The Church’s Blessings on Nuclear War

Intercontinental ballistic missile Topol-M exhibited at the annual Victory day Parade dress rehearsal on May 6, 2012 in Moscow, Russia. Credit: Pukhov K / Shutterstock

Russian Orthodox Church considers ending blessings for nuclear weapons

Moscow, Russia, Jul 10, 2019 / 05:00 pm (CNA).- The Russian Orthodox Church is debating an end to the practice of blessing large scale weapons, including nuclear missiles. 

Last month, a committee on ecclesial law met in Moscow and recommended ending the practice of blessing missiles and warheads, and suggested that priests should instead bless only individual soldiers and their personal weapons.

According to a report by Religion News Service, Bishop Savva Tutunov of the Moscow Patriarchate said that it would be more appropriate to bless only the warrior who is defending their country, and their own personal weapon–instead of bombs.

“One can talk about the blessing of a warrior on military duty in defense of the fatherland,” said Tutunov.

“At the end of the corresponding ritual, the personal weapon is also blessed — precisely because it is connected to the individual person who is receiving the blessing. By the same reasoning, weapons of mass destruction should not be sanctified,” he said.

The proposal to end the blessings for larger weapons has yet to be approved by Patriarch Kirill of Moscow, head of the Russian Orthodox Church.

Weapons systems, including Topol-class intercontinental ballistic missiles, are frequently blessed by members of the Russian Orthodox clergy during military parades and other events. These blessings are seen as a way of spiritually protecting the country.

In 2007, Russia’s nuclear weapons were consecrated in a service at the Christ the Savior Cathedral in Moscow. In Russian Orthodoxy, the patron saint of Russia’s nuclear weapons is St. Seraphim.

Tutunov’s view is not universally held in the Orthodox Church. According to  the piece published by Religion News Service, Fr. Vsevolod Chaplain, a former spokesman for the Patriarch of Moscow, said that Russia’s nuclear arsenal is akin to the “guardian angels” of the country and are needed to protect Orthodoxy.

“Only nuclear weapons protect Russia from enslavement by the West,” Chaplin said to a Russian newspaper.

Patriarch Kirill is rumored to have been a KGB agent prior to the fall of the Soviet Union. His predecessor, Patriarch Alexy II is also believed to have been a KGB agent. The Moscow Patriarchate denies this.

The Catholic Church is explicitly opposed to nuclear weapons, and supports countries dismantling their arsenals.

Pope St. John XXIII called for the banning of nuclear weapons and wrote that “a general agreement must be reached on a suitable disarmament program, with an effective system of mutual control” in his 1963 encyclical Pacem in Terris.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church describes acts of war aimed at the indiscriminate destruction of entire cities or large areas as “a crime against God and man.”

“A danger of modern warfare is that it provides the opportunity to those who possess modern scientific weapons – especially atomic, biological, or chemical weapons – to commit such crimes.”

In November, Pope Francis is expected to visit Nagasaki and Hiroshima–cities where the United States deployed two atomic bombs during World War II–on his apostolic visit to Japan.

Russian Nukes Are Considered Holy!

THE RUSSIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH MAY STOP BLESSING NUCLEAR WEAPONS

A faction of clergy within the Russian Orthodox Church wants to end the eyebrow-raising practice of blessing the country’s nuclear missiles.

First of all, yes: Russian priests currently sprinkle holy water on nuclear missiles as part of an old tradition in which Orthodox priests bless soldiers and their weapons, reports Religion News Service. But that may change, as some priests feel that intercontinental ballistic missiles belong in a different category from individual firearms.

Faith Militant

The Russian military and the Russian Orthodox church have long worked hand in hand, according to RNS, framing many of the country’s military conflicts as holy wars. The nuclear arsenal even has its own patron saint — RNS reports that St. Seraphim’s remains were found in a Russian town that housed several nuclear facilities.

As such, the push to stop blessing nukes faces strong opposition among members of the clergy, such as the high-ranking priest Vsevolod Chaplin, who referred to the country’s nukes as “guardian angels.”

“Only nuclear weapons protect Russia from enslavement by the West,” Chaplin once said, per RNS.

Changing Hearts

One priest, Dmitry Tsorionov, parted from the more militant aspects of the Orthodox Church after seeing men willingly sign up to fight Russia’s wars “under the banner of Christ,” he told RNS. Now he wants to see less warmongering among the clergy.

“It was not uncommon to see how church functionaries openly flirted with these toxic ideas,” he told RNS. “It was only then that I finally realized what the blessing of military hardware leads to.”

The Nuclear Race in the Middle East (Daniel 7-8)

Middle East: Towards a Nuclear Arms Race

The Middle East is barreling towards a nuclear and ballistic missiles arms race.

