A close ally of the Russian President argued that deliveries of weapons to Kyiv threatening Russia will lead to a global “catastrophe”.
He went on to say that it would make arguments against the use of weapons of mass destruction indefensible.
Former deputy prime minister and head of Putin’s presidential administration, Vyacheslav Volodin, said: If Washington and NATO countries supply weapons that will be used to strike civilian cities and attempt to seize our territories, as they threaten, this will lead to retaliatory measures using more powerful weapons,”
In a Telegram message he continued: “Arguments that the nuclear powers have not previously used weapons of mass destruction in local conflicts are untenable. Because these states did not face a situation where there was a threat to the security of their citizens and the territorial integrity of the country.”
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While it would take another 18 months to create an effective delivery system, reaching the 90 percent threshold would, it is feared, force the West and regional players to re-assess their options to contain the rogue state.
Israel has said it would, as a last resort, take military action to neutralise Iranian stockpiles.
Although it hopes that, following agreements brokered by former US president Donald Trump, it would have support from Saudi Arabia, it said it is willing to go it alone.
Strikes would have to be carried out soon, as once the threshold is reached Iran can bury its material 60m underground at its Fordow enrichment plant near Qom.
To date, Iran has enriched 75kg of uranium to 60 percent. While this is enough to create a nuclear bomb, the warhead it would require would be too heavy to be deployable.
Nuclear expert Dr Bahram Ghiassee explained: “Technically, it would now take Iran weeks to reach 90 percent enrichment.
“Even while it allows the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) limited access, the fact remains the regime is in a race against time.
Sources have claimed the Iranian regime is enriching Uranium for use in nuclear weapons (Image: REX/Shutterstock)
Iran’s axis with China and Russia, which threaten to shore up the regime’s vulnerabilities, means the clock is ticking for the West and regional players like Israel.
“While China presents a long-term problem, because the oil revenues it offers to Iran allows the regime to mitigate the effects of sanctions, cooperation with Russia is the foremost concern,” said a senior Israeli source.
The JCPOA, and its abandonment, has altered the geopolitics of the Middle East. The deal would have laid the foundation for a nuclear-weapons-free world because of the strong regime of inspection that was put in place to make sure Iran complied with the laws and regulations of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). By withdrawing from the JCPOA, the Trump administration dashed all prospects of a resolution of tensions between Iran and the United States. Just as its abrogation led to more insecurity on the international stage, its revival can lead to more peace and security, both in the Middle East and across the world.
The Nuclear Crisis: A Brief History As part of U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower’s Atoms for Peace program, Iran began its nuclear program under Mohamed Reza Shah’s rule in 1957. Soon after the United States and Iran agreed to a civilian nuclear cooperation arrangement—known as “Cooperation Concerning Civil Uses of Atoms”— the Shah established the Tehran Nuclear Research Center (TNRC) under U.S. supervision. He then began to negotiate with and press the United States to provide Iran with nuclear technology and materials until his downfall in the 1979 Revolution.
The revolution changed the trajectory of the country’s nuclear program. Iran, which was seriously pursuing nuclear technology, decided to curb these ambitions. Failing to honor their commitments based on the deal that the Iranian government had with the West during the Shah’s rule, the United States and other Western countries including Germany withdrew from their agreements. Germany stopped supplying fuel rods to the Tehran Research Reactor and reneged on its contract to build a nuclear power plant in the southern city of Bushehr, while France canceled an agreement with Iran signed in 1973 to enrich its uranium. At the time, Iran had no plans to pursue uranium-enrichment or heavy water activities on its own soil.
The double-standard policy of the United States and its Western allies forced Iran to proceed with efforts to develop its own nuclear capacities. After the revolution, the United States turned its back on Iran, now no longer considered a Washington ally. As a result, Iran failed to acquire the fuel necessary to power facilities. Moreover, the United States and its Western allies supported the late Iraqi President Saddam Hussein in his 1980 invasion of Iran. This greatly impacted Iran’s security calculations; Tehran saw how the Western world had no hesitation in supplying Saddam with chemical weapons while Iran struggled to access conventional weaponry.
