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Italian lawyer Francesca Albanese, the United Nations’ special rapporteur for the Palestinians, spoke at a Hamas-organized conference in Gaza on Monday.
She plans to continue on to Israel, which is considering refusing her entry.
Senior members of the U.S.- and E.U.-designated terror groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) were among those in attendance, including Hamas’s Basem Naim, Ghazi Hamad, Isam al-Da’alis and Abdul Latif al-Qanu, and PIJ’s Ahmad al-Mudallal and Khadr Habib.
In her speech, translated in real-time to Arabic, Albanese told the crowd: “You have a right to resist this occupation.”
The UN official recently said, “If they [Israel] don’t let me in….I’ll be able to claim that I’ve been denied access.”
Albanese has a history of supporting violence against Israelis. In June, she said, “Israel says ‘resistance equals terrorism,’ but an occupation requires violence and generates violence.”
Mr. Wertheim is a scholar and writer on U.S. foreign policy.
Dec. 2, 2022
In March, as President Biden was facing pressure to intensify U.S. involvement in Ukraine, he responded by invoking the specter of World War III four times in one day.
“Direct conflict between NATO and Russia is World War III,” he said, “something we must strive to prevent.” He underscored the point hours later: “The idea that we’re going to send in offensive equipment and have planes and tanks and trains going in with American pilots and American crews — just understand, and don’t kid yourself, no matter what you all say, that’s called World War III, OK?”
More than any other presidential statement since Sept. 11, 2001, Mr. Biden’s warning signaled the start of a new era in American foreign policy. Throughout my adult life and that of most Americans today, the United States bestrode the world, essentially unchallenged and unchecked. A few years ago, it was still possible to expect a benign geopolitical future. Although “great power competition” became the watchword of Pentagonese, the phrase could as easily imply sporting rivalry as explosive conflict. Washington, Moscow and Beijing would stiffly compete but could surely coexist.
How quaint. The United States now faces the real and regular prospect of fighting adversaries strong enough to do Americans immense harm. The post-Sept. 11 forever wars have been costly, but a true great power war — the kind that used to afflict Europe — would be something else, pitting the United States against Russia or even China, whose economic strength rivals America’s and whose military could soon as well.
This grim reality has arrived with startling rapidity. Since February, the war in Ukraine has created an acute risk of U.S.-Russia conflict. It has also vaulted a Chinese invasion of Taiwan to the forefront of American fears and increased Washington’s willingness to respond with military force. “That’s called World War III,” indeed.
Yet how many Americans can truly envision what a third world war would mean? Just as great power conflict looms again, those who witnessed the last one are disappearing. Around 1 percent of U.S. veterans of World War II remain alive to tell their stories. It is estimated that by the end of this decade, fewer than 10,000 will be left. The vast majority of Americans today are unused to enduring hardship for foreign policy choices, let alone the loss of life and wealth that direct conflict with China or Russia would bring.
Preparing the country shouldn’t begin with tanks, planes and ships. It will require a national effort of historical recovery and imagination — first and foremost to enable the American people to consider whether they wish to enter a major war if the moment of decision arrives.
Navigating great power conflict is hardly a novel challenge for the United States. By 1945, Americans had lived through two world wars. The country emerged triumphant yet sobered by its wounds. Even as the wars propelled the United States to world leadership, American leaders and citizens feared that a third world war might be as probable as it today appears unthinkable. Perhaps that is one reason a catastrophe was avoided.
For four decades, America’s postwar presidents appreciated that the next hot war would likely be worse than the last. In the nuclear age, “we will be a battlefront,” Truman said. “We can look forward to destruction here, just as the other countries in the Second World War.” This insight didn’t keep him or his successors from meddling in third world countries, from Guatemala to Indonesia, where the Cold War was brutal. But U.S. leaders, regardless of party, recognized that if the United States and the Soviet Union squared off directly, nuclear weapons would lay waste to the American mainland.
Nuclear terror became part of American life, thanks to a purposeful effort by the government to prepare the country for the worst. The Federal Civil Defense Administration advised citizens to build bomb shelters in their backyards and keep clean homes so there would be less clutter to ignite in a nuclear blast. The film “Duck and Cover,” released in 1951, encouraged schoolchildren to act like animated turtles and hide under a makeshift shell — “a table or desk or anything else close by” — if nukes hit. By the 1960s, yellow-and-black signs for fallout shelters dotted American cities.
