Tenth Shake Before the Sixth Seal: Revelation 6

20th earthquake strikes in Kershaw County since December

The area has seen 20 small earthquakes since December.

Author: WLTX

Published: 3:52 PM EST March 9, 2022

Updated: 11:49 PM EST March 9, 2022

KERSHAW COUNTY, S.C. — Kershaw County has recorded its second earthquake this month, continuing a trend of minor tremors in that area that began late last year.

The quake is on the lower end of the strength scale and it’s unlikely anyone felt it unless they were near the epicenter. 

Just four days ago–on March 5–a 1.8 magnitude quake was recorded only a few miles from this latest tremor. Since December 27, a total of 20 earthquakes have rattled the same region, 17 of those presumed to be aftershocks of a considerably larger magnitude 3.3 earthquake that preceded them.

It’s not known why this area has seen so many earthquakes in such a short amount of time. 

Credit: WLTX

Earthquakes happen throughout the state but most occur near the coast. Approximately 70 percent of earthquakes are in the coastal plain, with most happening in the Lowcountry.

Back in 1886, Charleston was hit by a catastrophic earthquake. It had an estimated magnitude of 7.3, and was felt as far away and Cuba and New York. At least 60 people were killed, and thousands of building were damaged.

Structural damage extended hundreds of miles to cities in Alabama, Ohio, and Kentucky.

Geologists say that Charleston lies in one of the most seismically active areas in the eastern United States. 

Antichrist throws Iraqi parliament into the air

US nemesis Muqtada al-Sadr throws Iraqi parliament into the air

Iraqi Shi’ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr speaks after preliminary results of Iraq’s parliamentary election were announced in Najaf, Iraq October 11, 2021. REUTERS/Alaa Al-Marjani

US nemesis Muqtada al-Sadr throws Iraqi parliament into the air 

The radical Shi’a cleric has found a way to potentially spoil the system imposed by Washington two decades ago. What now?

JUNE 22, 2022 

Written by 
Steven Simon

Iraq is now in the eighth month of a political crisis triggered by the attempt of a Shi’a leader, Moqtada Sadr, to shatter the political paradigm that has prevailed since the second Gulf War.

This prolonged confrontation between a https://andrewtheprophet.comradical preacher, his Sunni and Kurdish tactical allies, and the rest of Iraq’s political parties — which reached a crescendo last week when he and his allies quit the parliament — threatens to tear the country apart.

When the United States occupied Iraq in 2003, it took dramatic steps that recast the post-Saddam state. As L. Paul Bremer, the management consultant installed by the Bush administration as ruler of Iraq, instructed his staff prior to his arrival in Baghdad, “It is desirable that my arrival in Iraq be marked by clear, public and decisive steps. These should reinforce our overall policy messages and reassure Iraqis that we are determined to extirpate Saddamism.”

These clear, public and decisive steps included the dispersal of tens of thousands of instantly unemployed soldiers and civil servants throughout Iraq, the dispossession of many Sunni Iraqis, and the establishment of a political system based on sectarian identity, rather than policy orientation. A disinterested Washington establishment believed— or pretended to believe — George W. Bush’s claim the “mission” was “accomplished” by the defeat of an army that for the most part had dissolved in advance of the U.S. entry into Baghdad.

Bremer therefore was unconstrained by either a functioning interagency system back home or knowledge of Iraqi society, politics, or history on the ground. Saddamism, whatever he meant by that, was just a figment of his imagination.

The initial results of Bremer’s decisive steps became clear early on. Seeding Iraqi cities with young men and angry ex-officers fueled an insurgency that evolved into a full-blown civil war. The “extirpation” of Saddamism took the form of de-Baathification, an absurd riff on post World War de-Nazification of a vanquished Germany. In the Iraqi case, it instantly eradicated whatever administrative capacity the Iraqi state still possessed, forcing the population to rely on entrepreneurs — warlords — who provided security and public goods on a sectarian basis. 

The final blow, Bremer’s allocation of ministerial responsibility and political leadership according to sectarian affiliation, took longer to hobble Iraq’s post-invasion workings. This sectarian quota system, which derived not from Iraq’s traditional politics, but rather from Lebanon’s, is at the root of Iraq’s current crisis.

