Babylon the Great Lowers the Nuclear Threshold

A submarine mostly submerged in water.The Senseless Danger of the Military’s New “Low-Yield” Nuclear Warhead

The weapon’s smaller destructive power does not mean a smaller risk of catastrophe.

Sometime in the past two months, the U.S. Navy has deployed a new type of nuclear warhead in some of its Trident submarines. Called the W76-2, it is a “low-yield” warhead, which would explode with the blast power of about 8 kilotons—far less powerful than the Tridents’ other warheads, which have an explosive yield of 90 to 450 kilotons.

At first glance, this might seem like a good thing: a smaller blast means less death and damage, if a nuclear war happened. But in some ways, it’s a dangerous thing, and to explain why requires a brisk dive into the rabbit hole logic of nuclear strategy.

For many years, arms control advocates have argued that low-yield nuclear weapons are destabilizing because they lower the threshold between conventional and nuclear war. They seem to be—they are designed to be—more usable as weapons of war, and therefore some president, in a crisis, might feel more tempted to use them. (The United States has always had an explicit policy of reserving the right to use nuclear weapons first in a conflict.)

Those worries have intensified when we’ve had presidents who are viewed as erratic. In 2003, after the invasion of Iraq, some Air Force generals proposed building a new low-yield nuclear warhead that could burrow underground before exploding; they saw it as the ideal weapon for killing some future Saddam Hussein hiding in a bunker. But many members of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees did not trust President George W. Bush with such a weapon, so they tacked on an amendment to that year’s defense budget, prohibiting the “testing, acquisition, or deployment of a low-yield nuclear weapon”—and barring the Department of Energy from even researching such a weapon—without the advance approval of Congress.

Many now have the same worry about Donald Trump. In 2018, when then–Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis lobbied for the W76-2 on Capitol Hill, at least one Republican senator told him, “I don’t have a problem with this weapon. I have a problem with the president who’s authorized to use this weapon.”\

But just months later, Trump’s viselike grip on the Republican Party had tightened. The Democrat-controlled House voted to cancel the program; the GOP-led Senate voted to approve it. In the conference committee, the House managers folded. Some reasoned that it was such an inexpensive program: Only 50 warheads would be modified to the low-yield version, at a cost of $65 million, less than 0.1 percent of the entire defense budget. No big deal.

Another reason for the Democrats’ concession was that this low-yield program was presented as a response to a Russian threat. The argument was that the Russians had a new strategy called “escalate to de-escalate.” If war broke out in Europe, the Russians would launch a low-yield nuclear weapon at U.S. and NATO forces. If we didn’t have low-yield nuclear weapons to fire back, we would have to surrender. If we did have low-yield nukes, the rationale went, the Russians might not attack in the first place.

It is true that the Russian military has outlined such a strategy in some manuals and rehearsed this scenario in some training exercises. But it’s slippery logic to conclude that we need a low-yield Trident warhead to meet the threat.

First, the case for the new warhead hinges on the premise that, in order to deter the Russians, we need to match in kind every move they make: They build a low-yield missile; we have to do the same, or we wind up with a “gap in the escalation spectrum” (as some have labeled the threat). But there is nothing in history, strategy, or intelligence findings about Russian thinking on the subject to support this notion.

Second, even if the notion could be supported, it would be irrelevant because—as Hans Kristensen of the Federation of American Scientists estimates—the U.S. already has about 1,000 low-yield nuclear bombs and cruise missiles, which could be dropped or fired from F-15, F-16, B-1, and B-2 aircraft.Advocates of the low-yield Trident argue that those planes might be shot down by Russian air defenses, whereas the Trident missiles—launched from undetectable submarines—would definitely get through Russian defenses. This imbalance is overstated. Many, probably most of the U.S. planes would get through to their targets. More to the point, even if only a few got through, that would mean that we are able to launch low-yield nuclear weapons in response to Russian low-yield weapons—which means the premise of advocates’ case for low-yield Tridents is false.

Third, there is some dispute within intelligence agencies over why the Russians are deploying low-yield nuclear warheads in the first place. From the 1950s to the 1970s, the U.S. placed thousands of nuclear weapons in Western Europe to compensate for the superiority of Soviet tanks and troops in Eastern Europe. Now, many analysts believe, the Russians are putting more emphasis on nuclear weapons in order to counter U.S. and NATO superiority in conventional weapons. It’s two sides of the same coin. It doesn’t reflect a new kind of threat—or require a new kind of response.

In my new book, The Bomb: Presidents, Generals, and the Secret History of Nuclear War, I recount a highly classified war game played by the National Security Council late in the Obama administration. Reports of Russia’s “escalate to de-escalate” strategy were emerging. The idea of the game was to test whether this strategy might indeed thwart America’s ability or will to project power in Europe. The scenario went like this: The Russians invade one of the Baltic states; NATO fights back effectively; to reverse the tide, Russia fires a low-yield nuclear weapon at the NATO troops or at a base in Germany where drones, combat planes, and smart bombs were deployed. The question: What do U.S. decision-makers do next?

The generals were caught off guard. They knew of the long-standing debate over whether the U.S. should be the first to use nuclear weapons in response to a conventional attack, but it seemed perverse to consider using conventional weapons in response to a nuclear attack. A few hours of discussion ensued, examining Kahl’s political challenge, NATO’s conventional military strength, the puzzle of which targets to hit with nuclear weapons (none made much sense), and whether a nuclear response would end the war any sooner or more victoriously than a conventional response (which didn’t seem likely). In the end, a consensus formed that, at least as a first step, the U.S. should respond with continued conventional military operations.

A month later, the NSC’s Principals Committee—the group of Cabinet secretaries and military chiefs—played the same game, but with very different results. Some of the same concerns were raised—the possibility of isolating the Russians by not taking the nuclear bait, the lack of any sensible targets, the uncertainty of whether nukes would dampen or further escalate the war. Still, the principals decided we had to respond with nuclear weapons, to maintain credibility among our allies and adversaries. They decided to fire a few nuclear weapons at the former Soviet republic of Belarus, even though, in the game, it had no involvement in the Russian attacks—and then they ended the game, without playing the next few steps.

