Argument for the Australian Nuclear Horn (Daniel 7)

Prominent Australian academic suggests building nuclear weapons 

By Peter Symonds

11 July 2019

Strategic analyst Hugh White has reignited a debate in media and security circles about building nuclear weapons to defend the country against the alleged threat posed by nuclear-armed powers, particularly China. His recently published book, How to Defend Australia, argues that nuclear weapons need to be considered because the United States is in relative decline and can no longer be relied upon to defend Australia in a “more contested and more dangerous” region.

This discussion is taking place in the context of a broader dispute in the political establishment over how to position Australian capitalism amid the increasingly belligerent US confrontation with China over economic issues and the US military build-up in the Indo-Pacific in preparation for war.

The dominant position in ruling circles is that Australia has no choice but to stick with the US military alliance, even if it damages relations with its top trading partner, China. Indeed, since US President Barack Obama announced his aggressive “pivot to Asia” against China in the Australian parliament in 2011, Australian military and military bases have been integrated ever more closely with the US, and governments—Labor and Coalition—have toed the line from Washington.

White, a former senior defence official, Labor government adviser and now professor of strategic studies at the Australian National University, is one of the dissident voices. He has previously advocated for the US to strike a power-sharing deal with China to defuse tensions, but now suggests that Australia has to be prepared to go it alone. Amid the rising dangers of a US-China war, White lines up with others who, either directly or indirectly, advocate for a more “independent” foreign policy.

White makes clear that the necessary corollary of a so-called independent foreign policy is a huge build-up in the Australian military. He calls for a virtual doubling of military spending—from 2 percent to 3.5 percent of gross domestic product. Such an increase would be extracted from the working class via the further gutting of essential social services.

White’s argument—in public at least—is based on the hoary old lie that the military build-up is purely defensive in character. In reality, the military’s mission has always been to prosecute the economic and strategic interests of Australian imperialism, which, in more recent times, has included interventions in East Timor and Solomon Islands. Australian participation in British and US-led wars has always sought to secure the backing of the major powers for its own regional and international interests. Now, White is arguing, Australia requires more military muscle to do the same.

White claims he is not advocating the acquisition of nuclear weapons but merely encouraging a debate, which he is now fostering with the assistance of the media. It is not the first time that White has advanced this proposal, but the publication of his book has become the occasion for his appearance on a number of TV and radio programs, including the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s high-profile “Q&A” last Monday night.

Well aware that any decision to build nuclear weapons would face huge public opposition, White was at pains to stress that it was “the hardest issue I’ve ever dealt with in 40 years of thinking about the unpleasant business of war.” White, however, is doing far more than just encouraging a general discussion. He is outlining an entire agenda, including what would be needed to build nuclear weapons and the necessary delivery systems. He advocates creating a nuclear arsenal along the lines of Britain and France, based on submarine-launched missiles.

For all his attempts to disguise the provocative character of his arguments, White was adamant on the central point, saying: “At the moment, we depend on US nuclear weapons to deter any possible nuclear attack on Australia. The less confident we are of that, the less confident we are that we can rely on America to do that, the stronger the arguments for Australia to acquire its own.” Asked whether China or other powers were a future existential threat, he declared they could pose “at least a very, very serious threat, and one which we can no longer rely on America to defend us from.”

White is standing reality on its head. While it is true that the US faces a historic decline vis-a-vis China and other powers, the response of Obama and now Donald Trump has not been to withdraw from Asia but to confront China on all fronts—diplomatically, economically and militarily—to maintain American domination. US imperialism has no intention of being eclipsed in Asia or any other region of the world and is recklessly engaged in an economic war and military provocations in contested waters close to the Chinese mainland that could trigger open conflict. The danger to Australia’s population is not primarily from Chinese aggression, but from being dragged by the US into a war on China that would have incalculable consequences.

Rising geopolitical tensions and rivalries, and the growing danger of a global conflict, have sparked debate not only in Canberra but in other capitals, including Tokyo, Berlin and Seoul, about building nuclear weapons. A nuclear arms race would multiple many-fold the danger of a nuclear war. This prospect barely rated a mention among the politicians and commentators on the “Q&A” program. Both Liberal Senate President Scott Ryan and Labor foreign affairs spokeswoman Penny Wong differed with the need for nuclear weapons, but did not emphatically rule out building a nuclear arsenal. They praised White, in Wong’s words, for grappling with “the most challenging set of external circumstances since World War II.”

Scant reference was made to the fact that acquiring nuclear weapons would be a clear breach of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty that Australia has signed. Diana Sayed, a human rights lawyer, declared that it was “astonishing” that the issue was being canvassed. After branding nuclear weapons as “inhumane and indiscriminate” and an environmental disaster, Sayed said: “The fact that Australia would even be entertaining this thought is unfathomable and unconscionable to me, and it goes against everything in international law.” Her remarks were quickly brushed aside.

The growing prominence being afforded in the media to building nuclear weapons is a sure sign that behind the scenes a more intense discussion is underway. This would concern not only the advisability of a nuclear arsenal, but also how to overcome the intense public opposition and anti-war sentiment that such a decision would trigger. The debate is another warning of the advanced preparations being made in capitals around the world for war, not decades down the track, but in the not-too-distant future.

