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Posted at: Dec 13, 2016, 8:37 PM
Last updated: Dec 13, 2016, 8:37 PM (IST)
Islamabad, December 13
“India is developing atomic submarines and also resorting to unprovoked firing on the line of control and the working boundary. In these circumstances, Pakistan has no option but to keep itself ready for defense,” Additional Secretary (UN and Economic Cooperation) at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Tasnim Aslam said at a seminar here.
She claimed Pakistan was maintaining minimum deterrence, but was willing to work for regional peace and stability.
“We are prepared to hold negotiations with India for resolution of outstanding disputes,” she said, also accusing India of “unprovoked firing” on the Line of Control and simultaneously making “irresponsible” statements.
She claimed that India being granted a place in the Nuclear Suppliers Group would disturb regional stability.
She claimed Pakistan had proof to India’s involvement in supporting militancy in the country.
“India has accused Pakistan of supporting non-state elements for terrorism but the Indian state has been involved in terrorist activities,” she said.
Aslam said Pakistan’s participation in the Heart of Asia Conference showed its seriousness towards peace and stability in Afghanistan.
“Our decision to attend the conference also foiled the Indian attempt to hijack the Heart of Asia process,” she claimed. — PTI

Russia Expects Payback From Trump (Daniel 7)

Moscow said Thursday the loss of the Iran nuclear deal would be unforgivable, Russian news agency Interfax reported. The Foreign Ministry added that it was disappointed with the U.S.’s decision to extend the Iran Sanctions Act, which Moscow feels could jeopardize the nuclear deal.
The ministry said the deal’s failure in restricting Iran’s nuclear program would aggravate the Iranian issue.
“The administration has, and continues to use, all of the necessary authorities to waive the relevant sanctions,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest reportedly said.
The Constitution states that a president has 10 days after Congress passes a bill to sign it, veto it or do nothing. If Congress is still in session after the president chooses to do nothing, the bill automatically becomes law despite not carrying the president’s signature.
Obama’s decision to abstain from signing the bill could help ease Tehran’s concerns that the U.S. is backing out of the deal.
Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani, in response to the Congress’ decision to extend sanctions, called on the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran to begin planning the development of nuclear marine propulsion on Tuesday. Rouhani, in a letter published by state media, ordered the development of a “nuclear propeller to be used in marine transportation.”
The White House said Tuesday Iran’s new plans do not violate the 2015 nuclear deal.
“The announcement from the Iranians today does not run counter to the international agreement to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon,” Earnest reportedly said.
The sanctions, targeting Tehran’s energy, military and banking sectors, were first put in place in 1996 and have since been extended and added to. They were scheduled to expire Dec. 31.
While the signing of the nuclear deal between Iran, U.S. and six other world powers lifted sanctions against Tehran in exchange for limits on its nuclear program, Washington still maintains its personal set of sanctions.
Rouhani, during an open session of Iran’s parliament earlier in December, said Obama was “obliged” to let the sanctions expire.
“We are committed to an acceptable implementation of the deal but in response to non-commitment, violation or hesitation in its implementation, we will act promptly,” he said.

