Why Donald Trump Can’t Stop Iran’s Missile and Nuclear Plans

How Donald Trump Can Stop Iran’s Missile and Nuclear Plans

Expectations of wealth from trade with Iran must be subordinate to the strategic need for a united front against Iranian proliferation and Iran’s regional hegemonic ambitions in the Middle East.

France, Germany, and Britain are supporting the ineffectual and dangerous nuclear deal (the JCPOA) with Iran. Contrary to the assumptions made by these states, the deal doesn’t stop Iran’s nuclear ambitions. It actually is a glide path to Iran building nuclear weapons because all the weak limits in the deal expire. Moreover, the Iranians have not come clean on their previous nuclear weapons work, as required by the JCPOA, and of grave concern is the Israeli discovery of major Iranian nuclear work undertaken as early as 2003. Iran’s nuclear ambitions are not just of interest to the Middle East region. The Iranians are building ballistic missiles with ranges of thousands of kilometers which thus puts Europe under threat.

This is transparent to all states, clearly including France, Germany and the UK. Thus, it is reasonable to explore the three reasons why they persist in giving Iran the benefit of the doubt in assuming Iran will abide by the JCPOA and why they believe that a nuclear deal will prevent Iran from securing nuclear weapons—even after its provisions expire this decade.

First, these nations want to do business with oil and gas-rich Iran and to do so they have to get around American banking sanctions. Second, they believe somehow the United States government will determine that Iran cannot build nuclear weapons under the JCPOA and that a new deal is not needed. Third, with the JCPOA given new life, U.S. banking sanctions against Iran would be lifted, allowing France, Germany, and the UK could trade and invest with Iran. At least that’s the hope from Paris, Berlin, and London.

Yet, even that scenario is on the rocks. Despite the visit to Tehran by the EU’s foreign policy chief, Iran is not budging. It wants all U.S. sanctions removed first. Only then it will purportedly comply with the ineffectual JCPOA.

Even the Europeans will not accept this outcome. In fact, the three European parties to the deal have filed a motion to reimpose UN sanctions unless Iran goes back into compliance with the JCPOA.

Moreover, British prime minister Boris Johnson has supported a completely new “Trump deal,” which would jettison the JCPOA and start over. Augmenting this, the Trump administration has also reasonably called for a new deal and, where there is no expiration of anti-nuclear provisions, an end to threatening Iranian ballistic missile developments. Additionally, it wants to deny Iran the automatic “right to enrich.”

Despite those positive developments, unless there is at a minimum a new nuclear deal along these lines, the danger of a nuclear Iran remains a deadly threat. Appeasing the mullahs in Iran will not keep anyone safe from IRGC terror but only encourage it. While the United States and Israel have an interest in preventing a nuclear Iran from emerging, they will not lend their support for a fraudulent deal that, at best, simply modestly delays but does not end the reality of a nuclear-armed Iran.

Many in the U.S. Congress who opposed the JCPOA because they recognized that support the existing JCPOA will ultimately allow Iran to build ICBMs with nuclear warheads—perhaps not today but on some tomorrow. The heads of state of Britain, France and Germany should comprehend this as well.

While domestic politics may lead these European leaders cynically to kick the Iranian nuclear can down the road in the misguided hope that some future leader will have to wrestle with a nuclear-armed Iran, that is a perilous path for the rest of the world.

While the United States and Israel are dedicated to stopping Iran from becoming a nuclear-armed terrorist nation, they will not fall for the EU’s nuclear gambit. If the EU’s plan were to reach fruition, then U.S. sanctions on EU companies that trade with Iran would be a lamentable consequence for these enterprises. To address the Iranian threat, a strong U.S. regional deterrent, which includes missile defenses and counter-proliferation policies, is the policy plan of the United States and one which Europe should join. Expectations of wealth from trade with Iran must be subordinate to the strategic need for a united front against Iranian proliferation and Iran’s regional hegemonic ambitions in the Middle East.

Peter Huessy is Founder and President of Geo-Strategic Analysis of Potomac, Maryland. Bradley A. Thayer is Professor of Political Science at the University of Texas in San Antonio and is the co-author of How China Sees the World: Han-Centrism and the Balance of Power in International Politics

Image: Reuters

Russia Blasts American Stupidity

‘Sick People’: Russian Officials Blast Pentagon Over Drill Simulating ‘Russian Nuclear Attack on Europe’ – Sputnik International

11:19 GMT 23.02.2020
(updated 11:20 GMT 23.02.2020)

On Friday, the Pentagon reported that it had staged a “mini-exercise” in which Russia dropped a low-yield nuke on a European NATO member. The drill followed a recent House Armed Services Committee hearing in which a senior Pentagon official said that the US needed a plan to be able to “fight and win” wars in a nuclear-contaminated environment.