Iran’s nuclear program truly came to the fore in the summer of 2003, when the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) issued a report revealing that the country had obtained enrichment capability but still remained compliant with the NPT. A few months later, however, another report was released that noted trace amounts of high-enriched uranium at the Natanz nuclear power plant. As a result, the IAEA Board of Governors passed a resolution demanding that Iran suspend enrichment and all related activities for an indefinite period, as well as implement the Additional Protocol to its safeguards agreement. The Additional Protocol entailed the highest level of transparency measures ever devised by the agency. In October 2003, Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, decreed his fatwa prohibiting the production and use of all weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons. To be sure, Iran, both before and after the 1979 Revolution, supported the initiative to establish a Nuclear-Weapons-Free Zone (NWFZ) in the region. That is to say, both the late Shah and the current Ayatollah expressed strong opposition to the development of nuclear weapons.
It is important to note that NPT member states are allowed to acquire nuclear capabilities for peaceful purposes. Iran is no exception. Since 2003, there have been numerous rounds of negotiations to resolve Iran’s nuclear crisis. On October 21, 2003, Iran and a number of European countries signed the Tehran Declaration through which it voluntarily agreed to halve its introduction of gas into centrifuges and to implement the Additional Protocol. In return, the Europeans agreed to recognize Iran’s legitimate right to peaceful nuclear technology, remove the nuclear file from the IAEA’s board agenda, and expand political and economic relations with the country. The Iran–EU3 (France, Germany, and the UK) negotiations lasted through 2005. Despite various proposals submitted by Hassan Rouhani, Iran’s lead negotiator at the time, the negotiations did not lead to a lasting and sustainable resolution to the crisis.
In 2005, Iran made an offer to the EU3 and was prepared to limit enrichment to 5 percent and export all low-enriched uranium beyond domestic needs or convert it into fuel rods, among other things. The main purpose of the proposal was to ensure that Iran’s civil enrichment program could not be weaponized while also recognizing its right to enrichment under the NPT.
In exchange for these commitments, the IAEA would view Iran’s nuclear activities with a more neutral eye and the European Union would pursue broader political, economic, and security cooperation with Tehran, which would include ending trade and economic sanctions. However, although England, France, and Germany favored the offer, the George W. Bush administration spurned it and insisted on its maximalist demand of “zero enrichment” in Iran.
The failure of the nuclear talks, despite Iran’s attempts to operate exclusively for peaceful purposes, gave rise to right-wing populism in Iran represented by former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Indeed, most analysts believe that the breakdown in the 2003–2005 nuclear negotiations during former President Mohammad Khatami’s tenure contributed to Ahmadinejad’s victory in Iran’s June 2005 presidential election.
Once Ahmadinejad was in office, Iran restarted its uranium conversion facilities in Isfahan, and on September 24, 2005, the IAEA board of governors found Iran to be in noncompliance with its safeguards agreement. On January 10, 2006, Iran resumed enrichment activities at its Natanz plant, and on February 4, the IAEA voted to refer the file to the UN Security Council. Between 2006 and 2009, the United Nations Security Council passed resolutions 1696, 1737, 1803, and 1835, imposing sanctions while demanding full suspension of enrichment and heavy water activities in Iran. In October 2009, a meeting was held between Iran, Germany, and the UN Security Council (UNSC) permanent representative in Geneva to discuss the possible transfer of Iran’s stockpile of low-enriched uranium out of the country in exchange for reactor fuel for the Tehran Research Reactor. As part of the swap negotiations, Iran’s lead nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili, and U.S. Under Secretary of State William Burns, held the highest level of direct talks in thirty years. In the end, this round of negotiations also failed, though at a later stage, Brazil and Turkey intervened to mediate the process.
On May 17, 2010, an agreement was reached to transfer 1,200 kilograms of Iranian low-enriched uranium to Turkey, in return for which Iran would receive the 20 percent enriched uranium fuel required for operating the Tehran Research Reactor. However, U.S. and European officials rejected the deal. Instead, the UNSC immediately passed Resolution 1929, which included an arms embargo and tightened restrictions on financial and shipping enterprises. During Barack Obama’s first term in office, Iranian nuclear facilities came under cyberattacks and several of its nuclear scientists were assassinated. According to media reports, the cyberattacks were jointly operated by the United States and Israel and the assassinations were carried out by Israel. Tehran’s overtures seeking a mutually acceptable deal went nowhere, primarily because the United States maintained that there should not be even a single centrifuge in Iran. The United States’ total denial of Iran’s right to enrichment and its blocking of efforts to have fuel rods for its reactor sent clear signals that the United States was not interested in resolving the nuclear issue. During his visit to New York for the UN General Assembly in 2011, Ahmadinejad announced that Iran had mastered 20 percent enrichment and was stockpiling 20 percent enriched uranium, but he proposed ceasing its 20 percent enrichment in exchange for Western-provided fuel rods for the Tehran Research Reactor. Moreover, as a show of goodwill toward the United States, Ahmadinejad announced the release of two Americans imprisoned in Iran under suspicion of espionage. The United States turned down Iran’s offers, which some analysts believe was done as a pretext to intensify economic sanctions.
