Step Two in the budding disaster is that the White House is letting the butcher of Ukraine, Vladimir Putin, broker the talks between America and Iran. As I noted last week, on one hand, Putin is a war criminal raining death and destruction on millions of civilians, and on the other hand, we trust him to make an ironclad deal that blocks the mad mullahs from getting the ultimate weapons of mass destruction.
Oh, and in consideration of Putin’s efforts for world peace, any construction work Russia does in Iran related to the nuke deal would be exempt from sanctions imposed over Ukraine. As Biden would say, no joke.
If this sounds absolutely insane, get a load of Step Three. The Biden bots are actively considering, as a bonus to the mullahs, removing the terrorist designation of their main military group, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
Recall that Trump droned the longtime commander of the Guards’ elite Quds Force, Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani, who was responsible for killing and maiming thousands of American soldiers in Iraq. Soleimani had spread terror in the region for decades, yet Biden said during the 2020 campaign he would not have ordered the hit.
His objection is probably relevant to the fact that Iran added the demand about removing the terror label. They figured they were pushing on an open door with the appeaser in chief.
Reports say all the group must do is pledge to make nice and stop killing Iran’s enemies across the Middle East and a separate agreement will lift the sanctions blocking its financing, travel, etc., as if it’s the Chamber of Commerce.
The whole notion is so far off the charts that the Jewish News Syndicate reports that Israeli leaders, already unhappy about the prospect of any deal with Iran, initially refused to believe the White House would even consider giving a free pass to the Revolutionary Guards.
Convinced the proposal is real, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid issued a furious statement denouncing the group as “responsible for attacks on American civilians and American forces throughout the Middle East” and said it was “behind plans to assassinate senior American government officials.”
Bennett and Lapid continued: “The IRGC were involved in the murder of hundreds of thousands of Syrian civilians; they destroyed Lebanon and they are brutally oppressing Iranian civilians. They kill Jews because they are Jews, Christians because they are Christians, and Muslims because they refuse to surrender to them.”
Former American diplomats who have advised both Democrats and Republicans in the region agreed the idea stinks.
Dennis Ross tweeted that the concept “makes us look naive” and, citing the group’s recent rocket attacks in Iraq that nearly struck an American consulate, added: “For the IRGC, which admitted this week to firing rockets into Erbil, to promise to de-escalate regionally is about as credible as Putin saying Russia would not invade Ukraine.”
Ambassador Martin Indyk tweeted that removing the Guards from the terror list would be seen as a “betrayal” by many US allies who suffered from their brutal terrorism.
Nonetheless, it looks as if Biden wants to give the terrorists a pass in exchange for a vague promise. The White House has said no decision has been reached, which probably means it has but officials won’t defend it publicly until the agreement is signed.
There is one potential roadblock to all the madness, and that is the Senate. Because the entire package is new, Senate approval is required.
Many people believe it should be considered a formal treaty, which would require two-thirds support. Instead, Democrats are likely to try to use an end run similar to the one they used in 2015 to get the first deal through.
After a GOP-led filibuster effort failed, 58 to 42, the pact was deemed approved through what one critic called “brilliant political subterfuge.” That critic, Eric R. Mandel, director of the Middle East Political Information Network, writes in The Hill: “So, let’s recap: Forty-two senators were able to bind America to an agreement that should have required the votes of 66 senators for a treaty.”
If the Senate lets anything like that happen again, it will prove that Biden’s love of extremely bad ideas is contagious.
The Zaporizhzhia power plant was taken under Russian control in March last year, becoming one of the first major areas to be captured by Vladimir Putin’s forces – but staff say they are intimidated by Russian troops to keep quiet about what’s happening behind closed doors.
Over a period of a few weeks we spoke to two workers at the Zaporizhzhia plant.
And the warnings they gave of what could happen should send a cold chill around the world.
The interviews were conducted on the condition of anonymity and at great personal risk to them. They told us that if they were caught, they could be tortured, imprisoned, or worse. They know the dangers but still wanted to be heard.
Neither of the technicians knew that we were talking to the other. But their testimony of the possibility of a major nuclear catastrophe was worryingly familiar. One of the men, who we will call Serhii, warned the consequences could cause devastation across much of Europe, Russia and the Mediterranean.
Both sides blame each other. But our sources told us that Russia has been deliberately targeting power lines to disrupt the flow of electricity to Ukraine. These lines are essential for plant safety and the cooling mechanism of the reactors.
