China hits back at Babylon the Great over nuclear transparency call

The US and Japan have raised alarm at China’s growing nuclear strength. Photo: PLA Daily

China hits back at US, Japan over nuclear transparency call

Beijing says Washington is the biggest threat to global stability and should make the first move by reducing its stockpile Tokyo should also adopt a more responsible approach on nuclear policy, foreign ministry says

“Noting the People’s Republic of China’s ongoing increase in its nuclear capabilities, Japan and the United States request [China] to contribute to arrangements that reduce nuclear risks, increase transparency, and advance nuclear disarmament,” the US and Japan said.

US, China, Russia, Britain and France pledge to only use nuclear weapons for defence

US, China, Russia, Britain and France pledge to only use nuclear weapons for defence

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said the US was the bigger threat.

The Doomsday Clock is really counting down to the Bowls of Wrath Revelation 16

The test detonation of a nuclear bomb in Nevada in 1957.

What the Doomsday Clock is really counting down to

The number of human-made existential risks has ballooned, but the most pressing one is the original: nuclear war.

Jan 21, 2022, 3:00pm EST

The Doomsday Clock shows 100 seconds to midnight on January 20, 2022.

One hundred seconds to midnight. That’s the latest setting of the Doomsday Clock, unveiled yesterday morning by the Science and Security Board of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.

That matches the setting in 2020 and 2021, making all three years the closest the Clock has been to midnight in its 75-year history. “The world is no safer than it was last year at this time,” said Rachel Bronson, the president and CEO of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. “The Doomsday Clock continues to hover dangerously, reminding us how much work is needed to ensure a safer and healthier planet.” 

As for why the world is supposedly lingering on the edge of Armageddon, take your pick. Covid-19 has amply demonstrated just how unprepared the world was to handle a major new infectious virus, and both increasing global interconnectedness and the spread of new biological engineering tools mean that the threat from both natural and human-made pathogens will only grow. Even with increasing efforts to reduce carbon emissions, climate change is worsening year after year. New technologies like artificial intelligence, autonomous weapons, even advanced cyberhacking present harder-to-gauge but still very real dangers. 

The sheer number of factors that now go into Bulletin’s annual decision can obscure the bracing clarity that the Doomsday Clock was meant to evoke. But the Clock still works for the biggest existential threat facing the world right now, the one that the Doomsday Clock was invented to illustrate 75 years ago. It’s one that has been with us for so long that it has receded into the background of our nightmares: nuclear war — and the threat is arguably greater at this moment than it has been since the end of the Cold War.

The Doomsday Clock, explained

The Clock was originally the work of Martyl Langsdorf, an abstract landscape artist whose husband Alexander had been a physicist with the Manhattan ProjectHe was also a founder of the Bulletin, which began as a magazine put out by scientists worried about the dangers of the nuclear age and is now a nonprofit media organization that focuses on existential risks to humanity.

Martyl Langsdorf was asked to design a cover for the magazine’s June 1947 issue. Inspired by the idea of a countdown to a nuclear explosion, Langdorf chose the image of a clock with hands ticking down to midnight, because — as the Bulletin’s editors wrote in a tribute to the artist — “it suggested the destruction that awaited if no one took action to stop it.”

As a symbol of the unique existential peril posed by thousands of nuclear warheads kept on a hair trigger, the Doomsday Clock is unparalleled, one of the 20th century’s most iconic pieces of graphic art. It’s been referenced in rock songs and TV shows, and it adorned the cover of the first issue of the Watchmen graphic novel series. 

Its value is its stark simplicity. At a glance, anyone can see how close the Bulletin’s science and security experts, who meet twice a year to determine the Clock’s annual setting, believe the world is to existential catastrophe. The Clock may be wrong — predicting the apocalypse is a near-impossible task — but it cannot be misread.

Since its introduction 75 years ago, the hands of the Clock have moved backward and forward in response to geopolitical shifts and scientific advances. In 1953, it was set to two minutes to midnight after the U.S. and Soviet Union both tested thermonuclear weapons for the first time; in 1991, after the collapse of the USSR and the signing of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, it was moved back to 17 minutes to midnight, the furthest its been to 12 in its history. 

In 2018, thanks to what the Bulletin’s experts called a “breakdown in the international order” of nuclear actors and the growing threat of climate change, it was moved to 2 minutes to midnight and has been at 100 seconds since 2020.

You may begin to notice the problem here. The metaphor of a clock provides the clarity of a countdown, but the closer the hands get to midnight, the more difficult it is to attempt to accurately reflect the small changes that could push the world closer or further from doomsday. 

