GETTY THE BIG APPLE: An aerial view of Lower Manhattan at dusk in New York City
USGS RISK: A seismic hazard map of New York produced by USGS “New York is susceptible to seismic shaking from earthquakes at much greater distances” Dr Simon Day, natural disaster researcher This is because the bedrock underneath parts of NYC, including Long Island and Staten Island, cannot effectively absorb the seismic waves produced by earthquakes. “An important feature of the central and eastern United States is, because the crust there is old and cold, and contains few recent fractures that can absorb seismic waves, the rate of seismic reduction is low. Central regions of NYC, including Manhattan, are built upon solid granite bedrock; therefore the amplification of seismic waves that can shake buildings is low. But more peripheral areas, such as Staten Island and Long Island, are formed by weak sediments, meaning seismic hazard in these areas is “very likely to be higher”, Dr Day said. “Thus, like other cities in the eastern US, New York is susceptible to seismic shaking from earthquakes at much greater distances than is the case for cities on plate boundaries such as Tokyo or San Francisco, where the crustal rocks are more fractured and absorb seismic waves more efficiently over long distances,” Dr Day said. In the event of a large earthquake, dozens of skyscrapers, including Chrysler Building, the Woolworth Building and 40 Wall Street, could be at risk of shaking. “The felt shaking in New York from the Virginia earthquake in 2011 is one example,” Dr Day said. On that occasion, a magnitude 5.8 earthquake centered 340 miles south of New York sent thousands of people running out of swaying office buildings.
USGS FISSURES: Fault lines in New York City have low rates of activity, Dr Day said NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the city was “lucky to avoid any major harm” as a result of the quake, whose epicenter was near Louisa, Virginia, about 40 miles from Richmond. “But an even more impressive one is the felt shaking from the 1811-1812 New Madrid earthquakes in the central Mississippi valley, which was felt in many places across a region, including cities as far apart as Detroit, Washington DC and New Orleans, and in a few places even further afield including,” Dr Day added. “So, if one was to attempt to do a proper seismic hazard assessment for NYC, one would have to include potential earthquake sources over a wide region, including at least the Appalachian mountains to the southwest and the St Lawrence valley to the north and east.”
Not since this week in 1962, when President John F. Kennedy announced that any ballistic missile launched from Cuba would be considered a direct attack by the Soviet Union on the United States, has Washington so publicly warned an adversary that it risked a potential nuclear exchange. Russia will face “catastrophic consequences” should it use nuclear weapons in Ukraine, U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan threatened in late September. While Sullivan did not specifically warn of nuclear retaliation, the mention of catastrophe left open how the United States would react. More recently, U.S. President Joe Biden twice predicted “Armageddon” if Russian President Vladimir Putin detonates even a low-yield tactical nuclear bomb, leading to confusionabout whether Washington really is willing to strike back at Russia and risk all-out war.
In the face of Putin’s assertion that his threat to use nuclear weapons is “not a bluff,” respected voices are trying to reassure us that he will not choose the nuclear option in an attempt to reverse Russia’s declining fortunes in the war. This was what the Washington Post editorial board opined, based on the argument that Putin must understand that such use would be “exceptionally costly for Russia.” It is easy to dismiss Putin’s threats as blackmail, designed to frighten the West into cutting back its support for Ukraine, and not a serious risk that could result in an actual nuclear exchange. Indeed, after nearly 80 years during which no state has used atomic bombs in a conflict, the bar to their employment appears extremely high—because of the moral presumption that such weapons can be used only to save a nation from extinction and fear of the retaliation that would surely follow. Yet from Biden on down, U.S. officials have indicated they are taking the threat seriously.
After a generation in which the threat of great-power nuclear conflict played no role in Washington’s strategy, the Biden administration is suddenly re-creating the lost art of nuclear deterrence on the fly. Biden faces a perhaps unique challenge: to determine what is credible nuclear deterrence to support a non-ally during an ongoing war—where the United States faces an adversary that is losing yet has declared that the territory it has conquered will be defended as if it were its own sovereign soil. No U.S. president has faced exactly this set of circumstances.
Biden’s comments on Armageddon worry some that Putin’s blackmail could work, but White House rhetoric probably reflects the administration’s belief that invoking catastrophe is likely to lead to Putin never carrying out his threat. It is a fine line the administration must walk, and its position contains manifest dangers that could boomerang on Biden—and which pose some of the most complicated questions of strategy to challenge any recent U.S. administration. It is critical to think through possible scenarios, speculate on how Russia’s actions and subsequent events might derail U.S. policy, and choose the most effective and prudent path forward.