In Fall 2011, the United States and the EU imposed an oil embargo on Iran, sanctioned its central bank, and introduced two UN resolutions condemning its record on human rights and terrorism. At the same time, IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano publicly expressed that the IAEA “remains unable to confirm that all nuclear material is in peaceful activities”.
On August 3, 2013, President Hassan Rouhani took office in Tehran. His moderate stance on foreign policy allowed him to succeed in pushing for a deal. As noted already, under its terms and conditions, Iran agreed to limit much of its nuclear program and open its facilities to the highest transparency measures ever accepted by a sovereign state in exchange for sanctions relief. It must be noted that the JCPOA was achieved because President Obama changed the U.S. policy from “Zero Enrichment” to “Zero Nuclear Bomb” in Iran.
The Impact of JCPOA on the Region’s Geopolitics The policies that the West has implemented toward Iran—particularly as regards its nuclear program and the JCPOA—have had serious consequences for the geopolitics of the region. The following is a list of fourteen such consequences.
First, shortly after the 1979 Revolution, Iran decided to forgo all ambitious nuclear projects, including a U.S.-devised plan to build twenty nuclear plants. Iran had no choice but to maintain the Tehran Research Reactor built by the United States in 1967, simply because it needed to produce isotopes for medical purposes and cancer treatment. Indeed, Iran had no plan to develop any domestic enrichment plant or heavy water on its land, but was forced to after many failed attempts at importing the necessary resources from Western countries. Indeed, regional geopolitics would have been very different if the United States and its Western allies had welcomed the policy of providing fuel for Iran’s nuclear program. Iran would have continued to receive its nuclear fuels from the United States without having to develop its own capabilities.
Second, when negotiations between Iran and the EU3 began in 2003, both parties were in a position to hammer out a deal, but the United States stood in the way of reaching an agreement. Jack Straw, the then-UK foreign minister, testified to this:
“All of us accepted Iran’s right to a civil nuclear program. I personally accepted Iran’s right to run some centrifuges for its low enrichment program. We gained the interim agreement in October 2003 that was agreed in Tehran, and we had two more agreements in Paris and Brussels. But we were very close to final agreement; and when I saw Dr. Zarif at the beginning of 2014, on a Parliamentary delegation, he acknowledged that what stopped the deal in 2005 was not about centrifuges; it was our inability to get agreement from the Americans for concessions like aircraft spare parts.”
Hence, an agreement back in early 2000s would have fundamentally shaped the region differently if the United States had agreed to a nuclear deal in 2005 rather than 2015. Such an agreement would have primarily impacted the course of the Iranian presidential election in 2005. The election of the conservative Ahmadinejad, at least in part, was a response to President Bush’s hostile policies against Iran despite President’s Khatami’s earlier rapprochement policy with the West. Moreover, the region’s 2011 uprisings and their aftermath in Yemen, Syria, and the rise of ISIS could have been averted were it not for the previous failures in Iran’s relations with the West.
Third, by mobilizing international attention, often through providing misinformation on Iran’s nuclear program, Israel distorted the realities of nonproliferation in the Middle East. Despite its rhetoric against Iran, Israel is the only state in the Middle East region that possesses nuclear weapons, is not a member of the NPT, and holds an estimated volume of 80 and 400 nuclear warheads. Iran, on the other hand, is a member of the NPT, does not possess a single nuclear weapon, and has accepted the world’s most intrusive regime of inspection concerning nuclear-related activities. This has significantly delayed the process of establishing a nuclear-weapons-free zone in the Middle East, which was formally introduced by Iran and Egypt in 1974.
Fourth, since the collapse of JCPOA, concerns over nuclear competition in the Middle East have intensified. For instance, when the JCPOA restrictions were in place, the United States predicted in 2015 that it would take Iran twelve months to produce enough nuclear fuel for a bomb should it decide to abandon the deal and seek a workable weapon. Today, that estimate has shrunk to about one month as Tehran has installed more advanced centrifuges in its nuclear centers, enriched uranium of a far higher grade than allowed under the original nuclear pact, and restricted international inspectors’ access to Iranian nuclear facilities. Iran has thus achieved enrichment and heavy water capabilities, posing a new challenge to Israel’s nuclear monopoly in the Middle East. Now other countries such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Turkey are seeking to increase their nuclear power capabilities.
