North Korea is not a nuclear threat

Observers should not mistake the absence of direct engagement between Washington and Pyongyang for disinterest in the fate of US-North Korea relations, State Department representative Ned Price said in a recent press briefing.

Price stressed that the administration’s “strategic goals” with the Kim Jong Un regime will be “focus[ed] on reducing the threat to the United States and to our allies as well as to improving the lives of the North and South Korean people. And, again, the central premise is that we remain committed to denuclearization of North Korea.”

The Biden team’s workmanlike approach is an expedient change from their predecessors’ photo-op diplomacy. But this continued insistence on denuclearization as the primary goal in US-North Korea engagement is incredibly counterproductive.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un reviews a Hwasong-15 intercontinental ballistic missile in an undated photo released by the Korean Central News Agency, November 30, 2017. Reuters

If Biden and his team are serious about making headway on their first two strategic goals — threat reduction and humanitarian gains on the Korean Peninsula — they must drop the third. For progress with North Korea, forget denuclearization.

We can do that safely for three reasons. First, as Price himself noted, “the United States, of course, remains the most powerful and strongest country in the world.” Even with nuclear weapons, North Korea’s military might is miniscule by comparison. In nuclear and conventional weaponry alike, the US advantage is overwhelming, as the Kim regime well knows.

This is not to say Pyongyang couldn’t do real damage. It could — the South Korean capital of Seoul, a city of 10 million, is only 30 miles from the demilitarized zone that separates the two Koreas, well within North Korea’s strike range.

But Kim is unquestionably aware of the consequences unprovoked aggression against a US ally (let alone the United States proper or our military, which has an extensive South Korean presence) would bring. He would not finish the resultant conflict in power; he might not finish it alive.

That glaringly obvious truth creates a powerful deterrence for the United States, and it is a deterrence which maintaining the nuclear status quo indefinitely will not obviate.

Kim at what was said to be a missile test site at an undisclosed location in North Korea, May 15, 2017. KRT via AP Video

Second, Price repeats the longstanding claim that denuclearization is itself a goal. This is not — or, at least, should not be — quite correct. The proper goal is avoidance of horrific, world-changing, history-altering nuclear war.

Denuclearization is one means of accomplishing that avoidance. But it is not the only way, and the mere existence of North Korea’s nuclear weapons does not mean they will be used.

The United States is already securely coexisting with a nuclear North Korea. We are stably coexisting with other nuclear powers, too, including several (chiefly China and Russia, but also Pakistan, if conventional wisdom is correct) that are hardly reliably friendly to America.

Russia’s nuclear arsenal is of a similar strength to our own, and China boasts a far more powerful military and economy than North Korea ever could. Yet complete denuclearization of these countries is not standard US policy, not only because it is an unachievable aim for Washington but because it is not necessary to avoid nuclear war.

We can likewise avoid nuclear conflict involving North Korea without attaining denuclearization — indeed, we have done it for decades.

Finally, forgetting denuclearization for now may ultimately get us to denuclearization, and it will certainly help us toward the administration’s other two goals of de-escalation and improved quality of life for the Korean people.

Biden, then vice president, with Joint Joint Security Area soldiers in Panmunjom, December 7, 2013. Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images

If we set aside denuclearization — a concession Pyongyang will not make so long as it perceives any risk of forcible, US-orchestrated regime change like that in Iraq and Libya — a multitude of more practical and feasible goals become accessible to us.

Working-level diplomacy by the Biden administration could accomplish a nuclear freeze, regular inspections of Kim’s arsenal, or even some reduction of his nuclear stockpile or missile systems. It could produce, seven decades late, a peace treaty to officially end the Korean War. It could bargain for concessions from Pyongyang by offering cessation of US sanctions that harm ordinary North Koreans. It could permit expanded, Korean-directed engagement between North and South Korea, including trade and reconnection of divided families.