Russian lawmakers have reacted to the Pentagon’s fantastical scenario involving Russia’s alleged plans to use low-yield nukes on the battlefield, calling the exercise outrageous and offering various ways that Moscow can respond.

Senator Sergei Tsekov called the drills’ organizers “sick people,” telling a Russian business news outlet that he was “very surprised, frankly, that they’re doing this, and talking about it openly. On the other hand, given the current situation and the current actions [by the US administration], why should we be surprised?” he added.
On Friday, a Pentagon official told reporters that Secretary of Defence Mark Esper had taken part in a drill to prepare for how the US would react to a limited Russian nuclear attack in Europe, saying the drill included “go[ing] through the conversation that you would have with the secretary of defence and then with the president ultimately to decide how to respond.”

Intimidation Tactics

Alexander Sherin, the deputy head of the Duma’s defence committee, suggested the US drill had two main goals.

The first is to get people accustomed to such an incredible scenario for resolving a conflict as a nuclear exchange between Russia and the NATO bloc. The second goal is to try to intimidate Europe’s population to justify the continued presence of American bases in European countries ‘as guarantors of security and defenders’ in the event of Russian nuclear attack,” Sherin explained, speaking to Russia’s NSN radio station.
He pointed out, however, that according to Russia’s military doctrine, Moscow reserves the right to use nuclear weapons only in the event that conventional or other aggression puts the integrity of the state itself in danger. The lawmaker further stressed that it would be absurd for Russia to attack European countries with nuclear weapons because the fallout would affect Russia itself. Sherin believes that the main reason the US can so nonchalantly talk about the use of nuclear weapons in the first place is because unlike Europe, their country has never been subjected to a serious military strike in modern history.

NATO soldiers of Croatia at the Training Range in Pabrade, Lithuania
© AP Photo / Mindaugas Kulbis

NATO soldiers of Croatia at the Training Range in Pabrade, Lithuania

Russian Troops on US Border With Mexico?

Firebrand Duma lawmaker Vladimir Zhirinovsky, the leader of the opposition Russian Liberal Democratic Party who’s known for his outrageous but occasionally brutally honest comments, suggested that it was the height of hypocrisy for the Pentagon to talk about plans to combat ‘Russian aggression’ while NATO holds drills on Russia’s borders.

They insolently stand on our borders, like Napoleon, like Hitler. Again these same hordes, the same countries armed with the most terrible weapons are carrying out drills – ‘a retaliatory strike’. They’re the ones conducting drills to carry out a [first] strike. We’ll be the ones retaliating” Zhirinovsky suggested. “Let us conduct the same kinds of exercises on the Mexico-US border. What will the Americans say?” the politician added.
Discussions among US officials about the need to account for the battlefield use of nuclear weapons have been going on for quite some time. Earlier this month, at a closed hearing of the House Armed Services Committee’s subcommittee on intelligence and emerging threats, deputy assistant secretary of defence for homeland defence and global security Theresa Whelan stressed the need for the US and its allies to work out strategies to enable them “fight and win in a nuclear-contaminated environment” amid the alleged Russian buildup of battlefield nuclear weapons.

‘US Needs to Evolve Its Thinking’

For her part, senator Olga Kovitidi suggested that the US need to move away from its militarist thinking. “Why the whole world learns the lessons of the Yalta Conference [of 1945], which took place in the name of peace and demonstrated the ability to come to an agreement, the US is imitating a war with Russia. It’s completely obvious that today the US requires an evolution of its thinking, and not just insofar as Russia is concerned,” Kovitidi said.

Finally, Senator Alexei Pushkov pointed to the disconnect between the formal US commitment not to deploy medium-range nuclear missiles in Europe, and minidrills like the ones conducted by the Pentagon, which seem to indicate the existence of such weapons. “We should believe not the Pentagon’s assurances, but its military plans. The imitation of a strike is a good cue,” Pushkov wrote on Twitter.

The Trump administration scrapped the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, a key arms control agreement signed in 1987 and aimed primarily at reducing the risk of nuclear war in Europe, in 2019, and has shown a waning interest in renewing the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New Start), which sets to expire in 2021. Russia has repeatedly expressed its readiness to extend New START without preconditions. Late last year, President Putin warned that a failure to renew the treaty could spark a new global arms race.

The US is spending as much as 53 times more than Russia upgrading its nuclear arsenal, and has completed a Nuclear Posture Review allowing for the use of battlefield tactical nuclear weapons even against non-nuclear arms. At least one low-yield nuke-armed US Navy strategic missile submarine was deployed on patrol last year. In addition, Washington continues the development of missile shield components in Poland and Romania. Moscow has warned that these sites’ anti-missile missile launchers could easily be converted to use nuclear cruise missiles.

