Save the Oil and the Wine: Revelation 6

Western Oil Companies Are Not Welcome In Iraq But Russian And Chinese Ones Are

By Simon Watkins – Apr 03, 2023, 6:00 PM CDT

Last week’s banning by the Baghdad-based Federal Government of Iraq (FGI) of oil sales made independently by the government of the semi-autonomous region of Kurdistan (KRG) in northern Iraq should be seen in the context of the Saudi Arabia-Iran relationship resumption deal done on 10 March. And that context is more easily explained if the deal is written not as the Saudi Arabia-Iran deal, but rather as the Saudi Arabia/OPEC-China/Russia/Shia Crescent of Power deal. The Shia Crescent of Power comprises most notably Iran, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen. Turkey (25 percent Shia and still furious at not being accepted fully into the European Union) is on the periphery of this group. The last part of the jigsaw was revealed exclusively by just after the Saudi Arabia-Iran deal in a comment made by a very high-ranking official from the Kremlin that: “By keeping the West out of energy deals in Iraq – and closer to the new Iran-Saudi axis – the end of Western hegemony in the Middle East will become the decisive chapter in the West’s final demise.” Before the Saudi Arabia-Iran deal, everything the China-Russia axis had been doing in the Middle East had been to manoeuvre itself into a better position to usurp the influence of the U.S. and its allies in the oil and natural gas centre of the world, the Middle East. After the Saudi Arabia-Iran deal, China and Russia are where they want to be, and it is gloves off time. In terms of building up to this moment – that will see all powers of the northern region of Kurdistan gradually subsumed into those of the south to create one unified country again, governed out of Baghdad – Russia was the one who laid down the operational strategy in northern Iraq that was then replicated by China in southern Iraq a little later. More specifically, as analysed in depth in my latest book on the global oil markets, after the overwhelming vote in Iraqi Kurdistan in September 2017 for an independent Kurdish state there were huge protests when the vote was ignored by Baghdad. These were violently subdued by forces from Iran and Turkey (both of which have their own sizeable Kurdish populations) and southern Iraq, at which point of chaos Russia moved in to take over Iraqi Kurdistan’s oil sector. It achieved this by three methods. First, it provided the KRG with US$1.5 billion in financing through forward oil sales payable in the next three to five years. Second, it took an 80 percent working interest in five potentially major oil blocks in the region. And third, it established a 60 percent ownership of the vital KRG oil pipeline running into Turkey through a US$1.8 billion investment to increase its capacity to one million barrels per day (bpd). 

Related: Citi Doesn’t See $100 Oil Despite Shock OPEC+ Cuts

It was then Russia that fomented discord between the KRG in the north and the FGI government in the south, principally by exploiting existing discontent on both sides with the budget payments-for-oil deal that had been agreed between north and south Iraq in 2014. This deal – which forms the basis for last week’s banning of independent oil sales from Iraqi Kurdistan – was that the KRG would export up to 550,000 barrels per day (bpd) of oil from the Kurdistan oilfields and Kirkuk via the FGI’s Baghdad-based State Organization for Marketing of Oil (SOMO) in the south. In return, Baghdad would send 17 percent of the federal budget (after sovereign expenses) – around US$500 million at that time – per month in budget payments to the Kurds. This deal never worked properly, and Russia from 2017 sought to exacerbate this to create much greater discord between north and south Iraq through several methods also analysed in depth in my latest book on the global oil markets

At the end of 2020/beginning of 2021, China decided to use the same strategy in southern Iraq that Russia had used in the northern Kurdistan region. The Russians had used a massive flow of financing, through a huge prepayment deal for oil, as the first step in effectively taking control of the Iraqi Kurdistan oil industry. Mirroring this, China’s Zhenhua Oil signed a US$2 billion five–year prepayment oil supply deal with the FGI in Baghdad. This development was extremely troubling for Washington for three key reasons. First, the deal was obviously straight out of the playbook that Russia had used to gain control over the Iraqi Kurdistan oil industry in 2017, as analysed above. Second, it was clear Russia and China were working closely together in Iraq in a manner not seen before there. Specifically,  a key reason why Baghdad had so welcomed China into its southern oil and gas fields was because China had said that it might be able to ease tensions over the budget payments-for-oil deal by liaising with Russia. But it had been Russia since 2017 that had been firing up the Kurds to inflame these tensions. The third reason was that it was that in addition to the military elements that Russia had brought to its activities in the Iraq Kurdistan region, the huge new Chinese deal in the south was being done by Zhenhua Oil, an arm of China’s huge defence contractor Norinco.


For a long time, it suited China’s and Russia’s purposes to keep the north and the south of Iraq in a constant state of economic conflict centred on the 2014 budget payments-for-oil deal, as it was unwinnable from a legal perspective and could therefore be dragged out forever. According to the KRG, it has authority under Articles 112 and 115 of the Iraq Constitution to manage oil and gas in the Kurdistan Region extracted from fields that were not in production in 2005 – the year that the Constitution was adopted by referendum. The KRG also maintains that Article 115 states: “All powers not stipulated in the exclusive powers of the federal government belong to the authorities of the regions and governorates that are not organised in a region.” As such, the KRG argues that as relevant powers are not otherwise stipulated in the Constitution, it has the authority to sell and receive revenue from its oil and gas exports. However, the FGI in Baghdad and SOMO argue that under Article 111 of the Constitution oil and gas are under the ownership of all the people of Iraq in all the regions and governorates. Consequently, they believe that all oil and gas developed across all of Iraq should be sold through official channels of the central Federal Government of Iraq in Baghdad.

