COLUMBIA, S.C. — Another earthquake shook up the South Carolina Midlands Thursday morning.
The earthquake hit at around 7 a.m. about 20 miles outside of Columbia, according to the United States Geological Survey. The 2.5 magnitude had it’s epicenters near Elgin.
This is the sixth earthquake since Dec. 27 when a 3.3 magnitude quake was reported. People reported feeling shaking and hearing a loud boom during some of the other quakes. All the seismic activity has been centered near Elgin or neighboring Lugoff. The other four earthquakes have been 2.5 magnitude or lower.
An earthquake of 2.5 magnitude is considered minor, according to seismologists. For the most part quakes that register 2.5 magnitude or less go unnoticed and are only recorded by a seismograph. Any quake less than 5.5 magnitude is not likely to cause significant damage.
Earthquakes can happen in clusters, seismologist say.
As the inheritor of the Soviet Union’s nuclear legacy, Russia is one of the most experienced states in the world when it comes to nuclear arms control. With the largest arsenal in the world, Russia’s participation (or non-participation) in nuclear arms agreements has ramifications for the security and stability of the entire world. While recent nuclear saber-rattlingby Russia throughout its 2022 invasion of Ukraine continues to draw attention to Russia’s nuclear arsenal, much less attention has been afforded to the bilateral nuclear arms control architecture, which Russia shares with the United States.
What is the State of Nuclear Arms Control with Russia Today?
Today, bilateral oversight between Russia and the United States over their nuclear arsenals is at a multi-decade low, at a moment when Russia appears to be pioneering novel nuclear delivery systems.
The final remaining agreement, which binds both the United States and Russia, is the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), which was originally negotiated and ratified during the Presidencies of Barack Obama and Dmitri Medvedev in 2010. According to the terms of the treaty, the United States and Russia were obligated to bring their nuclear arsenals under a limit of 1,550 deployed nuclear weapons by February 5, 2018, as well as abide by similar limitations on nuclear-capable ICBMs, submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBM), and bombers.
At that time, both Moscow and Washington were bound by the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, a treaty first agreed by U.S. President Ronald Reagan and General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev of the Soviet Union. The agreement forbade either power from owning or operating ground-launched ballistic or cruise missiles with ranges between 500 to 5,500 kilometers. However, in 2019, the Trump administration decided to withdraw from the treaty on the grounds of Russian violations of its terms. In particular, the U.S. had previously expressed concerns that the Russian deployment of Iskander-K missile systems with nuclear-capable 9M729 ground-launched cruise missiles constituted a violation of the treaty’s terms.
President Putin’s 2018 announcement of Russia’s development of a variety of novel delivery systems was an unmistakable sign that Russia’s view of the bilateral strategic arms relationship had changed. In particular, Putin feted the development of the Kh-47M2 Kinzhalballistic missile, RS-28 Sarmat ICBM, Avangardhypersonic glide vehicle, Burevestnik nuclear-powered cruise missile, and Poseidon nuclear torpedo as invulnerable new tools in Russia’s arsenal, even if many have not yet approached serial production or wide-scale deployment.
Where Could Things Go from Here?
Putin’s early threats that any third country which intervenes in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine will meet a “lightning fast” response is at least in part an allusion to Moscow’s nuclear arsenal. While such threats are arguably a key element of Russia’s nuclear doctrine, the risk of actual Russian employment of nuclear weapons in the context of its war in Ukraine remains present, even if slim. The attention of Western intelligence and policymaking leaders to the persistent threat of Russian nuclear weapon use (particularly tactical nuclear weapons) highlights the gaps in arms control architecture which covers the arsenals of Russia and the United States.
With New START having been barely extendeduntil 2026, the foundation of bilateral arms control between the United States and Russia remains in place. However, no progress has been made to update this architecture for the future, as advanced technologies like hypersonics remain outside the scope of any existing or previous treaties, and will only continue to proliferate in the arsenals of both Washingtonand Moscow. Russia’s use of Kinzhal missiles in Ukraine demonstrates that such weapons are here to stay, and will remain in use in the future. Looming in the background is China’s growing nuclear arsenal (and a confounding factor of previous negotiations), which includes warheads carried by hypersonic delivery vehicles of its own.