Antichrist Warns MPs Against Rejecting New Government

Iraq’s Sadr warns MPs against rejecting new govt

February 22, 2020 23:39
NAJAF: Populist cleric Moqtada Al-Sadr returned to Iraq on Saturday with a threat to organizehttp://andrewtheprophet.com protests outside Parliament unless lawmakers back the government of Prime Minister-designate Mohammad Allawi in a confidence vote.
The cleric with a cult-like following in Iraq has thrown his weight behind the appointment of Allawi, despite the premier’s rejection by a protest movement Sadr once backed.
The onetime anti-US militia leader whose supporters form the largest bloc in the Parliament had spent most of the past few months in neighboring Iran but came back to whip up support for Allawi’s government lineup.
Sadr demanded that parliament approve the line-up in the coming days.
“If the session does not take place this week, or if lawmakers don’t (back) a transparent Iraqi Cabinet in a vote … then this will require a demonstration of a million people,” he tweeted.
“Sit-ins around the Green Zone (where Parliament is located) will have to be used to exert pressure,” he said.
Allawi has called for a vote of confidence to be held on Monday and has been backed by his predecessor Adel Abdul Mahdi, who bowed out as prime minister in December in the face of pressure from the street.
But the constitutional position is unclear.
Deputy Parliament Speaker Hassan Karim Al-Kaabi, who is close to Sadr, told Iraqi media that Abdul Mahdi’s request for an extraordinary session to hold the confidence vote was binding.
But Parliament Speaker Mohammed Halbusi said he has not yet agreed to convene the session and several lawmakers from Iraq’s Sunni Arab minority said they would boycott any vote.

The Suffering of the Bowls of Wrath (Revelation 16)

It’s a frightening thought experiment — what if Russia and the United States became embroiled in an all-out nuclear war?

Climatologist Alan Robock from Rutgers University studied that scenario, outlined the terrifying vision in a recent Fox News interview. People inside the blast radius would be obliterated — butalmost every form of life on Earth, down to ocean life, would also feel the pain.

“A nuclear bomb is like bringing a piece of the sun to the surface of the earth for a fraction of a second, and everything within a certain distance would just flash into fire,” Robock told Fox News. “In Hiroshima, there was a bomb that was 15 kilotons of explosive power, and everything within several square miles just burned and produced smoke.”

All that smoke would end up filling the stratosphere, blocking out the sun for more than five years, according to Robock.

“The temperatures would be colder, there’d be less sunlight, less rain and there’d be excess UV radiation because the ozone would be destroyed,” he told the channel.

In a 2019 paper published in the American Geophysical Union’s journal, Robock and his team predicted that a nuclear war would cause global temperatures to drop by 9 degrees Celsius over a year, with “freezing temperatures over much of the Northern Hemisphere during summer.”

Less sunlight and cold temperatures would end up wreaking havoc on our food supply.

“Once the stores ran out of food and the food that was stored disappeared, it’d be very hard to get food,” Robock told Fox News.

And it gets worse: the oceans would get hit hard as well, as outlined in a January paper co-authored by Robock and published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters. More carbon dioxide absorbed from the atmosphere means the oceans would become more acidic, dissolving the shells and skeletons of shellfish and corals.

Donald Trump’s Decision To Kill Soleimani WILL End Up Being ‘Catastrophic’

February 21, 2020, 10:33 PM UTC

Donald Trump’s Decision To Kill Soleimani Could End Up Being ‘Catastrophic’

When news first emerged of the U.S. drone strike, which killed Iranian General Qasim Soleimani, many were taken aback. As a U.S. military veteran and student of world affairs, drone strikes are nothing new to me, butthis strike represented more than those we’re so used to hearing about: decision makers in the United States had charged out of the “gray zone” of conflict with a targeted strike to kill an Iranian state official on third party soil.The decision to do so has long-term implications, some of which we’ve already seen. Only one week after the strike, outraged Iraqi politicians voted to expel American troops from the country. Iranian missiles rained down around two Iraqi bases that host American troops. Worst of all, the Iranian people rallied together in support of their fallen hero and in support of the Iranian regime’s promised response – a unity of support that the regime hasn’t enjoyed for many years. Individually these consequences are concerning for long-term U.S. interests in the region. Together, they have catastrophic potential.

These issues were on the minds of many in the room when Defense Secretary Mark Esper spoke at the Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies on February 7th in Washington DC. I had the opportunity to ask Secretary Esper regarding what the “long-term, strategic benefit” of the Suleimani strike was. His answer was familiar:

“Well, the long-term, strategic benefit is we took off the playing field, off the battlefield – and he was on the battlefield as a battlefield commander, one of their most effective commanders – somebody who is a terrorist leader…a U.S. designated foreign terrorist organization, who had the blood of hundreds of Americans on his hands over many, many years. By the way, he had the blood of hundreds of other people around the world on his hands, too, including the Iranian people. And so it was an easy decision for me to make that, as it was for the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Again, he had the blood of Americans on his hands as recently as, I think, the attack of December 27th that the IRGC was behind, and he was actively planning the next attack. And so I think taking him off the field – a battlefield leader off the battlefield – was a good response to Iranian bad behavior and his personal actions over many, many years.”  U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper

