The Ramapo Fault and the Sixth Seal (Revelation 6:12)

Living on the Fault Line
A major earthquake isn’t likely here, but if it comes, watch out.
Posted June 15, 2010 by Wayne J. Guglielmo
This chart shows the location of the Ramapo Fault System, the longest and one of the oldest systems of cracks in the earth’s crust in the Northeast. It also shows the location of all earthquakes of magnitude 2.5 or greater in New Jersey during the last 50 years. The circle in blue indicates the largest known Jersey quake.
The couple checked with Burns’s parents, who live in nearby Basking Ridge, and they, too, had heard and felt something, which they thought The Ramapo Fault and the Sixth Seal (Revelation 6:12)might have been an earthquake. A call by Burns some 20 minutes later to the Bernardsville Police Department—one of many curious and occasionally panicky inquiries that Sunday morning, according to the officer in charge, Sergeant John Remian—confirmed their suspicion: A magnitude 2.6 earthquake, its epicenter in Peapack/Gladstone, about seven miles from Bernardsville, had hit the area. A smaller aftershock followed about two and a half hours later.
After this year’s epic earthquakes in Haiti, Chile, Mexico, Indonesia, and China, the 2.6 quake and aftershock that shook parts of New Jersey in February may seem minor league, even to the Somerset County residents who experienced them. On the exponential Richter Scale, a magnitude 7.0 quake like the one that hit Haiti in January is almost 4 million times stronger than a quake of 2.6 magnitude. But comparisons of magnitude don’t tell the whole story.
Northern New Jersey straddles the Ramapo Fault, a significant ancient crack in the earth’s crust. The longest fault in the Northeast, it begins in Pennsylvania and moves into New Jersey, trending northeast through Hunterdon, Somerset, Morris, Passaic, and Bergen counties before terminating in New York’s Westchester County, not far from the Indian Point Energy Center, a nuclear power plant. And though scientists dispute how active this roughly 200 million-year-old fault really is, many earthquakes in the state’s surprisingly varied seismic history are believed to have occurred on or near it. The fault line is visible at ground level and likely extends as deep as nine miles below the surface.
During the past 230 years or so, New Jersey has been at the epicenter of nearly 170 earthquakes, according to data compiled by the New Jersey Geological Survey, part of the United States Department of Environmental Protection. The largest known quake struck in 1783, somewhere west of New York City, perhaps in Sussex County. It’s typically listed as 5.3 in magnitude, though that’s an estimate by seismologists who are quick to point out that the concept of magnitude—measuring the relative size of an earthquake—was not introduced until 1935 by Charles Richter and Beno Gutenberg. Still, for quakes prior to that, scientists are not just guessing.
“We can figure out the damage at the time by going back to old records and newspaper accounts,” says Won-Young Kim, a senior research scientist at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in Palisades, New York, directly across the New Jersey border. “Once the amount and extent of contemporary damage has been established,” Kim says, “we’re then able to gauge the pattern of ground shaking or intensity of the event—and from there extrapolate its probable magnitude.”
Other earthquakes of magnitude 5 or higher have been felt in New Jersey, although their epicenters laying near New York City. One—which took place in 1737 and was said to have been felt as far north as Boston and as far south as northern Delaware—was probably in the 5 to 5.5 range. In 1884, an earthquake of similar magnitude occurred off New York’s Rockaway Beach. This well-documented event pulled houses off their foundations and caused steeples to topple as far west as Rahway. The shock wave, scientists believe, was felt over 70,000 square miles, from Vermont to Maryland.
Among the largest sub-5 magnitude earthquakes with epicenters in New Jersey, two (a 3.8 and a 4.0) took place on the same day in 1938 in the Lakehurst area in Ocean County. On August 26, 2003, a 3.5 magnitude quake shook the Frenchtown/Milford area in Hunterdon County. On February 3 of last year, a 3.0 magnitude quake occurred in the Morris County town of Mendham. “A lot of people felt this one because of the intense shaking, although the area of intensity wasn’t very wide,” says Lamont-Doherty’s Kim, who visited the site after the event.
After examining the known historical and geological record, Kim and other seismologists have found no clear evidence that an earthquake of greater than 5.3 to 5.5 magnitude has taken place in this area going back to 1737. This doesn’t mean, of course, that one did not take place in the more remote past or that one will not occur in the future; it simply means that a very large quake is less likely to occur here than in other places in the east where the seismic hazard is greater, including areas in South Carolina and northeastern New York State.
But no area on the East Coast is as densely populated or as heavily built-up as parts of New Jersey and its neighbors. For this reason, scientists refer to the Greater New York City-Philadelphia area, which includes New Jersey’s biggest cities, as one of “low earthquake hazard but high vulnerability.” Put simply, the Big One isn’t likely here—but if it comes, especially in certain locations, watch out.
Given this low-hazard, high-vulnerability scenario, how far along are scientists in their efforts to predict larger magnitude earthquakes in the New Jersey area? The answer is complex, complicated by the state’s geographical position, its unique geological history, the state of seismology itself, and the continuing debate over the exact nature and activity of the Ramapo Fault.
Over millions of years, New Jersey developed four distinct physiographic provinces or regions, which divide the state into a series of diagonal slices, each with its own terrain, rock type, and geological landforms.
The northernmost slice is the Valley and Ridge, comprising major portions of Sussex and Warren counties. The southernmost slice is the Coastal Plain, a huge expanse that covers some three-fifths of the state, including all of the Shore counties. Dividing the rest of the state are the Highlands, an area for the most part of solid but brittle rock right below the Valley and Ridge, and the lower lands of the Piedmont, which occupy all of Essex, Hudson, and Union counties, most of Bergen, Hunterdon, and Somerset, and parts of Middlesex, Morris, and Passaic.
For earthquake monitors and scientists, the formation of these last two provinces—the Highlands and the Piedmont—are of special interest. To understand why, consider that prior to the appearance of the Atlantic Ocean, today’s Africa was snuggled cozily up against North America and surrounded by a single enormous ocean. “At that point, you could have had exits off the New Jersey Turnpike for Morocco,” says Alexander Gates, professor of geology and chair of the department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Rutgers-Newark.