It could take steps toward making North Korea a far more normal country, opening the “hermit kingdom” to the global culture and economy and giving its people a shot at deprograming themselves from their government’s sadistic brainwashing. And it could ultimately lay the groundwork for a new era in North Korean foreign relations, one which might mature someday, probably long after this administration is over, into a denuclearized and even democratic Pyongyang.

None of that is possible, however, if the Biden administration insists on denuclearization now. A shortsighted demand for Kim to concede what he views as his sole guarantee against American invasion will ensure Biden leaves office just like former President Donald Trump, having moved the needle on US-North Korean relations not an inch.

Bonnie Kristian is a fellow at Defense Priorities, contributing editor at The Week, and columnist at Christianity Today. Her writing has also appeared at CNN, NBC, USA Today, the Los Angeles Times, and Defense One, among other outlets.

The Korean Nuclear Horn Continues to Grow

N Korea developed nuclear weapons programme in 2020: UN report

Monitors believe Pyongyang is using money stolen in cyber-hacks to fund the programme and might be getting help from Iran.

North Korea maintained and developed its nuclear and ballistic missile programmes throughout 2020 in violation of international sanctions, helping fund them with some $300m stolen through cyber-hacks, according to a confidential United Nations report seen by the Reuters news agency on Monday.

The report by independent sanctions monitors said Pyongyang “produced fissile material, maintained nuclear facilities and upgraded its ballistic missile infrastructure” while continuing to seek material and technology as for those programmes from abroad.

A US State Department spokesperson said on Monday the administration of President Joe Biden, who took office last month, planned a new approach to North Korea, including a full review with allies “on ongoing pressure options and the potential for any future diplomacy.”

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and former US President Donald Trump met three times in 2018 and 2019, but failed to make progress on US calls for Pyongyang to give up its nuclear weapons and North Korea’s demands for an end to sanctions.

In the past year, North Korea displayed new short-range, medium-range, submarine-launched and intercontinental ballistic missile systems at military parades, the UN report noted.

It said an unnamed member state had assessed that, judging by the size of North Korea’s missiles, “it is highly likely that a nuclear device” could be mounted onto long-range, medium-range and short-range ballistic missiles.

The Member State, however, stated it is uncertain whether the DPRK had developed ballistic missiles resistant to the heat generated during re-entry,” into the atmosphere, the report said, using the acronym for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, North Korea’s formal name.

While there were no nuclear or ballistic missile tests in 2020, Pyongyang “announced preparation for testing and production of new ballistic missile warheads and development of tactical nuclear weapons.”

North Korea’s UN mission in New York did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the report.

Cooperation with Iran?

North Korea blew up tunnels at its main nuclear test site, Punggye-ri, in 2018, saying it was proof of its commitment to end nuclear testing. However, an unidentified member state told the UN monitors there were still personnel at the site, showing it had not been abandoned.

According to an unidentified country, North Korea and Iran have resumed cooperation on long-range missile development projects, including the transfer of critical parts, the monitors said. The most recent shipment was last year, they said.

In a letter in December to the UN sanctions monitors, annexed to the report, Iran’s UN Ambassador Majid Takht Ravanchi said a preliminary review of the information given to it by the monitors indicated that “false information and fabricated data” may have been used in their investigation.

North Korea has been subject to UN sanctions since 2006. They have been strengthened by the 15-member Security Council over the years in a bid to cut off funding for Pyongyang’s nuclear and ballistic missile programmes.

The UN monitors assessed that in 2020 North Korea-linked hackers “continued to conduct operations against financial institutions and virtual currency exchange houses to generate revenue” to support its nuclear and missile programmes.

According to one member state, the DPRK total theft of virtual assets, from 2019 to November 2020, is valued at approximately $316.4 million,” the report said.

In 2019, the sanctions monitors reported that North Korea made at least $370m by exporting coal, which is banned under UN sanctions. But last year, they said coal shipments appeared to have been largely suspended since July 2020.

