The world woke up last Friday to the surprise announcement that Beijing has brokered stronger ties between Riyadh and Tehran, radically upending the U.S.-led world order. This has reverberated in capitals all over the world. How does this change the calculus of Iran’s development of nuclear capability, of Israel’s ability to attack Iran through Saudi airspace? What does it say about America’s role in the world, China’s intentions and Saudi Arabia as a long-term ally of the United States?
According to the International Atomic Energy Administration (IAEA), Iran will have very shortly, if it does not have already, enough highly enriched uranium for at least three nuclear bombs. The IAEA has detected traces of uranium at the Fordow Enrichment Facility enriched to 83.7 percent, just a few days’ glide to the 90 percent level necessary for a nuclear bomb.
The IAEA also has said that it can no longer reestablish any certainty regarding Iran’s activities under a revived JCPOA, such as the production of advanced centrifuges and heavy water, due to Iran’s decision in February 2021 to deny the IAEA access to data from key JCPOA-related monitoring and surveillance equipment and because of Iran’s decision in June 2022 to remove all such equipment, including video cameras and online enrichment monitoring devices.
Yet, on Saturday, March 4, IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi met with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and other top officials in Tehran and gave vague assurances that these concerns would be addressed.
The questions remain: Can we trust the IAEA? And can Iran be stopped from developing a nuclear bomb before it is too late?
Here to answer these questions and more is Rich Goldberg.
Goldberg is a senior adviser at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. From 2019-2020, he served as the director for Countering Iranian Weapons of Mass Destruction for the White House National Security Council. He previously served as chief of staff for Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner and deputy chief of staff and senior foreign policy adviser to former U.S. Senator Mark Kirk of Illinois in both the U.S. House and Senate.
Even after 25 years of its nuclear explosions, it seems that the world is still not ready to consider Pakistan as a nuclear power. We often hear that Pakistan is an irresponsible state. The political and economic crisis of Pakistan raises many questions, among which the Western world is very concerned about whether Pakistan’s nuclear assets are safe. The Prime Minister’s Office has made it clear that Pakistan’s nuclear and missile program is a national asset, and the state of Pakistan is responsible for protecting this program in every way.
This program is completely safe, foolproof and free from any pressure. The spokesperson of the Prime Minister House says that all the recent statements, questions and various claims circulating in the social and print media regarding Pakistan’s nuclear and missile program, including the Director General (DG) International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Rafael Mariano Grossi’s routine visit are being painted negatively. According to the Prime Minister’s House spokesperson, the program is completely safe and it fully serves the purpose for which this capability was developed. International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi visited Pakistan on 15 and 16 February 2023. Earlier, a campaign was seen on social media, wherein claims were made from several Twitter handles that the IMF demanded the rollback of Pakistan’s nuclear program. In this context, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar has also issued a statement. Senator Dar said that the national interest was to be protected and there will be no compromise on the nuclear or missile programs. No one had the right to tell Pakistan what range of missiles or nuclear weapons it should keep, he continued.
Every Pakistani knows that they will eat grass and will not let the fire come into the country.
From the statements of these two important figures, it is clear that there has been a discussion regarding the compromise on Pakistan’s nuclear assets by the IMF or some other party. Perhaps, considering the economic conditions of Pakistan, the world wants to suppress Pakistan. But the western world should keep in mind that Pakistan is an important bridge between the countries of South Asia, Central Asia and the Middle East. The importance of Pakistan in world politics is also certain, which is not easy for the world to ignore. Pakistan’s role in the economic world order race between China and America is very important. Perhaps, in view of this political importance, world powers continue to impose illegal restrictions on Pakistan.
Despite the economic hardship, the real strength and pride of Pakistan is the spirit of the people and the commitment of the Pakistan Army, which is one of the few organized armies in the world. Pakistan Army is the protector of our ideological borders. Pakistan Army has always worked for the security and stability of Pakistan and is equipped with nuclear missile technology and modern weapons, Pakistan Army has always defeated the enemy on every front, due to which the enemies are afraid of its nuclear assets and missile program.
Almost 25 years ago, on May 28, 1998, Pakistan became the first nuclear country in the Islamic world and the seventh nuclear country in the world by detonating nuclear weapons at Chagai. The world was never and is not ready to accept Pakistan as a nuclear power, which is why a lot of propaganda was done for a long time that Pakistan’s nuclear assets are not in safe hands. But Thanks To Allah, Pakistan’s nuclear program is under a foolproof command and control system.
Pakistan Army with its professional skills has proved that not only do we have the best ability to defend ourselves as a nuclear power but also know how to protect it. By becoming a nuclear power, Pakistan has led to a balance in the region. Otherwise, the whole world knows what India’s role was and is in the region. Difficult economic conditions keep coming to the nations, so it is not possible that Pakistan would ever put its integrity at stake under the guise of economic conditions or in the hope of an agreement with the IMF. In any case, every Pakistani knows that they will eat grass and will not let the fire come to the country.