Under the pressure of circulating material within the Earth’s super-hot middle layer, or mantle, what was once a single continent—one that is thought to have included today’s other continents as well—began to stretch and eventually break, producing numerous cracks or faults and ultimately separating to form what became the Atlantic Ocean. In our area, the longest and most active of these many cracks was the Ramapo Fault, which, through a process known as normal faulting, caused one side of the earth’s crust to slip lower—the Piedmont—relative to the other side—the Highlands. “All this occurred about 225 million years ago,” says Gates. “Back then, you were talking about thousands of feet between the Highlands and the Piedmont and a very active Ramapo Fault.”
The Earth’s crust, which is 20 to 25 miles thick, is not a single, solid shell, but is broken into seven vast tectonic plates, which drift atop the soft, underlying mantle. Although the northeast-trending Ramapo Fault neatly divides two of New Jersey’s four physiographic provinces, it does not form a so-called plate boundary, as does California’s infamous San Andreas Fault. As many Californians know all too well, this giant fault forms the boundary between two plates—to the west, the Pacific Plate, and to the east, the North American Plate; these rub up against each other, producing huge stresses and a regularly repeating pattern of larger earthquakes.
The Ramapo Fault sits on the North American Plate, which extends past the East Coast to the middle of the Atlantic, where it meets the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, an underwater mountain range in constant flux. The consequences of this intraplate setting are huge: First, as Gates points out, “The predictability of bigger earthquakes on…[such] settings is exceedingly poor, because they don’t occur very often.” Second, the intraplate setting makes it more difficult to link our earthquakes to a major cause or fault, as monitors in California can often do.
This second bit of uncertainty is especially troubling for some people, including some in the media who want a neat story. To get around it, they ignore the differences between plate settings and link all of New Jersey’s earthquakes, either directly or implicitly, to the Ramapo Fault. In effect, such people want the Ramapo Fault “to look like the San Andreas Fault,” says Gates. “They want to be able to point to one big fault that’s causing all of our earthquakes.”
Gates does not think that’s the case, and he has been working with colleagues for a number of years to prove it. “What we have found is that there are smaller faults that generally cut from east to west across the northeast-trending Ramapo Fault,” he explains. “These much smaller faults are all over the place, and they’re actually the ones that are the active faults in the area.”
But what mechanisms are responsible for the formation of these apparently active auxiliary faults? One such mechanism, say scientists, is the westward pressure the Atlantic Ocean exerts on the North American Plate, which for the most part resists any movement. “I think we are in an equilibrium state most of the time,” says Lamont-Doherty’s Kim.
Still, that continuous pressure on the plate we sit on causes stress, and when that stress builds up sufficiently, the earth’s crust has a tendency to break around any weak zones. In our area, the major weak zone is the Ramapo Fault—“an ancient zone of weakness,” as Kim calls it. That zone of weakness exacerbates the formation of auxiliary faults, and thereby the series of minor earthquakes the state has experienced over the years.
All this presupposes, of course, that any intraplate stress in this area will continue to be released gradually, in a series of relatively minor earthquakes or releases of energy. But what if that were not the case? What if the stress continued to build up, and the release of large amounts of energy came all at once? In crude terms, that’s part of the story behind the giant earthquakes that rocked what is now New Madrid, Missouri, between 1811 and 1812. Although estimates of their magnitude have been revised downward in recent years to less than magnitude 8, these earthquakes are generally regarded as among the largest intraplate events to have occurred in the continental United States.
For a number of reasons—including the relatively low odds that the kind of stored energy that unleashed the New Madrid events could ever build up here—earthquakes of plus-6 magnitude are probably not in our future. Still, says Kim, even a magnitude 6 earthquake in certain areas of the state could do considerable damage, especially if its intensity or ground shaking was of sufficient strength. In a state as geologically diverse and densely populated as New Jersey, this is a crucial wild card.
Part of the job of the experts at the New Jersey Geological Survey is to assess the seismic hazards in different parts of the state. To do this, they use a computer-simulation model developed under the direction of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, known as HAZUS, for Hazards US. To assess the amount of ground shaking likely to occur in a given county during events ranging in magnitude from 5 to 7 on the Richter Scale, NJGS scientists enter three features of a county’s surface geology into their computer model. Two of these features relate to the tendency of soil in a given area to lose strength, liquefy, or slide downhill when shaken. The third and most crucial feature has to do with the depth and density of the soil itself and the type of bedrock lying below it; this is a key component in determining a region’s susceptibility to ground shaking and, therefore, in estimating the  amount of building and structural damage that’s likely to occur in that region. Estimates for the various counties—nine to date have been studied—are sent to the New Jersey Office of Emergency Management, which provided partial funding for the project.
To appreciate why this element of ground geology is so crucial to earthquake modelers, consider the following: An earthquake’s intensity—which is measured on something called the Modified Mercalli Scale—is related to a number of factors. The amount of energy released or the magnitude of an event is clearly a big factor. But two earthquakes of the same magnitude can have very different levels of intensity; in fact, it’s quite possible for a lower magnitude event to generate more ground shaking than a higher magnitude one.
In addition to magnitude, other factors that affect intensity are the distance of the observer or structure from the epicenter, where intensity is the greatest; the depth beneath the surface of the initial  rupture, with shallower ruptures producing more ground shaking than deeper ones; and, most significantly, the ground geology or material that the shock wave generated by the earthquake must pass through.
As a rule, softer materials like sand and gravel shake much more intensely than harder materials, because the softer materials are comparatively inefficient energy conductors, so whatever energy is released by the quake tends to be trapped, dispersing much more slowly. (Think of a bowl of Jell-O on a table that’s shaking.)
In contrast, harder materials, like the solid rock found widely in the Highlands, are brittle and break under pressure, but conduct energy well, so that even big shock waves disperse much more rapidly through them, thereby weakening the amount of ground shaking. “If you’ve read any stories about the 1906 earthquake in San Francisco, you know the most intense damage was in those flat, low areas by the Bay, where the soil is soft, and not in the hilly, rocky areas above,” says Karl Muessig, state geologist and NJGS head.
