the U.S. plus Germany –all of whom remain committed to it.

All this is a good beginning on the nuclear front for the new Administration, but historic leadership will be required of Biden and members of Congress in the coming months, as Appropriations Committees consider spending up to $1.5 trillion on “modernizing” the U.S. nuclear arsenal. The Fiscal 2022 budget scheduled for presentation May 24 will include provision for a newly designed Intercontinental Ballistic Missile, the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent, GBSD—which could wind up costing more than $140 billion, and $250 billion over three decades.] The GBSD, would replace the Minuteman III ICBM’s currently deployed in silos in Colorado, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota and Wyoming

Democratic Senator Ed Markey (Massachusetts) and Representative Ro Khanna (17th District, California) have filed bills in Congress to transfer funds from the new ICBMs toward research for universal vaccines against the Novelcorona virus. The Investing in Cures Before Missiles (ICMB) Act, according to Markey, “makes clear that we can begin to phase out the Cold War nuclear posture that risks accidental nuclear war while still deterring adversaries and assuring allies, and redirect those savings to the clear and present dangers posed by coronaviruses and other emerging and infectious diseases. The devastation sown by COVID-19 would pale in comparison to that of even a limited nuclear war. The ICBM Act signals that we intend to make the world safe from nuclear weapons and prioritize spending that saves lives, rather than ends them.”

Proponents of GBSD including its general contractor Northrop Grumman and major sub-contractors have spent at least one hundred nineteen million dollars of lobbying Congress in 2019-2021; the military industrial complex on parade.

Other initiatives would remove from “hair trigger alert” status controlling the four hundred Minuteman III missiles currently deployed in western States. “Hair trigger alert” and “launch on warning” are relics of the Cold War which give decision makers at most ten minutes to evaluate the validity of the warning of a nuclear attack, and to launch hundreds of the U.S. ICBMs before the enemy’s missile reach their targets.

Dozens of false warnings have scrambled B-52 jets loaded with megatons of nuclear bombs, raised Minuteman missiles to highest alert, roused sleeping presidents out of bed, or caused low ranking military personnel to disobey command and control orders to defuse a frantic but false alarm.

Such false warnings consist of flocks of flying swans, a bear climbing a missile pad security fence, the rising moon, the sun’s reflection on an unusual cloud formation, a defective computer chip costing twenty-five cents, and practice tapes of a nuclear attack unwittingly communicated in Hawaii as “This is Not a Drill”.

China has removed “launch on warning” status from its three hundred nuclear armed missiles. China’s Director of Arms Control, Fu Cong, in 2019 called for all nuclear armed nations to remove their nuclear armed missiles from hair trigger alert, which China considers too risky. The consequences of an accidental launch of nuclear weapons would be catastrophic. Standing down thousands of nuclear weapons from “launch on warning” makes all the sense in the world and could bolster the U.S.’ bona fides in nuclear weapons reduction negotiations going forward.

George Schultz, former Secretary of State, and editor of “The War That Should Never Be Fought”, advised that our adversaries are not always wrong, the U.S. is not always right, and verifiable nuclear weapons treaties are the only alternative to escalating nuclear weapons competition and eventual calamity. Nuclear weapons negotiation can bridge intractable geo-political conflicts, build mutual trust, and save taxpayers trillions of dollars.

American administrations rejected Soviet President Gorbachev’s offer to eliminate all nuclear weapons. President George Bush abrogated the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in 2001, spawning a new nuclear arms race, and Trump withdrew from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty and the Open Skies Treaty, returning Europe to a no man’s land vulnerable to tactical nuclear weapons.

No First Use (NFU) of nuclear weapons, could provide a logical first step away from the fifty- year policy of “deterrents” and mutually assured destruction, universally referred to by the most appropriate of acronyms — MAD. MAD is designed to discourage adversaries from attacking by assuring that the aggressor, principally the Soviet Union/Russia, or vice versa the U.S. would suffer devastating retaliation. In his inimitable style Robert McNamara calculated the level of assured strategic destruction to be thirty percent of Russia’s population, and seventy percent of Russia’s economic capacity, ie. one hundred million Russian dead etc. QED, Quite Easily Done.