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Renewed push for Australia to building nuclear weapons
[30 January 2018]

The Fatal Ignorance of Trump (Revelation 16)

There Is No Such Thing As a ‚Small‘ Nuclear War (But Trump Wants Mini Nukes)

The Democratic lawmakers who control the U.S. House of Representatives are pushing back against Pres. Donald Trump’s plan to expand the United States’ nuclear arsenal with new and smaller “tactical” weapons.

The Democrats’ version of the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act, which funds the military, faces opposition in the Republican-controlled Senate, as well as from the president himself. Trump has threatened to veto the NDAA, potentially setting up a budgetary showdown that could force the Pentagon to operate on so-called “continuing resolutions” that essentially copy previous years’ budgets.

Trump in 2017 laid out a plan for a host of new and modernized nuclear weapons, including less-powerful nukes that some hardliners believe are more useful than larger-yield weapons are and could make limited atomic wars feasible and survivable on a planetary level.

But many nuclear experts disagree. No nuclear war is “small,” they argue. And any nuclear war would be devastating for the entire human race and the only planet that’s known to support life.

The House bill “signals a new, much-needed change in direction for U.S. nuclear weapons policy, one that would reduce the nuclear threat and cut some spending on these weapons,” wrote Eryn MacDonald, an expert with the Union of Concerned Scientists in Massachusetts.

The House bill stands in stark contrast with the version the Senate passed easily in late June [2019], which would fully fund the Trump administration’s nuclear programs and in some cases even increase funding.

We support passage of the House version of the NDAA; if its version becomes law, it will be a victory not only for U.S. security, but also for common sense.

The House bill is chock-full of positive provisions. For example, it would prohibit deployment of the Trump administration’s new ‘low-yield’ nuclear warhead; cut funding for an unnecessary replacement for the current ground-based intercontinental ballistic missile; and reduce the excessive, but congressionally mandated, requirement for the number of plutonium pits that the National Nuclear Security Administration has been told to produce.

The House’s version of the NDAA defunds the W76-2 low-yield warhead for the U.S. Navy’s Trident submarine-launched ballistic missiles, which MacDonald described as “an ill-conceived attempt to lower the threshold for nuclear war.”

The W76-2 “would thrust U.S. ballistic-missile submarines into regional conflicts instead of reserving them for their crucial role as a nuclear deterrent, providing a secure means of retaliation if they should ever be needed,” MacDonald added.

The Trump administration requested $19.6 million for the Navy to begin installing these new warheads on missiles later this year. The House defense authorization bill sensibly zeros out this money, but Republicans plan to offer an amendment to the bill on the House floor that would restore that funding.

Fortunately, the amendment is unlikely to pass. Republicans on the House Armed Services Committee have twice attempted to restore the money and failed along party lines both times.,

The House Appropriations Committee also eliminated funding for the low-yield warhead, and the full House already rejected an attempt to restore the W76-2 money in an appropriations bill by a 236 to 192 vote.

The Democrats also want to cut $103 million from the Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent, the intercontinental ballistic missile the U.S. Air Force is developing to replace the existing Minuteman III missile.

“The bill also initially called for an independent study of options that could extend the Minuteman III’s life to 2050,” MacDonald wrote. “This would postpone spending on the new ICBM, which some estimates expect to cost $100 billion.”

Republicans in the Armed Services Committee, however, succeeded in removing that study requirement. Fortunately, Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) has submitted an amendment that would restore a version of the independent study.

Extending the life of the Minuteman III instead of building a new missile is a reasonable, cost-saving option that could facilitate an eventual phase out of the land-based leg of the U.S. nuclear triad as the older missiles reach the end of their lives.

The House could vote on its version of the NDAA by early July 2019, after which the House and Senate would reconcile their competing versions of the authorization.

The president could veto the resulting conference bill. No only has Trump objected to the Democrats’ cuts to nuclear weapons, he also opposes language in the House NDAA that would limit the president’s ability to divert military funding toward his signature campaign initiative: a wall along the southern border that Trump claims would stop migrants from crossing into the United States in order to seek asylum.

David Axe serves as Defense Editor of the National Interest. He is the author of the graphic novels  War Fix, War Is Boring and Machete Squad.

Babylon the Great is Desperate for Diplomacy

Iran Denies US Talks

TEHRAN (Tasnim) – Iran’s Foreign Ministry dismissed rumors about mediation by some countries for launch of Iran-US talks, saying there are no negotiations between Tehran and Washington.

Tasnim News Agency

Speaking to reporters on Sunday, Foreign Ministry Spokesman Abbas Mousavi denied reports that the US has asked Russia to pass on a message calling for negotiations with Iran at the level of foreign ministers.

The Islamic Republic of Iran is not involved in any negotiations with the American officials at any level,” the spokesman underlined.

Back in May, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani roundly dismissed the idea of direct negotiations with the US under the current circumstances, stressing the need for resistance against an ongoing economic war waged by Washington.