The already isolated northeast Asian nation imposed a strict lockdown last year to curb the spread of the coronavirus from neighbouring China. The slump in trade has further damaged an economy already struggling with the burden of international sanctions.

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.

The South Korean Nuclear Horn Lines Up With Biden: Daniel 7

South Korea President Promises Stronger Alliance with US Under Biden Administration

Jan. 11—South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Monday in a speech broadcast to the nation promised a stronger alliance with the United States under the incoming administration of President-elect Joe Biden. 

In North Korea the same day, a rare congress of the ruling Workers Party gave the country’s leader, Kim Jong Un, another title, “general secretary,” a sign that Kim is further consolidating his hold on the reclusive country, The Associated Press reported.

With roughly a week remaining until Biden’s inauguration, Moon in an address to his country expressed his confidence in the new administration, along with his hopes of achieving a more positive relationship with North Korea.

“The government will strengthen the U.S.-South Korea alliance in tandem with the launch of the Biden administration,” he said. “And do its last attempt in order to achieve a great transformation in talks, which still stand, between North Korea and the U.S. and between the two Koreas.”

In October, during the final debate before the U.S. presidential election, Biden called Kim a “thug” but said he would meet with him if the communist state agrees to denuclearize. The comment came during a testy exchange between Biden and President Donald Trump over how to deal with North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.

The former vice president accused his rival of cozying up to Kim, whose regime is ranked as one of the worst human rights abusers, with a policy that has allowed the North to continue improving its arsenal.

Trump became the first sitting U.S. president to meet with a North Korean leader during a June 2018 summit in Singapore during which they agreed to a vague promise to “work toward the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”

Trump failed to reduce or eliminate North Korea’s nuclear capability, although North Korea reduced its weapons testing and tensions eased somewhat during his administration.

Moon’s national address on Monday followed reports of the North conducting a military parade in its capital over the weekend.

The South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff had warned of possible military maneuvers by North Korea during the party congress, which convened Jan. 5. The congress was last held in 2016.

“Our military detected signs that North Korea held a military parade related to the party congress at Kim Il-sung Square in Pyongyang late at night yesterday,” according to a statement Monday by the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

“South Korea and U.S. military authorities are closely following them, including possibilities that the activity could be a rehearsal,” it said.

The types of weapons involved were not immediately known, but other sources say the parade appears to have been scaled back, according to a report Monday by the Yonhap News Agency based in Seoul. Kim has blamed the coronavirus pandemic and international sanctions stemming from the country’s nuclear weapons program for North Korea falling short of economic goals, according to Reuters news service Sunday.

Sunday’s military parade would be the first since October, which marked the party’s 75th founding anniversary, and revealed to the world what was believed to be a new intercontinental ballistic missile.

keeler.matthew@stripes.com

Twitter: @MattKeeler1231

chang.kyong@stripes.com

South Korea’s ‘last-ditch’ effort before going nuclear

South Korea’s Moon says will make ‘last-ditch’ effort for North Korea breakthrough

Sangmi Cha

SEOUL (Reuters) – South Korean President Moon Jae-in said on Monday he remains committed to engaging with North Korea, and that cooperation on issues such as anti-epidemic work could help lead to a breakthrough in stalled talks in the last years of his term.

Seoul will make efforts to jumpstart talks between the United States and North Korea as U.S. President-elect Joe Biden prepares to take office, Moon said during his annual New Year’s speech.

“Dialogue and co-prosperity are key drivers of the peace process on the Korean Peninsula,” he said. “Our will to meet anytime, anywhere, and willingness to talk…remains unchanged.”

Moon, whose term ends in 2022, has made engagement with North Korea one of his signature goals, and he said he would liaise closely with Biden’s administration.

Talks aimed at convincing North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons and improve relations with the United States and South Korea have been stalled, with Pyongyang accusing Seoul and Washington of maintaining hostile policies.