Now, though, with Saudi Arabia now firmly added to its sphere of influence after years of building up the relationship with Riyadh, as also analysed in depth in my latest book on the global oil markets, the China-Russia axis feels sufficiently emboldened to signal its true purpose: it is taking full control of the Middle East. Any choice cuts it wants from the best oil and gas reserves from anywhere in the region – across all countries with an allegiance to Sunni Islam leader Saudi Arabia or to Shia Islam leader Iran, which together is every country – are to be offered to Chinese and Russian companies in the first instance. There is no problem shipping or selling any of the oil and gas that China itself does not want, as sanctions currently are only on Iran, not Iraq, and these can easily be circumvented anyway, through methods also analysed in depth in my latest book on the global oil markets. 

The ultimate aim of China is as it has been since it began its economic growth spurt in the 1990s – to overtake the U.S. as the world’s largest economy by nominal GDP by 2030 at the latest – despite already being the world’s largest economy by purchasing power parity, the largest manufacturing economy and the largest trading nation. At around the same time, China needs to ensure that it has all the energy resources it needs to withstand any sanctions that may be imposed should it make good on President Xi’s instructions to the Chinese military to be ready to invade Taiwan by 2027. Helpfully as well from its perspective, having watched Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, China knows what not to do. Whether this particular ban of independent sales by Iraqi Kurdistan remains in place or not, China and Russia have laid down the marker that whatever happens now across all of Iraq will only happen with their blessing.

By Simon Watkins for

2.5 tons of uranium missing from the Libyan Nuclear Horn: Daniel 9

UN nuclear watchdog: 2.5 tons of uranium missing in Libya

Some 2.5 tons of natural uranium stored in a site in war-torn Libya have gone missing


March 16, 2023, 1:48 AM

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Some 2.5 tons of natural uranium stored in a site in war-torn Libya have gone missing, the United Nations nuclear watchdog said Thursday, raising safety and proliferation concerns.

However, forces allied to a warlord battling the Libyan government based in the capital of Tripoli claimed on Thursday night that they recovered the material. U.N. inspectors said they were trying to confirm that.

Natural uranium cannot immediately be used for energy production or bomb fuel, as the enrichment process typically requires the metal to be converted into a gas, then later spun in centrifuges to reach the levels needed.

But each ton of natural uranium — if obtained by a group with the technological means and resources — can be refined to 5.6 kilograms (12 pounds) of weapons-grade material over time, experts say. That makes finding the missing metal important for nonproliferation experts.

In a statement, the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency said its director-general, Rafael Mariano Grossi, informed member states Wednesday about the missing uranium.

The IAEA statement remained tightlipped though on details.

On Tuesday, “agency safeguards inspectors found that 10 drums containing approximately 2.5 tons of natural uranium in the form of uranium ore concentrate were not present as previously declared at a location in the state of Libya,” the IAEA said. “Further activities will be conducted by the agency to clarify the circumstances of the removal of the nuclear material and its current location.”

The IAEA did not identify the site, nor did it respond to questions about it from The Associated Press.

Reuters first reported on the IAEA warning about the missing Libyan uranium, saying the IAEA told members reaching the site that’s not under government control required “complex logistics.”

One such declared site is Sabha, some 660 kilometers (410 miles) southeast of Tripoli, in the country’s lawless southern reaches of the Sahara Desert. Libya’s late dictator Moammar Gadhafi stored thousands of barrels of so-called yellowcake uranium for a once-planned uranium conversion facility that was never built in his decadeslong secret weapons program.

Estimates put the Libyan stockpile at some 1,000 metric tons of yellowcake uranium under Gadhafi, who declared his nascent nuclear weapons program to the world in 2003 after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

But the 2011 Arab Spring saw rebels topple Gadhafi and ultimately kill him. Sabha grew increasingly lawless, with African migrants crossing Libya, saying some had been sold as slaves in the city, the U.N. reported.

In recent years, Sabha largely has been under the control of the self-styled Libyan National Army, headed by Khalifa Hifter. On Thursday night, Hifter’s forces issued a statement claiming they had recovered the material.

They published a video showing a man in a disposable white suit and respirator in the desert, counting off what appeared to be 18 metal drums. Some of the blue-painted drums bore what appeared to be batch numbers. News footage from 2011 of the facility showed similar drums.

However, the man did not open the drums in the footage.

Hifter’s forces claimed they found the drums some 5 kilometers (3 miles) south of the facility. They tried to accuse Chadian separatist fighters, who operate in the region, of stealing the drums after mistaking them for weapons and ammunition. Hifter’s forces provided no evidence for the accusation.

The video footage resembled features of the desert surrounding the uranium stockpile site, though the AP could not immediately locate it.

Hifter’s forces also claimed the storage site had been found with an “opening” on its side. They claimed that a top IAEA official informed them of the “opening” nearly a week earlier than the agency described discovering the missing uranium. The conflicting timelines could not be immediately reconciled.

Hifter’s forces also asserted the IAEA failed to provide protective equipment and security for the site, though countries with nuclear material themselves bear responsibility for those sites. They also didn’t explain how the site had been secured — or if it was currently.

Asked about the claim by Hifter’s forces, the IAEA said: “We are aware of media reports that the material has been found. The agency is actively working to verify them.”

While inspectors removed the last of the enriched uranium from Libya in 2009, the yellowcake remained behind, with the U.N. in 2013 estimating some 6,400 barrels of it were stored at Sabha. American officials had worried Iran could try to purchase the uranium from Libya, something Gadhafi’s top civilian nuclear official tried to reassure the United States about, according to a 2009 diplomatic cable published by WikiLeaks.

“Stressing that Libya viewed the question as primarily a commercial one, (the official) noted that prices for uranium yellowcake on the world market had been increasing, and that Libya wanted to maximize its profit by properly timing the sale of its stockpile,” then-Ambassador Gene A. Cretz wrote.