Regardless of who was right, the deputies or the principals, there is another good reason for opposing the idea of launching low-yield nuclear weapons from a Trident submarine. In the first months of Trump’s presidency, Mattis assembled a group of seven longtime defense experts—the “Graybeards,” he called them—to hash out various issues. In the third and last of their meetings, held on Nov. 1, 2017, they discussed the “escalate to de-escalate” scenario and whether to respond by building low-yield Trident warheads. Most of the seven opposed the idea. Kevin Chilton, a retired Air Force general, argued that if the Russians saw a missile hurtling their way after being fired upon by a Trident submarine, they wouldn’t know whether it was high-yield or low-yield—they would see it as a “strategic” weapon, perhaps the first volley of a much larger attack against Russia, and respond accordingly.

Chilton’s opposition might have stemmed in part from the fact that the warhead was a Navy weapon. (He argued that, if we wanted to use nukes to send a signal to Moscow, a cruise missile fired from a bomber aircraft would be a better tool. Both the bomber and the cruise missile were Air Force weapons.) Still, he had a point. There’s nothing on the missile that flashes “Low Yield! Low Yield!” And when the warhead goes off, it would look and feel like the largest explosion witnessed since World War II. An 8-kiloton bomb may sound puny, but 8 kilotons means 8,000 tons, which means 16 million pounds—and that’s just the blast. There would also be fire, smoke, electromagnetic pulse, radiation, and radioactive fallout, spreading the toxicity far and wide. The bomb that leveled Hiroshima at the end of World War II exploded with the force of 12.5 kilotons—not that much larger than the W76-2.

Where would this weapon be aimed? I’ve asked several officials who deal with these matters. They have different answers. Some say it would be aimed at a target inside Russia. Some say, no, that would escalate the conflict; it would be aimed at a target on the battlefield. Some say the president would make the decision. (That’s the scariest answer of all.) The point is, as the Obama NSC’s war game spelled out, nobody knows how it would, or should, be used—and certainly nobody knows what might happen next.

That is the real danger of the low-yield weapon—not so much the weapon itself (especially compared with much higher-yield weapons) but the deception that the whole concept plants in a decision-maker’s mind: the idea that “low-yield” means tiny, harmless, controllable. In fact, the dynamic unleashed—the near-certainty of a retaliatory strike, followed by another round of strikes, steadily subsumed in the fog of war, as communications systems burn out, commanders wander in confusion about what’s going on, each side fears the worst from the other and seeks to preempt the next blow with a blow of his own—would mean that before too long, the conflict escalates to catastrophe.

If war happens and if nuclear weapons come into the fray, clearly it’s sensible to try to keep the damage limited. But no one in officialdom has ever played a war game in which a “limited” attack believably stays limited. Things spiral out of control pretty quickly. Which is why it’s a good idea to keep the threshold between conventional and nuclear war as high as possible—and why the low-yield Trident warhead is a bad idea.

Iran’s Mohammad Javad Zarif Blames Pompeo for Soleimani Strike

Iran’s Mohammad Javad Zarif blames Trump’s aides for Soleimani strike

Amanda Macias

MUNICH — Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif called the deadly U.S. strike on Iran’s top military leader an “act of terror” and blamed President Donald Trump’s advisors.

“This moment is a very dangerous moment because the United States has been misled. I believe President Trump, unfortunately, does not have good advisers,” Zarif told an audience Saturday during a discussion at the Munich Security Conference.

Unfortunately somebody else is trying to mimic John Bolton and promised the president that killing Soleimani would bring people to dance in the streets in Tehran and Baghdad. And that the continuation of maximum pressure would bring us to our knees before his reelection campaign,” he said, adding that none of it came to pass.


“That was an act of terror,” he said of the Jan. 2 strike that killed Gen. Qasem Soleimani, a key military figure of Iranian and Middle East politics. “The United States conducts operations and wants to be immune from the consequences, that doesn’t happen,” he added.

On the heels of the strike, Iran launched at least a dozen missiles from its territory on Jan. 7 at two military bases in Iraq that house U.S. troops and coalition forces.

A day later from the White House, Trump said that Iran appeared “to be standing down” and warned Tehran to abandon its nuclear ambitions.

“As long as I am president of the United States, Iran will never be allowed to have a nuclear weapon,” Trump said speaking from the grand foyer of the White House.

But he suggested that the U.S. is open to negotiations with Tehran. “We must all work together toward making a deal with Iran that makes the world a safer and more peaceful place,” he said on Jan. 8.

He then urged other world powers to break away from the Obama-era nuclear agreement with Iran and work out a new deal.

The Trump administration withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers and began a policy of “maximum pressure” to reign in Tehran’s activities in the Middle East.

And while U.S. sanctions have crippled Iran’s economy, slashing its oil exports, Tehran has said it will not negotiate with Washington while the penalties are in place.

John Kerry and I spent more time together than we did with our wives for two years,” Zarif said of the Obama-era agreement at the Munich Security Forum.

“It was a multilateral agreement and President Trump decided that he simply did not like Obama so he could leave. So there’s no point in talking over something that you talked about. I mean, you don’t buy a horse twice,” he added.

Iran Bombs Babylon the Great’s Embassy Again

US embassy in Baghdad attacked with rockets

There were no casualties, authorities say

Zoe Tidman

Rockets have dropped near the US embassy in Iraq and a military base hosting American troops, according to officials.

There have been no causalities reported following the strikes, which fell amid heightened tensions in the Middle East.

Two rockets dropped inside the sprawling embassy compound in Baghdad, three Iraqi security officials have claimed.

They said another hit near the coalition base, which is situated next to the embassy in the Green Zone, where government offices are based.

Colonel Myles Caggins, a spokesman for the US military operation in Iraq, said the military base had been hit by rockets just before 3.30am local time on Sunday.

He did not mention an attack on the embassy itself.

Rockets – which the US often blames on Iran-backed militias – have regularly hit the area surrounding the US embassy in Baghdad, occasionally falling inside the compound.

The attack was the latest in a recent series of strikes on Iraqi bases housing US troops.

On Thursday, a mortar shell exploded in an Iraqi military airbase in the northern Kirkuk province.

After top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani was killed by an American drone strike in early January, missile strikes targeted military bases housing US soldiers in Iraq.

Fifty US personnel were diagnosed with traumatic brain injuries in an attack by Tehran on Ain al-Asad military airbase housing US troops in Anbar, authorities said.