Nor does it help that beginning in 2007 the Bulletin expanded the Clock to include any human-made threat, from climate change to anti-satellite weapons. The result is a kind of “doomsday creep,” as dangers that are real but unlikely to bring about the immediate end of human civilization — and which fit in poorly with the original metaphor of a clock — muddy its message.

It’s also difficult to square a clock ticking ever closer to midnight with the fact that human life on Earth, broadly defined, has been getting better over the past 75 years, not worse. Even with the Covid-19 pandemic, the growing effects of climate change, and whatever might be brewing in an AI or biotech lab somewhere, humans are far healthierwealthier, and — at least on a day-to-day basis — safer in 2022 than they were in 1947, and odds are that will still be true in 2023 regardless of the Clock’s next annual setting. 

This is the paradox of life in the age of existential risk — the sheer number of ways that we can cause planetary catastrophe can make it feel as if it’s nearly midnight, but compared to how life has been through most of human history, we’re living under the noonday sun.

The one event that could change that instantlyis the existential threat that the Doomsday Clock was originally designed to convey: nuclear war.

Tick, tick, tick

There’s a virtual reality program designed by security researchers at Princeton University that’s been making the rounds in Washington over the past month. 

Users don VR goggles and are transported to the Oval Office, where they play the role of the American president. A siren goes off and a military official transports you to the Situation Room, where users are confronted with a horrifying scenario: early warning sensors have detected the launch of 299 nuclear missiles from Russia that are believed with high confidence to be on a path to the American mainland and its ICBM sites, as Julian Borger describes in a recent Guardian piece.

An estimated 2 million Americans will die. As president, you have fewer than 15 minutes to decide whether the attack is real and whether to launch American ICBMs in response before they are potentially destroyed on the ground.

That’s a true ticking clock, and while it might feel like a throwback to Dr. Strangelove, it’s one that could still take place at any minute of any day. Though global nuclear arsenals are far smaller than they were in the darkest days of the Cold War, there are still thousands of operational nuclear warheads, more than enough to cause catastrophe on an unimaginable scale. 

And while earlier this month the five permanent members of the UN Security Council put out a joint statement affirming that “a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought” — words first said by President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in 1985 — what’s actually happening on the ground is making that horrifying VR simulation more likely, not less.

A possible Russian invasion of Ukraine could realistically result in a conventional ground war fought on European soil, and it raises the risk of conflict between the US and Russia, which together possess most of the world’s remaining nuclear arsenal. Russia has hintedat the possibility of deploying nuclear weapons close to the US coastline, which would further reduce the warning time after launch to as little as five minutes, while Russian media has made claims that the country could somehow prevail in a nuclear conflict with the US. 

Washington is pursuing a modernization of the US nuclear arsenal that could cost as much as $1.2 trillion over the next 30 years, while Moscow undertakes its own nuclear update. China is reportedly expanding its own nuclear arsenal in an effort to close the gap with the US and Russia, even as tensions grow over Taiwan. 

The risk of a nuclear conflict is “dangerously high,” Jon B. Wolfsthal, a senior adviser at the anti-nuclear initiative Global Zero and the former senior director for arms control and nonproliferation at the National Security Council, wrote recently in the Washington Post

The result of such a war would be as predictable as it is unthinkable. The heat and shockwave from a single 800-kiloton warhead, which is the yield of most of the warheads in Russia’s ICBM arsenal, above a city of 4 million people would likely kill120,000 people immediately, with more dying in the firestorms and radiation fallout that would follow.

A regional or even global nuclear war would multiply that death toll, collapse global supply chains, and potentially lead to devastating long-term climatic change. In the worst-case scenario, as Rutgers University environmental scientist Alan Robock told Vox in 2018, “almost everybody on the planet would die.”

And unlike the other human-made threats the Doomsday Clock now aims to capture, it could unfold almost instantly — and even by accident. Multiple times during the Cold War technical glitches in the machinery of nuclear defense nearly led the US or the USSR to launch their missiles by mistake, and as the VR simulation demonstrates, the sheer speed of a nuclear crisis leaves very little room for error when the clock is ticking.

Moving away from midnight

As long as nuclear weapons exist in significant numbers, they present an existential threat to humanity. Unlike other disruptive technologies like AI or biological engineering, or even the fossil fuels that are the chief driver of climate change, they have no benign side. They are merely weapons, weapons of unimaginably destructive power, whether or not they inspire the dread they once did.

Yet we’ve survived the nuclear age so far because we’ve had the wisdom — and the luck — not to use them since 1945, and more can be done to ensure that remains the case.

Last year the US and Russia extended the New START nuclear weapons treaty, which put limits on the size of each nation’s deployed nuclear arsenal, for another five years, pausing the erosion of the post-Cold War arms control regime and giving diplomats more time to negotiate tighter limits in the future.

