The Iranian Nuclear Horns are Spreading: Daniel 8:4

Nukes, terror, Syria, Iraq, Hezbollah – Iran’s tentacles are spreading

Iran has often used the nuclear program to distract from its real desire: Regional hegemony

Israel is preparing a full-court press to discuss Iran’s threats with the new US administration, according to various media reports. National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat spoke on Saturday with Jake Sullivan, his counterpart in the Biden administration, and Mossad head Yossi Cohen is expected to travel soon to Washington to present Israel’s concerns to his counterparts in the intelligence community.

The discussions are expected to be wide-ranging. According to the report, they will likely include Iran stopping uranium enrichment, ending production of advanced centrifuges and stopping support for various terrorist proxies and militias. The proxies include Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Houthis in Yemen, as well as Iran’s threatening posture in Syria and Iraq. There are other concerns as well.

Sometimes in negotiations, one side outlines its ideal demands at the outset to get only some of them fulfilled at the end. This laundry list looks like that. Throw enough problems at the wall, and surely the US and Israel can work some of them out.

On the other hand, what Israel is sketching out also looks a lot more like an Iranian elephant in the room than just a nuclear problem. Iran has often used the nuclear program to distract from its real desire: to achieve regional hegemony.

The nuclear program is just one part of a vast military-industrial complex in Iran that involves advanced precision-guided ballistic missiles, sophisticated drones, new naval assets and a coterie of militias across the region.

Iran funds and arms Hezbollah, including secret production facilities for weapons. Iran has placed drones in Syria and even tried to put its Khordad air-defense system there. It has moved weapons to the T4 and Imam Ali bases and other centers in Syria. It is trying to move precision-guided munitions production to Lebanon or Syria, has moved drone and missile technology to the Houthis in Yemen, and in 2018, it moved ballistic missiles to western Iraq.

Never in history has a country taken such a multilayered approach so quickly to try to place a footprint across the region. In contrast to Western arms sales to countries in the Middle East, Iran has moved quickly to deploy its systems across the region. It has acted in contravention of international law, mining ships in the Gulf of Oman, attacking Saudi Arabia with drones in 2019 and moving weapons illegally across sovereign countries to illegal militias.

This is Iran’s method.

Iran’s nuclear program is, therefore, not sui generis and has wrongly been examined as its own entity instead of part of a larger Iranian game plan. Iran has often enjoyed letting the world talk about the nuclear program and the rate of enrichment and number of centrifuges, while it focused efforts on putting its first military satellite in orbit and improved its range of solid- and liquid-fueled missiles.

Iran turns the nuclear program on and off depending on how it wants to heat up negotiations. The program is a kind of bogeyman and form of blackmail all rolled into one.

Over the past several years, Israel’s focus shifted to deal with Iran’s entrenchment in Syria. With relative quiet in Lebanon and Hezbollah focused on the Syrian civil war, Israel has launched more than 1,000 airstrikes against Iran’s presence in Syria. Recent reports note Iran may have withdrawn some IRGC assets from Syria, and that some militias may be moving from Deir Ezzor and Albukamal in the northeast to across the border in Iraq.

However, reports have also noted increased threats from Yemen. The US designated the Houthis as terrorists, which the new administration is expected to review, and similarly designated militias in Iraq and key figures, including Abu Fadak of Kataib Hezbollah in Iraq.

US officials also pressed to enable Israel more operational freedom to confront Iran’s militia presence.

This happened, to some extent, after James Mattis left his role as secretary of defense in 2018. It is believed that James Jeffrey and others at the State Department pressed for more support for Israel in its campaign against Iran in Syria.

That means that between 2018 and the end of 2020 there was a kind of hand-in-glove approach: Israel was the fist that hammered the Iranians in Syria, and the US was the glove around the fist, encouraging and supporting it. For the US, this was a win-win because the administration could say it didn’t start any new foreign wars – it just outsourced them to Israel.

For defense experts, some of whom were reportedly skeptical about the abilities of the F-35, there has been a boon as well, with three joint training exercises between US and Israeli F-35 pilots last year. According to an Al Arabiya report last May, Israel has used the F-35 against Iranian targets in Syria. The first reports of the F-35 being used in combat date back to 2018.

Iraq’s government and its pro-Iranian militias blame Israel for carrying out airstrikes in July and August 2019 against Iranian militia targets in Iraq. This caused tensions between Iraq and US air operations. It has also caused the pro-Iran militias to look skyward.