The race is being aided and abetted by a schizophrenic U.S. policy that, on the one hand, focuses on Iran (and the need to stop the country in its tracks) and, on the other hand, primarily views Saudi Arabia as a lucrative market for the U.S. defense and nuclear industry.

The race is further enabled by the inability or unwillingness of other major powers – Europe, Russia and China – to counter crippling U.S. sanctions against Iran in ways that would ensure that Tehran maintains an interest in adhering to the 2015 international agreement that curbed the Iranian nuclear program despite last year’s U.S. withdrawal from the deal.

Aiding the Saudi agenda

With the Middle East teetering on the brink of a military confrontation, Iran has vowed to start breaching the agreement if the international community, and particularly Europe, fails to shield it against U.S. sanctions.

Former International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) deputy director general Olli Heinonen, a hard-liner when it comes to Iran, asserted recently during a visit to Israel that Iran would need six to eight months to enrich uranium in the quantity and quality required to produce a nuclear bomb.

U.S. and Chinese willingness to lower safeguards in their nuclear dealings with Saudi Arabia further fuel Iranian doubts about the value of the nuclear agreement and potentially open the door to a nuclear arms race in the Middle East.

Why Trump focuses on Iran

In a wide-ranging interview with NBC News, Donald Trump recently elaborated on the prism through which he approaches the Middle East.

The president deflected calls for an FBI investigation into last October’s murder by Saudi government agents of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul.

“Iran’s killed many, many people a day. Other countries in the Middle East ― this is a hostile place. This is a vicious, hostile place. If you’re going to look at Saudi Arabia, look at Iran, look at other countries,” Mr. Trump said, suggesting that crimes by one country provide license to others.

Asked whether Saudi arms purchases was reason to let Saudi Arabia off the hook, Mr. Trump responded: “No, no. But I’m not like a fool that says, ‘We don’t want to do business with them.’ And by the way, if they don’t do business with us, you know what they do? They’ll do business with the Russians or with the Chinese.”

Europe’s stance creates an opening for Russia

Europe has so far unsuccessfully sought to put in place an effective mechanism that would allow European and potentially non-European companies that do business with Iran to circumvent U.S. sanctions unscathed.

As the United States prepared to announce new sanctions, Russia said it would help Iran with oil exports and its banking sector if the European mechanism failed to get off the ground but offered no details.

While countering the sanctions is Iran’s immediate priority, Saudi moves, with the help of the Trump administration as well as China, are likely to enhance Iranian questioning of the nuclear accord’s value.

The country is keen to put in place the building blocks for a nuclear industry that could develop a military component and a ballistic missiles capability.

Trump’s “rationale”

Trump’s argument that Russia and China would fill America’s shoes if the United States refused to sell arms and technology to Saudi Arabia is not wholly without merit, even if it fails to justify a lack of safeguards in the provision of nuclear technology to the kingdom.

For example, when the United States refused to share its most advanced drone technology, China opened in 2017 its first overseas defense production facility in Saudi Arabia.

State-owned China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC) is manufacturing its CH-4 Caihong, or Rainbow drone, as well as associated equipment in Saudi Arabia. The CH-4 is comparable to the armed U.S. MQ-9 Reaper drone.

Satellite images discovered by the Middlebury Institute of International Studies and confirmed by U.S. intelligence show that Saudi Arabia has significantly escalated its ballistic missile program with the help of China.

Saudis bypass the Americans

The missile program runs counter to U.S. policy that for decades sought to ensure that Saudi Arabia had air supremacy in the region, so that it wouldn’t seek to go around the United States to upgrade its missile capabilities.

The program that started in the late 1980s with Saudi Arabia’s first clandestine missile purchases from China suggests that the kingdom, uncertain about the reliability of the United Sates, is increasingly hedging its bets.

Saudi development of a ballistic missile capability significantly dims any prospect of Iran agreeing to limit its missile program – a key demand put forward by the Trump administration.

Nuclear power plants in play too

in 2017 Saudi Arabia signed a nuclear energy cooperation agreement with China that included a feasibility study for the construction of high-temperature gas-cooled (HTGR) nuclear power plants in the kingdom as well as cooperation in intellectual property and the development of a domestic industrial supply chain for HTGRs built in Saudi Arabia.

The HTGR agreement built on an accord signed in 2012 that involved maintenance and development of nuclear power plants and research reactors, as well as the provision of Chinese nuclear fuel.

The Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) warned at the time that the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement had “not eliminated the kingdom’s desire for nuclear weapons capabilities and even nuclear weapons.”

The Trump administration, eager to corner a deal for the acquisition of designs for nuclear power plants, a contract valued at up to $80 billion depending on how many Saudi Arabia ultimately decides to build, has approved several nuclear technology transfers to the kingdom.

It has also approved licences for six U.S. firms to sell atomic power technology to Saudi Arabia.

Saudis vs. the IAEA

Saudi Arabia is nearing completion of its first atomic reactor in the King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology near Riyadh.