The US and Russia also agreed to begin new sets of dialogues on how to better maintain nuclear stability in the future, and the White House is preparing a Nuclear Posture Reviewthat could see the US specifically pledge not to use nuclear weapons first or in response to a conventional or cyber conflict, which could help reduce the chances of a renewed nuclear arms race. Fifty-nine nations have signed onto an international treaty calling for a global ban on nuclear weapons (though none of the signatories are nuclear powers themselves). 

While it will reliably continue to be set every year — at least until midnight really does strike — the Doomsday Clock may have outlived its meaning as a symbol of existential risks in a rapidly changing world where the dangers and benefits of new technologies are so co-mingled. But as a warning for the original human-made catastrophic threat, the Doomsday Clock can still tell the time — and it may be later than we think.

The Australian Nuclear horn continues to grow Daniel 7

(Left to right) British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, British Defence Secretary Ben Wallace, Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne, and Australian Defence Minister Peter Dutton [Source: Marise Payne Facebook]

British, Australian ministers strengthen military collaboration against China

In the wake of the AUKUS pact between Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States reached last September, the British and Australian foreign and defence ministers held talks in Sydney yesterday to further strengthen military ties directed primarily against China, and also Russia.

The AUKUS agreement, which includes equipping Australia with nuclear-powered submarines, is part of the US-led military build-up throughout the Indo-Pacific as Washington intensifies its aggressive confrontation with China diplomatically, economically and strategically.

At a joint press conference, British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss declared that the two countries were “modernising our partnership for a new age” to confront “the reality … that threats are rising across the world.” As well as lashing out at Russia for “threatening Ukraine” and Iran over its nuclear program, Truss accused China of “using its economic muscle against Australia and other allies like Lithuania.”

Truss told reporters that Australia and Britain were “completely united in our response. We’re standing shoulder to shoulder in defence of freedom and democracy, and we’re determined to face down these growing threats.”

Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne trotted out the same propaganda line to justify the military build-up by the two countries in league with the US. Australia and Britain were natural partners, she said, to counter the influence of “malign authoritarianism” and maintain the international order.

For all the unsubstantiated allegations of Russian and Chinese “threats” and “aggression,” Australian and British imperialism have been two of the closest partners in crime of the US over the past three decades. London and Canberra have backed the illegal US-led invasions and interventions in the Middle East, North Africa and Central Asia to the hilt politically and militarily. These have resulted in the destruction of whole societies—in Iraq, Syria, Libya and Afghanistan.

Now Britain and Australia are preparing to join the US in confronting two nuclear-armed powers, China and Russia, raising the prospect of a catastrophic war. None of this is about defending democracy, which is under sustained attack in all three countries. Rather, the AUKUS pact is seeking to maintain the US global hegemony on which Australia and Britain have both relied since the end of World War II, but which is being undermined by the economic rise of China in particular.

The escalation of the British military presence in the Indo-Pacific—a region half way around the world from the United Kingdom—is especially significant. Following World War II and its declining global influence, Britain withdrew from “East of the Suez” from 1966, pulling its military out of major bases in Aden (now part of Yemen) and Singapore. It has not consistently sent warships to the Indo-Pacific since the closure of its small base in Hong Kong in 1997 when the colony was returned to China.

Last March the British government adopted a so-called Indo-Pacific Tilt, as part of its 2021 Integrated Review, and in September signed up to the AUKUS agreement. The British navy dispatched the Queen Elizabeth II aircraft carrier and its strike group of warships to the Indo-Pacific where it engaged in various exercises, including provocative joint drills in the South China Sea with Dutch and Singaporean naval vessels in October.

Speaking to the press yesterday, Australian Defence Minister Peter Dutton explained that no agreement had been reached as yet on basing British warships in Australia. However, “it could be something that we discuss at an appropriate time” in the future. “I think what you will see is a greater regularity in visits, training, in people being embedded… and certainly greater cooperation in exercises.”

Britain has already dispatched two of its newest warships—the offshore patrol vessels, HMS Spey and HMS Tamar—to the Asian region on a long-term basis as part of re-establishing “a persistent Indo-Pacific presence.” While not permanently based in Australia, the two British naval vessels will rely heavily on Australian naval infrastructure for port visits, resupply and maintenance.

The two countries also agreed to strengthen military coordination and planning by embedding a liaison officer from Britain’s Permanent Joint Headquarters within Australia’s Headquarters Joint Operations Command.

Australia and Britain are part of the top-level Five Eyes intelligence sharing network, led by the US, which also includes New Zealand and Canada. The ministerial meeting yesterday strengthened collaboration on cyber security, artificial intelligence, quantum technologies and undersea capabilities.