Will South Korean nuclear weapons enhance or erode Northeast Asia’s security? Daniel 7

Would South Korean nuclear weapons enhance or erode Northeast Asia’s security?


South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol recently raised eyebrows in Washington when he said his country might consider developing its own nuclear deterrent, rather than relying exclusively on America for nuclear protection.

U.S. officials scrambled to assure Seoul officials there is no need to develop their own nuclear weapons since the U.S.-Republic of Korea Mutual Defense Treaty encompasses all threats to its security, including a nuclear attack.  

To reinforce the point, Washington and Seoul announced last week they will hold a tabletop exercise this month to develop “response options to deal with the DPRK [North Korean] nuclear threat.”  

America’s “extended deterrence” means that U.S. nuclear weapons could be used to defend South Korea if such weapons were ever used against it, and they already serve a deterrent purpose in preventing such a scenario in the first place.

But recent public opinion polls show that, strong as U.S.-ROK security relations seem, many South Koreans harbor doubts that Washington would actually enter a nuclear war and risk a calamitous nuclear attack on U.S. forces or assets in the region, or even on the American homeland, all just to defend South Korea.

In a poll last year, 71 percent of South Koreans supported developing an indigenous nuclear capability. Reflecting that reality, retired Lt. Gen. In-Bum Chun, former commander of the Republic of Korea Special Warfare Command, said, “Right now we have the United States that provides us with a nuclear deterrent. But we are more concerned than we used to be. Korean people are looking for answers.” 

The increased South Korean angst partly reflects Pyongyang’s technological progress in its nuclear and missile programs, greatly facilitated by China’s economic and diplomatic support — despite Beijing’s, and Henry Kissinger’s, protestations that it shares the West’s concerns about a nuclear North Korea. 

Confidence in the strength of the U.S. commitment also has been undermined by the actions and inaction of the three most recent American administrations.

First was the Obama-Biden failure to confront China on its broken promise not to militarize its artificial islands in the South China Sea, or its breach of a U.S.-mediated agreement on the Spratly Islands dispute with the Philippines, a U.S. ally. (Nor did President Obama act against Russia over its intervention in Syria to protect Bashar al-Assad from Obama’s “red line”or its 2014 invasion of eastern Ukraine and Crimea.) 

The credibility of the American commitment to South Korea suffered a direct blow with former President Trump’s harsh disparagement of the U.S.-ROK alliance and Seoul’s reliability as an ally. He questioned its willingness to bear a fair share of the defense burden, accusing it essentially of free-loading off the U.S. security blanket — the same charge he made against Japan and members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. His unbridled criticism went so far as to threaten termination of the U.S.-ROK alliance as an unfair and unnecessary imposition on the United States.

The Biden administration has added to South Korean doubts about U.S. resolve. In addition to sharing the Obama-Biden legacy on foreign policy, which he led as Obama’s vice president, President Biden added his calamitous troop withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2021. That was followed by his administration’s failure to deter Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine, despite touting that it knew Russia’s plans well in advance.  

Nor has Biden been willing either to intervene directly or to provide Ukraine with the advanced weapons systems it requires, because Vladimir Putin might see it as escalation that could precipitate World War III.  

Finally, there is the matter of Taiwan, under direct and escalating threat from China, and the deepening economic and political relationship between Taiwan and the U.S. that started under the Trump administration and has continued under Biden.

Despite Biden’s episodic expressions of intention to defend the island against Chinese aggression, he, like his predecessors, refuses to state a declarative U.S. commitment to defend Taiwan, preferring to retain the policy of strategic ambiguity.

Given that spotty record of U.S. steadfastness on behalf of allies and security partners, it is not surprising that some South Koreans see potential leaks in Washington’s nuclear umbrella and wish to add their own nuclear deterrent.  

As Jenny Town, a senior fellow at the Stimson Center and director of Stimson’s 38 North Program, recently observed, “Given all of the advancements that North Korea has made in their nuclear weapons program, and changes in the geopolitical environment, there’s been a lot more anxiety in South Korea about how they deal with a nuclear North Korea — and what the U.S. would actually do.”

At a recent Stimson conference on “assessing the risks” of a South Korea nuclear weapons program, experts coalesced around the idea that the country would be less safe with its own nukes. The concern was expressed that a competition between two nuclear powers on the Korean Peninsula would increase the danger of war because of the risk of escalation from the use of conventional to nuclear weapons. The experience of the U.S.-Soviet confrontation during the Cold War runs counter to that fear, and arguably reduced the prospect of conventional war precisely because of the danger of nuclear escalation.

It was also asserted that South Korea’s acquisition of nuclear weapons would fracture the U.S.-ROK alliance, though why that would happen is not self-evident. While Washington would not be happy that its advice was spurned, the importance of South Korea to regional stability and its value as a loyal ally would hardly be diminished because it became a nuclear power.

The experts correctly noted that South Korea’s withdrawal from the Non-Proliferation Treaty would further weaken the NPT, but the question is whether that would be worse than nuclear weapons on the Korean Peninsula being wielded only by an aggressive North Korea, supported by China, its aggressive nuclear-armed ally.School meal nutrition update 2.0: How to get it rightTo help Iranians, Biden needs to pressure America’s allies

Kissinger testified on North Korea’s nuclear program before the Senate Armed Services Committee in January 2018: “[I]f North Korea could keep its capability in the face of opposition by China and the United States … South Korea and Japan will want nuclear weapons too, and then we are living in a new world … that will require new thinking.”

Kissinger’s premise of Chinese “opposition” to North Korea’s nuclear program is unfounded. But we are now approaching that “new world” he predicted and new thinking is indeed in order.