Fifth, by propagating the idea that Iran is a threat, Israel has aligned itself with countries such as Saudi Arabia and the UAE, among others. On August 13, 2020, UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash announced an agreement to normalize relations with Israel, saying that his country wanted to deal with the threats facing the two-state solution, specifically annexation of the Palestinian territories. “This new architecture—the shared capabilities we are building—intimidates and deters our common enemies, first and foremost Iran and its proxies,” Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said. Hence, an alliance of four countries—the United States (the Trump administration), Israel (Natanyahu’s government), Saudi Arabia (Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman) and the United Arab Emirates (President Mohammed bin Zayed)— emerged against Iran.
Sixth, the long-lasting conflict in the Middle East—the illegal occupation of Palestinian territories—was completely pushed to the margins. Trump went on to formally recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, reversing nearly seven decades of a failed American foreign policy and moving the United States Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. “Today we finally acknowledge the obvious: that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital,” Trump thundered from the White House.
Seventh, the effects of U.S. withdrawal from the deal in May 2018 were detrimental to ordinary Iranian civilians. After the United States enforced unilateral sanctions, the European Union was unable to resist U.S. pressure. The complex set of unilateral sanctions against Iran, compounded by zero-risk policies by European businesses and financial institutions, worsened existing humanitarian and economic challenges and negatively affected the lives of the people, in particular low-income and working-class Iranians. Accessing certain types of medicine has been particularly challenging.
Eighth, Iran negotiated and signed the world’s most comprehensive nuclear deal with the West—particularly the United States—but was not able to bear the fruit of this agreement by expanding its trade and economic ties with the United States. As a result, Iran was forced to resort to seriously expanding its ties with China and Russia with a sweeping long-term political, economic, and security agreement known as the Iran–China 25-year Cooperation Program, which would facilitate hundreds of billions of dollars of investments in the Iranian economy. State managers in Tehran simply view the agreements with the major powers in the East as a necessary means of combating U.S. hegemony and hostility. Iran’s new policy of pivoting to the East has gained all the more credibility among Iranian officials after the United States’ ill-advised move to renege on the JCPOA.
Ninth, due to Trump’s withdrawal from the deal, Iran has actually become a nuclear threshold state. Under the terms of the 2015 agreement, Iran was permitted to stockpile up to 300 kilograms of low-enriched uranium and operate just over 5,000 1st-generation centrifuges at the Natanz Fuel Enrichment Plant. Iran did not enrich to more than a 3.67 percent concentration of uranium. Indeed, since the U.S. withdrawal from the nuclear pact, Iran has been steadily enriching uranium at higher levels. In July 2019, Iran began enriching up to 5 percent, and then to 20 percent in January 2021 and 60 percent in April 2021. Hence, withdrawal from the JCPOA significantly accelerated Iran’s enrichment program, and this will surely have huge impacts on regional diplomacy and geopolitics.
Tenth, the JCPOA had provided an opportunity for Iran and the United States to hold direct talks at the ministerial level for the first time since the 1979 Iranian Revolution. Indeed, the highest executive powers in both Iran and the United States directly communicated with each other in a phone conversation. Obama reiterated that the nuclear deal prevents the most serious threat from happening, which is Iran obtaining a nuclear weapon. Thus, negotiations between 2013 and 2015 demonstrated that agreement between the United States and Iran is in fact possible, and that such a challenging issue can be negotiated and agreed upon. By withdrawing from the deal, the United States destroyed the trust it had built with Iran. After Trump’s withdrawal from the JCPOA, Khamenei declined the Trump administration’s offer for unconditional talks, reiterating that “the U.S.
withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal was clear proof that Washington cannot be trusted”. That’s why Iran has only agreed to negotiate with the United States through an EU mediator in an attempt to revive the nuclear deal. The deepened Washington–Tehran mistrust has led to more bilateral, regional, and international animosities.
Eleventh, Khamenei announced Iran’s official strategy of “No War, No Peace with the United States” after Trump’s withdrawal from the JCPOA. Even if Iran chooses to negotiate on regional issues to resolve their differences, it is not certain whether the United States will abide by any agreement reached. But if the United States commits itself to its international obligations and other potential major agreements that would bear on regional geopolitics—such as terrorism and extremism as well as issues related to the long-term security of the Persian Gulf—such agreements could lead to the betterment of many issues of concern for both countries.