The Audacity Of Hope On Possible Iran-North Korea Nukes

It’s now more than eight weeks since Senator Ted Cruz sent a letter to three senior officials of the Obama administration, detailing his concerns that North Korea and Iran might be working together on developing nuclear missiles.
In particular, Cruz had a question for Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. Referring to the period since the Iran nuclear deal took effect on Jan. 16, Cruz asked: “Has the U.S. intelligence community observed any possible nuclear collaboration between Iran and North Korea…”?
That’s one of the huge questions looming behind the Iran nuclear deal, officially titled the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, which President Obama has been urging President-elect Donald Trump to preserve.
Questions about possible Iran-North Korea teamwork on nuclear weapons are well-founded, as Cruz explained in his seven-page letter, referencing numerous open-source reports (including two of my own). North Korea and Iran have been strategic allies since just after Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution. They have a long history of weapons deals, in which the usual arrangement has been that North Korea works on the weapons, oil-rich Iran pays the bills, and technicians shuttle between both countries.
While there’s been no official U.S. confirmation that this Iran-North Korea partnership extends to nuclear collaboration, there’s plenty of official U.S. documentation that it includes cooperation on developing ballistic missiles. That has long raised questions about whether the two countries are also in nuclear cahoots, because ballistic missiles are basically cost-efficient only as vehicles for delivering nuclear warheads.
Over many years, North Korea and Iran have both carried out numerous ballistic missile tests, including multiple tests by both countries since the Iran nuclear deal took effect this January. That raises the question of why Iran, having promised not to make nuclear weapons, continues to pour resources into testing ballistic missiles. If not for nuclear weapons, then for what? One obvious question is whether North Korea’s nuclear program might be secretly doubling as a nuclear backshop for Iran.
Cruz, in his letter, raised specific worries about North Korea’s test this September of a powerful new rocket booster, which according to North Korean state media had a thrust of 80 tons — enough power to carry “a heavier, or less-minaturized nuclear warhead to the United States.” That happens to be exactly the same amount of thrust referenced in a Jan. 17 Treasury press release that mentioned the excursions of “Iranian missile technicians,” who “within the past several years” have “traveled to North Korea to work on an 80-ton rocket booster being developed by the North Korean government.”
Cruz asked Treasury Secretary Jack Lew to confirm that the capability of North Korea’s new rocket engine, tested in September, was the same as that of the North Korean rocket on which Iranian technicians had been working in North Korea.
Cruz also had some questions for Secretary of State John Kerry, including “What penalties do you plan to announce against Iran in light of its JCPOA violations?” He also wanted to know, “What is the United States doing to ensure that the $1.7 billion paid to Iran in cash earlier this year is not used to finance nuclear weapons research in North Korea?
From all these Administration officials, Cruz requested answers no later than Nov. 1. To date, according to his staff, he has received no answers at all.
State and Treasury have not even extended the courtesy of acknowledging the letter. From Clapper’s office, at National Intelligence, came a message in October, saying they had received the letter, and would respond. They have not.
That’s an alarming silence. For years, Obama administration officials have dodged questions about possible Iran-North Korea nuclear teamwork by reciting the talking point that any signs of such cooperation would be cause for serious concern. Now it seems Administration officials are skirting even that customary evasion. Why?
My own queries to State, Treasury and National Intelligence, asking why they had not answered Cruz, ran into the same blank walls. State and Treasury made no response. National Intelligence emailed back on Dec. 6 only to say that they had received Cruz’s letter, and “are working to respond as soon as possible.”
Obama’s administration has racked up a record that suggests silence on Iran-related issues is not a good sign. Back in January, when Obama celebrated a $1.7 billion settlement of an old financial dispute with Iran, a number of lawmakers wrote to the Administration asking for details of this transaction, and whether it was a ransom for Iran’s release of American prisoners.
The Administration took weeks to provide even partial replies, denied paying ransom and omitted entirely the manner in which the $1.7 billion had been dispatched to Iran. It took more than six months for Congress and the press to eke out of the Administration the information that the entire $1.7 billion, converted into European hard currency, had been paid to Iran in stacks of cash — hard to trace and convenient chiefly for illicit purposes — with the first installment of $400 million conveyed, ransom-style, on the same day as the prisoner release, and held in Geneva until the airplane carrying the released American prisoners was on its way out of Iran.
For the Obama administration, invested in the Iran nuclear deal as one of Obama’s signature legacies, there is tremendous temptation to ignore or bury any evidence that Iran is cheating. There is also enormous incentive to downplay another of Obama’s legacies: the dramatic enhancement, since he took office in 2009, of the nuclear arsenal and proficiency of North Korea, now honing its increasingly powerful missiles, beefing up its stockpile of nuclear fuel, and preparing for its sixth nuclear test.
If the silent officials of the Obama administration are confident that there has been no nuclear cooperation between Iran and North Korea, it’s time to put that assessment in writing and send it to Cruz. If, on the other hand, Clapper, Kerry, Lew or Obama himself have any information that points to nuclear collaboration, it’s past time to inform Cruz, the rest of Congress and the American public of the staggering extent of the radioactive debacle they are about to hand off to President-elect Donald Trump, under the heading of Obama’s legacy Iran nuclear deal.