Joseph Bosco served as China country director for the secretary of Defense from 2005 to 2006 and as Asia-Pacific director of humanitarian assistance and disaster relief from 2009 to 2010. He served in the Pentagon when Vladimir Putin invaded Georgia and was involved in Department of Defense discussions about the U.S. response. Follow him on Twitter @BoscoJosephA.

Hamas vows to trample outside the Temple Walls: Revelation 11

Palestinian gunmen and civilians gather around an ambulance following a raid by Israeli troops on the West Bank's Jenin refugee camp, January 26, 2023. (JAAFAR ASHTIYEH / AFP)

Hamas vows to respond ‘soon’; Islamic Jihad says it’s ready for ‘next confrontation’

By AFPToday, 2:55 pm

Islamic Jihad spokesman Tariq Salmi vows that “the resistance is everywhere and ready and willing for the next confrontation,” after nine Palestinians, including several terrorists linked to the group, were killed during an IDF raid in Jenin earlier today.

The IDF said it thwarted a major imminent attack being planned by the group.

Saleh al-Arouri, deputy leader of Hamas, vows that Israel “will pay the price for the Jenin massacre.”

“Our resistance will not break, and our response will come soon.”

Stakes rise as the Iranian Horn Nukes Up: Daniel 8

FILE - International Atomic Energy Agency Director-General Rafael Mariano Grossi gives a news conference at the Vienna Airport upon returning from Tehran, Iran, in Vienna, Austria, March 5, 2022. Iran has enough highly enriched uranium to build "several" nuclear weapons if it chooses, the United Nations' top nuclear official is now warning. But diplomatic efforts aimed at again limiting its atomic program seem more unlikely than ever before as Tehran arms Russia in its war on Ukraine and as unrest shakes the Islamic Republic. (AP Photo/Lisa Leutner, File)

Analysis: Stakes rise as Iran can fuel ‘several’ atom bombs

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Iran has enough highly enriched uranium to build “several” nuclear weapons if it chooses, the United Nations’ top nuclear official is now warning. But diplomatic efforts aimed at again limiting its atomic program seem more unlikely than ever before as Tehran arms Russia in its war on Ukraine and as unrest shakes the Islamic Republic. 

The warning from Rafael Mariano Grossi of the International Atomic Energy Agency, in response to questions from European lawmakers this week, shows just how high the stakes have become over Iran’s nuclear program. Even at the height of previous tensions between the West and Iran under hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad before the 2015 nuclear deal, Iran never enriched uranium as high as it does now. 

For months, nonproliferation experts have suggested Iran had enough uranium enriched up to 60% to build at least one nuclear weapon — though Tehran long has insisted its program is for peaceful purposes. While offering a caveat on Tuesday that “we need to be extremely careful” in describing Iran’s program, Grossi bluntly acknowledged just how large Tehran’s high-enriched uranium stockpile had grown. 

“One thing is true: They have amassed enough nuclear material for several nuclear weapons, not one at this point,” Grossi said. 

The Argentine diplomat then referred to Benjamin Netanyahu’s famous 2012 speech to the United Nations, in which the Israeli prime minister held up a placard of a cartoon-style bomb with a burning wick and drew a red line on it to urge the world to not allow Tehran’s program to highly enrich uranium. While the 2015 nuclear deal drastically reduced Iran’s uranium stockpile and capped its enrichment to 3.67%, Netanyahu successfully lobbied then-President Donald Trump to withdraw from the accord and set up the current tensions.

“You remember there was to be this issue of the breakthrough and Mr. Netanyahu drawing things at the U.N. and putting lines — well, that is long past. They have 70 kilograms (155 pounds) of uranium enriched at 60%. … The amount is there,” Grossi said. “That doesn’t mean they have a nuclear weapon. So they haven’t proliferated yet.” 

But the danger remains. Analysts point to what happened with North Korea, which had reached a 1994 deal with the U.S. to abandon its nuclear weapons program. The deal fell apart in 2002. By 2005 and wary of U.S. intentions after its invasion of Iraq, Pyongyang announced it had built nuclear weapons. Today, North Korea has ballistic missiles designed to carry nuclear warheads that are capable of reaching the U.S.

Iranian diplomats for years have pointed to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s preachings as a binding fatwa, or religious edict, that Iran wouldn’t seek an atomic bomb. However, Iranian officials in recent months have begun openly talking about the prospect of building nuclear weapons.

Talks between Iran and the West ended in August with a “final text” of a roadmap on restoring the 2015 deal that Iran until today hasn’t accepted. 

Iran’s mission to the U.N., responding to questions about Grossi’s remarks, insisted in comments to The Associated Press on Thursday that Tehran “is prepared to stick to its commitments within the framework of the (deal) provided the other parties do the same.”

“The Iranian nuclear program has never been about making nuclear weapons and enriching has nothing to do with deviating from it,” the mission said, despite Iran accelerating its enrichment after the deal’s collapse.

Iranian state television separately quoted Mohammad Eslami, the head of the country’s civilian nuclear program, as saying Tehran would welcome a visit by Grossi to the country.

As Iran’s rial currency plunges further to historic lows against the dollar amid its crises, Iranian officials including Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian also have made unsupported claims about American officials agreeing to their demands or frozen money abroad being released. 

At the State Department, the denials about Iran’s claims have grown more and more pointed. 

“We’ve heard a number of statements from the Iranian foreign minister that are dubious if not outright lies, so I would just keep that broader context in mind when you point to statements from the Iranian foreign minister,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price said Monday in a response to a question. 

Price and others in President Joe Biden’s administration say any future talks with Iran remain off the table as Tehran cracks down on the months-long protests after the death of Mahsa Amini, a young woman detained in September by the country’s morality police. At least 527 people have been killed and over 19,500 arrested amid the unrest, according to Human Rights Activists in Iran, a group monitoring the protests.