For 30 years, workers at Europe’s largest nuclear power station couldn’t imagine that there could be a power outage.
Since Russian forces occupied the site last year it has happened seven times.
The back-up generators we were told are also not being properly maintained, the other man, Mykola, told us that this was because of staff shortages.
He says that before the war there were 11,000 staff at the plant and now there may be as few as 3,500.
“There is the same deficit of workers for repairs who can actually do the servicing and fix problems. The quality of the workers is lower because the qualified staff left. So generally the situation here is deteriorating.”
Ukraine’s defence ministry alleges Moscow could be about to simulate a major accident, such as a radioactive leak, as a way of stopping any Ukrainian counteroffensive in the south of the country.
Ukraine is expected to order its troops to reclaim territory lost at the beginning of the war in the coming weeks.
The power station has been under occupation now for 15 months and the technicians have told us that in the last few weeks the level of military activity has increased dramatically.
They’ve witnessed Russian forces, moving more armour, more ammunition and more guns into place as they fortify their positions.
Serhii says that he thinks it’s because they know the nuclear plant is safe from Ukrainian strikes.
“Ukrainian armed forces will not shell the station. That’s why they are multiplying the numbers of troops and vehicles here because if they did it in another place they would definitely get shelled by the armed forces of Ukraine.
“The thing is, one month and half ago there were two times less troops on the power station and now there are two times more which means they are definitely preparing for the counteroffensive.”
The prevailing unstable environment in Pakistan could be used by multiple sections within that country to orchestrate a situation that might lead to nuclear weapons and associated technical mechanisms to fall in the hands of those driven by fundamentalism. It’s a scenario that threatens the world at large, comparable to the USSR breaking down. India, the US and China would be most affected and share the responsibilities of ensuring such an eventuality doesn’t come to a pass.
If events were not so tragic, the fast moving violent, dynamic, unpredictable politico-social drama being enacted in Pakistan would appear to be a ‘comic-action film’ on TV. Nevertheless, being a transactional, impersonal world, people are watching it with great interest, and unfortunately, great amusement. However, a nuclear crisis is certainly no laughing matter, and powers that be will do well to plan and be ready for all contingencies.
The situation is exacerbated by the rivalry and obvious power games between the military, judiciary and executive, with Imran Khan as the ‘invincible, highly popular action hero’. Lost in the turmoil and violence, is the constant fear about the safety and security of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons ecosystem – the warheads, the missiles, delivery vehicles (land, air, sea, undersea), the readymade, high grade, unused fissile material, communication systems and aspects like security of the launch codes. Surely, the heads of governments of specifically USA, China and India and their national security advisors (NSAs), and intelligence agencies must be having sleepless nights. The contingency plans to be put into operation for securing the nuclear assets must be getting finetuned, too.
Why especially these three: USA the superpower, still fighting the GWOT (Global War on Terror) also wants to keep the nuclear club exclusive with no further additions. For China, though Pakistan is her her client state (like North Korea), and an arch rival of India, it has its own worries about Xinjiang and fundamentalist elements.
Air. Apart from Mirage III and V, Pakistan can also deploy F-16s (24) and Chinese J 17s (186 in pipeline) for nuclear delivery.
Sea. Babur III, range 470 km; deployed aboard the air-independent-diesel-electric Agosta class submarines (ordered 8; deployed 4?); some Babur IIIs are pre-mated for second strike capability.
Tactical Nuclear Weapon (TNW).NASR/ HATF 9 has a range of 60 km only, most probably pre-mated, and some deployed with forward troops, and possibly under command and control of HQs at operational level (Corps HQ); raising the probability and its vulnerability of misuse/rogue use/panic use, and finding its way in wrong hands including terrorist organisations; a recipe for a nuclear Armageddon. In 2016 Obama said, “Battlefield nuclear weapons, by their very nature, pose [a] security threat because you’re taking battlefield nuclear weapons to the field where, as you know, as a necessity, they cannot be made as secure,”
Pakistan does not possess enough launchers compared to the warheads it holds; and the launchers are dual capable (can fire both conventional and nuclear warheads)!
Nuclear Policy. Pakistan boasts of ‘full spectrum deterrence capability’. Their policy is similar to NATOs ‘flexible response strategy’, with threat of use when her red lines/threshold are crossed, without explicitly spelling it out. Pakistan claims that she has a formal policy which is classified, and believes that ambiguity adds to the value of deterrence.