The US embassy in Baghdad has also been a flashpoint amid wider US-Iran tensions in the region, which have played out inside Iraq in recent weeks.

Iraqi supporters of an Iran-backed militia stormed the embassy compound 31 December, smashing the main door and setting fire to the reception area.

Tensions have been escalating between the US and Iran since Mr Trump pulled out of a nuclear deal which aimed to curb Tehran’s capabilities and reimposed crippling sanctions.

Relations were strained even further following Soleimani’s death in January, with Iranian officials threatening revenge.

A War In The Middle East WILL Go Nuclear (Revelation 16)

A War In The Middle East Could Go Nuclear (And That Can Only Mean 1 Thing)

Billions of people could lose their lives. History and humanity would be changed forever.

Key point: Israel keeps them as a weapon of last resort.

Israel’s nuclear arsenal is the worst-kept secret in international relations. Since the 1970s, Israel has maintained a nuclear deterrent in order to maintain a favorable balance of power with its neighbors. Apart from some worrying moments during the Yom Kippur War, the Israeli government has never seriously considered using those weapons.

The most obvious scenario for Israel to use nuclear weapons would be in response to a foreign nuclear attack. Israel’s missile defenses, air defenses, and delivery systems are far too sophisticated to imagine a scenario in which any country other than one of the major nuclear powers could manage a disarming first strike. Consequently, any attacker is certain to endure massive retaliation, in short order. Israel’s goals would be to destroy the military capacity of the enemy (let’s say Iran, for sake of discussion) and also send a message that any nuclear attack against Israel would be met with catastrophic, unimaginable retaliation.

But why might Israel start a nuclear war?

Nuclear Pre-emption

If a hostile power (let’s say Iran, for sake of discussion) appeared to be on the verge of mating nuclear devices with the systems needed to deliver them, Israel might well consider a preventive nuclear attack. In the case of Iran, we can imagine scenarios in which Israeli planners would no longer deem a conventional attack sufficiently lethal to destroy or delay the Iranian program. In such a scenario, and absent direct intervention from the United States, Israel might well decide to undertake a limited nuclear attack against Iranian facilities.

Given that Iran lacks significant ballistic missile defenses, Israel would most likely deliver the nuclear weapons with its Jericho III intermediate range ballistic missiles. Israel would likely limit its attacks to targets specifically linked with the Iranian nuclear program, and sufficiently away from civilian areas. Conceivably, since it would be breaking the nuclear taboo anyway, Israel might target other military facilities and bases for attack, but it is likely that the Israeli government would want to limit the precedent for using nuclear weapons as much as possible.

Would it work? Nuclear weapons would deal more damage than most imaginable conventional attacks, and would also convey a level of seriousness that might take even the Iranians aback. On the other hand, the active use of nuclear weapons by Israel would probably heighten the interest of everyone in the region (and potentially across the world) to develop their own nuclear arsenals.

Nuclear Transfer

One of Israel’s biggest concerns is the idea that a nuclear power (Iran, Pakistan, or North Korea, presumably) might give or sell a nuclear weapon to a non-governmental organization (NGO). Hamas, Hezbollah, or some other terrorist group would be harder to deter than a traditional nation-state. Even if a terrorist organization did not immediately use the weapon against an Israeli target, it could potentially extract concessions that Israel would be unwilling to make. In such a scenario, Israel might well consider using nuclear weapons in order to forestall a transfer, or destroy the enemy nuclear device after delivery. This would depend on access to excellent intelligence about the transfer of the device, but it is hardly impossible that the highly professional and operationally competent Israeli intelligence services could provide such data.

Why go nuclear? The biggest reason would be to ensure the success of the strike; both the device itself and the people handling the device would be important targets, and a nuclear attack would ensure their destruction more effectively than even a massive conventional strike (which might well accompany the nuclear attack). Moreover, committing to the most extreme use forms of the use of force might well deter both the NGO and the originating state (not to mention any states that facilitated transfer through their borders; hello, Syria!) from attempting another transfer. However, the active use of nuclear weapons against a non-state actor might look to the world like overkill, and could reaffirm the interest of the source of the nuclear device in causing more problems for Israel.

Conventional Defeat

The idea that Israel might lose a conventional war seems ridiculous now, but the origins of the Israeli nuclear program lay in the fear that the Arab states would develop a decisive military advantage that they could use to inflict battlefield defeats. This came close to happening during the 1973 Yom Kippur War, as the Egyptian Army seized the Suez Canal and the Syrian Arab Army advanced into the Golan Heights. Accounts on how seriously Israel debated using nukes during that war remain murky, but there is no question that Israel could consider using its most powerful weapons if the conventional balance tipped decisively out of its favor.

How might that happen? We can imagine a few scenarios, most of which involve an increase in hostility between Israel and its more tolerant neighbors. Another revolution in Egypt could easily rewrite the security equation on Israel’s southern border; while the friendship of Saudi Arabia seems secure, political instability could change that; even Turkish policy might shift in a negative direction. Israel currently has overwhelming conventional military advantages, but these advantages depend to some extent on a favorable regional strategic environment. Political shifts could leave Israel diplomatically isolated, and vulnerable once again to conventional attack. In such a situation, nuclear weapons would remain part of the toolkit for ensuring the survival of the nation.

Conclusion

It is unlikely, but hardly impossible, that Israel could decide to use nuclear weapons first in a future conflict. The best way to prevent this from happening is to limit the reasons why Israel might want to use these weapons, which is to say preventing the further proliferation of nukes. If Israel ever does use nuclear weapons in anger, it will rewrite the diplomatic and security architecture of the Middle East, and also the nonproliferation architecture of the world as a whole.

Robert Farley, a frequent contributor to TNI. This article was first featured in 2019 and is being republished due to reader’s interest.

Image: Reuters.

Babylon the Great’s Payback is Still Coming

Iran’s Zarif: ‘Revenge’ for U.S. Killing of Soleimani Is Not Over

(CNSNews.com) – Iran’s foreign minister demurred, twice, when asked at the weekend whether the “revenge” for the killing at President Trump’s orders of Qods Force commander Qassem Soleimani was now over.

In an appearance at the Munich Security Conference, Javad Zarif suggested that when revenge does occur, it will be taken by people angered by U.S. policies, acting at their own initiative, not prodded to do so by Tehran.