The specter of full-scale war kept the Cold War superpowers in check. In 1950, Truman sent U.S. troops to defend South Korea against invasion by the Communist North, but his resolve had limits. After Gen. Douglas MacArthur implored Truman to blast China and North Korea with 34 nuclear bombs, the president fired the general. Evoking the “disaster of World War II,” he told the nation: “We will not take any action which might place upon us the responsibility of initiating a general war — a third world war.”
The extreme violence of the world wars and the anticipation of a sequel also shaped President John F. Kennedy’s decisions during the Cuban missile crisis, when the Soviet Union moved to place nuclear weapons 90 miles from Florida. Kennedy, who had served in the Pacific and rescued a fellow sailor after their ship went down, grew frustrated with his military advisers for recommending preventative strikes on Soviet missile sites. Instead of opening fire, he imposed a naval blockade around Cuba and demanded that the Soviets withdraw their missiles. A one-week superpower standoff ensued. Approximately 10 million Americans fled their homes. Crowds descended on civil defense offices to find out how to survive a nuclear blast. The Soviets backed down after Kennedy secretly promised to remove U.S. Jupiter missiles from Turkey. The world had come so close to nuclear Armageddon that Kennedy, citing the danger of a third and total war, took the first steps toward détente before his death in 1963.
In the 1990s, an outpouring of film, history and literature celebrated the “greatest generation,” as journalist Tom Brokaw anointed those who won the war for America. Under their watch, the United States had saved the world and stopped the Holocaust — which retrospectively vaulted to the center of the war’s purpose, even though stopping the mass murder of European Jews was not why the United States had entered. A new generation, personally untouched by great power war, reshaped the past, revering their elders but simplifying the often varied and painful experiences of veterans.
In 2004 the imposing World War II Memorial, one decade and $197 million in the making, went up between the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial. George W. Bush, a year into invading Iraq, gave the dedication: “The scenes of the concentration camps, the heaps of bodies and ghostly survivors, confirmed forever America’s calling to oppose the ideologies of death.” Preventing a repeat of World War II no longer involved exercising caution; it meant toppling tyrants.
Besides, why dwell on the horrors of global conflict at a time when no such thing even seemed possible? With post-Soviet Russia reeling and China poor, there were no more great powers for the United States to fight. Scholars discussed the obsolescence of major war.
It wasn’t just major war that seemed passé. So did the need to pay any significant costs for foreign policy choices. Since the Vietnam War roiled American society, leaders moved to insulate the American public from the harms of any conflict, large or small: The creation of an all-volunteer force did away with the draft; air power bombed targets from safe heights; the advent of drones allowed killing by remote control.
The deaths of more than 7,000 service members in the post-Sept. 11 wars — and approximately four times as many by suicide — devastated families and communities but were not enough to produce a Vietnam-style backlash. Likewise, although the wars have cost a whopping $8 trillion and counting, the payments have been spread over decades and passed to the future.
Not having to worry about the effects of wars — unless you enlist to fight in them — has nearly become a birthright of being American.
That birthright has come to an end. The United States is entering an era of intense great power rivalry that could escalate to large-scale conventional or nuclear war. It’s time to think through the consequences.
The “acute threat,” as the new National Security Strategy states, comes from Moscow. President Vladimir Putin controls thousands of nuclear weapons, enough to destroy civilization many times over. Since invading Ukraine, he has threatened to use them.
Equally important, Mr. Biden seems to be saying that defending Taiwan would be worth the price of war with China. But what would such a war entail?
A series of recent war games held by think tanks help us to imagine what it would look like: First, a war will likely last a long time and take many lives. Early on, China would have incentives to mount a massive attack with its now highly developed long-range strike capability to disable U.S. forces stationed in the Pacific. Air Force Gen. Mark D. Kelly said that China’s forces are “designed to inflict more casualties in the first 30 hours of combat than we’ve endured over the last 30 years in the Middle East.”
Second, each side would be tempted to escalate. This summer, the Center for a New American Security held a war game that ended with China detonating a nuclear weapon near Hawaii. “Before they knew it,” both Washington and Beijing “had crossed key red lines, but neither was willing to back down,” the conveners concluded. Especially in a prolonged war, China could mount cyberattacks to disrupt critical American infrastructure. It might shut off the power in a major city, obstruct emergency services or bring down communications systems. A new current of fear and suspicion would course through American society, joining up with the nativism that has reverberated through national politics since Sept. 11.