The map that accompanies the online version of the NJGS’s Earthquake Loss Estimation Study divides the state’s surface geology into five seismic soil classes, ranging from Class A, or hard rock, to Class E, or soft soil (
Although the weakest soils are scattered throughout the state, including the Highlands, which besides harder rock also contains areas of glacial lakes, clays, and wetlands, they are most evident in the Piedmont and the Coastal Plain. “The largest expanses of them are in coastal areas where you have salt marshes or large glacial lakes, as in parts of the Passaic River basin,” says Scott Stanford, a research scientist with NJGS and lead author of the estimate. Some of the very weakest soils, Stanford adds, are in areas of filled marshland, including places along the Hudson waterfront, around Newark Bay and the Meadowlands, and along the Arthur Kill.
Faults in these areas—and in the coastal plain generally—are far below the ground, perhaps several hundred to a thousand feet down, making identification difficult. “There are numerous faults upon which you might get earthquake movement that we can’t see, because they’re covered by younger sediments,” Stanford says.
This combination of hidden faults and weak soils worries scientists, who are all too aware that parts of the coastal plain and Piedmont are among the most densely populated and developed areas in the state. (The HAZUS computer model also has a “built environment” component, which summarizes, among other things, types of buildings in a given area.) For this reason, such areas would be in the most jeopardy in the event of a large earthquake.
“Any vulnerable structure on these weak soils would have a higher failure hazard,” Stanford says. And the scary truth is that many structures in New Jersey’s largest cities, not to mention New York City, would be vulnerable, since they’re older and built before anyone gave much thought to earthquake-related engineering and construction codes.
For example, in the study’s loss estimate for Essex County, which includes Newark, the state’s largest city, a magnitude 6 event would result in damage to 81,600 buildings, including almost 10,000 extensively or completely; 36,000 people either displaced from their homes or forced to seek short-term shelter; almost $9 million in economic losses from property damage and business interruption; and close to 3,300 injuries and 50 fatalities. (The New York City Area Consortium for Earthquake Loss Mitigation has conducted a similar assessment for New York City, at
All of this suggests the central irony of New Jersey geology: The upland areas that are most prone to earthquakes—the counties in or around the Ramapo Fault, which has spawned a network of splays, or  auxiliary faults—are much less densely populated and sit, for the most part, on good bedrock. These areas are not invulnerable, certainly, but, by almost all measures, they would not sustain very severe damage, even in the event of a higher magnitude earthquake. The same can’t be said for other parts of the state, where the earthquake hazard is lower but the vulnerability far greater. Here, the best we can do is to prepare—both in terms of better building codes and a constantly improving emergency response.
Meanwhile, scientists like Rutgers’s Gates struggle to understand the Earth’s quirky seismic timetable: “The big thing with earthquakes is that you can commonly predict where they are going to occur,” Gates says. “When they’re going to come, well, we’re nowhere near being able to figure that out.”
Planning for the Big One
For the men and women of the state police who manage and support the New Jersey Office of Emergency Management (OEM), the response to some events, like hurricanes, can be marshalled in advance. But an earthquake is what responders call a no-notice event.
In New Jersey, even minor earthquakes—like the one that shook parts of Somerset County in February—attract the notice of local, county, and OEM officials, who continuously monitor events around the state from their Regional Operations and Intelligence Center (The ROIC) in West Trenton, a multimillion dollar command-and-control facility that has been built to withstand 125 mph winds and a 5.5 magnitude earthquake. In the event of a very large earthquake, during which local and county resources are apt to become quickly overwhelmed, command and control authority would almost instantly pass to West Trenton.
Here, officials from the state police, representatives of a galaxy of other state agencies, and a variety of communications and other experts would assemble in the cavernous and ultra-high tech Emergency Operations Center to oversee the state’s response. “A high-level earthquake would definitely cause the governor to declare a state of emergency,” says OEM public information officer Nicholas J. Morici. “And once that takes place, our emergency operations plan would be put in motion.”
Emergency officials have modeled that plan—one that can be adapted to any no-notice event, including a terrorist attack—on response methodologies developed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. At its core is a series of seventeen emergency support functions, ranging from transportation to firefighting, debris removal, search and rescue, public health, and medical services. A high-magnitude event would likely activate all of these functions, says Morici, along with the human and physical resources needed to carry them out—cranes and heavy trucks for debris removal, fire trucks and teams for firefighting, doctors and EMTs for medical services, buses and personnel carriers for transportation, and so on.
This is where an expert like Tom Rafferty comes in. Rafferty is a Geographic Information Systems Specialist attached to the OEM. His job during an emergency is to keep track electronically of which resources are where in the state, so they can be deployed quickly to where they are needed. “We have a massive database called the Resource Directory Database in which we have geolocated municipal, county, and state assets to a very detailed map of New Jersey,” Rafferty says. “That way, if there is an emergency like an earthquake going on in one area, the emergency managers can quickly say to me, for instance, ‘We have major debris and damage on this spot of the map. Show us the location of the nearest heavy hauler. Show us the next closest location,’ and so on.”
A very large quake, Rafferty says, “could overwhelm resources that we have as a state.” In that event, OEM has the authority to reach out to FEMA for additional resources and assistance. It can also call upon the private sector—the Resource Directory has been expanded to include non-government assets—and to a network of volunteers. “No one has ever said, ‘We don’t want to help,’” Rafferty says. New Jersey officials can also request assistance through the Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC), an agreement among the states to help each other in times of extreme crisis.
“You always plan for the worst,” Rafferty says, “and that way when the worst doesn’t happen, you feel you can handle it if and when it does.”
Contributing editor Wayne J. Guglielmo lives in Mahwah, near the Ramapo Fault.

