Terrorism and the Nuclear Threat

The development comes after Indian authorities arrested five people who were selling the radioactive material. (REUTERS)

Updated 13 July 2018


July 12: The Express Tribune states that Pakistan on Thursday voiced concerns after certain individuals were reportedly arrested in India for their involvement in selling uranium, a highly radioactive material used in nuclear facilities. “Pakistan is deeply concerned about the reported incident involving the attempted sale of uranium in the black market,” Foreign Office spokesperson Dr Muhammad Faisal told reporters in Islamabad.

“We are looking forward to the results of further investigations. The report raises several questions about nuclear security and or/interest of criminal groups and individuals in uranium and their motivations,” the spokesperson added.

Pakistan’s reaction came just days after Indian authorities arrested five people from Kolkata who had come there to sell one kilogramme of uranium.

Officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, also pointed out that such incidents had happened in the past in India. But the western countries, however, did not consider such incidents seriously.

Meanwhile, the spokesperson strongly denounced Indian forces for what he called their continued oppression in held Kashmir.

The spokesperson said that the recent fact-finding report by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) vindicated Pakistan’s stance on Indian Occupied Kashmir.

“The report is a reflection of Pakistan’s repeated calls to the international community to put an end to the brutal use of pellet guns, indiscriminate firing, use of human shield and promulgation of draconian AFPSA and SPA laws that are making lives of Kashmiris in IoK a living hell,” he maintained.

“We call upon the international community to take cognisance of the human rights situation as well as the report, and immediately call upon India to stop the bloodshed and give Kashmiris their just right to self-determination through a UN-mandated plebiscite,” he stressed.

On Afghanistan, Faisal said Pakistan had been saying all along that there was no military solution to the conflict.

“Others who were insistent to resolve the issue through military means are also arriving at the same conclusion, which is a good omen for the people of Afghanistan who have suffered immensely from the merciless conflict,” he added.

“We urge all sides including the Taliban to renounce kinetic options and join the peace and reconciliation process to end the brutal conflict in Afghanistan.”

History Expects the Sixth Seal in NYC (Revelation 6:12)

Based on historical precedent, Armbruster says the New York City metro area is susceptible to an earthquake of at least a magnitude of 5.0 once a century.

According to the New York Daily News, Lynn Skyes, lead author of a recent study by seismologists at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory adds that a magnitude-6 quake hits the area about every 670 years, and magnitude-7 every 3,400 years.

A 5.2-magnitude quake shook New York City in 1737 and another of the same severity hit in 1884.

Tremors were felt from Maine to Virginia.

There are several fault lines in the metro area, including one along Manhattan’s 125th St. – which may have generated two small tremors in 1981 and may have been the source of the major 1737 earthquake, says Armbruster.

There’s another fault line on Dyckman St. and one in Dobbs Ferry in nearby Westchester County.

“The problem here comes from many subtle faults,” explained Skyes after the study was published.

He adds: “We now see there is earthquake activity on them. Each one is small, but when you add them up, they are probably more dangerous than we thought.”

“Considering population density and the condition of the region’s infrastructure and building stock, it is clear that even a moderate earthquake would have considerable consequences in terms of public safety and economic impact,” says the New York City Area Consortium for Earthquake Loss Mitigation on its website.

Armbruster says a 5.0-magnitude earthquake today likely would result in casualties and hundreds of millions of dollars in damage.

“I would expect some people to be killed,” he notes.

The scope and scale of damage would multiply exponentially with each additional tick on the Richter scale. (ANI)

More Trampling Outside the Temple Walls (Revelation 11:2)

Israel kills child as Gaza marks 100 days of protests

Palestinians protest against Israel’s use of snipers to target children, during a protest east of Gaza City, 13 July. Dawoud Abo Alkas APA images

Israeli snipers killed a child on Friday as Palestinians marked more than 100 days of Great March of Return protests in Gaza.

Uthman Rami Halas, 14, was killed by live fire, according to the human rights group Al Mezan.

Halas, from the neighborhood of Shujaiya, was shot in the back by Israeli forces stationed across the boundary east of Gaza City, the group stated.