No First Use of nuclear weapons eliminates the need or rationale for a significant part of the U.S. nuclear arsenal. Much of the huge cost associated with the U.S. nuclear weapons arsenal pertains to the survivability and retaliatory response to a nuclear attack. Yes, NFU means the U.S. is taking a pre-emptive nuclear first strike “off the table”

No First Use is also the subject of legislation filed in this year’s Congress (117th) by Senator Elizabeth Warren MA and Representative Adam Smith, WA. Smith chairs the influential House Armed Services Committee and describes the NFU bill as, “The United States should never initiate a nuclear war. This bill would strengthen deterrence while reducing the chance of nuclear use due to miscalculation or misunderstanding. Codifying that deterring nuclear use is the sole purpose of our nuclear arsenal strengthens U.S. national security and would renew U.S. leadership on nuclear nonproliferation and disbarment.”

Following Trump’s perverse logic: “Why have nuclear weapons if you cannot use them?”, the Sea Launched Cruise Missile-Nuclear, and low yield submarine launched cruise missiles- nuclear were created. The SLCM-N is considered redundant, provocative, and costs more than ten billion dollars. Senator Chris Van Hollen, Md, and Representative Joe Courtney, CT, have recently filed bills to defund the SLCM-N. “Installing so-called ‘tactical’ nuclear warheads on Virginia-class attack subs is a money drain that will hinder construction of three Virginia-class attack submarines per-year—which both the Obama and Trump shipbuilding plans endorsed,” said Courtney.

Literally and figuratively at the core of the plan to “modernize” the U.S. nuclear arsenal are projects to manufacture new plutonium pits for the next generation of nuclear weapons. Tens of billions of dollars would initially fund construction of plutonium bomb plants at Savannah River Site, S.C., and Los Alamos, N.M. These funds flow through the Department of Energy’s semi-autonomous National Nuclear Security Administration. NNSA FY 2021 budget request of nearly twenty billion dollars is more than one-half the entire Department of Energy budget request. Whether new nuclear bombs take precedence over new clean energy technologies should be questioned in Congressional committee hearings in the coming weeks.

Regarding plutonium pit production, the DOE estimates the legacy clean- up cost of plutonium manufacture since the Manhattan Project during WWII at one trillion dollars. Some sites like Hanford WA and Rocky Flats CO are deemed polluted beyond remediation and are ruined forever.

Were Congress and the Biden Administration to pause, review or even defund any or all of the nuclear weapon programs they would also pause the nascent nuclear arms race stalking future generations. President Biden could and should send a clear signal to his deputies who will soon write the Nuclear Posture Review issued every five years. Quoting Ronald Reagan, “A nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought” should be the mantra of the Biden Nuclear Posture Review.

By introducing the American public to taboo issues such as “No First Use” of nuclear weapons, taking ICMB’s off “hair trigger alert”, debating the “sole authority” of the President to order a nuclear attack, and working for the eventual verifiable elimination of nuclear weapons, the Biden Administration would enhance its standing in the world’s arms control community–standing squandered by Trump. Biden could save hundreds of billions of dollars by transferring funds from nuclear armed missiles to research to prevent the next pandemic, or cybersecurity. And maybe, if our luck still holds, he could avoid destroying human civilization and much of life on Earth.

Another arena for Biden administration action is the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) — the cornerstone of nuclear arms control. Signed in 1968, it is reviewed every five years, this year in Vienna in August. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and U.S. arms control negotiators will bring enhanced credibility to the table if they eschew Trump’s jingoistic nuclear weapons policies.

Article VI of the NPT commits all signatories to reduce and eventually eliminate nuclear weapons from their arsenals. The massive nuclear arms build-up the U.S. is considering defies the spirit and letter of NPT’s Article VI.

Since the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, eminent scientists like Albert Einstein and Robert Oppenheimer, philosophers like Bertrand Russell, religious leaders like the Dalai Lama and many Catholic Popes, Quakers and Imams—in fact, the great majority of the world’s nations and peoples–have demanded that international treaties curtail and eliminate nuclear weapons from the Earth.

Their efforts have led to decreasing nuclear weapons from 70,000 to the current 16,000, ninety percent of which are held in Russian and U.S. arsenals Forty percent of the world’s population now live in the five Nuclear Weapons Free Zones established under Article VII of the NPT. And nuclear weapons are now illegal in the fifty- four countries that have ratified the U.N. Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, TPNW, entered into force February 2021.

Still ominous warnings about the renewed nuclear arms race are rising. “The likelihood of a nuclear catastrophe is greater today than during the Cold War, and the public is completely unaware of the danger,” says former Secretary of Defense William Perry. The Biden Administration has quickly reached an inflexion point for U.S. nuclear weapons policy: either double down on new weapons for decades into the future or seek verifiable consequential nuclear weapons treaties.