A signatory of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), Saudi Arabia has ignored calls by the IAEA, to implement proportionate safeguards and an inspection regime that would ensure that it does not move towards development of a nuclear military capability.

“Saudi Arabia is currently subject to less intrusive monitoring by international inspectors because Riyadh concluded what is known as a small quantities protocol with the agency.

The small quantities protocol was designed to simplify safeguards for states with minimal or no nuclear material, but it is no longer adequate for Saudi Arabia’s expanding nuclear program,” Kelsey Davenport, director of Non-proliferation Policy at the Arms Control Association, told Middle East Eye.

Ms. Davenport warned that “given these factors, there are legitimate reasons to be concerned that Saudi Arabia is seeking to develop the technical capabilities that would allow Riyadh to quickly pursue nuclear weapons if the political decision were made to do so.”

Russia’s Satanic Nuclear Bomb is Ready

This file photo shows a Russian Yars RS-24 intercontinental ballistic missile system in Red Square during the Victory Day military parade in Moscow, Russia, on May 9, 2017.

PHOTO: NATALIA KOLESNIKOVA/AFP/GETTY

RUSSIA’S ‚INVULNERABLE‘ SATAN 2 NUCLEAR MISSILE WILL BE READY TO FIRE BY THE END OF 2020, SPACE AGENCY OFFICIAL SAYS

By David Brennan On 7/08/19 at 6:25 AM EDT

NEWS RUSSIA WEAPONS MISSILE ICBM

Russia’s latest nuclear-capable intercontinental ballistic missile—which Russian President Vladimir Putin has claimed can defeat all existing American defenses—will complete its testing phase by the end of 2020, the country’s space agency has announced.

Dmitry Rogozin, the head of Russia’s state space corporation Roscosmos, told reporters Saturday that the RS-28 Sarmat ICBM—known in the West by its NATO code name „Satan 2″—is already undergoing launch tests ahead of its adoption by Russian armed forces.

„Firing tests are already underway,“ Rogozin told reporters, according to state news agency Tass. „The bulk of firing tests will be completed by the end of the year. We expect the closing stage of tests at the end of next year.“

Though Rogozin said the tests remain on schedule, the adoption of the RS-28 Sarmat has been beset by delays. It was originally supposed to become operational by 2016, but hold ups meant it was only even announced by Putin in March 2018 at his annual state of the nation address.

Putin said that the „invulnerable“ silo-based weapon has been in development since 2001, following President George W. Bush’s decision to pull out of a 1972 U.S.-Soviet anti-ballistic missile treaty. Revealing the weapon, Putin addressed the U.S. and said he had warned Bush not to withdraw from the treaty. „You didn’t listen to our country then,“ he said, „Listen to us now.

The massive 220-ton weapon will replace the Cold War-era RS-36M Voyevoda missiles. The RS-28 Sarmat will reportedly carry a nuclear payload large enough to wipe out an area the size of Texas or France.

Putin said the missile „has practically no range restrictions,“ though The Guardian cited state media reports detailing a range of around 6,800 miles. Regardless, the president claimed it can evade „even the most advanced missile defense systems,“ such as those fielded by the U.S.

Traveling at Mach 10—around 16,000 m.p.h.—the RS-28 Sarmat can carry 10 to 15 warheads, all of which can target a different location. Putin’s announcement of the weapon was accompanied by an unsettling CGI video demonstrating its capabilities, in which nuclear warheads were shown falling on a region closely resembling the Tampa Bay area of Florida.

Viktor Bondarev, the head of Russian Senate’s Defense and Security Committee, has claimed that the U.S. would need 500 missiles to defend against one RS-28 Sarmat launch.

American defense officials have warned that the U.S. must rethink its overarching military strategy, and pivot from the counter-terrorism stance adopted since 9/11 back to one of great power competition.

The Threat of Nuclear Terrorism

FILE PHOTO © Global Look Press/ face to face /Christian Ohde

Nuclear weapon material worth $72mn seized in a car in Turkey

Published time: 6 Jul, 2019 22:50

Turkish police have taken five people into custody over the smuggling of a highly-radioactive substance used to build nuclear weapons and power nuclear reactors. The 18.1-gram haul was found in a car.

Police discovered a vial of the material after they pulled over a car in the northwestern Bolu province. The substance, believed to be californium, was found stashed under the gear stick wrapped in a bag. Officers had to cut the upholstery to get to the parcel, which is estimated to be worth US$72 million.

Five suspects were detained in the raid, and the mixture was taken to the Turkish Atomic Energy Agency (TAEK) for a detailed analysis.

