Iran Lays Out Another Obama-Biden Deal

Iran lays out “road map” for nuclear talks with Biden

Barak Ravid20 hours ago – World

Iran has been accumulating bargaining chips and laying out its strategy for engagement with Joe Biden, who arrives in office promising to return the U.S. to the 2015 nuclear deal if Iran returns to compliance.

Why it matters: Recent statements from Iran’s leaders indicate that they’re willing to strike such a deal. But the sides differ over who will have to make the first move, and when.

The big picture: Returning to the deal would require Iran to roll back its recent nuclear acceleration and the U.S. to lift sanctions. Biden views that as the baseline from which to negotiate a broader and longer-lasting agreement.

• Secretary of State designate Tony Blinken reiterated that in his confirmation hearing on Tuesday, but said the incoming administration was “a long way” from returning to the deal.

• Iran’s presidential elections in June will loom large over any timeline.

What’s happening: Anticipating negotiations, the Iranians have taken or threatened several steps designed to build leverage, most notably by producing 20% enriched uranium in a clear breach of the deal’s terms.

• Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf, the speaker of Iran’s parliament, said this was done “to produce strength in the area of diplomacy.” He added that Europe’s immediate engagement on the issue showed the strategy was working.

• Next, Iran informed the International Atomic Energy Agency it intended to start producing uranium metal, which can be used to develop nuclear warheads.

• Perhaps most ominously, the Iranians are threatening to limit inspectors’ access to their nuclear facilities at the beginning of February.

Driving the news: In a speech on Jan. 8, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei laid out his position, saying Iran doesn’t trust the U.S. and is in no rush.

• But he added that if Biden lives up to America’s commitments, Iran will do the same.

In the ensuing days, a series of very senior Iranian officials — all members of a committee that oversees the nuclear deal — echoed that message in “interviews” published on Khamenei’s official website, in what seemed to be an orchestrated show of unity.

• The officials were: Qalibaf; Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif; Khamenei advisers Ali Larijani and Ali Akbar Velayati; Atomic Energy Organization chief Ali Akbar Salehi; former Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi; and former national security adviser Saeed Jalili.

What they’re saying: The officials repeatedly referred to a “road map” of steps both sides should take. It begins with the U.S. lifting sanctions.

• The officials said they’d treat an announcement from Biden on returning to the deal as meaningless unless it comes with sanctions relief.

• “If Mr. Biden signs an executive order, we will sign one too. Whenever he puts it into action, we will put ours into action as well,” Zarif said.

• Iran wants sanctions lifted in one comprehensive action and not in a gradual step-by-step process. Larijani, a likely leading presidential candidate, said the U.S. won’t fool Iran with “a piece of candy.”

The highest priorities for Iran are the lifting of sanctions on oil exports and the Iranian banking system, as well as the unfreezing of Iranian assets abroad.

• “We should be able to carry out our economic dealings normally and easily — be that imports or exports,” Qalibaf said in one of the interviews. 

After both sides return to compliance, Iran said it is ready for further negotiations on a nuclear deal 2.0.

• As part of these negotiations, Iran will demand compensation for damages it has suffered as a result of Trump’s withdrawal.

• Another condition for future negotiations is the cancellation of the snapback mechanism that allows the U.S. or other parties to the deal to quickly renew UN sanctions on Iran.

• According to Zarif, Iran will demand that the U.S. take steps to guarantee that a new administration won’t unravel the next deal as Trump did the previous one.

What’s next: Raz Zimmt, an Iran expert at the Israeli Institute for National Security Studies, says the Iranians won’t renegotiate the 2015 deal or return to compliance without sanctions relief.

• But, he said, they could agree to an interim deal in which the U.S. lifts most of the sanctions in return for Iran rolling back most of its nuclear advancements since 2019.

• “In any case, Khamenei won’t compromise on the principled positions he laid out because doing that would be like admitting that Trump’s maximum pressure policy worked,” Zimmt said.

Hybrid Threats & Warfare in South Asia Before the First Nuclear War: Revelation 8

Hybrid Threats & Warfare in South Asia

Daniyal TalatJanuary 8, 2021

Since ancient times, security has been one of the most important concerns of humans. Humans have always felt insecure due to either wild animals or tribes who would come at night and assault them to loot their animals, women, and children. Today, after ages, human is still not secure. Potent armies and nuclear weapons did provide some sense of security in terms of consolidating physical boundaries, but technology has also changed the entire shape of warfare. Proxy wars and hybrid threats are the terms of modern times. One thing that can be said that the prosperity and the development of a nation in today’s world is conditional to its ability to counter hybrid threats.