An explosion in Iraq earlier this month led militias to spread rumors of another mysterious strike. That was proven to be false, but the initial blame game illustrates how Israel is viewed. In the fall of 2017, Qais Khazali, an Iraqi pro-Iran militia leader, went to Lebanon and said Iraq’s militias would support Hezbollah if a war broke out with Israel.

Current and future discussions with the Biden administration will focus on the larger Iranian octopus spreading its tentacles across the region. How to deal with that octopus and all its threats is the real hurdle. The nuclear program is just the kind of distracting dress that the octopus wears to distract from the larger looming problem.

Australia confirms nuclear treaty will be Unbiblical: Revelation 16

New nuclear treaty will be ‘ineffective’: DFAT

By Anthony Galloway

January 21, 2021 — 3.45pm

Australia says a new United Nations nuclear treaty signed by more than 80 countries will be ineffective in eliminating nuclear weapons from the world.

The Morrison government has not signed the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which comes into effect on Friday.

North Korea fired two suspected short-range missiles towards the sea in May 2019. KCNA/AP

The treaty, signed by 86 countries, bans signatories from testing, developing, producing, stockpiling or threatening to use nuclear weapons.

The Australian government decided not to sign the treaty on the basis that it failed to recognise the realities of the current international security environment.

Government sources confirmed there was concern about how the treaty would affect Australia’s dealings with the United States, including intelligence sharing through the Pine Gap satellite surveillance base near Alice Springs, because it banned signatories from doing anything to assist a nuclear weapon state in its nuclear plans.

New Zealand, which is part of the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing agreement with the US, Australia, Canada and Britain, has signed the treaty.

As a party to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, signed in 1968, Australia is already prohibited from manufacturing or acquiring nuclear weapons.

A spokesman for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said Australia shared the view of many other countries that the treaty “will be ineffective in eliminating nuclear weapons”.

“Australia is committed to the goal of a peaceful, secure world free of nuclear weapons, pursued in an effective, pragmatic and realistic way,” the DFAT spokesman said.

“Our long-held focus is on progressing nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament through a progressive, practical approach that engages all states, especially nuclear weapon states, in the process”.

Opposition foreign affairs spokeswoman Penny Wong said Labor welcomed the treaty.

“After taking into account the need to ensure an effective verification and enforcement architecture, the interaction of the treaty with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and achieve universal support, a Labor government would sign and ratify the treaty,” she said.

“Australia can and should lead international efforts to rid the world of nuclear weapons. A Labor government would work with our allies and partners to this end and would always act consistently with the US alliance.”

Helen Durham, director for international law and policy at the International Committee of the Red Cross, said all countries should sign the treaty as it was the “most explicit and clearest expression that the horrific weapons need to be banned”.
“It deals not only with their use but also with their threat of use, with their stockpiling, with their production, with their development and their testing,” she said.
“This treaty is a great opportunity to move a very stagnated, to date, agenda forward and we would encourage every state to take up this opportunity.”
Dave Sweeney, co-founder of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, said the treaty was a “sign of hope for our planet”.
“The changed status of nuclear weapons means Australia faces a clear choice,” he said. “We either choose to be a responsible and lawful member of the global community or we remain silent and complicit in plans to fight illegal wars.”

Biden Makes Mends with the Russian Nuclear Horn

President Biden is starting on the right foot with Russia

Opinion by Editorial Board

Jan. 23, 2021 at 8:00 a.m. EST

PRESIDENT BIDEN’S opening moves to deal with Russia incorporate valuable lessons from the Cold War: that it is possible to engage Moscow when it’s in the interests of the United States while continuing to unreservedly question and confront behavior that is adversarial and harmful. These multiple tracks promise to bring common sense back into U.S. policy after four years of mystery and incoherence at the highest level.

Mr. Biden announced that the United States will propose to Russia a five-year extension of the New START accord limiting strategic nuclear weapons, which expires Feb. 5 and has a provision for such an extension. This is the last remaining bilateral treaty limiting nuclear weapons after the collapse of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty under President Donald Trump, whose policies toward Russia veered between his own affinity for President Vladimir Putin and more skeptical approaches in his administration. Extension of the New START accord, which limits both sides to 1,550 nuclear warheads on 700 launchers and has effective verification, is in the interest of both nations. Mr. Trump’s administration dithered on seeking an extension while trying unsuccessfully to lasso China into a multilateral negotiation, a worthwhile long-term goal that can be pursued later.

