The Year of the Sixth Seal (Revelation 6:12)


Sloshing of Earth’s core may spike major earthquakesBy Paul VoosenOct. 30, 2017 , 1:45 PM
The number of major earthquakes, like the magnitude-7 one that devastated Haiti in 2010, seems to be correlated with minute fluctuations in day length.
SEATTLE—The world doesn’t stop spinning. But every so often, it slows down. For decades, scientists have charted tiny fluctuations in the length of Earth’s day: Gain a millisecond here, lose a millisecond there. Last week at the annual meeting of the Geological Society of America here, two geophysicists argued that these minute changes could be enough to influence the timing of major earthquakes—and potentially help forecast them.
During the past 100 years, Earth’s slowdowns have correlated surprisingly well with periods with a global increase in magnitude-7 and larger earthquakes, according to Roger Bilham of the University of Colorado (CU) in Boulder and Rebecca Bendick at the University of Montana in Missoula. Usefully, the spike, which adds two to five more quakes than typical, happens well after the slow-down begins. “The Earth offers us a 5-years heads up on future earthquakes, which is remarkable,” says Bilham, who presented the work.
Most seismologists agree that earthquake prediction is a minefield. And so far, Bilham and Bendick have only fuzzy, hard-to-test ideas about what might cause the pattern they found. But the finding is too provocative to ignore, other researchers say. “The correlation they’ve found is remarkable, and deserves investigation,” says Peter Molnar, a geologist also at CU.
The research started as a search for synchrony in earthquake timing. Individual oscillators, be they fireflies, heart muscles, or metronomes, can end up vibrating in synchrony as a result of some kind of cross-talk—or some common influence. To Bendick, it didn’t seem a far jump to consider the faults that cause earthquakes, with their cyclical buildup of strain and violent discharge, as “really noisy, really crummy oscillators,” she says. She and Bilham dove into the data, using the only complete earthquake catalog for the past 100 years: magnitude-7 and larger earthquakes.
In work published in August in Geophysical Research Letters they reported two patterns: First, major quakes appeared to cluster in time
—although not in space. And second, the number of large earthquakes seemed to peak at 32-year intervals. The earthquakes could be somehow talking to each other, or an external force could be nudging the earth into rupture.
Exploring such global forces, the researchers eventually discovered the match with the length of day. Although weather patterns such as El Nino can drive day length to vary back and forth by a millisecond over a year or more, a periodic, decades-long fluctuation of several milliseconds—in particular, its point of peak slow down about every three decades or so—lined up with the quake trend perfectly. “Of course that seems sort of crazy,” Bendick says. But maybe it isn’t. When day length changes over decades, Earth’s magnetic field also develops a temporary ripple. Researchers think slight changes in the flow of the molten iron of the outer core may be responsible for both effects. Just what happens is uncertain—perhaps a bit of the molten outer core sticks to the mantle above. That might change the flow of the liquid metal, altering the magnetic field, and transfer enough momentum between the mantle and the core to affect day length.
Seismologists aren’t used to thinking about the planet’s core, buried 2900 kilometers beneath the crust where quakes happen. But they should, Bilham said during his talk here. The core is “quite close to us. It’s closer than New York from here,” he said.
At the equator, Earth spins 460 meters per second. Given this high velocity, it’s not absurd to think that a slight mismatch in speed between the solid crust and mantle and the liquid core could translate into a force somehow nudging quakes into synchrony, Molnar says. Of course, he adds, “It might be nonsense.” But the evidence for some kind of link is compelling, says geophysicist Michael Manga of the University of California, Berkeley. “I’ve worked on earthquakes triggered by seasonal variation, melting snow. His correlation is much better than what I’m used to seeing.”
One way or another, says James Dolan, a geologist at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, “we’re going to know in 5 years.” That’s because Earth’s rotation began a periodic slow-down 4-plus years ago. Beginning next year, Earth should expect five more major earthquakes a year than average—between 17 to 20 quakes, compared with the anomalously low four so far this year. If the pattern holds, it will put a new spin on earthquake forecasting.