Secretary Esper and others in the administration have issued similar versions of this answer before, but it remains insufficient; the Secretary offers only short-term, tactical benefits as justification for an action with broad strategic implications. Removal of a battlefield commander is the very definition of a tactical action, not a strategic one. Without the proper planning, forces and assets in place to capitalize on the ensuing confusion and chaos, the elimination of an enemy commander yields only temporary disruption to their fighting capability. Further, it seems difficult to believe that the “next attack” (whatever it’s alleged to have been) was thwarted by Soleimani’s death. The General’s second-in-command, Brig. Gen. Ismail Qaani, was appointed the new commander of the IRGC’s Qods Force only hours after Soleimani’s death. As Soleimani’s longtime number two, here’s every reason to believe thatQaani remains fully aware of these “plans” and intends to make good on them one day. This lends itself to a broader point, which undermines Esper’s reasoning: within those organizations which wish the U.S. harm or imperil its interests, the “next attack” is always being planned, regardless of who’s in charge.

The important difference between strategy and tactics (and that which the Secretary ignored in his answer) is this: strategies span forces, years and decades. Tactics are the means and actions which an organization takes in pursuit of strategy. And, as Sun Tzu wrote, “tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.” Just as importantly, no tactic – whatever the potential rewards – should be executed at the expense of the long-term strategy. It appears possible, perhaps even likely, that Soleimani’s death did just that.

Iran has spent years attempting to bridge its generational divide using propaganda to cultivate a new, Iran-centric nationalism. One of the most successful of these efforts proved to be the story – and legend – of Soleimani, a frontline leader revered as the brave protector of Iran and the force which kept threats like ISIS at bay. Soleimani was a rare unifier, joining reformists and hard-liners of all stripes in admiration for his courage in the face of U.S., Israeli, Saudi and ISIS threats. Many Arabs admired him as well (the same Soleimani propaganda pieces which aired in Iran were often re-dubbed in Arabic and broadcast for Iraqis to see and hear), seeing him as a fellow-Shiite protector against the same extremist elements which overtook Iraq in the rise and fall of ISIS.

After his death, Soleimani unified Iranian society once more – this time in grief and anger – as people from all parts of the political and religious spectrum joined in grieving his death. More importantly, Iranians fell in step behind the government, which vowed retribution in the name of their fallen hero. Iranian society was, however briefly, galvanized by Soleimani’s death. In dispatching Soleimani, U.S. policymakers, including Secretary Esper, gave the Iranian regime what they’ve spent years trying hardest to obtain: national unity.

Bolstered by the public response, the Iranian regime struck back days later with a missile attack on two U.S. military assets in Iraq. That IRGC incompetence and a lack of training squandered the national goodwill (the Iranian public was infuriated to learn that a loaded passenger jet was inadvertently downed by IRGC missiles in the hours immediately following the ballistic response) is irrelevant: Iranian leaders saw the unity and support they briefly gained, the U.S. can be certain that they’ll tap the public anger over the Soleimani strike as a means of reclaiming it. The name “Soleimani” will be carried forward for decades to come as a rallying cry by the regime to solidify national unity against the United States, Saudi Arabia and Israel, and to gain domestic support for the regime’s malign foreign antics.

What’s more, the Iranian ballistic missile attack against U.S. hardware in Iraq was a pea-shooting response to the fiery obliteration of their most vaunted national figure. To believe that Iranian anger over Soleimani’s death and their hopes for revenge were sated by the destruction of several U.S. drones and sheds would be a major miscalculation;their long-term response will be deadly, destabilizing and well within the gray zone of conflict. For this reason, it seems clear that the tactical decision to kill Soleimani – however, despicable his crimes – undercuts U.S. strategy in the region, along with any hope of a more (as opposed to less) stable future for the Middle East. Increased Iranian unity for anti-American adventures means greater, continued risk to U.S. personnel in the region.

Secretary Esper often reminds audiences that Soleimani was a legitimate military target, a fact that is almost indisputable in the context of the Global War on Terror. Not every “legitimate” target is the best or most intelligent one to strike, however. I believe Secretary Esper when he says that the decision was “easy;” most decisions are made easier by making them in a vacuum. But such decisions are more difficult when made amidst their broader strategic contexts. This decision may have been easy, but it wasn’t supposed to be.

Brandon C. Patrick is a doctoral candidate at Johns Hopkins SAIS, where his research focuses on Iranian military innovation. After serving as a linguist in the U.S. Air Force, he earned degrees in Arabic and Middle Eastern / North African studies from the University of Arizona. He lives with his wife in Virginia.

His article first appeared at RealClearDefense.