Mr. Biden should not fail to take advantage of the five-year extension to take stock of future threats, both nuclear and conventional, from Russia, China and elsewhere. Where it is in the interests of the United States, he ought to look for new arms control opportunities.

The president also ordered an intelligence assessment on four nettlesome aspects of Russian behavior: the recent SolarWinds cyber breach, interference in the 2020 election, the use of chemical weapons against opposition leader Alexei Navalny and reports that Russia placed bounties on U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan. The intelligence assessment will give Mr. Biden a chance to hold Mr. Putin and his government to account where necessary, and to protest in the strongest terms where appropriate. Each of these episodes demands a stronger U.S. response than Mr. Trump provided. In the case of Mr. Navalny, the question is not only the fate of the leading opposition figure who was target of an assassination attempt, but also Russia’s blatant disregard for an international treaty prohibiting the use of chemical weapons.

During the Cold War, President Ronald Reagan managed to negotiate arms control agreements with the Soviet Union while also maintaining pressure in other areas, such as regional conflicts and human rights. Mr. Biden, who knows those years well, is right to adopt the multitask template for today. Russia has been repeatedly testing the West. The president’s order to the intelligence community also ought to include a report on the “Havana syndrome” harassment that injured and sickened U.S. officials abroad.

Mr. Trump’s overly personal approach to Mr. Putin was as simplistic as it was shadowy. Mr. Biden is starting on the right foot, announcing from the outset that he is prepared to engage on important business but also that he will not flinch at Mr. Putin’s unpleasant and dark arts.

Biden Will Concede to the Iranian Nuclear Horn

Biden is ignoring all the signs that Iran can’t be bribed out of its murderous ways

By Post Editorial Board

President Biden is eager to reengage with Iran and return to the nuclear deal. Yet the murderous regime has no interest in changing its ways. It is boosting its nuclear-weapon development and its network of deadly militias across the Middle East in its continued drive for hegemony.

Biden said during the campaign he’d rejoin the nuclear deal “as a starting point for follow-on negotiations” if “Iran returns to strict compliance,” working “to strengthen and extend the nuclear deal’s provisions, while also addressing other issues of concern,” such as Iran’s ballistic-missile program, human-rights abuses and “destabilizing activity.”

That was always naïve, and Javad Zarif, Iran’s foreign minister, confirmed it Friday: “There cannot be any renegotiations,” he wrote in Foreign Affairs. “Iran’s defense and regional policies were not up for discussion,” since the West won’t withdraw from the region and stop selling arms to its allies.

Zarif proudly declared, “Iran has significantly increased its nuclear capabilities,” and indeed, the International Atomic Energy Agency revealed this month in a confidential report that Iran took a crucial step in December, starting an assembly line to make uranium metal, a key nuclear-weapon component prohibited by the nuclear deal. France, Germany and Britain jointly warned of the “grave military implications,” noting that the metal “has no credible civilian use.”

Earlier this month, Tehran said it was producing 20 percent enriched uranium, far above the 3.67 percent agreed to in the nuclear deal, crossing what even the appeasing Europeans have considered a red line. The IAEA said in November that Iran had accrued a low-enriched uranium stockpile 12 times that allowed under the accord. Iran kept the agency from visiting for months last year and promises to bar inspectors permanently if US sanctions aren’t lifted by Feb. 21.

Nor is the problem just nukes. Tehran’s multiday military exercises this month included tests of ballistic missiles and bomber drones aimed at, Iranian state TV said, a “hypothetical enemy missile shield” and “hypothetical enemy bases.” Some missiles landed just 100 miles from the USS Nimitz, their debris flying after they exploded. One missile touched the water 20 miles from a commercial vessel.

Newsweek recently reported that Iran is delivering “suicide drones” (advanced unmanned aerial vehicles) to its Houthi proxies in Yemen. With a 2,000-kilometer range, they can hit Israel, Saudi Arabia, even American targets in the region.

All this should be a wake-up call for the new president, but Biden looks to be sticking to appeasement. His choice for CIA director, William Burns, played a key role in the Obama administration’s 2013 secret talks with Tehran that led to the 2015 nuclear deal. And Biden is reportedly looking to make Robert Malley his special envoy to Iran.