Truss used a speech to the Sydney-based think tank, the Lowy Institute, to issue strident warnings about the threat of a Russian invasion of the Ukraine and its dire consequences. In reality, the US and its allies have manufactured the present crisis over Ukraine through the military encroachment of NATO forces into Eastern Europe after the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

At yesterday’s press conference, Payne joined the international anti-Russia chorus, declaring “we will work closely with Ukraine in the coming days and weeks in terms of challenges that they are dealing with.” She indicated that Australia would look favourably on any formal request from the Ukraine for assistance on cyber-security.

Asked yesterday about the talks in Sydney, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian branded the AUKUS agreement as “a typical military bloc” and the decision to provide Australia with nuclear-powered submarines as a breach of the international Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty. He pointed to the hypocrisy of the US, Britain and Australia hyping the “China threat” while collaborating in a military build-up in the region.

The provision of nuclear-powered submarines to Australia underscores the aggressive character of the AUKUS agreement. The attack submarines have nothing to do with the defence of Australian waters but are designed to operate at great distances for lengthy periods of time. Their purpose is to operate in concert with British and American nuclear submarines off the Chinese coast, either as part of a naval blockade or a full-scale war.

Last September, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison declared that Australia had no intention of creating a domestic nuclear industry or arming the nuclear-powered submarines with nuclear missiles. As geo-political tensions continue to rise, such pledges are meaningless.

Australia’s deep integration into US war planning has placed the Australian population on the front-line of a US-led conflict with China that has the potential to rapidly escalate into a nuclear war.

Iran attacks Babylon the Great again

Several rockets hit Baghdad’s fortified Green Zone, including US embassy, and wound two civilians

US personnel in the area are safe following the attacks, a State Department official told CNN. 

“The U.S. Embassy compound was attacked this evening by terrorist groups attempting to undermine Iraq’s security, sovereignty, and international relations,” the embassy said in a statement.“We have long said that these sorts of reprehensible attacks are an assault not just on diplomatic facilities but on the sovereignty of Iraq itself,” the embassy added in the tweeted statement.

The Iraqi military said “a cowardly terrorist act” targeted “innocent residents of the Green Zone in Baghdad and the headquarters of the diplomatic missions.”

Several missiles were launched from the Dora neighborhood in southern Baghdad, the military said.

Security forces are now investigating the incident.

Baghdad’s Green Zone houses Iraqi government offices and several embassies.

Iraqi President Barham Salih condemned the attack on Thursday, writing on Twitter: “Targeting diplomatic missions and endangering civilians is a criminal terrorist act and a blow to Iraq’s interests and its international reputation.” Thursday’s strikes add to a growing list of attacks on US personnel in the Middle East in recent weeks. Last Wednesday, military bases in Iraq and Syria that house American troops were attacked, though no US forces were killed in the strikes. 

Last week also saw several other attacks in the region, coinciding with the second anniversary of the US assassination of Qasem Soleimani, a key Iranian general.

The attack last week on the US base in eastern Syria near the Iraqi border prompted US-led coalition forces to fire back at Iranian-backed militias who were suspected of being behind the strikes. 

Pentagon press secretary John Kirby told reporters last week that “it’s difficult to know with great specificity and certainty … what accounts for the frequency of these attacks,” adding: “It is certainly possible that it could be related to the anniversary of the Soleimani strike. It is certainly possible that it could be related to the change in mission” in Iraq.

Echoing Salih’s sentiments, Iraqi anti-American cleric Muqtada Al-Sadr stressed that Thursday’s attacks would only delay the full withdrawal of US troops from the country.

Al-Sadr called on all militia groups to stop attacking the US embassy and other sites, saying such acts would “Undermind our efforts to expel (US troops in Iraq) through the UN Security Council, international means and under penalty of law.”

The cleric’s political party has emerged as the biggest winner in Iraq’s general election that was held in October 2021.

India and Pakistan Continue to Ramp Up for the first nuclear war : Revelation 8

Pakistan and India have fought three wars, two over Kashmir, since 1947. In a short fight between their air forces in 2019, Pakistan claimed downing two Indan jets and captured one pilot.

India, Pakistan tested dozens of missiles but North Korea grabbed eyeballs

India (16) and Pakistan (10) conducted 26 ballistic and cruise missile tests in 2021 while North Korea conducted just six missile tests but they became media headlines.

Pakistan and India have fought three wars, two over Kashmir, since 1947. In a short fight between their air forces in 2019, Pakistan claimed downing two Indan jets and captured one pilot. (Reuters)

South Asia’s nuclear neighbours India and Pakistan have conducted 26 missile tests in 2021, making it a year of intense arms rivalry.

While India tested 16 ballistic and cruise missiles, Pakistan tested 10 missiles with nearly identical capabilities in a tit-for-tat response. This equates to two missile tests in a month.