The problem with this political arrangement is that it incentivizes participants to form governing cartels that extract resources from the state, which they use for personal enrichment and patronage networks that keep them in power. It also incentivizes participants to perpetuate sectarian criteria for political organization and access to state funds. For the political leadership, this is a wonderful thing. The only public good one needs to deliver is sectarian identity and the flow of funds that follow from it. Policy making is not a requirement, let alone implementing policy. 

Furthermore, in the case of the Shi’a parties, for example, social services, health care, municipal infrastructure can all be starved for funding by leaders who tell their constituents that money must be diverted to the battle against Sunni revanchism and Kurdish separatism. The common interest of Iraqi political parties in sustaining this system of sectarian apportionment, known as muhasasa ta’ifiya, is deep and self-perpetuating. Hence the frequent formation of consensus governments following national elections. Under this apportionment system, only a fool would choose to be in the opposition.

When elections were held last fall, the usual wash-rinse-repeat cycle did not happen. Muqtada al-Sadr, a Trumpian Shi’a cleric, wild card of Iraqi politics, and chief of a cult-like social movement, declared that his large share of parliamentary seats entitled him to form a majority government with a Kurdish and Sunni party. 

His agenda sent tremors for two reasons. First, of course, was the threat to the interests of the parties that would be pushed into the opposition. They would, in effect, be cut off from the state resources that enabled them to survive and prosper. And the transformation of the system from sectarian apportionment to conventional parliamentary politics would compel them to compete for voters on the basis of their ability to deliver the goods. 

They also see a dictatorship in the making, whereby Sadr, in charge of a majority government, would engulf and devour all the other players. Whether or not these fears are valid, Sadr, a fanatical Shi’a Islamist, does seem perversely in tune with many Iraqis of diverse ethnic or sectarian roots, who have moved past these identity markers as walls between communities. But, as in the United states, there is a “representation gap,” where the elites who dominate electoral politics are further to the Right or Left of their voters. In Iraq, this has driven turnout to record lows.

Second, Sadr’s maneuver aimed to split the Shi’a front. Until now, the Shi’a parties had marched more or less under a common banner. There was at least one major exception, during the premiership of Nuri al-Maliki in 2008, when the military was dispatched to Basra, in southern Iraq, to suppress a challenge from none other than Sadr’s militia.

As in Lebanon, Shi’a unity in Iraq was never foreordained. Maliki emerged as a player within the Dawa party, which had a long history of resistance to Saddam and the strong support of Iran. Many Shi’a revere the Ayatollah Sistani in the holy city of Najaf. The Badr Party, which is also closely aligned with Iran, has a significant body of supporters. Sadr’s Mahdi Army, renamed The Peace Companies in 2018, is fervently dedicated to Sadr. And there is a congeries of Shi’a Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) including Kata’eb Hizballah and Asa’eb Ahl al Haq, which are also linked to Iran. 

Despite differing agendas, degrees of proximity to Iran, attitudes toward the U.S., or other divisive issues, the Shi’a political groups tended to coalesce in the government formation process. Iran favored this pattern and strongly encouraged it because it facilitated Tehran’s influence over the largest portion of Iraq’s electorate.

Sadr‘s gambit entailed a coalition of his party, Sunnis following Mohammad Halbousi of Anbar province, and Masoud Barzani, head of the Kurdish Democratic Party. Together they had the votes to force the Coordination Framework, a coalition of Maliki’s party, Haider al-Amiri’s Fatah Alliance, the PMF’s, and an assortment of smaller players into opposition. 

But Sadr ran into two obstacles. First was simply the Framework’s unwillingness to roll over. In part this was due to Iranian pressure, and in part because they equated opposition status with existential loss. Then the Supreme Court voted to apply Article 70 of the Constitution, which stipulates that the presidency of a newly formed government must be approved by two thirds of the Consultative Assembly, or parliament. Since Sadr’s coalition, as strong as it was, could not muster two-thirds of the parliamentary vote, it couldn’t appoint a president and therefore couldn’t form a government.

Sadr has dealt with this seemingly fatal setback by having his own party’s representatives resign during the current recess, bringing the formation process to a halt.

At this stage, no one is quite sure what happens next. In one scenario, Sadr acknowledges defeat and accedes to participation in a consensus government, perhaps keeping his powder dry until the next election. A new president is appointed, who in turn appoints a weak prime minister from outside the political sphere. This description fits the existing prime minister, Mustafa al-Khadimi and his predecessor, Adel Abd al Mahdi.