In remarks on May 14, Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei underlined that there will be no military confrontation between Iran and the US as Washington is aware that it won’t be in its interest, adding that negotiation with the US is not on the Islamic Republic’s agenda either.

“The Iranian nation’s definite option will be resistance in the face of the US, and in this confrontation, the US would be forced into a retreat,” Ayatollah Khamenei said. “Neither we nor they, who know war will not be in their interest, are after war.”

The Saudi Nuclear Horn Will Follow (Daniel 7)

Iran’s nuclear program seems to be accelerating. Will Saudi Arabia take a similar path? – The Washington Post

Monkey Cage

In a multipolar world, curbing nuclear transfers becomes more difficult.

The Iranian flag waves outside the U.N. building that hosts the International Atomic Energy Agency office in Vienna on Wednesday. (Ronald Zak/AP)

July 12, 2019 at 7:45 AM EDT

Iran announced this week that it has surpassed the uranium-enrichment level allowed under the 2015 nuclear deal. This was Tehran’s response to the Trump administration’s withdrawal from the deal and subsequent reimposition of harsh sanctions.

While most observers focus on the spiral of U.S. pressure and Iranian defiance, the situation has broader implications for nuclear programs elsewhere — specifically, whether Saudi Arabia could follow in Iran’s footsteps. Riyadh has vowed to match Iran’s nuclear capabilities, including the ability to enrich uranium and acquire nuclear weapons if Tehran gets the bomb. My research, recently published in International Security, explains how Riyadh’s ability to play nuclear suppliers off against one another can increase its chances of securing nuclear technology.

U.S. sanctions against Iran just got tougher. What happens now?

Why is Saudi Arabia eyeing this capability?

Saudi Arabia considers Iran a mortal foe. The suspicion that Iran is building a bomb exacerbates the Saudis’ sense of threat. Tehran’s most recent moves will likely heighten that fear — and push Riyadh to accelerate the development of its nuclear program. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman warned, “Without a doubt if Iran developed a nuclear bomb, we will follow suit as soon as possible.”

For now, Saudi Arabia is focused on becoming what scholars call a nuclear “hedger” — a country without a dedicated nuclear weapons program that can weaponize relatively quickly, thanks to an advanced enrichment and reprocessing (ENR) capability. Iran has already achieved this status.

Hedging stems from the fact that the military and civilian uses of the atom are not completely separable. ENR facilities can fuel nuclear reactors and/or they can produce fissile material for a bomb. Hedging also allows countries to avoid the costs of a nuclear program, including international sanctions, as Iran knows only too well.

Won’t the great powers step in?

Wouldn’t the United States and other countries interested in stopping proliferation block Riyadh’s access to sensitive nuclear transfers, such as enrichment technology? It’s possible Saudi Arabia will be unable to acquire or develop the wherewithal for a nuclear weapon. But the nuclear market is changing in ways that facilitate proliferation.

There’s been a shift from a unipolar world, with the United States as the dominant power, to a world of several great powers, or multipolarity. Since 1975, the key instrument for curbing nuclear transfers has been the supplier cartel — the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), created by the United States in cooperation with the Soviets. The NSG forced suppliers to act in unison and incorporate the same guidelines into their individual nuclear export policies, restricting the sale of ENR and thus stemming proliferation.

Here’s the catch: The NSG’s ability to regulate supplier behavior depends on how many great powers are in the system and whether they agree to work together to limit proliferation. The emerging multipolar world and the growing rivalry among the United States, Russia and China is likely to weaken the NSG’s effectiveness. This could crack open the door to renewed supplier competition and broader access to sensitive nuclear technologies. And this lets countries interested in acquiring nuclear transfers, such as Saudi Arabia, pit suppliers against each other and secure better products, lower prices and more advantageous terms of use.

The Trump administration wants to sell nuclear technology to the Saudis — without a nuclear agreement. That’s alarming.

As Matthew Fuhrmann explained here in the Monkey Cage, there remains debate over whether peaceful nuclear technology transfers lead to proliferation — but the risk of proliferation is high in the Saudi case.

Saudi Arabia has set its nuclear procurement train in motion

After failing to secure nuclear technology in the 1970s, Riyadh turned to the global market with renewed vigor in the mid-2000s — in both cases presumably because of a perceived Iranian nuclear threat. Recent efforts to exploit supplier competition seem to have paid off: In 2015, Saudi Arabia acquired a research reactor from Argentina, a steppingstone toward achieving the full nuclear fuel cycle capability.

Saudi authorities have also expressed an interest in nuclear power reactors and an enrichment plant. Reactors alone are not enough to build a nuclear weapon, but can provide cover for a nuclear weapons program or for hedging: Countries can claim they need ENR technology to fuel their research or power reactors, but instead use it to produce fissile material for a bomb.

Moving forward, Saudi Arabia can play several suppliers against one another to secure nuclear transfers. Countries such as France and South Korea have expressed an interest in selling nuclear technology to Riyadh for almost a decade. And Saudi Arabia has excellent relations with Pakistan, whose nuclear weapons program Riyadh allegedly helped finance in the 1970s. Fearing that other suppliers will get Saudi Arabia’s nuclear contracts, the United States, Russia and China have also begun courting Riyadh.