Another part of the Americans’ exasperation — and increasingly of the Europeans as well — comes from Iran arming Russia with the bomb-carrying drones that repeatedly have targeted power plants and civilian targets across Ukraine. It remains unclear what Tehran, which has a strained history with Moscow, expects to get for supplying Russia with arms. One Iranian lawmaker has suggested the Islamic Republic could get Sukhoi Su-35 fighter jets to replace its aging fleeting comprised primarily of pre-1979 American warplanes, though such a deal hasn’t been confirmed. 

Such fighter jets would provide a key air defense for Iran, particularly as its nuclear sites could increasingly be eyed. Israel, which has carried out strikes to halt nuclear programs in Iraq and Syria, has warned it will not allow Iran to obtain a nuclear bomb. 

The U.S. and Israel also launched their largest-ever joint air, land and sea exercise this week with over 140 warplanes, an aircraft carrier group and nearly 8,000 troops called Juniper Oak. The Pentagon described the drill as “not meant to be oriented around any single adversary or threat.” However, it comes amid the heightened tensions with Iran and includes aerial refueling, targeting and suppressing enemy air defenses — capabilities that would be crucial in conducting airstrikes. 

For now, Grossi said there was “almost no diplomatic activity” over trying to restore the Iran nuclear deal, an agreement he now describes as “an empty shell.” But he still urged more diplomacy as Tehran still would need to design and test any possible nuclear weapon.

“We shouldn’t give up,” he said. 


EDITOR’S NOTE — Jon Gambrell, the news director for the Gulf and Iran for The Associated Press, has reported from each of the Gulf Cooperation Council countries, Iran and other locations across the world since joining the AP in 2006. Follow him on Twitter at

The Real Risk of Nuclear War: Revelation 16

Just how worried should you be about nuclear war? Biden says very.

The president and the Doomsday Clock.

Jonathan GuyerOctober 7, 2022 5:22 pm

President Joe Biden traveled to New York on Thursday for an otherwise ordinary Democratic fundraiser.

Except that Biden’s remarks at the private event were a big deal.

The president issued a dire warning about the threat of nuclear war. “We have not faced the prospect of Armageddon since Kennedy and the Cuban missile crisis,” he said. It was a signal of the severity of the moment the world is in amid Russia’s war with Ukraine.

As Biden explained, “We’ve got a guy” — Russian President Vladimir Putin — “I know fairly well. He’s not joking when he talks about potential use of tactical nuclear weapons.” Putin said several times last month he would use “all weapon systems available” to Russia if its “territorial integrity” was violated, and he said he wasn’t bluffing.

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists warned even before Russia’s invasion that the globe sits “at doom’s doorstep.” The setting of its Doomsday Clock sits at 100 seconds to midnight, the most ominous position of the dial since its creation in 1947.

The nuclear experts I spoke with agree that Biden’s comments were, without a doubt, attention-grabbing. There’s decidedly less consensus on whether they were helpful or alarmist.

“It’s sort of the crazy stuff we used to talk about during the 1970s and ’80s,” Hans Kristensen, a researcher with the Federation of American Scientists, told me. “It’s pretty insane that three decades after the end of the Cold War, we still have to entertain these kind of thoughts.”

While worries about nuclear war have been present since Moscow invaded Ukraine nearly eight months ago, what’s different now is just how tangible the threat is compared to any point since the end of the Cold War. Between Putin’s menacing comments, Russia’s illegal annexation of Ukrainian territory even as Ukraine advances, and ever more US support for Ukraine, the danger is concrete enough that Biden is unnerved.

What Biden is telling us

Putin is causing the threat right now. His decision to illegally annex four territories in eastern Ukraine in September raises questionsas to how Putin, in his desperation, will treat these contested regions. Fears persist about whether he’d be willing to use a small nuclear weapon over those territories or elsewhere.

But Biden’s words, too, have power.

Nuclear experts agree that Biden’s statement was accurate, but there is not consensus as to whether Biden’s remarks were the right thing to have said aloud.

Biden was “deeply reassuring” by expressing the severity of what’s happening, says James Acton, a nuclear expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. “I think this gives you an idea about where his mind is at. He literally is the president of a country with hundreds of millions of people living in it, during an actual honest-to-god nuclear crisis,” he said.

For Kristensen, however, “presidential statements become mileposts that contribute to the escalation of a crisis.” (White House officials clarified that nothing had changed to prompt Biden’s comment.)

Nevertheless, Biden’s claims may play into Putin’s power. “Putin is looking at this and he’s saying, ‘Well, wow, the US president, he thinks I’m actually going to do this, that means I have a card to play,’” Kristensen told me.

He also emphasized that the Cuban missile crisis was a true hair-trigger scenario. Today US intelligence agencies report that, despite Putin’s rhetoric, it doesn’t appear that Russia has mobilized the parts of its nuclear arsenal that would be used for a smaller strike on the Ukrainian battlefield. So while it’s appropriate to highlight the ongoing danger, Kristensen said that we’re not yet in a direct Russian-US nuclear standoff. By comparing it to the emergency situation of the Cuban missile crisis, where both US and Soviet nuclear arms were loaded, Biden “has gone a bit over the top here.”

The small cabal of nuclear watchers has been warning of the growing nuclear peril even before the current Russia-Ukraine war, among them Lynn Rusten, who served as a senior arms control official in the State Department during the Obama administration and now works at the Nuclear Threat Initiative.

Rusten thinks that Biden’s warning was warranted. “The Biden administration has been extremely restrained and constrained in how it has handled Russia’s saber-rattling since the beginning of this crisis,” she told me. “He said what we know to be true. And it just makes it clear that it’s important for leaders to find a way out of this.”