In another, grimmer scenario, Sadr does not reinstate Sadrist representatives in parliament, thereby hamstringing the legislative process, and, instead, sends his armed followers into the street to force systemic change. This would be especially perilous because it would likely coincide with a resurgence of the massive Tishreen demonstrations of 2019, which the Sadrists helped suppress. On Sunday, June 19, it was 118 Fahrenheit in Baghdad. Electricity is only intermittently available. Tempers will be short. The conditions for violence are palpable.

As tension suffuses this interval, observers ask what Sadr’s ploy means for the United States, which has a small number of troops in Iraq, but provides vital support for key components of Iraq’s armed forces, while trying to stanch pervasive Iranian influence throughout Iraq. Some observers draw comfort from Sadr’s apparent defiance of Iran, seeing him as a sign of Iran’s diminishing role in Iraq and as a tacit ally.  There might be some truth to this. But his willingness to run counter to Iran’s preferences does not qualify him as a member of some anti-Iran coalition.

To see his objectives, to the degree they are discernible, as concerned with U.S interests would be wrong. He is playing his own distinctly Iraqi game. There is an irony embedded in these developments, however, which a senior U.S. official privately framed in this way: It was about time that Iraqis jettisoned the Muhasasa system with which the U.S. saddled Iraq two decades ago. That it was Muqtada al-Sadr, a bone deep adversary of the United States, to make the move, raises deep ambivalence

Direct Threat from Iran Preceded Antichrist’s Resignation from Iraq Parliament

Direct Threat from Iran Preceded Sadr Bloc’s Resignation from Iraq Parliament

Baghdad – Asharq Al-Awsat

Tuesday, 21 June, 2022 – 04:45 

A fisherman casts a net in the Euphrates river near a pedestrian bridge in the city of Nasiriyah in Iraq’s southern Dhi Qar province, on June 20, 2022. (Photo by Asaad NIAZI / AFP)

Head of Iraq’s Sadrist movement, cleric Moqtada al-Sadr had received “direct threats from Iran” to reach an agreement with the pro-Tehran Coordination Framework over the formation of a new government, revealed Iraqi and Lebanese sources.

These threats were made days before his bloc resigned from parliament last week.

Iran has denied the claims.

Iraq was plunged deeper in political turmoil after Sadr’s bloc quit after failing for months in reaching an agreement with the Framework over the formation of a government.

A Lebanese source close to Hezbollah’s management of Iraqi affairs told Asharq Al-Awsat that Sadr “opted to resign rather than yield to pressure from Iran.”

He said Iran had used maximum pressure with Sadr and that its efforts are largely tied to its nuclear deal negotiations with the West.

The source did not rule out the possibility that Tehran was also concerned that the prolongation of the crisis in Iraq would impede its plans there.

A high-ranking Kurdish source revealed that Sadr had informed his coalition partner, Masoud Barzani, of the Iranian threats.

The Framework has meanwhile, kicked off efforts to form a government, starting with the naming of a prime minister.

The process will not be easy given the sharp divisions within the group.

Moreover, the Framework is expected to approach Kurdish parties, including Barzani’s Kurdish Democratic Party, and his position is unlikely to veer off from Sadr’s meaning he would rather withdraw from the process or reach a settlement over main Kurdish demands related to the system of rule.

The Framework itself is divided over the formation of the government.

On the one hand, the State of Law coalition wants to name a prime minister without Sadr’s approval, while other parties, such as Ammar al-Hakim and Hadi and Ameri, want to include the cleric in the process in order to gain some of his favor to avert future opposition to th

The Rising Chinese Nuclear Superpower: Daniel 7

Assessing China as a Superpower

James Ridley-Jones is a PhD student at King’s College London currently researching Geostrategy in Central Asia. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.

Title: Assessing China as a Superpower

Date Originally Written:  June 14, 2022.

Date Originally Published:  June 20, 2022.   

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author is a PhD student studying Foreign Policy in Central Asia. The author believes that perception plays a key role in global power structures. The article is written from the point of view of the international community toward Chinese power.

Summary: The Russian invasion of Ukraine exposed the gap between how the world assessed Russia’s might and influence and its actual performance. Prior to a conflict, “power perceived is power achieved” is common. When looking at China’s might and influence, and taking into account recent revelations during the Russian invasion of Ukraine, questions remain regarding what China can actually achieve in the long run.