Sullivan’s threat must be considered U.S. policy until the administration says otherwise. The warning was clearly designed to counter Putin’s blackmail and raise the stakes for him to an unacceptable level, thereby deterring him from nuclear use. “Catastrophic consequences,” while vague, sounds like a 21st-century version of President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s policy of “massive retaliation” during the 1950s. It appears implicitly to include anything from severe damage to Russia’s economy to military strikes on Russian territory. Such strategic ambiguity—refraining from specifically disclosing where, when, and what type of response Washington would choose—is a time-honored tactic designed to create uncertainty and enhance deterrence. Washington has adopted this approach most famously in relation to Taiwan: Not knowing how the United States will react makes it difficult for China to calculate its risks.
Neither “catastrophic consequences” nor strategic ambiguity mandates a U.S. nuclear response to Putin’s first use of atomic weapons. Given the long-standing U.S. aversion to using even smaller-scale tactical nukes (which have never been used in any war), we must assume that Sullivan was implying the use of conventional force against Russian military assets or measures to paralyze Russia’s economy, such as total trade and financial isolation or cyberattacks.
From the perspective of classical deterrence, taking the nuclear option off the table weakens the U.S. position right at the beginning, for if Putin does not fear an equivalent response, he may well decide the risk is worth it. Indeed, that was the criticism leveled at French President Emmanuel Macron this month when he categorically ruled out a French nuclear response. Yet equally, Washington’s warnings of “catastrophic” retaliation might force Moscow into a corner. If Putin considers losing in Ukraine an existential threat to his rule or to Russia’s future, then he will decide (whether rationally or not) to use nuclear weapons based on his assessment of the state of battle. Therefore, if he believes he must in fact employ atomic weapons, Sullivan’s threat suggests the Russian leader has only two options: a humiliating climbdown in what he considers an existential war or direct conflict with the United States. Rather than risking the complete collapse of his authority, Putin may therefore prefer to gamble that Biden is either bluffing or considering a response too weak to impose serious costs on Russia.
Any U.S. policy of catastrophic consequences therefore raises several urgent questions. Above all, what is the threshold for risking direct conflict with Russia, military or otherwise? Would it be any Russian use of atomic weapons? Would it require Moscow targeting civilians? What about a nuclear demonstration shot—or a single low-yield weapon on Ukrainian troops or infrastructure? What if Putin uses a nuclear electromagnetic pulse weapon that temporarily paralyzes the Ukrainian government in Kyiv? And what if the Russians target the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, possibly creating a wartime Chernobyl?
Would a limited Russian nuclear strike justify “catastrophic” U.S. retaliation to paralyze Russia’s economy or, as former CIA Director David Petraeus has suggested, destroy its forces in Ukraine or sink its Black Sea Fleet? Not responding at all may invite further Russian aggression and permanently shatter the anti-nuclear taboo—but too strong a reaction risks events spiraling out of control. In fact, Washington has signaled to Moscow again and again that it intends to avoid any direct confrontation. Yet even noncombat responses, such as a strict blockade of Russian ports, attempts to close Russia’s European borders, confiscation of Moscow’s assets abroad, or massive cyberattacks targeting the Russian banking system, would likely invite further responses from Putin.
As Biden has indicated, any Russian nuclear use and U.S. response increases the likelihood of an uncontrolled escalation. If Biden felt U.S. credibility was on the line after Russian nuclear use and he retaliated with a major conventional attack on Russian targets in Ukraine or somewhere else outside Russia, gaming out future rounds suggests Washington could still be drawn into using nuclear weapons. Putin would almost certainly have to respond to U.S. retaliation, no matter what it might be, if only to ensure his own political credibility. It is feasible and probable that Putin’s next move would be further nuclear use—perhaps an electromagnetic pulse attack over U.S. bases in Europe or ships at sea. This would put enormous pressure on Biden to respond in kind, since an unwillingness to meet the level of a second Russian nuclear strike would lead Putin to conclude he has a free hand to use nuclear weapons or engage in far more demanding future blackmail.