Hybrid warfare is one of the most talked about type of warfare in current time. It is also known as “Grey Zone conflict” or “low intensity conflict”. Hybrid warfare is the way to achieve the objectives or interests without using force. It is the combination of regular forces, irregular forces, proxy wars, criminal networks, terrorist activities, political organization, and insurgent groups to carry out the blend of traditional and non-traditional act of war. It is supported by political pressure, economic pressure, information influence and cyber operations.

Hybrid warfare is surrounded by the public opinion.  It is basically not to defeat the enemy or adversary, but it is meant to demoralize the enemy. In fact, it is a way to achieve objectives without fighting. It was emerged in the early period of the 21st century. It has been used in context of non-state actors since many years.Labelling warfare as hybrid warfare does not change the core objectives of war. Its goal is to exploit the threat or use organized form of violence in your advantage to gain victory over an opponent. Instruments that were used in a warfare will not be going to be used in a hybrid warfare which complicates the problem. Regardless of how the threat is labelled, strategists must decide how best to address the methods employed by their adversaries, whether state or non-state actors. Usually, the best strategies involve the coordination and direction of all the effective instruments of state power, no matter how the world will define the threat.

South Asia was faced with a hybrid challenge long before Western theorists coined the term. The LTTE is, in many ways, an early example of hybrid threat; it had state-like military capability by having an army, navy, and air force; it tried to use illegal organisations to help support the guerrilla movement; it also had a complex media network around the globe. It took decades for the Sri Lankan government to transform its own fighting strategy into a hybrid one as well, before the LTTE could be defeated.

Dr. Ashfaque Hasan khan (Dean of social sciences at NUST, Islamabad) said that the pace of hybrid warfare has become rapid since the last four to five years. Furthermore, the people of Pakistan has not yet realized about this warfare because this warfare has the beauty of deception and misinformation.Pakistan is facing the economic pressure and political instabilities; both are the big influencing instrument of hybrid warfare. The kind of impact that this war imply depends on the strength of the aggressor. Pakistan has on several occasions given ample information to the Indian authorities of Indian clandestine funding for a variety of terrorist activities. Former United States Secretary of Defense, Chuck Hagel, has also suggested that India is using Afghan soil to fund Pakistan’s problems.These Indian infiltrations in Pakistan are a prominent feature of hybrid warfare as Webster G. Tarpley, a prominent US based analyst revealed that “the chosen strategy is to massively export the Afghan civil war into Pakistan and beyond, fracturing Pakistan along ethnic lines.”

At the external stage, the 2001 bombing on the Indian Parliament, Mumbai mayhem in 2008, the 2016 attack at Pathankot and the 2019 Pulwama incident were all blamed on Pakistan in a strongly clear and immediate way, although these allegations were mainly based on circumstantial facts.This narrative was further strengthened by the political power of India around the world to mark Pakistan as a state that supports terrorism and to portray itself as its target as part of its own hybrid war policy.As a result, Pakistan is being forced to fight this hybrid warfare by better preparedness and a coordinated policy, as this ‘new normal’ continues to challenge Pakistan’s national security.Pakistan is being forced into this warfare as this is clear as how Kulbhushan Jadhav, a serving Indian military officer, was accused of treason within Pakistan and caught supportingterrorism in Baluchistan. In addition, the Baluchistan Liberation Army (BLA), a militant organisation known for decades to be supported by India, was also allegedly involved in an attack on the Chinese Consulate in Karachi back in November 2018.Maj Gen Babar Iftikhar, the chief of the military’s media wing stated that India is engaged in a ‘fifth generation warfare’ and trying to block Pakistan’s path to development, primarily by targeting the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and trying to deform the Pakistan’s image in front of International arena. He also stated, “Unfortunately, it’s a major onslaught, it’s a major part of the fifth-generation warfare. Pakistan is being subjected to […] hybrid applications in a massive way and we are aware of that.” In response to India’s Hybrid warfare, Pakistan submitted a dossier and try to bring attention of the whole world on Indian-state sponsored terrorism in Pakistan.

Keeping in view the vastness of the hybrid threats no army alone has the wherewithal to counter them. In most cases states find themselves short of capacity to counter such threats. Since anything and everything comes under the ambit of hybrid threats either directly or indirectly, countering them is only possible through a national resolve and commitment. This resolve and commitment must be reflected in every aspect of life of its citizens.Carl von Clausewitz, a Prussian general and military theorist stated, “Every age has its own kind of war, its own limiting conditions, and its own peculiar preconceptions” and this is the age of Hybrid warfare.