20 years ago the Prophecy was opened by Bush: Revelation 13

Twenty years ago: the debate we should have had on Iraq | James J. Zogby | AW

Twenty years ago this month, the US was rushing headlong into war with Iraq, one of the most consequential travesties in modern American history. Here is how one congressman and I tried and failed to get the Democratic Party on record opposing that war.  

After 9/11, neoconservatives began their campaign to invade Iraq. Their arguments included: that Saddam Hussein was linked to the 9/11 terrorists; that Iraq had stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons and was secretly buying components to build a nuclear bomb; that the US was attacked because our enemies saw us as weak and to demonstrate our strength and resolve we needed a decisive victory somewhere (anywhere); and that a complete victory in Iraq would be quick, easy, require few troops, be welcomed by the Iraqi people and result in the establishment of a friendly stable democracy. 

These outright fabrications or, at the very least, matters that demanded vigorous debate were not challenged. The mainstream media largely served as an echo chamber for the war-hawks and most leading politicians were shy to criticise. 

In advance of the February 2003 meeting of the Democratic National Committee, (DNC) Representative Jesse Jackson Junior and I submitted a resolution to encourage debate on the impending war. Using temperate and respectful language, it called on our party to urge the Bush administration “to pursue diplomatic efforts to achieve disarmament of Iraq, to clearly define for the American people and Congress the objectives, costs, consequences, terms and length of commitment envisioned by any US engagement or action in Iraq and to continue to operate in the context of and seek the full support of the United Nations in any effort to resolve the current crisis in Iraq.”

Polling indicated that the majority of Americans and a supermajority of Democrats supported these positions. And we knew that if Democrats failed to challenge the rush to war, we would not only risk losing the support of voters, but also shirk our responsibility to avert a war that would prove devastating to our country and the Middle East region. 

At the DNC meeting, party leaders subjected me to intense pressure to withdraw the resolution. They argued that we needed to defer to the Democratic presidential candidates. With only one major candidate, Howard Dean, vigorously opposed to the war, they claimed that such a resolution would imply support for his candidacy. And, in their view, opposing the war would make it appear that the party was weak on national defence. 

I refused to withdraw the resolution and insisted on my right to introduce it and be heard. 

In my remarks to the committee, I warned that it was unconscionable that we send young men and women to war in a country whose history, culture and social composition we did not understand. I observed that the administration’s miscalculations about Iraq risked beginning “a war without end” and that going to war without UN authorisation jeopardised US legitimacy. I concluded by noting that ”raising the right questions, demanding answers and winning allies to our case is not being weak on defence. It’s being smart on defence.”

After my presentation, the chair ruled that there would be no vote and the resolution died without debate or discussion.

Twenty years later, it gives me no satisfaction to say that we were right to oppose that disastrous war. Thousands of Americans and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis were killed; countless others’ lives were shattered by the war’s consequences. While the neoconservatives told Congress that the war would cost $2 billion, the price tag is in the trillions and still growing. Instead of extinguishing extremism, the war fuelled it, metastasising into ever more virulent forms. And America emerged from the war weaker and less respected, while Iran emerged emboldened to project its menacing, meddlesome behaviour into the broader region.  

Passing our resolution would not have stopped the Bush administration’s march to war. At least, however, the Democrats would have been on record in opposition, potentially strengthening the resolve of members of Congress to speak out more forcefully and voice their dissent. That is how a democracy is supposed to work. And when it does not, we all pay a steep price.

The Russian Horn Threatens to Nuke the UK

Russia Threatens To Nuke United Kingdom With 'Unstoppable' Torpedo

Russia Threatens To NUKE United Kingdom, Launch ‘Unstoppable’ Torpedo To Create 500-Meter Radioactive Tsunami

By:Connor Surmonte

Feb. 2 2023, Published 5:00 p.m. ET

Russia recently threatened to nuke the United Kingdom by launching a nuclear-capable torpedo into the Atlantic Ocean to create a 500-meter radioactive tsunami, has learned.

In a shocking development to come just days after a Russian warship outfitted with nuclear weapons was spotted off the coast of the UK, Norway and Belgium earlier this month, Russian state TV is now claiming Vladimir Putin is prepared to drop a nuke on the European country.