Californium is named after the place where it was synthesized back in 1950 – a laboratory at the University of California. Apart from being used to manufacture nukes and nuclear-powered reactors, the element also has a range of rather innocuous civilian applications. It can be used as part of metal detectors and is used in cancer treatment as well as oil, silver, and gold mining operations. Still, the substance is highly dangerous and its production, distribution, and transportation is restricted. Currently, only the US and Russia synthesize the isotope.

Also on rt.com ‘Imposing quantity’ of uranium seized in raid on smugglers in Moldova (VIDEO)

It is not the first time Turkish police have reported a major bust involving californium.

In a scare in March of last year, police in Ankara said they had seized a whopping 1.4kg of the same substance in a car following a tip-off. It turned out to be false alarm, as the haul was later found to have no trace of nuclear or radioactive material, and was, in fact, organic matter.

The Russian Horn Extends to Europe (Daniel 7)

Russia threatens military response to any NATO action over nuclear-ready missile

David Reid

Published Wed, Jun 26 2019 5:57 AM EDT

Moscow has said it will take „countervailing military measures“ should NATO fulfil any threat related to Russia’s nuclear-ready cruise missile system.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Tuesday that Russia must dismantle the short-range system, or the alliance will be forced to respond, adding that NATO-member defense ministers would now look at next steps „in the event that Russia does not comply.“

No detail is yet known over what NATO might do although Stoltenberg said the alliance would not engage in any arms race.

According to the Kremlin-owned news agency TASS, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told reporters Wednesday that NATO’s comments „reek of propaganda“ and were falsely attempting to portray NATO’s threat as a „military and political response to Russia’s actions.“

The translation of Ryabkov, provided by TASS, added that Russia would respond to any military action from the 29-nation alliance.

„When these threats begin to materialize into real action, we will have to take countervailing military measures,“ he said.

Earlier this year, the U.S. said it would quit a decades-old missile treaty with Russia if the latter failed to destroy the missile, labeled the SSC-8 by NATO.

Russia’s short and medium range missiles are viewed as a particular threat to neighboring countries as they can be quickly launched, leaving the target country or region with almost no response time.

The 1987 INF Treaty between the U.S. and Russia sought to eliminate nuclear and conventional missiles, as well as their launchers, with short ranges (310–620 miles) and intermediate ranges (620–3,420 miles).

NATO has said Russia’s SSC-8 violates those terms and that Moscow has been deploying the system at locations which threatens countries across Europe.

Russia has been given until the end of August to just five weeks to scrap the system and save the treaty.

Saudi Arabia’s Nuclear Ambitions (Daniel 7)

Alarm bells: Saudi Arabia’s nuclear ambitions cast shadow over the region

Analysts fear Riyadh is seeking to develop the technical capabilities that would allow it to quickly pursue nuclear weapons

In sharp contrast to Iran, its revolutionary identity and revisionist tendencies, Saudi Arabia has traditionally been a proponent of the prevailing order and status-quo balance of power in the Middle East.

This seems to be changing under Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, who continues to receive extraordinary support from US President Donald Trump’s administration.

Whether it is an attempt to revise the status quo in favour of Riyadh, or prevent it from being revised by others, Saudi Arabia’s nuclear and missile programmes are bound to have significant regional implications. 

US approved transfer of nuclear expertise to Riyadh after Khashoggi’s murder.

Earlier this month, Tim Kaine, Democratic senator from Virginia, revealed that the Trump administration had approved the transfer of nuclear know-how to Saudi Arabia seven times, including twice after the murder of Saudi critic Jamal Khashoggi in early October 2018.

One of the transfers was authorised on 18 October, only 16 days after Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist, was brutally eliminated inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, according to the US senator.

„The Trump administration is seeking to negotiate a nuclear cooperation agreement that would allow Saudi Arabia to use US technology for energy purposes, but not nuclear weapons,“ Nicholas L Miller, professor of government at Dartmouth College, told Middle East Eye.

„There is a concern in the administration that if the Saudis don’t choose the United States as their supplier, they will turn to South Korea, Russia, or China, who tend to have weaker nonproliferation controls in their agreements,“ said Miller, the author of, Stopping the Bomb: The Sources and Effectiveness of US Nonproliferation Policy.

Yet Trump’s transactional and profit-centred approach to foreign policy-making – which arguably prompted his landmark 20 November statement of almost unqualified support for the Saudi leadership amid the Khashoggi fallout – and the secrecy with which US nuclear technology transfers to Riyadh are taking place, have raised doubts about the US resolve, or even ability, to keep possible Saudi nuclear ambitions in check.

Trump’s ’secret‘ approval

In late March, the Reuters news agency disclosed the Trump administration’s „secret“ approval of licences for six US firms to sell atomic power technology to Riyadh. 

Simultaneously, the Saudis are seeking to develop a ballistic missile programme of their own, apparently with Chinese assistance. 

In November 2018, satellite imagery taken by the US company Planet Labs showed what appeared to be rocket engine tests for ballistic missiles capable of carrying nuclear weapons at a military base near the town of al-Dawadmi, about 230km west of Riyadh.

