The Iranian horn continues to expand: Daniel 8

Rafael Grossi, director-general of the IAEA, talked to the AP news agency in Berlin [Markus Schreiber/AP]

Iran starts building underground nuclear facility: IAEA | Middle East | Al Jazeera

UN’s atomic watchdog confirms Iran has started building an underground centrifuge assembly plant.

Inspectors from the United Nations’ atomic watchdog have confirmed Iran has started building an underground centrifuge assembly plant after its previous one exploded in what Tehran called a sabotage attack, according to the agency’s head.

Iran also continues to stockpile greater amounts of low-enriched uranium, but does not appear to possess enough to produce a weapon, Rafael Grossi, director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), told The Associated Press on Tuesday in an interview in Berlin.

Following the July explosion at the Natanz nuclear site, Tehran said it would build a new, more secure, structure in the mountains around the area.

Satellite images of Natanz analysed by experts have yet to show any obvious signs of construction at the site in Iran’s central Isfahan province.

“They have started, but it’s not completed,” Grossi said. “It’s a long process.”

He would not give further details saying it’s “confidential information”. Iran’s mission to the UN did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Flashpoint for Western fears

Natanz hosts the country’s main uranium enrichment facility. In its long underground halls, centrifuges rapidly spin uranium hexafluoride gas to enrich uranium.

Natanz became a flashpoint for Western fears about Iran’s nuclear programme in 2002, when satellite photos showed Iran building an underground facility at the site, about 200km (125 miles) south of the capital, Tehran.

In 2003, the IAEA visited Natanz, which Iran said would house centrifuges for its nuclear programme, buried under about 7.6 metres (25 feet) of concrete. That offers protection from a potential air attack on the site, which also is guarded by anti-aircraft positions.

Natanz had been targeted by the Stuxnet computer virus previously, which is believed to be a creation of the United States and Israel.

Iran has yet to say who it suspects of carrying out the sabotage in the July incident. Suspicion has fallen on Israel, despite a claim of responsibility by a previously unheard-of group at the time.

Under provisions of the landmark 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, Iran is allowed to produce a certain amount of enriched uranium for non-military purposes but receives strict inspections to ensure it is not developing weapons.

In return, Iran was offered economic incentives by the countries involved and significant sanctions relief.

Since President Donald Trump pulled the US unilaterally out of the deal in 2018 and re-imposed sanctions, the other signatories – Germany, France, the United Kingdom, Russia and China – have struggled to keep the deal alive.

Meanwhile, Iran has been steadily exceeding the deal’s limits on how much uranium it can stockpile, the purity to which it can enrich uranium, and other restrictions to pressure those countries to come up with a plan to offset US sanctions.

Still though, Iran has continued to allow IAEA inspectors full access to its nuclear facilities, including Natanz, Grossi said.

In the latest IAEA quarterly report, the agency reported as of August 25 Iran had stockpiled 2,105.4kg (4,641.6 pounds) of low-enriched uranium, well above the 202.8kg (447.1 pounds) allowed under the nuclear deal.

It was also enriching uranium to a purity of 4.5 percent, higher than the 3.67 percent allowed under the accord.

In the next report, due in coming weeks, Grossi said: “We continue to see the same trend that we have seen so far.”

‘Significant quantity’

According to a widely cited analysis by the Washington-based Arms Control Association, Iran would need about 1,050kg (1.16 tonnes) of low-enriched uranium – under 5 percent purity – in gas form and would then need to enrich it further to weapons-grade, or more than 90 percent purity, to make a nuclear weapon.

The IAEA’s current assessment is, however, that Iran does not at the moment possess a “significant quantity” of uranium – defined by the agency as enough to produce a bomb – according to Grossi.

“At the moment, I’m not in contact with my inspectors but by memory, I wouldn’t say so,” he said.

“All of these are projections and the IAEA is not into speculation,” he added. “What may happen? What could happen? We are inspectors, we say the amounts that we see.”

Iran insists it has no interest in producing a bomb and Grossi noted before the nuclear agreement, Tehran enriched its uranium up to 20 percent purity, which is just a short technical step away from the weapons-grade level of 90 percent. And in 2013, Iran’s stockpile of enriched uranium was already more than 7,000kg (7.72 tonnes) with higher enrichment, but it did not pursue a bomb.

“The idea of a ‘significant quantity’ is a technical parameter … that applies in the context of the safeguards agreement to indicate amounts which could be theoretically used for the development of a nuclear weapon,” he said.

“The fact that there could be such an amount would not indicate automatically that a nuclear weapon is being fabricated, so I think we have to be very careful when we use these terms.”

Grossi personally visited Tehran in late August for meetings with top officials and managed to break a months-long impasse over two locations thought to be from the early 2000s where Iran was suspected of having stored or used undeclared nuclear material and possibly conducted nuclear-related activities.

Inspectors have now taken samples from both of those sites, and Grossi said they are still undergoing lab analysis.

“It was a constructive solution to a problem what we were having,” he said. “And I would say since then we have kept the good level of cooperation in the sense that our inspectors are regularly present and visiting the sites.”

Source : AP

The danger of the Russian and China nuclear horns: Daniel 7

Russia and China’s Nuclear Weapons are Becoming More Dangerous

What does that mean for U.S. nuclear doctrine and strategy? One top U.S. official has some ideas. 