Command and Control of Nuclear Assets. The apex body which exercises command and control is the Nuclear Command Authority (NCA) headed by the PM, with the Strategic Plans Division (SPD) under a three-star army general, which is responsible for the protection of its tactical and strategic nuclear weapons stockpile, and the strategic assets. Special Response Force (SRF) is the special forces unit of SPD Force with a strength of 25000 to 28000 personnel which secures the assets. The selection standards in terms of intelligence and physical standards for the force are even higher than army due to very sensitive nature of their duty. After initial training in army training establishments, they are now trained in Pakistan’s Centre of Excellence for Nuclear Security (PCENS), located in Chakri near Rawalpindi. Training is modelled on US National Nuclear Security academy.
Regarding Pakistan, it will be fair and reasonable to assume, that the military (COAS) would have the final and decisive vote for exercising the nuclear option.
International Opinion and Observations on Nuclear Weapon State (NWS) Pakistan. Ashley J. Tellis in his book (Striking Asymmetries: Nuclear Transitions in Southern Asia) says Pakistan is building “the largest, most diversified, and most capable nuclear arsenal possible”, which is endorsed by Peter Lavoy, a US intelligence officer. The Trump administration’s South Asia strategy in 2017 urged Pakistan to stop sheltering terrorist organizations, and noted the need to “prevent nuclear weapons and materials from coming into the hands of terrorists”. President Biden in Oct 2022 said ““Pakistan “may be one of the most dangerous” countries in the world having “nuclear weapons without any cohesion”.
Deployment/Location of Nuclear Assets.
Note: – Areas shown as Azad Kashmir and Northern Areas are an integral part of India
Even when nations proclaim transparency, as exists(ed) between USA and Russia, regarding holdings and deployment of nuclear assets, in terms of agreements (SALT II, which now stands abrogated/suspended), there is always uncertainty and ambiguity regarding accuracy of details, especially when most delivery mechanisms are dual-capable and also co-located which is a new dangerous trend followed specially by China and Pakistan. US aggressive anti-nuclear stance against North Korea is mainly because she can never be 100% sure of deployment of nuclear assets, thus not confident of knocking them out in a ‘first strike’ if ever the need arises. However, Pakistan nuclear assets’ locations are known to a fair degree of certainty, both due to diligence and ISR by the big powers, especially USA, as also with an existing agreement between India and Pakistan to notify each other. Details of known locations are placed below: –
Fissile Material Production Complex – Pakistan has a well-established and diverse fissile material production complex that is expanding at Kahuta, enrichment plant at Gadwal North of Islamabad. Four heavy water plutonium reactors in Khushab and thermal power plant (helps in estimation of production of fissile material). A new Reprocessing plant at Nilore, E of Islamabad, and second at Chatham in NW Punjab processing spent fuel and extracts plutonium.
Fissile Material – In 2020, the International Panel on Fissile Materials estimated that Pakistan had an inventory of approximately 3,900 kilograms of weapon-grade (90 percent enriched) highly enriched uranium (HEU), and about 410 kg of weapon-grade plutonium. This material is theoretically enough to produce between 285 and 342 warheads. Pakistan uses Tritium to boost fission process and reduce size of warhead. Possesses 690 gm, enough to boost over 100 weapons. Most short range missiles like NASR, Abdali, Babur, Ra-‘ad will need small, lightweight tritium boosted fission warhead.
Production of Missile and Mobile Launchers. National Defence Complex at Kala Chitta Dahr mountain range West of Islamabad with two sections;
West – development, production, test launching of missiles and rocket engines;
East – production and assembly of road mobile transporter erector launchers (TELs)
Some launcher and missile-related production and maintenance facilities may be located near Tarnawa and Taxila.
Warhead Production. Pakistan Ordnance Factories near Wah, NW of Islamabad.
Safety and Security of Nuclear Assets.