Asked whether it was correct that there would be “no more revenge” following the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Jan. 7 firing of rockets at two Iraqi military bases housing U.S. troops, Zarif said, “that’s not correct.”

He disputed that his message immediately after the missile barrage – to the effect that Iran’s response was “concluded” – contradicted warnings of more revenge, given by supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and IRGC commanders.

“Just to be clear,” asked BBC correspondent Lyse Doucet, moderating the discussion. “The revenge of the Islamic Republic of Iran is over?”

“No,” Zarif declared.

“You see, we’re, we’re not a revengeful country,” he continued. “We said we’ll take a military action against a military operation. Now, killing of Soleimani and others – they killed an Iraqi government official and an Iraqi military leader – that has consequences from the population. We don’t control them.”

“The United States conducts operations, and wants to be immune from the consequences,” Zarif said. “That doesn’t happen.”

Broadening his argument, he pointed to the unveiling late last month of Trump’s vision for Israeli-Palestinian peace.

“You cannot blame us that the United States, the president of the United States, just reveals the so-called ‘deal from the century,’ basically enraging the entire Arab world and the Palestinian population,” said Zarif. “If there is violence in response to the ‘deal of the century,’ Iran is not responsible for that.”

“If the United States kills an Iraqi commander and there are responses, if the United States kills 25 Iraqi people, and there are responses from the Iraqis, it doesn’t have to be Iran,” he said.

Iraqis, Zarif added, “don’t need an Iran to tell them to respond.”

‘Not our proxies’

Soleimani was killed in a Jan. 3 U.S. airstrike on a vehicle near Baghdad airport. Trump in his State of the Union speech called him “the world’s top terrorist.”

Zarif argued that people angered by and responding to his death are not Iranian “proxies.”

“Please stop using that word,” he said. “These are not our proxies. These are human beings who are tired of bullying, who are tired of lawlessness, who want to have dignity.”

The Qods Force is the Iranian regime’s link to Hezbollah terrorists in Lebanon, the Houthis in Yemen, and Iraqi Shi’ite militias like Kata’ib Hezbollah (KH), responsible for killing hundreds of U.S. troops with Qods Force help during the Iraq War.

The “Iraqi commander” Zarif referred to as having been killed in the Soleimani airstrike was a top KH leader, Abu Mahdi Al-Muhandis. The “25 Iraqi people” Zarif said had been killed by the U.S. were KH militiamen killed in U.S. airstrikes in late December on five militia bases in Iraq and Syria, in retaliation for a rocket attack on an Iraqi base where an American civilian contractor was killed.

And despite Zarif’s protestations that “if there is violence in response to [Trump’s Mideast peace plan] Iran is not responsible for that,” Khamenei has both rejected the plan and pledged the regime’s ongoing support for Palestinian terrorist groups in their “resistance” to and “selfless jihad” against Israel and the U.S.

Zarif said he and Soleimani had been “good friends.”  (He told an Arabic TV station recently that he and Soleimani held weekly meetings.)

He called the killing of the Qods Force chief a “cowardly attack” and an “act of terror.”

Zarif also charged that Trump was being misled by poor advisers, who have wrongly convinced him that a policy of “maximum pressure” would bring down the regime. He named former National Security Advisor John Bolton, and also alluded to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Pompeo’s participation in the Munich Security Conference came in a form of a speech earlier in the day, in which he challenged the notion that the West is in decline.

The speech was peppered by references to Iran – along with China, Russia, and others.

It also included an apparent indirect swipe at Zarif, who along with President Hassan Rouhani is viewed in some quarters as a “moderate.”

“When so-called Iranian moderates play the victim,” Pompeo told his mostly European audience, “remember their assassination and terror campaigns against innocent Iranian civilians, and right here on European soil itself.”

 

Why Australia WILL Make a Nuclear Bomb? (Daniel 7)

What Happens If Australia Is Hit By A Nuclear Bomb? | Lifehacker Australia

Jackson Ryan

Image: iStock

With the recent reports that North Korea have the capability to fit a nuclear bomb in an intercontinental ballistic missile, and the bromance thawing between Kim Jong-Un and Donald Trump, I’m beginning to wonder about just how powerful nuclear bombs actually are. It’s hard to visualise the scale of their power, unless you can put it in terms that you actually understand.

NUKEMAP is a website that utilises Google Maps to display the ramifications of a nuclear detonation anywhere in the world. It was created by Alex Wellerstein, a historian of nuclear weapons, in 2012 and has been updated numerous times since.

In a statement from the website, Alex describes the reason for creating the map:

The NUKEMAP is aimed at helping people visualize nuclear weapons on terms they can make sense of — helping them to get a sense of the scale of the bombs. By allowing people to use arbitrarily picked geographical locations, I hope that people will come to understand what a nuclear weapon would do to places they are familiar with, and how the different sizes of nuclear weapons change the results.

It’s important to highlight that first sentence. The major goal of NUKEMAP (and this article) isn’t to be alarmist. It’s not to strike fear into your heart. It’s not about warning you of a coming nuclear winter. It’s about understanding the exact magnitude of a nuclear blast and how damaging it can be.

This is largely affected by the ‘size’ of the weapon, which refers to its yield: The amount of energy that is released when a nuclear bomb is detonated. It is expressed in the ‘TNT equivalent’, a convention that describes the energy of an explosion. Nuclear bombs are expressed in kilotons, which is the equivalent of one thousand tons of TNT. That’s a huge amount of explosive energy.

NUKEMAP provides a few different readouts for each map with colour coded rings :

• The yellow ring is the size of the nuclear fireball

• The red ring denotes the air blast zone where 20 psi of pressure is felt – enough to damage concrete buildings

• The green ring denotes the radiation diameter – within this ring, you would receive a 500 rem radiation dose. That’s enough to kill 65-90% of all exposed within 30 days.

• The grey ring denotes the air blast zone where 5 psi of pressure is felt

• The orange ring is the thermal radiation zone – if you are within this ring you receive third degree burns that extend through the layers of the skin.