The economic consequences would be equally severe. A Chinese invasion of Taiwan, which produces most of the world’s advanced semiconductors, would profoundly damage the U.S. and global economy regardless of Washington’s response. (To this end, the United States has been trying to move more semiconductor manufacturing home.) But a U.S.-China war would risk catastrophic losses. Researchers at RAND estimate that a yearlong conflict would slash America’s gross domestic product by 5 to 10 percent. By contrast, the U.S. economy contracted 2.6 percent in 2009, the worst year of the Great Recession. The gas price surge early in the Ukraine war provides only the slightest preview of what a U.S.-China war would generate. For the roughly three-fifths of Americans who currently live paycheck to paycheck, the war would come home in millions of lost jobs, wrecked retirements, high prices and shortages.
In short, a war with Russia or China would likely injure the United States on a scale without precedent in the living memory of most citizens. That, in turn, introduces profound uncertainty about how the American political system would perform. Getting in would be the easy part. More elusive is whether the public and its representatives would maintain the will to fight over far-flung territories in the face of sustained physical attack and economic calamity. When millions are thrown out of work, will they find Taiwan’s cause worth their sacrifice? Could national leaders compellingly explain why the United States was paying the grievous price of World War III?
These questions will be asked during a conflict, so they ought to be asked in advance. Even those who think the United States should fight for Ukraine or Taiwan have an interest in educating the public about the stakes of great power conflict in the nuclear and cyber age.
The last nuclear-related sign I saw, a few weeks ago, proudly declared a small liberal suburb of Washington, D.C., to be a “nuclear-free zone.” “Duck and Cover” deserves a 21st-century remake — something a bit more memorable than the Department of Homeland Security’s “Nuclear Explosion” fact sheet, which nonetheless contains sound advice. (For example, after the shock wave passes, you have 10 minutes or more to find shelter before the radioactive fallout arrives.) For every moral condemnation of adversaries’ actions, Americans should hear candid assessments of the costs of trying to stop them. A war game broadcast on “Meet the Press” in May offered one model. Even better to follow it with a peace game, showing how to avoid devastation in the first place. Without raising public awareness, political leaders risk bringing about the worst-case outcome — of waging World War III and losing it when the country recoils.
As international relations have deteriorated in recent years, critics of U.S. global primacy have frequently warned that a new cold war was brewing. I have beenamong them. Yet pointing to a cold war in some ways understates the danger. Relations with Russia and China are not assured to stay cold. During the original Cold War, American leaders and citizens knew that survival was not inevitable. World-rending violence remained an all-too-possible destination of the superpower contest, right up to its astonishing end in 1989.
Today the United States is again assuming the primary burden of countering the ambitions of governments in Moscow and Beijing. When it did so the first time, it lived in the shadow of world war and acted out of a frank and healthy fear of another. This time, lessons will have to be learned without that experience.
Stephen Wertheim is a senior fellow in the American Statecraft Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and a visiting lecturer at Yale Law School and Catholic University.
The commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard says the Supreme Leader wants to reach a point where having a nuclear deal with the West will make no difference for Iran.
Speaking to a large crowd on Thursday, General Hossein Salami also tried to present the IRGC and its paramilitary Basij as “servants of the people,” amid a popular uprising in which security forces have so far killed around 450 civilians since mid-September.
Salami repeated regime slogans about “independence” and “self-sufficiency” and said, Khamenei “has turned a few issues into a matter of pride that America cannot swallow. One of these is his strong stand on the issue of JCPOA, and it has reached a stage when the acceptance or rejection of the JCPOA has no importance for Iran.”
After 18 months of indirect negotiations by the Biden Administration to revive the 2015 nuclear accord known as the JCPOA, talks broke down in early September, when the US rejected excessive demands by Iran.
Salami also praised the 83-year-old authoritarian ruler for spreading the influence of the Islamic Republic to other countries, adding that “enemies” cannot accept “this development.”
Many countries raise the issue of Tehran’s “malign activities” in the Middle East, by financially and militarily building a network of militant groups in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen and elsewhere.
People celebrating in the Kurdish city of Sanandaj after the Islamic Republic’s soccer team lost against the US and exit the World Cup on November 29, 2022
The IRGC commander then went on repeating accusations made by Khamenei and other officials in the past two months against “enemies” for plotting to destroy Iran. At the same time, he claimed that Iran has become a “powerful force” and “the enemy is fleeing from the Islamic world.”
For this reason, he claimed, the United States is fomenting unrest in Iran, but the Iranian people “are standing up to America.”
In fact, thousands of Iranians across the country celebrated the defeat of Iran’s team by the US side in the World Cup on Tuesday, seeing the loss as a defeat for the regime that tries to use sports to strengthen its image.
The United States has repeatedly dismissed accusations that it has anything to do with the anti-regime protests. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Wednesday that one of the “profound mistakes” that the “regime makes is in accusing the United States or any other country” of somehow being “responsible for, instigating what’s happening. That’s not at all the case. And to misunderstand their own people is at the heart of the problem that they’re facing.”