The U.S. must massively “revise” its nuclear weapons-oriented 21st-Century Strategic Deterrence Theory to reinvigorate its arsenal of current and future weapons of mass destruction as a way to stay in front of fast-modernizing rivals, the Commander of U.S. Strategic Command said. 

Adm. Charles Richard told a prominent think tank that the U.S. must quickly and efficiently prepare to face two major nuclear-armed rivals in the coming years, citing Chinese and Russian nuclear-weapons modernization as well as fast-emerging threats posed by North Korea and Iran. 

Having not faced a major nuclear rival in decades, the U.S. needs to fortify and strengthen its deterrence posture through the construction of new nuclear-weapons and maintenance of current systems, Richard said, according to a Pentagon report. 

“Given Russia and China’s expanding capabilities in increasingly aggressive behavior, and those posed by nuclear North Korea and possibly Iran, we must reinvigorate the national conversation on the importance of strategic deterrence,” Richard told the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

The fundamental concept of deterrence theory is of course grounded upon the premise that the massive amount of destructive power contained in nuclear weapons help, if even somewhat paradoxically, keep peace and prevent war. The current climate, however, is one in which major rivals such as Russia have built new low-yield nuclear weapons and, as Richard put it, blurred the line between conventional and nuclear weapons. This blurring, some suggest, could lower the threshold to nuclear war of some kind. 

Russia’s addition of new low-yield tactical nuclear weapons is likely one reason why the Trump administration’s Nuclear Posture Review has inspired the U.S. to create new, low-yield sea-launched nuclear-armed cruise missiles and ballistic missiles.

 “Our post-Cold War experiences of operating in uncontested domains are over. Our adversaries took advantage of this period, emboldened … their aggressive behavior, expanded their capabilities and reconsidered their tactics and strategies.” 

What would it mean to revise deterrence theory?

Perhaps an even larger nuclear arsenal than that which is currently planned? Richard could be referring to a number of possibilities, including the continued acceleration of the Pentagon’s new ICBM program, Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent. DoD plans to build as many as 400 new, more resilient, reliable and accurate ICBMs to replace the 1960s-era Minuteman IIIs. As part of this strategy, Richard also stressed the importance of upgrading and maintaining the Minuteman IIIs for the purpose of preventing a lapse in weaponry as GBSD comes online. 

It may also be possible that Richard intends to advocate for the Pentagon to acquire larger numbers of its now-in-development SLBM, Submarine Launched Ballistic Missile. This nuclear-armed SLBM has already been engineered as a new, lower-yield variant of the well known Trident II D5 weapon. 

Kris Osborn is Defense Editor for the National Interest. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army—Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also has a Masters Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.

Image: Creative Commons. 

How Israel is Striking the Shi’a Horn

Covert strikes against Iran recount Israeli campaign against Iraq

Ted SniderOctober 27, 2020

A handout image supplied by the IIPA (Iran International Photo Agency) shows a view of the reactor building at the Russian-built Bushehr nuclear power plant as the first fuel is loaded, on August 21, 2010 in Bushehr, southern Iran. (Photo: IIPA/Getty Images)

The country had become an existential threat. It was ruled by a megalomaniac who wanted Israel eliminated. And now he wanted a nuclear bomb. 

The leader claimed his nuclear program was purely a civilian program, but Israel knew that was not true. So, it set the program back. Israel undertook covert assassinations of nuclear scientists. And, when that did not work, it blew up a nuclear facility.

But the country wasn’t Iran. This was Iraq under Saddam Hussein who came to power in 1979 and ruled for 24 years. To challenge the nuclear program, Israel used assassinations, sabotage and targeted strikes in Iraq, a signature that is today found in Iran. 

Over the summer, an explosion obliterated the Natanz nuclear enrichment facility in central Iran. Early sources placed responsibility for the July 3, 2020 strike on Israel, although responsibility is unconfirmed. Subsequent reporting, including by The New York Times, continued to lay the blame on Israel. Making the case stronger, former Israeli defense minister Avigdor Liberman, on July 6, named the Middle Eastern intelligence source who leaked Israel’s role as Mossad chief Yossi Cohen.

Yet Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz denied the allegation, saying “Not every incident that transpires in Iran necessarily has something to do with us. … All those systems are complex, they have very high safety constraints and I’m not sure they always know how to maintain them.” Leaving aside Gantz’ humor, the explosion was not the result of an accident.

BBC reporter Jiyar Gol said he received an email from an unknown group called the Homeland Cheetahs that claimed responsibility for an attack on the Natanz nuclear site two hours earlier. It was only several hours later that Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization announced that there had been an explosion at the Natanz nuclear plant. The group is likely not real, but the email shows that someone knew about the act of sabotage long before it happened.

An unnamed Middle Eastern security official told the Washington Post, “There was an opportunity, and someone in Israel calculated the risk and took the opportunity.”

Looking back to Israel’s intervention in Iraq offers insights into the more current spat of bombings. By 1973, Iraq’s nuclear program began under then Prime Minister Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr, although by 1973 Saddam was fully in charge and al-Bakr was a figurehead only. Israel responded by establishing a team called New Era whose job was to frustrate Iraq’s plan to acquire nuclear weapons. One of the first strategies they tried was assassinating nuclear scientists who were key to the program.