President Trump pulled the U.S. out of the Iran deal. Here’s what you need to know.

There are few good options for dealing with Saudi Arabia’s nuclear procurement plans

Some analysts argue that the United States should transfer nuclear technology to the Saudis on the condition they adopt the “gold standard,” which would require the Saudi regime to forfeit its right to enrich or reprocess. The problem here is that other countries could make more lenient counteroffers.

Recognizing this issue, others propose that Washington should supply Saudi Arabia nuclear technology without the “gold standard” constraints, thus keeping a foot in the door and hopefully becoming well-positioned to limit Riyadh’s nuclear pursuits. But even this approach may prove too restricting for the Saudis. If Saudi Arabia concludes that the United States is encroaching on its nuclear ambitions, it can turn to other suppliers for more advantageous terms.

The Trump administration has embraced a more permissive nuclear transfers policy toward Saudi Arabia than the “no gold standard” approach — and has signaled its willingness to approve such transfers without congressional approval. As Fuhrmann explained, such an approach is particularly dangerous for containing the bomb.

The problem for those hoping to stop the further spread of nuclear weapons is that it’s hard to get the great powers to cooperate. Instead, the United States, Russia and China are developing their own unilateral policies on Saudi Arabia. With the 2015 nuclear deal unraveling and Iran accelerating its enrichment efforts, the future does not bode well for stopping Riyadh from going down the same path as Tehran.

Eliza Gheorghe is a visiting fellow at the Institute for Peace Research and Security Policy (IFSH) at the University of Hamburg and assistant professor of international relations at Bilkent University. You can follow her at @gheorghe_eliza.

Why Iran is Nuking Up (Daniel 8:4)

What’s the Half-Life of Iran’s Nuclear Provocation?

Against the wishes of Europe, Israel and the United States, Iran’s leaders have decided to resume their nuclear weapons program.

What’s the Big Rush?

For some reason, the Iranians are in a great big hurry to develop nuclear weapons—or start a war with the United States and/or Israel. Or perhaps both in one sequence or another.

But why?

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Yes, the sanctions are hurting Iran economically, but the Iranian economy has been underwater for decades. Besides, even with the Trump administration backing out of the Iranian nuclear deal signed under Barack Obama and applying new trade sanctions against Iran, the Europeans have been going around the sanctions to trade with the Iranians. Their view is that by helping Iran economically, it would lose interest in enriching uranium.

However, with the Iranians resuming their enrichment efforts, the Europeans are forced with a stark choice: trade with Iran or trade with the United States. That choice is clear. European companies are fleeing Iran, adding to the endemic economic misery of its people.

What, precisely, does the Iranian leadership hope to achieve with this move?

In Dictatorships, Power Trumps Economics

It’s certainly against Iran’s economic interests to violate the uranium enrichment threshold of the agreement, but so what? Power trumps economics. National financial benefits are of secondary importance to dictatorships. Dictatorships exist to benefit the dictators and their cohorts, not the people beneath their boot heels.

This simple maxim has been proven time and time again the past century, from the Soviet Union to Cuba, from Communist China to North Korea and various other tin pot dictatorships around the world. And yet, the West, especially the left, continues to think that money can divorce dictators from their nature and dissuade them from aggression. But in fact, it does just opposite. Barack Obama’s illegal transfer of hundreds of millions in pallets of bribe money to the Iranians to accept the 2015 agreement proved that point once again.

Did the Iranians use the money for economic development? Of course not. It was used to fund more terrorism and proxy wars Israel in Syria and Gaza and against Saudi Arabia via Yemen.

Who Is Iran Afraid Of?

What’s the rationale for Iran to resume its provocative nuclear weapons program? Do they fear being attacked by the United States? Probably not. Even at the height of the U.S. military presence in neighboring Iraq, no U.S. invasion of Iran occurred. In fact, the U.S. removal of Saddam Hussein from Iraq eliminated Iran’s biggest regional threat.

Are they afraid of an unprovoked ground assault by Israel? Not likely. Israel doesn’t have that capacity and geography also points against such a scenario. What’s more, Israel simply has no desire to go to war with Iran or anybody else. Their history of working with Islamic states such as Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia among others, demonstrates this.

What about Saudi Arabia?

Iran is backing the Yemeni Houthi war against United States and Israel-ally Saudi Arabia. Does Iran expect the Saudis to retaliate by striking Iran? Again, not likely. Sunni Saudi Arabia fears Iran and its radical Shiite brand of Islam. The last thing they want to do is enrage Shiite passions in the region.

Oppressors Fear the Oppressed

No, the greatest fear of the Iranian leadership is their fellow Iranians. As is usually the case, it’s the young, rebellious generation posing the greatest threat to authority. It’s no different in the Islamic Republic of Iran. The people are fed up with living in the 7th century.

What’s more, the threat against the Islamic-fascist regime is not only real, it encompasses workers, women, and people from all parts of Iranian society. In 2018, Iran was rocked by a major nationwide uprising against the ruling class. Social tensions remain high in light of the police brutality against women who refuse to wear the veil. And the movement against the regime is growing.