But the Biden Administration has also voiced support for Iranians to have the right to peacefully protest and officials have met with Iranian activists to underline that policy.
Blinken in a separate interview with NBC also reiterated the administration’s policy, saying “the most important thing that we can do is first to speak out very clearly ourselves in support of the people’s right to protest peacefully, to make their views known, and as I said, to take what steps we can take to go after those who are actually oppressing those rights, including through sanctions.”
Iranians mainly blame Khamenei, the Revolutionary Guard and its Basij paramilitaries for deadly use of violence against protesters. Many have reached the point that they will accept nothing short of a complete regime change and the establishment of a secular, democratic political system.
Iran’s announcement Tuesday that it was enriching uranium to 60 percent at the Fordow site was yet another “reaction to the excesses of the West,” IRNA argued, just as enrichment to 60 percent at Natanz, another nuclear site, in April came in response to “sabotage actions” at the site attributed to Israel.
In fact, Iran decided to start 60-percent enrichment in early 2021 just as the new US administration had announced its readiness to return to the JCPOA and talks in Vienna were about to begin.
Tehran announced the latest move as a reply to a resolution raised by France, Germany, the United Kingdom, and the United States passed November 17 at the board of the 37-member board of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The US and ‘E3’ had “tied a technical and legal case…to events inside the country and protests turned into riots,” IRNA argued. “The troika of Europe and the United States stopped the nuclear talks under the pretext of unrest inside Iran.”
Casting further doubts on talks, IRNA argued, was the looming return to power of Benjamin Netanyahu, which it suggested would “definitely intensify…the Zionist regime’s delusional claims against the Islamic Republic of Iran.”
Ali Bagheri-Kani Iran’s chief negotiator in Vienna talks on August 4, 2022
Majlesi argued that “the West” had long given up hope of negotiating with Iran and sought to re-use tactics that had undermined the Soviet Union. “Western countries,” he said, had judged that President Ebrahim Raisi’s government, which took office in 2021, inclined against the JCPOA with ministers asking why Iran accepted nuclear restrictions while gaining nothing from the agreement.
The result was an “impasse” in diplomatic efforts to restore the JCPOA – an impression confirmed, Majlesi said, by the French president and Canadian prime minister recently meeting “supporters of subversion in our country,” a reference to exiled activists and social-media ‘influencers.’This accelerated an “agenda against Iran” over “recent years” that had “led to significant economic pressures” aimed at “impoverishing Iran.”
Kanani-Moghadam argued that Iran retained political levers “in the event of the escalation of hostile policies,” including “complete withdrawal from the JCPOA” (presumably ending all nuclear restrictions but staying within the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty), or even leaving the NPT.
Bagheri-Kani in India: Focus on economy
Post-JCPOA thinking were also evident in discussions during the visit to India of Ali Bagheri-Kani, deputy Iranian foreign minister and leading nuclear negotiator. While IRNA Thursday reported Bagheri-Kani attacking “the atmosphere created by some western media regarding the developments in Iran,” its focus was business.
While Bagheri-Kani’s brief as one of five deputy ministers is politics, his interview with Asia International News Agency(ANI) also focused on economics, and how commerce might continue should US ‘maximum pressure’ last. ANI noted that bilateral trade had risen 46 percent between 2011-12 and 2019-20.
While criticizing the US for disrupting world energy security with sanctions against Iran, Russia, and Venezuela, Bagheri-Kani highlighted potential for Iran to help India over energy in return for food exports, presumably through barter or non-dollar arrangements. He also stressed that India’s project for developing Chabahar port, in Sistan-Baluchistan province, was continuing.
New Delhi has been slow to develop the port in fear of US punitive action under ‘maximum pressure.’ Once a major buyer of Iranian oil, India has grown increasingly frustrated at Washington’s approach. It abstained, along with Pakistan, at the recent vote condemning Iran at the IAEA board.
The authors begin in an academic and methodical manner, with general descriptions of various political science models that explain why some states choose to develop weapons of mass destruction (WMDs). Next is a learned discussion of the role of religion in shaping states’ national security policies, and a very detailed focus on statements by Iranian clerics and a discussion of the Iranian theocracy’s policy on WMDs. The authors’ reasoning is based on the decisive role played by religious edicts (fatwas) in the decisions of the Islamic Iranian regime. Asserting that the development, acquisition and use of WMDs are forbidden in Islam, they then discuss how Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s alleged anti-nuclear weapons fatwa is legally binding upon Iran’s theocracy and would completely prevent Iranian attempts to acquire a nuclear bomb.