We Will Fail to Treat Nuclear War Like the Emergency It Is

We Need to Treat Nuclear War Like the Emergency It Is

If the current state of global affairs reminds you of an over-the-top plot by a white-cat-stroking James Bond villain, you’re not far off. When it comes to nuclear policy, we are closer than ever to a real-life movie disaster.

During his February 4 State of the Union address, President Donald Trump declared that “the Iranian regime must abandon its pursuit of nuclear weapons.” He omitted the part where he withdrew the United States from the only existing international treaty with the capability to compel the Iranian regime to do so.

The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), aka the Iran Deal, is the one international treaty that has effectively de-escalated tensions and ensured continued progress in securing Iran’s nonproliferation. It’s vital that the United States reenters the Iran Deal, or it could take ages to repair the damage and restart progress.

That treaty isn’t the only one on the chopping block.

The United States has also withdrawn from the landmark Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty between the United States and Russia, a vital arms reduction treaty that was responsible for eliminating over 2,600 intermediate-range missiles, bringing tangible progress in stabilization and disarmament efforts between the two countries.

The most important remaining international arms control treaty to which the United States is still a party, the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), is set to expire in February 2021, just a year from now.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has publicly offered to immediately extend New START, without any preconditions. However, the treaty’s future is unclear — Trump may attempt to reach a broader deal involving China, as some of his advisors have suggested, or may trash this treaty as well.

Nuclear weapons make us all less safe. The United States can and must once again lead on nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament. Nothing less than human health and survival is at stake. We all have a vested interest in ensuring nuclear weapons are not used.

Despite that existential risk, the U.S. Defense Department confirmed on February 5 that the Navy has deployed a low-yield, submarine-launched ballistic missile warhead. Bill Arkin and Hans Kristensen of the Federation of American Scientists first disclosed the deployment a week before that.

These warheads lower the threshold for potential nuclear conflict while increasing the chances of a real-life James Bond movie situation, due to human error or miscalculation. These low-yield warheads may be indistinguishable on radar from missiles armed with high-yield bombs, meaning an adversary could respond to such a launch with a full attack, immediately escalating the conflict to full nuclear war.

Proponents of this low-yield nuclear warhead say it is more “usable,” a euphemistic phrase that should send chills down the spines of anyone who can’t afford to escape planetary orbit on a SpaceX rocket.

“Low-yield” nuclear weapons are misleadingly named. At 6.5 kilotons, they are 591 times more powerful than the largest conventional weapon the United States has ever used, the GBU-43/B “Massive Ordnance Air Blast” (MOAB) bomb, and 2,600 times more powerful than the 1995 Oklahoma City bomb.

In fact, the W76-2 “low-yield” nuclear weapon that was deployed on those submarines can have up to 43 percent of the yield of the atomic bomb that destroyed Hiroshima in 1945. That bomb killed between 90,000 and 166,000 people.

According to the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists’ Doomsday Clock, we’re at just 100 seconds to midnight, thanks in part to the Trump administration’s reckless, systematic dismantling and undermining of vital international arms control agreements.

We can and must avoid getting any closer to the brink of nuclear war — we’re already dangling too close to the edge. It’s time for the United States to reenter or renegotiate vital arms control treaties like the Iran Deal and extend New START.

Trump administration seeks to boost Babylon’s nuclear might

Trump administration seeks to boost US uranium production

As part of U.S. President Donald Trump’s proposed federal budget for fiscal 2021, his administration is requesting US$150 million annually over the next decade to stockpile U.S.-mined uranium in a new national uranium reserve.

The move is designed to prop up domestic production as a matter of national energy security and re-establish the country’s nuclear fuel supply chain.

Trump’s “Budget for America’s Future”, unveiled on Feb. 10, requests that the U.S. Congress approve a total of US$1.5 billion between 2021 and 2030 to set up the strategic reserve.

“This is the very beginning of a long process to revitalize in many respects the entirety of the nuclear fuel cycle,” U.S. Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette told reporters on a teleconference. “What you’ve seen in the president’s budget is a request for $150 million to begin the process of purchasing uranium.”

Khamenei is Correct: Babylon the Great Will Fall

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani walks past a portrait of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as he arrives for a news conference in the capital Tehran, on February 16, 2020.(Photo by ATTA KENARE / AFP)

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani walks past a portrait of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as he arrives for a news conference in the capital Tehran, on February 16, 2020.(Photo by ATTA KENARE / AFP)

Iran’s Khamenei says ‘Zionist-controlled’ US government will sink like Titanic

Supreme leader appears to indicate he’s referencing progressive Democratic talking points, says most of US riches going to a few billionaires while ordinary Americans suffer

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Wednesday said the United States will sink like the “Titanic,” blaming it on “wealthy Zionist individuals and corporate owners” who he said controlled the US economy.