According to Rutgers Professor Alan Robock, even a fraction of the nuclear weapons currently deployed–one hundred–could create a nuclear winter dispersing high in the atmosphere enough soot to block sunlight and make agriculture impossible, leading to famine for billions of people.

Corresponding with Albert Einstein in 1932, Sigmund Freud remarked that humans have a propensity for violence, and an instinct to kill and destroy. Only multi-lateral laws could abate man’s “death wish,” the two agreed. Such laws do exist in the form of nuclear treaties, like New START, the NPT and TPNW.

Ridding the world of these horrific weapons is not fantasy but is an imperative for world leaders. Biden stated as Vice-President, “The spread of nuclear weapons is the greatest threat facing the country and, I would argue, facing humanity. And that is why we are working both to stop their proliferation and eventually to eliminate them”.

The next few weeks and months will determine the course of nuclear weapons policy for the U.S. and the world. There are only two choices: expand the U.S. nuclear arsenal or reduce it, agree on verifiable nuclear weapons treaties with Russia and China or threaten catastrophic war, spend trillions of dollars on demonic weapons or on medicine, schools and art… life or death.

The Iranian Horn has enriched uranium to up to 63% purity: Daniel 8

Iran has enriched uranium to up to 63% purity, IAEA says

May 11, 20218:34 AM HST
An Iranian flag flutters in front of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) headquarters in Vienna, Austria, September 9, 2019. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger
“Fluctuations” at Iran’s Natanz plant pushed the purity to which it enriched uranium to 63%, higher than the announced 60% that complicated talks to revive its nuclear deal with world powers, a report by the U.N. nuclear watchdog said on Tuesday.

Iran made the shift to 60%, a big step towards nuclear weapons-grade from the 20% previously achieved, last month in response to an explosion and power cut at Natanz that Tehran has blamed on Israel and appears to have damaged its enrichment output at a larger, underground facility there. read more

Iran’s move rattled the current indirect talks with the United States to agree conditions for both sides to return fully to the 2015 nuclear deal, which was undermined when Washington abandoned it in 2018, prompting Tehran to violate its terms.

The deal says Iran cannot enrich beyond 3.67% fissile purity, far from the 90% of weapons-grade. Iran has long denied any intention to develop nuclear weapons.

“According to Iran, fluctuations of the enrichment levels… were experienced,” the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said in theconfidential report to its member states, seen by Reuters.

“The agency’s analysis of the ES (environmental samples) taken on 22 April 2021 shows an enrichment level of up to 63% U-235, which is consistent with the fluctuations of the enrichment levels (described by Iran),” it added, without saying why the fluctuations had occurred.

A previous IAEA report last month said Iran was using one cascade, or cluster, of advanced IR-6 centrifuge machines to enrich to up to 60% and feeding the tails, or depleted uranium, from that process into a cascade of IR-4 machines to enrich to up to 20%. read more

Tuesday’s report said the Islamic Republic was now feeding the tails from the IR-4 cascade into a cascade of 27 IR-5 and 30 IR-6s centrifuges to refine uranium to up to 5%.

Saudi Arabia Hopes to Avoid the Iranian Nuclear Horn: Daniel 8

Why Saudi Arabia is reaching out to Iran


Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said he seeks ‘to have good relations’ with Iran. Three years ago, Salman had said Iranian Supreme Leader Khamenei ‘makes Hitler look good.’

Eli Lake10 May, 2021 9:36 am IST
File photo of Saudi Arabia’s Mohammed bin Salman | Simon Dawson/Bloomberg
File photo of Saudi Arabia’s Crowned Prince Mohammed bin Salman | Photo: Simon Dawson | Bloomberg
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Late last month, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman offered an olive branch to his country’s main adversary. Speaking on Saudi television, the kingdom’s de facto ruler said he seeks “to have good relations” with Iran.

That represents at least a rhetorical retreat for the Saudis, who are fighting a vicious and destructive war against Iran’s Houthi proxies in Yemen and were public supporters of former President Donald Trump’s economic warfare against Iran. It was only three years ago that Prince Mohammed said that Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei “makes Hitler look good.”

Now President Joe Biden has made clear he will not give the Saudis a blank check. He has pursued a path for the U.S. to rejoin the 2015 Iran nuclear deal that would release billions of frozen revenues to Iran’s cash-strapped government.

So one explanation for the Saudis’ attempt at rapprochement with Iran is that America’s regional allies are adjusting to a new president with a new foreign policy. “They are reading the tea leaves,” said David Schenker, a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy who served as assistant secretary of state under Trump. The Saudis “don’t want to be left isolated or without U.S. support.”