China Prepares For Confrontation With The US

Dec 14, 2016 11:56 PM EST
BEIJING — China appears to have installed anti-aircraft and anti-missile weapons on its man-made islands in the strategically vital South China Sea, a U.S. security think tank says, upping the stakes in what many see as a potential Asian powder keg.
The Center for Strategic and International Studies said in a report late Wednesday that the anti-aircraft guns and close-in weapons systems designed to guard against missile attack have been placed on all seven of China’s newly created islands.
The outposts were built in recent years over objections by the U.S. and rival claimants by piling sand on top of coral reefs, followed by the construction of military grade 10,000-foot airstrips, barracks, lighthouses, radar stations and other infrastructure.
U.S. may loose launch pad for South China Sea patrols aimed at China
CSIS based its conclusions on satellite images taken in mid-to-late November and published on the website of its Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative.
In a statement, China’s Defense Ministry repeated that development on the islands was mainly for civilian purposes, but added that defensive measures were “appropriate and legal.”
“For example, were someone to be threatening you with armed force outside your front door, would you not get ready even a slingshot?” the ministry statement said.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told reporters at a daily briefing that he had no information about the reported weaponry, but said such deployments were China’s sovereign right.
The Philippines, which has troops and villagers stationed on some reefs and islands near China’s new artificial islands, expressed concern despite recently improving relations with China.
“If true, it is a big concern for us and the international community who uses the South China Sea lanes for trade,” Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said. “It would mean that the Chinese are militarizing the area, which is not good.”
China’s new island armaments “show that Beijing is serious about defense of its artificial islands in case of an armed contingency in the South China Sea,” CSIS experts wrote in the report.
“Among other things, they would be the last line of defense against cruise missiles launched by the United States or others against these soon-to-be-operational air bases,” the report said.
Beijing says the islands are intended to boost maritime safety in the region while downplaying their military utility. They also mark China’s claim to ownership of practically the entire South China Sea.
Taiwan, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei also claim territory in the waterway through which an estimated $5 trillion in global trade passes each year, while the U.S. Navy insists on its right to operate throughout the area, including in waters close to China’s new outposts. China has strongly criticized such missions, known as freedom of navigation operations.
The U.S. has committed to beefing up its military presence in the area, although new uncertainty has been introduced by incoming president Donald Trump, who broke long-established diplomatic protocol by talking on the phone earlier this month with the president of China’s longtime rival Taiwan.
Trump has called for a reconsideration of its commitments to its Asian allies, including Japan and South Korea, while simultaneously criticizing Chinese trade policy toward the U.S. along with its new territorial assertiveness. He also referred to China’s man-made islands in a tweet earlier this month, saying Beijing didn’t ask the U.S. if it was OK to “build a massive military complex in the South China Sea.”
The timing is significant in that these first clear images come amid Trump’s challenging comments about China and its South China Sea fortresses,” said Alexander Neill, a senior fellow for Asia-Pacific security for the International Institute for Strategic Studies based in Singapore.
Chinese President Xi Jinping said on a visit to the U.S. last year that “China does not intend to pursue militarization” of the area, prompting some foreign experts to accuse China of going back on its word with its new deployments.
Despite that, China considers it vital to equip the islands with defensive means given their distance – 1,000 miles – from the Chinese mainland, together with the nearby presence of forces from rival claimants such as Vietnam, said Yue Gang, a retired colonel and military analyst.
“As the matter of fact, these occupied islands have been armed and fortified for a long time,” Yue said. “No country in the world would only commit to providing civil services without considering its own security safety.”
Looking forward, the nature of China’s new military deployments will likely be calibrated in response to moves taken by the U.S., said the IISS’s Neill.
“China will argue that they are entitled to place whatever they want there in reaction to U.S. actions,” Neill said. “The big question is whether Trump will embark on a more strident or discordant policy in the South China Sea.”

