Before leaders of Pacific nations meet in Washington today for a gathering denounced by China as a “mini Nato”, Sha Zukang said its long-standing promise should be revised, because of the US’s growing military presence in East Asia and the new strategic partnerships forming there.
“The unconditional no first use is not suitable . . . unless China-US negotiations agree that neither side would use [nuclear weapons] first, or the US will no longer take any passive measures to undermine the effectiveness of China’s strategic
Israeli soldiers invaded and bulldozed, Thursday, Palestinian farmlands, north of Beit Lahia, in the northern part of the Gaza Strip.
Media sources said several military vehicles, and bulldozers, invaded the farmlands near the perimeter fence while firing live rounds and smoke bombs to force the farmers away.
They added that the military bulldozers uprooted the lands and installed sand hills close to the fence.
The attacks are part of frequent Israeli violations against the Palestinians, especially the fishermen, farmers, shepherds, and workers in the besieged and impoverished Gaza Strip, and have led to dozens of casualties, including fatalities, in addition to serious property damage and the confiscation of many boats after abducting the fishermen.
By George M. Moore and Frank N. von Hippel, Opinion ContributorsSeptember 22, 2021 – 03:00 PM EDT
The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the view of The Hill
President Biden and the prime ministers of Australia and the United Kingdom announced on Sept. 15, as the first action in their new AUKUS defense agreement, the sale to Australia of nuclear submarine technology to replace an existing Australian deal with France for conventional submarines. The plan is to build the submarines in Australia with assistance, and perhaps components, from the UK and U.S.
The announcement surprised many, including the French government, whose foreign minister referred to the decision as a “stab in the back.”
The Biden administration has touted the agreement as a counter to growing Chinese naval intimidation of Australia and other countries in the Indo-Pacific region. It appears likely, however, that any beneficial impacts on China will be offset by negative impacts on the nuclear weapons nonproliferation regime. Other non-nuclear-armed states, such as South Korea and Iran, are likely to be incentivized to acquire nuclear-powered attack submarines from the U.S. and UK, or perhaps Russia or China.
It is hard to understate what a departure the Australian plan is from prior U.S. policy. In the 1980s, the U.S. pressured France and the UK not to supply nuclear-powered submarines to Canada due to the perceived negative impact on the nonproliferation regime. U.S. nonproliferation policy has also had a bedrock principle of reducing the global availability and use of HEU. It would be folly for the U.S. to now export weapon-grade uranium to non-nuclear-armed states after spending more than a billion dollars since 9/11 to convert research reactors that the U.S. and the Soviet Union had exported to dozens of countries from weapon-grade to low enriched uranium fuel.
Since Australia does not have a commercial nuclear power program (it does have a research reactor) and no military support facilities for nuclear-powered vessels at this point, it will probably have to rely initially on the U.S. or UK for both personnel training and support for nuclear infrastructure development. Given the strong historic relation between the Royal Australian Navy and UK’s Royal Navy, the UK might provide initial training for submarine cadres to man the new Australian nuclear submarine force.
The ultimate creation of a nuclear submarine force in Australia will take decades. Therefore, Australia might follow India’s model and start by renting a nuclear submarine from either the U.S. or UK. India rented two submarines: The first from the Soviet Union and then a second from Russia, before building its own nuclear submarine, whose design appears to be based to a significant degree on its second leased submarine. Acquiring a U.S. or UK submarine, possibly with a joint crew, could be a big first step forward for an Australian nuclear submarine program.
After the U.S. nuclear weapon stockpile peaked in 1964, the U.S. continued to produce weapon-grade uranium for naval reactor fuel until 1992. For the past two decades, U.S. and UK submarines have been fueled with HEU from more than 10,000 U.S. nuclear warheads that became excess at the end of the Cold War. This source will run out by around 2060. In order to maintain HEU fueled submarines and aircraft carriers, the U.S. will soon need to study and fund a very expensive new facility to produce HEU. Providing HEU fuel for Australia will accelerate the need for a new facility.
The Biden administration could also look at the Australian development program as an additional motivation to shift U.S. submarines and aircraft carriers to LEU fuel. That would avoid the need for the U.S. setting the dangerous example of developing a new HEU production facility after the existing supply is used up. Australia, France, the U.S. and UK could also work with the International Atomic Energy Agency to deal with the safeguard issues that arise from the military use of nuclear reactors in non-nuclear-weapon states. That too would be made much easier if the submarines were fueled with low-enriched uranium.