Pakistan and India, both of which have nuclear weapons, have fought three wars, two over disputed Kashmir, since 1947 and had a number of military skirmishes, most recently a limited engagement between their air forces in 2019.

According to India’s Defence Ministry, trials for Long-Range Surface-to-Air Missiles (LRSAM) for its navy have also concluded.

The missile system has been jointly developed by India’s Defence Research Development Organization and Israel’s Aerospace Industries.

India also conducted two flight tests of the Agni P, a new generation nuclear-capable ballistic-canisterised missile with a range capability of 1,000 km to 2,000 km. The country ended the year by conducting a maiden flight test of surface-to-surface missile Pralay.

The missile is powered by a solid-propellant rocket motor and many new technologies. 

With a range of 150-500 km, it can be launched from a mobile launcher and its guidance system includes a state-of-the-art navigation system and integrated avionics.

Pakistan’s missile tests

Pakistan responded by testing the Shaheen III and Shaheen 1A surface-to-surface ballistic missiles with ranges of 2,750 km and 900 km, respectively.

In response to India’s BrahMos cruise missile, Pakistan tested the Babur Cruise Missile IA, which has a range of 450 km, twice this year, according to data collected from the website of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Public Relations – the media wing of the Pakistan armed forces.

While Pakistan launched the surface-to-air LY-80 missile air defence weapon system on April 7, India tested a new generation Akash Missile (Akash-NG) on July 21, demonstrating the Indian air force’s defence capabilities.

In contrast, North Korea conducted just six missile tests during the same time period, but they grabbed international headlines.

Nuclear powers

India, Pakistan, Israel, and North Korea have together around 460 nuclear warheads, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. 

According to a January 2021 tally by the institute, which includes retired warheads –– not counted in the State Department’s numbers –– the United States had 5,550 warheads, compared to 6,255 in Russia, 350 in China, 225 in Britain, and 290 in France.

East Coast Quakes and the Sixth Seal: Revelation 6

Items lie on the floor of a grocery store after an earthquake on Sunday, August 9, 2020 in North Carolina.

East Coast Quakes: What to Know About the Tremors Below

By Meteorologist Dominic Ramunni Nationwide PUBLISHED 7:13 PM ET Aug. 11, 2020 PUBLISHED 7:13 PM EDT Aug. 11, 2020

People across the Carolinas and Mid-Atlantic were shaken, literally, on a Sunday morning as a magnitude 5.1 earthquake struck in North Carolina on August 9, 2020.

Centered in Sparta, NC, the tremor knocked groceries off shelves and left many wondering just when the next big one could strike.

Fault Lines

Compared to the West Coast, there are far fewer fault lines in the East. This is why earthquakes in the East are relatively uncommon and weaker in magnitude.

That said, earthquakes still occur in the East.

According to Spectrum News Meteorologist Matthew East, “Earthquakes have occurred in every eastern U.S. state, and a majority of states have recorded damaging earthquakes. However, they are pretty rare. For instance, the Sparta earthquake Sunday was the strongest in North Carolina in over 100 years.”

While nowhere near to the extent of the West Coast, damaging earthquakes can and do affect much of the eastern half of the country.

For example, across the Tennesse River Valley lies the New Madrid Fault Line. While much smaller in size than those found farther west, the fault has managed to produce several earthquakes over magnitude 7.0 in the last couple hundred years.

In 1886, an estimated magnitude 7.0 struck Charleston, South Carolina along a previously unknown seismic zone. Nearly the entire town had to be rebuilt.

Vulnerabilities

The eastern half of the U.S. has its own set of vulnerabilities from earthquakes.

Seismic waves actually travel farther in the East as opposed to the West Coast. This is because the rocks that make up the East are tens, if not hundreds, of millions of years older than in the West.

These older rocks have had much more time to bond together with other rocks under the tremendous pressure of Earth’s crust. This allows seismic energy to transfer between rocks more efficiently during an earthquake, causing the shaking to be felt much further.

This is why, during the latest quake in North Carolina, impacts were felt not just across the state, but reports of shaking came as far as Atlanta, Georgia, nearly 300 miles away.

Reports of shaking from different earthquakes of similar magnitude.

Quakes in the East can also be more damaging to infrastructure than in the West. This is generally due to the older buildings found east. Architects in the early-to-mid 1900s simply were not accounting for earthquakes in their designs for cities along the East Coast.

When a magnitude 5.8 earthquake struck Virginia in 2011, not only were numerous historical monuments in Washington, D.C. damaged, shaking was reported up and down the East Coast with tremors even reported in Canada.

Unpredictable

There is no way to accurately predict when or where an earthquake may strike.

Some quakes will have a smaller earthquake precede the primary one. This is called a foreshock.