Thus, the administration’s threat opens the door for Putin to counter-deter the United States. Changes to Russian nuclear doctrine made in 2020 allow Putin to use nuclear weapons in response to conventional military strikes on critical government and military infrastructure. To forestall U.S. retaliation, Putin could promise yet more nuclear use, as Biden’s reference to “Armageddon” suggests. U.S. planners should also prepare for Putin to continue revising Moscow’s nuclear doctrine to specifically include cyber- or conventional military attacks on critical elements of the Russian economy as grounds for nuclear escalation—another attempt to deter Washington.
Washington should also plan for the longer term to ensure that the West cannot be held hostage to similar nuclear blackmail in the future.
What’s more, a “catastrophic” response by Washington risks expanding the geographical boundaries of the war. During the Cuban missile crisis, Kennedy knew that a strike on Cuba would kill Russian soldiers, almost certainly lead to Soviet retaliation against Berlin, and set off a war between NATO and the Soviet bloc. Should Sullivan’s threat include U.S. strikes on Russian territory, the pressure on Putin to strike U.S. or European targets would immeasurably increase, setting off yet another spiral. The weakness of Russia’s conventional military on the battlefield is no reason to be complacent. Moscow’s nuclear arsenal has no equal in the world other than Washington’s.
The politics are just as critical. In 1962, Kennedy allowed Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev a face-saving compromise by publicly agreeing not to invade Cuba—and secretly agreeing to remove obsolete Jupiter missiles from Turkey as a mostly symbolic quid pro quo. Conversely, Sullivan’s public threat strikes directly at Putin’s personal pride. From Putin’s perspective, “catastrophic consequences” is just the latest in a long line of alleged Western insults stretching back to the 1990s and NATO’s expansion to include former Warsaw Pact countries. Instead of being cowed, Putin may consider this the endgame of his regime and the post-Cold War era.
Behind all this lies the incalculable question of how Putin views U.S. credibility. Put simply, a Washington that failed to enforce its red line in Syria, sat passively by as China militarized the South China Sea and crushed Hong Kong, and fled from Afghanistan may not be a credible adversary in Russian eyes. Will Moscow believe that Washington is prepared to risk superpower war if, say, one low-yield tactical nuclear weapon is used on a Ukrainian military target?
In light of these dangers, what is to be done if Putin does indeed use nukes? From a strategic perspective, Biden’s best response to Russian nuclear deployment would be to give the Ukrainians the ability to defend themselves against ballistic missiles and inflict massive and decisive damage on Russian forces inside Ukraine. As Jakub Grygiel recently argued in Foreign Policy, the United States’ smartest strategic option in a superpower conflict is to arm allies and partners.
A number of factors, however, may make it difficult to avoid a direct U.S. response, including domestic U.S. political pressures, concerns about giving advanced weaponry to non-treaty allies, and the administration’s own rhetoric promising a catastrophic response. In that case, making the U.S. response proportionate is critical, especially in the case of limited Russian nuclear use.
The administration would therefore be best served by adopting a version of the “flexible response” doctrine advocated by Kennedy’s defense secretary, Robert McNamara. This would give priority to what the nuclear strategist Bernard Brodie described in 1959 as the “principle of limiting to tolerable proportions whatever conflicts become inevitable” and providing offramps to control escalation. Offramps were a key element of U.S. nuclear doctrine during the Cold War—and should not be seen as weakness as long as the offramps are for Putin and not Western support for Ukraine.
Such a proportionate response, initially at the conventional level against Russian targets in Ukraine, runs its own risks but is more likely to limit the chance of uncontrolled escalation than the promised catastrophic consequences against Russian economic or political targets. Further, any U.S. response must, as much as possible, refrain from attacking Russian soil, unless and until Putin himself expands the geographic boundaries of the war beyond Ukraine. And contrary to Biden’s talk about Russian regime change in the early days of the war, Washington must make clear any response to Putin’s use of nukes is not aimed at removing him from power, which is best left to the Russians themselves. Western leaders understand that fear of his downfall could precipitate Putin’s nuclear use.
In the midst of a crisis, Washington must play the cards it has. But it should also plan for the longer term to ensure that the West cannot be held hostage to similar nuclear blackmail in the future. First, this would include reversing the post-Cold War hollowing out of Russia expertise in government, think tanks, and academia. Russian leadership studies, political analyses, and military assessments will remain crucial in the coming decades, whether or not Moscow wins in Ukraine. This holds just as much for the United States’ inadequate understanding of Chinese nuclear doctrine and what Americans think they know about North Korean nuclear policy. Translation, analysis, and synthesis for political, military, and intellectual leaders are needed from trained cadres with regional and nuclear expertise working together.