Israeli historian Ronen Bergman reported in “Rise and Kill First: The Secret History of Israel’s Targeted Assassinations,” on April 6, 1979 operatives from Mossad’s especially clandestine Bayonet unit blew up a hangar in France. It housed machines that formed a part of the nuclear reactor France was selling to Iraq. The explosion set back the Iraqi nuclear program.

According to Bergman the switch to target assassinations began with Yehia al-Mashad, an Egyptian nuclear physicist who was hired as a senior scientist in Iraq’s nuclear program. Allegedly, the Mossad began to follow him in early 1980, tracking him for about four months. Then they allegedly killed him in a French hotel by cracking his head with a large, heavy ashtray.

Six months later, the Mossad allegedly checked off the second name on its list: Abd al-Rahman Rasoul. Rasoul was a civil engineer in charge of the construction of buildings for the nuclear project. He was shot to death but a postmortem found a strange virus in his system. He reported feeling like he had food poisoning. In a way, he did. The next to die was Salman Rashid al-Lami. Al-Lami was an engineer who was training to enrich uranium in Geneva. But Switzerland was no safer than France for an Iraqi nuclear scientist. He was killed by a mysterious virus.

Three down.

The assassination program did not stop Saddam. Slain scientists were replaced by new scientists, and the program went on. After a year of extra-judicial killings, the Mossad knew their plan wasn’t working. Assassinations yielded to bombs.

On June 7, 1981, 14 Israeli aircraft took off and headed into Iraqi airspace in an illegal act of war. They dropped bomb after bomb on Iraq’s Osirak nuclear reactor, utterly obliterating it. 

Three decades later, the pattern would repeat itself. 

Almost exactly 30 years after Yehia al-Mashad, the Mossad allegedly detonated a remote controlled bomb planted on a motorcycle next to the car of Massoud Ali Mohammadi. The bomb killed the Iranian physicist. Ten Iranians who were accused of working for the Mossad were arrested. One of them, Jamali Fashi, said in a confession that aired on Iranian state TV and cannot be independently verified, he was given a computer by the Mossad in general and instructions to assassinate Ali Mohammadi. Fashi was convicted and hung in 2012.

In November 2010, a motorcycle was again used to kill Majid Shahriyari. Motorcycle riders attached a magnetized bomb to his car. The future head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Association, Fereydoun Abbasi-Davani, escaped being killed in the same way on the same day when he jumped out of his car.

In the fourth assassination attempt with a motorcycle, the Iranian physicist and nuclear scientist Darioush Rezainejad was killed when two gunmen on motorcycles shot him. Rezainejad played a key role in Iran’s nuclear program. A source in Israel’s intelligence community told Germany’s Der Spiegal that Mossad was behind the assassination of Rezainejad.

Again employing a motorcycle and a magnetized bomb, this time placed on the roof of the car, Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan, a scientist involved in purchasing equipment for Iran’s nuclear program, was assassinated on January 11, 2012. Thirteen were arrested two weeks later on suspicion of working for Israel.

In November 2011, Major General Hassan Moqqadam, a pioneer in Iranian missile development, was killed in a massive explosion at a military arms depot that houses Iran’s long-range Shahab missiles. That was the second time there had been an explosion at a Shahab missile base. Time magazine revealed that a western intelligence source said that he assumes Mossad was behind the explosion.

Two senior officials in the Obama administration told NBC news that the assassinations were carried out by the Mujahideen-e-Khalq (MEK), an Iranian opposition group that spent many years on America’s terrorist list. They also alleged that the MEK was “financed, trained, and armed” by Israeli intelligence. 

In Iran, as in Iraq before it, assassinations proved insufficient to kill the nuclear program. But history has shown us, the pattern of extra-judicial killings and covert strikes will endure. 

The China horn balks at U.S. efforts for nuclear arms talks: Daniel 7

China balks at U.S. efforts for nuclear arms talks

Ramesh Thakur

Sep 30, 2020

Beijing perceives U.S. policy as being increasingly aggressive and aimed at containing China. Nuclear forces are seen as the ultimate guarantor of national security. | REUTERS

During the Cold War, the nuclear landscape was dominated by the globe-spanning U.S.–Soviet bipolar rivalry. Russia and the United States still account for over 90 percent of the world’s stockpile of nuclear weapons. The emerging strategic rivalry, however, is between the U.S. as the weakening hegemon and China as the rising comprehensive national power. This is why Washington decided it could no longer ignore the nuclear challenge to its interests in the vast Indo–Pacific maritime space posed by China’s absence from the missile prohibitions of the INF treaty. About 95 percent of China’s missiles are in the INF range, enabling it to target forward-deployed U.S. forces and allied territory, including Japan, Guam and Australia, with relatively inexpensive precision-strike conventional capability.

Without INF restrictions, the U.S. can develop and station ground-launched intermediate-range cruise missiles in Guam, Japan, South Korea, and northern Australia that could reach deep into China’s interior. However, the search for Pacific allies prepared to host intermediate range conventional U.S. missiles aimed at China will be challenging, with the downsides in bilateral relations with China and domestic political opposition likely to outweigh potential military advantages.

Speaking after the INF’s demise in August last year, U.S. President Donald Trump said he wanted Beijing to be party to any new nuclear pact with Moscow. China has rejected requests to save the INF by trilateralizing it. Its stockpile of 320 nuclear warheads is not comparable to 6,375 Russian and 5,800 U.S. warheads. On Aug. 6, 2019, Disarmament Ambassador Li Song expressed China’s deep regret and opposition to the “irresponsible unilateral” U.S. withdrawal from the INF. On the same day Fu Cong, director of arms control in China’s Foreign Ministry, cautioned Asia-Pacific countries against permitting INF-ranged missiles to be deployed on their territory.