The need is that all of us should be committed to the security, defence and protection of Pakistan and its development and prosperity and stand in a row so that we don’t have to spread our hands in front of others.
For this, the government, the opposition, the army, the judiciary and the people have to be united for the development of the country and think together so that we can give future generations a country with a safe homeland and a strong economic power.
If we are united, no power in the world can even think of looking down on us, and no one can dictate to us our weapons of defence. If we come together and create consensus and put aside our differences for the sake of the country, and with proper planning and proper utilization of manpower, Pakistan can reach new heights of economic development. Pakistan has come into existence after great sacrifices and all of us must appreciate it. The secret of Pakistan’s development lies in the same way that during the Pakistan movement, people came together to achieve this country and united from the individual level to the collective level for its economic development.
The writer is an old Aitchisonian who believes in freedom of expression, a freelance columnist, entrepreneur and social activist.
Policymakers are increasingly concerned about evidence of increasing cooperation between the United States’ two greatest adversaries, Russia and China.
While recent discussion has focused on China providing Russia with lethal aid to support its aggression in Ukraine, a potentially more dangerous element to this budding relationship has just come into public view: Russian support for China’s nuclear buildup.
Central to this nuclear buildup is China’s need for nuclear material; namely, plutonium. Historically , China operated two nuclear power plants capable of producing weapons-grade plutonium. The two plants were shut down in 1984 and 1989, respectively, leaving China with only a limited stockpile of plutonium. But at that time, China still maintained its historic posture of “minimum deterrence,” possessing just a very limited arsenal of nuclear weapons.
With its newfound nuclear ambitions, China must remedy its limited access to plutonium. As part of the effort, China has been constructing new fast-breeder reactors called the CFR-600. While China claims these reactors serve civilian purposes, they are also equally capable of producing weapons-grade plutonium .
Compared with a typical nuclear reactor that utilizes the energy from nuclear fission to power a generator or create electricity, a fast-breeder reactor can be designed to maximize the output of plutonium from the fission reactions. For that reason, these reactors are useful for nuclear weapons programs.
This time, the implications of Russia’s aid to China’s plutonium reactors are quite significant. For starters, it proves that when Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping declared a “no limits” partnership in February 2022, they really meant it.
Perhaps worse, this development means that the more fuel Russia provides, the more plutonium China can produce. And the more plutonium China can produce, the more nuclear weapons it can build.
Given the state of geopolitics, any advancing relationship between Russia, a country with significant nuclear experience and an abundance of nuclear material, and China, an aspiring nuclear superpower with money to spend, comes with great risk.
The U.S. Energy Department is pursuing a project to ultimately be able to produce 80 of these plutonium pits per year, but it has been delayed, and will not be complete until after 2030. And even then, at first it will produce enough pits only to replace current aging warheads, rather than expand the inventory. To avoid falling behind China, the U.S. needs to significantly progress on this program.
Whether the United States is prepared to admit it or not, it’s becoming increasingly clear that it will need to compete in the nuclear arena to prevent China from surging ahead and gaining nuclear advantages. Combined with the threats posed by a recalcitrant Russia , the U.S. needs to strengthen its nuclear deterrent to ensure it retains a strategic edge against these increasingly hostile adversaries.
1957 – The United States signs a civil nuclear cooperation agreement with Iran.
1958 – Iran joins the IAEA.
1967 – The Tehran Nuclear Research Center, which includes a small reactor supplied by the United States, opens.
1968 – Iran signs the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
Mid-1970s – With US backing, Iran begins developing a nuclear power program.
1979 – Iran’s Islamic revolution ends Western involvement in the country’s nuclear program.
December 1984 – With the aid of China, Iran opens a nuclear research center in Isfahan.
February 23, 1998 – The United States announces concerns that Iran’s nuclear energy program could lead to the development of nuclear weapons.
March 14, 2000 – US President Bill Clinton signs a law that allows sanctions against people and organizations that provide aid to Iran’s nuclear program.
February 21, 2003 –IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei visits Iran to survey its nuclear facilities and to encourage Iran to sign a protocol allowing IAEA inspectors greater and faster access to nuclear sites. Iran declines to sign the protocol. ElBaradei says he must accept Iran’s statement that its nuclear program is for producing power and not weapons, despite claims of the United States to the contrary.
June 19, 2003 – The IAEA issues a report saying that Iran appeared to be in compliance with the Non-Proliferation Treaty, but that it needed to be more open about its activities.
August 2003 – The IAEA announces that its inspectors in Iran have found traces of highly enriched uranium at the Natanz uranium enrichment plant. Iran claims the amounts are contamination from equipment bought from other countries. Iran agrees to sign a protocol of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation treaty that allows for unannounced visits to their nuclear facilities and signs it on December 18, 2003.