Let’s hope Biden communicates as clearly and carefully to Putin to keep his invasion of Ukraine from turning into a nuclear war.
Second, a renaissance in U.S. nuclear strategy and doctrine is long overdue. The role of nuclear weapons at all levels of great-power competition must be better analyzed and fitted into security policy and military planning. This was what strategists such as Brodie, Albert Wohlstetter, Herman Kahn, and others did during the Cold War. After decades of military conflict being thought of only in conventional terms, the new nuclear era looks set constrain Washington in parts of the world once considered freely accessible. How must U.S. military doctrine evolve to take into account deterring or confronting nuclear powers, both great and small? Has the threshold for direct intervention by U.S. forces been raised to an unacceptable level? Can there be conventional military pathways that successfully avoid potential nuclear escalation over, say, Taiwan?
Third, from a military perspective, tactical nuclear weapons will have a more important role in U.S. strategy. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, the U.S. military has about 200 tactical nuclear gravity bombs, while Russia has 10 times the number of tactical nukes, including low-yield warheads on missiles. Although some argue that this category of weapons should be banned because they lower the threshold for a conflict to turn nuclear, it’s unrealistic to think Washington’s adversaries will give them up. (China is likely thinking about acquiring them as well.) In the new nuclear era, the United States needs the flexibility to respond proportionately to any use by aggressors. New weapons, basing, and doctrine for tactical use will provide a flexibility that is absent if a military relies solely on more destructive large weapons.
Finally, Biden must understand the spillover risk of his threat to Putin in the eyes of other potential adversaries, most notably Iran and China. Both will watch very closely whether Biden sticks to his red line. Any nuclear use and escalation could also collapse the nonproliferation regime, leading nations great and small to either build their own weapons or demand that Washington extend the U.S. nuclear umbrella over them. New nuclear commitments, however, would be a dramatic change in U.S. security policy, could make U.S. strategy incoherent, and risk overstretching U.S. geopolitical strength. Conversely, spurned allies seeking protection could either look to acquire their nuclear weapons or align more closely with other nuclear powers. These geopolitical shifts brought on by U.S. mishandling of Russian nuclear escalation would, in turn, have profound knock-on effects, including in trade and international finance, intellectual and cultural exchange, migration, and the like.
Biden now faces questions of nuclear doctrine that similarly bedeviled U.S. presidents during the Cold War. Unless finely calibrated, his attempts to prevent the nuclear threshold from being crossed may in fact further destabilize an already critical situation. The days of Washington threatening adversaries with impunity are long gone, and the recent U.S. track record when responding to challenges by other great powers is poor. A desperate or enraged Putin may well decide to call Biden’s bluff. That, more than any other act, would end the conceit that we still live in a post-World War II system governed by generally accepted norms of behavior, opening the Pandora’s box of chaos described above.
In the 2000 political thriller Thirteen Days, set during the Cuban missile crisis, a fictional McNamara rebukes the U.S. Navy chief of operations for firing warning star shells at Soviet ships during the tensest moments of the standoff. “This is not a blockade! This is language, a new vocabulary,” he exclaims. “This is President Kennedy communicating with Secretary Khrushchev.” Let’s hope Biden communicates as clearly and carefully to Putin to keep his invasion of Ukraine from turning into a nuclear war.
Hamas mourns Palestinian assassinated by Israeli occupation in Nablus
Oct 23, 2022
The Palestinian Islamic Resistance Movement Hamas mourns the extra-judicial execution of Palestinian freedom fighter and ex-detainee Tamer Al-Kilani by the Israeli occupation in the Old City in Nablus.
The Hamas movement extends sincere condolences to the family and friends of slain Al-Kilani and calls for holding the Israeli occupation accountable for its heinous crimes against defenceless Palestinians.
It may be the best option for the South Korea-U.S. alliance to deter a nuclear war with North Korea.
North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats against South Korea and the United States have continued to escalate significantly. Against the backdrop of these serious nuclear threats, both Seoul and Washington should be prepared for the worst-case scenario, which is a nuclear war with North Korea.