Nuclear Weapons Treaties are History: Revelation 16

The United States’ proxy war in Ukraine has raised the question of whether nuclear weapons treaties are becoming a lost art

By any standard, the prospect of a global post-nuclear age has not progressed much further than wishful thinking, writes Professor Joseph M. Siracusa.

Professor Joseph M. Contributor and Political Commentator

December 26, 2022 – 11:30AM

Curtin University Political Analyst Professor Joe Siracusa says he doesn’t think the Russians would hesitate to use a nuclear weapon as the war in Ukraine continues. Professor Siracusa believes there is still a possibility the Russians will use nuclear weapons in its war against Ukraine. “I don’t think the Russians would hesitate to use a tactical nuclear weapon, particularly when those patriot missiles start to arrive in Ukraine,” he told Sky News Australia. “They don’t think this has been a fair fight; they think that Germany and France betrayed them in the Minsk Agreement a couple of years ago … they’ve got nothing to lose.”

It was easy to miss.

With the US proxy war in Ukraine raging, Russia quietly postponed nuclear weapons talks with Washington set to take place in Cairo in December.

Officials from the two countries were scheduled to meet in the Egyptian capital to discuss resuming inspections under the New START nuclear arms reduction treaty, which expires in February 2026.

Inspections had been suspended in March 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

On 8 April 2010, in Prague, then presidents Barack Obama and Dmitry Medvedev signed the New START treaty replacing the expired START I agreement, signed in 1991, in the heady days of the end of the Cold War, by George H. W. Bush and Mikhail Gorbachev.

The legally binding, verifiable pact limited each of the erstwhile enemies to deploying 1,500 strategic nuclear warheads and 800 strategic delivery systems – both significant reductions on what had gone before.

Nuclear submarines will be ‘massively expensive’

A year earlier, in the same city, president Obama bet heavily on himself, outlining a path toward “a world without nuclear weapons”. The hope of enhancing the world’s safety by abolishing nuclear weapons certainly was not a new idea.

If Obama was not the first to promote the idea of zero nuclear weapons, as the popular president of the remaining superpower he bestowed upon the notion of eliminating nuclear weaponry a particularly significant blessing that drew worldwide attention and approval.

And in doing so, Obama re-energised elements of the non-proliferation regime, beginning with the strengthening of the 1968 nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), the multilateral centrepiece of the modern arms control regime, as a basis for co-operation.

As keepers of the keys to thousands of nuclear weapons, what America and Russia agreed to was important – and still is.

Japan is ‘increasingly’ concerned about North Korean missile and nuclear programs

Selling New START

Ratification of New START came much easier in Moscow than in Washington. The lower house of Russia’s parliament gave overwhelming approval of the treaty in a 350-58 vote in late December 2010 and the next month approved the second and third reading.

A day after, the upper house concurred in late January 2011 and, when signed by Medvedev, the ratification procedure was completed.

In Washington, meanwhile, various Republican senators raised several questions: Would Obama allocate sufficient funds for the modernization of the U.S. nuclear forces? Did the treaty interfere with the US’s planned deployment of missile defences? And why did the treaty not reduce tactical nuclear weapons?

Following an eight-month delay and eight days of debate, with then vice president Joe Biden on the margins – the Senate on December 22 voted 71-26 to ratify the treaty that entered into force on February 5, 2011.

Approval came at heavy cost, however, as the administration pledged $10 billion over ten years to increase an already enlarged budget for the nuclear weapons industrial complex.

‘What?’: Internet finds Biden’s nuclear stumble ‘very concerning’

The nuclear Wild West

There will be serious problems ahead without the renewal New START – the last treaty standing between a semblance of mutual predictability in Moscow and Washington’s nuclear relations and the return of the nuclear Wild West.

The information provided through the treaty’s implementation alone contributes mightily to reducing the risk of strategic surprise, mistrust and miscalculation that can result from excessive secrecy or worst-case assumptions – on both sides.

No less Cold Warriors than Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan could see the virtue of investing in nuclear arms treaties such as SALT I and the ABM Treaty and the Intermediate Nuclear Force Treaty, respectively, without much hesitation or soul-searching. Moreover, each was surrounded by nuclear arms experts who could be counted on to negotiate and sell the treaty – realists to the core.

The art of the nuclear deal has frankly languished both in Washington and Moscow in recent years, and not about to right itself.

Nuclear weapons and why they matter

Nuclear weapons have not been used in anger since Hiroshima and Nagasaki, 75 years ago, yet real concerns about their potential use have remained conspicuously present.

“If you introduce them,” observed Representative Adam Smith, chairman of the US House Services Committee, “you cannot predict what your adversaries are going to counter with, and an all-out nuclear war is the likely result, with the complete destruction of the planet”.

The end of Moscow-dominated communism in 1991 did little to solve the problem of living dangerously with nuclear weapons. The nuclear past was never dead, nor was it even past.