The problem is though, it’s difficult to say whether the foreshock is in fact a foreshock and not the primary earthquake. Only time will tell the difference.

The United State Geological Survey (USGS) is experimenting with early warning detection systems in the West Coast.

While this system cannot predict earthquakes before they occur, they can provide warning up to tens of seconds in advance that shaking is imminent. This could provide just enough time to find a secure location before the tremors begin.

Much like hurricanes, tornadoes, or snowstorms, earthquakes are a natural occuring phenomenon that we can prepare for.

The USGS provides an abundance of resources on how to best stay safe when the earth starts to quake.

Iran States Babylon the Great is Weaker than Ever

Raisi is accompanied by senior members of his cabinet, including the foreign minister, economy minister, and oil minister, on his high-profile, two-day visit to Russia.

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi accuses the US of seeking to “weaken independent governments from within” while reminding the world that Tehran is serious about reaching a nuclear deal if the sanctions are lifted.

Iran’s Raisi: United States is in its ‘weakest position’ ever

Raisi is accompanied by senior members of his cabinet, including the foreign minister, economy minister, and oil minister, on his high-profile, two-day visit to Russia. (Reuters)

Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi has said the “strategy of domination” had failed and the US was “in its weakest position.”

Addressing the lower house of the Russian parliament on Thursday, Raisi used his address to the State Duma in lashing out at the US and hailing the growing proximity between Tehran and Moscow.

He said the “power of independent nations” was experiencing a “historic growth,” while accusing the US and its allies of seeking to “weaken independent governments from within” through “economic sanctions, destabilisation, promotion of insecurity, and false narratives.”

Raisi, elected to office last July, noted that the US “military occupation” in Iraq and Afghanistan was ending due to “resistance of nations,” which he said serves “independence of countries.”

He received a standing ovation and a round of applause from Russian lawmakers after his speech, which many see as an invitation to Russia to form a regional alliance against the US.

Serious about reviving nuclear deal

Defending his country’s nuclear programme, the Iranian president said Washington claims that sanctions are due to Iran’s nuclear activities, but the country’s activities are “legal and under the constant supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency.”

“The Islamic Republic of Iran is serious about reaching an agreement if the other parties are serious about lifting the sanctions effectively and operationally,” Raisi commented on the ongoing efforts to revive the 2015 nuclear deal.

Raisi further extended Iran’s support to Russia’s initiative of holding a meeting of the parliament speakers of Iran, Russia, Turkiye, Pakistan, and China in the “fight against terrorism.”

Another Iranian Lie: Daniel 8

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, left, and Russian State Duma speaker Vyacheslav Volodin talk to each other during their meeting in Moscow, Russia, Thursday, Jan. 20, 2022.

Iran isn’t seeking nuclear weapons, president tells Russian Duma

•   21/01/2022 – 16:36

Iranian president Ebrahim Raisi told the Russian parliament on Thursday his country was not seeking to get nuclear weapons.

In a speech at the State Duma, Raisi said Iran was serious about reaching an agreement to limit its nuclear program, but would not agree to anything less than its “rights”.

“We are not after nuclear weapons, and such weapons have no place in our defensive strategy,” he added.

Russia has actively taken part in international talks in Vienna aimed at salvaging Iran’s tattered 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.

The United States withdrew from the accord in 2018 under then-President Donald Trump, while President Joe Biden wants to rejoin the deal.

“We can bring these talks to a successful conclusion and address the core concerns of all sides. But time is running out,” Biden said, adding that “if a deal is not reached in the coming weeks, Iran’s ongoing nuclear advances, which resumed after we withdrew from the agreement, will make it impossible for us to return to the JCPOA.”

The 2015 agreement was intended to rein in Iran’s nuclear programme in return for loosened economic sanctions.

Raisi, who is in Moscow for an official visit, met with Russian President Vladimir Putin the previous day.

Meanwhile, Iran, Russia, and China are set to begin a three-day joint naval drill in the Indian Ocean on Friday, in a bid to reinforce “common security”, according to an Iranian naval official.

The spokesman for the exercises, Admiral Mustafa Tajeddini, told state television that they would include “the participation of 11 naval units from the armed forces of Iran, three units from the Revolutionary Guards’ navy, three units from Russia and two units from China.”

He added that they would take place over an area of 17,000 square kilometres in the northern Indian Ocean.

Tajeddini claims they aim to “enhance capabilities and combat readiness, strengthen military ties between the Iranian, Russian and Chinese navies, ensure common security and counter maritime terrorism”.

The three countries held similar drills in the Gulf of Oman and the Indian Ocean in late 2019, when tensions had risen between Iran and its US-allied Arab neighbours in the Gulf.