Saudi Arabia is gradually diversifying its alliances by fostering closer ties with Russia and China

Several months later, in an exclusive report published on 5 June, CNN cited US intelligence sources as claiming that Riyadh had significantly advanced the missile programme with the help of China.

Interestingly, the discovery infuriated Democratic lawmakers as the White House had „deliberately“ refrained from sharing its knowledge of the high-stakes development with key members of Congress until they found out about it „outside of regular US government channels“.

„Saudi Arabia’s development of ballistic missiles goes against long-standing US policy of opposing missile proliferation in the region,“ said Miller.

„But the Trump administration has so far been relatively quiet about its response.

„There seems to be a pattern in this administration of looking the other way at provocative Saudi behaviour due to the laser-like focus on Iran.“

‚Reckless leadership in Riyadh‘

Combined with bin Salman’s warnings that the kingdom would pursue atomic weapons if its chief nemesis Iran did, these concurrent and mostly clandestine missile and nuclear activities are sounding alarm bells in certain capitals in the region, not least Tehran.

„A nuclear Saudi Arabia means nuclear proliferation in the most unstable and volatile region of the world,“ Ali Bakeer, a Turkey-based political analyst told MEE.

Given the reckless leadership in Riyadh, this is an alarming development for small states in the Gulf in particular, which might either seek a nuclear umbrella from great powers or consider constructing parallel deterrence capabilities of their own if they could afford it.“

UAE nuclear plant: Qatar asks IAEA to intervene in construction, says report

Notably, before imposing an all-out diplomatic and economic boycott on Qatar in June 2017, Saudi Arabia, according to US officials, was devising a military plan to invade the small nation and seize its North Dome gas field.

It is the world’s largest gas field, and adjacent to the Iranian South Pars field. The capture would have made Riyadh the second-biggest exporter of liquefied natural gas in the world overnight.

The harshest reactions have, however, come from Tehran.

In his Persian New Year address on 21 March, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei threatened that if the Saudis build a nuclear capability with US assistance, „it will fall into the hands of Islamic combatants in the not-so-distant era“. 

This seems to suggest that Tehran might bolster support for Yemen’s Houthi rebels if tensions and hostilities escalate or Riyadh adopts a game-changing policy to tilt the regional balance of power in its favour.

Shortly afterwards, Ali Shamkhani, Secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, warned that the Islamic Republic might be forced to modify its defence posture and national security strategy in response to „suspicious nuclear projects“ in the region.

„New threats like this will force us to revise our strategy based on the nature and geography of such threats, and predict the requirements of our country and armed forces,“ he said.

Inspection regime no longer adequate

While Saudi Arabia, a signatory of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), is nearing completion of its first atomic reactor in the King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology near Riyadh, it has so far resisted calls by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IEA) to implement proportionate safeguards and an inspection regime that would preclude possible deviation towards weaponisation.

„Saudi Arabia is currently subject to less intrusive monitoring by international inspectors because Riyadh concluded what is known as a small quantities protocol with the agency,“ Kelsey Davenport, director of Nonproliferation Policy at Arms Control Association, told MEE.

Saudi Arabia … has threatened to pursue nuclear weapons in the past

– Kelsey Davenport, Arms Control Association

„The small quantities protocol was designed to simplify safeguards for states with minimal or no nuclear material, but it is no longer adequate for Saudi Arabia’s expanding nuclear programme.“

Tytti Erasto, a researcher with the Nuclear Disarmament Programme of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, concurs.

„In theory, Saudis abide by the IAEA Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement [CSA] but in practice, it is not applied,“ he told MEE.

„This is because the so-called small quantities protocol [SQP] – which exempts Riyadh from inspections – has been applied in the Saudi case, based on the assumption that its nuclear activities are minimal.

„However, this is changing due to Saudi Arabia’s plans to expand its nuclear programme.

„In light of this, as well as repeated statements giving rise to proliferation concerns – for example regarding the Saudi intention to match any Iranian nuclear capability – the application of SQP is increasingly questionable, and there’s an urgent need to put CSA verification standards into action.“

Rapid population growth

Rapid Saudi population growth, from 20 million in 2000 to 34 million in 2019, and the consequent increase in demand for energy consumption, understandably make civilian nuclear power an attractive option to meet domestic needs.

EXCLUSIVE: US-Saudi nuclear deal will face rough ride in Congress

Energy demand in the kingdom is growing by eight to ten percent per year, which it is estimated requires a boost of 80 gigawatts in energy generation by 2040.

With that in mind, the Saudis established the King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy (KA-CARE) in April 2010 to reduce reliance on fossil energy and produce desalinated water in the long haul.

Almost five years later, in January 2015, Riyadh announced an updated target of 17 gigawatts of nuclear power that would account for 15 percent of the demand.