In a long series of tweets, Khamenei said the strength of the US economy was a “facade” and appeared to quote  progressive Democrats saying that US President Donald Trump was overseeing the transfer of US wealth to a few billionaires.

“Today, the epitome of rebellion, arrogance and tyranny is the US government, which is controlled by the wealthy Zionist individuals and corporate owners,” Khamenei tweeted.

“In the same way that the glory and splendor of the famous #Titanic ship did not prevent her from sinking, the apparent glory & splendor of the US won’t prevent it from sinking. And, the US will sink,” he said.

Khamenei took aim at Trump’s economic policies, which the president often touts as one of his greatest accomplishments, noting that markets are at record highs and and the unemployment rate is at its lowest  in decades.

“The current US President claims he has improved the economic situation there. Others say yes, it’s become better, but only for the billionaires, not for the people of the US,” Khamenei said.

Without mentioning names, Khamenei appeared to cite Democratic candidates like Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren.

“These aren’t my words, but the words of a member of the U.S. ruling body. He says over $100B has been added to the wealth of the 5 richest people in the US in the 3 years of Trump’s presidency. 3 of them own wealth equal to half the US population. Look at this social gap!


These aren’t my words, but the words of a member of the U.S. ruling body. He says over $100B has been added to the wealth of the 5 richest people in the US in the 3 years of Trump’s presidency. 3 of them own wealth equal to half the US population. Look at this social gap!

459 people are talking about this

“The US has created the façade of being on its feet,” he wrote.  “The US has one of the largest debts in the world today, & the gap between social classes is wider than ever,” Khamenei wrote.

Khamenei’s comments come as Iran gears up for a crucial parliamentary election in two days, with many people in the country feeling that their lives have been crippled by an economic slump exacerbated by harsh US sanctions since Trump pulled the United States out of a landmark nuclear deal with the Islamic Republic in 2018.

Conservatives are expected to make an overwhelming resurgence in Friday’s vote, which comes after months of steeply escalating tensions between Iran and its decades-old arch foe the United States.

Their gains would be made at the expense of those who back President Hassan Rouhani, a relatively moderate conservative who was re-elected in 2017 promising people more freedoms and the benefits of engagement with the West.

Rouhani urged people to go and vote, saying that taking part would give Iran the “strength and unity” needed in its stand against the United States.

“We are going to the polls to choose the best people for parliament, which is a very important institution,” he said in televised remarks after a meeting of his cabinet.

“We are under severe sanctions and pressure by the global arrogance, and we have to break these sanctions and improve people’s lives,” he added, referring to the United States.

“Sanctions are a terrorist and tyrannical act against Iran.

“One cannot say sanctions have no effect and the government should be doing more… It’s lies, it’s supporting America.”

Iran’s electoral watchdog on Wednesday defended its decision to disqualify thousands of candidates from the vote.

The Interior Ministry said around half of the 16,033 hopefuls would contest the election after the Guardian Council barred thousands, most of them relative moderates and reformists.

But the Council said it was “neutral” in its dealings with all political camps and acted in accordance with the law when it blocked their candidacy.

“The Guardian Council follows the laws and regulations parliament has passed at different times,” said its spokesman Abbas Ali Kadkhodaee.

Babylon the Great Lowers the Nuclear Threshold

A submarine mostly submerged in water.The Senseless Danger of the Military’s New “Low-Yield” Nuclear Warhead

The weapon’s smaller destructive power does not mean a smaller risk of catastrophe.

Sometime in the past two months, the U.S. Navy has deployed a new type of nuclear warhead in some of its Trident submarines. Called the W76-2, it is a “low-yield” warhead, which would explode with the blast power of about 8 kilotons—far less powerful than the Tridents’ other warheads, which have an explosive yield of 90 to 450 kilotons.

At first glance, this might seem like a good thing: a smaller blast means less death and damage, if a nuclear war happened. But in some ways, it’s a dangerous thing, and to explain why requires a brisk dive into the rabbit hole logic of nuclear strategy.

For many years, arms control advocates have argued that low-yield nuclear weapons are destabilizing because they lower the threshold between conventional and nuclear war. They seem to be—they are designed to be—more usable as weapons of war, and therefore some president, in a crisis, might feel more tempted to use them. (The United States has always had an explicit policy of reserving the right to use nuclear weapons first in a conflict.)

Those worries have intensified when we’ve had presidents who are viewed as erratic. In 2003, after the invasion of Iraq, some Air Force generals proposed building a new low-yield nuclear warhead that could burrow underground before exploding; they saw it as the ideal weapon for killing some future Saddam Hussein hiding in a bunker. But many members of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees did not trust President George W. Bush with such a weapon, so they tacked on an amendment to that year’s defense budget, prohibiting the “testing, acquisition, or deployment of a low-yield nuclear weapon”—and barring the Department of Energy from even researching such a weapon—without the advance approval of Congress.