In April, North Korea announced its intention to forward-deploy tactical nuclear weapons, and in September Pyongyang adopted a new nuclear policy law, which allows the country to carry out a preemptive nuclear strike against South Korea. From the end of September to early October, North Korea’s “tactical nuclear operation units” conducted launching drills of missiles designed to strike potential South Korean targets such as airfields, ports, and command facilities. Additionally, on October 4, North Korea fired an intermediate-range ballistic missile at a normal angle – not a high angle – so that the missile overflew Japan into the Pacific Ocean. The test once again demonstrated North Korea’s capability to reach the U.S. territory of Guam in case of U.S. intervention in inter-Korean military clashes.
With North Korea’s nuclear capability to reach U.S. territory, most South Korean and American experts have questioned if the United States would actually provide nuclear retaliation against the North should South Korea be attacked by North Korea’s tactical nuclear weapons. It would be difficult for the United States to retaliate with nuclear weapons against North Korea when Pyongyang will also launch nuclear attacks on the U.S. homeland – probably Washington, D.C. or New York City – in retaliation. No American president would be able to make such a decision, which will claim hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of Americans’ lives. Even if the future brings a scenario of nuclear sharing or redeployment of U.S. tactical nuclear weapons to South Korea, it will be the U.S. president who has the authority to press the nuclear button. That means deployment of U.S. nuclear weapons to South Korea will not entail major difference from the current extended deterrence system.
This is also what Pyongyang thinks: North Korea does not expect the U.S. to unfold its nuclear umbrella, taking a risk of a nuclear war with North Korea. It is why the North made a bold action by launching a short-range ballistic missile as a response to the redeployment of a U.S. nuclear-powered aircraft carrier to the Korean Peninsula’s east coast.
It is anticipated that in the future, North Korea will launch an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) at a normal angle into the Pacific Ocean to show off its capability to re-enter the atmosphere and to reach the U.S. homeland. It is also expected that North Korea will build nuclear-powered submarines, as presented during the Eighth Congress of the Workers’ Party of Korea in 2021, to display its second-strike capability.
As North Korea’s nuclear arsenal has grown rapidly, the threat it poses to South Korea and the U.S. also grows significantly. However, successive administrations of both countries have been chasing the mirage of “North Korean denuclearization,” without coming up with realistic solutions to the North Korean nuclear issue. Recently, Jeffery Lewis, an expert on nuclear nonproliferation at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, claimed in an article for the New York Times that it’s time for the United States to admit the fact that its efforts to denuclearize North Korea have failed, and to accept that North Korea has nuclear weapons. If North Korean nuclear weapons were threats only to the United States, it would be reasonable for the U.S. administration to recognize North Korea as a de facto nuclear state. However, in a situation where North Korean nuclear weapons are a more direct threat to South Korea, a U.S. acknowledgement of North Korean nuclear weapons will cause a sense of betrayal among South Koreans.
In order to de-escalate tensions and to prevent nuclear war with North Korea, American policy decision-makers and academics need to consider the nuclear armament of South Korea as an option. A nuclear-armed South Korea will be able to start negotiations for nuclear arms reduction with the North. According to various polls conducted in 2021 and 2022, more than 70 percent of South Koreans – 74.9 percent, according to the SAND research institute’s figures released last June – support the country’s indigenous nuclearization out of the fear of North Korean nuclear bombs. That figure may exceed 80 percent if North Korea carries out a seventh nuclear test.
While some Korean right-wing politicians demand redeployment of U.S. tactical nuclear weapons to address the North Korean nuclear threat, the South Korean public prefers developing their country’s own nuclear weapons. Last December, the Chicago Council on Global Affairs conducted a survey of 1,500 South Koreans and 67 percent of them replied that they prefer “indigenous nuclear weapons development” to “deployment of American nuclear weapons.” Only 9 percent of the respondents prefer the latter.
Some American experts are concerned that South Korea’s nuclear weapons development would lead to a weakened South Korea-U.S. alliance and bring South Korea closer to China. However, that scenario is not likely to be realized. According to the “Unification consciousness survey 2022” published on September 22 by the Institute for Peace and Unification Studies (IPUS) at Seoul National University, when asked the question “Which country do you feel the closest to?” 80.6 percent of the respondents chose the U.S., while 9.7 percent replied North Korea, followed by Japan (5.1 percent), China (3.9 percent), and Russia (0.5 percent). The absolute majority, which accounts for the four-fifths of the respondents, feel close ties to the United States while South Koreans’ affinity for China is very low. It is hard to expect that South Korea’s nuclear armament will reverse these sentiments, either toward the United States or China.