The scene of the comments shouldn’t be lost on us. Biden was speaking at the home of James Murdoch, who in addition to being the son of media magnate and Republican booster Rupert is also a major investor in the influential military contractor Rebellion Defense. Murdoch the younger is also a former board member of the TV network Fox, where Tucker Carlson and others have urged appeasement with Russia and limiting US involvement in Ukraine.

Diplomacy is the only way out

Beyond the alarming assessment, Biden said something rather remarkable: He noted the urgency of seeing Russia’s war of aggression from Putin’s perspective.

“We are trying to figure out: What is Putin’s off-ramp? Where does he find a way out?” Biden said. “Where does he find himself where he does not only lose face but significant power?”

Inherent in Biden’s comment is that engaging with the Russian government is crucial to avoiding a worst-case scenario.

“We’ve gotten to the point where we’re starting to treat diplomacy like it’s a reward for good behavior, instead of a tool that you use with your adversaries and enemies,” Rusten told me. “That’s pretty risky. Because I think if you don’t have these channels of communication, I think it’s a lot easier to dehumanize” the adversary than to engage diplomatically with them.

The incredibly challenging task of arms control is crucial for global stability. Biden ought to remind Americans that his predecessor, former President Donald Trump, recklessly withdrew from the three-decade-old Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty. That accord set hard-won limits on Russian and US missiles.

Still, it’s worth noting that Russia is still some steps away from readying its unconventional arms.

The Kremlin keeps its weapons separately from the systems that would launch them into oblivion, according to Pavel Podvig, an independent researcher who studies Russian nuclear forces. Still, the risk is serious. To Podvig, what’s missing from the US conversation is restraint: too many instant-experts are saying that if Russia uses a nuclear weapon in Ukraine, the US needs to be tough by responding to Russia perhaps with a small nuclear weapon. “My take is that you just don’t go there, because that’s not worth it. There would have to be a response, of course, but it would have to be along the lines of the total isolation” of Russia.

White House spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre said today, “We have not seen any reason to adjust our own nuclear posture, nor do we have indications they are preparing to use them.” And the US has reportedly back-channeled to Russiaabout the hazardous weight of Putin’s threats. Dialogue like that is key.

As Rusten put it, “We may all have a lot of divergence, but arguably we still have a mutual interest in not blowing each other and the world up with nuclear weapons.”

Signs to watch for: Revelation 16

Signs to watch for if US believes a Russian nuclear attack on Ukraine is imminent

October 07, 2022 01:55 PM

Reflecting the growing concern that Russian President Vladimir Putin may order a limited nuclear attack on Ukraine, the United States and its allies are escalating an already significant standing effort to monitor Russia’s nuclear forces.

At least three Navy attack submarines are operating in the Atlantic Ocean area, their primary mission being to track and sink Russian ballistic missile submarines. Another U.S. attack submarine is berthed at a British naval base in Scotland. U.S. and British signal intelligence aircraft are expanding their Ukraine collection efforts to include Belarus and Kaliningrad. Other more boutique U.S. military capabilities are monitoring Kaliningrad for the same reason. U.S. satellites are almost certainly expanding their monitoring of Russian nuclear forces and storage sites. But partly due to the ground intelligence efforts of NATO allies in Eastern Europe, the U.S. has good visibility into Russia’s nuclear weapons posture. Britain’s GCHQ signal intelligence service also has exceptional insight into the Russian military command.

Nevertheless, concern in the Pentagon and intelligence community is greater than commonly understood. On Thursday, albeit in the odd setting of a Democratic Party fundraiser, President Joe Biden warned that “we have not faced the prospect of Armageddon since Kennedy and the Cuban missile crisis. … [Putin] is not joking when he talks about potential use of tactical nuclear weapons or biological or chemical weapons because his military is, you might say, significantly underperforming.” 

Considering, however, that most nuclear weapons-related intelligence is highly classified, what signals might we see if the U.S. government believes a Russian nuclear strike appears imminent? 

First off, watch the political space. Putin would want to leverage the threat of any nuclear strike to the maximum before actually using a nuclear weapon. Paying close attention to his increasingly hostile rhetoric would thus be important. But we would also see urgent statements from Biden and other world leaders warning of the grave consequences Russia would face if it used nuclear weapons. They would warn Russian commanders and nuclear forces personnel that following any such orders would mean their own personal liability. This narrative effort would seek to increase Putin’s fear that an order to use nuclear weapons might instead result in a palace coup by his own military.

The West would likely threaten a full embargo of the Russian economy. Biden and a number of other allied leaders, though probably not all, might also warn of a U.S. military response. Then there’s Xi Jinping’s China. China might be Putin’s most valuable partner, but it’s desperate to avoid a Russian nuclear strike. Xi knows it would greatly undermine China’s already fraying credibility with the European Union, in particular. Beijing’s public warnings to Moscow would be a bad sign.

We would also expect to see visible signals from the military’s Strategic Command. The so-called “doomsday” airborne nuclear command and control aircraft would escalate their training and readiness activity (this has not yet happened). Alongside the two U.S. ballistic missile submarines that always operate in the Atlantic/Arctic, we might see additional surge deployments from Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay, Georgia. Any new deployment of B-2 bombers and the most advanced WC-135R “nuke sniffing” aircraft to Britain would demand attention. Top line: All of these capabilities exist to defeat Russia in a nuclear war. But, considering the Biden administration’s hesitant nuclear posture, related deployments might not occur until a Russian strike appeared imminent.

Talking of imminence, if the U.S. believed that a Russian nuclear strike was impending, continuity of government plans would take effect. Put simply, it would not be a good sign if Vice President Kamala Harris and senior congressional leaders canceled their public schedules and moved off to a bunker. Biden would likely remain at the White House in order to project calm. 