Yet this explanation goes only so far. U.S. diplomats tell me that the Saudis began their quiet outreach to Iran in late 2019, after a devastating missile attack on their oil infrastructure in September. The crown prince pleaded with Trump to respond to Iran’s escalation, but Trump declined. As a result, lower-level talks between the Saudis and Iranians began. The only difference between 2019 and 2021 is that there is a new U.S. administration and Prince Mohammed has publicly acknowledged this diplomacy.

After the Iranian missile attack, according to my sources, the State Department urged the Saudis to hold tight. In January 2020, a U.S. drone strike killed Iranian General Qassem Soleimani, and afterwards Trump sent more U.S. forces to the region in a show of deterrence.

By contrast, the Biden administration has encouraged the kingdom’s outreach to Iran. Schenker told me that it reminds him of the Arab outreach to Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad in the late 2000s. After the U.S. hosted a regional Arab-Israeli peace conference in 2007, several Arab states, including Saudi Arabia, dropped their policy of isolation toward Syria as punishment for its role in the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri. The Arab states went back to isolating Syria in 2011, after the regime launched a war against its own citizens that rages on to this day.

Then as now, the policy of the U.S. president influenced the relationships among its Arab allies. What’s different this time is that America’s Arab allies are now preparing for a Middle East where their most powerful friend is no longer around.

This explains why a country like the United Arab Emirates, the first Arab state to join the Abraham Accords with Israel, is also quietly pursuing a diplomatic dialogue with Iran. If the Biden administration follows through with its promise to begin America’s disentanglements in the Middle East, then Arab states will need as many friends and as few enemies as possible.

It will take a great deal of diplomatic skill for the UAE to balance a new friendship with Israel and a budding relationship with a regime committed to Israel’s destruction. Just last week, Iran’s Khamenei gave a speech making clear that Iran still would like to destroy the world’s only Jewish state.

Khamenei also had a message for the Arab states that have recognized Israel. Will the Jewish state’s “normalization of relations with a few weak, pitiful countries be able to help that regime?!” he asked on his English-language Twitter account.

For now, it’s clear that the Abraham Accords have helped Israel. Their lasting impact, however, depends on Israel’s new Arab friends coming around to the realization that feeding an Iranian crocodile only whets its appetite. — Bloomberg

Why Australia Will Become a Nuclear Horn: Daniel 7

China’s Threat to Bomb Australia Shows Need for Aussie Nuclear Deterrent


May 10, 2021 11:01, Last Updated: May 10, 2021 20:44
By Anders Corr

Commentary

China’s state media recently threatened a military attack against Australia with both long-range H-6K bombers and missiles. The threat came the same day that Australia’s prime minister expressed support for Taiwan and said that, “We always have stood for freedom in our part of the world.”

China’s latest threat, made on May 7 by the editor-in-chief of the Global Times, Hu Xijin, reveals Australia’s military vulnerability to a far larger and more powerful nuclear-armed China. The Global Times is controlled by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

Given Hu’s threat, which is consistent with the larger pattern of China’s aggression, the United States and allies should immediately support Australia in obtaining an independent submarine-based nuclear deterrent, so that Australia can join countries such as the United States, France, Britain, and India as powerful global defenders of freedom and democracy. The independent strength of individual members of an alliance improves the overall strength of the alliance.

Australia has a limited window of opportunity in which to go nuclear, after which China’s rising power and regional hegemony will make an independent nuclear Australia impossible. At that point, which could be as soon as 5 or 10 years, the window will close and China could more effectively use nuclear brinkmanship, control of Asian seas, check book diplomacy, and its economic trading power, to break Australia from its allies, and bring it under Beijing’s dominance.

NATO should welcome Australia into its alliance as a full member, before China has a chance to create a territorial dispute down under, and thereby make Australian accession more difficult. If Washington came under the influence of Beijing, the bilateral U.S.-Australia alliance would be useless to Australia’s defense.

NATO should no longer be a purely Atlantic affair, given globalization and the rise of China. What matters today in choosing our closest allies is not geography, but shared values in support of democracy, as well as the inclusion of a broader diversity of allies, including countries like Saudi Arabia and Vietnam, that will strengthen the alliance in resisting Beijing’s growing preponderance of power. Today, China has strong alliance partners in Russia, Iran, and North Korea. Welcoming Saudi Arabia, Vietnam, and other autocratic powers into an alliance with democracies will keep them from turning against us, and strengthen us all.