Iran is basically nuclear ready

Iran can “easily” enrich uranium to 90 pct purity: nuke spokesman

TEHRAN, Jan. 7 (Xinhua) — Iran can enrich uranium to 90 percent of purity, the spokesman for the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) announced on Thursday.

Our achievements are so great that we can easily enrich uranium in different percentages up to 90 percent,” Behrooz Kamalvandi told state TV.

“If enrichment above 20 percent is required in some areas, the AEOI can do that,” said Kamalvandi.

The 20-percent uranium enrichment process was launched on Monday as part of Iran’s Strategic Action Plan to Counter Sanctions which was approved by the parliament in December 2020. Enditem

Iran WILL get revenge on Biden’s watch

Israelis say Iran may get revenge on Biden’s watch

by Andrew Thompson • January 7, 2021

Israeli spy agency officials said they are concerned about the possibility that after the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden, Iran will seek revenge against the United States for a political assassination ordered by President Donald Trump.

Two former Mossad chiefs and a former Israeli national security council official all said that Iran had failed to avenge the assassination of one of its most senior officials in 2020 but likely would not do so prior to US President-Elect Joe Biden taking office.

However, they also all told The Jerusalem Post that Iran would eventually find a way to avenge the murder of the leader of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force, Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani, who was killed one year ago by an American missile attack.

Trump ordered the assassination of the Iranian military commander.

Former Mossad director Shabtai Shavit told the Jerusalem Post that “the Iranians’ patience is never-ending.”

Former Mossad director Danny Yatom said, “the assassination was a very impressive one of strategic value covering the full field with Iran,” but Soleimani, “was much more than just the leader of the Quds Force.”

The former spy chief, who led Mossad from 1996-1998, said Soleimani was very close to Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and his death was a harsh blow to both morale and actual operations of the elite Quds Force.

One of five branches of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, the Quds Force, specializing in unconventional warfare and military intelligence, is analogous to a combination of the CIA and the Joint Special Operations Command in the United States

Maj. Gen. Giora Eiland, Israel’s former national security council chief, said that Iran is unlikely to start a large-scale confrontation with the US before Biden assumes the presidency.

“So I don’t think anything dramatic will happen in the next few days,” said Eiland. “But Iran feels that at some point, it will have to retaliate, if not against the US, then against Israel or Israeli interests.”

Khamenei promised to avenge the blood of his most favored military commander, Soleimani, who was killed in a US airstrike outside Baghdad’s international airport in January.

Khamenei the revenge on those who ordered the assassination and executed it is “definite,” but he did not specify any timing.

The Soleimani killing, directly ordered by Trump, pushed Iran and the United States to the brink of war.

Five days after the assassination, Iran targeted the Ain al-Asad airbase hosting US soldiers in neighboring Iraq with over a dozen missiles.

That attack, which was launched by Iran with a prior notice, killed no one but did cause traumatic brain injuries among US troops.

Given entanglements among various nations and a complete breakdown in diplomacy, a conflict between the United States and Iran could easily escalate into World War III.

Trump’s Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif never spoke directly, according to Iran’s mission at the United Nations.

“The danger of an accidental conflict seems to be increasing over each day,” said U.S. Senator Angus King, a political independent from Maine, who called for direct dialogue between the United States and Iran in 2019.

A senior European diplomat said it was vital for top U.S. and Iranian officials to be on “speaking terms” to prevent an incident from mushrooming into a crisis.

Instead, Biden is coming into the White House with a potentially bloody war brewing in the Middle East in addition to an economy that is worse than the Great Depression and with the coronavirus pandemic death toll approaching yhe half million mark.

Iran damages the wine: Revelation 6:6

Iran starts 20% uranium enrichment, seizes South Korean ship

FILE – This Nov. 4, 2020, file satellite photo by Maxar Technologies shows Iran’s Fordo nuclear site. Iran has told international nuclear inspectors it plans to enrich uranium up to 20% at its underground Fordo nuclear facility, a technical step away from weapons-grade levels, as it increases pressure on the West over its tattered atomic deal.(Maxar Technologies via AP, File)

By JON GAMBRELL and ISABEL DEBRE

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Iran began enriching uranium Monday to levels unseen since its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers and also seized a South Korean-flagged tanker near the crucial Strait of Hormuz, a double-barreled challenge to the West that further raised Mideast tensions.

Both decisions appeared aimed at increasing Tehran’s leverage in the waning days in office for President Donald Trump, whose unilateral withdrawal from the atomic accord in 2018 began a series of escalating incidents.