Yet „Saudi Arabia is reluctant to forswear fissile material production, has yet to agree to more intrusive international monitoring and verification mechanisms, has threatened to pursue nuclear weapons in the past, and is building up its ballistic missile programme,“ said Davenport.

„Given these factors, there are legitimate reasons to be concerned that Saudi Arabia is seeking to develop the technical capabilities that would allow Riyadh to quickly pursue nuclear weapons if the political decision were made to do so.“

‚Nuclear hedging‘

Indignant at the Western backlash over the Khashoggi murder, bin Salman has already started putting Saudi Arabia’s strategic eggs, so to speak, in more than just the West’s basket.

The kingdom is gradually diversifying its alliances by fostering closer ties with Russia and China.

In fact, the crown prince seems to be taking advantage of the threat of cooperation with rival powers to further long-term Saudi interests as he sees fit.

This does not bode well for the prospects of nonproliferation in the Middle East.

A crucial measure to prevent Saudi Arabia from „nuclear hedging,“ according to Davenport, is for „all states“ to make future nuclear and missile cooperation with Riyadh „conditional“ on its implementation of strident IAEA safeguards – such as those required by the „Model Additional Protocol to the Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement“ in the words of Erasto – and verifiable abstinence from weaponisation-oriented activities.

„States must also make clear to Saudi Arabia that the international community will not tolerate any deviation from a peaceful nuclear programme, including rhetorical threats to pursue nuclear weapons, and that any such actions will trigger consequences, such as sanctions,“ said Davenport.

Russia’s New Nuclear System Threatens NATO

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg speaks to the media in Washington, D.C., April 4, 2019. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

NATO’s Russia Missile Demand — Russia Must Destroy New Missile System | National Review

Mairead McArdle

June 25, 2019 3:15 PM

NATO said Tuesday that Russia must destroy a new missile system the U.S. claims to be in violation of a Cold War-era nuclear-arms treaty or face the consequences.

The U.S. and its NATO allies have demanded Moscow give up the 9M729/SSC-8 nuclear-capable cruise-missile system by August, as it violates the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty signed in 1987 by President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.

The treaty bans either country from possessing land-based nuclear and non-nuclear missiles with a range between 310 and 3,410 miles. The U.S. will officially withdraw from the deal on August 2 if negotiations fall through.

“We call on Russia to take the responsible path, but we have seen no indication that Russia intends to do so,” said NATO secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg. “We will need to respond.”

That response could include flying U.S. warplanes capable of carrying nuclear weapons over Europe as well as repositioning U.S. sea-based missiles. “All options are on the table, but we are looking at conventional systems. That’s important for our European allies to know,” U.S. Ambassador to NATO Kay Bailey Hutchison told reporters.

Russian prime minister Dmitry Medvedev said in March that the Kremlin wants U.S. nuclear weapons and missile systems completely removed from Europe, a day after Russia said it was suspending its obligations under the arms deal. The U.S. currently has about 150 nuclear weapons stationed in five European NATO countries.

In December, Russian president Vladimir Putin made a thinly disguised threat to Western powers who might consider attacking Russia.

“I hope our new systems will provide food for thought to those who are used to militaristic and aggressive rhetoric,” Putin said in an address to his defense advisers, before complaining that “NATO continued to build up its military infrastructure near our borders during the year.”

Iran WILL Nuke Babylon the Great

Iran war: Does Iran have nuclear weapons? Could it nuke the US?

TENSIONS between Iran and the US have escalated, threatening World War 3. But does Iran have nuclear weapons?

By Kaisha Langton 15:17, Sat, Jun 22, 2019 | UPDATED: 15:56, Sat, Jun 22, 2019

Iran has incentive to ‚up the ante‘ on the US says expert

Iran threatened to accelerate its nuclear program this week, directly violating a nuclear agreement signed in 2015. Tensions ensions between the US and Iran have neared breaking point over the last few weeks after a series of attacks on oil tankers and the most recent use of a missile to sink a US drone in “international airspace”. Both countries have warned of terrifying consequences if the other attacks. But does Iran have nuclear weapons and could the country nuke the US?

How did current tensions with Iran start?

Tensions between the US and Iran have risen and fallen since the mid-20th century, with the two countries having shared a close relationship at one point.

The harmony came to an abrupt end during the Iranian revolution when pro-US Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi was deposed.

Today, the recent tensions stem from Donald Trump’s reaction to the 2015 nuclear pact.

What did the 2015 nuclear pact say?

In 2015, Iran agreed a long-term deal on its nuclear programme with a group of world powers known as the P5+1, which includes the US, UK, France, China, Russia and Germany.

The deal came after years of tension over Iran’s alleged efforts to develop a nuclear weapon.

Iran insisted that its nuclear programme was entirely peaceful, but the international community did not believe that.