October 2003 – The Foreign Ministers of Britain, France and Germany visit Tehran, and all parties agree upon measures Iran will take to settle all outstanding issues with the IAEA. Under obligation to the IAEA, Iran releases a dossier on its nuclear activities. However, the report does not contain information on where Iran acquired components for centrifuges used to enrich uranium, a fact the IAEA considers important in determining whether the uranium is to be enriched for weapons.
December 2003 – Iran signs the Additional Protocol to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty with the IAEA voluntarily agreeing to broader inspections of its nuclear facilities.
February 2004 – A.Q. Khan, “father” of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program, admits to having provided Iran and other countries with uranium-enrichment equipment.
June 1, 2004 – The IAEA states they have found traces of uranium that exceed the amount used for general energy production. Iran admits that it is importing parts for advanced centrifuges that can be used to enrich uranium, but is using the parts to generate electricity.
July 31, 2004 – Iran states that it has resumed production on centrifuge parts used for enriching uranium, but not enrichment activities.
August 8, 2005 – Iran restarts uranium conversion, a step on the way to enrichment, at a nuclear facility, saying it is for peaceful purposes only, and flatly rejects a European offer aimed at ensuring the nation does not seek nuclear weapons.
August 9, 2005 – Iran removes the IAEA seals from its Isfahan nuclear processing facility, opening the uranium conversion plant for full operation. IAEA spokesman Mark Gwozdecky states that the plant “is fully monitored by the IAEA” and “is not a uranium enrichment plant.”
September 11, 2005 – Iran’s new foreign minister, Manouchehr Mottaki, says the country won’t suspend activities at its Isfahan uranium conversion facility and it plans to seek bids for the construction of two more nuclear plants.
January 10, 2006 – Iran resumes research at its Natanz uranium enrichment plant, arguing that doing so is within the terms of an agreement with the IAEA.
January 12, 2006 – Foreign ministers of the EU3 (Great Britain, France, Germany) recommend Iran’s referral to the United Nations Security Council over its nuclear program.
January 13, 2006 – Mottaki states that if Iran is referred, its government under law will be forced to stop some of its cooperation with the IAEA, including random inspections.
April 11, 2006 – Hashemi Rafsanjani, Iran’s former president, states that Iran has increased the number of functioning centrifuges in its nuclear facilities in Natanz and has produced enriched uranium from them.
August 31, 2006 – The IAEA issues a report on Iran saying the Islamic republic “has not suspended its enrichment activities” despite this day’s deadline to do so. Iran can possibly face economic sanctions.
December 23, 2006 – The UN Security Council votes unanimously to impose sanctions against Iran for failing to suspend its nuclear program.
February 22, 2007 – The IAEA issues a statement saying that Iran has not complied with the UN Security Council’s call for a freeze of all nuclear activity. Instead, Iran has expanded its uranium enrichment program.
March 24, 2007 – The United Nations adopts Resolution 1747 which toughens sanctions against Iran. The sanctions include the freezing of assets of 28 individuals and organizations involved in Iran’s nuclear and missile programs. About a third of those are linked to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, an elite military corp.
May 23, 2007 – The IAEA delivers its report to the United Nations on Iran’s nuclear activities. The report states that not only has Iran failed to end its uranium enrichment program but has in fact expanded its activity.
June 21, 2007 – Iran’s Interior Minister Mostafa Pour-Mohammadi claims, “Now we have 3,000 centrifuges and have in our warehouses 100 kilograms of enriched uranium…We also have more than 150 tons of raw materials for producing uranium gas.”
February 20, 2009 – The Institute for Science and International Security reports that Iranian scientists have reached “nuclear weapons breakout capability.” The report concludes Iran does not yet have a nuclear weapon but does have enough low-enriched uranium for a single nuclear weapon. An official at the IAEA cautions about drawing such conclusions. The IAEA says Iran’s stock of low-enriched uranium would have to be turned into highly enriched uranium to become weapons-grade material.
February 25, 2009 – Iran runs tests at its Bushehr nuclear power plant using “dummy” fuel rods loaded with lead in place of enriched uranium to simulate nuclear fuel. A news release distributed to reporters at the scene states the test measured the “pressure, temperature and flow rate” of the facility to make sure they were at appropriate levels. Officials say the next test will use enriched uranium, but it’s not clear when the test will be held or when the facility will be fully operational.
September 21, 2009 – In a letter to the IAEA, Iran reveals the existence of a second nuclear facility. It is located underground at a military base, near the city of Qom.
October 25, 2009 – IAEA inspectors make their first visit to Iran’s newly disclosed nuclear facility near Qom.
February 18, 2010 – In a statement, the IAEA reports that it believes Iran may be working in secret to develop a nuclear warhead for a missile.
August 21, 2010 – Iran begins fueling its first nuclear energy plant, in the city of Bushehr.
December 5, 2010 – Ali Akbar Salehi, Iran’s atomic chief and acting foreign minister, announces that Iran’s nuclear program is self-sufficient and that Iran has begun producing yellowcake, an intermediate stage in processing uranium.