The most recent bomb tested by North Korea was reportedly around 50 kilotons. So if we used that as a base, what would the damage from a 50 kiloton nuclear bomb do to:

If a nuclear bomb of this size were to drop over the harbour bridge, then the bridge would be completely engulfed by the nuclear fireball. The amount of pressure emanating from the explosion would destroy Luna Park, most of Kirribilli, including the Prime Minister’s residence and the Opera House. Circular Quay would see an extreme amount of damage and radiation. Darling Harbour wouldn’t be subjected to quite the same amount of instantly fatal pressure, but anyone in the area would still be badly injured.

The size of the nuclear fireball would destroy Melbourne’s CBD and the resulting pressure from the explosion would flatten the land around it. Most of the iconic landmarks in Melbourne’s inner city would be gone.

Brisbane City would be engulfed by the fireball and Suncorp Stadium would take a huge hit. Most of the bridges in the area would need to withstand huge pressures and the thermal radiation causing third degree burns would reach out as far as Fortitude Valley, one of the more busy night strips in Brisbane.

Adelaide’s CBD would be mostly non-existent, with the fireball engulfing a large portion and the overpressure extending from North to South Terrace. Rundle Mall would be hit hard and you wouldn’t expect Adelaide Oval to remain standing, either. The thermal radiation would extend out as far as the parade in Norwood and almost entirely cover North Adelaide.

Perth

Owing to its place right next to the Swan River, Perth City may not see the same level of immediate fatalities but the destruction would be extensive. The thermal radiation ring would extend from the centre of the CBD out to the Perth Zoo and as far as Lake Monger. The famous Perth Mint would sadly be caught in the 5psi overpressure zone, a space where most buildings collapse.

Canberra

Parliament House as a target, would be completely decimated by the fireball and the 20psi overpressure would flatten everything as far as National Circuit. The National Library, the National Museum and the National Gallery would also likely crumble under the pressure of the air blast. The Australian War Memorial and the Royal Australian Mint would fall just outside the thermal radiation zone.

Hobart

A direct hit on Hobart’s CBD would see a lot of the blast rip across the River Derwent. The fireball would circle most of the city, while the overpressure blast would extend up Elizabeth Street and out to the Salamanca Market. The Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens would receive a huge amount of thermal radiation, which would reach across the Tasman Highway bridge and into Rosny.

Darwin

The size of an atomic bomb blast of this size would take out a lot of Darwin’s waterfront, but the thermal radiation wouldn’t extend all the way across Charles Darwin National Park but, provided it hit the CBD, the overpressure air blast would do incredible damage all the way through the city and across to the Gardens.

Of course, the likelihood of these locations being the target of nuclear attacks is low, and the idea that these are locations are of military value is even more ludicrous. I definitely can’t speak to the tactical side of warfare, nor do I want to.

However, I think NUKEMAP gives you a great understanding of just how exceptionally powerful a nuclear bomb is in terms that you can relate to – locations in the world that you are familiar with. NUKEMAP is also powerful enough to show you the effects of the nuclear fallout that may occur at certain locations and taking into account things like wind direction. It’s a great tool for fanciful visualisations and let’s hope that is all it ever needs to be used for.

[Nukemap]

This story has been updated since its original publication.

Iran: Trump’s an Idiot if he thinks the Tehran regime will collapse

Iran: Trump wrong if he thinks Tehran regime will collapse

Published: February 15, 2020, 11:26 am

MUNICH – Iran’s foreign minister said Saturday that U.S. President Donald Trump is receiving bad advice if he believes an American “maximum pressure” campaign against his country will cause the government in Tehran to collapse.

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told a group of top defense officials and diplomats at the Munich Security Conference that the information provided to the president has dissuaded Trump from accepting offers from other leaders to mediate between Washington and Tehran.

“President Trump has been convinced that we are about to collapse so he doesn’t want to talk to a collapsing regime,” Zarif said.

To support his argument, the Iranian minister cited Trump’s decision to pull out unilaterally in 2018 from Iran’s nuclear deal with the U.S. and other world powers. Trump said the landmark 2015 accord didn’t address Iran’s ballistic missile program or regional activities and needed to be renegotiated.

Since then, the Trump administration’s re-imposition of U.S. sanctions in a campaign of so-called “maximum pressure” have taken a severe toll on the Iranian economy and sent Iran’s currency plunging.

“I believe President Trump, unfortunately, does not have good advisers,” Zarif said. “He’s been wanting for Iran to collapse since he withdrew from the nuclear deal.”

Zarif also said the killing of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani in a U.S. drone strike in Iraq on Jan. 3 was a miscalculation by Washington that has galvanized support for Iran instead of increasing pressure on the regime.

The Iran nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or JCPOA, promised Iran economic incentives in exchange for curbs on its nuclear program. It was intended to prevent Tehran from developing a nuclear bomb, which Iran insists it does not want to do.

Since the U.S. withdrawal, the deal’s other signatories – Germany, France, Britain, Russia and China – have unsuccessfully struggled to come up with ways to offset the effects of the new American sanctions.

Washington has pressured the other countries – so far without success – to abandon the deal entirely

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said at the Munich Security Conference earlier Saturday that while there may be disagreements on what to do with the JCPOA, “when I talk to my counterparts here in Europe, everybody gets it.”

“Everyone understands that these are folks who continue to build out their nuclear program,” Pompeo said. “So there’s a common understanding about the threat; we have tactical differences on how to proceed.”

In recent months, Iran has steadily violated the limitations the deal placed on the amount of enriched uranium and heavy water it can stockpile, the number and type of centrifuges it can operate, and the purity of the uranium it enriches.

Iranian officials insist the moves are intended only to put pressure on the countries that remain part of the deal to provide economic help to Iran and that all the measures taken are fully reversible.

However, the so-called “breakout” time it would take for Iran to build a bomb decreases with every step.

Zarif rejected Trump’s suggestion of negotiating a new deal, saying the one negotiated during the Obama administration was the only vehicle for talks on Iran’s nuclear program.

“There is no point in talking over something you already talked about. You don’t buy a horse twice,” he said.

“It’s not about opening talks with the United States. It’s about bringing the United States to the negotiating table that’s already there,” Zarif said.