The Dictators’ Guide to Economic Ruin

Again, as is typical amongst dictators of every stripe, the Iranian leadership knows that it can’t deliver bread or jobs to the country. Especially under heavy economic sanctions preventing Iranian oil from being sold on the open market. Iran’s economy production is cratering and inflation runs at around 40 percent.

Nor, with the exception of its nuclear sector, can it boast of Iranian industry outperforming others, of for that matter, performing at all. Dictatorship can only survive on corruption, which means stealing the wealth from productive sectors to pay for support. Unfortunately, it eventually tends to bankrupt formerly healthy enterprises.

Furthermore, America is now the top oil producer in the world keeping oil prices low. This poses a long-term threat against the Iranian economy. And as Israeli oil production ramps up, global supplies will rise, further suppressing prices.

What’s an Islamic dictatorship to do?

War on the Horizon?

What’s left to placate the angry masses and remain in power? Why, a war, of course. A war against “the two greatest enemies” of Iran: The United States and Israel.

This looks to be their plan. Iranian state media has produced videos simulating an attack on Israel with matching rhetoric from Iranian military leaders. It’s a war they’ve been talking about for 40 years.

How to start it? Attack an oil tanker or two. If that doesn’t rile The Great Satan, shoot down a drone.

If that fails, resume enriching uranium in order to become a nuclear-armed power. An “Iranium Revolution” would most certainly do the trick and bring about a pre-emptive strike against Iran. Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, has stated publicly that Israel will not allow Iran to develop or have nuclear weapons. President Trump has said the same.

The question is, if Iran continues down its current path, how big of a war will it invite upon itself? Who else will come to the party? Taking out Iran’s underground nuclear projects will take more than a few bombings. It will require a significant commitment of military assets, even ground troops, to do so.

Will this happen? It’s looking more likely today than it did yesterday. But we’re not there yet.

Is there a silver lining? Yes, the Iranian people prevent an unnecessary war by removing the bad actors in their own country.

James Gorrie is a writer based in Texas. He is the author of “The China Crisis.”

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

Military Threats against Iran NEVER Work

Military Threats against Iran Don’t Work: Ex-IRGC Commander

TEHRAN (Tasnim) – The former commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) highlighted Iran’s major advances in the defense sector and said military threats against the country are not effective anymore.

Tasnim News Agency

“The fruit of the power we have today thanks to the blood of martyrs and the people’s efforts has led us to have a good indigenous development in the field of security and defense,” Major General Jafari, who is also the head of Hazrat Baqiatollah al-Azam Cultural and Social Headquarters, said in a speech on Saturday.

He further referred to a recent move by the IRGC forces to shoot down an advanced US spy drone and said the move as well as the high-precision missiles that Iran has show the grandeur of the country’s military achievements.

The enemy is witnessing the Islamic Republic’s grandeur and keeps silent so that it will not lose the game, the commander added.

In the fifth decade after the victory of the Islamic Revolution, the nature of anti-Iran threats has changed, he said, adding that security and military threats do not work any longer because the enemy knows that making a mistake will end in disgrace. 

The remarks came against the backdrop of increased tensions between Iran and the US after the Islamic Republic shot down an advanced US spy drone over its territorial waters.

The Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) said on June 20 that a US spy drone that violated the Iranian territorial airspace in the early hours of the day was shot down by the IRGC Aerospace Force’s air defense unit near the Kooh-e-Mobarak region in the southern province of Hormozgan.

The intruding drone was reportedly shot by Iran’s homegrown air defense missile system “Khordad-3rd”.

Later on the same day, US President Donald Trump said he had called off a retaliatory attack on a number of targets in Iran and said that he was ready to speak with Iranian leaders and come to an understanding that would allow the country to improve its economic prospects. “What I’d like to see with Iran, I’d like to see them call me.”

“I look forward to the day where we can actually help Iran. We’re not looking to hurt Iran,” Trump added.

However, on June 24 Trump announced new sanctions against top Iranian officials, including the office of Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei, Iran’s foreign minister, and senior commanders of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC).

Iran strikes back at Israel (Daniel 8:4)

Iran Launches Strikes in Iraq and Responds to Israel’s Threat As It Vows to Defend Itself Against Any Attack

By Tom O’Connor On 7/12/19 at 12:49 PM EDT

Iran has conducted strikes against targets in neighboring and responded to a recent threat from Israel as the Islamic Republic’s armed forces vowed to defend their country’s borders.

The Revolutionary Guards announced Friday that they conducted strikes against anti-Iranian government insurgents operating along the Iraqi border in the Kurdistan region. The move came after such groups, potentially Kurdish separatists, clashed with Iranian troops in the north and northwest in recent days, killing three.

Iran’s semi-official Press TV outlet shared footage that appeared to show Iran’s domestically-produced Mohajer M-6 drone as well as various howitzers and short-range missile systems striking targets. The Revolutionary Guards called on the people of Iraqi Kurdistan to avoid militant strongholds so as not to be used as human shields and warned that the recent strikes followed repeated warnings to Iraq’s regional Kurdish government.