In a detailed rebuttal to those who doubt the existence of the fatwa, Modogal and Mousavian acknowledge that there is no such written fatwa (p. 69) but argue that “this concern is not significant considering the position of Ayatollah Khamenei and the publicity of his statements. As far as the legitimacy of a fatwa in concerned, it is not necessary to be issued in written form. It has been a practice since early times to issue oral fatwas, and it may be written down by those who heard them. The statements of Ayatollah Khamenei have also been reported by those who heard it. His statements against nuclear weapons have been published on his personal website.”
What the authors do not clarify is how one might distinguish between a political declaration in a speech by the Supreme Leader as head of state and a formal and binding religious edict that is considered a fatwa that he issues as the supreme religious authority. If Khamenei’s statements against Iran’s possession of nuclear weapons have indeed been published on his personal website, it would be strange for him, a jurisprudent, to have consistently refrained from taking one more step and publishing it on one of his two sites in which his fatwas appear in their traditional format. That format is a specific question addressed to the jurisprudent and, in response, his ruling on it, based on religious arguments.
“Question:Your Excellency has announced a ban on the use of nuclear weapons, and considering that nuclear weapons are a requirement for deterrence and that the aim of obtaining them is to intimidate the enemies in order to prevent them from acting aggressively, and in light of what is written in Surat Al-Anfal, Verse 60 […] is it also forbidden to obtain nuclear weapons, as per your ruling that their use is prohibited?”
Khamenei’s response, also on Facebook, was brief: “Answer: Your letter has no jurisprudential aspect. When it has a jurisprudent position, then it will be possible to answer it.” The exchange was concluded by a “Summary: No answer was given.”
A year later, on March 10, 2022, addressing Iran’s Assembly of Experts, Khamenei referred to nuclear weapons as “an arm of power” and explained: “The nuclear issue is […] about scientific progress and our future technology. […] People are talking about making concessions to America or to others in order to become immune to the sanctions. This means severing this arm of our policy and [giving up] this bargaining chip […] I believe that these [compromises] are mistakes. If, over the years, the people who want to chop off some of those arms of power had been given permission to do so, our country would be facing great danger today.” This position is in line with Khamenei’s ridicule, in his March 20, 2011 Persian New Year address, of Libyan leader Muammar Qadhafi for handing over his nuclear installations to the U.S.: “This gentleman wrapped up all his nuclear facilities, packed them on a ship, and delivered them to the West and said, ‘Take them!’ Look in what position our nation is, and in what position they [the Libyans] are now.”
The New Iranian Talk About Iran’s Need For Nuclear Weapons
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 sparked a surge of blunt Iranian talk, including depictions of Iran’s future nuclear weapons as essential to Iranian national security. Iranian Majlis (parliament) member Mohammad Ka’ab Amir said on February 26, 2022: “Ukraine is an example from which the supporters of the West and the East must learn. We must insist on the nuclear rights of the Iranian people […] so Iran will be strong, with nuclear and military might.” On the same day, the daily mouthpiece of the Iranian regime, Kayhan, wrote: “A close look at the dimensions of the Ukraine crisis and the world’s response to it indicates very clearly why the leader of the [Iranian] Revolution [Khamenei] has stressed the issue of building strength on every level, and has firmly opposed any concession regarding factors that guarantee the country’s [ability to defend its] security on its own, without relying on others.” Two days later, it clarified: “An important lesson of the Ukrainian war is that, in order to dispel threats, one must be strong. Disarming and handing over one’s sources of strength is the deadliest mistake…” Similarly, Passive Defense Organization head, Gen. Gholamreza Jalali said on March 6, 2022: “One of [Ukraine’s] mistakes was that although it is one of the world’s nuclear powers, it transferred all its nuclear facilities and capabilities to Europe in exchange for European security and support.”
Continuing in this series of open statements, Dr. Mahmoud-Reza Aghamiri, head of the nuclear engineering department at Shahid Beheshti University in Tehran, spoke candidly to an audience on April 9, 2022, saying: “Today, you have deterrence capability. What does this mean? It means you can raise your uranium enrichment level to 99% within a very short period of time. You have the power, if needed, to ‘let off control’ the nuclear fission. In other words, you can install it on a warhead and let it do whatever it wants […] It is natural to have the power, the might, and the capabilities that would make your enemy succumb to your demands in the negotiations.”