Rather, South Koreans’ confidence in the alliance will collapse if the U.S. exhibits a reluctance to retaliate with nuclear weapons against North Korean nuclear attacks on the South. On the contrary, if South Korea pursues nuclearization, the country can respond to the North’s nuclear attacks with its own nuclear arsenal. This will free the United States from the conundrum of whether to use nuclear weapons to defend its East Asian ally. In the end, the U.S. homeland and its citizens’ lives will be also free from the threat of North Korea’s nuclear bombs. Additionally, a nuclear-armed South Korea will make North Korea approach using its nuclear weapons with more prudence, raising the threshold for using nuclear weapons.
To sum up, Seoul’s nuclearization will benefit both South Korea and the United States by lowering the possibility of North Korea’s use of nuclear weapons on the Korean Peninsula and sparing the U.S. from a nuclear war with North Korea. Nevertheless, the South Korean administration has failed to seriously consider the option of nuclearization, fearing the possible strong opposition and severe sanctions imposed by Washington. It is thus recommended that the U.S. administration suggest closed-door talks through bilateral high-level meetings to discuss this issue for mutual benefit.
The “South Korean nuclearization card” will deter North Korea’s nuclear threats; it will also encourage China to engage itself more actively in resolving North Korea-related issues. Therefore, it is very irrational for South Korea-U.S. alliance not to play with this card. If South Korea declares that “we have no choice but to withdraw from the NPT in case of North Korea’s seventh nuclear test,” the North will be more strained since the South has the raw materials to produce more than 4,000 nuclear warheads. In this case, China will also pressure North Korea not to carry out the seventh nuclear test because China does not want a worst-case scenario in which Seoul’s nuclearization leads Tokyo and Taipei to also develop nuclear weapons.
If North Korea still conducts a nuclear test, the South Korean government needs to declare, along with its withdrawal from the NPT, that “we will execute our plans for nuclear armament unless North Korea returns to the table of negotiation to discuss the denuclearization with South Korea, the U.S., and China within a six-month period.” Such a declaration of “conditional nuclear armament” by South Korea will stop Pyongyang from ignoring non-nuclear South Korea, and the North will start considering seriously returning to the negotiation table. Beijing will also urge Pyongyang to return to the denuclearization talks, applying maximum leverage, to prevent a nuclear domino effect that Seoul’s nuclearization may trigger in Japan and Taiwan.
Washington and Seoul can discuss the actual nuclearization of South Korea should these two steps to put pressure on North Korea and China fail. However, now is the time for the South Korea-U.S. alliance to play with the card of “Seoul’s nuclearization” to disturb Kim Jong Un. Otherwise, we will all regret it.Authors
Seong-Chang Cheong is the director of the Center for North Korean Studies at the Sejong Institute.
The turning point seemed to have been Grand Ayatollah Katheer al-Haeri’s retirement and a declaration that his followers should henceforth look to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei for spiritual guidance. Among al-Haeri’s flock is none other than Sadr, the instigator of the current crisis. The younger cleric, while well known, lacks the religious bona fides and authority of his now deceased elders, and could not assume al-Haeri’s mantle. For Sadr, the implication of al-Haeri’s transfer of authority to Khamenei had a chilling effect on his campaign to split the Shia vote in Iraq. His determination to dominate a majority government also ran counter to Iran’s interest in a unified Iraqi Shi’a electorate.
In an instant – more or less – Sadr had gone from Khomeini’s challenger to subordinate.
In his remarks, Sadr announced he would heed al-Haeri’s edict, while observing that the crisis would not have happened if the opposing Iraqi Popular Mobilization Units had disbanded.
Last week, Responsible Statecraft observed that Sadr’s confrontational tactics, particularly the deployment of his forces to Parliament, could well culminate in violence. But Sadr had off-ramps available to him that probably looked inviting because, at the end of the day, Iraqi forces, especially the Popular Mobilization Units aligned with Iran and technically part of Iraq’s force structure, outnumbered and outgunned Sadr’s own followers.
Sadr’s attempt to intimidate his rivals was essentially a psychological operation; a bluff called by his opponents, who were able to mobilize state power to force his retreat. And with Haeri undermining him — and without the backing of Ayatollah Ali Sistani, which the movement claimed falsely to enjoy — the Sadrist blimp deflated.