While nuclear arms control negotiations between Russia and the United States appear to have been impacted significantly by Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine, future negotiations on the two country’s strategic arsenals are by no means ruled out. However, such hypothetical negotiations would necessarily run up against significant headwinds, and would likely require the expenditure of significant political capital by both sides to reach a durable, future-oriented agreement.
Wesley Culp is a Research Fellow at the Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress. He regularly writes on Russian and Eurasian leadership and national security topics and has been published in The Hill as well as in the Diplomatic Courier. He can be found on Twitter @WesleyJCulp.
Iran’s nuclear program, oil, and human rights dominated Biden’s much-anticipated first presidential trip to the Middle East earlier this month. But there is one topic President Biden chose not to showcase during his visit with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman Al Saud—the Kingdom’s most recent interest in nuclear energy—and the nuclear weapons proliferation concerns that come with it.
And then, there’s this: Any Korean sale would be covered by a generous 2011 South Korean nuclear cooperative agreement with Riyadh that explicitly authorizes the Saudis to enrich any uranium it might receive from Seoul. Under the agreement, Riyadh could enrich this material by up to 20 percent, without having to secure Seoul’s prior consent.
That should set off alarm bells.
Do the Saudis want a bomb? In 2018, Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman announced that “if Iran developed a nuclear bomb, we will follow suit as soon as possible.” As if to prove the point, late in 2020, word leaked that the Saudis have been working secretly with the Chinese to mine and process Saudi uranium ore. These are steps toward enriching uranium—and a possible nuclear weapon program.Unlike the Emirates, which legally renounced enriching uranium or reprocessing spent fuel to separate plutonium, the Kingdom insists on retaining its “right” to enrich. Also, unlike most members of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Saudi Arabia refuses to allow intrusive inspections that might help the IAEA find covert nuclear weapons-related activities, if they exist, under a nuclear inspections addendum known as the Additional Protocol.Will Putin go nuclear? A timeline of expert commentsSaudi Arabia’s enrichment program and refusal to adopt the Additional Protocol, doubled with a possible permissive South Korean reactor sale, could spell trouble. South Korea currently makes its nuclear fuel assemblies using imported uranium, which mainly comes from Australia. This ore is controlled by Australia’s uranium export policy, which requires that the uranium be monitored by the IAEA and that materials derived from it not be retransferred to a third country without first securing Australia’s consent. Yet, if Seoul decides to pass Australian uranium on to Riyadh, the Saudis are free to enrich it up to 20 percent at any time without having to secure anyone’s approval. In addition, Riyadh could proceed to enrich this material without having to agree to intrusive IAEA inspections under the Additional Protocol, making it easier for Riyadh to enrich beyond 20 percent uranium 235 without anyone knowing.Can Washington block the reactor export? In Washington, the US nuclear industry understandably is miffed that Riyadh excluded Westinghouse from bidding on the Saudi reactors. Meanwhile, State Department officials say that KEPCO can’t sell Riyadh its APR-1400 reactor because it incorporates US nuclear technology that is property of Westinghouse. KEPCO, they insist, would first need to secure US Energy Department approval under US intangible technology transfer controls (known as Part 810 authorizations). This requirement, they argue, gives Washington the leverage it needs to impose nonproliferation conditions on South Korea’s reactor export to Riyadh.This sounds fine. But there’s a catch. South Korean officials insist that its APR-1400 design, which uses a Combustion Engineering data package that Westinghouse now owns, is entirely indigenous. Focusing on the matter of technology transfer authority also begs a bigger question: Does the Republic of Korea need Washington’s blessing to begin enriching uranium itself or to transfer enrichment technology to other countries, such as Saudi Arabia?Why the Ukraine war does not mean more countries should seek nuclear weaponsThe short answer is no.South Korea has always been free to enrich uranium