More than more 100 people across Gaza were injured, 65 with live ammunition.

Palestinian media circulated this photo of Halas following news of his death.

Media also shared images of Halas being carried on a stretcher after he was shot:

Video showed distressing scenes as relatives mourned over Halas’ body at the morgue of al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City.

Before Halas’ death on Friday, the UN humanitarian monitoring agency OCHA reported that 21 children were among the nearly 150 Palestinians killed by Israeli forces in Gaza since 30 March, the vast majority of them during protests. More than 4,000 others have been wounded by live fire.

During the same period, four Israelis have been injured.

Standing with Khan al-Ahmar

For the 16th Friday in a row thousands of Palestinians headed towards Gaza’s eastern boundary.

Since 30 March, Palestinians have been mounting protests against Israel’s 11-year siege of Gaza and to call for the right of refugees to return to lands from which they were expelled and are excluded by Israel because they are not Jews.

Israel has responded by deploying snipers with orders to shoot unarmed civilians including children – killings and maimings the International Criminal Court prosecutor has warned could lead to Israeli leaders being tried for war crimes.

The theme of this Friday’s protest was solidarity with Khan al-Ahmar, a Bedouin village near Jerusalem which faces imminent demolition by Israel – a war crime – to make way for more Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank.

Many Palestinians in Gaza addressed messages to the people of Khan al-Ahmar through local media.

“We are here today in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Khan al-Ahmar,” one man said. “All of Gaza is with you.”

Israel tightens siege

As Palestinians in Gaza sustain their revolt against the siege despite the devastating cost, Israel is responding by tightening the blockade even further.

On Monday, Israel announced the closing of Gaza’s only commercial goods crossing.

Israel is also reducing the distance Gaza fishers are allowed out to sea from nine to six nautical miles.

The steps are collective punishment against Gaza’s two million people for incendiary kites and balloons that Palestinians have launched, setting fire to fields on the Israeli side of the boundary.

Israel’s technologically advanced military has proven unable to counter the kites and balloons.

So once again, occupation authorities are inflicting more of the suffering that has spurred revolt against a situation in which the population in Gaza – half of them children – can only choose between dying by Israel’s bullets and bombs, or being reduced quietly to desperation and death by the siege.

Israel says it will allow in “humanitarian” supplies such as food and medicine, but UN officials are warning that the closure of the commercial crossing will make the situation in Gaza much worse.

The closure “can be expected to have profound and far reaching consequences for already desperate civilians,” Chris Gunness, spokesperson for UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestine refugees, stated on Thursday.

Gunness pointed out that among the imports banned by Israel were building materials for UN education, health, water, sanitation and hygiene projects.

Gaza’s water and sanitation systems are already near collapse following years of Israeli blockade and military attacks.

Inflicting suffering

Gisha, an Israeli human rights group that monitors the blockade of Gaza, said that Israel is banning all building materials, not just those destined for UN projects – which will quickly bring all construction in Gaza to a halt.

Already struggling businesses will also suffer huge losses.

Farmer Suleiman Zurub was waiting to ship 2,000 crates of sweet potatoes out through the crossing. That crop will now likely spoil. “Farmers are the big losers from this decision,” Zurub said, according to Gisha.

Hasan Shehadeh, who owns a clothing company, also faces huge losses as he is unable to ship goods to customers in Israel, the occupied West Bank and China.

“If things stay this way, I’ll suffer huge financial losses, because in my contracts I’ve signed a commitment to pay for every item left in my factory,” Shehadeh said, according to Gisha.

Shehadeh is also worried about the 200 people he employs. “Israel’s decision will affect them too, of course,” he said.

Early warnings

UNRWA’s Gunness predicted that the latest closure would lead to an increase in demand for UNRWA services.

This would come at a time when the agency, which provides emergency rations, health and education to hundreds of thousands of people in Gaza, faces an unprecedented financial crisis following the freezing of US contributions earlier this year.

Nearly 80 percent of Gaza’s population is already forced to rely on humanitarian assistance and the unemployment rate is close to 50 percent.

In June, UNRWA warned that it may have to make deep cuts to its already stretched services.