Russia Threatens To Nuke United Kingdom With 'Unstoppable' Torpedo

That is the concerning revelation shared by Daily Star on Wednesday after a Russian broadcast threatened to “obliterate” the UK and permanently submerge the nation underwater.

According to the broadcast, which was uploaded to Twitter via an account called Terror Alarm, Putin’s chief propaganda reporter Dmitry Kiselyov claimed two Russian super-nukes launched from Moscow could “wipe the British Isles off the map.”

Russia Threatens To Nuke United Kingdom With 'Unstoppable' Torpedo

“Russia could obliterate the UK with its new hypersonic Satan-2 missile,” Kiselyov said before adding that Russia is poised to “plunge Britain into the depths of the sea using underwater robotic drone Poseidon”.

Kiselyov’s devastating threats come just days after former UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson revealed Putin “personally threatened” him with a missile strike during a phone call shortly before Russia’s February 24, 2022 invasion of Ukraine.

“It would only take a minute,” Putin allegedly told Johnson when the then-prime minister told the Russian leader that a war against Ukraine would be an “utter catastrophe.”

Russia’s recent threat to nuke the UK also comes shortly after Ukraine’s Western allies agreed to send tanks and other military arms to the invaded nation – something Russia called “extremely dangerous.”

Russia Threatens To Nuke United Kingdom With 'Unstoppable' Torpedo

“Red lines are now a thing of the past,” a Kremlin spokesperson cryptically said at the time.

As previously reported, Putin has worried world leaders after his newly deployed warship – the Admiral Gorshkov – was spotted not only off the western coasts of the UK, Norway and Belgium but also off the eastern coast of the United States.

Russia Threatens To Nuke United Kingdom With 'Unstoppable' Torpedo

The Admiral Gorshkov, which was scheduled to sail to the Black Sea before abruptly diverting towards the U.S. and Bermuda last week, is reportedly outfitted with nuclear-capable Zircon missiles that move at speeds up to 6,670 MPH and have a maximum range of 625 miles.

Putin’s navy has also reportedly been running missile tests involving the Admiral Gorshkov and the Mach 9 Zircon missiles, with the ship’s commander – Captain Igor Krokhmal – indicating in a recent video the weapons are allegedly working as expected.

“The electronic launch and the work by the shipborne combat team confirmed the missile system’s designed characteristics demonstrated during preliminary and state trials,” Krokhmal said last week.

Iranian Horn Meets with the Antichrist

Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and the influential Iraqi Shiite cleric Muqtada Al-Sadr in Tehran, Iran on Sept. 11, 2019. (Photo via Iran's supreme leader's website)Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and the influential Iraqi Shiite cleric Muqtada Al-Sadr in Tehran, Iran on Sept. 11, 2019. (Photo via Iran’s supreme leader’s website)

Inside story: Will visit to Iran reconcile Iraq’s divided ‘Shiite House’?

Return to the political process?

Though the Sadrist sermon was devoid of any political rhetoric, the mass congregations of worshipers on Jan. 13 have been seen by some observers as political warm-up by the head of the movement. The backdrop is hard to miss; amid growing talk of Sadr’s “silence” and “retirement,” Prime Minister Muhammad Shia’ Al-Sudani’s government is nearing its 100th day in office without having scored a major political win. Given their performance in the Oct. 2021 parliamentary polls, when they became the single largest bloc, the Sadrists are unlikely to exclude themselves from the formal political process in perpetuity.

In this context, many of the ingredients for another political crisis are already stacking up. While the victory in the Gulf Cup saw Iraqis come together in celebration, the country has been beset with a currency crisis. The government has also yet to present a draft for a new election law, as Sudani had promised he would within three months of forming his cabinet. Of further note, the prime minister—whose appointment last autumn ended the deadlock between his supporters in the Iran-backed Shiite Coordination Framework and the Sadrists after the Oct. 2021 elections—also vowed that he would call early legislative polls towards the end of this summer, less than a year after taking charge.

But Sudani and his supporters do not appear to seek to restore the relative equilibrium in the political process that was lost with the Sadrist withdrawal from formal politics. The prime minister has called for provincial council elections to be held in October, indicating that there are no plans for early parliamentary polls this summer. Meanwhile, some Coordination Framework MPs have described early general elections as “pointless following the formation of Sudani’s government.”