Kamal Kharrazi, former Iranian foreign minister (1997-2005) and currently a foreign policy advisor to Khamenei as well as chairman of Iran’s Strategic Council on Foreign Relations, said in a July 17, 2022 interview on Qatar’s Al-Jazeera TV: “It is no secret that we have become a nuclear threshold country. This is the reality. This is a fact. It is no secret that we have the required technological capabilities to produce a nuclear bomb. But we do not want that and have not decided to do so. In the past, we raised the level of uranium enrichment from 20% to 60% in a matter of days. We can simply raise this level to 90%.”
The Nuclear Fatwa Legend – Where Did It Come From?
In view of these statements, one may wonder where the legend of a binding, anti-nuclear fatwa issued by Khamenei came from. The following account shows its trivial origin. On November 15, 2004, in Paris, Iran signed an agreement with France, Germany and the United Kingdom in which it declared that “it does not and will not seek to acquire nuclear weapons.” It also undertook to “continue and extend its suspension to include all enrichment related and reprocessing activities.” In return, the International Atomic Energy Agency Board of Governors decided not to refer Tehran to the UN Security Council.
To reach this agreement, Iran’s then-chief nuclear negotiator Hassan Rouhani, who would later become Iranian president, sought an argument that would win the confidence of the Europeans, and decided to make use of a Friday sermon that Khamenei had delivered in Tehran on November 5, 2004, 10 days before the Paris agreement was signed. Years later, in a television interview with the U.S. Public Broadcasting Service that aired in May 2012, Rouhani claimed that Khamenei had “talked about the fatwa” in his sermon. However, Khamenei had only said in the sermon that “nuclear weapons, their production, storage and use – each of these is problematic. We have also expressed our jurisprudential opinion. It is clear, and everyone knows [it].” In other words, in his sermon Khamenei had neither issued a fatwa nor used the religious term “haram” (“forbidden”) – he had merely called nuclear weapons “problematic.”
In this 2012 interview, Rouhani exposed his trick, stating: “That was when we were on the verge of the Paris Agreement. The European troika emphasized [the need for] strong guarantees [to not develop nuclear weapons] […] I told the three European ministers that they should know about two explicit guarantees from our side, one of which is the fatwa of the Supreme Leader [who] declared the production of nuclear weapons haram [forbidden]. This fatwa is more important to us than the NPT [Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty] and its Additional Protocol, more important than any other law.” Asked whether he brought the matter up after previous consultations Rouhani answered: “it occurred to me right there to bring it up.” Thus, on the spur of the moment, the “nuclear fatwa” was diplomatically birthed. Responding to the next question, Rouhani said that the Iranian government had even considered making the “fatwa” into a law, because the Europeans “were saying that if [the fatwa] becomes the law, it would eliminate the West’s concerns. […] This was a confidence-building measure for the West.” It is thus clear that the legend of the “nuclear fatwa” was the result of Rouhani’s 2004 cunning political move.
Finally, a surprise: Despite the learned content of his new book Religion and Nuclear Weapons, and its emphasis on the binding nature of the “nuclear fatwa,” Professor Mousavian warned in a recent article (emphasis added): “If Western powers try to corner Iran and reinstate UN-led sanctions, Tehran would likely withdraw from the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Any military strike by Israel or the U.S. would likely then push Iran towards building a nuclear weapon.”
* Ayelet Savyon is Director of the MEMRI Iran Media Project; Yigal Carmon is MEMRI Founder and President; Ze’ev B. Begin is a Senior Fellow at MEMRI.
According to a report out of the United States, China will likely have a stockpile of 1,500 nuclear warheads by 2035 if it continues with its current nuclear buildup pace.
The figures released by the Pentagon on Tuesday underscore mounting concerns over China’s intentions for its expanding nuclear arsenal, with a US official stating that the Asian superpower has a rapid buildup too substantial to keep under wraps.
China is worried about the type of alliances that are currently forming in its backyard, Mr Ridzwan told CNA’s Asia Now.
This includes the AUKUS trilateral security pact between Australia, Britain and the US, which facilitates cooperation on security issues in the Indo-Pacific.
It will equip Australia with nuclear-powered submarines, which China views as a hostile move and has repeatedly criticised as an act of nuclear proliferation.
When its nuclear programme started more than 50 years ago, the preoccupation in China’s strategic calculations was the reunification with Taiwan and to ensure that its territorial sovereignty was not violated, he said.
“The nuclear weapon was viewed, at that point of time, as something that might guarantee its survival.”
However, the dynamics have since shifted, with observers calling China’s rapid military buildup as a strategic breakout from its minimum deterrence nuclear posture.
The Pentagon’s latest annual report on China’s military said the country currently has a nuclear stockpile of more than 400 warheads.
The estimate for 2035 was based on an unchanged pace of military buildup, a US official said after the report was released.