We hardly need President Putin to remind us of the nuclear threat.

As Bill Clinton’s first secretary of defence Les Aspin aptly put it, “The Cold War is over, the Soviet Union is no more. But the post-Cold War world is decidedly not post-nuclear”.

For all the talk about reducing nuclear stockpiles to zero, the bomb is here to stay. Gone may be the days when living with the bomb meant, in the words of former Secretary of State Madeline Albright, “Each night we knew that within minutes, perhaps through a misunderstanding, our world could end and morning never come,” but if the threat of global nuclear war has receded, it has not disappeared.

By any standard, the prospect of a global post-nuclear age has not progressed much further than wishful thinking.

The South Korean Nuclear Horn: Daniel 7

The Case for South Korea to Go Nuclear
South Korean and U.S. missiles are displayed at Korea War Memorial Museum in Seoul, South Korea, Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2022.Credit: AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon

The Case for South Korea to Go Nuclear

It may be the best option for the South Korea-U.S. alliance to deter a nuclear war with North Korea.

By Seong-Chang Cheong

October 22, 2022

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.ADVERTISEMENT

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.

Israel Takes Credit for Blocking the Iran-Obama Nuclear Deal: Daniel 7

Former Israeli prime minister Naftali Bennett arrives to attend the first cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on July 3, 2022, days after lawmakers dissolved parliament.

Israeli leaders take credit for blocking Iran nuclear deal

Former Prime Minister Naftali Bennett took credit for the current deadlock in talks between Iran and world powers.

Former Israeli prime minister Naftali Bennett arrives to attend the first cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on July 3, 2022, days after lawmakers dissolved parliament. – GIL COHEN-MAGEN/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Ben Caspit

    December 22, 2022

    One sentence uttered by US President Joe Biden to a protester generated great excitement in Israel this week. According to a newly surfaced video of the brief Nov. 3 encounter, the demonstrator urged Biden to declare the Iran nuclear deal dead. “It is dead, but we are not going to announce it,” he answered, essentially burying the lengthy, convoluted negotiations between Iran and world powers on reconstituting the agreement, which have troubled Israel greatly since the Democrats came to power almost two years ago.

    Israel’s former Prime Minister Naftali Bennett was quick to take credit for the demise of the deal. “Quietly and wisely, through a series of diplomatic and other actions, we managed to stop the return to the nuclear agreement without creating a rift with the US,” Bennett tweeted.

    Bennett, who served in office during the Biden administration’s initial months, said that his government’s policy had not only thwarted the nuclear agreement but also undermined Iranian-sponsored terrorism by striking at its architects on Iranian soil. “I hope the new government persists on this course,” he continued, in an acerbic reference to the confrontations by his predecessor Benjamin Netanyahu with the Obama administration over the original 2015 Iran agreement, clashes that damaged US-Israel relations but failed to achieve their objective.

    Biden’s comment runs counter to the assessments by Israel’s intelligence agencies, which informed decision-makers in no uncertain terms just a few months ago that the completion of an agreement with Iran was only a matter of time because both sides were determined to see it through. Mossad Director David Barnea, who led a highly unusual public campaign against such an outcome — earning a reprimand by Bennet’s successor, Yair Lapid — even embarked on a series of high-level meetings in Washington in September, in what was described as a last-minute bid to reverse a seemingly imminent deal.

    Looking back, Barnea and other top officials stand by their gloomy assessment of the time, insisting that the agreement with Tehran was a done deal until the very last minute. “The papers were ready to be printed for signing,” a senior Mossad official told Al-Monitor recently, on condition of anonymity. “It was clear to both sides that this was going to happen. No one was in any doubt and this was how they behaved.”

    What, then, derailed the deal after both Iran and the United States adopted strategic decisions to move ahead? According to Israeli intelligence officials, three factors shaped in this outcome.

    The first was the outbreak of rioting in Iran over the death in police custody of Mahsa Amini in September. “Once photos, rumors and reports began to emerge of the vicious crackdown on anti-government protesters, the Democratic administration, a stickler for human rights, found it very hard to make a deal with Tehran,” one diplomatic official told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity. Israel is convinced that the more these protests intensified, with executions of protesters and deadly clashes, the prospects of completing the nuclear deal declined. A deal would have been construed as a sell-out of Democratic values and deeply damaging to Democratic prospects in the November mid-terms.

    The unexpected military cooperation of recent months between Moscow and Tehran was also a major contributor (the second factor) to sinking the nuclear deal. Israel takes credit for revealing that Iran is supplying Russia with armed drones to attack Ukraine. “Biden could simply not afford to cooperate with this,” said a senior Israeli intelligence source speaking on condition of anonymity. “When the eyes of the world are on the war in Ukraine, and the entire West is mobilized in an effort to block the Russian aggression, you cannot sign agreements with those who have become suppliers of the weapons killing civilians in Kyiv and Cherson.”

    As of now, Israel’s concern about the cooperation between Tehran and Moscow is not limited to the nuclear issue. This new and surprising axis could present Israel with difficult and unexpected problems. Lt. Gen. (Res.) Gadi Eizenkot, former Israell Defense Forces chief and current Knesset member of the National Unity alliance, told Al-Monitor this week that the tightening Moscow-Tehran cooperation could also have an impact on the front vis-a-vis Israel, on Iran’s self-confidence, on its military capabilities and the array of weapons in its arsenals. “This is a worrisome development,” he said. “We have to be cognizant of its various implications.”