Malley was pushed out of the 2008 Obama campaign after news broke that he’d met with members of the terrorist group Hamas, but he became the Middle East director for President Barack Obama’s National Security Council. Last year, he actually condemned the killing of top Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh.

A dozen former Iranian hostages and human-rights activists sent a letter to Biden’s secretary of state designate urging him not to put Malley in the administration, as it “would send a chilling signal to the dictatorship in Iran that the United States is solely focused on re-entering the Iran nuclear deal, and ignoring its regional terror and domestic crimes against humanity.”

That was exactly the Obama-era approach, and Biden seems bent on repeating that deadly mistake.

The Rising Power of the Chinese Nuclear Horn: Daniel 7

Analysis: Biden faces a more confident China after US chaos

Associated PressJanuary 21, 2021

BEIJING (AP) — As a new U.S. president takes office, he faces a determined Chinese leadership that could be further emboldened by America’s troubles at home.

The disarray in America, from the rampant COVID-19 pandemic to the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol, gives China’s ruling Communist Party a boost as it pursues its long-running quest for national “rejuvenation” — a bid to return the country to what it sees as its rightful place as a major nation.

For Joe Biden, sworn in Wednesday as the 46th president, that could make one of his major foreign policy challenges even more difficult as he tries to manage an increasingly contentious relationship between the world’s rising power and its established one.

The stakes are high for both countries and the rest of the world. A misstep could spark an accidental conflict in the Western Pacific, where China’s growing naval presence is bumping up against America’s. The trade war under President Donald Trump hurt workers and farmers in both countries, though some in Vietnam and elsewhere benefited as companies moved production outside China. On global issues such as climate, it is difficult to make progress if the world’s two largest economies aren’t talking.

The Chinese government expressed hope Thursday that Biden would return to dialogue and cooperation after the divisiveness under Trump.

“It is normal for China and the United States to have some differences,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said. “Countries with different social systems, cultural backgrounds and ideologies should and can coexist … and work together to achieve peace and stability and development in the world.”

But Kurt Tong, a former U.S. diplomat in Asia, sees a stalemate in the coming few years in which China keeps doing what it has been doing and the U.S. is not happy about it.

“I think it’s going to be a tough patch, it’s just going to be more disagreements than agreements and not a lot of breakthroughs,” said Tong, now a partner with The Asia Group consultancy in Washington, D.C.

A more confident China may push back harder on issues such as technology, territory and human rights. Analysts draw parallels to the 2008 global financial crisis, from which China emerged relatively unscathed. The country’s foreign policy has grown increasingly assertive since then, from staking out territory in disputed waters in the South China Sea to its more recent use of Twitter to hit back at critics. China’s relative success in controlling the pandemic could fuel that trend.

The U.S. has also shifted, with wide support among both Republicans and Democrats for treating China as a competitor, and embracing the need for a tougher approach to China, if not always agreeing with how Trump carried it out. Biden needs to be wary of opening himself up to attacks that he is soft on China if he rolls back import tariffs and other steps taken by his predecessor.

His pressing need to prioritize domestic challenges could give China breathing room to push forward its agenda, whether it be technological advancement or territorial issues from Taiwan to its border with India.

Biden has pointed to potential areas of cooperation, from climate change to curbing North Korea’s nuclear weapons development, but even in those areas, the two countries don’t always agree.

The pandemic, first viewed as a potential threat to President Xi Jinping’s leadership as it spiraled out of control in the city of Wuhan in early 2020, has been transformed into a story of hardship followed by triumph.

The Communist Party has sought to use the pandemic to justify its continued control of the one-party, authoritarian state it has led for more than 70 years, while rounding up citizen-journalists and others to quash any criticism of its handling of the outbreak.

That effort has been aided by the failure of many other nations to stop the spread of COVID-19. Biden takes over a country where deaths continue to mount and virus-related restrictions keep it in recession. China is battling small outbreaks, but life has largely returned to normal and economic growth is accelerating.

“It would have been more difficult for them to push that narrative around the world if the United States had not done such a poor job,” said Bonnie Glaser, director of the China Power Project at the Center for Strategic & International Studies in Washington, D.C. “That’s a theme that runs through many issues, that China’s just able to point to the United States and democracy in general as not delivering good governance.”