January 8, 2011 – Salehi reports that Iran can now create its own nuclear fuel plates and rods.
September 4, 2011 – Iran announces that its Bushehr nuclear power plant joined the electric grid September 3, making it the first Middle Eastern country to produce commercial electricity from atomic reactors.
September 5, 2011 – In response to Iran’s nuclear chief stating that Iran will give the IAEA “full supervision” of its nuclear program for five years if UN sanctions are lifted, the European Union says that Iran must first comply with international obligations.
November 8, 2011 – The IAEA releases a report saying that it has “serious concerns” and “credible” information that Iran may be developing nuclear weapons.
January 9, 2012 – The IAEA confirms that uranium enrichment has begun at the Fordo nuclear facility in the Qom province in northern Iran.
January 23, 2012 – The European Union announces it will ban the import of Iranian crude oil and petroleum products.
January 29, 2012 – A six-member delegation from the IAEA arrives in Tehran for a three-day visit, shortly after the EU imposes new sanctions aimed at cutting off funding to the nuclear program.
January 31, 2012 – In Senate testimony James Clapper, Director of National Intelligence, says there’s no evidence Iran is building a nuclear bomb. CIA Director David Petraeus agrees.
February 15, 2012 – Iran loads the first domestically produced nuclear fuel rods into the Tehran research reactor.
February 21, 2012 – After two days of talks in Iran about the country’s nuclear program, the IAEA expresses disappointment that no progress was made and that their request to visit the Parchin military base was denied.
March 28, 2012 – Discussions regarding Iran’s nuclear future stall.
April 14, 2012 – Talks resume between Iran and six world powers over Iranian nuclear ambitions in Istanbul, Turkey.
May 25, 2012 – An IAEA report finds that environmental samples taken at the Fordo fuel enrichment plant near the city of Qom have enrichment levels of up to 27%, higher than the previous level of 20%.
June 18-19, 2012 – A meeting is held between Iran and the P5+1 (United States, France, Russia, China, Great Britain and Germany) in Moscow. No agreement is reached.
June 28, 2012 – Iranian negotiator,Saeed Jalili writes to European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton warning world powers to avoid “unconstructive measures” such as the oil embargo that’s about to go into effect and that was agreed upon by the EU in January.
July 1, 2012 – A full embargo of Iranian oil from the EU takes effect.
August 30, 2012 – A UN report finds that Iran has stepped up its production of high-grade enriched uranium and has re-landscaped Parchin, one of its military bases, in an apparent effort to hamper a UN inquiry into the country’s nuclear program.
January 20, 2014 – The European Union announces that it has suspended certain sanctions against Iran for six months.
February 20, 2014 – Following talks in Vienna, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif announce that a deal on the framework for comprehensive negotiations over Tehran’s nuclear program has been reached.
July 14, 2015 – A deal is reached on Iran’s nuclear program. The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) reduces the number of Iranian centrifuges by two-thirds. It places bans on enrichment at key facilities, and limits uranium research and development to the Natanz facility. On July 20, the UN Security Council endorses the nuclear deal.
January 16, 2016 – IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano says Iran has completed all the necessary steps agreed under the nuclear deal, and that all participants can begin implementing the JCPOA.
February 3, 2017 – In reaction to the January 29 missile test, the US Treasury Department says it is applying sanctions on 25 individuals and companies connected to Iran’s ballistic missile program and those providing support to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Qods Force. Flynn says the tests were in defiance of a UN Security Council resolution that bars Iran from taking steps on a ballistic missile program capable of launching nuclear weapons.
October 13, 2017 – Trump decertifies Iran’s compliance with the nuclear agreement, declaring that the pact was not in US interests and unveiling a tough new policy toward the Islamic Republic. The move stops short of completely scrapping the agreement, instead kicking it to Congress, who then has 60 days to determine a path forward. Congress allows the 60-day deadline to pass without action.
May 21, 2018 – Speaking at the Heritage Foundation, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says the Trump administration is “open to new steps” with Iran, including a diplomatic relationship. Part of 12 preconditions: Iran must acknowledge past military dimensions of its nuclear program and expand access given to nuclear inspectors. The United States will then be willing to end sanctions, re-establish commercial relationships and allow Iran to have advanced technology.
September 23, 2019 – In an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, Zarif outlines a proposal for an agreement that would augment the defunct nuclear deal. In return for lifting sanctions, Iran would be prepared to sign an additional protocol, allowing for more intrusive inspections of the country’s nuclear facilities at an earlier date than that set out previously. Khamenei would also enshrine a ban on nuclear weapons in law, Zarif says.
February 18, 2021 – The Biden administration announces that the US is willing to sit down for talks with Tehran and other signatories to the Iran nuclear deal and achieve a mutual return to compliance with JCPOA. Less than two weeks later, Iran rejects an offer by the European Union for direct talks with P5+1 countries.