Pakistan has put in place all safeguards expected from a Nuclear Weapon State and as per international norms of IAEA’s Nuclear Security Strategy (NSS). During late 2000s a US report stated “we’re, I think, fairly confident that they have the proper structures and safeguards in place to maintain the integrity of their nuclear forces and not to allow any compromise.” The SPD is the institutional link between civilian and military facilities. Pakistani sites have three “rings” of security. The first is within each facility itself with SPD personnel responsible for physical searches, Nuclear Media Access Control (NMAC) protocols; while the second ring is formed of physical means (limited access areas, physical barriers). Outside of each site, the third ring of security is provided by a wider counter intelligence effort. Being aware of the dangers of subversion, NCA has put in place a very rigid system of vetting regularly; different for scientists, civilian staff and military personnel. Screening involves four of Pakistan’s intelligence agencies. Some important measures incorporated are:
The National Institute of Safety and Security (NISAS) of the Pakistan Nuclear Regulatory Authority (PNRA) has become an IAEA collaborating centre for Nuclear Security Education, Training and Technical Support in October 2022.
Working with the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism (GICNT) in different areas. The GICNT is an international partnership intended to improve international capacity for prevention, detection, and response to nuclear terrorism, particularly the acquisition, transport, or use of nuclear and radiological materials.
Advanced-level training in American National Laboratories and applying it to improve the overall security practices in the country.
Additional measures in terms of equipment enhancement are:
Specially trained – as per IAEA and Nuclear Security Series.
Permissive Action Links (PAL) –electronic codes.
Special theft and tamper-proof vehicles and containers are also used.
SPD and PNRA operate radiational detection portal monitors at nuclear sites.
All round and fool proof communications.
Nuclear Security Emergency Coordination Centre (NuSECC) in Islamabad.
Mobile Radiological Monitoring Laboratory (MRML) established.
Historical Statistics and Vulnerabilities. But impressions, reputation and opinions have gone steadily downhill in the last decade, more due to the socio-political instable internal security situation, rise of political Islam and fundamentalism, Further, Pakistan’s unrelenting dalliance with terrorist organisations, has run the full circle to pose a serious threat at home. There are credible intelligence reports that Al Qaeda, IS, TTP have shown renewed interest in acquiring both warhead, fissile material and technology. The two main constant and real worries are theft (material and intellectual) as also insider operations.
The latest mob violence on Imran Khans arrest, has led to greater instability, and even the specter of a civil war. There are worrying reports of dissension within the Army ranks, both at the highest levels (rift between COAS, CJSC, Corps Commanders), middle and lower echelons. There are reports of mutinies in old established army units; soldiers abandoning their posts and duties, increasing insubordination which should cause grave apprehension regarding the safety and security of nuclear assets. If Pakistan’s most disciplined force can be beset with insubordination and desertion, the paramilitary, intelligence agencies and most importantly the personnel manning the security protocol of nuclear assets could also be equally susceptible.
The vulnerability is not only physical theft of warheads and fissile material, but technical data and electronic codes which can operationalize the weapons and missile systems. In the current unrest and fragile security environment, when it’s time to implement the harshest security measures, ironically, it the entire system at its most vulnerable levels from subversion and theft. Some historical lapses concerning security of nuclear assets are listed below:
In November 2007, a suicide attack killed seven PAF staff travelling between Mushaf Mir Airbase and the Central Ammunition Depot, Sargodha. Both sites have been associated with Pakistan’s nuclear programme.
A double bombing in August 2008 killed 64 people in Wah Cantt. One explosion took place outside the Pakistan Ordnance Factories (POF), which is believed to house the Gadwal Enrichment Plant.
In July 2009, a bus carrying KRL workers was attacked by a suicide bomber at Chor Chowk, Peshawar Road.
In October 2009, the Minhas air force base in Kamra was attacked. The site is widely assessed to host Pakistani nuclear weapons, although the attacker is reported to have detonated a bomb at “a checkpoint on a road leading to the complex,” rather than the base itself.
The biggest of them all, AQ Khan stole both sensitive information from the Physical Dynamics Research Laboratory, a subcontractor to the URENCO enrichment consortium, and then going on to sell indigenised versions of that technology to North Korea, Iran, and Libya.
Subversion at the highest level was revealed when Lieutenant General (Retired) Javed Iqbal and Brigadier (Retired) Raja Rizwan who received 14 years imprisonment and the death penalty, respectively for nuclear espionage. Insiders have been a real concern for Pakistani authorities.
Possible Scenarios and Recommendations.
Pakistan will obviously remain the first responder for most contingencies, and is expected to act immediately and decisively in case of theft of warhead or fissile material, or loss of critical technological information; assuming the command and control of nuclear assets is still intact and not broken (contingencies like civilian and/or military control, or break up of both is a realistic probability). They are expected to act responsibly and alert the international community immediately specially the ‘Three’ (USA, China and India the immediate neighbour), and United Nations Security Council (UNSC).