It’s impossible to gauge support for the Communist Party in a country where many would be unwilling to criticize it publicly, for fear of repercussions. But Niu Jun, an international relations professor at Peking University, said that objectively, public trust should rise given China’s faster recovery from the outbreak.

“To ordinary people, the logic is very simple,” he said, predicting the pandemic would spark public thinking and discussion about which system of governance is more effective.

“The party’s policies are good, our policies are not like the ones in foreign countries, ours are good,” said Liu Shixiu, strolling with her daughter in Wuhan, the city that bore the brunt of the pandemic in China. “We listen to the party.”

It is unclear whether the Communist Party foresees exporting its way of governance as an alternative to the democratic model. For now, Chinese officials note that countries choose different systems and stress the need for others to respect those differences.

As China becomes more and more confident, maybe they’ll try to shape the internal operations or ways of thinking of other countries,” Tong said. “But to me, it feels more like they don’t want anyone to be able to say that China is bad and get away with it.”

The leadership wants China to be seen and treated as an equal and has shown a willingness to use its growing economic and military might to try to get its way.

___

Associated Press video journalist Emily Wang Fujiyama contributed to this report.

___

Moritsugu, The Associated Press’ news director for Greater China, has reported in Asia for more than 15 years.

The Russian Nuclear Horn Welcomes Babylon the Great Back: Daniel 7

Russia Welcomes US Proposal to Extend Nuclear Treaty

1/23/2021 | 12:47 PM CST

Mikhail Ulyanov, the Russian ambassador at the international organizations in Vienna, also hailed Biden’s proposal as an “encouraging step.”

“The extension will give the two sides more time to consider possible additional measures aimed at strengthening strategic stability and global security,” he tweeted.

The Russian Foreign Ministry’s spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, noted in a statement that Russia always has called for maintaining the treaty and said Russian diplomats are ready to quickly engage in contacts with the U.S. to formalize its extension for five years “without any delay.”

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres welcomed the U.S. decision and Russia’s reiteration. He encouraged both countries “to work quickly to complete the necessary procedure for the New START’s extension before the Feb. 5 expiration and move as soon as possible to negotiations on new arms control measures,” U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.

“A five-year extension would not only maintain verifiable caps on the world’s two largest nuclear arsenals but will also provide time to negotiate new nuclear arms control agreements to grapple with our increasingly complex international environment,” Dujarric said.

Biden indicated during the campaign that he favored the preservation of the New START treaty, which was negotiated during his tenure as U.S. vice president.

The talks on the treaty’s extension also were clouded by tensions between Russia and the United States, which have been fueled by the Ukrainian crisis, Moscow’s meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election and other irritants.

Despite the extension proposal, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Biden remains committed to holding Russia “to account for its reckless and adversarial actions,” such as its alleged involvement in the Solar Winds hacking event, 2020 election interference, the chemical poisoning of opposition figure Alexei Navalny and the widely reported allegations that Russia may have offered bounties to the Taliban to kill American soldiers in Afghanistan.

Asked to comment on Psaki’s statement, Peskov has reaffirmed Russia’s denial of involvement in any such activities.

After both Moscow and Washington withdrew from the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty in 2019, New START is the only remaining nuclear arms control deal between the two countries.

Arms control advocates have strongly called for New START’s preservation, warning that its lapse would remove any checks on U.S. and Russian nuclear forces.

Last week, Russia also declared that it would follow the U.S. to pull out of the Open Skies Treaty allowing surveillance flights over military facilities to help build trust and transparency between Russia and the West.

While Russia always offered to extend New START for five years — a possibility envisaged by the pact — Trump asserted that it put the U.S. at a disadvantage and initially insisted that China be added to the treaty, an idea that Beijing flatly rejected. Trump’s administration then proposed to extend New START for just one year and also sought to expand it to include limits on battlefield nuclear weapons.

Moscow has said it remains open for new nuclear arms talks with the U.S. to negotiate future limits on prospective weapons, but emphasized that preserving New START is essential for global stability.

Russian diplomats have said that Russia’s prospective Sarmat heavy intercontinental ballistic missile and the Avangard hypersonic glide vehicle could be counted along with other Russian nuclear weapons under the treaty.

The Sarmat is still under development, while the first missile unit armed with the Avangard became operational in December 2019.