Text:  From a global power perspective the conflict in Ukraine taught the United States a significant lesson about reality comparative to perception. Russia was perceived to be a significant challenge to North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) forces militarily, an economic influencer to Europe even if not the predominant economy, and a country with global influence across Europe, the Middle East, Africa, across Asia, and even holding some influence in South America. The reality is that although Russia is still considered a challenge in these areas, the challenge is not to the level believed prior to the conflict in Ukraine. This assessment however does not look to debate on Russia, their actions, capabilities or intentions, but rather to question if a superpower needs to possess such things, or just be perceived to possess such attributes, all in relation to China.

When considering military might, China is often assessed to be a significant player on potential capabilities. China has the largest military in the world, are significantly developing their technological capabilities, advancing new training programs, and reorganising their command structures. These changes demonstrate that China perceives problems within its military however, institutional change does not always guarantee success. China’s evolving military capabilities come with a host of their own problems and questions, not all of which there is evidence of resolutions. With growth comes organisation issues, technology requires application, and there is no demonstrated successful application of some technologies China might be developing. All of these problems plague even the most successful of militaries, but that doesn’t detract from these problems as considerations, especially given China’s more significant nature i.e. its size and development. Also evident is the limited combat experience of the Chinese military. The last full conflict the Chinese military fought was against Vietnam in 1979 with limited experience beyond that other than peacekeeping missions and occasional sparring with the Indian military in the Himalayas, China lacks modern conflict experience[2].

Even with these military considerations, China prefers to employ economic and Soft Power, which merits consideration when envisioning China as a superpower.

When looking at the Chinese economy, the slowdown is a factor to consider. Chinese economic strength presently affords them significant sway globally.  If this economic strength were to slowdown, it is questionable as to whether China’s sway would continue to the same degree. Although there are considerably debated variables in the literature, Riikka Nuutilainen and Jouko Rautava suggest that as China’s economic growth slows, its contribution to Russia’s growth performance will likely decline as well[2]. Although their study is specific to Russia, it is more widely indicative of the potential impact to other countries of a withdrawal of Chinese investment, purchasing of raw materials, and slowing energy demand. If this slowdown were to happen, given Chinese utilization of such mechanisms for diplomatic engagement, there would be noticeable knock on effects.

In South America, Chinese economic relations and diplomatic positioning in the region has had an effect. Both the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua most recently flipped their positions toward Taiwan after being offered financial incentives by China, including loans and infrastructure investments[3]. In this case a Chinese economic incentive has led to enough diplomatic pressure being exerted to change national relationships between several nations, specifically in South America, with Taiwan. These cases demonstrate that economic might can be wielded successfully as a tool to exert influence.

Another example case is Serbia, where Chinese economic power is perceived to be significant in the country, comparative to the reality. Forty percent of Serbians think that China gives the country the most aid of all those that contribute, when in actuality China is not even close to giving significant amounts of aid[4]. Of the 56 million Euros that China has pledged to Serbia since 2009, only 6.6 million has actually been delivered, which is significantly less that the European Union, who has given 1.8 billion, or even Germany who has given 189 million[5]. Although a specific case, Serbia demonstrates that perceptions of Chinese economic influence and power are significantly higher than actuality.

In Central Asia, it is assumed that Chinese investment has had significant affect, but often this is not to the extent that is perceived as Chinese Soft Power fails to connect with the wider population beyond the national elites[6]. This Chinese failure demonstrates a lack of influence at a different level to government and could potentially have a significant impact over time should it not be addressed. Such failures merit review in other regions of the world as part of a wider understanding of actual Chinese global influence compared to the U.S. current view of it.

Given the changing nature of the Chinese economy from a production based manufacturing economy to a more consumer based economy, it is questionable as to whether the country will be able exert similar pressure as a customer and consumer, rather than its current position as a producer and investor.

U.S. current assessments of Chinese potential as a superpower is based heavily on perceptions of potential Chinese exertion of power with limited cases of exertion, rather than necessarily them having that actual power. South America illustrates successful economic influence, but to what extent is it perception based similarly to the case of Serbia, such details are currently lacking.

Whilst remaining cautious in order to not underestimate Chinese capabilities in any of their foreign policy, it is important to analyse more closely Chinese accomplishments to obtain a better understanding of Chinese potential in becoming a superpower, both to ensure a better position to challenge Chinese actions as well as to cooperate where possible.

This article appeared originally at Divergent Options.