Should there be interest in the Biden administration to patch things up with France, it might explore bringing France back into the Australian submarine program to provide its expertise on LEU-fueled submarines.
George M. Moore is a scientist-in-residence at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey. He was previously a staff member at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and was a senior analyst at the International Atomic Energy Agency.Frank N. von Hippel, a nuclear physicist, is professor of public and international affairs emeritus in Princeton University’s Program on Science and Global Security.
“(The martyrs’) sincere sacrifice and that of other self-sacrificing warriors gave victory to the Iranian nation, and their pure blood marked the legitimacy of the Islamic Republic on the forefront of history,” the Leader said in the message.
It was read out at a ceremony in Tehran by the Leader’s representative in the Foundation of Martyrs and Veterans Affairs on Thursday, which marks the day of commemorating martyrs and self-sacrificing warriors.
In Iran, the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war is known as the Sacred Defense, and the Sacred Defense Week is held on the anniversary of the beginning of the war in September.
Ayatollah Khamenei’s message, according to the website of the Leader’s office, is as follows:
In the Name of God, the Beneficent, the Merciful
Sacred Defense Week is decorated with the names and memories of great martyrs. Their sincere sacrifice and that of other self-sacrificing warriors gave victory to the Iranian nation, and their pure blood marked the legitimacy of the Islamic Republic on the forefront of history.
This is the great lesson of those role models of self-sacrifice. Wherever there is sincere effort, there is victory and honor as well.
And the Iranian nation will never forget this valuable memento, God willing.
Peace be upon martyrs, their families, all self-sacrificing warriors and their leader, Imam Ruhollah (Khomeini).
The walls of Baghdad are covered with posters of Iraq’s former leaders, especially Nouri al Maliki and Haidar al Abadi, as the country moves toward its early elections on October 10. Both men however were forced out of power for their incompetence, and yet they are leading in the country’s two powerful Shia blocks.
But Iraq’s Sunni minority’s leaders from current parliament speaker Mohammed Rikan Hadeed al Halbousi to Khamis al Khanjar, a millionaire and a powerful leader of a Sunni bloc, have not changed much either. In the northern part of the country, the most powerful figure has long been Masoud Barzani, the leader of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), indicating another unchanged nature of Iraqi leadership.
“Because they have so many financial sources, you can see their posters everywhere across Iraq. They have been in power for a long time. They are also people who have not contributed much to change the country’s politics in a positive manner, instead, they were criticised for their responsibilities for Iraq’s failing political system,” says Haydar Karaalp, a Baghdad-based political analyst.
As a result, the only measure of whether anything can change in Iraqi politics or not depends on the voter turnout, which could give independents more seats in the parliament, according to Karaalp.
Despite the US or Iran-backed establishment groups’ holding onto power, popular protests, which have hit the country since last year, have blown winds of change, helping some pro-reformist independent groups emerge from nowhere. While some are boycotting elections, others are competing to defeat the established groups despite having little financial power.
“If a real election happens, half of the current parliament can not be reelected. People are tired of them,” says Sabahattin Salihi, the president of Kirkuk Chamber of Commerce. Kirkuk is Iraq’s disputed oil-rich city with a diverse population of Turkmen, Arabs and Kurds.
“Large protests were the open manifestations of people’s anger toward the establishment,” Salihi tells TRT World. He also criticises the government’s division of Kirkuk into three different election districts, where diverse populations are not represented in a fair sense.
Despite protests and the independent newcomers of Iraqi politics, “a radical change appears to be something difficult to be achieved with this election cycle. In order to fundamentally change the Iraqi political system formed in 2013, the country needs more time and more election cycles, which should be conducted in a transparent manner,” Karaalp tells TRT World. Awatef Rasheed, an Iraqi women’s rights activist running as an independent candidate in the upcoming parliamentary elections, speaks with her supporters in Basra, Iraq September 14, 2021. (Mohammed Aty / Reuters)
A lot of people express their unwillingness to go to the polls and cast their votes for parties and political blocks, who have led the country more or less in the last ten years without bringing any stability and prosperity, according to the analyst.
Is Muqtada al Sadr a kingmaker?
There are signs that there will be a fierce competition among the Shiite-led political groups from the country’s erratic Shia cleric Muqtada al Sadr’s the Sadrist Bloc to Conquest Alliance led by Hadi al Ameri, the leader of Badr Brigade, which is dominated by Iraq’s powerful Shia militia Hashd al Shaabi.