Many now have the same worry about Donald Trump. In 2018, when then–Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis lobbied for the W76-2 on Capitol Hill, at least one Republican senator told him, “I don’t have a problem with this weapon. I have a problem with the president who’s authorized to use this weapon.”\

But just months later, Trump’s viselike grip on the Republican Party had tightened. The Democrat-controlled House voted to cancel the program; the GOP-led Senate voted to approve it. In the conference committee, the House managers folded. Some reasoned that it was such an inexpensive program: Only 50 warheads would be modified to the low-yield version, at a cost of $65 million, less than 0.1 percent of the entire defense budget. No big deal.

Another reason for the Democrats’ concession was that this low-yield program was presented as a response to a Russian threat. The argument was that the Russians had a new strategy called “escalate to de-escalate.” If war broke out in Europe, the Russians would launch a low-yield nuclear weapon at U.S. and NATO forces. If we didn’t have low-yield nuclear weapons to fire back, we would have to surrender. If we did have low-yield nukes, the rationale went, the Russians might not attack in the first place.

It is true that the Russian military has outlined such a strategy in some manuals and rehearsed this scenario in some training exercises. But it’s slippery logic to conclude that we need a low-yield Trident warhead to meet the threat.

First, the case for the new warhead hinges on the premise that, in order to deter the Russians, we need to match in kind every move they make: They build a low-yield missile; we have to do the same, or we wind up with a “gap in the escalation spectrum” (as some have labeled the threat). But there is nothing in history, strategy, or intelligence findings about Russian thinking on the subject to support this notion.

Second, even if the notion could be supported, it would be irrelevant because—as Hans Kristensen of the Federation of American Scientists estimates—the U.S. already has about 1,000 low-yield nuclear bombs and cruise missiles, which could be dropped or fired from F-15, F-16, B-1, and B-2 aircraft.Advocates of the low-yield Trident argue that those planes might be shot down by Russian air defenses, whereas the Trident missiles—launched from undetectable submarines—would definitely get through Russian defenses. This imbalance is overstated. Many, probably most of the U.S. planes would get through to their targets. More to the point, even if only a few got through, that would mean that we are able to launch low-yield nuclear weapons in response to Russian low-yield weapons—which means the premise of advocates’ case for low-yield Tridents is false.

Third, there is some dispute within intelligence agencies over why the Russians are deploying low-yield nuclear warheads in the first place. From the 1950s to the 1970s, the U.S. placed thousands of nuclear weapons in Western Europe to compensate for the superiority of Soviet tanks and troops in Eastern Europe. Now, many analysts believe, the Russians are putting more emphasis on nuclear weapons in order to counter U.S. and NATO superiority in conventional weapons. It’s two sides of the same coin. It doesn’t reflect a new kind of threat—or require a new kind of response.

In my new book, The Bomb: Presidents, Generals, and the Secret History of Nuclear War, I recount a highly classified war game played by the National Security Council late in the Obama administration. Reports of Russia’s “escalate to de-escalate” strategy were emerging. The idea of the game was to test whether this strategy might indeed thwart America’s ability or will to project power in Europe. The scenario went like this: The Russians invade one of the Baltic states; NATO fights back effectively; to reverse the tide, Russia fires a low-yield nuclear weapon at the NATO troops or at a base in Germany where drones, combat planes, and smart bombs were deployed. The question: What do U.S. decision-makers do next?

The generals were caught off guard. They knew of the long-standing debate over whether the U.S. should be the first to use nuclear weapons in response to a conventional attack, but it seemed perverse to consider using conventional weapons in response to a nuclear attack. A few hours of discussion ensued, examining Kahl’s political challenge, NATO’s conventional military strength, the puzzle of which targets to hit with nuclear weapons (none made much sense), and whether a nuclear response would end the war any sooner or more victoriously than a conventional response (which didn’t seem likely). In the end, a consensus formed that, at least as a first step, the U.S. should respond with continued conventional military operations.

A month later, the NSC’s Principals Committee—the group of Cabinet secretaries and military chiefs—played the same game, but with very different results. Some of the same concerns were raised—the possibility of isolating the Russians by not taking the nuclear bait, the lack of any sensible targets, the uncertainty of whether nukes would dampen or further escalate the war. Still, the principals decided we had to respond with nuclear weapons, to maintain credibility among our allies and adversaries. They decided to fire a few nuclear weapons at the former Soviet republic of Belarus, even though, in the game, it had no involvement in the Russian attacks—and then they ended the game, without playing the next few steps.