[1] Blasko, D. (2015). Ten Reasons Why China Will Have Trouble Fighting a Modern War – War on the Rocks. War on the Rocks. Retrieved 8 June 2022, from https://warontherocks.com/2015/02/ten-reasons-why-china-will-have-trouble-fighting-a-modern-war/

[2] Nuutilainen, R., & Rautava, J. (2019). Russia and the slowdown of the Chinese economy [Ebook] (2nd ed.). Bank of Finland, BOFIT. Retrieved 8 June 2022, from https://helda.helsinki.fi/bof/bitstream/handle/123456789/16551/bpb0220.pdf.

[3] Roy, D. (2022). China’s Growing Influence in Latin America. Council on Foreign Relations. Retrieved 8 June 2022, from https://www.cfr.org/backgrounder/china-influence-latin-america-argentina-brazil-venezuela-security-energy-bri

[4] Institute for Economic Affairs, 2020 in Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty. (2020). Who Gives The Most Aid To Serbia? [Image]. Retrieved 8 June 2022, from https://www.rferl.org/a/who-gives-the-most-aid-to-serbia-/30660859.html

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ridley-Jones, J. (2020). Assessing the Development of Chinese Soft Power in Central Asia. Divergent Options. Retrieved 8 June 2022, from https://divergentoptions.org/2020/09/23/an-assessment-of-the-development-of-chinese-soft-power-in-central-asia/.

Iran Horn stepping up uranium enrichment at underground Fordo site

Iran's underground Fordo nuclear facility outside of Qom, Iran, October 23, 2021. (Planet Labs Inc. via AP)

IAEA report says Iran stepping up uranium enrichment at underground Fordo site

Tehran informs nuclear watchdog that it has begun process to set in motion a second cluster of advanced centrifuges at secret underground site

By TOI staff and AgenciesToday, 4:06 am

Iran is stepping up uranium enrichment at its underground Fordo nuclear site, according to a confidential International Atomic Energy Agency report seen by the Reuters news agency on Monday.

The report said Iran is taking steps to fulfill its threats to use a second cascade of the advanced IR-6 centrifuges at Fordo. The centrifuges can more easily switch between enrichment levels.

IAEA inspectors verified on Saturday that Iran was ready to feed uranium hexafluoride (UF6) gas, the material centrifuges enrich, into the second of two cascades, or clusters, of IR-6 centrifuges installed at Fordo, Reuters said, quoting from the confidential IAEA report to member states.

Fordo is one of Iran’s most sensitive nuclear sites, buried deep under a mountain, which makes it largely impervious to a military strike.

An IR-6 centrifuge spins uranium 10 times faster than the first-generation centrifuges that Iran was once limited to under its nuclear deal with world powers. As of February, Iran has been spinning a cascade of IR-6s at Fordo, according to the IAEA.

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According to the report, Iran informed the nuclear watchdog on Sunday that it had begun the process that precedes enrichment, known as passivation of the cascades.

The report noted that the IR-6 cascade has “modified sub-headers,” which enable it to switch to enriching to other purity levels, something that has been a concern for Western diplomats who note it enables Iran to quickly switch to higher enrichment levels.

Iran has not informed the IAEA to what level it would be enriching the uranium. Iran has since February been enriching up to 20 percent purity with a cluster of 166 advanced IR-6 machines.

“The Agency has yet to receive clarification from Iran as to which mode of production it intends to implement for the aforementioned cascade, following the completion of passivation,” the report said.

Iran has been enriching uranium to 60% at Natanz, another site, a short step before 90% weapons-grade uranium.

Iran has been escalating in its violations of the deal — which bars any enrichment at Fordo — since former US president Donald Trump withdrew from the agreement in 2018 and began imposing significant sanctions on the Islamic Republic.

In the last month Iran has also removed 27 surveillance cameras from nuclear sites across the country.

The development came a day after the International Atomic Energy Agency’s board of governors censured Tehran for failing to provide “credible information” over manufactured nuclear material found at three undeclared sites in the country.

It also follows months of deadlocked over stalled talks aimed at restoring the Islamic Republic’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers. Tensions remain high across the wider Middle East over the accord’s collapse as U.S. sanctions and rising global food prices choke Iran’s ailing economy, putting further pressure on its government and its people.

The Perfect Storm For The First Nuclear War: Revelation 8

The Perfect Storm

Only a sustained and united national effort can extricate Pakistan from this dangerous situation

the writer is a former ambassador of pakistan the views expressed here are his own

Pakistan is confronted by a Perfect Storm — the lethal combination of toxic internal and external developments that are inextricably linked to pose grave challenges to its security and stability. Only a sustained and united national effort can extricate Pakistan from this dangerous situation.