Twelfth, the JCPOA provided the ground for regionalization of the most comprehensive inspection regime to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons. This is a tremendous step toward denuclearization of the Middle East. Amid heightened tensions in the region, Iran presented its Hormuz Peace Endeavor (HOPE) plan—the first concerted effort to ensure that the Persian Gulf remained free of nuclear weapons—at the September 2019 UN General Assembly. Iran’s invitation for all Persian Gulf littoral states—namely, Bahrain, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Oman, and the United Arab Emirates—to join HOPE elucidated a series of objectives and principles as well as a concrete roadmap for peace and security in the Middle East. HOPE was inspired by the JCPOA, and aimed at building a nuclear-weapons-free zone in the Middle East. Had Trump not withdrawn from the JCPOA, HOPE would likely not have been agreed upon.
Thirteenth, Israel’s opposition to the deal from the start is likely to spill over into a regional war. Netanyahu, for example, pushed Trump to withdraw from the JCPOA, impose a “maximum pressure” policy, designate the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps as a terrorist organization, assassinate Iranian nuclear scientists, and sabotage the country’s nuclear facilities, including through cyber-attacks. The Israelis also encouraged the United States to assassinate Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps General Qasem Soleimani, who was killed in Baghdad on January 3, 2020.
As part of a greater alliance to confront Iran covertly, Israel and the United States established the Abraham Accord, which could ultimately expand into all-out war. The years-long Arab–Israeli conflict is now being converted into an Arab–Iranian conflict.
Fourteenth, the nuclear deal would have ensured a safer world had it been concluded. A recent UN report confirmed that Iran has enough uranium to produce nuclear weapons. As a result of Israel’s pressure for Trump to withdraw from the JCPOA, Iran’s stock of 60-percent-enriched uranium is now estimated to be 55.6 kg, allowing it to produce enough material for a bomb if it decides to. In the absence of the JCPOA’s revival, the world should live with Iran as a new nuclear threshold state, which would have a dramatic impact on geopolitics and the balance of power in the region.
This list of consequences of Trump’s withdrawal from the JCPOA is not exhaustive. One could go on. For example, Mohammad Bin Salman has vowed that “if Iran developed a nuclear bomb, we would do the same”. The JCPOA provided a perfect opportunity for the IAEA to contain the proliferation of nuclear weapons in the region while simultaneously monitoring Iran’s nuclear activities, but the United States simply decided not to take advantage of such an opportunity.
In the absence of the JCPOA, Iran will still remain a member of the NPT. But the absence of the JCPOA also means that Iran would withdraw from the Additional Protocol and Subsidiary Arrangement. Iran’s potential withdrawal from the NPT would limit the IAEA’s ability to provide technical verifications since its access to Iran’s facilities will be severely curtailed. Moreover, Iran will also disregard all of the limits imposed within the JCPOA such as limited stockpiling and enrichment below 5 percent. In effect, the absence of the JCPOA could translate into Iran’s ability to enrich uranium up to 90 percent, which is the breakout level and a step to producing a nuclear bomb.
It is important to note that according to the NPT, short of a nuclear bomb, all the above activities are legitimate. Still, the European Union has the snapback at its disposal. If the EU uses the snapback procedure and refers the Iranian nuclear file to the UNSC in order to reinstate sanctions, Iran will likely withdraw from the NPT. And in the event of potential U.S. or Israeli military attacks, Iran will likely start building a nuclear bomb.
To avoid all these potentially disastrous outcomes, there remains a safer and less costly option through the JCPOA. That is, if the United States provides assurances that it will not withdraw from the JCPOA again if it is reinstated. Indeed, a bipartisan congressional legislation can provide such an assurance. Reviving the JCPOA would prevent future conflicts in the region.
Seyed Hossein Mousavian is a Middle East Security and Nuclear Policy specialist at the Program on Science and Global Security in the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University. He previously served as Iranian ambassador to Germany (1990−97) and spokesman for Iran’s team in nuclear negotiations with the European Union and the International Atomic Energy Agency (2003–05). From 2005 to 2007, he served as foreign policy advisor to Ali Larijani, then secretary of the Supreme National Security Council and chief nuclear negotiator. Mousavian was head of the Foreign Relations Committee of Iran’s National Security Council from 1997 to 2005 and served as the vice president of the Center for Strategic Research for International Affairs between 2005 and 2009 and as general director of Foreign Ministry for West Europe between 1987 and 1990. He is the author of The Iranian Nuclear Crisis: A Memoir, Iran-Europe Relations: Challenges and Opportunities, and his forthcoming book, Iran and the United States: An Insider’s View on the Failed Past and the Road to Peace.