The Creeping Bowls of Wrath (Revelation 16)

The creeping Armageddon

Imran MalikFebruary 15, 2020

Pakistan apparently lies in the path of this creeping Armageddon as, when and if it creeps East of Iran. Whether it engages Pakistan or not will largely be a function of Iran’s resilience, Israel’s degree of perceived insecurity, Pakistan’s very significant military-nuclear-missile capabilities (and its vulnerabilities), China’s presence (BRI-CPEC) in the region and the US-led West’s vital interests in the Greater Middle East Region-North Africa (GMER-NA) and South Central Asian Region. This makes for a very explosive concoction of clashing geopolitical, geostrategic and geo-economic interests of the major powers of the world and Pakistan could well be at the hub of it all!

The time and the timing of this engagement of Pakistan will be extremely crucial. The longer it takes to “neutralize” Pakistan, the stronger it will get militarily and economically (BRI-CPEC). The world must realize that it is next to impossible to get a nation to “unlearn” being a significant military-nuclear-missile power, especially when it is determined to withstand all coercion towards that end. Pakistan will never give in. Period. So, will it be a post-Iran undertaking or will it at some stage become a simultaneous one by the US-led West and its allies? Given the emerging strategic environment, is it not in Pakistan’s national interest too, that Iran remains defiant, resilient and unconquered for as long as is possible?

Pakistan cannot be isolated and subdued like some of the nations in the GMER-NA were. China’s ominous presence in Pakistan and the region will by itself act as a deterrent. It is unlikely to allow uncontested operations against its BRI-CPEC. Russia too is making a strong ingress into Pakistan and the region. The KSA-led GCC will not lose nuclear Pakistan as an ally of substance either. The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) will acquire political, economic and military dimensions, in time. A probable grouping of China, Russia, Iran, Pakistan and Turkey, (CRIPT) as a subset of the SCO, could emerge as a competing pole to the US-led West and actually bring about a modicum of balance in the regional and global affairs!

Pakistan is likely to be confronted with a coercive policy having external and internal dimensions. The external approach will have two basic prongs, kinetic and non-kinetic. The kinetic prong will have two pincers, one on each flank of Pakistan. India will be tasked to increase hostilities, skirmishes across the LOC in Kashmir and will be encouraged to carry out false flag operations and then blame Pakistan for state sponsored terrorist activities. The international community will then be required to put crippling economic and other sanctions on Pakistan. Simultaneously, the western front will be activated. The plethora of terrorist groups in Afghanistan will activate their sleeper cells in Pakistan and initiate violent terrorist attacks. The projects of the BRI-CPEC will be their main targets. They will contest Pakistan’s fencing of the Pak-Afghan border as it blocks their drug smuggling routes as well. Activities on both flanks of Pakistan will be closely synchronized and synergized in purpose and effect.

Pakistan can deal with external threats with ease, confidence and elan, however its Achille’s Heel has always been its internal front. Pakistan’s earlier Governments were rather weak and prone to external pressures from the US-led West and its allies. They proved to be either incompetent or complicit or both as they went about destroying Pakistan’s economy, its state enterprises, strategic institutions, organizations etc and piling up insurmountable international debts. They topped it up through massive, institutionalized corruption. Thus, a near compromised political elite, an unstable political and social environment and a very weak economy have together created the conditions for exploitation by the powers that be. This situation could be vitiated further through terrorist attacks, sectarian upheavals and “nationalist” movements timed to perfection with external pressures. The internal front is thus getting primed to implode!

Pakistan is thus likely to face a simultaneous, well-coordinated multidimensional assault and must be prepared for all contingencies. It must never be caught unawares, without options or viable strategies for a potentially very explosive regional environment. At the geopolitical level, it must try to de-escalate the issues between the US-led West and Iran and KSA and Iran. It must try to block any further advance of this deadly Armageddon through skilful diplomacy. Simultaneously, without prejudice to how the US-led West proceeds with its strategy, it must encourage, promote and initiate talks on the SCO-CRIPT acquiring tangible political, economic and military dimensions. Multipolarity must emerge to create balance in global affairs. Furthermore, China will inevitably secure its massive investments in the region. Pakistan and China may eventually gravitate towards a mutually supporting formal defence arrangement to secure converging national interests including the BRI-CPEC! At the geostrategic level Pakistan must reiterate that its military-nuclear-missile powers are India-centric and that they comprise its full spectrum defence capabilities against a very belligerent, hostile and unpredictable neighbour. However, it must state unequivocally too that it has the capacity and the will to defend itself against all threats, regardless of the quarter they emanate from! At the geo-economic level, it is now imperative that the BRI-CPEC projects in Pakistan reach fruition. Pakistan must become the hub of all the East-West and North-South trade corridors that are bound to crisscross the region.

Pakistan must try to avert the further advance of this Armageddon, diplomatically. However, if and when push comes to shove, a nuclear weapon-ballistic missile toting militarily weighty Pakistan is most unlikely to just roll over and die!

Nuclear Chess: Trump vs Putin

Trump revamps Navy’s arsenal to neutralize Putin’s threat of ‘nuclear blackmail’

New sub-based missile shows new thinking in Washington on war

By Ben Wolfgang

The Trump administration is taking dramatic steps to revamp the nation’s arsenal and prepare for a theoretical nuclear war with Russia in Eastern Europe, with the two countries returning to Cold War-era gamesmanship on the world stage and rethinking the unthinkable: how mankind’s deadliest weapons could be used in the 21st century.

The Kremlin’s strategy of “escalate to de-escalate,” analysts say, hinges on the belief that Russia can deploy several small “tactical” nuclear weapons in the region before the U.S. and its NATO allies are able to respond. Without an effective tactical nuclear capability of their own, U.S. leaders would then be forced to choose between standing down or escalating a theater conflict into all-out global nuclear warfare.

Scholars say the approach could be dangerously effective in exploiting holes in America’s nuclear stockpile, most notably a lack of sea-based weapons capable of launching quickly and penetrating Russia’s increasingly advanced air defense systems.

The Pentagon last week took a major step forward by fielding its first new nuclear warhead in decades. The submarine-launched, low-yield device is specifically designed to counter Russia’s arsenal of smaller missiles and to give the U.S. a way to retaliate in kind.

Analysts say that is just the first move in a grand long-term nuclear strategy to counter Russia and contend with an ambitious China, which has shown signs that it also wants to become a major nuclear player.