„As asserted several times, the national security and preserving the Iranian nation’s calm and peace of mind, particularly for the dear and gallant people of the border provinces, is the red line of the country’s Armed Forces, particularly the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps Ground Force,“ the Revolutionary Guards statement read, according to the semi-official Tasnim News Agency.

Though no timeframe was provided, the operation may have lasted more than a day as Ahmed Qadir, mayor of the northeastern Erbil village of Choman, told the Kurdish news outlet Rudaw on Thursday that „this shelling has taken place for two days in a row.“ He condemned the operation as an „indiscriminate“ offensive, calling on Iran to „stop the shelling as soon as possible.“

Like many countries in the region, Iran has complex ties with Kurdish groups, supporting some and opposing others. The head of one of the hostile organizations, Kurdistan Free Life Party (PJAK) co-chair Zilan Vejin, warned in May that her group would „not sit idly by“ if war broke out between the U.S. and Iran and could „form a democratic front“ in the event of a conflict. But she noted that she felt „Iran and the U.S. are fighting for their own interests,“ according to Kurdish outlet Rojnews.

U.S.-Iran tensions have worsened since President Donald Trump’s decision to abandon the deal was based on his assertions that it did not do enough to stop Iran’s funding for militant groups or ballistic missiles. His move was hailed by Israel, along with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, but condemned by the agreement’s other signatories, including China, the European Union, France, Germany, Russia and the United Kingdom.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Tuesday that his F-35I Adir warplanes „can reach anywhere in the Middle East, including Iran and certainly Syria.“ In response, Iranian Defense Minister Amir Hatami stated Friday that „any enemy at any level intending to violate the sacred territorial integrity of the Islamic Republic of Iran will be met with a decisive and crushing blow that will instill regret,“ according to the country’s official website.

Hatami also referenced earlier remarks made by Netanyahu at the Negev Nuclear Research Center, where the Israeli leader said „those who threaten to wipe us out, put themselves in a similar danger.“ Both Iranian and Israeli officials have long swapped such grave threats, but recent nuclear-fueled tensions have escalated to the point of crisis.

Israel is widely believed to possess nuclear weapons but has neither confirmed nor denied such an arsenal, while Iran has maintained that its own nuclear program was only for civil purposes. Still, Iran was hit with international sanctions only lifted by a 2015 deal that the United States left last year, leaving Tehran with minimal incentives to remain as new U.S. restrictions bound its economy and geopolitical frictions grew critical.

A U.K. patrol ship is seen near Iranian supertanker Grace 1 off the coast of Gibraltar, July 6. Tehran has demanded that the U.K. immediately release an oil tanker, accusing London of acting on behalf of the U.S. after the Iranian ship was accused of violating EU sanctions by allegedly carrying oil to Syria and detained. JORGE GUERRERO/AFP/Getty Images

Around the anniversary of the U.S. exit in May, the White House began to warn of an alleged heightened threat posed by Tehran and its allies to Washington’s interests in the Middle East and the Pentagon deployed additional assets to the region. Meanwhile, Iran has begun enriching uranium slightly beyond levels restricted in the 2015 deal.

Washington has also blamed Tehran for two series of attacks against oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman. Iran has dismissed the claims but shot down a U.S. Navy drone last month traveling within or near Iranian airspace, a move that nearly led Trump to consider, but ultimately cancel, launch strikes against the Islamic Republic. In the latest flare-up, the U.S. and the U.K. have reportedly accused the Revolutionary Guards of attempting to seize a U.K. vessel Wednesday, only to turned back by a U.K. frigate escorting the ship.

The Revolutionary Guards denied the incident, but Iranian officials have continued to threaten retaliation for the seizure of an Iranian supertanker detained by authorities in U.K.-controlled Gibraltar, where the ships captain and at least three other crewmembers have been arrested for attempting to transport oil to Syria, a violation of EU sanctions.

Iran and Syria have both denied this, but have argued that they were not subject to the EU’s sanctions anyway. Trump and Netanyahu spoke Wednesday and condemned „Iran’s malign actions,“ while Russia and China both called for calm.

The Church’s Blessings on Nuclear War

Intercontinental ballistic missile Topol-M exhibited at the annual Victory day Parade dress rehearsal on May 6, 2012 in Moscow, Russia. Credit: Pukhov K / Shutterstock

Russian Orthodox Church considers ending blessings for nuclear weapons

Moscow, Russia, Jul 10, 2019 / 05:00 pm (CNA).- The Russian Orthodox Church is debating an end to the practice of blessing large scale weapons, including nuclear missiles. 

Last month, a committee on ecclesial law met in Moscow and recommended ending the practice of blessing missiles and warheads, and suggested that priests should instead bless only individual soldiers and their personal weapons.

According to a report by Religion News Service, Bishop Savva Tutunov of the Moscow Patriarchate said that it would be more appropriate to bless only the warrior who is defending their country, and their own personal weapon–instead of bombs.

“One can talk about the blessing of a warrior on military duty in defense of the fatherland,” said Tutunov.

“At the end of the corresponding ritual, the personal weapon is also blessed — precisely because it is connected to the individual person who is receiving the blessing. By the same reasoning, weapons of mass destruction should not be sanctified,” he said.