February 4, 2022 – The Biden administration restores a sanctions waiver that will allow countries to cooperate with Iran on civil nuclear projects. The move takes place a week after talks adjourn. US officials have warned that there are only weeks left to return to the deal given Iran’s rapid nuclear developments. Tehran has called for broad sanctions relief before coming back into compliance with the deal.
As Pakistan drifts rapidly towards default, there is intense speculation daily on its future. Many in India feel that it will auto-Balkanise. There is huge commentary on how to deal with the fallout of such a break up. There is also considerable nationalistic fervour to retake the entire POK. Many also assess that Pakistan being a nuclear state will not be allowed to break up. Such assessments opine that the strong Pakistani Army will hold it together and continue to pose a threat to India. From within Pakistan, there are many voices of despair. They indicate a slow descent into anarchy. Editorials across the border, talk of Neros’ who are constantly fiddling as Pakistan burns. The fact of the matter is that the nuclear armed country is at a dead end; caught in a debt trap from which it cannot escape. It goes, hat in hand, from country to country, institution to institution, begging for alms. It expects IMF, World Bank, ‘friendly’ and ‘once friendly’ countries to rescue it. A recent opinion from within refers to Pakistan as a serial beggar. What is the future of this nuclear beggar?
Pakistan was once the gateway to the oil-rich countries of the Middle East and Central Asia. It provided the Islamic Bomb to the Muslim world. It was the great enabler in the Sino-US entente in the 70s. It gave access to the warm waters of the Gulf for those who sought it. It was the bulwark against the expanding arc of communism. It acquired the tag of being the frontline state in the Cold War between the USA and USSR. It continued with its moniker of indispensability in the war against terror. It was the lifeline for everything and everyone in a turbulent Afghanistan to meet their respective ends – USA, Mujahedeen, and Taliban et al. It was legendary in being able to take on a stronger India by proxy through radical jihadis and repeatedly tie it in knots. Its modern military with visionary thoughts could take on adversaries far greater than itself. The USA, rich gulf nations, China and all other benefactors provided it with ample financial , political, and diplomatic resources that helped it tide over the near death financial and economic paroxysms it periodically suffered. Pakistan was a friend to all except India. It was the toast of the international community for the best part of its seven decades of eventful existence.
Those heady days are over due to a palpable geopolitical shift. The global energy situation and the fossil fuel economy, driven by the impending climate change is morphing. There is a world-wide search for renewable and alternative energy sources. In this uncertain future , the once oil-cash rich gulf states are looking for wealth preservation through diversification. Once inimical states like Israel and UAE or Saudi Arabia and Iran are seeking mutual accommodation. West Asia and the Middle East were the geopolitical focus of the last century. Presently, the focus has shifted to the Indo Pacific. The latest focus is Ukraine. Pakistan is an unaffordable luxury in this prominent geopolitical shift. It has lost its strategic value. In fact the economic conduit from across the Gulf is looking to be increasingly and strictly transactional. The USA has learnt its lesson after the double cross it experienced in Afghanistan. China is facing its own financial issues. It further sees that CPEC as an economic proposition is losing value. The cost benefit equation of rescuing Pakistan is in negative territory. Richer nations do not want to invest into Pakistan which is considered to be the most dangerous country in the world. External aid into Pakistan is only limited to the IMF. That too comes with huge strings. Overall, Pakistan has entered into a state of suspended geostrategic animation with diminished value. This condition will remain so for at least a decade if not more.
Pakistan is not failing due to its poor economy, terrorism or over-militarism. All other factors aside, it is failing on a permanent basis due to lack of water. Pakistan’s water availability graph (above) , indicates that as its population exploded, it became a water-stressed nation in the 90’s. Around 2005, it entered the water-scarcity zone. Beyond 2025, it is heading into the absolute water scarcity zone. When Pakistan goes below the absolute water scarcity zone shortly, it will enter the arena of perpetual failure. Pakistan’s two major water reservoirs, Tarbela and Mangla, are silted up. Both dams dip to dead water levels in summer. The under construction Diamer Bhasha Dam caters only partially, for loss of water capacity due to silting of existing dams. There are no additional sources of water other than a dying Indus nor has Pakistan’s water storage capacity increased. The IMF bailout(s), now or before, are not for ameliorating its dismal water situation. The current bailout does not even meet its short term requirement to tide over the recent crisis due to unprecedented floods. Every penny spent on Pakistan’s relentless increase in military expenditure has been a penny less for water. All water-related projects have either been pulled out from the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) or are under review with no time line whatsoever. Pakistan’s slide into water scarcity is unchecked. For a country in which agriculture is 20% of the GDP, this is scary. Pakistan was once a net food exporter. It is now a net food importer in perpetuity. There is no solution for its looming food insecurity in sight. Climate change and global warming will further affect water availability and food security adversely. Population growth in future, and any intended economic growth will only increase the requirement of water; which is not available in the first place. In a couple of years when absolute water scarcity takes grip, the situation will spiral down even further. The existing low levels of productivity can only dip further. Pakistan faces an existential crisis. Not from India but from water, rather the lack of it