The Global Times article includes a prominent photo of an H-6K nuclear-capable bomber flying in formation with two Chinese military Su-35 fighter jets. The caption notes that the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Air Force (PLAAF) conducted “patrol training over China’s island of Taiwan on Friday.” The planes reportedly flew over the Bashi Channel for the first time, marking a “new breakthrough in island patrol patterns.” China almost daily threatens Taiwan’s sovereignty with fighter jet flights that force Taiwan to scramble, and thus degrade, its own jets in defense. China also frequently pushes its land, maritime, and air boundaries against Japan, India, Bhutan, Myanmar (Burma), Vietnam, and the Philippines. The same may soon be true for Australia.

“Given that Australian hawks keep hyping or hinting that Australia will assist the US military and participate in war once a military conflict breaks out in the Taiwan Straits, and the Australian media outlets have been actively promoting the sentiment, I suggest China make a plan to impose retaliatory punishment against Australia once it militarily interferes in the cross-Straits situation,” writes Hu. He therefore thinks that China has a right to attack Australia, and apparently believes that a war over Taiwan is not a question of if, but when.

“The plan [to attack Australia] should include long-range strikes on the military facilities and relevant key facilities on Australian soil if it really sends its troops to China’s offshore areas and combats against the PLA,” Hu writes. “If they [Australian hawks] are bold enough to coordinate with the US to militarily interfere in the Taiwan question and send troops to the Taiwan Straits to wage war with the PLA, they must know what disasters they would cause to their country.”

Such fighting words follow the Global Times’ demonization of Australia, and the entire Five-Eyes Alliance (United States, Britain, Canada, and New Zealand) as an “axis of white supremacy.” This characterization is obviously false given the multiethnic nature of these democracies’ leadership, including former U.S. President Barack Obama, current U.S. Vice-President Kamala Harris, and current New Zealand Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta. Yet, the accusation will have currency with some given the colonial history of the Five-Eyes countries, and their current very public and laudable attempts to combat racism within their borders.

Protestors attend a rally for the Uyghur community
Protestors attend a rally for the Uyghur community at Parliament House in Canberra, Australia, on March 15, 2021. (Sam Mooy/Getty Images)

Conversely, China’s all-powerful 7-member Politburo Standing Committee are all Han males who resolutely deny the existence of racism in China while at the same time engaging in genocide against their Uyghur minority. The real “axis of racial supremacy” is therefore not between the Five-Eyes, but between Beijing and Moscow.

Australia is not the only country that needs an independent nuclear deterrent and membership in NATO. A similar logic applies to other democracies, including Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, New Zealand, Ukraine, and Georgia, that are under threat from powerful nuclear-armed dictators. All of these countries should be encouraged to join NATO and obtain independent submarine-based nuclear deterrents.

NATO should also strengthen itself by encouraging its most powerful and democratic members, including Germany, Italy, and Canada, to obtain independent nuclear deterrent forces. Against a nuclear-armed foe, no country can entirely rely on another for its defense. Frequent breach of contract between democratic allies, such as the United States and Canada, Britain and the European Union, and Italy and Ireland, over vaccines and personal protective equipment (PPE) during the COVID-19 pandemic, proves that even democracies violate agreements with each other over issues of far less consequence than military conflict in the nuclear age.

Only democracies should have nuclear weapons, because only democracies have the sovereign legitimacy that free and broad-based political participation provides and that tends to (but unfortunately has not always) limited the use of such weapons against civilian targets. But democracies should come to the defense of allied autocracies, for example Saudi Arabia, which is under military pressure from Iran, and Vietnam, which is under threat from China. Maintenance of global political diversity requires the protection of these less powerful autocracies, with all their failings, from larger autocratic threats. Less powerful autocratic allies will eventually undergo a natural and peaceful political evolution towards democracy and improved human rights.

Democracies must not only defend themselves, but the international system of diverse nation-states, in order to keep China and Russia from creating a sufficiently powerful alliance to fold the world’s less powerful states into their plans for regional hegemony and the resulting balkanization and destabilization of the post-1945 rules-based international system. States under threat from these aspiring illiberal hegemons must band together in a powerful alliance, but be sufficiently strong individually, to independently defend their own sovereignty.

Anders Corr has a BA/MA in political science from Yale University (2001) and a Ph.D. in government from Harvard University (2008). He is a Principal at Corr Analytics Inc., Publisher of the Journal of Political Risk, and has conducted extensive research in North America, Europe, and Asia. He authored “The Concentration of Power” (forthcoming 2021) and “No Trespassing,” and edited “Great Powers, Grand Strategies.”

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.Follow Anders on Twitter: @anderscorr