These dynamics—and their domestic and international complications—portend the possibility of Sadr’s gradual return to the political stage. While the mercurial Shiite cleric is known for his unexpected moves, the manner and timing of his official return to Iraqi politics can reasonably be expected to only occur once the stars simultaneously align on the domestic, regional, and international scenes.

Sadr and Iran

Having won more than 70 of the 329 seats in Iraq’s legislature in the Oct. 2021 polls, the Sadrists initially sought to form a “national majority government” together with Sunni Arab blocs and the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP). The endeavor could have sidelined Iran’s allies in the Shiite Coordination Framework from the executive branch of power.

But the tenacity of the Coordination Framework parties ultimately paid off. As a political deadlock dragged on, Sadr in June 2022 ordered his MPs to resign, and after violent clashes in Baghdad’s Green Zone two months later announced his “final retirement” from politics. The move ultimately paved the way for Sudani to take office last autumn, with the backing of the Coordination Framework.

Though Iran’s allies have advanced amid the Sadrist withdrawal from the political process, has learned that there are serious attempts to restore “warmth” to the line of communication between Tehran and Hanana, Sadr’s headquarters in Najaf Governorate. Speaking on condition of anonymity, an informed political source in Iraq asserted that these efforts have entailed talk of a “necessary” trip to Iran by Sadr in the near future. The head of the Sadrist Movement would in such a scenario be expected to directly meet with Iranian officials in charge of the Iraq dossier to discuss political developments.

Talk of Sadr possibly visiting Iran—where members of his extended family live, and where he himself was previously based during parts of the US occupation of Iraq—first emerged on the third anniversary of the US assassination of the former commander of the expeditionary Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). Qasem Soleimani was on Jan. 3, 2020 killed in an American drone strike near Baghdad’s international airport along with the deputy chief of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), Abu Mahdi Al-Muhandis.

Amid rumors of a possibly impending visit to Iran by Sadr, members of his movement have been quick to deny such an eventuality. However, speaking on condition of anonymity, an Iranian diplomat asserted to that there was a basis for the speculations, without further elaboration.

Enter Lebanon

Lebanon appears central to the apparent efforts to jumpstart a rapprochement between Sadr and Iran. Arabic-language outlet ‘Jadeh Iran’ in Nov. 2022 reported that Sadrist leaders and representatives from the Lebanese Hezbollah movement had gathered in Beirut for talks. The two sides are said to have discussed political developments which surfaced prior to the formation of the Sudani government in Oct. 2022, and the repercussions—including the different scenarios that could unfold.

Preferring to speak anonymously given the sensitivity of the topic, a regional political source indicated to that the reported meetings in Lebanon late last year were a starting point. In subsequent talks, the source claimed, “A deeper and more candid” dialogue brought together Sadrist leaders and prominent Iranian figures in the Lebanese capital. The two sides are said to have discussed political developments and possible means to restore the political equilibrium in Iraq that was lost when the Coordination Framework parties pushed for the formation of a government without Sadr and also moved forward with measures seen as provocative by some political forces.

The notion that the discussions in Beirut have supposedly led to a joint conclusion that it is vital for Iraq to regain its lost political balance was echoed by an informed Iraqi source in Baghdad. The source told that there is an emerging understanding of the need for arm-twisting and exclusionary tactics to be abandoned—without going against Sadr’s concept of a “national majority government.” If accurate, this would be a major step forward since the Coordination Framework parties interpreted the Sadrist alliance-building after the Oct. 2021 polls as an attempt to exclude them. At the same time, the first informed political source in Iraq said the efforts of the “wise” in Tehran to promote “dialogue and reconciliation” with Sadr are being complicated by provocative reactions by some players.