During the Communist Party Congress in October, Chinese President Xi Jinping noted that China would boost its strategic deterrent, a term typically used to describe nuclear weapons.
The Pentagon’s report reiterated concerns about mounting pressure by Beijing on Taiwan, but Washington does not see an invasion of the island as imminent.
Mr Ridzwan believes any reunification attempts with Taiwan will “probably be carried out by conventional forces rather than nuclear forces”.
“While the Taiwan Strait crisis itself is the catalyst for China’s nuclear programme, I don’t think it will be the tool that China will deploy in the event that it needs to reunify with Taiwan by force,” he added.
Meanwhile, South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol said earlier this week that China has what it takes to dissuade North Korea from pursuing its nuclear ambitions.
However, Mr Ridzwan does not believe there is any interest for Beijing to curtail Pyongyang’s nuclear programme.
He added that North Korea’s preparations for resuming the testing of nuclear weapons is going to complicate deterrence calculations for the US.
“And from China’s point of view, any complications to the Americans will be in Beijing’s favour, given how Beijing is very concerned about the security roadblocks that have formed around its territorial areas,” he added
Nov 30 (Reuters) – Russia will pay special attention to building infrastructure for its nuclear forces in 2023, Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said on Wednesday.
Shoigu said in televised comments that the Russia would also work to improve the combat capabilities of its missile forces and that facilities were being built to accommodate new missile systems. Russia has the largest stockpile of nuclear weapons in the world, with close to 6,000 warheads.
A spokesman for the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Nasser Kanaani, said the negotiations over the Iranian nuclear program have reached a “dead end”, adding that Europe has failed to fulfil its obligations as stipulated in the nuclear agreement.
Commenting on the UN Human Rights Council decision, last Thursday, to form a high-level fact- finding investigation into the Iranian authorities’ crackdown on protesters following the death of Mahsa Amini, Kanaani said, “Iran will not cooperate with the political committee called the Fact-Finding Commission”.
“The hasty use of human rights mechanisms and the use of these mechanisms as a tool against independent states is unacceptable and condemnable, and does not contribute to the advancement of human rights,” Kanaani said.
Regarding the attack on the Israeli oil tanker, Kanaani said, “Making false accusations against Iran is a goal that the Israeli Occupation and its allies seek to achieve. If Iran does something, it is brave enough to bear its responsibility.”
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — An Iranian general on Monday acknowledged that more than 300 people have been killed in the unrest surrounding nationwide protests, giving the first official word on casualties in two months.
That estimate is considerably lower than the toll reported by Human Rights Activists in Iran, a U.S.-based group that has been closely tracking the protests since they erupted after the Sept. 16 death of a young woman being held by the country’s morality police.
The protests were sparked by the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who was detained for allegedly violating the Islamic Republic’s strict dress code. They quickly escalated into calls for the overthrow of Iran’s theocracy and pose one of the most serious challenges to the ruling clerics since the 1979 revolution that brought them to power.
Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh, the commander of the aerospace division of the paramilitary Revolutionary Guard, was quoted by a website close to the Guard as saying that more than 300 people have been killed, including “martyrs,” an apparent reference to security forces. He also suggested that many of those killed were ordinary Iranians not involved in the protests.
He did not provide an exact figure or say where his estimate came from.
Authorities have heavily restricted media coverage of the protests. State-linked media have not reported an overall toll and have largely focused on attacks on security forces, which officials blame on shadowy militant and separatist groups.
Hajizadeh reiterated the official claim that the protests have been fomented by Iran’s enemies, including Western countries and Saudi Arabia, without providing evidence. The protesters say they are fed up after decades of social and political repression, and deny having any foreign agenda.
The protests have spread across the country and drawn support from artists, athletes and other public figures. The unrest has even cast a shadow over the World Cup, with some Iranians actively rooting against their own national team because they see it as being linked to the government.
The niece of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei recently called on people to pressure their governments to cut ties with Tehran over its violent suppression of the demonstrations.
In a video posted online by her France-based brother, Farideh Moradkhani urged “conscientious people of the world” to support Iranian protesters. The video was shared online this week after Moradkhani’s reported arrest on Nov. 23, according to the activist group.
Moradkhani is a long-time activist whose late father was an opposition figure married to Khamenei’s sister and is the closest member of the supreme leader’s family to be arrested. The branch of the family has opposed Khamenei for decades and Moradkhani has been imprisoned on previous occasions for her activism.
“I ask the conscientious people of the world to stand by us and ask their governments not to react with empty words and slogans but with real action and stop any dealings with this regime,” she said in her video statement.