Slouching Towards the Bowls of Wrath: Revelation 16

U.S. President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev signing the arms control agreement banning the use of intermediate-range nuclear missiles, the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Reduction Treaty, Washington DC, December 8, 1987.

Slouching Towards Armageddon

As Cold War-type dangers return, we should restore the things that once pulled the world back from the brink.

January 20, 2022 11:27 AM ET

As we begin year three of a global pandemic, evidence continues to mount that a period of historic global instability and economic disruption has exacerbated major-power tensions that are veering dangerously towards conflict. With bellicose rhetoric and military provocations increasing dramatically along the U.S.-Russia-China axis, the current era begins to bear an alarming resemblance to the darkest early days of the Cold War, when missteps and miscalculations created crises like the Berlin blockade of 1948, the Korean War of the early 1950s, and the Cuban missile crisis in 1962, pushing the major powers to the brink. Little wonder that the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists has set its Doomsday Clock to just one hundred seconds to midnight, the closest it’s ever been to Armageddon. 

To reset the clock, the administration and Congress must rediscover a consensus on the looming threat, and begin rebuilding the strategic architecture of arms control and verification treaties, confidence-building and de-confliction protocols, and open lines of communication that kept the Cold War from turning hot for decades. Time is of the essence.

Just in recent weeks Russia has amassed more than 100,000 troops on its border with Ukraine, reportedly sent saboteurs into eastern Ukraine to potentially stage a “false flag” incident as a pretext for invasion, and likely launched a massive cyberattack on government websites in Kyiv. Before recently test-firing a new, nuclear-capable Zircon hypersonic cruise missile from a submarine, President Vladimir Putin even stressed that it could reach Washington, D.C., and “those who give the orders” in “five minutes.” That was the kind of veiled threat rarely heard from a Russian leader since Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev told a gathering of Western leaders in 1956 that “We will bury you!”

Meanwhile, as the new year dawns in the Indo-Pacific, China has recently ramped up its threats and military coercion aimed at Taiwan, flying record numbers of warplanes into Taipei’s air defense zone and holding military exercises simulating an invasion of the island. Recently China also successfully tested a nuclear-capable hypersonic weapons system that caught the U.S. intelligence community by surprise. After U.S. satellites recently revealed two previously unknown Chinese missile “fields” with more than 200 silos for intercontinental ballistic missiles, the Pentagon warned that Beijing’s nuclear arsenal is on track to triple or even quadruple by the end of the decade, giving it a “first strike” capability for the first time.

With the United StatesRussia, and China all in the midst of an aggressive modernizations of their nuclear weapons arsenals, the kind of runaway arms race that left the world awash in doomsday weapons at the height of the Cold War is not just a distant possibility – it has already begun.  Unfortunately, this period of major power tensions also comes at a time when the carefully constructed Cold War architecture of strategic stability measures is near collapse. 

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To its credit, the Biden administration has noted this dangerous downward spiral, and has taken steps to try and stabilize a roiling geopolitical landscape. Confronted last year with the imminent sunset of New START – the last treaty limiting the size on the nuclear arsenals of the United States and Russia, which together possess 90 percent of the world’s nuclear weapons – Biden and Putin extended the treaty for the maximum five years. That gives negotiators critical breathing room to begin discussing a host of thorny issues that must be addressed in a follow-on treaty, to include the implication of new technologies such as hypersonic delivery systems; a much needed ban on kinetic anti-satellite weapons tests that befoul the space commons; and new norms for insuring cyberattacks are never used to target nuclear command-and-control and early warning systems.  

The Biden-Putin summit in Geneva last summer, and a follow-on Strategic Stability Dialogue between U.S. and Russian negotiators, were important steps towards trying to lower the temperature and place guardrails around flash points. So was a virtual summit in November between Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping. But a threatened Russian invasion of Ukraine would reverse those gains. 

The Biden administration will also soon release its Nuclear Posture Review, which arms control advocates hope will honor the president’s pledge to reduce the role of nuclear weapons in U.S. strategic doctrine. A good beginning would be a statement that the “sole purpose” of the U.S. nuclear arsenal is to deter or retaliate against a nuclear attack. The recent Joint Statement from the leaders of the five officially recognized nuclear weapons states (China, Russia, the United States, France and Great Britain) committing to “Preventing Nuclear War and Avoiding Arms Races” was another positive step, especially their affirmation that “a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.” That phrase echoes the pledge taken by former President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in 1985 that helped pave the way for an end to the Cold War arms race. 