    The third factor to which Israel attributes the demise of the nuclear agreement is Iran’s continued terrorist activity. The plot exposed by the Mossad earlier this year, when it issued a recording of an interrogation it conducted on Iranian soil of a senior Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps official who revealed plans to attack diplomats in Europe and especially an American general, generated shocked reaction in Western capitals and in particular Washington. “This critical mass — including efforts to quell ongoing domestic protests by killing demonstrators, among them women and children — helped [Russian President Vladimir] Putin’s continued killing of Ukrainian civilians, and Iran’s continued engagement in global terrorism made the signing of the agreement impossible,” said the senior Israeli intelligence source.

    During the crucial weeks when negotiations with Iran seemed headed for conclusion, Barnea was frank in telling US officials that he knew they had already made up their minds to sign, but that new information had come to light in the interim. Even as the Americans, according to Israeli sources, listened and deliberated, they witnessed the above-mentioned developments taking place in front of their eyes. The deal was dead in the water, and unlikely to resurface any time soon.

    Nonetheless, this is hardly a victory for Israel. Citing Israeli sources, Haaretz reported today that Iran could employ the same technology it uses for the missiles in its space program to make ballistic missiles carrying nuclear warheads and significantly expand the range of its conventional missiles. At the same time, Iran’s uranium enrichment is now at its most advanced stage ever. The incoming Netanyahu government is shaping up as the most extreme in Israeli history and risks losing a significant measure of international legitimacy. In the United States, meanwhile, Democrats are looking ahead to the 2024 presidential elections. These developments do not augur well for Israel, and especially not for Netanyahu, who has turned the Iran issue into a mainstay of his agenda. Absent an agreement with world powers, Iran is realizing its ambitions to become a nuclear power.

    South Korean Horn fires warning shots, scrambles jets following North Korea:Daniel 6

    South Korea fires warning shots, scrambles jets following North Korea drone breach

    South Korean forces fired warning shots and sent out attack helicopters and jets after North Korean drones entered the nation’s airspace on Monday morning.

    Five drones entered the South Korean province of Gyeonggi, which surrounds the capital city of Seoul, around 10:25 a.m. on Monday.

    One of the drones entered Seoul before returning back to North Korea, according to The Korea Times.

    It’s unclear what happened to the other four drones and whether the unmanned aerial vehicles were armed.

    South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said the military operation was ongoing, the Yonhap News Agency reported.

    The one drone that entered Seoul could not be shot down because it was flying near a civilian area, a Joint Chiefs of Staff official told the outlet, although attack helicopters and warplanes were launched and warning shots were fired.

    North Korea has sent drones near the border with South Korea before, including in both 2014 and 2017.

    The latest provocation comes just days after North Korea fired a ballistic missile toward South Korea’s eastern waters.

    The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the formal name for North Korea, has test-fired an unprecedented number of missiles this year.

    Babylon the Great’s Failing Deterrence Against China: Daniel 7

    In just two years since 2020, when the Pentagon wrongly estimated that it would take China a decade to double its nuclear stockpile at the time of approximately 200 nuclear warheads, China has already doubled its stockpile. Unfortunately, the US is facing China with a lot of outdated military hardware. Pictured: DF-17 hypersonic missiles at a military parade in Beijing, China, on October 1, 2019. (Photo by Kevin Frayer/Getty Images)

    US Military’s Failing Deterrence Against China

    ‘They Are Putting Capability in the Field Faster Than We Are’

    by Judith Bergman

    • In just two years since 2020, when the Pentagon wrongly estimated that it would take China a decade to double its nuclear stockpile at the time of approximately 200 nuclear warheads, China has already doubled its stockpile.
    • “As I assess our level of deterrence against China, the ship is slowly sinking, It is sinking slowly, but it is sinking, as fundamentally they are putting capability in the field faster than we are. As those curves keep going, it isn’t going to matter how good our [operating plan] is or how good our commanders are, or how good our forces are – we’re not going to have enough of them. And that is a very near-term problem.” — Admiral Charles Richard,, November 3, 2022.
    • Unfortunately, the US is facing China with a lot of outdated military hardware.
    • Instead of doing all in its power to counter those adversaries, however, the Department of Defense has been focusing precious time on extremism, diversity, equity and inclusion, and climate change within the military….
    • In July, the Senate Armed Services Committee called on the Pentagon to stop its programs to prevent and root out extremism within the military, most notably Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s “stand-down” directive, which the military spent 5.4 million hours on implementing, at a cost of more than $500,000.
    • Overall, since President Joe Biden took office in January 2021, at a time when every effort should have been geared towards countering top military threats, the Department of Defense spent nearly six million hours on extremism, diversity, equity and inclusion training, and climate change.

    US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin gave a stern warning about US competition with China earlier this month at the Reagan National Defense Forum:

    “These next few years will set the terms of our competition with the People’s Republic of China. And they will determine whether our children and grandchildren inherit an open world of rules and rights — or whether they face emboldened autocrats who seek to dominate by force and fear…

    “The PRC is the only country with both the will and, increasingly, the power to reshape its region and the international order to suit its authoritarian preferences.”

    One of the Pentagon’s main concerns is China’s continued accelerating nuclear buildup. Every year, the Pentagon’s estimates of China’s nuclear buildup appear to grow exponentially.

    When the Pentagon assessed China’s nuclear arsenal in its annual report to Congress in November 2020, it projected that China’s nuclear warhead stockpile, which the Pentagon then estimated to be in the low 200s, would “at least double in size” over the next decade. Just one year later, in November 2021, the Pentagon found itself acknowledging that China’s nuclear buildup was taking place at an astonishing speed, with the nuclear warhead stockpile now possibly quadrupling over the next decade, to up to 700 deliverable nuclear warheads by 2027.

