New Delhi (Sputnik) — The Indian armed forces are conducting a major exercise along the border with Pakistan, exhibiting their preparedness to respond to any “provocation” by its neighbor. The massive show of military strength comes two days after Pakistan warned of a possible nuclear war.
The exercise is “unique in scope and scale” and being conducted in battle-like conditions, says the Indian Army.
“A large number of troops along with tanks and other armored vehicles duly supported by overwhelming land and air-based firepower have commenced conducting fully integrated operational maneuvers to validate their operational plans. The exercise is conducted in battle like conditions, aims at fine-tuning surveillance and destruction mechanisms to support precision strikes and maneuvers by network-enabled forces,” Manoj Tuli, a top Indian Army official said in a statement.
Furthermore, this is the first time that the Indian Army has revealed extensive details of a military exercise.
“With an emphasis on joint operations, the exercise would test robust sensors to shooter grids by employing a vast array of surveillance and air assets networked with land-based strategic and tactical vectors. Besides conventional warfare, troops will also be rehearsed to operate in the backdrop of chemical and nuclear contingencies,” an Indian Army statement read.
The exercise involves new age aviation assets and armored vehicles, which are being overseen by a large number of senior officers of the Indian Army and the Indian Air Force.
“If Japan were to have nuclear weapons, it would be like giving permission to any country in the world to have them,” Miharu Kobayashi, a high school messenger of peace from Hiroshima, said in an interview on Wednesday in Tokyo before she met with Japan’s foreign minister. “We are the country that knows how terrifying they are and how they should be abolished, so if we were to make the mistake of possessing them it would be unforgivable.”
North Korea has test-fired missiles over Japan’s territory and threatened it with annihilation, prompting some lawmakers to call for a debate on acquiring an atomic arsenal. U.S. National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster also warned earlier this month that Japan and South Korea could seek nuclear weapons in the face of North Korea’s threat.
But polls show about 80 percent of Japanese are against the country possessing a nuclear deterrent. That contrasts with fellow U.S. ally South Korea, where surveys suggest a majority supports having atomic weapons to counter Kim Jong Un’s regime.
Tragic stories of nuclear victims are woven throughout the Japanese school curriculum, and pop up in films and comic books. The well known manga series “Barefoot Gen” centers around a six-year-old boy’s struggle to survive after the bombing in Hiroshima.
Shigeru Ishiba, a former defense minister, has been one of the most outspoken politicians saying Japan should at least talk about an atomic arsenal. The country now depends on America’s “nuclear umbrella” — an oft-repeated pledge that the U.S. would use its nuclear weapons to defend Japan if required.
In a Fuji TV interview this month, Ishiba proposed having a shared nuclear deterrent like the one operated by NATO in Germany — essentially meaning Japan would host U.S.-owned weapons. He cited concerns that the U.S. would eventually accept North Korea as a nuclear power, a move that would leave Japan more at risk than any other country.
Gen Nakatani, another former defense minister, sees no need for Japan to get such a deterrent because of its security relationship with the U.S.
“There is no other alliance that has the merits of the U.S.-Japan alliance,” he said in an interview Tuesday. “So our best option is to do all we can to make sure it stays in place.”
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has repeatedly said he’s not thinking of changing the 50-year-old principles of not possessing, developing or allowing the introduction of nuclear weapons. Instead, Japan is beefing up its missile defenses and planning to obtain long-range missiles to fit on fighter planes.
Even so, Japan is already a latent nuclear power. As of the end of last year, it had a stockpile of 46.9 tons of plutonium, with 9.8 tons held in the country and the rest in the U.K. and France. Japan also has an advanced rocket-launch program that could be adapted for missile purposes.
“One could speculate that a simple gun-type uranium device such as the one used at Hiroshima could be completed and ready to test within a couple of years or less,” said Lance Gatling of Tokyo-based aerospace consultancy Nexial Research. More complex weapons would take longer, but probably less than a decade, he added.
Getting over the cultural barriers may prove more difficult.
In accepting the Nobel Peace Prize this month on behalf of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, Hiroshima survivor Setsuko Thurlow spoke in Oslo of the “ghostly” procession of victims she saw in the aftermath.
Describing people with eyeballs and intestines hanging from their bodies, she said the development of nuclear weapons “signifies not a country’s elevation to greatness, but its descent to the darkest depths of depravity.”