Increasing enrichment at its underground Fordo facility puts Tehran a technical step away from weapons-grade levels of 90%, while also pressuring President-elect Joe Biden to quickly negotiate. Iran’s seizure of the MT Hankuk Chemi comes as a South Korean diplomat was due to travel to the Islamic Republic to discuss the release of billions of dollars in Iranian assets frozen in Seoul.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif seemed to acknowledge Tehran’s interest in leveraging the situation in a tweet about its nuclear enrichment.

“Our measures are fully reversible upon FULL compliance by ALL,” he wrote.

At Fordo, Iranian nuclear scientists under the watch of International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors loaded centrifuges with over 130 kilograms (285 pounds) of low-enriched uranium to be spun up to 20%, said Kazem Gharibabadi, Iran’s permanent representative to the U.N. atomic agency.

The IAEA later described the Fordo setup as three sets of two interconnected cascades, comprised of 1,044 IR-1 centrifuges — Iran’s first-generation centrifuges. A cascade is a group of centrifuges working together to more quickly enrich uranium.

Iranian state television quoted government spokesman Ali Rabiei as saying that President Hassan Rouhani had given the order to begin the production. It came after its parliament passed a bill, later approved by a constitutional watchdog, aimed at increasing enrichment to pressure Europe into providing sanctions relief.

The U.S. State Department criticized Iran’s move as a “clear attempt to increase its campaign of nuclear extortion.”

“The United States and the rest of the international community will assess Iran’s actions,” the State Department said. “We have confidence that the IAEA will monitor and report on any new Iranian nuclear activities.”

Iran informed the IAEA of its plans to increase enrichment to 20% last week.

Iran’s decision to begin enriching to 20% purity a decade ago nearly triggered an Israeli strike targeting its nuclear facilities, tensions that only abated with the 2015 atomic deal, which saw Iran limit its enrichment in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions.

A resumption of 20% enrichment could see that brinksmanship return. Already, a November attack that Tehran blames on Israel killed an Iranian scientist who founded the country’s military nuclear program two decades earlier.

From Israel, which has its own undeclared nuclear weapons program, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu criticized Iran’s enrichment decision, saying it “cannot be explained in any way other than the continuation of realizing its goal to develop a military nuclear program.”

“Israel will not allow Iran to manufacture a nuclear weapon,” he added.

Tehran has long maintained its nuclear program is peaceful. The U.S. State Department says that as late as last year, it “continued to assess that Iran is not currently engaged in key activities associated with the design and development of a nuclear weapon.” That mirrors previous reports by U.S. intelligence agencies and the IAEA, though experts warn that Iran currently has enough low-enriched uranium for at least two nuclear weapons if it chose to pursue them.

Meanwhile, Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard seized the MT Hankuk Chemi, with photos later released showing its vessels alongside the tanker. Satellite data from MarineTraffic.com showed the tanker off the Iranian port city of Bandar Abbas on Monday.

The ship had been traveling from a petrochemicals facility in Jubail, Saudi Arabia, to Fujairah in the United Arab Emirates. The vessel carries a chemical shipment including methanol, according to data-analysis firm Refinitiv.

Iran alleged it seized the vessel over it allegedly polluting the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz, the gulf’s narrow mouth through which 20% of the world’s oil passes.

The U.S. State Department called for the tanker’s immediate release, accusing Iran of threatening “navigational rights and freedoms” in the Persian Gulf in order to “extort the international community into relieving the pressure of sanctions.”

Calls to the ship’s listed owner, DM Shipping Co. Ltd. of Busan, South Korea, were not answered after business hours Monday. The South Korean news agency Yonhap quoted an anonymous company official denying the Iranian claim the ship polluted the water.

The captain “asked why we have to go and be examined and did not get any answer,” Yonhap quoted the official as saying.

In past months Iran has sought to escalate pressure on South Korea to unlock some $7 billion in frozen assets from oil sales earned before the Trump administration tightened sanctions on the country’s oil exports. The head of Iran’s central bank recently announced that the country was seeking to use funds tied up in a South Korean bank to purchase coronavirus vaccines through COVAX, an international program designed to distribute COVID-19 vaccines to participating countries.

South Korea’s Foreign Ministry demanded the ship’s release, saying in a statement that its crew was safe. The crew included sailors from Indonesia, Myanmar, South Korea and Vietnam, according to the Guard. South Korea’s Defense Ministry said it also was sending its anti-piracy unit near the Strait of Hormuz, which is a 4,400-ton-class destroyer with about 300 troops.