Even before the latest Israeli restrictions, UN officials pointed to signs of a sharply deteriorating situation.

From January 2017 to June this year, the percentage of essential drugs at a zero stock level in Gaza has risen steadily from one-third to one-half, according to OCHA – meaning there is less than a one-month supply for those medicines.

In June, the average number of hours of electricity per day was 4.5 hours, close to an all-time low since January 2017.

Meanwhile, over the past year, the number of people who have had to borrow money or food from family or friends rose from about one in three to nearly half.

International complicity

The European Union, which rarely criticizes Israel and has failed to condemn its massacres of civilians in Gaza, said on Friday that it “expects Israel to reverse” the decision to close the commercial crossing.

The statement from Brussels made no reference to Israel’s obligations as an occupying power to abide by international law, including the prohibition on collective punishment.

The EU even tacitly justified Israel’s action by including a demand that “Hamas and other actors in Gaza must cease and refrain from violent actions and provocations against Israel, including the launching of incendiary kites and balloons.”

By contrast, Gisha has called Israel’s resort to “collectively punishing nearly two million people in Gaza” by closing the goods crossing “both illegal and morally depraved.”

The Palestinian human rights group Al Mezan deplored “the international community’s continued tolerance of the collective punishment of the population of Gaza in violation of its legal obligations under international humanitarian law.”

Al Mezan warned that Gaza is witnessing “a social and economic collapse” and is heading towards an “explosion.”

The Indian Nuclear Threat (Revelation 8)

Will India Nuclearize the BrahMos Supersonic Cruise Missile?

New Delhi has to consider its deterrence requirements and perceptions in Beijing and Islamabad.

Joy Mitra

Since the early 2000s, the BrahMos missile system has made India’s military arsenal a formidable one. A product of a joint Indo-Russian initiative, the weapon allows India to deliver a payload at Mach 2.8 to 3 velocity from 300 to 400 kilometers away. In fact, it is considered to be the world’s fastest supersonic cruise missile. India’s current inventory includes land, air, ship, and submarine-launched variants of BrahMos, which has, to this point, been classified as a conventional missile by the U.S. Naval Air and Space Intelligence Center (NASIC).

Given the nuclear capabilities of China, along with the technological feasibility of delivering a nuclear warhead with the weapon system, it is likely that India will add a nuclear capability to BrahMos to fulfill its deterrence requirements against China. In turn, Pakistan may perceive this development as an Indian attempt to pursue a counterforce strategy, which could then motivate Pakistan to move towards a state of ready deterrence.

Threat Motivators

India’s threat landscape is dominated by China and Pakistan, but it appears that its nuclear competition with China has motivated India’s development of the BrahMos missile. Chinese nuclear doctrine espouses a No First Use (NFU) pledge, but it has invested in ballistic missile defense (BMD) technologies and a sea-based anti-missile system. After India’s test-launch of the Agni-V intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) in January, Chinese military analysts asserted that Beijing carried out a test of its anti-missile system in order demonstrate that it is capable of intercepting Indian missiles in the mid-course phase. This has caused some concern in New Delhi, where some have alleged that Chinese BMD capability “erodes the value” of India’s nuclear deterrent.

To counter China, India has two options: first, it could develop Multiple Independently-targeted Reentry Vehicle (MIRV) capability that can overwhelm the missile shield. However, this may be a less appealing course of action, given India’s limited fissile material stock and the threat of the interception of warheads before the terminal phase. Thus, it seems likely that India will develop a nuclear-tipped BrahMos missile capable of penetrating Chinese missile shields, thus fulfilling India’s deterrence requirements.

Taking Aim at China

In terms of missile technology, BrahMos is an advanced and versatile delivery system that is aimed at overwhelming China’s BMD capability. It employs a two-stage propulsion system – the first using a solid propellant and the second, a liquid fuel, air-breathing ramjet engine. As a terrain-hugging missile, BrahMos can fly circuitous paths at supersonic speeds, making it extremely difficult to intercept.