Pakistanis are not able to put three meals on the table on a daily basis as per their media. Yet their main political parties and leaders are constantly feuding for power. Even if one of them emerges a winner, there will be nothing to light up the land of the pure with undistilled joy. Afterall , it was these very politicians who have ruled the nation for 75 years and have brought Pakistan to this state of penury. They can only take it down further. The judiciary in the country is in disarray. Earlier, they were unanimously playing second fiddle to the Army with occasional flashes of independent judgement. One does not even know who they are supporting now. The country has a president who passes all kinds of orders. Those are promptly ignored or challenged or rubbished publicly by the PM and all institutions. Under such conditions, the Army used to step up and take over the country. However, the Army, for the first time in its 75 years of existence, is itself deeply divided. It is no more the darling of the Pakistan masses. More importantly it has no solutions to offer to rectify the dismal state of the nation. In the event it is visibly hesitant to even entertain the idea of a takeover and preside over ashes. Further, it is unable to stem the mayhem and violence wreaked by the TTP and Baloch rebels. The Taliban which was hoisted into power by the venerable generals of the Pakistani Army are cocking a snook at it. The Army seems unsure, helpless and vulnerable. It is more bent on self-preservation. Combine this disarray with the debt, financial and economic problems of the nation duly factoring in the radical elements. The picture which emerges is that of a dismal and bleak future worse than the brightest English summer. The elites of the nation are in an each to himself mode. In this scenario, a Pakistani messiah is as invisible as the ‘Id ka Chand’.
Pakistan prided itself on being a frontline state. Today it is turning into a frontline pawn in the oncoming international competition between the USA and China. Till some time back the USA was heavily invested in Pakistan geo-strategically. In that period, China came forth to woo Pakistan away from the US fold. It successfully did so with the CPEC. After the Afghanistan fiasco, as USA has dis-engaged itself from the region, China and Pakistan exulted. However the USA still retains the keys and levers to keep Pakistan afloat. China’s heavy investments in Pakistan are coming unstuck. It is being forced to keep advancing loans to keep Pakistan on its side. In this entire play, one sees that Pakistan is slowly but steadily becoming a battleground state between the USA and China in their great power rivalry. The notable feature is that each great power wants to push the other out without coming to Pakistan’s rescue. These are interestingly challenging times for Pakistan. The interesting part is for others and the challenge is for Pakistanis.
Last but not the least, there are no forces or political factors which can propel the break-up of the nation. On the contrary, all the elite vultures and other forces in Pakistan seem to want to rule over a dead donkey. If not for anything else, a dead donkey provides some meat even if it is putrefied. These are difficult times even for Pakistani vultures. We in India must understand that it is better to let that dead donkey alone rather than go near it and get infected.
I will end this article with an allegory duly plagiarised from a leading Pakistani daily. Whenever Pakistan found itself in a crisis it behaved like a frog. Dump a frog into boiling water. It will struggle, jump out and escape.That’s what Pakistan always did. It jumped out of all the crises it encountered.On the other hand, if you dump frog intrepid water, it will exist happily there. As the water heats up gradually the frog ignores the danger. The “creeping normality” of water slowly warming to a boil proves deadly for the frog. Pakistan now finds itself in a similar situation. The water is boiling and there is no escape route. The nuclear beggar can morph into a frog or a donkey. Its relevance will remain only that. India must be prepared to deal with one.
The author is PVSM, AVSM, VSM, and a retired Director General of Artillery. He is currently a Professor in the Aerospace Department of IIT Madras. He writes extensively on defence and strategic affairs @ www.gunnersshot.com.
SRINAGAR: The American intelligence community has raised concerns about the rising tensions between India and its neighbouring countries, Pakistan and China, and the possibility of conflict between them.
The Office of the Director of National Intelligence submitted its annual threat assessment report to the US Congress during a Congressional hearing last Wednesday, warning of the elevated risk of armed confrontation between the nuclear-armed powers.
The report highlighted the expanded military postures of both India and China along the “disputed border”, which could escalate into a direct threat to US persons and interests, calling for US intervention. Persistent low-level friction on the Line of Actual Control (LAC) has the potential to escalate swiftly, as demonstrated by previous standoffs, the report said.
Even though India and China have engaged in bilateral border talks and resolved border points, their relations remain strained due to the countries’ lethal clash in 2020, which was the most serious in decades. The report stated that this clash has contributed to the strained Sino-Indian relationship and elevated the risk of conflict.
The crises between India and Pakistan are also of particular concern due to the risk of an escalator cycle between the two nuclear-armed states. The report noted that Pakistan has a long history of supporting anti-India militant groups, while India is more likely under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to respond with military force to “perceived or real Pakistani provocations”. Each side’s perception of heightened tensions raises the risk of conflict, with potential flashpoints being violent unrest in Kashmir or a militant attack in India.