Nuclear weapons are back,” said Matthew Kroenig, deputy director of the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. “For the past 25 years or so, many people assumed these were Cold War relics, that we were so stupid to have these in the Cold War, we’re more enlightened now and we’re getting rid of them. We might want that to be the case, [President] Obama wanted that to be the case. But Russia, China and North Korea see it differently.”

A new arms race

Growing evidence shows the U.S. and Russia are once again in a nuclear arms race, and analysts say such a situation poses serious global risks. The two countries already possess more than 90% of the world’s nuclear warheads, according to figures from the Arms Control Association.

The U.S. has about 6,185 warheads, and Russia has an estimated 6,490 in its arsenal. The next closest nations are France and China, with 300 and 290 nuclear warheads respectively.

Against that backdrop, the Trump administration is facing pressure from some in Congress to negotiate with Moscow and extend the New START, a 2011 pact designed to draw down countries’ active nuclear stockpiles and set up new inspection protocols. The agreement is set to expire next year, although President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin have the power to extend it for five years.

Military observers say that allowing the treaty to expire next year would reignite the nuclear competition between the U.S. and its Cold War adversary.

“The stability that we’ve learned to take for granted in the nuclear realm seems to be drying up,” Richard Burt, a former U.S. ambassador to Germany who helped craft the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty in the 1990s, told Newsweek magazine this week. “People are once again going to worry about the possibility that somebody could be tempted to engage in nuclear blackmail — threatening the use of nuclear weapons — to get their way.”

Indeed, analysts say, Russia’s foreign policy, particularly in Eastern Europe, hinges on demonstrating to the U.S. and its NATO allies that it is able and willing to quickly deploy nuclear weapons if necessary. Mr. Putin seems to be banking on the fact that such threats could force the U.S. and NATO to give in to Russian demands or avoid any military confrontations out of fear that full-scale nuclear weapons would soon become part of the conflict.

Mr. Putin and Russian military officials, pointing to the U.S. withdrawal last year from the Cold War-era Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty and Washington’s reluctance to commit to a New START extension, say Mr. Trump is the aggressor in the revived nuclear debate. Mr. Putin has sounded an increasingly provocative tone about the weapons balance between the two countries and says Russia leads in fields such as intercontinental hypersonic missiles.

“We are in the unique situation in our contemporary history in which they’re trying to catch up with us,” Mr. Putin said in a December speech at the Russian Defense Ministry.

Since the early days of President Trump’s tenure, the White House has recognized the shifting strategic dynamic and has undertaken a comprehensive strategy to address it.

In 2018, the administration released its Nuclear Posture Review, a sweeping document that calls for wholesale changes in American nuclear policy, particularly in the realm of countering Moscow.

The approach began to come to fruition last week with the Navy’s announcement that it had deployed the first new U.S. nuclear weapon in decades. Navy officials confirmed the fielding of a submarine-launched ballistic missile known as the W76-2, a relatively low-yield nuclear weapon that could be used as a counter to Russia’s growing array of smaller, tactical nuclear weapons.

Pentagon officials made clear that the weapon is primarily a deterrent to Russia.

“In the 2018 Nuclear Posture Review, the department identified the requirement to ‘modify a small number of submarine-launched ballistic missile warheads’ to address the conclusion that potential adversaries, like Russia, believe that employment of low-yield nuclear weapons will give them an advantage over the United States and its allies and partners,” Undersecretary of Defense John Rood said in a statement.

The submarine-launched missile “strengthens deterrence and provides the United States a prompt, more survivable low-yield strategic weapon; supports our commitment to extended deterrence; and demonstrates to potential adversaries that there is no advantage to limited nuclear employment because the United States can credibly and decisively respond to any threat scenario,” Mr. Rood said.

The administration’s recently released fiscal 2021 budget request calls for billions of dollars in investments in nuclear warheads, including intermediate-range weapons that were banned under the INF Treaty. The budget request is likely to generate substantial opposition in the Democratic-led House.

Proportional response

Despite a newfound focus on tactical weapons, critics caution that the idea of a limited nuclear war is a misnomer. Skeptics say that any lowering of the threshold to launch a nuclear weapon is a major step in the wrong direction.

There is no such thing as a low-yield nuclear weapon. Either it’s a nuclear weapon or not. There is no use of this weapon that does not lead [to] nuclear war,” Rep. Ruben Gallego, Arizona Democrat and a Marine Corps veteran, said in a Twitter post last week after the Pentagon announced the W76-2 deployment.

“This throws off game-theory calculations and messes with nuclear deterrence calculations,” he said. “The answer to Russia using any nuclear weapon ‘low yield’ or not is a nuclear strike. Any indication that we may use something less only makes it more likely that Russia strikes first.”

But weapons specialists counter that the U.S. has little choice but to begin producing small numbers of low-yield, tactical warheads. The hope is that such weapons are never used but having them in the U.S. arsenal provides options beyond surrender and complete annihilation.

In the event of a theoretical Russian strike in Eastern Europe, for example, analysts argue that the U.S. right now is limited in its ability to respond.

“If Russia uses a small nuclear weapon against an air base or something, we can’t retaliate with something 10 times bigger than Hiroshima. That could spiral out of control,” said Mr. Kroenig, the Atlantic Council scholar.

Analysts say Mr. Trump is correct to insist that any future nuclear weapons deals — including New START — include China, not just the U.S. and Russia. China has just a fraction of the nuclear weapons in the American and Russian arsenals, but U.S. officials warn that Beijing is aiming to double the size of its stockpile over the next decade.

Mounting evidence shows China has recognized that its limited nuclear capabilities constitute a hole in its otherwise effective quest to compete with the U.S. on the world stage.

“Beijing worries that the establishment of an advanced, multi-layered US missile defense architecture will weaken China’s strategic deterrent by diminishing its ability to deliver a retaliatory nuclear attack,” says a recent analysis of China’s nuclear ambitions by the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ China Power Project. “To avert this outcome, China is expanding the number of weapons in its arsenal and increasing the sophistication of its delivery systems.”

Trump Builds Up Babylon the Great’s Nuclear Reserve

Trump’s $1.5B Uranium Bailout Triggers Rush of Mining Plans

President Donald Trump’s $1.5 billion proposal to prop up the country’s nuclear fuel industry has emboldened at least one company to take steps toward boosting operations at dormant uranium mines around the West, including outside Grand Canyon National Park.