The Russian military has said the Avangard is capable of flying 27 times faster than the speed of sound and could make sharp maneuvers on its way to a target to bypass missile defense systems. It has been fitted to the existing Soviet-built intercontinental ballistic missiles instead of older type warheads, and in the future could be fitted to the more powerful Sarmat.

Russia Resolves With Babylon the Great: Daniel 7

Russia welcomes US proposal to extend nuclear treaty

By Associated Press

The Kremlin on Friday welcomed US President Joe Biden’s proposal to extend the last remaining nuclear arms control treaty between the two countries, which is set to expire in less than two weeks.

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said that Russia stands for extending the pact and is waiting to see the details of the US proposal.

The White House said on Thursday that Biden has proposed to Russia a five-year extension of the New START treaty.

We can only welcome political will to extend the document,” Mr Peskov said in a conference call with reporters.

“But all will depend on the details of the proposal.”

The treaty, signed in 2010 by President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, limits each country to no more than 1550 deployed nuclear warheads and 700 deployed missiles and bombers, and envisages sweeping on-site inspections to verify compliance.

It expires on February 5, 2021.

Russia has long proposed to prolong the pact without any conditions or changes, but former President Donald Trump’s administration waited until last year to start talks and made the extension contingent on a set of demands.

The talks stalled, and months of bargaining have failed to narrow differences.

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting on economic issues via video conference at the Novo-Ogaryovo residence outside Moscow, Russia, Thursday, January 21, 2021. (AP)

“Certain conditions for the extension have been put forward, and some of them have been absolutely unacceptable for us, so let’s see first what the US is offering,” Mr Peskov said.

Mikhail Ulyanov, the Russian ambassador at the international organisations in Vienna, also hailed Biden’s proposal as an “encouraging step.”

“The extension will give the two sides more time to consider possible additional measures aimed at strengthening strategic stability and global security,” he tweeted.

The Russian Foreign Ministry’s spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, said in a statement that Russia always has called for maintaining the treaty and said Russian diplomats are ready to quickly engage in contacts with the US to formalise its extension for five years “without any delay.”

Biden indicated during the campaign that he favoured the preservation of the New START treaty, which was negotiated during his tenure as US vice president.

The talks on the treaty’s extension also were clouded by tensions between Russia and the US, which have been fuelled by the Ukrainian crisis, Moscow’s meddling in the 2016 US presidential election and other irritants.

US President Joe Biden has proposed to extend the last remaining nuclear arms control treaty . (Jabin Botsford/Getty Images)

Despite the extension proposal, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Biden remains committed to holding Russia “to account for its reckless and adversarial actions.”

Such as its alleged involvement in the Solar Winds hacking event, 2020 election interference, the chemical poisoning of opposition figure Alexei Navalny and the widely reported allegations that Russia may have offered bounties to the Taliban to kill American soldiers in Afghanistan.

Asked to comment on Psaki’s statement, Mr Peskov has reaffirmed Russia’s denial of involvement in any such activities.

Russia tests the most powerful non-nuclear bomb on September 11, 2007. (Russian Government)

After both Moscow and Washington withdrew from the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty in 2019, New START is the only remaining nuclear arms control deal between the two countries.

Arms control advocates have strongly called for New START’s preservation, warning that its lapse would remove any checks on US and Russian nuclear forces.

Last week, Russia also declared that it would follow the US to pull out of the Open Skies Treaty allowing surveillance flights over military facilities to help build trust and transparency between Russia and the West.

While Russia always offered to extend New START for five years — a possibility envisaged by the pact — Trump asserted that it put the US at a disadvantage and initially insisted that China be added to the treaty, an idea that Beijing flatly rejected.

Former President Donald Trump shakes hands with Russian President Vladimir Putin during a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in Osaka, Japan. (AP)

Trump’s administration then proposed to extend New START for just one year and also sought to expand it to include limits on battlefield nuclear weapons.

Moscow has said it remains open for new nuclear arms talks with the US to negotiate future limits on prospective weapons, but emphasised that preserving New START is essential for global stability.

Russian diplomats have said that Russia’s prospective Sarmat heavy intercontinental ballistic missile and the Avangard hyper-sonic glide vehicle could be counted along with other Russian nuclear weapons under the treaty.

The Sarmat is still under development, while the first missile unit armed with the Avangard became operational in December 2019.