The head of the Sadrist Movement has yet to express a clear stance on the anti-establishment protests in Iran that first erupted last September. But in early November, he slammed attacks on turbaned clerics amid the unrest. His condemnation has been interpreted by some observers as indicating that he wishes to maintain a certain distance from the political establishment in Tehran. Ultimately, he has his own calculations in managing and fine-tuning his feud with the Iranians. Sadr’s interests and vision demand the preservation of a general Muslim identity, but that each country should also maintain its own identity without exporting or imposing its culture on other countries.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, a prominent Sadrist figure told that Sadr wants Iran to respect Iraq’s specificities and deal with it as an independent and sovereign state rather than a country on which agendas can be imposed. It therefore should come as no surprise that Iran’s ambassador to Baghdad recently came under fire by Sadrists for stating that he wished that Sadr would have “consulted” with him on the decision to withdraw from the political process. 

Looking ahead

The key questions ahead pertain to the mechanisms required to restore the relative political equilibrium in Iraq, and the nature of the Sadrist Movement’s return to the political process. There are many scenarios that could unfold, particularly considering the internal disputes within the Coordination Framework.

Another important dimension to consider is Sudani’s political positioning. His lack of action to restore balance to the political process is greatly due to pressure from some Coordination Framework leaders who are keen on excluding Sadr. Facing ambiguous stances rather than explicit support from regional and international players—with the notable exception of Iran—the prime minister is vulnerable to pressure from his domestic supporters.

To achieve its aims without entering the formal political process, the Sadrist Movement could resort to street politics with the backing of actors who are also rivals of the Coordination Framework and the Sudani government. Iran and its Iraqi allies fear this worst-case scenario the most, as they do not want Sudani’s premiership to end prematurely and under pressure, like that of Adil Abdul Mahdi (2018 –20).

There is another scenario to consider, too: for Sadr’s anticipated trip to Iran to be followed by a new political formula among Iraqi parties with the help of Iranian mediation. This would leave no actor embarrassed or broken by the other, and most of all, help Iran achieve its aim to reconcile the divided ‘Shiite House’ in Iraqi politics.

China Horn Spies on Babylon the Great

Anthony Blinken
Anthony Blinken was expected in China on 5 and 6 February

US halts Blinken China visit after spy balloon row

Bernd Debusmann Jr – BBC News, Washington

Fri, February 3, 2023 at 9:36 AM MST·3 min read

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has postponed his trip to China after a Chinese spy balloon flew across the US.

A senior State Department official said conditions were not right at this time for what would have been the first high level US-China meeting there in years.

A Chinese apology was noted, the official said, but described the balloon as a clear violation of sovereignty and international law.

The visit was to come amid fraying tensions between the US and China

America’s top US diplomat was set to visit Beijing to hold talks on a wide range of issues, including security, Taiwan and Covid-19.

But there was consternation on Thursday when US defence officials announced they were tracking a high-altitude surveillance balloon over the United States.

While the balloon was, the Pentagon said, “traveling at an altitude well above commercial air traffic” and did “not present a military or physical threat to people on the ground”, its presence sparked outrage.

Former US President Donald Trump was among those calling for the US military to shoot it down.

On Friday, China finally acknowledged the balloon was its property, saying that it was a civilian airship used for meteorological research, which deviated from its route because of bad weather.

A statement from China’s Foreign Ministry said that it regretted the incident and would work with the US to resolve the issue.

However, the state department official said that while the US acknowledged China’s claim about the balloon’s purpose, it stood the assessment that it was being used for surveillance.

Another trip by Mr Blinken to China would be planned “at the earliest opportunity” the official said, adding that Washington planned to maintain “open lines of communication” about the incident.

Mr Blinken had been expected to visit China on 5 and 6 February.

A US official quoted by the Associated Press said that the decision to abruptly halt the trip was made by Mr Blinken and President Joe Biden.

Mr Biden did not take questions about the balloon following remarks about the US economy on Friday morning.

According to US officials, the balloon flew over Alaska and Canada before appearing in the US state of Montana, which is home to a number of sensitive military missile sites.

Although fighter planes were alerted, the US decided not to shoot the object down due to the dangers of falling debris, officials said.

Graphic of high altitude balloon, showing helium filled balloon, solar panels and instruments bay which can include cameras, radar and communications equipment. They can fly at heights of 80,000ft-120,000ft, higher than fighter jets and commercial aircraft
Graphic of high altitude balloon, showing helium filled balloon, solar panels and instruments bay which can include cameras, radar and communications equipment. They can fly at heights of 80,000ft-120,000ft, higher than fighter jets and commercial aircraft

Several Republican lawmakers – as well as former President Donald Trump – have criticised the decision and urged the US to down the balloon.