Under the accord, Iran agreed to limit its sensitive nuclear activities and allow in international inspectors in return for the lifting of crippling economic sanctions.

Iran agreed to limit the enrichment of uranium, which is used to make reactor fuel but also nuclear weapons; redesign a heavy-water reactor being built, whose spent fuel would contain plutonium suitable for a bomb; and allow inspections by a global watchdog.

Iran war: Iranians gathering on May 10 to support the gov’s decision to pull out of the nuclear deal (Image: FATEMEH BAHRAMI/ANADOLU AGENCY/GETTY)

Does Iran have nuclear weapons?

In May, Iran suspended its commitments under the 2015 international nuclear deal, a year after it was abandoned by the US.

President Hassan Rouhani said he would keep enriched uranium stocks in the country rather than sell them abroad.

He also threatened to resume production of more-highly-enriched uranium in 60 days if other signatories did not act to protect Iran from US sanctions.

The 2015 accord was aimed at curbing Iran’s nuclear ambitions in return for relief from sanctions.

Iran war: Iran signed a nuclear deal in 2015 called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (Image: FATEMEH BAHRAMI/ANADOLU AGENCY/GETTY)

But since the US left the deal it has imposed new sanctions, hitting Iran’s economy and raising Iran-US tensions.

Enriched uranium is used to make reactor fuel, but also nuclear weapons.

Iran had two facilities – Natanz and Fordo – where uranium hexafluoride gas was fed into centrifuges to separate out the most fissile isotope, U-235.

Low-enriched uranium, which has a 3-4 percent concentration of U-235, can be used to produce fuel for nuclear power plants.

Iran war: On June 20 US president Donald Trump announced and cancelled strikes against Iran (Image: SAUL LOEB/AFP/GETTY)

„Weapons-grade“ uranium is 90 percent enriched.

In July 2015 at the time of the nuclear deal, Iran had almost 20,000 centrifuges.

Under the nuclear deal in 2015, Iran was limited to installing no more than 5,060 of the oldest and least efficient centrifuges at Natanz until 2026 – 10 years after the deal’s „implementation day“ in January 2016.

On June 17, Iran announced it would exceed limits of stockpiled uranium set by the 2015 arrangement on June 27.

Iran war: Oil tanker Kokuka Courageous which was damaged by a limpet mine believed to be Iranian (Image: MUMEN KHATIB/AFP/GETTY)

The US withdrew from the nuclear deal on May 8 this year, but despite this Iran has remained committed to the deal and to the other agreements within it, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which inspects Iran’s nuclear sites and issues quarterly reports on its compliance.

Iran does not yet have a fully equipped nuclear bomb, but with the stockpiled uranium the country is heading in the direction of building a bomb. 

As the country does not have nuclear weapons to hand, it is impossible for them to currently issue a full scale nuclear attack.

However, it is possible that Tehran could use its growing missile program to target American ships and troops in the area.

Trump WON’T stop helping build a nuclear Saudi Arabia

Trump must stop helping build a nuclear Saudi Arabia

Date of publication: 19 June, 2019

Comment: If the US wants ease Middle East tensions, it should stop selling weapons and transferring expertise to Saudi Arabia, writes Paul Iddon.
The Trump administration’s policy of letting Saudi Arabia buy whatever hi-tech weaponry it wants, and do whatever it wants with said weaponry, is reckless, short-sighted and could contribute to yet another major crisis in the Middle East.
In late May, President Donald Trump declared a national emergency, using the tensions created by the latest standoff between the United States and Iran as his pretext, in order to sell an $8 billion arms package, consisting of 22 deals, to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Jordan.

By declaring such an ill-defined national emergency he simultaneously circumvented Congress and exploited a legal loophole in the Arms Control Export Act.

More broadly, Trump once again demonstrated his eagerness to give Saudi Arabia whatever it wants when it comes to arms sales.

As he himself admits, this is much more important than Riyadh’s murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi last October, and the various human rights violations the Saudis and their allies have carried out in Yemen with US-supplied weapons.

Trump’s emergency authorisation also permitted the arms firm Raytheon Company to help the Saudis build key components – ranging from control systems, circuit cards and guidance electronics – for their Paveway smart bombs.

As The New York Times noted, this has „raised concerns that the Saudis could gain access to technology that would let them produce their own versions of American precision-guided bombs – weapons they have used in strikes on civilians since they began fighting a war in Yemen four years ago.“

The Trump administration is also delivering 120,000 such bombs that will enable the Saudis to add to existing stockpiles and continue its controversial bombing of Yemen for the foreseeable future.

This wasn’t the only controversial transfer of technology the administration has made following Khashoggi’s murder. Just over two weeks after that grisly incident in Istanbul the Trump administration granted two authorisations for US companies to provide sensitive information about nuclear power to Riyadh.