Cmdr. Rebecca Rebarich, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Navy’s Bahrain-based 5th Fleet, said authorities were monitoring the situation. Last year, Iran similarly seized a British-flagged oil tanker and held it for months after one of its tankers was held off Gibraltar.

The incidents coincide with the anniversary of the U.S. drone strike killing Guard Gen. Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad. Iran responded by launching ballistic missiles at U.S. bases in Iraq, injuring dozens of U.S. troops. Tehran also accidentally shot down a Ukrainian passenger jet that night, killing all 176 people on board.

As the anniversary approached and fears grew of possible Iranian retaliation, the U.S. dispatched B-52 bombers over the region and ordered a nuclear-powered submarine into the Persian Gulf.

Acting U.S. Defense Secretary Christopher Miller said late Sunday that he changed his mind about sending the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz home from the Middle East and instead will keep the vessel on duty. He cited Iranian threats against Trump and other U.S. government officials as the reason for the redeployment, without elaborating.

Last week, sailors discovered a limpet mine stuck on a tanker in the Persian Gulf off Iraq near the Iranian border as it prepared to transfer fuel to another tanker owned by a company traded on the New York Stock Exchange. No one has claimed responsibility for the mining, though it comes after a series of similar attacks in 2019 near the Strait of Hormuz that the U.S. Navy blamed on Iran. Tehran denied involvement.

___

Associated Press writers Tia Goldenberg in Tel Aviv, Israel, Hyung-jin Kim in Seoul and Robert Burns and Matthew Lee in Washington contributed.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Iran Nukes Up amid rising tensions with US: Revelation 8

Iran resumes 20pc enrichment at Fordow amid rising tensions with US

January 5, 2021

DUBAI: Iran has resumed 20 percent uranium enrichment at an underground nuclear facility, the government said on Monday, breaching a 2015 nuclear pact with major powers and possibly complicating efforts by United States President-elect Joe Biden to rejoin the deal.

Benjamin Netanyahu, prime minister of Iran’s arch-foe Israel, said the move was aimed at developing nuclear weapons and Israel would never allow Tehran to build them.

The enrichment decision, Iran’s latest contravention of the accord, coincides with increasing tensions between Iran and the US in the last days of President Donald Trump’s administration.

Tehran started violating the accord in 2019 in a step-by-step response to Trump’s withdrawal from it in 2018 and the reimposition of US sanctions lifted under the deal.

The agreement’s main aim was to extend the time Iran would need to produce enough fissile material for a nuclear bomb, if it chose to, to at least a year from roughly two to three months. It also lifted international sanctions against Tehran.

“A few minutes ago, the process of producing 20 percent enriched uranium has started in Fordow enrichment complex,” government spokesman Ali Rabiei told Iranian state media.

The UN nuclear watchdog confirmed that Iran had started the process of enriching uranium to 20 percent purity at its Fordow site.

“Iran today began feeding uranium already enriched up to 4.1 percent U-235 into six centrifuge cascades at the Fordow Fuel Enrichment Plant for further enrichment up to 20 percent,” the IAEA said in a statement on a report that was sent to member states.

The step was one of many mentioned in a law passed by Iran’s parliament last month in response to the killing of the country’s top nuclear scientist, which Tehran has blamed on Israel.

“Our measures are fully reversible upon FULL compliance by ALL (parties to the deal),” tweeted Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.

Tehran insists it can quickly reverse its breaches if US sanctions are removed. Biden, who takes office on January 20, has said the US will rejoin the deal “if Iran resumes strict compliance” with the pact.

The Biden transition team declined to comment on Monday about Iran’s enrichment move.

NUCLEAR WATCHDOG:

Tehran’s move could hinder efforts to salvage the nuclear pact as its breaches have increasingly worried some of the deal’s other parties, which have urged Iran to act responsibly.

However, it could also be accumulating bargaining chips that could be negotiated away in talks with the Biden administration.

A US State Department spokesperson accused Iran of “nuclear extortion.”

In Brussels, a European Union Commission spokesperson said that the “move, if confirmed, would constitute a considerable departure from Iran’s commitments”.

On January 1, the IAEA said Tehran had told the watchdog it planned to resume enrichment up to 20 percent at the Fordow site, which is buried inside a mountain.

“The process of gas injection to centrifuges has started a few hours ago and the first product of uranium hexafluoride (UF6) gas will be available in a few hours,” Rabiei said.