The protests, now in their third month, have continued despite a brutal crackdown by Iranian security forces using live ammunition, rubber bullets and tear gas.
Iran refuses to cooperate with a fact-finding mission that the U.N. Human Rights Council recently voted to establish.
“The Islamic Republic of Iran will not engage in any cooperation, whatsoever, with the political committee,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanaani said Monday.
In a separate development, Iran released a 76-year-old dual Iranian-Austrian citizen from prison for health reasons, the Austria Press Agency reported.
APA quoted the Austrian Foreign Ministry confirming that Massud Mossaheb was given indefinite medical leave. The ministry said “intensive diplomatic efforts” had led to his release, which was first reported by Austrian daily Die Presse. There was no immediate comment from Iran.
Iran has detained several dual nationals in recent years on charges of threatening national security. Analysts and rights groups accuse hard-liners in Iran’s security agencies of using foreign detainees as bargaining chips in negotiations or prisoner swaps with the West, which Tehran denies.
Leaked emails from a whistleblower at Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) reveal that Russian officials have discussed the potential use of nuclear weapons by Vladimir Putin in his war with Ukraine.
Igor Sushko, the executive director of the Wind of Change Research Group, a Washington-based non-profit organization, has been translating the correspondence from Russian to English. He shared all the emails in full with Newsweek.
A previous letter from the source was analyzed by Christo Grozev, an expert on the FSB, on March 6. He said he had shown it “to two actual (current or former) FSB contacts” who had “no doubt it was written by a colleague.”
White House national security advisor Jake Sullivan said that Washington and Moscow have held talks aimed at toning down rhetoric around Russia’s potential use of nuclear weapons and talk of nuclear strikes has been less noticeable in recent weeks.
In a March 17 email, written just weeks after the war began, the source said that although the conflict with neighboring Ukraine was “somewhere beyond logic and common sense,” they hoped that “outright foolishness will not be committed”—referring to the use of nuclear weapons.
The Wind of Change expressed doubts that Putin would do so, as Russia “would also be on the receiving end.”
“A massive nuclear strike: even if we assume that it is technically possible, that all the links of the chain follow all the orders, which I don’t believe is the case anymore, it still doesn’t make sense. Such a strike would hit everyone,” they wrote.
In an email a few days later, the FSB source said that the use of tactical nuclear weapons against Ukraine would mean “Russia’s defeat” in the eyes of both adversaries and neutral countries.
“Such a powerful argument for a local conflict would demonstrate military weakness, which not even military success could override,” the Wind of Change wrote, adding that Putin could threaten their use to “possibly intimidate the West.”
A nuclear strike by Putin in his war with Ukraine would “accomplish nothing,” and could “provoke such consequences that there is no point in considering them,” the Wind of Change said in an April 12 email.
The whistleblower also suggested that a chain of command within the Kremlin would block Putin should he ever attempt to order a nuclear strike.
“That is, if it’s ‘technically possible,’ for which there is no certainty. More precisely, to begin with, this would require the consent of all those involved (to execute a nuclear strike), which appears to be complicated. Then it will require that the technical capabilities match the ‘wants,’ and everything is tricky here,” they explained.
Russia would also have to launch in a way “that you don’t get an equally entertaining missile hitting the point of origin. (A responding nuclear strike from the West),” and consider intervention from other nations over Russian territory, the Wind of Change said.
“And the missiles will still need to reach the targets, because ‘non-uniform intercepts’ of such missiles over our territory could be an unpleasant ‘side effect”‘ that would override everything.”
In the same email, the FSB agent criticized the Kremlin’s lack of strategy in the war, pointing a finger at Putin for Russia’s military setbacks in Ukraine at the time.
“The culmination of the Russian problem has now been created personally by Putin—already by the fact that he puts his political demands above any expediency: military, social, economic,” they wrote.
“We don’t have a strategy…As recently as two weeks ago, there was hope that the current crisis would force the country’s top leadership to take a responsible step back, assess the situation, and look for real solutions to the current situation.”
They added: “But instead we see the behavior of a player who has had a breakdown in the excitement and is trying to win back his lost bets at any cost. And there is no one to stop him, and his environment indulges in it (you should see how even our people grovel [in the FSB]).”
“There’s a lot of frustration that you have, if you
‘re Russian, this huge reserve of nuclear weapons, which is sort of now your claim to great power status. But they’re kind of irrelevant—you can’t really use them, all you can do is sort of threaten to use them,” he said.
Bergmann assessed that if Ukraine continues to make major gains and approaches Crimea, “that’s the scenario where you could perhaps see Russia get very serious about making nuclear threats.”