The Russian military has said the Avangard is capable of flying 27 times faster than the speed of sound and could make sharp manoeuvres on its way to a target to bypass missile defence systems.

It has been fitted to the existing Soviet-built intercontinental ballistic missiles instead of older type warheads, and in the future could be fitted to the more powerful Sarmat.

The Avangard is launched atop an intercontinental ballistic missile, but unlike a regular missile warhead that follows a predictable path after separation, it can make sharp manoeuvres in the atmosphere en route to target, making it much harder to intercept. (AP)

Khamenei Vows Revenge on Babylon the Great: Daniel 8

Top Iran leader posts Trump-like golfer image, vows revenge

By Reuters Staff

DUBAI (Reuters) – The Twitter account of Iran’s Supreme Leader on Friday carried the image of a golfer resembling former President Donald Trump apparently being targeted by a drone, vowing revenge over the killing of a top Iranian general in a U.S. drone attack.

The post carried the text of remarks by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in December, in which he said “Revenge is certain”, renewing a vow of vengeance ahead of the first anniversary of the killing of top military commander General Qassem Soleimani in the attack in Iraq.

Those who ordered the murder of General Soleimani as well as those who carried this out should be punished. This revenge will certainly happen at the right time,” Khamenei tweeted on December 16, without naming Trump, who had ordered the strike.

Earlier this month, Twitter removed a tweet by Khamenei in which he said U.S. and British-made vaccines were unreliable and may be intended to “contaminate other nations”. The platform said the tweet violated its rules against misinformation.

There was no apparent immediate action by Twitter over the Persian-language tweet on Friday by Khamenei, Iran’s highest authority.

Tensions rapidly grew between Tehran and Washington since 2018, when Trump exited a 2015 deal between Iran and six world powers that sought to curb Tehran’s nuclear programme. Washington reimposed sanctions that have crippled Iran’s economy.

Iran called for action and “not just words” shortly after Joe Biden was sworn in as U.S. president on Wednesday. Biden has said Washington will rejoin the nuclear deal if Iran resumes strict compliance.

Reporting by Dubai newsroom; Editing by Michael Perry

Iran tells IAEA it plans to Nuke Up: Daniel 8

Headquarter of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna, Austria, December 16, 2020. REUTERS/Lisi Niesner

Iran tells IAEA it plans to enrich uranium to up to 20% at Fordow site

The move is the latest of several recent announcements by Iran to the International Atomic Energy Agency that it plans to further breach the deal

VIENNA: Iran has told the United Nations nuclear watchdog it plans to enrich uranium to up to 20% purity, a level it achieved before its 2015 accord, at its Fordow site buried inside a mountain, the agency said on Friday.

The move is the latest of several recent announcements by Iran to the International Atomic Energy Agency that it plans to further breach the deal, which it started violating in 2019 in retaliation for Washington’s withdrawal from the agreement and the reimposition of U.S. sanctions against Tehran.

This 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. Such moves by Iran could complicate efforts by U.S. President-elect Joe Biden to rejoin the deal.

“Iran has informed the Agency that in order to comply with a legal act recently passed by the country’s parliament, the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran intends to produce low-enriched uranium (LEU) up to 20 percent at the Fordow Fuel Enrichment Plant,” the IAEA said in a statement.

An IAEA report to member states earlier on Friday obtained by Reuters used similar wording in describing a letter by Iran to the IAEA dated Dec. 31.

“Iran’s letter to the Agency … did not say when this enrichment activity would take place,” the IAEA statement said.

Fordow was built inside a mountain, apparently to protect it from aerial bombardment, and the 2015 deal does not allow enrichment there. Iran is already enriching at Fordow with first-generation IR-1 centrifuges.

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

The deal’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.

U.S. 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.

Biden Makes Peace Offer to Russia: Daniel 7

Biden proposing five-year extension of nuclear weapon treaty with Russia, official says

By MATTHEW LEE The Associated Press,Updated January 21, 2021, 1:03 p.m.

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Biden administration is proposing to Russia a five-year extension of the New START treaty limiting the number of U.S. and Russian strategic nuclear weapons, a U.S. official said Thursday.

The proposal was being communicated to Russian officials, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss a matter not yet publicly announced by the administration.

The treaty is set to expire in February and is the last remaining agreement constraining U.S. and Russian nuclear weapons.