Presumably, Sadr intends to regroup and take another shot at political dominance, but for the foreseeable future there is no plausible pathway. One perennial question regarding the government’s resolve, that is, when given the command, would its troops open fire? That has been answered. Fortunately, the government’s response was restrained. Their security forces could have reacted with greater violence and sparked an escalation of the fighting.
A related question, whether non-aligned young protesters who launched the Tishreen protest demonstration in 2019 would see Sadr as the reformist horse to ride, has also been answered: No.
The upgrade of the Joint Declaration on Security Cooperation, a pact first signed in 2007 when China’s rise was less concerning, was the major outcome of Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s meeting with his Australian counterpart Anthony Albanese in the west coast city of Perth.
It builds on a reciprocal access agreement that Kishida inked in January with then-Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison that removes obstacles to holding joint military exercises in either country.
That is the first such agreement Japan has struck with any country other than the United States. Japan announced Saturday that its Self-Defense Forces will train and take part in exercises with the Australian military in northern Australia for the first time under the agreement.
In the context of that agreement, Albanese told reporters: “This landmark declaration sends a strong signal to the region of our strategic alignment.”
The declaration covers military interoperability, intelligence, cybersecurity, operations in space, law enforcement, logistics and protecting telecommunications.
The declaration also refers to cooperation in “resisting economic coercion and disinformation” — threats that China is widely accused of.
Kishida said the new framework of cooperation had been developed under an “increasingly harsh strategic environment.”
“This renewed declaration … will chart the direction of our security and defense cooperation in the next 10 years,” Kishida said through an interpreter.
The prime ministers agreed the new declaration reinforced Japan’s and Australia’s bilateral security treaties with the United States that underpin peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific.
They first met in Tokyo, two days after the election, for a summit of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, better known as the Quad, which brought Albanese and Kishida together with U.S. President Joe Biden and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The decision to hold Saturday’s meeting in Perth — Western Australia state’s capital, which provides much of Japan’s liquefied natural gas and the wheat from which udon noodles are made — was symbolic of the close economic ties between the two countries.
Japan and Australia agreed to cooperate on energy security, which is threatened globally by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Australia provides most of Japan’s energy in the forms of LNG and coal.
Kishida said he and Albanese were both deeply committed to nuclear disarmament. Kishida said a Russian nuclear strike on Ukraine would be an “act of hostility against humanity.”
“Russia’s act of threatening the use of nuclear weapons is a serious threat to the peace and security of the international community and absolutely unacceptable,” he added.
Japan and Australia have agreed to improve energy security by boosting Japan’s access to LNG, hydrogen and critical minerals as both countries transition to net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
The two countries also signed a critical minerals partnership that would strengthen supply chains for Japanese manufacturers.
Australia’s resources of critical minerals like antimony, cobalt, lithium, manganese ore, niobium, tungsten and vanadium rank in the top five globally, an Australian government website said.
Critical minerals, including rare earths, are crucial components to clean energy technologies such as batteries, wind turbines, electric vehicles, solar panels and hydrogen electrolyzers, the government said.
Kishida said Australia had gained special importance outside of Japan’s alliance with the United States.
“I feel Japan-Australia relations have become a key part of Japan’s cooperation with its partners,” Kishida told Japanese reporters who flew to Australia with him.
China’s defense budget has more than quadrupled since 2007 when Australia and Japan signed their first defense declaration.
In 2006, Japanese warplanes scrambled 22 times to intercept Chinese military aircraft in Japanese airspace. Last year, Japanese warplanes scrambled 722 times in response to Chinese aircraft.
In simulation drills, Chinese military scientists used a nuclear anti-satellite weapon to destroy satellites in near-Earth orbits, like the Starlink satellites belonging to Elon Musk’s SpaceX, per the latest report by the South China Morning Post (SCMP).
The scientists concluded that a nuclear blast in near space could form a radioactive cloud over an area as big as New York state that can cripple or destroy satellites in near-Earth orbit.
The findings by the researchers suggest that a 10-megaton warhead could create a severe threat to satellites if detonated at an altitude of 80 kilometers.Image For Representation (Twitter)
Such a nuclear blast is expected to turn air molecules into radioactive particles and produce a cloud with a shape similar to an upside-down pear, said nuclear physicist Liu Li and his colleagues in a paper published in the peer-reviewed journal Nuclear Techniques on October 15.
In five minutes, this cloud could rise to an altitude of nearly 500 kilometers and expand over an area exceeding 140,000 square kilometers.