The Nuclear Posture Review debate also presents Congressional leaders with a critical opportunity. Given the pervasive climate of hyper-partisanship and distrust in Washington, D.C., many lawmakers today have little memory of the sustained bipartisanship that was necessary to build the foundation of strategic stability that kept the Cold War dormant for decades. Congressional leaders should seize that opportunity to rekindle the consensus-building spirit of the bipartisan Arms Control Observer Group of the 1980s, the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction Program of the 1990s, and the National Security Working Group of the 1990s and 2000s – all of which fostered greater cooperation on strategic issues within Congress, and between Congress and the executive branch.

The world is enduring a period of profound instability as it copes with a global pandemic, one of the worst economic shocks since the Great Depression, and the worst tensions in major power relations since the early days of the Cold War. These crises come at a time when the treaties and multilateral institutions that are the foundation of the international order and strategic stability are wobbling.  In the past such periods of deep economic distress and geopolitical tensions have given rise to dark political forces, and are ripe for confrontation among nation-states. History will not judge kindly American political leaders who were complicit in adding a runaway nuclear arms race to that volatile mix. 

James Kitfield is a senior fellow at the Center for the Study of the Presidency & Congress, and a three-time recipient of the Gerald R. Ford Award for Distinguished Reporting on National Defense.

Doomsday clock remains at closest point to midnight: Revelation 8

Doomsday clock remains at closest point to midnight

By Rebecca Beitsch and Laura KellyJanuary 20, 2022 – 11:36 AM EST

Like the sands of the hourglass, the world is slipping toward self-destruction one second at a time, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists concluded Thursday, once again setting the hands of the famed Doomsday clock at 100 seconds to midnight. 

For the third year in a row, the clock was set in seconds, not minutes, to show urgency behind the metaphor of how close the Earth is to annihilation. 

“Steady is not good news. In fact, it reflects the judgment of the board that we are stuck in a perilous moment, one that brings neither stability nor security,” Sharon Squassoni, co-chair of the Science and Security Board for the Bulletin and a professor at the Institute for International Science and Technology Policy at George Washington University, said at a press conference.

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists created the clock in 1947 to represent how close the planet was to annihilation by nuclear weapons. In more recent years, the journal has also weighed the effects of climate change and other emerging threats in setting the clock. 

On the seventy-fifth anniversary of the clock, the bulletin’s experts outlined a host of threats facing the world, from disinformation stoking division, an increase in global tensions fueling a nuclear arms race, a pandemic highlighting nation’s inability to battle increasingly frequent outbreaks, and climate change exacerbating natural disasters and global instability. 

The group noted that power struggles continue to exacerbate the world’s risk of destruction, with the extension of the New START nuclear treaty offset by nuclear ambitions in Iran, North Korea, India and Pakistan, while competition between the U.S., China and Russia only adds to instability on a security front.   

“The Doomsday Clock is not set by good intentions, but rather by evidence of action, or in this case inaction,” Scott D. Sagan, a Stanford University professor, told reporters. “Signs of nuclear arms races are clear.” 

Disinformation also played a particularly notable role in keeping the clock at the closest point to midnight in history, with experts noting its impact on democracy, climate change, and the pandemic, with an increasing number of people falsely believing in widespread voter fraud, skeptical of vaccination, and disinterested in curbing behavior that warms the planet.  

“The resulting factors mean a world in which different and antagonistic political tribes each live in their own factual universes. This is not a world governed by reason or reality and is itself an existential threat to modern civilization as we have come to know it,” said Herb Lin, a senior research scholar for cyber policy and security at the Center for International Security and Cooperation. 

Rachel Bronson, president of the Bulletin, noted that global challenges had changed little since 2021, when the clock stayed at 100 seconds to midnight in a reflection of optimism over the election of President Bidenand pronouncements to address the threat of nuclear weapons, through the New START missile treaty with Russia and an intention to revive the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran.   

“We continue to believe that human beings can manage the dangers posed by modern technology even in times of crisis. But if humanity is to avoid an existential catastrophe, one that would dwarf anything it has yet seen, national leaders must do a far better job of countering disinformation, heeding science and cooperating to diminish global risks,” she said. 

“The COVID 19 pandemic serves as a historic wake up call, a vivid illustration, that national governments and international organizations are unprepared to manage complex and dangerous challenges like those of nuclear weapons and climate change, which currently puts existential threat to humanity, or other dangers including more virulent pandemics [or] next generation warfare that could threaten civilization in the near future.” 

2020 marked the first time the doomsday clock moved to 100 seconds to midnight, the closest it’s ever been to the endpoint for destruction and the first time it was measured in seconds rather than minutes, reflecting the urgency of the moment. 

The announcement reflected an increase in tensions between the U.S. and Iran that came in January of that year with the U.S.’ targeted killing of top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani, and the growing dangers of failing to address climate change. 

The 2020 announcement, made in January, occurred ahead of the World Health Organization declaring the quickly circulating coronavirus a global pandemic. 

—Updated at 5:50 p.m.