and transfer uranium enrichment technology to other countries so long as the uranium it enriched or the enrichment technology it shipped wasn’t of US origin. America’s veto over South Korean enrichment only applies to uranium that comes from the United States. As I learned from a recent interview of the two top negotiators of the 2015 US-Republic of Korea civilian nuclear cooperation agreement, Seoul has always known this. Yet, South Korea asked that Washington explicitly grant it authority to enrich uranium in the 2015 agreement—something Washington has yet to grant. According to the negotiators, South Korean officials preferred to have political permission from Washington to do so, even though they did not legally need it.South Korea and the United States have a choice. South Korea’s previous administration under President Moon Jae-in announced in 2021 that South Korea would not export reactors to countries that had not yet agreed to adopt the IAEA’s Additional Protocol. Is this pledge one that President Yoon Suk-yeol will uphold? Or will Yoon reverse this policy in his effort to go all outto secure the reactor sale to Riyadh?Similarly, how committed is the Biden Administration to prevent Saudi Arabia from enriching uranium and reprocessing spent reactor fuel? Previous administrations have tried to keep Riyadh clear of such activities. Will Washington keep Seoul’s and Saudi Arabia’s feet to the fire on this or will the administration’s desire to close ranks with South Korea and Saudi Arabia push these nonproliferation concerns to the sidelines? Anyone interested in preventing the further spread of nuclear weapons in the Middle East should want to know the answers.
The Islamic republic is being put under “psychological pressure and unilateral expectations”, he said.
But “if the US acts constructively and positively, an agreement is close”, the spokesman said.
Mr Kanani’s remarks came after Raphael Grossi, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, reiterated in an interview with CNN the UN nuclear watchdog’s assessment that Iran’s nuclear programme was “galloping along.”
He stressed however, that his organisation was impartial when evaluating Iran’s nuclear programme.
“Iran is putting together, manufacturing last-generation centrifuges, which are necessary to enrich this material. So, what we are saying is just an objective description of the facts.”
Mr Grossi also said there was a difference between being close to weapons-grade uranium enrichment and actually creating a long range nuclear weapon delivery system.
One challenge for Iran, experts say, is known as “warhead miniaturisation,” the technical feat of fitting a warhead on a missile, but one that countries such as North Korean still achieved, shocking the world with a nuclear test in 2006.
“I should stress, we do not have information that they are making nuclear weapons,” he said, before warning that the level of uranium enrichment was “close to weapons grade”.
The 2015 deal gave Iran sanctions relief in exchange for restrictions on its atomic programme, to guarantee that it would not develop a nuclear weapon ― something that the country has always denied seeking.
But the unilateral withdrawal by the US from the accord in 2018 under former president Donald Trump ― and Washington’s reimposition of biting economic sanctions ― prompted Iran to begin rolling back on its own commitments.
Talks in Vienna that started in April 2021 to restore the deal have stalled since March amid differences between Tehran and Washington on several issues.
The two sides negotiated indirectly through EU co-ordinators.
Qatar hosted indirect talks last month between the US and Iran, in a bid to get the Vienna process back on track, but those discussions broke up after two days without any breakthrough.
Tensions have also risen over Iran’s non-compliance with nuclear commitments it made to world powers.
In June the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency said Iran was removing 27 surveillance cameras at its nuclear installations, as the IAEA passed a resolution censuring Tehran over its lack of cooperation.
On Monday the head of Iran’s nuclear organisation, Mohammed Eslami, said the cameras would not be reconnected until after the relaunch of the nuclear deal.
He said the cameras were aimed at showing that the West’s claims that Iran is seeking “an atom bomb” are baseless.
The protesters — crowds of whom were seen inside the parliament building talking to security guards on Wednesday evening, were rallying against the nomination of Mohammed Shia Al Sudani, a veteran politician aligned with former prime minister Nouri Al Maliki.