Internally, Pakistan has become completely polarised. No ground exists for dialogue and compromise, even on national security issues. This political instability has generated an economic meltdown with hyper-inflation, soaring debt, depleting resources and increasing unemployment. Longer term problems — global warming, water scarcity, food shortages and a ballooning population — make the situation even more untenable.

Externally, the growing confrontation between the major powers poses serious challenges, especially to relations with the US. Washington views Pakistan’s alliance with China and differences with India as obstacles to the Indo-US strategic partnership against China, since this undermines India’s role as America’s ‘Net Security Provider’. Washington has also opposed CPEC, describing it as a ‘debt trap’, to undermine the Pakistan-China relations. Even more significantly, the Americans want Pakistan’s strategic capabilities to be unilaterally restrained if not rolled back. In the worst case scenario, political instability in Pakistan can be used as an excuse to try and take control of Pakistan’s nuclear assets, for which the US already has contingency plans, requiring Pakistan to take necessary security measures. The relationship has also soured due to the American defeat in Afghanistan for which Pakistan is blamed. Since Pakistan will not compromise on any of these key issues, there can be no substantive improvement in bilateral relations. No amount of sycophancy or appeasement on Pakistan’s part can change this reality.

Similarly, relations with India face a dead end. Seeking regional hegemony, an increasingly powerful India with American support is in no mood to compromise with Pakistan. On the contrary, Modi’s revanchist India seeks to further weaken Pakistan and dreams of absorbing Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan. Modi government’s repression of Indian Muslims and denigration of Islam is a further indicator of his belligerence. The only restraining factor on Indian aggression is Pakistan’s nuclear capability. In this situation, no dialogue let alone trade is a realistic possibility.

Meanwhile, India is promoting TTP and Baloch terrorists, operating from ungoverned spaces in Afghanistan, to destabilise Pakistan and target Chinese interests in Pakistan to derail the Pakistan-China relationship. India is also taking unprecedented steps to normalise relations with the Afghan Taliban, using financial and material incentives to reestablish Indian influence while sowing dissensions between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Quite possibly, the US supports these Indian tactics.

Further pressure on Pakistan is being applied through tough IMF bailout conditionalities, denial of western assistance, FATF grey-listing and opposition to Pakistan’s engagement with Russia and Iran.

While Pakistan’s internal and external challenges are formidable, they are not insurmountable. To tackle them requires, first and foremost, political stability. Only a government that has the widest national support can have the mandate to take the tough decisions ahead on the basis of a consensual national agenda. On the economic front, a band-aid short term approach based on IMF bailouts and foreign assistance can only provide temporary reprieve. The only solution is sustainable economic growth achieved through a long term strategy for structural reforms, ending the elite capture of the economy, closing the revenue and expenditure gap, broadening the tax base by including the agriculture and retail sectors and by ending tax evasions. Corruption and inefficiency also need to be overcome through speedy, transparent and impartial judicial measures. Energy imports need to be substituted by domestic resources such as coal, gas, hydro power, nuclear energy and renewable sources. Privatisation of hemorrhaging public sector corporations must also be fast-tracked. And investments ought to be made in scientific and technical education including skills development to take advantage of the youth bulge in the population.

On the external front, an unambiguous decision must be made on choosing our security and development partners. Clearly, the only country that is willing and able to assist us is China, which is not only a major world power but also the engine for future global growth. Unfortunately, Pakistan has been sending mixed signals to the Chinese, failing to match words with deeds. The highest priority should be given to ensuring the security of Chinese interests in Pakistan. Obstacles to the implementation of CPEC must be removed. Perfidious criticism of the Pakistan-China relationship, both from within and abroad, needs to be effectively countered.

Now opportunities for engagement should also be explored with Russia, inspite of the Western pressure against such cooperation. These countries are themselves engaging with Russia despite their stance on the Ukraine war to obtain Russian oil and gas. Despite its strategic alliance with the US, India is also purchasing cheaper Russian oil and wheat. There is no reason why Pakistan should not do the same. 

China and Russia can also cooperate with Pakistan to promote regional connectivity between South, West and Central Asia as well as to ensure stability in Afghanistan. These are interests shared by Iran. Since the Saudis and Iranians are themselves seeking reconciliation, Pakistan-Saudi relations should no longer restrain Pakistan’s relations with Iran.