The proposal to end the blessings for larger weapons has yet to be approved by Patriarch Kirill of Moscow, head of the Russian Orthodox Church.

Weapons systems, including Topol-class intercontinental ballistic missiles, are frequently blessed by members of the Russian Orthodox clergy during military parades and other events. These blessings are seen as a way of spiritually protecting the country.

In 2007, Russia’s nuclear weapons were consecrated in a service at the Christ the Savior Cathedral in Moscow. In Russian Orthodoxy, the patron saint of Russia’s nuclear weapons is St. Seraphim.

Tutunov’s view is not universally held in the Orthodox Church. According to  the piece published by Religion News Service, Fr. Vsevolod Chaplain, a former spokesman for the Patriarch of Moscow, said that Russia’s nuclear arsenal is akin to the “guardian angels” of the country and are needed to protect Orthodoxy.

“Only nuclear weapons protect Russia from enslavement by the West,” Chaplin said to a Russian newspaper.

Patriarch Kirill is rumored to have been a KGB agent prior to the fall of the Soviet Union. His predecessor, Patriarch Alexy II is also believed to have been a KGB agent. The Moscow Patriarchate denies this.

The Catholic Church is explicitly opposed to nuclear weapons, and supports countries dismantling their arsenals.

Pope St. John XXIII called for the banning of nuclear weapons and wrote that “a general agreement must be reached on a suitable disarmament program, with an effective system of mutual control” in his 1963 encyclical Pacem in Terris.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church describes acts of war aimed at the indiscriminate destruction of entire cities or large areas as “a crime against God and man.”

“A danger of modern warfare is that it provides the opportunity to those who possess modern scientific weapons – especially atomic, biological, or chemical weapons – to commit such crimes.”

In November, Pope Francis is expected to visit Nagasaki and Hiroshima–cities where the United States deployed two atomic bombs during World War II–on his apostolic visit to Japan.

Iran Threatens the British Horn

Britain will be ‘slapped in the face’ for seizure of Iranian tanker, cleric says

Britain will soon get “slapped in the face” for last week’s capture of an Iranian supertanker, a cleric was quoted as saying Friday amid rising tensions between the two nations in the Gulf.

Cleric Kazem Sedghi, an adviser to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, told worshipers during Tehran’s Friday prayer sermon broadcast live on Iranian state TV that the United Kingdom should be worried for their actions off the coast of Gibraltar.

“Iran’s strong establishment will soon slap Britain in the face for daring to seize the Iranian oil tanker,” he said.


Sedghi’s warning came after the Iranian government on Friday called Britain to immediately release the oil tanker that British Royal Marines seized last week on suspicious it was breaking European sanctions by taking oil to Syria.

Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman accused London of playing a “dangerous game” a day after police in Gibraltar, a British overseas territory on the southern tip of Spain, said they arrested the captain and chief officer of the supertanker.

Abbs Mousavi told Iranian state news agency IRNA that “the legal pretexts for the capture are not valid … the release of the tanker is in all countries’ interest.”

“This is a dangerous game and has consequences,” he added.


Gibraltar has insisted its decision to detain the Iranian tanker was taken alone and not on orders from any government, despite a senior Spanish official previously saying the interception was carried out at the request of the United States.

“All relevant decisions in respect of this matter were taken only as a direct result of the government of Gibraltar having reasonable grounds to believe the vessel was acting in breach of established E.U. sanctions against Syria,” Fabian Picardo, the territory’s chief minister, told reporters. “There has been no political request at any time from any government that Gibraltar should act or not act on one basis or another.”

The detained vessel contained 2.1 million barrels of light crude oil, he added.


The British navy said Thursday it had stopped three Iranian paramilitary vessels from disrupting the passage of a British oil tanker through the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow mouth of the Persian Gulf. The brief but tense standoff stemmed from the U.K.’s role in seizing the Iranian tanker.

In this image from file video provided by UK Ministry of Defence, British navy vessel HMS Montrose escorts another ship during a mission to remove chemical weapons from Syria at sea off the coast of Cyprus in February 2014. Five Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps gunboats tried to seize a British oil tanker in the Strait of Hormuz Wednesday but backed off after a British warship approached, a senior U.S. defense official told Fox News. (AP/UK Ministry of Defence)

On Friday, the British Ministry of Defense said it was moving up its timetable for relieving the HMS Montrose, a frigate operating in the Persian Gulf, with the larger HMS Duncan destroyer in the wake of the recent developments.

„This will ensure that the UK alongside international partners can continue to support freedom of navigation for vessels transiting through this vital shipping lane.“

Iran recently began surpassing uranium enrichment limits set in its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers in response to President Donald Trump’s decision to pull the U.S. out of the accord a year ago. He also has re-imposed tough sanctions on Tehran’s oil exports, exacerbating an economic crisis that has sent its currency plummeting.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Lucia I. Suarez Sang is a Reporter & Editor for Follow her on Twitter @luciasuarezsang

Australia Will Still Go Nuclear (Daniel 7)

Professor White, the bomb can endanger but not defend Australia

Ramesh Thakur

“I am prepared for the worst, but hope for the best”, wrote Benjamin Disraeli in the 19the century. Maya Angelou improved on that in the last century: “Hoping for the best, prepared for the worst, and unsurprised by anything in between”. Hugh White in his latest book How to Defend Australia urges Australia to hope for the best but prepare for the worst and not be caught napping by this century’s mutating threats.