In an agenda-resetting speech in October 2018, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence outlined a thick catalog of predatory practices and aggressive behavior across a broad front by China. American Secretary of State Mike Pompeo updated the administration’s strategic approach to China in a speech on July 23, depicting China as an existential threat and calling for “a new alliance of democracies.” Where then-President Ronald Reagan had based his arms control dealings with the Soviet Union on the bon mot “trust but verify,” Pompeo said with China’s communist regime, “we must distrust and verify.”

At a news conference on Jan. 22, Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang bluntly rejected U.S. calls for trilateral arms control talks: “The U.S. constantly makes an issue of China on this to dodge and shift its responsibilities for nuclear disarmament.” Beijing has concluded that Trump doesn’t believe in arms control is scapegoating China to pursue his real goal of dissolving the existing U.S.–Russia nuclear arms control regime in order for his country to compete more effectively with China. Nuclear analyst Tong Zhao explains: “China views the U.S. push for trilateral arms control as purely insincere, hypocritical, and hostile against China.” Beijing is also suspicious of arms control as a tool for the strong to undermine the security of the weak.

Washington has remained persistent. In May the new presidential senior envoy on arms control, Marshall Billingslea, expressed interest in a new far-reaching accord to limit all Chinese, Russian, and U.S. nuclear warheads, including those on short-range delivery systems and those kept in storage. This would replace New START but would also require very intrusive verification measures to cover stockpiles. It will be challenging either to persuade China to accept significantly lower numbers of warheads than Russia and the U.S., or alternatively to persuade Moscow and Washington to permit China to reach parity. A third way doesn’t exist. Fu Cong said, “if the U.S. says that they are ready to come down to the Chinese level, China will be happy to participate the next day.” However, “we know that’s not going to happen.”

Especially when Beijing perceives U.S. policy as being increasingly aggressive and aimed at containing China, nuclear forces are seen as the ultimate guarantor of national security. To the Chinese, U.S. refusal to acknowledge mutual vulnerability and efforts to enhance damage-limitation and long-range precision strike capabilities signal a higher nuclear risk threshold. This is an updated version of the classic security dilemma where one side’s defense-cum-deterrence preparedness to bolster national security is perceived by the other side as strengthened offensive capability and hence a threat to its security. This is why China has warned against the development and deployment of missile defense systems that could trigger a “high-tech arms race” which aggravates “the international strategic imbalance.”

Hu Xijin, editor-in-chief of the militantly nationalistic Global Times, argues that “China needs to expand the number of its nuclear warheads to 1,000 in a relatively short time and procure at least 100 DF-41 strategic missiles.” But Zhao responded: “If China were to significantly build up its nuclear arsenal, it would seriously damage its international image and potentially threaten the efficacy and stability of the international nonproliferation regime.” This would undermine China’s “own interest in maintaining regional and international stability.” He notes that China successfully safeguarded its national security against far superior numbers of U.S. and Soviet nuclear warheads during the Cold War. Its current nuclear technological prowess is comparable to Russia and the U.S., and it has hugely better survivability and counter-attack capabilities compared to its assets during the Cold War. Zhao’s warning that “a major expansion of nuclear weapons may bring more fear than respect” deserves to be taken to heart by all nuclear-armed states.

China’s stockpile has remained stable over decades, despite fluctuations in Russian and U.S. numbers, because Beijing doesn’t believe nuclear weapons can be used militarily to fight a war. Rather, they are political weapons to deter nuclear attack and prevent nuclear blackmail. This permits China to adopt asymmetric deterrence postures vis‑a‑vis the U.S. with significantly lower stockpiles. Instead of engaging in a sprint to parity that would fuel the nuclear arms race, China relies on buttressing the survivability and penetrability of its nuclear forces. For example greater maneuverability of the DF-21D missiles makes it difficult for enemy weapons to intercept them, while enhancing the precision of their munitions makes it easier to target moving enemy vessels with them. Multilateral nuclear arms control agreements will have to accommodate the asymmetries in numbers and types of warheads and missiles, doctrines and force postures as they affect the relative military balance of the countries concerned.

Ramesh Thakur is an emeritus professor at the Crawford School of Public Policy, The Australian National University.

America Will Say Nyet to Any Nuclear Warhead Freeze Russia Wants

America Should Set Nyet to Any Nuclear Warhead Freeze Russia Wants | The National Interest

Russia is only open to a nuclear freeze because they are nearly done modernizing their nuclear force. Freezing the U.S. nuclear force as-is would be catastrophic.

Even a one-year temporary freeze may have detrimental consequences as the Defense Department warned the Senate Armed Services Committee that nuclear modernization was at a “tipping point” in September.

The latest New START negotiations have mirrored the Soviet Union’s strategic use of arms control. The Soviets would threaten aggression when the United States began outpacing their technology, scaring the West into negotiations. The negotiations would drag out or result in the West reducing their forces. Once the Soviets caught up, talks would fall apart, or they would simply cheat on an existing agreement.