There are also two other powerful Shia groups: the State of Law Alliance, led by former Prime Minister Maliki and the Alliance of National State Forces, which is co-led by former Prime Minister Abadi and Sayyed Ammar al Hakim, a prominent Shiite leader.
After being an avowed enemy of the US, Sadr, the son of one of the country’s most powerful Shia clerics, has repositioned himself as someone who is now the enemy of Tehran. Sadr’s group is the biggest bloc in the Iraqi parliament and the hot-headed cleric hopes to grab even more seats from the upcoming election, which will allow his bloc to nominate the country’s prime minister.
Interestingly, two months prior to the election, Sadr announced that his group would boycott the elections, but just like the way he has flip flopped on his previous political positions, he changed his boycott decision too. He eventually announced that the Sadrist bloc would contest the polls.
“Without his participation, the elections would probably be delayed,” Kayaalp notes, indicating Sadr’s kingmaker role in Iraqi politics. “After Sadr revised his decision to participate in the elections, candidates began hanging their posters on the walls of Baghdad.”
The main competition is going to be between anti-Iran Sadr and pro-Tehran Shia political groups like Ameri’s Badr Brigade and Maliki’s bloc, according to analysts. “While Maliki himself is not a candidate, his posters are all over the place, giving anyone an impression as if he’s a candidate,” Kayaalp views. Muqtada al Sadr’s rising star can make him a kingmaker of the country’s politics after the elections scheduled on October 10, 2021. (Khalid Mohammed / AP Archive)
As for the Kurds in the north, the KDP is expected to win more seats as the party’s main Kurdish opponent, late Jalal Talabani’s Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), has recently gone through a family feud between two cousins, further undermining the party’s political base in northern Iraq.
Bekir Aydogan, an Erbil-based journalist focusing on Iraq’s Kurdish region, observes not much excitement across the northern part of the country. “It appears that Iraqi Kurds do not give much importance to the elections because it does not have any direct effect on the composition of the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) and its political balances,” Aydogan tells TRT World.
Some experts have thought that the elections will eventually empower the country’s suffering largely poor population. But even popular protests have appeared to make a few inroads in the political system under strong foreign influence – whether be the US or the Shia-majority Iran – much to the dismay of protesters.
Like Afghanistan, Iraq has also gone through decades of foreign intervention, civil unrest and a Daesh insurgency, which was almost going to topple the country’s Shia-dominated political system in 2015. But unlike Afghanistan, the US is still in Iraq, having a huge influence over the country’s politics since the 2003 invasion.
The Taliban’s swift victory after a lightning campaign against the Afghan central government has also made a lot of Iraqi politicians – whose credentials appear to lay more with foreign powers like the US and Iran than with ordinary people – nervousabout their own future careers as well as the divided country’s prospects to stay united.
Until now, even designating the prime minister has been determined according to the final outcomes of negotiations between the US and Iran. Current Prime Minister Mustafa al Kadhimi also came to power following a US-Iran consensus on him, according to some.
“This competition between the two powers will definitely affect election results, particularly regarding the designation of who will be the prime minister,” Kayaalp says. But Kadhimi’s shuttle diplomacy has helped soften this competition, he adds.
Kadhimi is not a candidate for any bloc in the elections and he does not lead or support any political groups, signalling he seeks to keep his position as a consensus leader after the polls, Kayaalp says.
While Iraq’s turbulent politics can’t guarantee anything for granted, Kadhimi might have a second term thanks to his successful consensus-building measures across the board from reaching Gulf countries to Iranians and other regional powers. He has also been on good terms with Washington.
While pro-Hashd al Shaabi groups don’t like Kadhimi, he has even garnered the support of Marja, the Najaf-based Shiite religious authority represented by the country’s Grand Ayatollah Ali al Sistani, according to Kayaalp.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, US President Joe Biden, and more attend the G7 summit in Carbis Bay, Cornwall on June 12, 2021.
When I was a young child, our next-door neighbor built a fallout shelter the size of a small garage in the confines of his backyard. He did this at the height of the Cold War and one year after the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.
My parents thought he was nuts, and at first, I didn’t know what to think about it. But I was told by his son—one of my childhood friends—that when the bombs fell, his family would be safe and mine would perish in flames and radiation.
At school, we went through “duck and cover drills” or “disaster drills” where, when a loud horn blasted through our elementary school, we would walk into the hall, line up single-file against a wall, sit, cross our legs, put our heads down between our knees (presumably to kiss our backsides goodbye) and wait for an “all clear” to signal, which meant we could then get up and return to class.