Iran had earlier breached the deal’s 3.67 percent limit on the purity to which it can enrich uranium, but it had only gone up to 4.5 percent so far, well short of the 20 percent level and of the 90 percent that is weapons-grade.

US intelligence agencies and the IAEA believe Iran had a secret, coordinated nuclear weapons programme that it halted in 2003. Iran denies ever having had one.

In Jerusalem, Netanyahu said Iran’s enrichment decision could be explained only as a bid to “continue to carry out its intention to develop a military nuclear programme”.

“Israel will not allow Iran to produce nuclear weapons,” he added.

Iran inflames the South Korean Nuclear Horn

Iran seizes tanker, ramps up uranium enrichment in fresh escalation with West

The news comes amid simmering tensions between the United States and Iran in the last days of President Donald Trump’s administration.

The enrichment hike puts Iran a technical step away from enriching at 90 percent, the level needed to produce a nuclear warhead. Before the announcement, Iran was enriching uranium at around 4.5 percent, in violation of the nuclear pact but at a significantly lower level.

President Hassan Rouhani visits a nuclear power plant just outside of Bushehr, Iran.Mohammad Berno / AP file

The news comes amid simmering tensions between the United States and Iran in the last days of President Donald Trump’s administration. Trump unilaterally withdrew America from the Iran nuclear deal in 2018, setting off a series of escalating incidents that culminated in the killing of top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani in Iraq on Jan. 3 last year.

The enrichment announcement and the seizure of the ship came the day after the one year anniversary of Soleimani’s killing that saw thousands take to the streets to protest his death in Iraq on Sunday.

According to Iranian officials, the enrichment is being carried out at Iran’s Fordo nuclear facility, which is hidden deep inside a mountain near the holy city of Qom. Under the terms of Iran’s nuclear deal, Tehran is only allowed to enrich uranium at around 3.5 percent and no enrichment is allowed at the Fordo plant.

The deal stipulates that in exchange for agreeing to limit its uranium enrichment, world powers would grant Iran sanctions relief.

Since the United States pulled out of the pact in May 2018 and re-imposed crippling sanctions on Iran, Tehran has steadily breached its own commitments to the agreement, prompting alarm among the other five parties to the deal: France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Russia and China.

Iran’s decision comes after parliament passed a bill aimed at hiking enrichment to pressure Europe into providing sanctions relief.

Uranium enriched to up to 20 percent can be used to fuel nuclear reactors, according to Eric Brewer, deputy director with the Project on Nuclear Issues at the Center for Strategic International Studies, a think tank in Washington D.C.

Iran has a research reactor that uses near 20 percent enriched uranium, but that fuel is provided by other countries under the terms of the 2015 nuclear deal, Brewer added. It remains unclear what Iran is planning to do, if anything, with the higher-enriched uranium.

Tehran has long denied seeking to develop a nuclear weapon and says doing so would be against Islam.

The hike also serves as pressure on President-elect Joe Biden’s incoming administration. Biden, who was vice president when the United States entered the nuclear deal under President Barack Obama in 2015, has said he is willing to return to the pact if Iran abides by the deal and has suggested building on the agreement.

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani last month dampened hopes that it would be possible to extend the scope of the deal, saying the country’s ballistic missile program and its regional influence were non-negotiable.

“There is one JCPOA that has been negotiated and agreed — either everyone commits to it or they don’t,” he said, referring to the 2015 nuclear accord that is known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency Rafael Mariano Grossi informed member states Monday that Iran began to feed uranium already enriched up to 4.1 percent U-235 into six centrifuge cascades at the Fordo plant for further enrichment up to 20 percent, the IAEA said in an emailed statement.

Iran had previously informed the agency of its intention to start producing uranium enriched up to 20 percent, it added.

The South Korean nuclear horn: Daniel 7

Opposition leader: South Korea may have to arm with nukes to counter North

By Thomas Maresca

Nov. 24, 2020 at 6:45 AM

 

SEOUL, Nov. 24 (UPI) — The leader of South Korea’s opposition People Power Party, Kim Chong-in, said on Tuesday that the country needs to consider arming itself with nuclear weapons to counter the threat from North Korea.

Kim said South Korea has a variety of options for facing a growing threat from the North, including remaining under the nuclear umbrella of the United States or allowing Washington to station nuclear weapons on the Korean Peninsula.

The United States formerly maintained nuclear arms in South Korea until 1991.

“It is unlikely that North Korea will take the path of denuclearization,” Kim said during a briefing with reporters in Seoul on Tuesday. “In the interest of self-protection, we may have to find our own solution.”