Hamas, which has controlled Gaza for 15 years, could change these conditions if it prioritized its people’s wellbeing over an endless, unwinnable war to destroy Israel. On its 35th anniversary last month, Hamas made it clear that such a shift was not going to happen.
Instead, its leaders promised to spread the pain to the ‘West Bank’.
“Palestine, from its sea to its river, is the land of the Palestinian people. We will continue to cling to it completely, and to our legitimate right to defend and liberate it by all means, beginning with the armed resistance, as a strategic option until the occupation is deterred and demised from it,” a Hamas statement said.
“We call upon the Palestinian Authority [which controls the ‘West Bank’] to strengthen the elements of steadfastness of our Palestinian people, stop security coordination with the occupation [Israel], immediately stop fighting resistance, allow political and public freedoms, stop persecuting activists, students and opinion leaders, and release all political prisoners.”
“That resistance is a destiny and not a choice or a slogan, and it will continue, it will rise, it will grow, and it will teach the world the lessons of tolerance and giving,” said Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh.
“We are in front of a new phase of the confrontation with the occupation, which will witness more resistance, resistance and operations in and around the ‘West Bank’,” hesaid. “We are the ones who [set agendas] in the ‘West Bank’.”
While there are signs an increasing number of Gaza’s residents are unhappy under Hamas rule, leaders used the 35th anniversary celebrations to issue new threats against Israel.
Yehya Sinwar vowed to strike Israel with “missiles without counting.”
But how credible are Sinwar’s threats? While it has launched thousands of rockets at Israeli civilians, many are intercepted. Those that get through have caused death and destruction, but not enough to change conditions in the conflict.
“The Israeli missile and drone defense system is the world’s most advanced,” Austrian security and policy analyst Wolfgang Pusztai told the Investigative Project on Terrorism (IPT). “The technology available to Hamas, including what is available through Iran, is no match for the Iron Dome and the other air defense systems.”
Hamas knows this and has tried “to overwhelm the defense system by saturating it,” Pusztai said. It fired 127 rockets within five minutes during May 2021 fighting. Two Israelis were killed.
In addition to its economic problems, the Iranian regime faces persistent public protests over women’s rights and other abuses. “This explains why Iran has reduced or maybe even ended financial support to Hamas and some smaller groups, possibly including Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP),” Pusztai said. “However, Hamas is an important tool for Iran in the conflict against Israel,” so any funding cuts are likely to be temporary.
Meanwhile, Hamas is hell-bent on increasing its ‘West Bank’ presence and violent activities. In response, the Palestinian Authority has arrested a large number of ‘West Bank’ Hamas operatives.
“There is no doubt that the legitimate Palestinian Authority has an image of being corrupt and incapable of improving the situation of the ordinary people on the ‘West Bank’, while Hamas is working hard to increase its influence there,” Pusztai said. “The efforts of Salah Al Arouri,deputy head of the Hamas political bureau, focus almost entirely on the ‘West Bank’ and on Arab Israelis, cooperating with Hezbollah and Iran.”
“Nevertheless, usurping power there would be very difficult for Hamas. Success would on one side certainly depend on the popular support Hamas really has on the ‘West Bank’ which is difficult to reliably assess,” Pusztai said. “If people from the ‘West Bank’ have a look on Gaza, they might imagine what could happen on the ‘West Bank’, if Hamas takes over.”
Gauging the depth of Hamas support among Gaza residents is difficult. But this week, the Times of Israelpublished a series of interviews with Gazans by the New York-based nonprofit Center for Peace Communications. The interviews show an increasing belief Hamas leaders do not care about their lives and conditions.
Life has not improved despite billions of dollars in foreign aid for Gaza. “Gaza is like the Bermuda Triangle,” one resident told the Center. “Everything that enters, vanishes.”
And some are tired of seeing friends and loved ones die in retaliatory strikes following Hamas attacks on Israel.
“OK, Palestine is our cause, and it is a just one,” one Gaza man told the Center, “but that doesn’t mean you should keep getting Palestinians killed, again and again, without any result.”