In scenes that resembled a repeat of May 2016 unrest — when the International Zone was stormed by thousands of Sadrist protesters who ransacked parliament — security forces were seen to be exercising restraint.
Prime Minister Mustafa Al Kadhimi, who leads a caretaker government and is currently in western Iraq’s Anbar province inaugurating a new power station, called on demonstrators to “preserve public and private property, and to “listen to instructions of the security forces responsible for protecting them in accordance with the regulations and laws and to immediately withdraw from the Green Zone.”
Mr Al Maliki is a long-time rival of Mr Al Sadr, whose militia fought against security forces loyal to the former prime minister in the southern port city of Basra in 2008.
Mr Al Sadr commands hundreds of thousands of loyal supporters, mainly hailing from impoverished urban areas and rural parts of the south, as well as a stronghold in Baghdad known as Sadr City.
His political bloc won the plurality of seats in Iraq’s Parliament in the October elections, but he withdrew 73 MPs from the body in June, decrying the entire political process as corrupt.
The withdrawal from Parliament has left Mr Al Sadr’s Iran-backed rivals in the Co-ordination Framework bloc in the lead position to form a government, which will include Mr Al Maliki and Mr Al Sudani, as well as a number of figures closely aligned to Iran, including Hadi Al Amiri and Qais Al Khazali who both control large militia groups.
Mr Al Sadr has vowed to hold frequent demonstrations to protest against government failure to provide jobs and services, although he retains strong influence within a number of ministries.
Thousands of Sadrist supporters last stormed the Green Zone in 2016, assaulting and injuring an MP and taking over the National Assembly building before peacefully leaving the complex. A second attempt months later left at least seven people killed.
Iran will keep the UN nuclear watchdog’s cameras turned off until a 2015 nuclear deal is restored, the head of the country’s Atomic Energy Organization said on Monday, the semi-official Tasnim news agency reported.
Iran informed the International Atomic Energy Agency it had removed IAEA equipment, including 27 cameras installed under the 2015 pact with world powers, after the agency passed a resolution criticizing Tehran in June. “We will not turn on the IAEA cameras until the other side returns to the nuclear deal,” Iranian nuclear chief Mohammad Eslami said.
The 2015 nuclear pact imposed curbs on Iran’s nuclear activities in return for the lifting of international sanctions. Then-president Donald Trump pulled the United States out of the deal in 2018, reimposing tough economic sanctions on Tehran.
Iran’s ruling clerics responded by breaching the pact’s nuclear restrictions. Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman Nasser Kanaani on Monday accused IAEA Chief Rafael Grossi of having “unprofessional, unfair and unconstructive views” on Tehran’s nuclear program.
He also added that Tehran hopes a return to the nuclear deal can be reached soon should the United States show goodwill. “Iran is committed to talks and will continue until a good and sustainable deal is reached,” Kanaani said at his weekly news conference. Iran’s nuclear program is “galloping ahead” and the IAEA has very limited visibility on what is happening, Grossi told Spain’s El Pais newspaper in an interview published on Friday.
Western powers warn Iran is getting closer to being able to sprint toward making a nuclear bomb. Iran denies wanting to. Indirect talks between Iran and the United States on reviving the 2015 deal have been stalled since March. French President Emmanuel Macron expressed his disappointment to his Iranian counterpart Ebrahim Raisi at the lack of progress over talks, the Elysee Palace said on Saturday. The Biden administration has made clear it has no plan to drop the IRGC from the list, a step that would have limited practical effect but which would anger many US lawmakers.—AN
@lulzwow923 added: “This particular idea isn’t very good, but if nothing else articles like this help to get people into the headspace for making strategic compromises, something that will probably be necessary to conclude things without a wider war.”
Mr Pinker has, however, received some backlash to his post from other social media users.
US political official Ron Nehring described the idea not as “bold” but “stupid”.
He criticised the proposal in a post on Twitter for “rewarding aggression”, which he said “only emboldens the aggressor”.