There are improvements in the works that will make the missile even more formidable. The pursuit of a hypersonic version, capable of achieving velocities of Mach 5 to 6, has led India to make efforts towards replacing the missile’s ramjet system with a Supersonic Combustion Ramjet (scramjet) engine. Although India maintains segregation between its civilian space technology and military programs, it is noteworthy that the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) has already successfully tested the scramjet engine. This hypersonic version, due to its extreme velocity, would be virtually impossible for any Chinese missile defense system to intercept.

India’s 2016 induction into the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) removed restrictions on Category-1 items (systems capable of 300 km range/500 kilogram payload or more), which allowed for the production of an extended-range (400km) BrahMos. It was successfully tested in March of 2017, and is slated to have an increased range of around 800-1000 kilometers. The system’s extended range covers almost all of China, albeit with slightly reduced accuracy.

The ever-versatile BrahMos missile is capable of being launched from air, land, and sea. The Sukhoi-30 MKI, an aircraft capable of launching the BrahMos, has an operational range of 3600 km, which aerial refueling can augment. Notably, the refueling and deep-strike capabilities were also validated during the recent Gaganshakti 2018 exercise conducted by the Indian Air Force (IAF). India’s induction into the MTCR opened the door for vast improvements in the BrahMos, and its integration with the Su-30 MKI affords the range capability to deliver a warhead to target major population centers and economic hubs deep in Chinese territory.

Implications for Pakistan

In the triangular nuclear dynamics of South Asia, the nuclearization of the cruise missile will also impact Pakistan, which maintains an ambiguous doctrine with no commitment to NFU and fields tactical nuclear weapons (TNWs). A nuclear-tipped BrahMos would create an additional option for India in targeting Pakistan’s tactical nuclear weapons batteries, with implications on Pakistan’s perception of India’s nuclear doctrine and strategy.

One aspect of the BrahMos missile that makes it worrisome for Pakistan is its ability to attack targets with pinpoint precision, since the accuracy of the missile could potentially be used for counterforce targeting. Not coincidentally, India has successfully deployed a navigation system based on the Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS), which boasts the ability to position within 20 meters of a target.

The penetrative impact of a weapon increases due to high kinetic energy, and with BrahMos, a warhead travelling at Mach 3 velocity will generate nine times more force for the same object as at Mach 1. In this way, BrahMos can effectively neutralize heavily-fortified targets, such as “headquarters or tactical nuclear weapon batteries, enemy airfields or high-value strategic infrastructure,” according to one analyst. This, coupled with the missile’s precision strike capability, makes BrahMos an ideal missile to penetrate hardened structures.

Though India is only aiming to fulfill its deterrence requirements vis-à-vis China, the above features of the BrahMos cruise missile gives India a powerful option against Pakistan’s TNWs, if it should choose to do so. However, Pakistan could perceive this development as a threat to its nuclear arsenal potentially move towards a state of ready deterrence in which it mates its warheads with delivery vehicles.

Potential Hurdles

Two issues still require India’s attention as it contemplates moving towards a nuclear BrahMos. First, Brahmos, being a collaborative project, necessitates Russian consent. Notably, India has locally developed and successfully tested a seeker (responsible for tracking the target) for the missile that guides it during the terminal phase (the final phase of a missile’s flight trajectory). The indigenous components of the BrahMos missile allow India more say in comparison to Russia over the collaborative project. However, since Russia still supplies the propulsion system of BrahMos, their consent is necessary if India is to nuclearize BrahMos.

Second, if India aims to outfit 40 Su-30 MKI platforms with the aerial version of the BrahMos (approximately 12 percent of the 312-jet fleet), it would present a discrimination problem for adversaries. For example, in a crisis situation it would be difficult to know if the incoming Su-30 MKI carries a nuclear-tipped BrahMos or a conventional missile. This may present the adversary with a “use it or lose it” dilemma, which could lead to inadvertent escalation.

Bolstering Credible Minimum Deterrence 

India is capable of arming BrahMos with a nuclear warhead, should it choose to do so. The land and naval version of the BrahMos can carry a 200-kg warhead, while the aerial version can carry a 300kg warhead. It is speculated that India has developed a fission device weighing under 200 kg, with a yield of 12 to 15 kilotons. Moreover, it also appears to have a fission weapon weighing under 300 kg, with a yield of 100 kilotons, which is compatible with the aerial delivery systems.