    Now, in Pentagon’s 2022 annual report to Congress, released at the end of November, the Pentagon has doubled last year’s projection. The report estimates that if China continues at its current pace, by 2035 it will have 1,500 nuclear warheads, adding:

    “Over the next decade, the PRC aims to modernize, diversify and expand its nuclear forces. Compared to the PLA’s [People’s Liberation Army] nuclear modernization efforts a decade ago, current efforts exceed beyond previous attempts in both scale and complexity…

    “In 2021, Beijing probably accelerated its nuclear expansion; DoD estimates China’s operational nuclear warheads stockpile has surpassed 400.”

    In just two years since 2020, when the Pentagon wrongly estimated that it would take China a decade to double its nuclear stockpile at the time of approximately 200 nuclear warheads, China has already doubled its stockpile. According to the Pentagon:

    “The PLA plans to ‘basically complete modernization’ of its national defense and armed forces by 2035. If China continues the pace of its nuclear expansion, it will likely field a stockpile of about 1500 warheads by its 2035 timeline.”

    Given the Pentagon’s previous faulty estimates, China may likely have those 1,500 warheads much sooner than 2035. There is also no reason why China should stop at 1,500 warheads. As part of its plans to become the preeminent world power by 2049, China could well continue working towards nuclear superiority over the US.

    By comparison, the US has deployed 1,700 nuclear warheads out of a total inventory of 5,428 warheads, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

    The Commander of US Strategic Command, Adm. Charles Richard gave an extremely concerning warning in November about China’s rapid buildup, which he estimated was out-competing the US.

    “As I assess our level of deterrence against China, the ship is slowly sinking,” Admiral Charles Richard said.

    “It is sinking slowly, but it is sinking, as fundamentally they are putting capability in the field faster than we are. As those curves keep going, it isn’t going to matter how good our [operating plan] is or how good our commanders are, or how good our forces are – we’re not going to have enough of them. And that is a very near-term problem.”

    This devastating critique of US military capabilities was only lightened up in one area, where the US still dominates, according to Richard:

    “Undersea capabilities is still the one … maybe the only true asymmetric advantage we still have against our opponents. But unless we pick up the pace, in terms of getting our maintenance problems fixed, getting new construction going … if we can’t figure that out … we are not going to put ourselves in a good position to maintain strategic deterrence and national defense.”

    Richard also warned that the US will have to completely change how it sees its own national defense:

    “We have to do some rapid, fundamental change in the way we approach the defense of this nation. I will tell you, the current situation is vividly illuminating what nuclear coercion looks like and how you, or how you don’t stand up to that…We used to know how to move fast, and we have lost the art of that… That’s how we got to the Moon by 1969. We need to bring some of that back. Otherwise, China is simply going to outcompete us, and Russia isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.”

    The United States is now facing two nuclear-capable, strategic peer adversaries at the same time – Russia and China.

    “We are witnessing one of the largest shifts in global geostrategic power the world has ever witnessed,” Richard said in March.

    “Today, we face to nuclear capable near peers who have the capability to unilaterally escalate to any level of violence in any domain worldwide with any instrument of national power at any time. And we have never faced the situation before like that in our history. The strategic security environment is now a three-party nuclear near peer reality. Today’s nuclear force is the minimum required to achieve our national strategy.”

    Unfortunately, the US is facing China with a lot of outdated military hardware, according to Richard,

    “Right now, I am executing my strategic deterrence mission under historic stress crisis levels of deterrence crisis deterrence dynamics that we’ve only seen a couple of times in our nation’s history. And I’m doing it with submarines built in the 80s and 90s, an air launch cruise missile built in the 80s, intercontinental ballistic missiles built in the 70s, a bomber built in the 60s, part of our nuclear command and control that predates the internet, and a nuclear weapons complex that dates back to the Manhattan era. We must modernize the nuclear triad.”

    Instead of doing all in its power to counter those adversaries, however, the US Department of Defense has been focusing precious time and resources on extremism, diversity, equity and inclusion, and climate change within the military:

    In July, the Senate Armed Services Committee called on the Pentagon to stop its programs to prevent and root out extremism within the military, most notably Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s “stand-down” directive, which the military spent 5.4 million hours on implementing, at a cost of more than $500,000.

    The request to halt the programs came after it became known last December that the amount of hours and money expended on the effort had resulted in the finding of just 100 “cases of extremism,” or around .005%, in a military employing 2.46 million people.

    In addition, since January 21, 2021, the military spent 529,771 hours on developing, preparing, delivering, attending or assessing new “diversity, equity and inclusion” training, including training in or discussions of critical race theory at the cost of $476,874. Those hours do not include time spent on pre-existing diversity, equity and inclusion” training programs that were in place prior to January 21, 2021.

    Finally, the military spent 1,059 hours and $5,000 on the research, development, writing or coordination of the “DoD Climate Adaptation Plan” since January 21, 2021.

    Overall, since President Joe Biden took office in January 2021, at a time when every effort should have been geared towards countering top military threats, the Department of Defense spent nearly six million hours on extremism, diversity, equity and inclusion training, and climate change.

    Judith Bergman, a columnist, lawyer and political analyst, is a Distinguished Senior Fellow at Gatestone Institute.

    Terrorists attack outside the Temple Walls: Revelation 11

    Israeli soldiers conduct counterterrorism operation "Break the Wave" in the West Bank, December 26, 2022.
    IDF spokesperson unitIsraeli soldiers conduct counterterrorism operation “Break the Wave” in the West Bank, December 26, 2022.

    Terrorists attack Israeli car, military forces in northern West Bank

    Matthias InbarDecember 25, 2022 at 04:43 PMlatest revision December 26, 2022 at 06:12 AM

    i24NEWS Defense Correspondent | @MatthiasInbar

    Lions’ Den terrorist group claims attack on Jewish vehicle in northern West Bank, while Palestinian Islamic Jihad targets army checkpoint nearby

    The Lions’ Den terrorist group said it perpetrated a shooting attack on the northern West Bank outpost of Havat Gilad near Nablus, according to Palestinian sources early Monday, while another overnight shooting that targeted a nearby army checkpoint was claimed by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

    No one was wounded in the attacks. In the Havat Gilad attack, no bullet hit the vehicle, and later several bullet casings were found in the area. The Israeli military (IDF) confirmed the incident. 