By BRADY McCOMBS and ELLEN KNICKMEYER, Associated Press

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — President Donald Trump’s $1.5 billion proposal to prop up the country’s nuclear fuel industry has emboldened at least one company to take steps toward boosting operations at dormant uranium mines around the West, including outside Grand Canyon National Park.

The company, Canada-based Energy Fuels Inc., announced a stock sale late Thursday and said it would use the proceeds for its uranium mining operations in the U.S. West.

The Trump administration asked Congress this week for $1.5 billion over 10 years to create a new national stockpile of U.S.-mined uranium, saying that propping up U.S. uranium production in the face of cheaper imports is a matter of vital energy security. Approval is far from certain in a highly partisan Congress.

Some Democratic lawmakers, and market analysts across the political spectrum, charge that the Trump administration’s overall aim is really about helping a few uranium companies that can’t compete in the global market, and their investors.

Demand for the nuclear fuel has languished worldwide since Japan’s 2011 Fukushima disaster. U.S. uranium production has plummeted 96% in the last five years, the U.S. Energy Information Administration reported Thursday.

Energy Fuels Inc., a Toronto-based corporation that is the leading uranium mining company in the U.S., announced it was selling stock and putting the nearly $17 million in proceeds into its mining operations in Utah, Wyoming, Arizona, Texas and elsewhere in response to Trump’s 2021 budget. Company spokesman Curtis Moore said Friday that could mean opening a mine about 15 miles from the Grand Canyon’s South Rim entrance.

Environmentalists and Democrats have opposed uranium mining outside the national park, mainly over concerns it could contaminate water resources. Republicans say mining could bring much-needed jobs to the region.

Energy Fuels had been one of the main mining companies seeking U.S. taxpayer support for domestic uranium mining. It also helped sell the Trump administration on cutting the size of Bears Ears National Monument in Utah to open more land for possible future mining, and oil and gas development.

Energy Fuels has no mining claims or land inside the former territory of Bears Ears, Moore said Friday. “So, that’s a hard no,” he said, to any suggestion it planned any immediate uranium development there.

Launching operations at the company’s Canyon Mine claim outside the Grand Canyon is definitely on the table, however, if Congress approves Trump’s proposal, he said.

“Depending on how things go in the coming weeks and months, we may be in a position to use some of the money to put that small mine into production,” Moore said.

Trump made the request for a new national uranium reserve in his 2021 budget request this week. It was the latest illustration that trying to rescue the U.S. nuclear and coal industries is a political priority for the Republican president, who often invokes national security as justification.

The move has a range of critics.

“It’s not the responsibility of the taxpayer to bail out an industry, whether that’s uranium, solar, coal, what have you,” said Katie Tubb, a senior energy policy analyst at the conservative Washington Heritage Foundation.

The Energy Department said the plan would boost work for at least a couple of the U.S. West’s nearly dormant uranium operations. Residents near another of the mines, in Utah, say they fear an increase in radioactive threats.

“Whatever Trump does, we’ll be standing our ground to let the people know that we’re not going to give up,” said Yolanda Badback, a resident of White Mesa, a town of about 200 people who are members of the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe near a uranium mill in southern Utah.

Trump’s plan would need approval from a highly partisan Congress. Rep. Raul Grijalva, an Arizona Democrat and chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, has opposed Trump’s effort to make domestic uranium mining a strategic issue. His aides said they needed to see more details from the administration on the stockpile proposal.

Sen. John Barrasso, a Wyoming Republican and chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, backed Trump’s proposal. “The United States should not be dependent on foreign imports of uranium. It is a risk to our national security,” Barrasso said in a statement.

Demand for nuclear and coal power sources has fallen against marketplace competition from ever-cheaper natural gas and renewable wind and solar. Trump has been unable to stop a string of coal and nuclear power plant closures.

The U.S. nuclear industry has sought help from the Trump administration, including asking for taxpayer subsidies to promote use of U.S. uranium. U.S. nuclear power plants in 2018 got 90% of their uranium from Canada, Kazakhstan and other foreign suppliers and only 10% from U.S. mines.

Trump in 2019 rejected a request from U.S. uranium mining operators that he set a minimum quota for domestic uranium. But he agreed to set up a task force of national security, military and other federal officials to look for other ways to revive domestic production of the whole nuclear fuel supply chain.

That task force’s findings are expected within two weeks. Trump’s budget proposal would be part of an effort “to put the United States back in the nuclear game around the world,” Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette told reporters Monday.

While Trump has called propping up U.S. uranium mining essential to national security, the Energy Department acknowledged in its budget presentation that “no immediate national security need has been identified” for the uranium reserve. The same document contends that the funds aren’t meant to “disrupt market mechanisms.”

“That is exactly what it is designed to do,” said Luke J. Danielson, president of Colorado-based Sustainable Development Strategies Group, which advises foreign governments about mineral policies.

“The history of the government of trying to subsidize the energy sector and pick winners and losers is abysmal,” Danielson added.

Many Democratic lawmakers have challenged Trump’s security argument for domestic uranium. Existing uranium reserves and production and trade with allies Australia and Canada were already adequate to securing the U.S. uranium supply, Rep. Alan Lowenthal, a California Democrat, said last year.

Energy Fuels called the Trump proposal “a good lifeline for the industry.” Moore, the spokesman, said the company is likely to benefit since it has operating mines in east-central Wyoming and southern Utah.

Moore said the program should lead to production of 2.5 million pounds of uranium per year. U.S. uranium mines produced less than 174,000 pounds in 2019, according to Thursday’s Energy Information Administration report. That’s down from 4.9 million pounds in 2014.

Energy Fuels recently laid off nearly one-third of the company’s 79 employees at the White Mesa Mill and La Sal Complex mines, both in Utah, he said.

At White Mesa in Utah, Badback and other nearby residents participate in a yearly protest walk to draw attention to negative impacts the mine has on an otherwise wide open and remote stretch of land.

Knickmeyer reported from Washington. Associated Press writers Mead Gruver in Cheyenne, Wyoming, and Felicia Fonseca in Flagstaff, Arizona, and business writer Dorothea Degen in New York contributed to this report.

This story has been corrected to show a yearly protest walk to draw attention to negative effects of a uranium mill occurs in Utah, not Wyoming, and that the mill is located in Utah.

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