Arms control is worth pursuing if it serves American national-security interests. Since Russia has continued the Soviet tradition of cheating on almost every-arms control agreement to date, that is unlikely. A nuclear freeze is not a diplomatic victory, it could be the death knell of the U.S. nuclear triad.

Morgan Wirthlin is the Chief of Staff at the Center for Security Policy, a national security think-tank in Washington, D.C. Follow her @morganwirthlin on Twitter.

Image: Reuters

The New Nuclear Treaty is NOT a Victory: Revelation 16

Nuclear weapons ban treaty to enter into force. But is it ‘victory for humanity’? | South China Morning Post

7:25am, 25 Oct, 2020The United Nations announced Saturday that 50 countries have ratified a UN treaty to ban nuclear weapons triggering its entry into force in 90 days, a move hailed by anti-nuclear activists but strongly opposed by the United States and the other major nuclear powers.

As of Friday, the treaty had 49 signatories, and UN officials said the 50th ratification from Honduras had been received.

“This moment has been 75 years coming since the horrific attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the founding of the UN which made nuclear disarmament a cornerstone,” said Beatrice Fihn, executive director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize-winning coalition whose work helped spearhead the nuclear ban treaty. “The 50 countries that ratify this Treaty are showing true leadership in setting a new international norm that nuclear weapons are not just immoral but illegal.”

Thailand, Mexico, South Africa, Bangladesh, New Zealand, Vietnam and the Vatican are among the countries that had already ratified the treaty.

The 50th ratification came on the 75th anniversary of the ratification of the UN Charter which officially established the United Nations and is celebrated as UN Day.

“Today is a victory for humanity, and a promise of a safer future,” Peter Maurer, president of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), said in a statement.

The United States had written to treaty signatories saying the Trump administration believes they made “a strategic error” and urging them to rescind their ratification.

New North Korean intercontinental ballistic missiles. Photo: AFP

The US letter said the five original nuclear powers – the US, Russia, China, Britain and France – and America’s Nato allies “stand unified in our opposition to the potential repercussions” of the treaty.

It says the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, known as the TPNW, “turns back the clock on verification and disarmament and is dangerous” to the half-century-old Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, considered the cornerstone of global non-proliferation efforts.

“The TPNW is and will remain divisive in the international community and risk further entrenching divisions in existing non-proliferation and disarmament fora that offer the only realistic prospect for consensus-based progress,” the letter said. “It would be unfortunate if the TPNW were allowed to derail our ability to work together to address pressing proliferation.”

Threat of nuclear conflict hangs over 75th anniversary of Nagasaki attack

Fihn has stressed that “the non-proliferation Treaty is about preventing the spread of nuclear weapons and eliminating nuclear weapons, and this treaty implements that. There’s no way you can undermine the Nonproliferation Treaty by banning nuclear weapons. It’s the end goal of the Nonproliferation Treaty.”

The NPT sought to prevent the spread of nuclear arms beyond the five original weapons powers. It requires non-nuclear signatory nations to not pursue atomic weapons in exchange for a commitment by the five powers to move toward nuclear disarmament and to guarantee non-nuclear states’ access to peaceful nuclear technology for producing energy.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has supported the nuclear weapons ban treaty, calling it “a very welcome initiative”.

“It is clear for me that we will only be entirely safe in relation to nuclear weapons the day where nuclear weapons no longer exist,” he said. “We know that it’s not easy. We know that there are many obstacles.”

He expressed hope that a number of important initiatives, including US-Russia talks on renewing the New Start Treaty limiting deployed nuclear warheads, missiles and bombers and next year’s review conference of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, “will all converge in the same direction, and the final objective must be to have a world with no nuclear weapons”.

The treaty was approved by the 193-member UN General Assembly on July 7, 2017 by a vote of 122 in favour, the Netherlands opposed, and Singapore abstaining. Among countries voting in favour was Iran. The five nuclear powers and four other countries known or believed to possess nuclear weapons – India, Pakistan, North Korea and Israel – boycotted negotiations and the vote on the treaty, along with many of their allies.

Beatrice Fihn (right) and Setsuko Thurlow accept the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize. File photo: AFP

Setsuko Thurlow, a survivor of the 1945 bombing of Hiroshima, who has been an ardent campaigner for the treaty, said: “When I learned that we reached our 50th ratification, I was not able to stand.”

“I remained in my chair and put my head in my hands and I cried tears of joy,” she said in a statement. “I have committed my life to the abolition of nuclear weapons. I have nothing but gratitude for all who have worked for the success of our treaty.”

Russia Prepares For Nuclear War: Revelation 16

Satellite images indicate Russia is preparing to resume testing its nuclear-powered cruise missile – CNNPolitics

Washington(CNN) — New satellite images obtained by CNN indicate Russia is preparing to resume test flights of its nuclear-powered cruise missile at a previously-dismantled launch site near the Arctic Circle, according to experts who have analyzed the photos.

The images, captured by Planet Labs in September, show high levels of activity at a site known as Pankovo, previously used by Russia to test its Burevestnik nuclear-powered cruise missile, according to Michael Duitsman and Jeffrey Lewis, researchers at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies.

Russia appeared to pause testing of the missile after 2018, when it dismantled the launch site but “the new satellite photographs indicate that the pause is over,” they added.