Certainly there will be American opposition to Pakistan’s cooperation with China, Russia and Iran, with possible imposition of sanctions in response. However, the Americans are neither willing nor capable of offering viable alternatives. Besides, there is no American assistance available for Pakistan, thereby limiting their capability for punitive action.

Essentially, it is the pro-American mindset among Pakistan’s elite that has prevented a paradigm shift from reliance on the US towards the other major powers. But a determined pursuit of Pakistan’s long term national interests requires such a vital transition. This does not necessarily require abandoning relations with the US but seeking alternative opportunities for Pakistan’s security and development.

It will only be through pursuing such far-sighted internal and external policies that Pakistan can eventually weather the perfect storm that it is confronting. The process will be difficult and huge sacrifices will have to be made. Still there is no other option before the country.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 21st, 2022.

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How Ukraine-Russian war will shape world’s nuclear arsenals: Revelation 16

FILE PHOTO - In this handout photo released by Russian Defense Ministry Press Service on...
FILE PHOTO – In this handout photo released by Russian Defense Ministry Press Service on Wednesday, April 20, 2022, the Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missile is launched from Plesetsk in Russia’s northwest. Russia said on Wednesday it had conducted a first test launch of its Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missile, a new and long-awaited addition to its nuclear arsenal which President Vladimir Putin said would make Moscow’s enemies stop and think.(Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP)

(AP) – The headlines on the newsstands in Seoul blared fresh warnings of a possible nuclear test by North Korea.

Out on the sidewalks, 28-year-old office worker Lee Jae Sang already had an opinion about how to respond to North Korea’s fast-growing capacity to lob nuclear bombs across borders and oceans.

“Our country should also develop a nuclear program. And prepare for a possible nuclear war,” said Lee, voicing a desire that a February poll showed was shared by 3 out of 4 South Koreans.

It’s a point that people and politicians of non-nuclear powers globally are raising more often, at what has become a destabilizing moment in more than a half-century of global nuclear nonproliferation efforts, one aggravated by the daily example of nuclear Russia tearing apart non-nuclear Ukraine.

That reconsideration by non-nuclear states is playing out in Asia. The region is home to an ever-more assertive North Korea, China, Russia and Iran — three nuclear powers and one near-nuclear power — but is unprotected by the kind of nuclear umbrella and broad defense alliance that for decades has shielded NATO countries.

Vulnerable countries will look to the lessons from Ukraine — especially whether Russia succeeds in swallowing big pieces of Ukraine while brandishing its nuclear arsenal to hold other nations at bay — as they consider keeping or pursuing nuclear weapons, security experts say.

As important, they say, is how well the U.S. and its allies are persuading other partners in Europe, the Persian Gulf and Asia to trust in the shield of U.S.-led nuclear and conventional arsenals and not pursue their own nuclear bombs.

For leaders worried about unfriendly, nuclear-armed neighbors, “they will say to their domestic audiences, ‘Please support our nuclear armament because look what happened to Ukraine,’ right?” said Mariana Budjeryn, a researcher with the Project on Managing the Atom at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.

As a schoolgirl in 1980s Soviet-era Ukraine, Budjeryn drilled on how to dress radiation burns and other potential injuries of nuclear war, at a time that country housed some 5,000 of the Soviet Union’s nuclear weapons. Her country renounced nuclear weapons development after the Soviet Union shattered, opting for economic assistance and integration with the West and security assurances.

“Ultimately, I think a lot is riding on the outcome of this war in terms of how we understand the value of nuclear weapons,” Budjeryn said.

Around the world, the U.S. military is reassuring strategic partners who are facing nuclear-backed rivals.

President Joe Biden announced Monday in Tokyo that he vows to protect Taiwan and their independence if China invades (CNN, POOL, HOST TV).

Near the North Korea border this month, white-hot ballistic missiles arched through the night sky as the U.S. joined South Korea in their first joint ballistic test launches in five years. It was a pointed response to North Korea’s launch of at least 18 ballistic missiles this year.

In Europe and in the Persian Gulf, President Joe Biden and U.S. generals, diplomats and troops are shuttling to countries neighboring Russia and to oil-producing countries neighboring Iran. Biden and his top lieutenants pledge the U.S. is committed to blocking nuclear threats from Iran, North Korea and others. In China, President Xi Jinping is matching an aggressive foreign policy with one of his country’s biggest pushes on nuclear arms.