Let’s hope Putin or his commanders see sense.

Our Doomsday Moves Closer to Zero

The Doomsday Clock, created by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, reads 100 seconds to midnight.
The Doomsday Clock, created by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, reads 100 seconds to midnight in January 2020. (Eva Hambach/AFP via Getty Images)

Nuclear threats and what they mean for the Doomsday Clock

Thu, October 6, 2022, 8:22 AM

LONDON — In January, the leaders of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists announced, for the third year in a row, that the world was at “doom’s doorstep.” The group declared that the Doomsday Clock stood at 100 seconds to midnight — the closest the world has ever been to catastrophe since the clock was created in 1947.

But that was more than eight months ago, before Russia invaded Ukraine and before North Korea kick-started its latest provocative series of ballistic missile testing. In the past two weeks, North Korea has conducted six such launches.

“As far as the Doomsday Clock goes, it is not something that reacts to every dangerous incident or even a positive incident that happens,” Sharon Squassoni, the co-chair of the bulletin’s Science and Security Board, told Yahoo News. “It’s not just all nuclear. But certainly, there have been some really worrying developments in the last year, and most of them have to do with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.”

On Tuesday, one of the intermediate-range ballistic missiles launched by North Korea flew over northern Japan, causing widespread panic among residents who awoke to sirens and warning messages. It was the first such missile to be launched over Japan in five years, prompting the U.S. to call a U.N. Security Council meeting.

In response, the U.S. and South Korea ran joint military drills in the region, during which a South Korean ballistic missile malfunctioned in a live-fire drill. South Korea’s military apologized the next day. Seoul officials said the Hyunmoo-2 missile carried a warhead but did not explode when it crashed. They also confirmed were no casualties.

A screen in Tokyo shows a news report about North Korea's firing of a ballistic missile over Japan.
A screen in Tokyo shows a news report on Tuesday about North Korea’s firing of a ballistic missile over Japan. (Issei Kato/Reuters)

In retaliation for the U.S. “escalating the military tensions on the Korean Peninsula,” Pyongyang on Thursday fired two short-range ballistic missiles. It came just one month after North Korea passed a law declaring itself a nuclear weapons state, a move that leader Kim Jong Un called “irreversible.”

But Squassoni said, “Clearly the North Koreans are upset about the resumption of exercises by the U.S. and the Republic of Korea, but that is not in the same category as what is happening with Russia and Ukraine.”

Meanwhile, one of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s allies, Dmitry Medvedev, renewed nuclear threats last week. Posting to Telegram, he saidWestern countries wouldn’t intervene even if “Russia is forced to use the most fearsome weapon against the Ukrainian regime.”

Russia has the world’s largest nuclear arsenal, which includes new hypersonic missiles as well as smaller tactical nuclear weapons. Another Putin backer, Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, said Russia should consider using a low-yield nuclear weapon in Ukraine.

A Russian rocket launcher, with the letter Z painted on its door, fires at Ukrainian troops.
A photo released by the Russian Defense Ministry Press Service on Tuesday shows a Russian rocket launcher firing at Ukrainian troops at an undisclosed location. (Russian Defense Ministry Press Service photo via AP)

“I think it’s different than in the past, because Russia seems hellbent with some of the territories from Ukraine,” Squassoni told Yahoo News. “This is quite a strategic vision of Mr. Putin’s, however illegal it might be. But this is not like the war in Afghanistan or Syria. It’s not like any of those other conflicts of the last 20 years. And because of that, I think we have to be quite careful.”

Members of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists are due to meet next month to discuss the aftermath of the past year — and perhaps the clock could be moved even closer to midnight.

The Stakes for Nuclear War Escalates

A blast hits the bridge to Crimea, a key supply route in Russia’s war

Updated October 8, 20229:55 AM ET

KYIV, Ukraine — At least two sections of the bridge connecting Crimea with Russia’s rail and road network have collapsed, according to Russian state media. The Russian highway authority said the road is still navigable, but it has suspended traffic for the time being.

Three people were killed in an apparent blast on the bridge, Russian authorities said.

Ukrainian officials have been threatening to destroy the bridge since it was built in 2018. Russia forcibly annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 under circumstances similar to the illegal annexation of four Ukrainian regions this year.

An analysis from the digital forensics group Bellingcat found that three sections of the bridge had collapsed, limiting traffic on both the road and rail bridge.

The Kerch Strait Bridge, as it’s also known, spans 12 miles of water, and has served as a key automotive and rail supply line from Russia into Crimea. Russia hosts at least a dozen military installations on the peninsula, and Western intelligence sources claim it remains a vital logistical hub for Russia’s war on mainland Ukraine. The bridge has also made access for Ukrainian naval vessels into the Sea of Azov almost impossible

Russia’s National Anti-Terrorism Committee says a truck bomb caused the partial collapse, but stopped short of assigning blame. Russian officials said the truck was registered in the southern region of Russia. 

According to Russian news agency Tass, the Russian government is establishing a special commission to investigate what happened. Speaking to the newspaper Ukrainska Pravda, an anonymous Ukrainian security official took responsibility for the blast.

Hours after the bridge explosion, Russia’s defense ministry announced that Gen. Sergei Surovikin, the air force chief, will command Russian troops fighting in Ukraine.

In June, a top Ukrainian general told Radio Liberty that the Crimean bridge was “target number one.” Soon after, Ukraine’s military intelligence claimed to have gotten hold of the bridge’s technical drawings.

After the bridge collapse, a top official in the Ukrainian president’s office, Mykhailo Podoloyak, tweeted that Saturday’s events are just “the beginning,” but stopped short of taking credit. Ukrainians on social media posted hundreds of memes celebrating the apparent attack.