White’s description of the choices confronting Australian security planners as US strategic primacy recedes in the Asia–Pacific is stark and uncompromising. This includes a consideration of the nuclear option. But he fails to engage with the nuclear sceptics. The nuclear option has two fatal flaws: questionable benefits and damaging downstream consequences.

In a retrospective dissection of original justifications-cum-expectations behind India’s nuclearisation in 1998 and actual events since then, I pointed to the inconsequential gains and lasting insecurities of the path taken. The operational utility of nuclear weapons is highly dubious.

The “Agni Missile”, the delivery vehicle for India’s nuclear warhead, displayed during the 1999 Republic day parade in New Delhi (Photo: T.C. Malhotra via Getty)

They cannot compel an adversary to do one’s bidding. Yes, Japan surrendered immediately after Hiroshima and Nagasaki. But the evidence shows the decision to surrender to the US had been made in advance in anticipation of the entry of the Soviet Union into the Pacific war against Japan’s undefended northern approaches. Moscow attacked Japan on 9 August 1945 and Tokyo announced surrender on 15 August.

For deterrence to work for the

weaker country, the more powerful

enemy must believe nuclear

weapons will be used if attacked.

There’s been not one clear-cut instance since then of a non-nuclear state having been bullied into changing its behaviour by the threat of being nuclear-bombed. According to a careful statistical analysis of 210 militarised “compellent threats” from 1918 to 2001 by Todd Sechser and Matthew Fuhrmann, nuclear powers succeeded in just 10 of them. Even then the bomb may not have been the decisive factor. Non-nuclear states were more successful at coercion than nuclear-armed states (32.2%).

They cannot defeat a non-nuclear enemy. The taboo is so strong that political costs of use will always exceed any military gains. That’s why nuclear powers have accepted defeat by non-nuclear states like Vietnam and Afghanistan rather than incinerate them.

They can’t be used for defence against nuclear-armed rivals. Mutual vulnerability to second-strike retaliation means any escalation through the nuclear threshold is mutual national suicide.

They don’t guarantee impunity against invasion: think Argentina’s invasion of the Falkland Islands in 1982, Britain’s bomb notwithstanding.

The only purpose and role of nuclear weapons is mutual deterrence. They are credited with keeping the long peace after 1945. However, how do we judge this against the peace-preserving role of European integration and democratisation? There is no evidence that either side planned to attack the other at any time during the Cold War, but was deterred from doing so because the other side had the bomb.

Nuclear weapons didn’t stop Pakistan from occupying Kargil in Indian Kashmir in 1999, India from fighting a limited war to retake it, or Russia from invading eastern Ukraine and annexing Crimea in 2014.

Korean People’s Army soldiers carry packs marked with a radioactive symbol in a 2013 military parade in Pyongyang (Photo: Ed Jones via Getty)

For deterrence to work for the weaker country, the more powerful enemy must believe nuclear weapons will be used if attacked. If the enemy does attack, however, using nuclear weapons guarantees military devastation for everyone. Because the stronger party understands this, the existence of nuclear weapons will induce extra caution. But it won’t guarantee immunity for the weaker party. Indian missiles struck inside Pakistan and the two engaged in a dogfight in February.

Suppose sometime in the future, Australia possesses nuclear weapons and long-range delivery systems. For whatever reason, it’s attacked by China using sea-based and air-launched conventional munitions. Would we really threaten nuclear retaliation? What if China didn’t find our threat credible and persisted with its strikes. Would we launch nuclear strikes on Chinese targets? If we don’t, China will have called our bluff on a non-credible threat. If we do, we will have entrapped ourselves in a posture of mutual nuclear suicide in the name of national defence.

We backed international action to punish India and Pakistan for their nuclear breakout in 1998, to contain Iran’s suspected nuclear ambitions, and to demand nuclear rollback by North Korea. Australia, too, is firmly bound by its Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons obligations, reinforced by the South Pacific Nuclear-Free-Zone Treaty. It would take us a long time to recover from the stench of hypocrisy if we were to discard treaty obligations as a mere inconvenience when we’ve consistently rejected security arguments by others as justifications for getting the bomb.

Australia’s nuclear breakout would also guarantee the collapse of the NPT order and lead to a cascade of proliferation. Each additional entrant into the nuclear club multiplies the risk of deliberate or inadvertent war geometrically.

White fails to offer a hard-nosed analysis of the merits of the choice between investing in building the requisite skills, facilities and materials to move quickly to making the bomb should we decide to do so, or joining the majority of countries in trying to ensure there is a future for all of us by persuading and pressuring the nine with 14,000 nuclear bombs to get rid of them.

For the 21st century surely the better guide to action is: to escape the nuclear worst, prepare and work your hardest for the nuclear free best.