However, Kim said that if traditional means of dealing with the North Korean nuclear threat prove unworkable, then the South should pursue its own nuclear arsenal.

 

If it’s not feasible, then we will have to figure out a way to protect ourselves against any clear threat posed by North Korea,” he said. “In that context, then our conventional position on nuclear weapons should be revisited.”

In a report published in July, the U.S. Army estimated that Pyongyang has a stockpile that includes as many as 60 nuclear weapons and is capable of producing about six more each year.

Kim, whose conservative People Power Party holds 103 seats in South Korea’s 300-member parliament, said that Seoul will still rely on the United States for nuclear negotiations with North Korea.

“I do not believe that our nation has capability to unilaterally lead North Korea to the path of denuclearization,” he said. “So it is up to the degree of commitment from the U.S. government.”

Negotiations between Pyongyang and Washington have been at a standstill since a summit between Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump in Hanoi, Vietnam, last year failed to produce an agreement.

The People Power Party leader said he expects the incoming Biden administration to take a different approach with North Korea, likely favoring working-level discussions instead of the one-on-one summit diplomacy Trump opted for.

Kim said, however, that he doesn’t expect North Korea to voluntarily surrender its nuclear arsenal.

“I do not believe that the negotiations that the new Biden administration might have with North Korea will be easy,” he said. “It is unlikely that there will be any significant progress in the [nuclear] matter.”

South Korea To Become The Next Nuclear Weapons State (Daniel 7)

South Korea: The Next Nuclear Weapons State?

As the Republic of Korea (ROK) ramps up its ongoing efforts to deter a prospective North Korean strike, the spectre of a limited nuclear deterrent is slowly emerging from a fringe position to an increasingly prominent part of mainstream South Korean political discourse.  

Seoul entered the U.S. nuclear umbrella in 1958 when Washington stationed over one hundred nuclear warheads in ROK on the heels of the Korean War and the proliferation of the U.S.-Soviet competition into East Asia. But the ROK never fully abandoned its nuclear ambitions even at the height of the Cold War, actively exploring the prospect of acquiring an independent nuclear deterrent in the early 1970s.

Washington vigorously discouraged South Korea’s nascent nuclear ambitions, conditioning further military aid on the complete cessation of nuclear weapons development. The Park Chung-hee administration caved to US pressure and formally renounced any future plans to acquire nuclear weapons with South Korea’s 1975 ratification of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), but private doubts persisted in Seoul; the Vietnam War, which formally ended that same year, was a particularly stark illustration of the limits of the American security guarantee.

On a wave of misplaced optimism following North Korea’s 1985 accession to the NPT, Washington agreed to withdraw all U.S. nuclear warheads from South Korea in 1991. This was shortly followed by the Joint Declaration of Denuclearization, envisioning a future of North-South reconciliation on a denuclearized Korean Peninsula.  

South Korea’s abandonment of nuclear ambitions had been and continues to be, premised on two political tenets of faith: the continued viability of the U.S. security guarantee, and the hope that North Korea will work with ROK in good faith to achieve the full and permanent denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. Both of these hopes have proven increasingly ephemeral in the present day. There is a growing consensus among experts, as well as the South Korean population, that North Korea will never willingly surrender its burgeoning nuclear arsenal. The future of the U.S. security guarantee is also murky—although the military alliance is highly unlikely to be abandoned outright, the Trump administration has recurrently indicated its possible intentions to reconsider the scale of U.S. security commitments in East Asia.  

Unsurprisingly, there is a renewed call among parts of South Korea’s security establishment to revisit the prospect of acquiring a nuclear deterrent. Former South Korean foreign minister Song Min-soon posed the challenge directly in a 2019 editorial: “It’s necessary for South Korea to move on to a self-reliant alliance from a dependent alliance . . . a defensive nuclear capacity, with a missile range limited to the Korean Peninsula, is justified.” It is rather more surprising that a whopping 60 percent of South Koreans agree with Min-soon’s sentiment, voicing their support for an independent nuclear deterrent in a 2017 Gallup poll. Once a fringe position, nuclear armament has become an increasingly mainstream idea on the heels of several failed rounds of North-South negotiations and decades of North Korean military buildup. 

To be sure, ROK’s subtly changing tone on nuclear weapons raises a cascade of difficult policy questions: if it comes to that, can Washington successfully squash South Korea’s nuclear ambitions as it did five decades ago? If the sentiment in favor of nuclearization is formally adopted by Seoul, how would Japan react to such a drastic attempted revision of East Asia’s security architecture? 