Regardless of who was right, the deputies or the principals, there is another good reason for opposing the idea of launching low-yield nuclear weapons from a Trident submarine. In the first months of Trump’s presidency, Mattis assembled a group of seven longtime defense experts—the “Graybeards,” he called them—to hash out various issues. In the third and last of their meetings, held on Nov. 1, 2017, they discussed the “escalate to de-escalate” scenario and whether to respond by building low-yield Trident warheads. Most of the seven opposed the idea. Kevin Chilton, a retired Air Force general, argued that if the Russians saw a missile hurtling their way after being fired upon by a Trident submarine, they wouldn’t know whether it was high-yield or low-yield—they would see it as a “strategic” weapon, perhaps the first volley of a much larger attack against Russia, and respond accordingly.

Chilton’s opposition might have stemmed in part from the fact that the warhead was a Navy weapon. (He argued that, if we wanted to use nukes to send a signal to Moscow, a cruise missile fired from a bomber aircraft would be a better tool. Both the bomber and the cruise missile were Air Force weapons.) Still, he had a point. There’s nothing on the missile that flashes “Low Yield! Low Yield!” And when the warhead goes off, it would look and feel like the largest explosion witnessed since World War II. An 8-kiloton bomb may sound puny, but 8 kilotons means 8,000 tons, which means 16 million pounds—and that’s just the blast. There would also be fire, smoke, electromagnetic pulse, radiation, and radioactive fallout, spreading the toxicity far and wide. The bomb that leveled Hiroshima at the end of World War II exploded with the force of 12.5 kilotons—not that much larger than the W76-2.

Where would this weapon be aimed? I’ve asked several officials who deal with these matters. They have different answers. Some say it would be aimed at a target inside Russia. Some say, no, that would escalate the conflict; it would be aimed at a target on the battlefield. Some say the president would make the decision. (That’s the scariest answer of all.) The point is, as the Obama NSC’s war game spelled out, nobody knows how it would, or should, be used—and certainly nobody knows what might happen next.

That is the real danger of the low-yield weapon—not so much the weapon itself (especially compared with much higher-yield weapons) but the deception that the whole concept plants in a decision-maker’s mind: the idea that “low-yield” means tiny, harmless, controllable. In fact, the dynamic unleashed—the near-certainty of a retaliatory strike, followed by another round of strikes, steadily subsumed in the fog of war, as communications systems burn out, commanders wander in confusion about what’s going on, each side fears the worst from the other and seeks to preempt the next blow with a blow of his own—would mean that before too long, the conflict escalates to catastrophe.

If war happens and if nuclear weapons come into the fray, clearly it’s sensible to try to keep the damage limited. But no one in officialdom has ever played a war game in which a “limited” attack believably stays limited. Things spiral out of control pretty quickly. Which is why it’s a good idea to keep the threshold between conventional and nuclear war as high as possible—and why the low-yield Trident warhead is a bad idea.

Iran’s Mohammad Javad Zarif Blames Pompeo for Soleimani Strike

Iran’s Mohammad Javad Zarif blames Trump’s aides for Soleimani strike

Amanda Macias

MUNICH — Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif called the deadly U.S. strike on Iran’s top military leader an “act of terror” and blamed President Donald Trump’s advisors.

“This moment is a very dangerous moment because the United States has been misled. I believe President Trump, unfortunately, does not have good advisers,” Zarif told an audience Saturday during a discussion at the Munich Security Conference.

Unfortunately somebody else is trying to mimic John Bolton and promised the president that killing Soleimani would bring people to dance in the streets in Tehran and Baghdad. And that the continuation of maximum pressure would bring us to our knees before his reelection campaign,” he said, adding that none of it came to pass.

“That was an act of terror,” he said of the Jan. 2 strike that killed Gen. Qasem Soleimani, a key military figure of Iranian and Middle East politics. “The United States conducts operations and wants to be immune from the consequences, that doesn’t happen,” he added.

On the heels of the strike, Iran launched at least a dozen missiles from its territory on Jan. 7 at two military bases in Iraq that house U.S. troops and coalition forces.

A day later from the White House, Trump said that Iran appeared “to be standing down” and warned Tehran to abandon its nuclear ambitions.

“As long as I am president of the United States, Iran will never be allowed to have a nuclear weapon,” Trump said speaking from the grand foyer of the White House.

But he suggested that the U.S. is open to negotiations with Tehran. “We must all work together toward making a deal with Iran that makes the world a safer and more peaceful place,” he said on Jan. 8.

He then urged other world powers to break away from the Obama-era nuclear agreement with Iran and work out a new deal.

The Trump administration withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers and began a policy of “maximum pressure” to reign in Tehran’s activities in the Middle East.

And while U.S. sanctions have crippled Iran’s economy, slashing its oil exports, Tehran has said it will not negotiate with Washington while the penalties are in place.

John Kerry and I spent more time together than we did with our wives for two years,” Zarif said of the Obama-era agreement at the Munich Security Forum.

“It was a multilateral agreement and President Trump decided that he simply did not like Obama so he could leave. So there’s no point in talking over something that you talked about. I mean, you don’t buy a horse twice,” he added.