The report cautioned that the possibility of conflict between India and China or India and Pakistan could have significant implications for the US, as it could impact regional stability and disrupt global supply chains. The US has been closely monitoring the situation and has called for a peaceful resolution of the border disputes through dialogue and diplomacy.
Responding to a query by The Indian Express, the spokesperson for the US State Department, Ned Price, stated that the US-Pakistan counter-terrorism dialogue provides an opening for the two nations to work together to address terrorist threats and counter violent extremism in the region, which has the potential to impact global stability. The spokesperson added that both nations share a mutual interest in maintaining regional security and stability, and the dialogue is a demonstration of their commitment to a strong and resilient security partnership.
Pertinent to mention, the Jammu and Kashmir Lt Governor, Manoj Sinha, recently affirmed that Pakistan-occupied Jammu and Kashmir (PoJK) is an integral part of India and the commitment made in the Parliament will soon be fulfilled. Sinha said this at a function where he inaugurated a special governance camp for displaced persons of PoJK at Bhour Camp, stating that the development of new Jammu and Kashmir would be incomplete without complete integration of PoJK displaced persons into the mainstream.
The increasing tension between India, Pakistan, and China has caught the attention of not only the US but also other nations around the world. The potential of conflict between these nuclear-armed countries could have dire consequences not just for the region but also for the global community.
The United Kingdom, for instance, has said it is closely monitoring the situation and expressed its concerns regarding the potential conflict. The UK’s High Commissioner to India, Alex Ellis, recently stated that the UK is watching developments in the region with concern and hopes for a peaceful resolution of the disputes. He added that the UK recognizes India’s legitimate interests in the region but also encourages all parties to engage in dialogue and resolve issues peacefully.
The rising tensions between India and Pakistan have also led to the re-ignition of debates surrounding Kashmir.
Besides, the ongoing border tensions between India and China in Ladakh have also created an atmosphere of uncertainty in the region. China has been aggressively pursuing its territorial claims in the South China Sea and other areas, which has led to tensions with several countries in the region, including India. The US has also expressed concerns about China’s growing military influence in the region and has been actively seeking to counter its assertiveness.
The US has been working to strengthen its partnerships with countries in the region, including India, to promote regional stability and counter China’s aggressive actions. In 2020, the US and India signed the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA), which aims to enhance military cooperation and interoperability between the two countries. The US has also been providing military and intelligence support to India to counter China’s growing influence.
Despite the efforts of the US and other countries to promote peace and stability in the region, the potential for conflict remains a concern. The situation is further complicated by the fact that all three countries possess nuclear weapons, which raises the stakes and makes any conflict even more dangerous.
This development is not necessarily surprising, since Iran has been working toward advancing its nuclear enrichment program for years, before, during and after the 2015 nuclear deal with the Obama administration. “I’ll take (the Pentagon) at their word that the timetable is now about 12 days,” says Richard Stoll, political science professor at Rice University. “But even if they’re a little off, the principle is there—if you let (Iran) enrich, they can get closer and closer to what they need to have to build a nuclear weapon.”
While acknowledging Iran’s faster ability to produce fissile material, Pentagon officials do not believe Iran has the technology yet to actually build a bomb, nor the ability to launch one a long distance if it were built. Still, the idea of Iran one day possessing a nuke would be a game-changer on the international stage, especially for nearby countries. “Who would want to oppose them on any issue, including those issues where the United States opposes them, knowing that Iran has nuclear weapons,” says Stoll. “If Iran wants to be the dominant country in that region and I’m another country there, given that they have nuclear weapons I’m not going to oppose it.”
While Iran repeatedly threatens the U.S. and its allies, the Biden administration continues to promote diplomacy and push for a return to the 2015 Obama-era agreement. Stoll warns the solution is not that simple. “Go back to the nuclear agreement, if both sides will do that,” he tells KTRH. “But that should not blind us to the fact that we will continue to have to deal with an Iran operating against our interests in that region.”
The emergence of this threat sparks questions about whether the Biden administration’s current Iran policy can effectively prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. The more pressing concern is determining alternative strategies to address the threat if the policy falls short of stopping Iran from acquiring a nuclear warhead.
In addition to the uranium enrichment program, Iran’s ballistic missile program has been advancing at an alarming rate. The regime has been increasing its long-range missile capabilities in recent years, which could potentially be used to deliver a nuclear warhead. This development is a cause for concern as it suggests that Iran is steadily moving toward becoming a nuclear power with the ability to threaten regional and global security.
Moreover, Iran has likely attempted to develop the third component of a nuclear weapons program: warhead design, which involves constructing a nuclear warhead at the top of a missile. The IAEA previously reported that Iran experimented with advanced nuclear detonation technology, but regime scientists encountered technical obstacles during the experiment. It is plausible that such activities are still ongoing clandestinely, but IAEA inspectors have been unable to detect them.