“We will strengthen the alliance with the United States in line with the inauguration of the Biden administration, while making last-ditch efforts for a grand breakthrough in stalemated North Korea-U.S. and inter-Korean talks,” Moon said.

North Korea has been holding an ongoing party congress, where leader Kim Jong Un discussed called for developing more advanced nuclear weapons and revitalising the country’s economy.

Over the weekend Kim blasted South Korea for offering cooperation on “inessential issues” such as the coronavirus, humanitarian aid, and tourism.

Kim said inter-Korean relations could be restored if the South changes its attitudes and stops actions such as buying new weapons and conducting military drills with the United States.

In October, however, Kim said that he hoped the two Koreas could reconcile after the end of the pandemic.

Reporting by Sangmi Cha; Additional reporting by Hyonhee Shin; Writing by Josh Smith; Editing by Tom Hogue and Raju Gopalakrishnan

Why South Korea is About to go Nuclear: Daniel 7

South Korea urges Kim Jong Un to return to nuclear talks

January 11, 2021 4:44 am by Edward White in Seoul

South Korean president Moon Jae-in has urged Kim Jong Un to return to talks with Seoul and Washington, as uncertainty builds over how Joe Biden’s incoming administration will handle the North Korean nuclear threat.

Mr Moon, who has staked his presidential legacy on building lasting peace and ultimately achieving unification of the Korean peninsula, has again extended an olive branch to the 37-year-old dictator, saying South Korea would meet North Korea “anytime, anywhere”.

“The key driving force of the peace process on the Korean peninsula is dialogue and win-win co-operation,” the president said in a televised New Year address on Monday.

His price for the US is ending combined military drills with Seoul, removing sanctions, and refraining from making human rights criticisms and name-calling before talks

Duyeon Kim, Center for a New American Security

Mr Moon’s overture was delivered two days after Pyongyang signalled plans to develop a series of new weapons — including shorter-range tactical missiles — and Mr Kim described the US as his country’s “biggest enemy”.

Mr Kim’s remarks represented North Korea’s sharpest broadside against the US since Mr Biden won the election. The announcement of an expanded nuclear weapons arsenal also suggested a potential return to more regular missile tests, analysts said.

The North Korean military held a parade in Pyongyang’s Kim Il Sung square on Sunday night, according to South Korea Joint Chiefs of Staff, in another show of strength by the Kim regime after it unveiled the world’s largest intercontinental ballistic missile in October.

Despite those actions, Duyeon Kim, a North Korea expert at the Center for a New American Security, a US think-tank, said the North Korean leader had not closed the door on diplomacy. But the dictator had set the “price very high” for any talks with either Seoul or Washington, she said.

“His price for the US is ending combined military drills with Seoul, removing sanctions, and refraining from making human rights criticisms and name-calling before talks,” Ms Kim said.

She added: “His price for talks with Seoul are also very high, demanding the South acquiesce, refrain from buying weapons, offer much bigger concessions than humanitarian aid, and return to its pan-Korean roots by breaking from the US.”

South Korea’s latest attempts at rapprochement came amid questions over how the Biden administration would tackle North Korea, one of many thorny foreign policy challenges at a time of unprecedented domestic upheaval in the US.

Nuclear talks have been mostly stalled for the past two years despite three face-to-face meetings between President Donald Trump and Mr Kim.

Mr Biden has previously signalled he would not follow Mr Trump’s unconventional, theatrical summitry with Mr Kim after it failed to result in a robust denuclearisation plan.

Many North Korea experts expect Washington to return to more conventional attempts at lower-level diplomacy with Pyongyang.

But there are concerns that similar approaches have also struggled to slow North Korea’s nuclear weapons development.

Mr Kim has shown no signs of changing posture despite his country facing its worst economic outlook in years, battered by coronavirus-linked border closures, crippling sanctions and extreme weather events last year.

Additional reporting by Kang Buseong

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.