Also, six other secret authorisations allowing US companies to sell nuclear power technology to the Saudis were approved by the administration. These permitted those companies to do preliminary work in the kingdom before any deal is made with Riyadh.

These authorisations are part of a broader agreement Washington and Riyadh are negotiating for the construction of nuclear reactors in the kingdom. US companies are competing with several other countries who want a stake in this lucrative project.

Riyadh presently wants to build at least two nuclear reactors.

According to Reuters, the Saudis oppose US „measures that would prevent it from enriching uranium and reprocessing plutonium, two potential pathways to making fissile material for nuclear weapons.“

Trump’s general record to date strongly suggests that he might well oppose restrictions on Saudi Arabia’s nuclear ambitions, especially if doing so would prevent another country from winning the tender to build Riyadh’s reactors.

The Saudis deny that they are seeking nuclear weapons. However, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman clarified in March 2018 that: „Saudi Arabia does not want to acquire any nuclear bomb, but without a doubt, if Iran developed a nuclear bomb, we will follow suit as soon as possible.“

Having nuclear infrastructure would obviously enable Saudi Arabia to do this much more quickly than having to start from scratch.

In the meantime, China has been helping Saudi Arabia expand its existing ballistic missile programme. Riyadh already possesses nuclear-capable DF-3A missiles that Beijing sold it back in the 1980s and has even displayed them for the public in April 2014.

Consequently, both Washington and Beijing could well be helping Riyadh establish the infrastructure and tools it might one day need to both build a nuclear weapon and deliver it to a target far beyond its own frontiers.

Trump’s first visit abroad as president was tellingly to Saudi Arabia back in May 2017, when he signed a series of deals that he boasted were altogether worth $110 billion. Since then, however, the US had sold „only“ $14.5 billion worth of arms to the kingdom as of last October.

Nevertheless, Trump clearly hopes to sell a lot more arms, without any restrictions on how they are used. This kind of policy could encourage more Saudi aggression in the region in the belief that the Americans will fully back them up, whether against the Houthis in Yemen or its arch enemy Iran.

There are some informative historical precedents from Iran that could serve as an apt warning about the risks involved in the current US policy.

In the 1960s the US implemented the Twitchell Doctrine that limited American arms sales to the shah of Iran. The Shah sought to buy every piece of military hardware he could, even before his military received the proper training needed to absorb and properly field each respective new weapon system.

The Americans reasonably worried about the effect the spending would have on the Iranian economy.

Washington did not want the shah to spend too much on military hardware at the direct expense of the country’s economic growth and infrastructure. They feared that if he was allowed to do so, ordinary Iranians might become disillusioned if they saw no tangible improvement in their lives. The consequent social upheaval could then fatally destabilise the country.

„The Iranians were forced to go through an annual economic review,“ recounted the Ambassador at the time, Armin H. Meyers. „It was a rather humiliating thing for them to do, before they could buy – buy – fifty million dollars worth of military equipment.“

This doctrine was completely scrapped under President Nixon, who essentially let the shah buy any conventional weapon system he desired.

As a result, Iran became one of the most well-equipped militaries in the region in the 1970s, aside from Israel, and was the only country the US ever sold highly sophisticated Grumman F-14 Tomcat air superiority jet fighters to.

The shah ordered 80 of these warplanes in a then historic $2 billion deal. As the historian Andrew Scott Cooper noted, Iran’s total oil revenue for the fiscal year 1972-73 was $2.8 billion.

„The strain the orders placed on Iran’s economy was incalculable,“ he noted.

At the same time, the shah also sought to build nuclear power plants, reasoning that his country’s oil would eventually be depleted and that energy sources should be diversified sooner rather than later.

While it’s unlikely he was actively seeking nuclear weapons at the time, the shah did nevertheless seek the infrastructure and technology to enable Tehran to build them in case Iran ever faced a major threat or was attacked.

As with the Saudis today, the shah did not want any American restrictions placed on Iran’s nuclear programme.

Ultimately, the shah’s manic arms build-up and his concurrent goal of rapidly transforming Iran into a developed and modern western-style nation, albeit without establishing an actual democracy, contributed to the outbreak of the Iranian revolution in 1979.

There is no reason not to believe that Saudi Arabia’s similar manic arms buildup, regional adventurism and lofty goal of fundamentally changing the Saudi state and society through its Vision 2030 project might not backfire in a similar fashion.

Trump’s current policies towards Riyadh, allowing its crown prince to buy and do whatever he pleases without any repercussions, and his adminisration’s bellicose anti-Iran rhetoric, could already be sowing the seeds for another disaster in the already volatile Middle East.
Paul Iddon is a freelance journalist based in Erbil, Iraqi Kurdistan, who writes about Middle East affairs.

Follow him on Twitter: @pauliddon

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, al-Araby al-Jadeed, its editorial board or staff.