In case, the UN and world body led by USA and China feel that there exist conditions where the nuclear assets are NOT under the command and control of any responsible body, be it the civil or military, and safety and security of the assets are compromised, and real threat to them exists (terrorists, breakaway military leader/group(s) and rogue elements); there is a need for physical intervention to secure them, with or without the sanction/permission of Pakistani authorities. The current scenario does warrant planning and coordinating for such a contingency, especially by the ‘Three’.
In the eventuality of the above, and if the unstable situation of a civil war like situation persists, there is a case of following a variation of the Ukraine model* with Pakistan. Pakistan naturally will be loath to give up her nuclear assets. The process will take time, but the world cannot afford to have the spectre of a Nuclear Armageddon hanging on its head, all the time.
*Note: When the Soviet Union broke up in 1991, there were thousands of former Soviet nuclear warheads, as well as hundreds of intercontinental ballistic missiles and bombers, left on Ukraine’s territory (some in Belarus and Kazakhstan, too), which they decided to transfer to Russia. Ukraine never had an independent nuclear weapons arsenal, or control over these weapons, but agreed to remove former Soviet weapons stationed on its territory. In 1992, Ukraine with the other two, signed the Lisbon Protocol and joined the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) as a non-nuclear weapon state in 1994. The transfer of all nuclear material took some time, but by 2001, all nuclear weapons had been transferred to Russia to be dismantled and all launch silos decommissioned. Interestingly, the Protocol in itself does not talk of any security guarantees by either USA or Russian Federation. However, The Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances comprises three substantially identical political agreements signed at the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) conference in Budapest, Hungary, on 5 December 1994, to provide security assurances by its signatories. The three memoranda were originally signed by three nuclear powers: the Russian Federation, the UK and the USA. China and France too gave somewhat individual assurances in separate documents.
The memoranda, prohibited the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom and the United States from threatening or using military force or economic coercion against Ukraine, Belarus, and Kazakhstan, “except in self-defence or otherwise in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations”. The memorandum did accelerate the handing over of nuclear weapons.
Conclusion. Pakistan has always led a rather unstable existence ever since its independence. Its nuclear weapon status provides the proverbial edge, which does keep world powers and India on their toes. Pakistan has institutionalised systems in place to secure the nuclear assets. However, given the unstable internal security situation, which can deteriorate in an accelerated manner, and possibly weaken the command-and-control chain, and security of nuclear assets, it makes eminent sense to plan and put procedures in place to secure the nuclear assets by external agencies led by the ‘Three’. India must make it her business to ensure the safety of Pakistan’s nuclear business.
The report calls for adding nuclear warheads to existing submarine-launched ballistic missiles, building a new nuclear submarine-launched ballistic missile, and preparing to deploy new long-range Sentinel intercontinental ballistic missiles on road-mobile launchers.
The current U.S. strategic triad consisting of aging land-based missiles, missile submarines, and aerial bombers is “only marginally sufficient to meet today’s requirements” for deterring China and Russia,” the report said. “For tomorrow’s requirements, the deficiencies are even more striking. The United States should plan and prepare to deploy additional warheads and bombs from the reserve it has maintained for such a possibility.”
Unfortunately, the article doesn’t tell us how to stop a war between the US and China. It does mention the possibility of setting up the sort of “hot line” that existed between the US and the Soviet Union, but it’s hard to see how that would be decisive. There was no hot line 1962, when the US and Russia pulled back from the brink of nuclear war.
Rachman says that policymakers view the risk of war as being quite high:
Visiting Washington last week, it was striking how commonplace talk of war between the US and China has become. That discussion has been fed by loose-lipped statements from American generals musing about potential dates for the opening of hostilities.
Those comments, while unwise, did not spring from nowhere. They are a reflection of the broader discussion on China taking place in Washington — inside and outside government. Many influential people seem to think that a US-China war is not only possible but probable.
The rhetoric coming out of Beijing is also bellicose. Last month, Qin Gang, China’s foreign minister, said that “if the US side does not put on the brakes and continues down the wrong path . . . confrontation and conflict” between the two nations is inevitable.