This ongoing shift in South Korean popular and elite opinion on nuclearization comes at a time when ROK is not only seeking proactive military solutions to contain North Korea but to project power across the East Asia region in light of the increasingly assertive foreign policy stance being taken by Beijing.    

Mark Episkopos is a frequent contributor to the National Interest and serves as a research assistant at the Center for the National Interest. Mark is also a Ph.D. student in History at American University. 

Why Will South Korea Be a Nuclear Horn? Because It Can’t Rely On America

A tourist walks past a model display of South [+]

Why Does South Korea Want Ballistic Missiles? Because It Can’t Rely On America

Aug 11, 2020,

Aerospace & Defense

I cover defense issues and military technology.

ASSOCIATED PRESS

For years, South Korea has refrained from developing long-range ballistic missiles. In return, it sheltered under America’s military umbrella against North Korean attack.

But South Korea may now opt to build more powerful missiles that would boost the nation’s own military and space capabilities – and render it less reliant on the U.S. for protection.

“At the end of the day, South Korea has to face the possibility of defending itself without totally relying on the U.S.,” Chung Min Lee, a senior fellow at the U.S.-based Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, tells me.

Last month, South Korean officials announced that they had reached an agreement with the Trump administration to loosen restrictions that have limited the power of South Korean rockets. The new agreement, which changes guidelines established in 1979, is ostensibly meant to allow Seoul to develop more powerful rockets to launch spy satellites.

“I cannot go into classified military details but I can tell you that we will soon have many low-orbit military satellites with excellent surveillance capabilities monitoring the Korean Peninsula from the sky 24 hours a day,” Kim Hyun-jong, a senior national security aide to President Moon Jae-in, told reporters.

Seoul plans to deploy five reconnaissance satellites by 2023, according to South Korean media. South Korea already has a space program that has developed several civilian Earth observation, weather and communications satellites, though not a military surveillance craft. Given South Korea’s volatile neighbor to the north, it’s understandable that Seoul would want its own orbital surveillance capabilities rather than rely on Washington to supply satellite imagery and early warning of North Korean actions.

But the problem is that a rocket capable of boosting a military satellite into orbit can also loft a warhead – conventional or even potentially nuclear – on to distant targets. Solid-fuel rockets can also be launched much more quickly and safely than liquid-fueled models.

While North Korea has developed ICBMs that can potentially hit California, South Korea’s arsenal comprises several short-range ballistic missiles. In 2012, Washington agreed to allow South Korea to build solid-fuel rockets with a longer range of up to 497 miles, and a payload of 500 kilograms (1,102 pounds). In 2017, that payload cap was lifted. In March 2020, South Korea test-fired the new Hyunmoo-4, with a range of 497 miles and a two-ton warhead.

For now, South Korean missiles will still have limited range. “Seoul remained obliged not to build ballistic missiles with a range of more than 800 kilometers, or 497 miles, Mr. Kim said, but hoped to start launching low-orbit military surveillance satellites using its own solid-fuel rockets within the next several years,” according to the New York Times.

Nonetheless, the change does enable South Korea to prepare for development of longer-range missiles with bigger warheads. South Korea does not have nuclear weapons, but a 2017 poll found 60 percent of Koreans want a nuclear capability.

Not coincidentally, the new missile accord comes as the Trump administration considers bringing home some of the 29,000 U.S. troops stationed in South Korea. Though South Korea has sharply increased defense spending since 2017 – its $42 billion defense budget is the tenth largest on the planet – President Trump has accused Seoul of insufficient military spending.

Chung believes that South Korea needs to create its own deterrent against North Korean nuclear weapons. “South Korea defense against North Korea’s nuclear weapons is premised on tailored U.S. extended deterrence, or the promise of U.S. nuclear retaliation against North Korea should it use nuclear weapons,” Chung tells me. “This means that in the end, it’s the U.S. president who decides if South Korea will be protected from a North Korean nuclear strike or threat of a strike.”

“So long as South Korea pursues a non-nuclear posture, it has to have aggressive conventional assets. One can’t deter nuclear weapons with conventional weapons. Hence, South Korea’s reliance on U.S. extended deterrence. But this also means that South Korea is outsourcing its national defense strategy.”

Interestingly, Chung also suggests that South Korean ballistic missiles may also serve as a deterrent against China. “In the event of a second Korean War or another major crisis such as North Korean implosion or regime collapse, the notion that China will watch from the sidelines is very unrealistic. Clearly, South Korea can’t deter China by itself and the U.S. will do the heavy lifting, but South Korea has no choice but to consider China’s looming military shadow as a growing security threat.”