“Shoot down the balloon,” Mr Trump said in a short message on his Truth Social social media platform.

On Twitter, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy said that the balloon incident was “a destabilizing action that must be addressed”.

While US officials have not commented on the size and details of the suspected spy balloon, Chinese officials have previously publicly expressed interest in the potential military and intelligence-gathering potential of balloons.

“Technological advances have opened a new door for the use of balloons,” an article in the military-run Liberation Army Daily said last year.

In 2022, Taiwan’s defence ministry said it detected Chinese balloons over its territory.

Doomsday Draws Near: Revelation 16

Doomsday Clock ticks as Russia’s nuclear threat adds to world’s already perilous situation

While the nuclear risk may or may not happen, the Doomsday Clock has in recent years also been tracking the climate crisis with growing alarm, writes John Gibbons

Wed, 01 Feb, 2023 – 17:56

Today, a century and a half later, his opening lines from ‘A Tale of Two Cities’ still ring true. There are more people alive now than at any other time in history, and more are living free from the shackles of abject poverty, hunger, disease and early death than ever before.

By many objective measures, especially for those of us in prosperous, stable countries like Ireland, these are indeed the very best of times. We enjoy levels of personal freedom, material wealth, comfort and physical well-being almost unimaginable even to our grandparents’ generation.

Paradoxically, we also live in an age of foolishness and incredulity, that threatens to propel humanity into an endless winter of despair. Last week, a panel of international scientists who maintain the so-called Doomsday Clock, moved its hands ominously forward, to 90 seconds to midnight.

The clock was first established by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists in 1947, just two years after the devastating killing power of nuclear weapons was first unleashed at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

For the first time in history, humanity was now a planetary force, capable of triggering a global catastrophe on a par with an asteroid strike. Such god-like power should come with commensurate responsibility, and the Doomsday Clock was set up as a stark visual reminder of the limits of our power.

In the three-quarters of a century since then, the clock has ticked back and forth in synch with the ebb and flow of world events. In 1953, it moved to two minutes to midnight following the test detonation of the devastatingly powerful hydrogen bomb. That had, in the assessment of the scientific panel, been our most dangerous moment — until now.

Nuclear concerns

Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine is the principal reason for the unprecedented pessimism in 2023. Vladimir Putin’s bellicose rhetoric since then has included repeated thinly veiled threats to use nuclear weapons. This was repeated in recent days by former Russian president, Dmitry Medvedev, who warned darkly that his country’s defeat in Ukraine could lead to a nuclear strike by Russia.

The Russian invasion has also severely damaged international efforts at nuclear non-proliferation. Ukraine handed over its entire Soviet-era nuclear arsenal to the Russian Federation under a 1994 treaty signed in Budapest in which Russia, the US and Britain solemnly agreed to “respect the independence and sovereignty and the existing borders of Ukraine”.

Many in Ukraine and beyond are wondering if the only true deterrent to an aggressive neighbour is to have your own nuclear weapons. Russia’s recklessness extends to what the scientists call its “violation of international protocols and risking of the widespread release of radioactive materials” in its capture of the nuclear reactor sites at Zaporizhzhia and Chernobyl.

With the heightened risk of an intentional or accidental nuclear incident, “the possibility that the conflict could spin out of anyone’s control remains high”, the report warned. 

Climate crisis

While the nuclear risk remains binary – it may or may not happen – the Doomsday Clock has in recent years also been tracking the climate crisis with growing alarm.

The war in Ukraine has occurred at the worst possible moment as it “undermines global efforts to combat climate change…and has led to expanded investment in natural gas exactly when such investment should have been shrinking”, the report warned.

As a uniquely global crisis, effective efforts to tackle the climate emergency “require faith in multilateral governance”, which the scientists say has been weakened by the “geopolitical fissure opened by the invasion of Ukraine”.

Having stumbled in the past into dangerous nuclear stand-offs, the hope is that once again sense will prevail and a nuclear disaster will be avoided. However, the climate crisis is an altogether different threat. Here, for a cataclysm to unfold simply requires that the international community fails to act in line with the science.