I am also worried about the risk of war between the US and China. When thinking about this risk, it might be worth reviewing the situation in Europe, which seems equally dangerous. As far as I can tell, the US policy in Europe is roughly the following:
1. If Russia invades Estonia, we go to war with Russia.
2. If Russia invades Latvia, we go to war with Russia.
3. If Russia invades Lithuania, we go to war with Russia.
4. If Russia invades Ukraine, we supply Ukraine with weapons and intelligence.
A major war between two nuclear armed nations is a massive negative sum outcome. That sort of outcome is most likely to occur due to miscalculation. One way to reduce the risk of war is by making one’s intentions crystal clear, so that our adversaries know how we will respond if they act. Russia knows that we will defend Nato countries if they are attacked, and that’s why it doesn’t attack Nato countries.
It’s somewhat odd that the risk of war with China is currently seen as being higher than the risk of war with Russia, especially given the fact that Russia has a more powerful nuclear force than China and is led by a more reckless and militaristic leader. One possible factor is that our foreign policy in Asia is far more ambiguous than in Europe. Ambiguity can lead to miscalculation, which can have very negative effects.
In my view, clarity along the following lines would make war between the US and China much less likely than it is today, and much less likely than war between the US and Russia:
1. If China invades Japan, we go to war with China.
2. If China invades South Korea, we go to war with China.
3. If Russia China invades the Philippines (their main islands), we go to war with China.
4. If Russia China invades Taiwan, we supply Taiwan with weapons and intelligence.
[Yikes, there were typos in the original.]
In other words, replicate our successful European policy approach to avoiding a US war with Russia, as a way of avoiding war with China.
Of course there are other possible options, such as extending our defense umbrella to Taiwan. But whatever we decide to do, our policy must be crystal clear. The worst of all possible outcomes would be if the US intends to go to war with China over Taiwan, while China doesn’t believe the US intends to go to war over Taiwan. Remember the Gulf War of 1991?
Alternatively, suppose China believes that we’d go to war over Taiwan, but we have no intention of actually doing so. China might accompany an attack on Taiwan with a Pearl Harbor-type strike against US bases in Japan and Guam, triggering WWIII. All due to a misunderstanding. Not a likely outcome, but possible.
I don’t expect the US to follow my advice, and hence I see a non-trivial risk that miscalculation could lead to a nuclear war between the US and China during the late 2020s, which would be in no one’s interest. I hope I’m wrong.
The Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant is directly in the path of the Ukrainian counteroffensive, sitting on the south bank of the Dnieper River, which is currently occupied by Russia. The Russians have evacuated the surrounding countryside, and fortified the plant itself. There are sandbags and gun emplacements atop several of the reactors, soldiers outnumber the engineers there, and the area surrounding the plant has been heavily mined.
Ukraine’s defence ministry has warned that Russia plans to simulate a major accident at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power station, which is under the control of Russian forces, in a bid to thwart the expected counteroffensive by Ukraine to retake its territory captured by Moscow….“Russians are preparing massive provocation and imitation of the accident at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant in the nearest hours,” the Ukrainian defence ministry’s intelligence directorate said on Friday.
“They are planning to attack the territory of the ZNPP [Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant]. After that, they will announce the leakage of the radioactive substances,” the intelligence directorate said in a statement and later on social media channels.
This story has been reported in many news outlets around the world, with caveats that no evidence has been presented to back it up.
Meanwhile, the UN Security Council is meeting tomorrow in a special session, chaired by Switzerland, although Russia holds the chair this month.
The meeting is aimed at encouraging the parties involved to comply with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) nuclear safety principles in order to avoid a nuclear catastrophe at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, the Swiss foreign ministry said in a statement on Monday.
IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi is due to brief the council on the current situation and present the principles for ensuring safety on site.
The foreign ministry said Grossi had led efforts aimed at securing the protection of the plant during the conflict, “engaging in months of intense negotiations with both Ukraine and Russia to prevent a potentially severe nuclear accident”.
A lunchtime newsletter featuring political analysis on the stories driving the day.
Welcome to The Daily 202! Tell your friends to sign up here. On this day in 2009, President Barack Obama warned the U.N. General Assembly against “reflexive anti-Americanism.” Said Obama: “Those who used to chastise America for acting alone in the world cannot now stand by and wait for America to solve the world’s problems alone.”
The big idea
On Iran protests, Biden goes faster and farther than Obama
Women’s rights protests spreading like wildfire across Iran have presented President Biden with a familiar conundrum: Whether, how, and how much to support demonstrations in the Islamic Republic. And what to learn from Barack Obama’s reaction to similar unrest in 2009.