Another man noted that, while Gaza residents have nowhere to turn for safety, “[Hamas] sit in their bunkers while we have to bear the brunt. And at the end they tell us it’s a victory.”
Such messages are not getting through to Hamas leaders.
During the 35th anniversary celebrations, senior Hamas official Ismail Radwan stressed the terrorist group would never sign a peace agreement with Israel.
“Hamas … considers that resistance is the shortest path to restoring [Palestinian Arab] rights, and there is an agreement with all resistance factions, and the coordination continues with everyone,” he said.
Hamas is “trapped in their own positions,” Pusztai said. “They not only reject the Oslo Accords, but are against the existence of the state of Israel at all and want to establish an Islamic State in the whole of Palestine. There is no compromise for them.”
“But the question is also, how much of the population, and especially the influential clans of Gaza, are willing to endure?”
We may find out soon. “We are very close to a large-scale escalation in the Palestinian arena, in a situation where the Palestinian Authority is very weak, and Hamas is very strong,” Israeli MK and former IDF Chief of General Staff and Knesset member Gadi Eizenkot told Israel’s channel 14 last week.
Gearing up for the next war is all Hamas has accomplished during its 35-year history. Palestinian Arab suffering is not a consideration.
IPT Senior FellowHany Ghoraba is an Egyptian writer, political and counter-terrorism analyst at Al Ahram Weekly, author of Egypt’s Arab Spring: The Long and Winding Road to Democracy and a regular contributor to the BBC. This article first appeared on the Investigative Projecton on Terrorism (IPT) site.
Quote from Volodin: “Arming the Kyiv regime with offensive weapons will lead to a global disaster.
If Washington and NATO countries supply Ukraine with weapons that it will use to carry out attacks on peaceful cities and attempt to capture our territories, which it threatens, we will retaliate with more powerful weapons…
Given the technological superiority of Russian weapons, foreign politicians who make such decisions need to understand that this could end in a global tragedy that would destroy their countries.
Background: Russia engaged in threats and speculations concerning the use of nuclear weapons at the time when it was losing significant swathes of Ukrainian territory during successful Ukrainian counter offensive operations in 2022.
The Kremlin renewed its threats in early 2023.
On 19 January, the eve of the latest Ramstein-format meeting, Dmitry Medvedev, Deputy Chairman of Russia’s Security Council, said that Russia’s defeat in a conventional war could trigger a nuclear war.
Dr Rebecca Eleanor Johnson is the Executive Director of the Acronym Institute for Disarmament Diplomacy (AIDD).
LONDON (IDN) — In just the few weeks between the West’s New Year and the East’s Year of the Rabbit South Korea’s President Yoon Suk-yeol has been making some very worrying remarks about getting nuclear weapons.
Asked by journalists if the US-ROK talks might lead to nuclear weapons being brought back into South Korean bases for the first time since 1991, US president Joe Biden bluntly responded “No”, and US spokespeople characterised Yoon’s remarks as having been “less than fully accurate”.
According to the New York Times, Yoon then doubled down on his remarks. At a briefing with South Korea’s defence and foreign ministries on 11 January, the president referred to the threats emanating from the nuclear-armed DPRK (Democratic People’s Republic of [North] Korea), and said: “It’s possible that the problem gets worse, and our country will introduce tactical nuclear weapons or build them on our own… If that’s the case, we can have our own nuclear weapons pretty quickly, given our scientific and technological capabilities.”
For some time, Kim Jong-un’s erratic programmes of nuclear and ballistic missile tests have heightened fears across North-East Asia and provoked some politicians in South Korea and Japan to push for more visible security assurances and joint military exercises with the United States.
The destabilising impacts of years of nuclear sabre-rattling by North Korea’s despotic leader Kim Jong-un were also exacerbated by the hot-cold narcissistic relationship fostered by Donald Trump, Biden’s predecessor.
Like Kim, the former US president enjoyed brandishing the US nuclear arsenal for his own personal purposes. Trump’s erratic behaviour as president has made it harder for other governments to trust or believe in US deterrence guarantees.
Conflicts and instability among nuclear-armed states
Yoon’s statements also need to be seen in the context of the Russia-Ukraine war. Vladimir Putin made disastrous miscalculations when he relied on Russia’s large nuclear arsenal to back up his reckless invasion of Ukraine and deter NATO from getting involved.