“The activity and new construction are consistent with a resumption of test flights of the Burevestnik nuclear-powered cruise missile,” Lewis and Duitsman wrote in a new report, noting that the images show Russia has rebuilt the site’s launch pad and reveal “large numbers of shipping containers at two support areas, including the probable missile checkout building.”

Russia conducted at least one test flight of the nuclear-powered cruise missile from the same site near the Arctic Circle in November 2017. It reportedly carried out multiple other tests in the months that followed, though none were considered to be successful, according to Lewis and Duitsman.

In March 2018, Russian President Vladimir Putin released a video of a nuclear-powered cruise missile test, which allowed open-source researchers including analysts at the Middlebury Institute to identify the location, they added.

Two US officials told CNN that they are aware that Russia has been preparing to test missiles as part of its advanced weapons program.

Earlier this month, the Kremlin said it successfully test-fired a hypersonic cruise missile from a naval ship in the White Sea. And on Tuesday, Russia’s Ministry of Defense posted a video of Oniks cruise missile launch conducted from a military base in the Arctic.

MoD did not respond to CNN’s request for comment about whether there is an upcoming test of the Burevestnik missile.

Evidence that Russia may now be preparing to resume testing of its nuclear powered cruise-missile comes as Washington and Moscow are working to extend the New START treaty, a key arms control agreement that is set to expire in coming months.

Russia says it’s willing to freeze nuclear arsenal to extend arms treaty with US

The top US negotiator, Marshall Billingslea, suggested in a tweet Friday that talks between the two countries had reached an impasse.

But on Tuesday, Russia’s Foreign Ministry said it is willing to agree to freeze its nuclear arsenals in order to extend New START if the US does not pose any other requirements — an offer that the State Department spokesperson welcomed with urgency saying the US is “prepared to meet immediately to finalize a verifiable agreement.”

Trump has been urging his national security team to secure a nuclear deal with Russia before the November election, sources familiar with the efforts tell CNN. He had initially wanted to bring China into the deal, but China has repeatedly rejected partaking in any discussions.

While Russia has previously stated that its nuclear-powered cruise missile is not covered by the New START treaty, failure to extend the agreement could lead to the emergence of an arms race between the two countries, according to Lewis.

“The arms control framework that secured the post-Cold War has completely disintegrated. If and when the New START treaty expires in a few months, there will be no limits on US and Russian nuclear forces for the first time in fifty years. In its place is a burgeoning arms race as Russia develops one doomsday weapon after another to defeat US missile defenses,” he told CNN.

Trump’s national security adviser calls Putin response to arms control talks a ‘non-starter’

“The United States and Russia seem to be stumbling into a new arms race. This is one of a number of dangerous and destabilizing weapons right out of science fiction that Russia is developing to defeat US missile defenses,” Lewis added, referring to the nuclear-powered cruise missile.

For now, however, nuclear-powered cruise missile development is a way Russia can skirt the terms of New START and achieve intercontinental range that can pose a challenge to national missile defenses, according to Vipin Narang, a nuclear proliferation expert and associate professor at MIT.

“A nuclear powered cruise missile gives a low-flying, radar-evading, nuclear-capable missile intergalactic range that can pose a challenge to national missile defenses,” he told CNN, adding that indications Russia may be preparing another test show “how much our missile defenses drive their developments and how scared they are of them, not today, but tomorrow.”

They are also highly controversial “because it’s crazy to put an unshielded nuclear reactor on a missile to power it,” Narang added, noting that the consequences of testing this type of weapon can be catastrophic if something goes wrong.

That appeared to be the case in 2019 when, Russian state media said, five nuclear agency workers were killed in an explosion at a military test site in northern Russia.

The blast was detected by seismic stations and occurred during tests on a liquid propulsion system involving isotopes, the Russian Defense Ministry said. In other words, the test most likely had some nuclear dimension. And the reflexive secrecy of Putin’s government has only further fueled speculation about the cause of the accident.

At the time, Lewis told CNN that satellite imagery suggested that the incident might have been related to the testing of a nuclear-powered cruise missile.

CNN’s Ryan Browne, Kylie Atwood and Mary Ilyushina contributed to this report

The rising Chinese nuclear horn: Daniel 7

How China has been upping its nuclear arsenal while preaching peace to the world

Chinese MFA had also claimed to be in talks with five nuclear powers

Col Vinayak Bhat (Retd)A recent interview of a Chinese foreign ministry official by a Russian newspaper on the need to control arms race concealed more than it revealed. The interview of FU Cong, director-general of the department of arms control and disarmament, published in ‘Kommersant’ on October 15, makes one thing clear China will not lift the veil of secrecy surrounding its nuclear programme.

FU Cong has had talks with India and Pakistan earlier this year, but refused to share figures of nuclear warheads it possesses. China, however, refuses to participate in talks with the United States and Russia without achieving parity with them in numbers.

The Chinese MFA had also claimed to be in talks with five nuclear powers, obviously not including India and Pakistan, but later hastily retracted the words from its site. So does China really want a world without nuclear arms? India Today OSINT team tries to get the answer to this pertinent question.

Conventional missile power

The US Department of Defence (DoD) Report on Chinese Military Power 2020 indicates that the People’s Liberation Army has become the largest conventional missile power in the world.

The PLA has more than 1,250 land-based conventional ballistic and cruise missiles. These are ground-launched ballistic missiles (GLCMs) and ground-launched cruise missiles (GLCMs) with a range between 50 and 5,000 kms.