Detecting a secret warhead design program is challenging because it does not require the use of nuclear materials, which are the primary focus of the IAEA’s safeguards. Warhead design can be conducted using non-nuclear means and in facilities that are not declared to the IAEA, making it harder for inspectors to detect such activities. Furthermore, accessing sensitive military-related sites is essential to detect secret warhead designs. Still, the Islamic Republic has refused to grant access to such sites to inspectors, further complicating the process.
Given the difficulty in detecting progress in this area, it is possible that the Iranian regime has continued with the project and resolved the technical challenges involved in warhead design.
Had the Biden administration taken a more robust approach toward the Islamic Republic, the regime would not have made such significant progress in its nuclear program.
The absence of a strong and assertive response to the nuclear advancements has only served to embolden the regime and encourage it to push the administration on other matters, whether through conducting terrorist attacks within the United States or issuing threats of military aggression against the West.
Given their perception of Biden’s strategy as ineffective, the Islamic Republic felt emboldened to become involved in the conflict in Ukraine without fear of a forceful U.S. response. The regime has been supplying Russia with hundreds of Shahed-136 kamikaze drones, which were manufactured in Iran. These drones have been employed by the Russian military to strike urban areas and vital facilities in Ukraine, contributing to the destruction of almost half of the country’s electricity supply and depleting Ukrainian resources.
The regime’s ruinous involvement in Ukraine and the IRGC’s hostile language and threats toward the United States and Europe, as well as plotting terror attacks on American soil, ought to have solidified Western opinion and Biden’s stance that the present strategy toward Iran is inadequate and necessitates a dramatic change.
In light of the circumstances, the essential issue is what steps the United States and its European partners can take to stop Iran’s hostile actions and pursuit of nuclear weapons.
It is imperative to admit in the first place that the Islamic Republic has no intention of relinquishing its nuclear program, ending its support for the conflict in Ukraine, or halting its terrorist operations in the West and the United States. In the event of a lack of diplomatic efforts, it is crucial for Europe and the U.S. government to establish a potent and credible deterrence capable of forcing the regime to stop its nuclear pursuits. Even from the non-proliferation perspective, restoring the JCPOA at the present stage wouldn’t impede the regime’s capability to build the bomb but accelerate it.
Additionally, the Islamic Republic is confronted with multiple crises that span social, economic, political, and environmental domains. Given the deteriorating economic conditions and the lack of hope for significant reforms in Iran, it is highly likely that a fresh wave of protests could emerge in the not-too-distant future. It is of utmost importance for the U.S. government and Europe to publicly express their support for Iranian protestors and undertake concrete actions to aid Iranians in their pursuit of democracy.
Moreover, the IRGC is a terrorist group that is actively attempting to execute terrorist attacks in both the United States and Europe. Given that it has already been recognized as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) by the United States, the Biden administration should use its diplomatic influence to persuade European allies to also label the IRGC as such.
Finally, to exert additional pressure on the regime, it is necessary for the United States and Europe to transfer the nuclear file to the United Nations Security Council and activate the snapback provision of the JCPOA, thereby reinstating UN sanctions on Iran that were lifted after the accord’s implementation. Such a move would not only financially strain the regime but also hinder its ability to finance its repressive machinery that suppresses civilian protestors.
Any approach that falls short of implementing these measures would allow the Islamic Republic to persist with its malevolent activities.
Farhad Rezaei is a senior fellow at Philos Project.
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 military said that “gunmen opened fire” at an army position near the Jit junction west of Nablus, with the soldiers responding with “live fire”.
“Three armed gunmen were neutralised during the exchange of fire and an additional armed gunman surrendered himself to the forces,” the army said in a statement, noting none of the Israeli forces were wounded in the clash.
The soldiers, members of the elite infantry Golani reconnaissance unit, grabbed three M-16 rifles and a pistol used by the Palestinians, the army said.
Palestinian medical and security sources had no information on the event.
Several Palestinian armed groups had called on Tuesday for revenge for the recent deaths of six Palestinians in an Israeli army raid in the northern West Bank.
The Tel Aviv attack came just hours after Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin had called for de-escalation ahead of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan that starts in March and the Jewish holiday of Passover in April.
Austin, following talks with Netanyahu and his counterpart Yoav Gallant during a brief visit to Israel, also called on the “Palestinian leadership to combat terrorism and to resume security cooperation and to condemn incitement”.
In Beitar Illit, a Jewish settlement in the West Bank southwest of Jerusalem, the army said bomb disposal experts had detonated a suspicious package found on a bus Thursday evening.
A Palestinian from a nearby village was arrested on Saturday for having placed an explosive device on the bus, along with four others suspected of aiding him, the army said.
Since the start of the year, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has claimed the lives of 81 Palestinian adults and children, including militants and civilians.
Twelve Israeli civilians, including three children and one policeman, as well as one Ukrainian civilian have been killed over the same period, according to an AFP tally based on official sources from both sides.