Division, disinformation, social media-fuelled polarisation and the resurgence of political extremism all undermine our faith in science and reason at the very moment in human history when we need to come together like never before.

The Constant Threat of the First Nuclear War: Revelation 8

A Brahmos launcher during a rehearsal for the India’s 2011 Republic Day Parade. In 2021, an India Brahmos missile test misfired into Pakistani territory, sparking concerns of escalation between the rival nuclear powers. (Press Information Bureau)
A Brahmos launcher during a rehearsal for the India’s 2011 Republic Day Parade. In 2021, an India Brahmos missile test misfired into Pakistani territory, sparking concerns of escalation between the rival nuclear powers. (Press Information Bureau)

The Persistent Threat of Nuclear Crises Among China, India and Pakistan

Southern Asia’s strategic stability is getting harder to manage because of geopolitical changes and evolving military technologies.

Wednesday, February 1, 2023 / BY: Daniel Markey, Ph.D.

PUBLICATION TYPE: Analysis and Commentary

Southern Asia — India, Pakistan and China — is the only place on earth where three nuclear-armed states have recently engaged in violent confrontations along their contested borders. As a USIP senior study group report concluded last year, the problem of nuclear stability in Southern Asia is getting harder to manage because of geopolitical changes, such as rising India-China border tensions, as well as evolving military technologies, including growing nuclear arsenals and more capable delivery systems. Unfortunately, in the time since that senior study group completed its work, little has happened to revise its worrisome conclusion or to prevent the most likely triggering causes of a nuclearized crisis in Southern Asia. To the contrary, there are some good reasons to fear that the situation in Southern Asia has even deteriorated over the past year.

To be clear, just because states invest in nuclear weapons and delivery systems does not mean that a crisis or war is imminent. Leaders in China, India and Pakistan have always viewed their nuclear arsenals primarily as tools of deterrence, less for practical warfighting than to convince adversaries of the extraordinary costs that a war would risk. Nor do any of the region’s leaders take their nuclear programs lightly; all feel tremendous incentives to keep their arsenals safe and secure and to build systems of command, control and communications intended to prevent accidents, unauthorized use or theft.

Nevertheless, because even a single nuclear detonation could be massively destructive, U.S. policymakers have an obligation not to accept these sorts of logical assurances passively or uncritically. Accidents do happen. India’s misfire of a Brahmos missile test into Pakistan last year proved that point perfectly. No matter how well designed, nuclear systems are complicated and involve the potential for human or technical error. When something does go wrong, overreaction by opposing forces is less likely when they have a greater degree of confidence in, and knowledge of, the other side. Reliable and secure communications — in the form of hotlines — can help, but only to the point that they are actually used in a timely manner. Apparently, India failed to do so during the Brahmos incident.

Fear, hatred and other emotions can cloud human judgment, especially in the heat of a crisis when information is imperfect and communication difficult. Reflecting on his own experience of crisis management in Southern Asia, former secretary of state Mike Pompeo recently wrote that he does “not think the world properly knows just how close the India-Pakistan rivalry came to spilling over into a nuclear conflagration in February 2019.” The question — for Pompeo and current U.S. policymakers — is what more they are doing now to prepare for the next crisis.

Fortunately, a February 2021 cease-fire agreement between India and Pakistan holds, supplemented at times by a widely rumored “backchannel” dialogue between New Delhi and Islamabad. Then again, it is a measure of the low level of our collective expectations for India-Pakistan relations that the bare agreement not to actively shoot artillery shells across their border and to participate in sporadic, secret talks is considered progress.

The Terrorism Tinderbox

A return to serious India-Pakistan crisis could be just one terrorist attack away. Not even when Pakistan suffered devastating floods last summer could leaders in Islamabad and New Delhi create sufficient political space to open basic commodity trade. Hostile rhetoric is high, and there is reason to anticipate it could get far worse over the coming year as national leaders on both sides prepare for elections. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has learned he can whip up domestic political support from tough talk and cross-border retaliation. In Pakistan, neither civilian nor army leaders can afford to look weak in the face of Indian attacks, especially when they face jingoistic (if transparently opportunistic) criticism from ousted prime minister Imran Khan.