Back then, Republicans condemned what they characterized as a milquetoast U.S. response. In 2012, Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney wove denunciations of Obama’s caution into his broader criticisms of the incumbent’s management of foreign policy.
But already, the Biden response appears to have gone farther, faster. Senior officials from Biden on down have denounced the government crackdown on the movement, which was sparked by the death in police custody last week of a woman arrested for improperly covering her hair.
Mahsa Amini, 22, died Friday after being detained by the so-called “morality police.” Since then, women all over Iran have demonstrated, and videos of many of them cutting their hair or burning the traditional hijab headscarf in protest have raced across social media.
“Today, we stand with the brave citizens and the brave women of Iran who right now are demonstrating to secure their basic rights,” Biden said in his speech on Wednesday to world leaders attending the U.N. General Assembly.
On Thursday, the U.S. imposed sanctions on the morality police, calling them “responsible” for Amini’s death, as well as seven senior Iranian security officials, citing “abuse and violence against Iranian women and the violation of the rights of peaceful Iranian protestors.”
“With these changes, we are helping the Iranian people be better equipped to counter the government’s efforts to surveil and censor them,” said Deputy Secretary of the Treasury Wally Adeyemo. More steps like this are expected.
Top officials have condemned the crackdown and expressed support for the demonstrators, including Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen, Biden national security adviser Jake Sullivan and others. (One person who does not appear to have spoken out yet: Vice President Harris.)
A difference from 13 years ago
The Biden response — expressing support for the protesters in unflinching terms, condemning the government response, imposing sanctions — has outpaced the way the administration in which he served as vice president handled the so-called Green Revolution 13 years ago.
“Quite simply it’s good politics and policy,” Aaron David Miller, who advised administration of both parties on the Middle East for decades, told The Daily 202. “Given the hammering the Administration took politically for not responding aggressively enough to the 2009 protests, it didn’t want to be put in that position again.”
Then, the issue was a June 13 election that, authorities declared, had returned President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to power. Amid credible allegations of fraud, his rivals’ supporters took to the streets. His supporters staged counter-protests. And the government cracked down on the anti-Ahmadinejad crowds.
Obama wasn’t silent, but it wasn’t until June 23 — and after many calls to toughen his rhetoric — that he declared himself “appalled and outraged by the threats, the beatings, and imprisonments” which he (more importantly) directly and unmistakably tied to Iranian officials.
One recurring concern for Obama had been the degree to which American support might be counterproductive, giving Tehran room to blame demonstrations fed by anger at social repression and a terrible economy on an outside power that, after all, once helped overthrow an Iranian government.
“It is up to Iranians to make decisions about who Iran’s leaders will be,” he said in his first statement, June 15, adding that he wanted “to avoid the United States being the issue inside of Iran.” (Iran’s government still blamed “Western-backed rioters” for the violence.)
“Without mentioning the protests, Raisi said Iran ‘rejects the double standards’ of some governments on human rights. In particular, he mentioned Canada’s discovery of the graves of Native children who died in government-mandated schools after being removed from their families, and children who were ‘locked up in cages’ by the United States after crossing the U.S.-Mexico border.”
“The headscarf and other conservative dress, known as hijab, have been compulsory for women since Iran’s 1979 revolution. Raisi, a hard line cleric who assumed office last year, has called for strict enforcement of the dress codes. The guidance patrols have become increasingly assertive of late, with their distinctive green-striped vans featured in a series of videos that have gone viral online and provoked anger — including one from last month that appeared to show a detained woman being thrown from a speeding van.”
Regarding maintaining calm and order in South Asia, Pakistan’s nuclear weapons development is essential. Pakistan’s acquisition of nuclear weapons has drastically transformed the dynamics of the security environment in a region defined by historical tensions and wars between India and Pakistan. The nuclear arsenal of Pakistan helps to keep tranquility in South Asia. Pakistan has no belligerent intentions against any other country; hence, they help maintain placidity in the area.
Pakistan has nuclear weapons primarily to obviate any possible assault from India. Pakistan’s nuclear deterrent aims to avert its larger and conventionally superior neighbor from launching a military attack against Pakistan. India is deterred from taking moves that may lead to a full-scale confrontation due to the threat of devastating nuclear retaliation. Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal balances out India’s conventional military dominance, creating a more even playing field and reducing the probability of aggressive military action by India. The security situation is more stable since neither party can gain an overwhelming military advantage without triggering catastrophic repercussions.