Some top former Asian officials have cited Ukraine in saying it’s time for more non-nuclear countries to think about getting nuclear weapons, or hosting U.S. ones.

“I don’t think either Japan or South Korea are eager to become nuclear weapon states. It will be immensely politically painful and internally divisive. But what are the alternatives?” ex-Singapore Foreign Minister Bilahari Kausikan told the audience at a March defense forum.

For those hoping North Korea would give up its nuclear weapons, the example provided by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is “another nail in that coffin,” Terence Roehrig, a professor of national security at the U.S. Naval War College, said at another defense forum in April.

“Ukraine is going to be another example to North Korea of states like Iraq and like Libya, that gave up their nuclear capability — and look at what happened to them,” Roehrig said.

Ukraine never had detonation-ready nuclear bombs — at least, none it could fire on its own.

The Soviet Union’s collapse left Ukraine with the world’s third-largest nuclear arsenal. But Ukraine didn’t have operational control. That left it with a weak hand in the 1990s when it negotiated with the U.S., Russia and others on its place in the post-Soviet world, and the fate of the Soviet arsenal. Ukraine got assurances but no guarantees regarding its security, Budjeryn said.

“A piece of paper,” is how Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy referred to one such assurance, signed in 1994.

The U.S. itself has given nuclear and nuclear-curious countries plenty of reasons to worry about forgoing the world’s deadliest weapons.

The West compelled Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi to give up his country’s rudimentary nuclear weapons program in 2003. A couple of years later, Gadhafi’s son Saif al-Islam shared with researcher Malfrid Braut-Hegghammer his father’s biggest worry about that — that Western nations would support an uprising against him.

“And lo and behold, a few years later, get to 2011, you saw what happened,” said Braut-Hegghammer, now a University of Oslo nuclear and security strategy professor.

What happened was NATO, at U.S. urging, intervened in a 2011 internal uprising against Gadhafi. A NATO warplane bombed his convoy. Rebels captured the Libyan leader, tortured him and killed him.

In Iraq, the U.S. played a central role in forcing Saddam Hussein to give up his nuclear development program. Then the U.S. overthrew Saddam in 2003 on a spurious claim he was reassembling a nuclear weapons effort. Three years later, with Iraq still under U.S. occupation, Saddam plunged through a gallows.

The Middle East leaders’ fall and brutal deaths have clouded denuclearization efforts with North Korea. Rare U.S.-North Korea talks in 2018 collapsed after the Trump administration repeatedly raised the “Libya model” and Vice President Mike Pence threatened Kim Jong-un with Gadhafi’s fate. “Ignorant and stupid,″ North Korea’s government responded.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine now “only highlights to some countries, at least, that if you have a nuclear weapons program, and you’re sort of far along with that, giving it up is a terrible idea,” Braut-Hegghammer said.

The world’s nine nuclear powers — the United States, Russia, France, China, the United Kingdom, Pakistan, India, Israel and North Korea — hold some 13,000 nuclear weapons. Israel does not acknowledge its nuclear program.

The biggest nuclear powers historically have sought to control which countries can licitly join the club. Countries that proceed regardless, including Iran and North Korea, are isolated and sanctioned.

Nuclear experts mention South Korea and Saudi Arabia as among the countries mostly likely to consider nuclear weapons. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in 2018 pledged to immediately acquire nuclear bombs if Iran did.

It’s surprising that more countries haven’t acquired a bomb, Jessica Cox, head of NATO’s nuclear directorate, said at the April forum.

“If you look at it from a historical perspective, it is not at all clear in the 1950s and 1960s that there would be less than 10 nations armed with nuclear weapons in the world … 70 years later.”

What made the difference in Europe was NATO’s nuclear deterrence — 30 nations sharing responsibility and decision-making for a nuclear arsenal that deters attacks on them all, Cox said.

Many feel Ukraine made the right decision when it avoided possible isolation by waiving a nuclear-armed future. That gave Ukraine three decades to integrate with the world’s economy and build alliances with powerful nations now aiding its defense against Russia.

As a young woman in Ukraine, Budjeryn realized at one point after the 1990s accords that her own job, then in business-development, was funded by the Clinton administration, as part of the West’s rewards to Ukraine for the nuclear deal.

“If Ukraine prevails,” she said, ” then it will communicate that nuclear weapons are useless.”

“But if Ukraine falls, the story will look very different,” she said.


Chang reported from Seoul.

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