“The strong residual radiation of the debris cloud may cause failures of spacecraft moving in it, such as satellites, or even cause direct damage that can lead to destruction,” the researchers said.
According to Liu and his colleagues, the high-energy particles generated by the event would largely be captured by the Earth’s magnetic field and form a radiation belt around the globe, threatening a wide range of spacecraft, rendering nuclear weapons ineffective and very hazardous for anti-satellite purposes.
However, a detonation in near space would result in cloud formation because of the presence of air molecules. According to Liu, the cloud formed will be far greater in mass than the bomb itself.
“Due to the high concentration of fission products inside the debris cloud, the released gamma rays and beta particles are strong, making their effect on spacecraft and communications within the affected area stronger,” Liu’s team wrote.
Researchers describe that instantly after the explosion, the cloud would rise upward at a speed of up to 2.3 kilometers per second, setting a trap for target satellites.
Such a nuclear anti-satellite weapon would allow the PLA to cripple or destroy Starlink satellites positioned in Low-Earth Orbit (LEO), which has long been a concern for Chinese military planners.
In May, the official newspaper of the Chinese armed forces raised concerns about the risks associated with the Starlink satellite internet system, suggesting the US military could use it to dominate outer space.60 Starlink satellites stacked together before deployment on May 24, 2019. (Wikimedia Commons)
“SpaceX has decided to increase the number of Starlink satellites from 12,000 to 42,000 – the program’s unchecked expansion and the company’s ambition to use it for military purposes should put the international community on high alert,” said the article on China Military Online, the official news website affiliated with the Central Military Commission (CMC), China’s highest national defense organization headed by President Xi Jinping.
The article also noted SpaceX Starlink’s role during the Russia-Ukraine war, where Elon Musk provided Starlink terminals to restore communications in those parts of the country where internet or phone connection had stopped following the shelling by Russian troops.
“In addition to supporting communication, Starlink, as experts estimated, could interact with UAVs [Unmanned Aerial Vehicles] and, using big data and facial recognition technology, might have already played a part in Ukraine’s military operations against Russia,” said the China Military Online article.
The China Military Online commentary also listed numerous instances since 2019 when Starlink cooperated with the US military, including the successful data transmission test conducted by the US Air Force (USAF) on March 31.
Citing unnamed military experts, the China Military Online article also raised a possibility that Starlink could form a second and independent internet that threatened states’ cyberspace sovereignty.
Another Chinese military study published in May called for the development of capabilities to disable or bring down the Starlink communication network, highlighting the potential threats posed by the network to China’s national security.A group of Starlink satellites is visible from the International Space Station. (file photo/Wikimedia Commons)
Since conventional counter-measures like anti-satellite missiles could only neutralize a limited number of high-value targets, and the loss of a few low-cost satellites would not have much impact on Starlink’s operations, Chinese military researchers have therefore been proposing to strike a few selected targets that could create a small amount of space debris.
The space debris would also hit other satellites in the same orbit and create more debris, creating a gap in the Starlink network. However, the debris could also hit friendly satellites.
A Beijing-based space scientist has said that the simulation of a nuclear detonation in near space does not necessarily mean that China will use such a weapon against satellites.
“International law has banned the testing or use of nuclear weapons in both space and the atmosphere,” the researcher told the SCMP on condition of anonymity because of the issue’s sensitivity.
Instead, the researcher suggested that the simulation could also be applied for defense against hypersonic weapons designed to travel long distances at near-space altitudes.
“Whether it is legal to use nuclear weapons as a defense measure against a hypersonic weapon attack remains a subject of debate in the research community,” the researcher said.
Notably, China has not tested a nuclear weapon in near space. The US did detonate a 3.8-megaton nuclear bomb at an altitude of 77 kilometers over the Johnston Atoll west of Hawaii as part of an exoatmospheric high altitude nuclear weapon test called the ‘HARDTACK-Teak’ test.The fireball from Operation HARDTACK-Teak (Wikimedia Commons)
The blast from this nuclear detonation is said to have created a fireball that turned from light yellow to red, and a massive cloud was formed from the explosion that remained visible for about half an hour.
Liu’s team said that the results obtained from their simulation matched those of the HARDTACK-Teak, which reportedly produced a cloud that spread over an area exceeding 700 kilometers.
The US also conducted a high-altitude nuclear test called the ‘Starfish Prime’ in 1962, the largest nuclear test conducted in outer space.