Putin Hands Trump The Presidency

NBC News: Intelligence officials say Putin personally involved in election hack
William Cummings | USA TODAYUpdated 11 hours ago
Russian President Vladimir Putin was personally involved in efforts to intervene in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, NBC News reported, citing two unnamed “senior U.S. intelligence officials.”
New intelligence links Putin directly to the leaks from hacked Democratic National Committee emails, the officials told NBC News with “a high level of confidence.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with members of the WorldSkills Russian national team in the …more
Alexey Nikolsky, epa
A high-level intelligence source said the campaign began as a “vendetta” against Hillary Clinton, NBC News reported. The goal grew into an effort to expose corruption in U.S. politics and to undermine America’s international credibility, according to NBC.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov dismissed the report Thursday as “nonsense,” according to Russia’s TASS news agency.
“I was astonished when I saw it,” Lavrov said. “I think, this is nothing but nonsense, there is not a chance that anybody could believe that.”
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The NBC News report comes after last week’s report from The Washington Post, also citing unnamed intelligence sources, which said the CIA believed that Russia not only interfered in the election, but did so with the intention of helping Donald Trump win. Although U.S. intelligence agencies agree Russia was behind several hacks during the campaign, including that of the DNC, the CIA is thus far the only agency reported to have reached the conclusion that the efforts were explicitly meant to benefit Trump.
On Oct. 7, the Department of Homeland Security and Office of the Director of National Intelligence issued a joint statement on behalf of the U.S. Intelligence Community expressing confidence that the “Russian Government directed the recent compromises of e-mails from US persons and institutions, including from US political organizations.” The ODNI and FBI do not believe there is enough evidence to conclude the cyber attacks were intended to help Trump win, however.
Given Putin’s authoritarian control over the Russian government, it is logical that any intervention in the U.S. election would have required the former KGB officer’s approval. In the October statement, the 17 American intelligence agencies said, “We believe, based on the scope and sensitivity of these efforts, that only Russia’s senior-most officials could have authorized these activities.”

The Nuclear Terrorism That Soon Will Come (Revelation 15)

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Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson told a Security Council meeting that extremists and “vicious non-state groups” are actively seeking weapons of mass destruction “and these weapons are increasingly accessible.”
Non-state actors can already create mass disruption using cyber technologies — and hacking a nuclear plant would be a “nightmare scenario,” he said.
The open council meeting focused on ways to stop the proliferation of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons by extremist groups and criminals. Members unanimously approved a resolution to strengthen the work of the council committee monitoring what countries are doing to prevent “non-state actors” from acquiring or using weapons of mass destruction, known as WMDs.
Eliasson said there are legitimate concerns about the security of stockpiles of radioactive material suitable for making nuclear weapons but that are outside international regulation.
In addition, he said, “scientific advances have lowered barriers to the production of biological weapons.”
“And emerging technologies, such as 3D printing and unmanned aerial vehicles, are adding to threats of an attack using a WMD,” Eliasson said.
He said the international community needs robust defenses to stay ahead of this technological curve. “Preventing a WMD attack by a non-state actor will be a long-term challenge that requires long-term responses,” Eliasson said.
U.N. disarmament chief Kim Won-soo said the new resolution recognizes “the growing threats and risks associated with biological weapons” and the need for the 193 U.N. member states, international groups and regional organizations to step-up information sharing on these threats and risks.
Kim said it is important that the Security Council keep up its focus on preventing deadly weapons from getting into the hands of extremists and criminals, but it also needs to study how to respond if prevention fails.
“The consequences of an attack would be disastrous and we must be prepared,” he said.
Eliasson said that “a biological attack would be a public health disaster,” but that there is no global institution capable of responding.
Brian Finlay, president of the Stimson Center in Washington, which has been supporting the work of the Security Council committee since 2004, said the resolution requiring all countries to take action to prevent non-state actors from getting WMD “has provided a near unprecedented rallying point for global efforts to prevent terrorist acquisition of these weapons.”
But challenges remain, he said, citing a steady increase in nuclear, biological and chemical incidents around the globe, “including notably by non-state actors.” He also cited growing access to the internet and potentially illegal technology transfers, saying there is “evidence that terrorist groups with regional or global ambitions continue to seek weapons of mass destruction.”
He called for civil society, industry and the general public to support the campaign against the growing threat of the world’s most dangerous weapons falling into the wrong hands.