Putin misjudged again when he started issuing nuclear threats. Nuclear deterrence doctrines were left in tatters as it became clear that around 12,000 nuclear weapons on both sides failed to convince or compel the other side to back down.
As the war has escalated, so have Putin’s efforts to get his nuclear threats taken seriously enough to deter European governments from supplying Ukraine with increasingly sophisticated weapons and equipment. Meanwhile, people all over the world are waking up to the very real risks and dangers of nuclear war.
The invasion of Ukraine by nuclear-armed Russia has led to countervailing responses around the world. Some leaders, such as Yoon, want greater access to nuclear weapons, while many other governments are under growing pressure to implement existing treaties and accelerate the complete prohibition and elimination of all nuclear arsenals. South Korea is in the first group, along with Ukraine, Sweden and Finland, which have been rushing to join NATO.
The impact of the Russia-Ukraine war on relations among the Security Council’s ‘P-5’ nuclear-armed states must also be factored in after Russia vetoed a compromise outcome document and then walked out of the Review Conference of the 1970 Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) in August 2022, causing that important multilateral meeting to be labelled a failure.
China’s growing military capabilities are also of growing concern in Seoul, noted the eminent nuclear policy analyst Jon Wolfsthal, a former White House national security adviser with diplomatic experience in North Korea.
In a recent blog titled ‘What the Hell is Happening in South Korea’, Wolfsthal wrote: “Senior South Korea officials have told me even the South Korean population has no illusions anymore about China. Even if South Korean officials do not worry about a direct clash, there is concern that a possible US-PRC [People’s Republic of China]… conflict could quickly involve the ROK.
At a minimum, South Korea does not want any of this to happen without having a direct say. This, as much as anything else, may be behind Yoon’s repeated calls for a role in nuclear decision making.”
“The only way to guarantee that nuclear weapons will never be used again is through their total elimination. All States share the responsibility to prevent the use of nuclear weapons, to prevent their vertical and horizontal proliferation and to achieve nuclear disarmament including through fulfilling the objectives of the NPT and achieving its universality.”
Yoon Suk-yeol may pander to some of his supporters by canvassing this option, but unlikely that he’d be enabled to go ahead. The financial and political costs and risks of acquiring a nuclear arsenal would be massive. And taking any concrete steps down that road would fatally undermine the NPT and international non-proliferation efforts as well as South Korea’s own national and regional security. We must hope that Yoon and those egging him on would not be so foolish.
Christine Ahn, Founder and Executive Director of Women Cross DMZ has this to say: “Yoon should end the Korean War by replacing the 1953 Armistice Agreement with a permanent peace settlement. His predecessor Moon Jae-In helped broker talks between the US and DPRK that almost yielded such an agreement before talks broke down in 2019. Yoon’s nuclear talk plays into US plans to further militarize the peninsula in preparation for war against China. This is a dangerous move that will only further endanger the security of all Korean people and cement the Korean War.”
Choosing between nuclear abolition and nuclear annihilation
Governments do need to address the salient public fears about nuclear weapons and war, which have intensified around the world due to Putin’s war on Ukraine and nuclear threats. All the talk of ‘tactical nukes’ is just military obfuscation. Whatever their size or range firing any nuclear weapon would be for strategic impacts—and these would likely carry appalling humanitarian consequences no matter where they land.
That’s why the TPNW outlaws threatening to use as well as using nuclear weapons, along with a range of activities that could lead to anyone – government or individual—being able to acquire and use nuclear weapons. Nine leaders, however, already have nuclear arsenals at their disposal, and these are the really dangerous ones. Between them the NPT and TPNW have what is needed to bring about universal nuclear abolition. The nuclear-armed states are the problem, and all of them need to be made to comply with and implement global nuclear disarmament obligations—before it’s too late.
Nuclear disarmament is central to non-proliferation, and both require active commitments and continuous work, including building security, peace and confidence without nuclear weapons.
The fundamental challenge is not about choosing nuclear proliferation or deterrence. Former defence and security officials know that nuclear weapons are not a sensible tool for deterrence. The real choice facing South Korea, North Korea, Russia, the United States and the rest of the world is between nuclear abolition or nuclear annihilation.
Banning and eliminating nuclear weapons is the only sane decision, and fully implementing the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons provides the only legal obligations and practical means to take forward the practical steps to build a safer and more secure world free of nuclear weapons, to which all NPT states committed themselves in 2010. [IDN-InDepthNews — 22 January 2023]