    “During the night there was an attempted shooting attack on an Israeli vehicle near the settlement of Havat Gilad in the area of ​​the Shomron regional division. There were no injuries and the vehicle was not damaged. After IDF forces searched the area, several backpacks were located,” the IDF said in a statement. 

    According to the IDF statement, during the raid on early Monday, “a wanted man suspected of involvement in terrorist activity was arrested in the city of Nablus.” Another man was arrested “in the city of Hebron in the area of ​​the Yehuda regional division” and an “M16 type weapon, an “airsoft” rifle and an “airsoft” pistol were confiscated.” A total of five wanted people were arrested as IDF soldiers, the Shin Bet domestic security agency and the Security Guard operated in the West Bank overnight. 

    A Hamas operative was arrested last Wednesday on suspicion of carrying out another shooting attack on Havat Gilad earlier this month. Palestinian Islamic Jihad claimed a shooting attack Friday on the settlement Shaked near Jenin, on the northern tip of the West Bank. Both the Nablus and Jenin areas have been hotbeds of violence, with frequent Israeli operations and terrorist attacks.

    Israel has launched operation “Break the Wave” as it copes with a particularly violent year, which has claimed more than 150 Palestinians and over 20 Israelis. The loosely connected Lions’ Den terrorist group, centered in Nablus, also rose in the past year.

    Iran Close to Being Nuclear: Daniel 8

    Iran closer than ever to weapons-grade uranium, ex-top defense official says

    Zohar Palti tells ToI Israel must make ‘serious decisions’ on whether it is willing to attack Iran’s nuclear plants without US backing, notes issue tangled up with other challenges

    By TAL SCHNEIDER25 December 2022, 7:55 pm  

    Former Mossad intelligence director Zohar Palti speaks with Times of Israel political correspondent Tal Schneider at an event in Ramat Hasharon, December 24, 2022. (Zman Israel)

    A former top defense official and Mossad intelligence chief warned Saturday that Iran was closer than ever to being able to produce weapons-grade uranium, and that Israel was capable of striking Tehran’s nuclear program even if not backed by the United States to do so.

    Zohar Palti, the former head of the Defense Ministry’s political-military bureau and former intelligence director in the Mossad, said Iran is mere days or weeks away from enriching uranium to military-grade levels required for the production of nuclear weapons.

    Iran “is at a more advanced level than I can ever remember when it comes to uranium enrichment,” Palti told Times of Israel political correspondent Tal Schneider at an event in Ramat Hasharon.

    “They are days or weeks away from enriching uranium to 90 percent, which is military-grade,” he said.

    Iran’s state media announced last month that it had begun producing enriched uranium at 60% purity at the country’s underground Fordo nuclear plant, in addition to enrichment to the same level at a plant in Natanz that it said had begun in 2019.

    Enrichment to 60% purity is one short, technical step away from weapons-grade levels of 90%. Nonproliferation experts have warned in recent months that Iran now has enough 60%-enriched uranium to reprocess into fuel for at least one nuclear bomb.

    Palti noted that enrichment to such a level “does not mean they can immediately build a nuclear weapon.

    “But it’s very bad, and we’ve never been closer to it,” he said.

    The comments from Palti, who retired from a 40-year career in Israel’s security establishment several months ago, marked one of the first times he has publicly addressed the Iranian issue since stepping down.

    Various centrifuge machines line a hall at the Natanz Uranium Enrichment Facility, on April 17, 2021. (Screenshot/ Islamic Republic Iran Broadcasting-IRIB, via AP)

    Palti said Israel has the military capabilities to attack Iran’s nuclear plants, noting that it need not necessarily await an American green light, but would need to make “serious decisions” regarding whether it wants to lead such an offense.

    “I am not implying that Israel is capable, I am saying it is,” he said, while stressing the importance of coordinating with Washington.

    “One of the things that the Americans appreciate most is our ability to make our own decisions, to ensure our security,” he added, referencing Israeli strikes on nuclear facilities in Syria and Iraq that it had carried out alone without active American support.

    Palti noted that the heated political atmosphere did not lend itself to the sort of societal cohesion needed for Israel to deal with a wartime scenario.

    “If we do reach such a scenario… it won’t be a matter of politics or religion. Lebanon has more than 100,000 rockets and Iran possesses precision-guided missiles. The Israeli home front will suffer… Israel will need to function as one fist,” he said.

    Israeli F-35 fighter jets fly in formation during the military’s Blue Flag exercise in October 2021. (Israel Defense Forces)

    He added that policymakers did not have the luxury of dealing with the Iranian issue as disconnected from other regional security concerns.

    “Iran is not a standalone issue,” Palti said. “Everything is connected. We can’t make progress on the Iranian issue without noticing what happens in our region, in the West Bank, on the issue of maintaining the status quo on the Temple Mount and protecting the rights of minorities.”

    Palti warned against inflaming tensions atop the Temple Mount, saying that Israel’s relationship with Jordan is its greatest strategic asset.

    “The national security of each of the countries is intertwined,” he argued. It is in the interest of the State of Israel “for Jordan to be strong and unshakable. We have a strong and serious security system. The next IDF chief of staff, Herzi Halevy, will explain to the cabinet ministers what is at stake and what the meaning of violating the status quo on the Temple Mount is.”

    He estimated that “incoming prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu won’t want to change the status quo on the Temple Mount” as well.