Such a wide range of conventional missiles may serve dual purposes for Beijing. While the US is considering converting nuclear warheads into conventional ones, PLA, on the other hand, is planning to convert conventional warheads into nuclear ones. And it won’t be very difficult for China to convert its conventional missile force to a large nuclear force within a short timeframe.

Hypersonic power

China, just like Russia, has achieved technological advancements in the hypersonic field. PLA has already deployed DF-17 missiles with hypersonic glide vehicle (HGV) mount DF-ZF that was displayed during the National Day Parade in Beijing on October 1 last year.

DF-17 is the first fully operational hypersonic weapons system in the world with a total range of more than 4,000 km possibly even 5,000 km. The speed of Chinese HGV is likely to be between 5 and 10 Mach, making it impossible to intercept by present ballistic missile defence (BMD) systems in the world.

The risks will be multiplied manifold if China plans to put nuclear warheads on these systems. If deployed in South China Sea’s reclaimed islands or on Hainan islands, they could well be used to block sea lines of communications (SLOCs). Deployment of hypersonic weapons will also certainly affect strategic stability.

Submarine construction at Huludao

The new facility at Huludao, as indicated earlier by India Today OSINT team, would be able to construct anything up to 10 or more submarines simultaneously. This facility is supposedly fully operational and ready to begin construction of Type 94 and Type 96 submarines with possibly JL-3 missiles.

JL-3 missiles are intercontinental-range submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) expected to carry multiple independent reentry vehicles (MIRVs). The solid-fuelled missile could carry these MIRVs directed at separate targets over a range of more than 12,000 km.

The first Type 96 submarine with new JL-3 missile systems is likely to be launched anytime soon and runs the risk of shattering the fragile strategic balance in the region.

H-6N bombers

Recently, a video shot by a possible aircraft enthusiast went viral on Twitter and other social media, showing the PLAAF new bomber aircraft H-6N carrying a new type of missile under its belly.

The H-6N aircraft was to carry an air-launched derivative of DF-21D anti-ship version named CH-AS-X-13, but it was observed carrying a missile more akin to an air-breathing missile fitted with a possible hypersonic glide vehicle mount at the front.

The video was possibly shot at the northern end of Neixiang airbase, an

active airbase with newly built underground and overground storage systems. The underground facility has at least three 50-metre wide entrances/exits, which will possibly have strong automated entry systems.

The new construction of overground storage and checkout facilities, created along with barracks similar to PLARF architecture, suggests pretty strongly that this base would be a nuclear base for PLAAF. The new H-6N fielding at this base indicates that the new missile observed in the video would most probably be carrying a nuclear warhead.

Risk mitigation

China’s missile force has seen exponential growth in the last five years. The risk of a nuclear conflict is clearly increasing with missiles such as DF-26 carrier-killers with a range of 4,500 km expanding at a phenomenal rate, with at least four units deployed with dual-use thermo-nuclear and conventional warheads.

New weapon systems in PLAAF and expected JL-3 systems on future submarines increase the risks, necessitating their management. FU Cong’s words and PLA’s deeds only indicate that China is buying time to build up enough arsenal to equate itself with the US before coming to the negotiating table.

The international community must pressurise China into joining treaties and agreements that could be bilateral or multilateral to control expansion or proliferation of missiles. China must become more transparent about its nuclear weapons and undertake confidence-building measures (CBMs) with its neighbours.

Until China joins various transparent multilateral arms control agreements or undertakes CBMs, the world will always doubt its intentions and so-called ‘no first use’ policy.

The powerful communist nuclear horns: Daniel 7

AXIS OF EVIL Vladimir Putin warns of Russia-China alliance with three times the tanks & warships of US & 6,810 combined nukes

VLADIMIR Putin has hinted about a future military alliance between Russia and China that would be more powerful than the US.

The two powers combined would outnumber the US Army some two to one, have three times as many tanks and warships, and have more nuclear weapons.

Missile launchers rumble through in Moscow during a military paradeCredit: Getty Images – Getty

Vladimir Putin hinted of a new alliance between Russia and ChinaCredit: AP:Associated Press

China and Russia have the world’s second and third most powerful militaries – and a formal alliance could help tip the scales against the US.

Putin signaled deepening ties between Moscow and Beijing as both have ongoing tensions with Washington.

Russia continues to try and thrash out a new arms treaty, while facing ongoing allegations of election interference in the US along with military tensions in Eastern Europe and the Middle East.

China meanwhile has seen relations with the US plunge to new lows due to the coronavirus pandemic and rows over the South China Sea and Taiwan.

Vlad was quizzed on whether he could envision a military alliance between Moscow and Beijing during a conference call on Thursday.

He replied: “‘We don’t need it, but, theoretically, it’s quite possible to imagine it.”

Russia and China have hailed their “strategic partnership”, but have so far stopped short of creating a formal military alliance.

It would be worrying for the rest of the world as well, especially if Donald Trump wins the US election on November 3.

Trump has long insisted on an “America First” policy, and wants the US to have less involvement in foreign conflicts while also showing scepticism over alliances such as Nato.

Russia and China would outnumber the US – and every other military in the world – but also have advantages in several key areas.

However, even combined the two massive nations lag behind the US in military spending – with a duel total of $302billion, compared to America’s mammoth $430billion.