— With assistance by Takashi Hirokawa, and Kanga Kong
UN Ambassador Nikki Haley came to an emptied-out hangar at a military base not far from the US Capitol, where fragments recovered from missiles launched from Yemen were paraded before reporters. Ms. Haley said the truck-sized missile segment behind her had been launched at the international airport in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and “led the US intelligence community to conclude unequivocally that these weapons were supplied by the Iranian regime.”
“This is absolutely terrifying,” said Haley, one of the Trump administration’s most vocal critics of Iran. “Just imagine if this missile had been launched at Dulles Airport or JFK, or the airports in Paris, London, or Berlin. That’s what we’re talking about here.”
The newly declassified evidence marked the most aggressive US effort to date to substantiate its claim that Iran funnels weapons to the Houthis, an allegation widely accepted by most countries but that Tehran steadfastly denies. It comes as the Trump administration seeks to rally the world to punish Iran for its ballistic missile program and other worrying activities, despite backing away from the 2015 nuclear deal.
World powers that joined the US in brokering that deal have voiced frustration at Mr. Trump’s moves to “decertify” Iran’s compliance with the deal as a prelude to renegotiating it. The Obama-era deal rolled back Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for billions in sanctions relief, but did not address Iran’s missile-building or support for militant groups in the Middle East.
“Everyone has focused on the nuclear deal, and Iran has hidden behind the nuclear deal,” Haley said. Gesturing to the missiles, she said, “These are the things they’re doing while we’re all looking the other way.”
Haley and other officials said there were two reasons the US knew the missiles could have only come from Iran.
Some have specific markings indicating they were manufactured in Iran. One shredded piece of metal displayed to reporters bore the logo of Shahid Bakeri Industrial Group, an Iranian defense entity under US sanctions.
Others have specific technical characteristics, such as a certain valve, that only Iranian missiles have – “Iranian missile fingerprints,” Haley said. One short-range ballistic missile fragment lacked large stabilizer fins that are common to that class of missile. The only known short-range ballistic missiles that don’t have those fins are Iran’s Qiam missiles, Haley said.
“The weapons might as well have had ‘Made in Iran’ stickers,” Haley quipped.
Not so, said Iran’s government, standing behind its assertion that Iran hasn’t sent any missiles to Yemen, where Shiite Houthi rebels aligned with Iran have taken over much of the country. Iran’s envoy to UN, Gholamali Khoshroo, said it was “fake and fabricated” evidence that illustrates America’s “irresponsible, destructive and provocative role” in the region, according to a statement carried by Iran’s official IRNA news agency.
Haley argued that Iranian weapons shipments violated several UN Security Council resolutions, including the one that enshrined the 2015 nuclear deal. International legal experts have debated whether the allegation, if true, constitutes a clear-cut violation.
Either way, Haley did not articulate any specific steps the US or other nations could take against Iran as a result of the evidence, which was included in a report to the UN secretary-general. But Haley said the US would be working with other countries on “next steps.” She added that US lawmakers and delegations from foreign nations would be invited to view the missiles firsthand.
Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, drew the comparison on Twitter, with side-by-side photos of Haley on Thursday and Powell in his 2003 speech. “When I was based at the UN, I saw this show and what it begat,” tweeted Zarif, who was formerly Iran’s ambassador to the UN
Indeed, the US acknowledged it couldn’t account for the full chain of custody, such as how the missiles got into Yemen – an admission that suggests there are still holes in the US intelligence.
“We do not know when they were transported exactly,” said Defense Department spokeswoman Laura Seal.
Mystery prevailed Tuesday around the nature and form of alliances to be built among Iraqi political parties and blocs that decided to run in the upcoming parliamentary and provincial elections, scheduled for next May.
However, what remains certain now is the division of the “State of Law” coalition into two electoral lists: one headed by current head of the coalition Nouri al-Maliki and the second headed by his comrade in the Dawah party, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi.
“The new composition represents almost a rupture with the previous political figures of the Sadrist Movement. Al-Sadr insisted that none of Al-Ahrar bloc members could join the list,” the source added.
In 2014, al-Sadr had banned turbaned religious men and merchants from participating in the 2014 elections.
Last December, al-Sadr had sent a letter to all officials who had executive and legislative positions at his bloc and informed them about his decision to ban their participation in the upcoming elections.
Unlike the Sadrist Movement, all other parties and blocs in Iraq are still unclear about which political directions to take in May’s elections.