Claiming responsibility for a blast might be seen as a Ukrainian escalation, especially after Russian President Vladimir Putin vowed that forcibly annexed Ukrainian territories were to be “forever” Russian. He has also threatened to use nuclear weapons to defend land he sees as rightfully Russian.

Ukraine denied attacking Crimea after a slew of mysterious explosions at Russian military installations in August. Thousands of vacationing Russians jammed up the Kerch Strait Bridge to evacuate following those blasts.

After anonymous Ukrainian military sources took credit for the August attacks, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy vowed to investigate leaks. Eventually, Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov admitted that Ukrainian attacks on Crimea are fair game

Some analysts have argued that destroying the Crimea bridge may be too much of a logistical challenge for Ukraine. Ukraine has a limited amount of long-range missiles and bombers capable of reaching the Kerch Strait. Bridges are notoriously difficult to destroy, especially bridges like the Kerch Bridge, which have four parallel spans for trains and cars.

Retaking Crimea has remained a goal for Kyiv throughout the war, even though some analysts have argued it could be an effective bargaining chip to de-escalate the war in the rest of Ukraine.

Refat Chubarov, the head of Crimea’s persecuted ethnic Tatar community, has said that Ukraine shouldn’t give up on Crimea. On Saturday, he praised the bridge’s destruction and called the bridge a symbol of Russia’s marginalization of ethnic Tatars and other Crimeans who want to rejoin Ukraine. He also raised fears that the Russians will “take out their anger on the Tatars.”

Biden Prepares Babylon the Great for Nuclear Armageddon: Revelation 16

Joe Biden.
Joe Biden. Photograph: Andrew Harnik/AP

‘We won’t be intimidated by Putin’s rhetoric,’ says White House after Biden’s ‘Armageddon’ warning – live

‘We have not seen any reason to adjust our own nuclear posture,’ says press secretary

Chris Stein

@ChrisJSteinFri 7 Oct 2022 12.23 EDT

What’s shocking about Biden’s remark isn’t that Vladimir Putin is considering using nuclear weapons.

The Russian president has personally threatened to do so as his military faces setbacks in its bloody invasion of Ukraine. But when the US president – who has access to information from America’s spy agencies that few others do – warns that Putin is indeed serious, and compares the current moment to the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, then it’s something else. The question is: what?

One possibility is that the utterance was part of the public rhetoric campaign the White House has been waging to warn it against using a nuclear weapon. Last month, national security adviser Jake Sullivan warned doing so would bring “catastrophic consequences”.

Speaking at a Democratic fundraiser last night, Biden acknowledged a level of uncertainty about Russia’s goals, and how far Putin was willing to go to achieve them. “We are trying to figure out what is Putin’s off-ramp? Where does he find a way out? Where does he find himself where he does not only lose face but significant power?” Biden said.

‘We won’t be intimidated by Putin’s rhetoric’: White House

Russia’s use of a nuclear weapon in Ukraine would cause “unintended consequences” for Moscow, the White House press secretary said, while noting there’s no evidence yet that president Vladimir Putin intends to use his atomic arsenal.

“Russia’s talk of using nuclear weapons is irresponsible, and there’s no way to use to use them without unintended consequences. It cannot happen… We won’t be intimidated by Putin’s rhetoric,” Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters aboard Air Force One during president Joe Biden’s short flight to Hagerstown, Maryland, where he is to speak about the economy.

She downplayed the possibility that the first use of a nuclear weapon in war since 1945 was imminent.

“We have not seen any reason to adjust our own nuclear posture, nor do we have indications they are preparing to use them, but Putin can de-escalate this at any time and there is no reason to escalate.”

She did not comment directly on Biden’s prediction last night that Russia’s use of a nuclear weapon would cause “armageddon”.

As he set off from the White House on yet another lengthy day of travel, Joe Biden gave the press no opportunity to ask about his “armageddon” comment.

That’s from The Guardian’s David Smith, who’s covering the president’s departure. Biden is en route now to Hagerstown, Maryland, where he’ll speak about the economy, before flying to Philadelphia and finally Wilmington, Delaware, where he is to spend the weekend.

Press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre will take questions from reporters on Air Force One during the flight to Hagerstown, so we may find out more about the White House’s view of Russia’s intentions.

Biden ‘armageddon’ remark not driven by new intelligence: White House

US president Joe Biden’s remark last night that Russian president Vladimir Putin was serious about using nuclear weapons in Ukraine and that doing so would risk “armageddon” was not based on any new intelligence, Semafor reports.

The president’s dire assessment of the risk of nuclear war – which he said was at its highest level since the Cuban Missile Crisis 60 years ago – was instead a reflection of Washington’s seriousness when it comes to Putin’s increasingly strident rhetoric, a White House official said:

A WH official says of Biden comments on Putin at DNC reception last night: “The President’s comments reinforce how seriously we take these threats about nuclear weapons – as we have done when the Russians have made these threats throughout the conflict.”— Morgan Chalfant (@mchalfant16) October 7, 2022

“The kind of irresponsible rhetoric we have seen is no way for the leader of a nuclear armed state to speak,” official says.— Morgan Chalfant (@mchalfant16) October 7, 2022

I’m told no new assessment drove his comments.— Morgan Chalfant (@mchalfant16) October 7, 2022

Shock as Biden suggests Putin’s nuclear threats could mean ‘Armageddon’

Good morning, US politics blog readers. The job of an American president often involves reassuring or comforting the nation during uncertain times. Joe Biden instead gave Americans a blunt assessment of reality last night, when he suggested that the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, was not kidding with his threats to to use nuclear weapons in Ukraine, and warned the world was the closest it has been to “Armageddon” in six decades. Chilling stuff.

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