China has the largest number of active soldiers in the worldCredit: AFP or licensors

Russia and China combined would have 3.2million troopsCredit: Alamy Live News

Russia and China would outnumber the US two-to-one in terms of active military personnel, comparing 3.2million to 1.4million.

They would also have a vastly larger fleet of tanks – with 16,450 total – and warships, with a total of 1,380.

And with Russia already having the largest nuclear stockpile in the world, combining with China’s nukes pushes them in further ahead.

The US however would maintain advantages in some areas, such as having many more warplanes – with 13,264 compared to 7,373.

Aircraft carriers are also one of the most important ways of projecting power worldwide – and the US have 11 with two more under construction.

China has two with one under construction, and Russia has just one extremely old vessel – with the infamous, smoke belching Admiral Kuznetsov.

The US has as many aircraft carriers as the rest of the world combined, and the weapons are essential to asserting global dominance since World War 2.

Russia and China would have three times as many warshipsCredit: Alamy Live News

And an alliance would give them three times as many tanksCredit: Getty Images – Getty

Putin said recent war games Russia and China have carried out highlight how well the two country’s cooperate.

He also hinted that Russia has shared military technology with China, but declined to go into any specifics.

“Without any doubt, our cooperation with China is bolstering the defense capability of China’s army.” Putin said.

“Time will show how it will develop. We won’t exclude it.”

Putin has been key in pushing Russia to develop new weapons, including modernising its nuclear weapons.

He has repeatedly pushed for his country to be on the forefront of development of technologies such as hypersonic missiles, seen as a new frontier in weapons tech.

Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping have been deepening ties amid tensions with the USCredit: Getty Images – Getty

Putin however did say he continues to be eager to signing a new weapons treaty, with the New Start agreement set to expire in February.

The deal was signed in 2010 with US President Barack Obama, and the pact act limits each country to no more than 1,550 deployed nuclear warheads and 700 deployed missiles and bomber.

Trump has however said they would only renew the agreement if China also joins, but Beijing has refused.

US officials are now trying to push through a new agreement – with the Trump administration keen to do so before the election – with a one-year extension.

Henry Holloway

13:48, 23 Oct 2020Updated: 14:14, 23 Oct 2020

The clandestine Iranian nuclear horn: Daniel 8

Iran regime’s clandestine pursuit of nuclear weapons | Arab News

Any policy analysts, scholars or politicians who still advocate for a return to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, aka the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), must recognize how the Iranian regime used the agreement as cover to further intensify its controversial nuclear projects.

Several credible reports and statements from senior Iranian officials have made it clear that Tehran was advancing its nuclear development even after the P5+1 (the US, the UK, France, Russia, China, and Germany) and Iran signed the nuclear deal in 2015.

A report published last week by the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) shows that Tehran was lying to the world when it said it had stopped its nuclear activities under the JCPOA. The report claims that the Iranian regime continued to pursue the development of nuclear weapons, particularly at the Organization of Defensive Innovation and Research, which operates within the Ministry of Defense and is controlled by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).

The NCRI had previously been the first to reveal Iran’s clandestine nuclear activities at two major sites, Natanz and Arak, in 2000. Due to its connections in Iran, its information is said to have a high level of credibility. Frank Pabian, an adviser on nuclear non-proliferation matters at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, told The New York Times in 2010 that the NCRI is “right 90 percent of the time.”

This new revelation should not come as a surprise, since the Tehran regime has a history of hiding its nuclear developments from the international community.

In his 2018 speech to the UN General Assembly, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu broke a story when he stated that Iran had a “secret atomic warehouse for storing massive amounts of equipment and material from (its) secret nuclear weapons program,” at a time when the regime claimed it was complying with the terms of the nuclear deal. Although Iranian leaders insisted that the nuclear warehouse was a carpet cleaning facility, traces of radioactive uranium were later detected at the site by International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors.

In addition, Israel’s seizure of documents from a nuclear archive in Tehran, also in 2018, answered some questions that the IAEA had failed to address for decades. The Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) subsequently reported: “Iran intended to build five nuclear warheads, each with an explosive yield of 10 kilotons and able to be delivered by ballistic missile.”

Even the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, Ali Akbar Salehi, openly admitted to quietly purchasing replacement parts for its Arak nuclear reactor while Iran was conducting the negotiations for the JCPOA, under which it was required to destroy the original components. He recalled last year: “The leader (Ayatollah Ali Khamenei) warned us that they (the P5+1) were violators of agreements. We had to act wisely.” He added of the Arak nuclear reactor core: “There are tubes where the fuel goes. We had bought similar tubes, but I could not declare this at the time. When they told us to pour cement into the tubes… we said: ‘Fine. We will pour.’ But we did not tell them that we had other tubes. Otherwise, they would have told us to pour cement into those tubes as well. Now we have the same tubes.”

Furthermore, IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi in March raised serious concerns about possible clandestine and undeclared nuclear sites in Iran. He said: “The agency identified a number of questions related to possible undeclared nuclear material and nuclear-related activities at three locations in Iran. The agency sought access to two of the locations. Iran has not provided access to these locations and has not engaged in substantive discussions to clarify the agency’s questions.”

These developments demonstrate that the nuclear deal only paved the way for the Iranian regime to intensify its dangerous nuclear activities. The JCPOA provided the regime’s leaders with vast additional funding, most of which was funneled into the treasury of the IRGC for its ballistic missile and nuclear projects.