The prospect of anti-Indian terrorism is also growing. The Taliban regime in Afghanistan shows no greater commitment to eliminating terrorist safe havens than it did in the 1990s, and Pakistan’s will (and capacity) for keeping a lid on cross-border terrorism will be tested as it faces heightened security and economic pressures at home. In addition, India’s repression of its Muslim minority community, especially in Kashmir, is simultaneously a reaction to past anti-state militancy and nearly guaranteed to inspire new acts of violence.

No matter the specific cause or circumstances of anti-Indian militancy, Modi’s government is likely to attribute culpability to Pakistan. That, in turn, raises the potential for an emotionally charged crisis that could, under the wrong circumstances, spiral into another India-Pakistan war.

Nor can Pakistan afford only to worry about its border with India. Relations between Islamabad and Kabul have deteriorated drastically ever since the Taliban swept back into power. Rather than controlling Afghanistan through its favored militant proxies, Pakistan is suffering a surge in violence on its own soil, most recently the devastating bombing of a police mosque in Peshawar claimed by the anti-state Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan. Such violence, along with national political turmoil, environmental calamity and economic crisis, will raise concerns among some in the United States about threats to the safety and security of Pakistan’s nuclear enterprise. Sadly, that will probably lead Pakistan’s Strategic Plans Division — the guardians of its nuclear arsenal — and other Pakistani military leaders to fear a phantom threat of American military intervention rather than to address actual causes of the Pakistani state’s fragility.

India-China Tensions Rise

Events along the contested border between India and China hardly inspire confidence that New Delhi and Beijing have found a path back to normal relations after their bloody border skirmishes of 2020. To the contrary, the prospects of rapid military escalation have grown, principally because both sides have positioned greater numbers of more lethal forces close to the border. Before 2020, relatively small, unarmed Chinese and Indian patrols routinely risked coming into contact as they pressed territorial claims on the un-demarcated border. This was dangerous, but extremely unlikely to escalate rapidly into a serious military encounter. In early December 2022 hundreds of Chinese troops attacked an Indian camp in what could not possibly have been an unplanned operation. With tens of thousands of troops stationed not far away, conventional military escalation is far more plausible than it was just a few years ago.

Although there is still a long way between remote mountain warfare and a nuclear crisis, at least some Indian security officials anticipate a future of more routine border violence as troops on both sides become more entrenched. China and India are also jockeying in the Indian Ocean, where China’s increasing naval presence and influence with India’s smaller neighbors feed Indian insecurities and encourage New Delhi to seek countervailing defense ties with Quad partners (Japan, Australia and the United States) as well as other naval powers, like France.

Against this backdrop of tensions, China’s growing nuclear, missile and surveillance capabilities will look more threatening to Indian nuclear defense planners. New Delhi may even come to fear that China is developing a first strike so devastating that it would effectively eliminate India’s retaliatory response and, as a consequence, diminish the threat of its nuclear deterrent. In response, India could seek to demonstrate that it has thermonuclear weapons capable of destroying Chinese cities in one blow as well as more nuclear submarines capable of evading China’s first strike.

A ‘Cascading Security Dilemma’

Not only would those Indian moves raise serious policy questions for the United States, but they would demonstrate the region’s “cascading security dilemma,” by which military capabilities intended to deter one adversary tend to inspire dangerous insecurities in another. When India arms itself to deter China, Pakistan perceives new threats from India and will likely pursue enhanced capabilities of its own. In a worst-case scenario, Southern Asia could be entering an accelerated nuclear arms race in which uneven waves of new investments in capabilities and delivery systems will alter perceptions of deterrence and stability in dangerously unpredictable ways.

All told, U.S. policymakers have at least as many reasons for concern about strategic stability in Southern Asia as when USIP launched its report last spring. Old triggers for escalation, like terrorist attacks against India, persist, while newer storms are brewing. As that earlier report explained, Washington cannot solve Southern Asia’s troubles alone, but neither can it afford to stand aloof or to downplay their seriousness.

Daniel Markey, Ph.D.

Senior Advisor, South Asia Programs