Nuclear weapons provide a level of stability between India and Pakistan during heightened tensions or crises. Pakistan’s nuclear deterrence forces both nations to exercise strategic restraint and logical decision-making. It compels leaders to consider the consequences of their actions, making them less likely to make rash choices that could worsen the situation.
The world closely monitors the issue of nuclear weapons in South Asia. Increased international efforts have been made to foster conversation, mediation, and conflict resolution between India and Pakistan as the dangers of a nuclear confrontation in the region have been more widely recognized. The international community should make an effort to resolve long-standing issues between Pakistan and India, such as the Kashmir issue. By taking a stand and actively working towards a resolution, both countries would have fewer reasons to engage in conflict. With the support of the international community and other powerful nations, there is an increased incentive for the two countries to settle their differences amicably.
Nuclear weapons help maintain peace and security in South Asia, which is why Pakistan possesses them. Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program has deterred major conflicts and promoted a more peaceful environment in the region by providing a credible deterrent against potential aggression, maintaining a balance of power, controlling escalation, fostering crisis stability, attracting international mediation, and establishing nuclear stability. However, India and Pakistan must continue to engage in dialogue, implement confidence-building measures, and make diplomatic efforts to resolve their differences.
May 8 (Reuters) – Some 1,679 people, including 660 children, have been evacuated from areas near the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, a Moscow-installed official in the Russia-controlled parts of the Zaporizhzhia region of Ukraine said late on Sunday.
Ukraine is expected to start soon a much-anticipated counteroffensive to retake Russian-held territory, including in the Zaporizhzhia region.
“(The evacuees) have already been placed in the temporary accommodation centre for residents of the front-line territories of the Zaporizhzhia region in Berdiansk,” Yevgeny Balitsky, Russian-installed governor of the Russia-controlled part of Zaporizhzhia region, said on his Telegram messaging channel.
Berdiansk is a south-eastern Ukrainian port city on the coast of the Sea of Azov, which has been occupied by Russia since the early days of Moscow’s invasion on Ukraine in February 2022.
Reporting by Lidia Kelly in Melbourne; Editing by Sandra Maler
The comment came just days after the Belarusian leader confirmed the transfer of Russian nuclear weapons to his country. Putin has periodically hinted at a nuclear escalation since the February 2022 invasion of Ukraine, dramatically increasing tensions with the United States and the West.
“It’s very simple. You have to join the union between Belarus and Russia, and that’s it: There will be nuclear weapons for everyone,” Lukashenko said in a comment aired Sunday night on Russian state TV.
“I think it’s possible,” Lukashenko added, saying that he was expressing his own view. “We need to strategically understand that we have a unique chance to unite.”
Tokayev said at the forum of the Eurasian Economic Union that Belarus and Russia enjoy a close relationship where “even nuclear weapons are shared between the two.”
The Union State between Russia and Belarus was formed in 1999 and allows the two former Soviet republics to integrate economically, politically and militarily.
On Thursday, the Belarusian leader confirmed that Russia has moved on the plan to deploy tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus, first announced in March.
It comes amid escalating nuclear rhetoric from Putin as his war effort in Ukraine flounders. Russia has the largest stockpile of nuclear weapons in the world, which Putin said it will not hesitate to use if the country’s security or existence is threatened.
Belarus, which does not possess its own nuclear weapons after it transferred the stock it inherited from the Soviet era to Russia in the 1990s, is not officially a party to the war in Ukraine, although Moscow used its territory to launch the full-scale invasion last year.
Putin propped up Lukashenko’s authoritarian regime after violent protests nearly toppled “Europe’s last dictator” in 2020, deepening the country’s political and economic reliance on Russia.
Lukashenko confirmed that the movement of nuclear weapons had already begun on Thursday, without clarifying if they had already reached Belarusian soil, according to Belarusian state news agency Belta.
Meanwhile, defense ministers of the two countries, Sergei Shoigu and Viktor Khrenin, signed documents in Minsk last week, defining the procedure for keeping Russian nuclear weapons in Belarusian territory, the Russian Defense Ministry said.
Moscow has already handed over to Minsk the “Iskander” missile system, which can carry nuclear weapons, Shoigu said, and has assisted in converting some Belarusian aircraft for the possible nuclear weapon use.
The State Department denounced the alleged deployment Thursday, calling it “the latest example of irresponsible behavior” by Russia.