We were told this would protect us in case of a nuclear bomb, so I was highly suspicious of the “fallout shelter” our neighbor built. If sitting quietly in the hall next to a wall would protect me, I suspected the “fallout shelter” served another purpose. After awhile, I concluded it was just where my friend’s dad hid his liquor from his Baptist wife who preached against the stuff.
Those were crazy times marked by the Vietnam War, the space race, racial unrest, a GOP hellbent on destroying the Constitution, war mongers, peaceniks, hippies, yippies, protests, and some great rock n’ roll.
Today, the music isn’t as good, and we’ve traded the Soviet Union—according to some—for China, but some say President Joe Biden is sparking another arms race like that of the 60s. His newly announced defense pact with Britain and Australia will allow the Australians to build nuclear-powered submarines for the first time.
The “AUKUS” treaty was announced Sept. 15 by Biden, along with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
“But let me be clear: Australia is not seeking to acquire nuclear weapons or establish a civil nuclear capability,” said Morrison. “And we will continue to meet all our nuclear non-proliferation obligations.”
The BBC reported it this way: “The AUKUS pact, which will also cover AI and other technologies, is one of the countries’ biggest defense partnerships in decades, analysts say. China has condemned the agreement as ‘extremely irresponsible.’”
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said it “seriously undermines regional peace and stability and intensifies the arms race,” while China’s embassy in Washington accused the three countries of a “Cold War mentality and ideological prejudice.”
Speaking to the BBC, UK Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said China was embarking on one of the biggest military expenditures in history.
“It is growing its navy [and] air force at a huge rate. Obviously it is engaged in some disputed areas,” he said. “Our partners in those regions want to be able to stand their own ground.”
David Ignatius, writing in a Washington Postopinion piece, said: “French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian denounced the AUKUS plan as a bilateral, brutal, unpredictable decision,” and he accused Australia of a ‘knife in the back’ in canceling the $66 billion contract. Behind this indignation were some deeper themes: France’s historic rivalry with the ‘Anglo-Saxons,’ a desire for greater weight as a global power, post-Brexit antipathy toward Johnson, and chagrin over losing a lucrative commercial deal.”
Facing pandemics, climate change, economic disaster and the rise of fascism, what’s left of the civilized world fears we now are plunging headlong into what amounts to global suicide.
Biden is a man of his word, and anyone who doubted this simply didn’t listen to his inaugural address or the first speech he made Feb. 4 at the State Department:
“American leadership must meet this new moment of advancing authoritarianism, including the growing ambitions of China,” Biden said.
True, the indication was we had to stand up to the economic problems posed by Chinese aggression, and many analysts say that military might is being replaced by economic prowess, and that China’s main threat is its large workforce which is capable of economic hegemony. According to some, the best way to combat China is to attack their many attempts to undermine capitalism with renewed economic sanctions.
But in recent years, Beijing has also been accused of raising tensions in disputed territories like the South China Sea, and Biden has no problem flexing the US military muscle when needed. He told us as he pulled us out of Afghanistan that there were other, more acute, military problems around the world. He just identified one and moved on it.
“We’ll confront China’s economic abuses,” Biden told us in February. “But we are ready to work with Beijing when it’s in America’s interest to do so. We will compete from a position of strength by building back better at home, working with our allies and partners, renewing our role in international institutions, and reclaiming our credibility and moral authority, much of which has been lost.”
There has been little fanfare and not much clarity from the Biden administration about other actions taken against China, at least nothing as dramatic as the new, strange-sounding alliance announced earlier this week that angered our allies and our enemies.
But give Biden time.
Not for one second do I believe he is plunging us into a new arms race. I do not foresee a sudden rise in the building of fallout shelters or “duck and cover” drills. Biden is merely reacting to events put into motion by China.
In a schoolyard brawl, it is often the reaction to the initial blow that is noticed and commented on the same in global politics as well.
In withdrawing from Afghanistan, Biden is merely the one to deal decisively with a problem that began several administrations ago. But building nuclear submarines isn’t going to fix the Chinese problem. It will, however, help a lot of military contractors—perhaps the same contractors who lost money when we left Afghanistan. But the bigger problem remains: How do you deal with the Chinese economic juggernaut?
“Building back better” is Biden’s theme, but the strategy to get there is far more difficult with the pandemic raging. And making our economy more competitive can’t include selling fallout shelters.
Where is the innovation to compete with authoritarianism? That’s the ultimate question when it comes to China.