In light of these technological advancements, the development of Chinese BMD systems in the region will likely incentivize India to field a nuclear-tipped BrahMos. This will bolster the “credible” portion of the “credible minimum deterrence” requirement of the Indian nuclear doctrine. Irrespective of the nuclear BrahMos only fulfilling India’s deterrence requirements vis-a-vis China, Pakistan may feel threatened by this development. Pakistan, perceiving this as a step by India towards counterforce strategy, could move towards a state of heightened readiness for nuclear warfighting, which will in turn increase the risks of inadvertent escalation in a crisis.

Joy Mitra is a researcher with the South Asia Terrorism Portal at the Institute of Conflict Management in New Delhi, India and a July 2018 SAV Visiting Fellow at the Stimson Center. A version of this piece originally appeared at South Asian Voices, an online platform for strategic analysis and debate hosted by Stimson. Views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of the organizations with which he is affiliated.

Wishful Thinking from the Donald

Trump at NATO Summit: Iran Is in Pain, They Will Call Me and Ask for a Deal

Reuters12.07.2018 | 16:00

Amid ‘Syria for Ukraine’ rumors, Trump says he is ‘unhappy’ with Russian control over Crimea – but blames Obama for itU.S. President Donald Trump addresses a news conference after a summit of heads of state and government at NATO headquarters in Brussels on Wednesday, July 11, 2018AP Photo/Markus Schreiber

U.S. President Donald Trump said on Thursday that he expects Iran “at some point” to ask the United States for a deal.Trump was taking questions at a press briefing on the second day of the NATO allies summit in Brussels.

When asked about Iran, Trump said the Iranians are “treating the U.S. with a lot more respect right now.

Iran at some point will call me and ask for a deal, and we’ll make a deal,” he said. “They are feeling “a lot of pain right now,” he added.

In May, Trump announced the withdrawal of the United States from the Iran nuclear deal, saying he will reinstate economic sanctions on the Islamic Republic.

Asked, “Does NATO help protect the U.S. from Russia?” Trump responded that NATO is a strong ally. He continued, “We go into meeting with Putin not looking for so much; we want to look for info on Syria and election meddling.”

Trump was also asked about Russia’s annexation of Crimea, and whether he will bring it up during his meeting next week with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki. In his response, Trump did not mention sanctions that were imposed by the United States on Russia following the annexation, but said, “President Obama allowed that to happen. The Russians then built a bridge to Crimea, and a submarine port.”

Trump said he cannot say what will happen next. But he is “not happy” about the annexation of Crimea.

Trump’s remarks come amid reports that Israel and Saudi Arabia pressured the U.S. to broker a deal with Russia, to trade U.S. sanctions relief on Russia for Moscow using its influence to remove Iranian troops from Syria.

The New Yorker reported Tuesday that shortly before the U.S. elections in 2016, the UAE’s crown prince, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, met with an American mediator and told him Putin might be interested in solving the Syrian crisis in exchange for an end to sanctions on Russia.

Israeli diplomatic sources told Haaretz Wednesday that Russia has been working to push Iran away from Israel’s border with Syria. While Russia is making this effort, Israel has avoided intervening and disrupting stabilizing efforts by Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime as he retakes Syria’s south.

The sources said that while Iranian forces have not completely been ousted from the border area, Moscow is currently acting to advance the process.

Moscow has a clear interest in seeing the Syrian regime stabilized as well as distancing Iran from Israel’s border, the sources said. This attempt may coincide with Israeli interests, but it just might work, the sources said.

Also Wednesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with Putin in Moscow.  “Our opinion is that Iran should leave Syria, this is not something new for you,” the prime minister told the Russian President.

On Thursday, Putin met in Moscow with Ali Akbar Velayati, a top adviser to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The two discussed the situation in Syria and bilateral relations in a meeting in Moscow on Thursday, the Kremlin said.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on a conference call that Velayati had passed messages from Khamenei and from Iran’s president to Putin.

“The messages touch on bilateral relations most notably,” Peskov said.