Persistent Threat of the First Nuclear War: Revelation 8

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

Is There a Persistent Threat of Nuclear Crises Among China, India and Pakistan?

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

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

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

No one wants nuclear escalation — but it can still happen

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

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

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

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

The terrorism tinderbox

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

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

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

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

India-China tensions rise

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

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

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

A ‘cascading security dilemma’

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

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

Daniel Markey is Senior Advisor, South Asia Programs at the United States Institute of Peace.

The Iranian Horn is Cracking: Daniel

When does a crack in a building become dangerous? When it occurs in a load-bearing element and is so large you can see inside the structure, engineers say. In such cases, the house in question is ripe for demolition. Similarly in the case of monolithic systems.

Cracks in Iran’s regime?The Iranian elites’ deafening silence

A speech by a high-ranking member of the Revolutionary Guard recently caused speculation in Iran. Religious leader Khamenei has also dismissed Tehran’s former police chief and replaced him with someone even more brutal, raising fears of further escalation. By Ali Sadrzadeh

    When does a crack in a building become dangerous? When it occurs in a load-bearing element and is so large you can see inside the structure, engineers say. In such cases, the house in question is ripe for demolition. Similarly in the case of monolithic systems. Often a single speech, an offhand remark or the public behaviour of a functionary is enough to reveal what is going on inside a system. Just as in a building, however, the crack that develops must cause a supporting element to totter.

    Hamid Abazari, commander of the Revolutionary Guard, is one of the supporting pillars of the Iranian injustice system. Born 62 years ago in the Persian Gulf, he became a guardsman as a teenager and thus a “guardian of the revolution”. He quickly rose through the ranks of the Revolutionary Guard’s newly founded navy. In the early years, he was based in his birthplace on the strategically important Persian Gulf. Those were the war years with Iraq, and the Strait of Hormuz was considered the eye of the needle for the world’s energy supply.

    Since then, Abazari has taken on many posts, most recently as vice-commander of Imam Hossein University. The military university is one of Revolutionary Leader Ali Khamenei’s most important institutions. It is here that the commanders and officers of the Revolutionary Guards are trained. Khamenei watches over the teaching staff meticulously; he attends the graduation ceremony every year and gives speeches. Attached to the college is a university where science and military technology are taught.

    Revolutionary Guards with Ali Khamenei (image: khamenei.ir)

    Revolutionary Guards, a central pillar of the Iranian regime: senior Guardsman Brigadier General Hamid Abazari suggested during a televised speech on the protests that not everyone was toeing the system’s line anymore. “I know of great commanders who have found themselves unwilling and unable to carry on,” he said. “It is these vital war commanders who are weakening and going against our values.” His words point to cracks in the country’s ruling system, writes Ali Sadrzadeh in his analysis

    Mohsen Fachrizadeh, a nuclear physicist who was probably murdered by the Israeli secret service in 2020, was the most prominent professor at this university. He is considered the father of the Iranian nuclear programme. The American magazine “Foreign Policy” listed him as one of the five hundred most powerful people in the world. The hurdles to be admitted to the university are very high. To be appointed a commander like Abazari, you need to be close to Ali Khamenei.

    Social media uproar

    On 27 December, Brigadier General Abazari made a remarkable appearance on regional television in Mazandaran province. He spoke about resistance, perseverance and the need to fight against “troublemakers and counter-revolutionaries”. However, he also spoke at length about the psychological challenges of this struggle. Literally, he said, “Even I as a commander do not know what will happen tomorrow. I know of great commanders who have found themselves unwilling and unable to carry on. It is these vital war commanders who are weakening and going against our values.”

    The video instantly went viral. The Revolutionary Guard had to react, keeping quiet was pointless, the message was too clear and too well documented on the Internet for that. At first, they hoped to put an end to the speculation about a rift in the leadership. This was not their position and did not correspond to reality, they said, rather it was the personal opinion of Brigadier General Abazari.

    The following day, Gholamhossein Gheybparvar, former commander of the Basij forces, criticised “some elites” for still remaining silent on the unrest, as if they had already given up on the Islamic Revolution. “We do not deny that we have economic problems, high prices, unemployment and other difficulties, but we must not waver or show any weakness in this situation,” said the senior Guardsman.

    Earlier in December, the hacker group Black Reward had circulated files containing exclusive security briefings intended for Hossein Salami, the Revolutionary Guard’s commander-in-chief. One of the documents said Khamenei had complained to Gholam Ali Haddad-Adel that large sections of the elites in the Islamic Republic were remaining silent on the unrest. Haddad-Adel is the father-in-law of Khamenei’s favourite son Mojtaba, who is to succeed his father in the post of Supreme Religious Leader.

    Arrests in Tehran (image: SalamPix/Abaca/picture-alliance)

    Ali Khamenei relying on repression: the Iranian leadership has dismissed the police chief of Tehran, Hussein Ashtari, and replaced him with Ahmad Reza Radan, who is considered to be even more brutal. Sixty-year-old Radan was already the country’s police chief in 2009, at the height of the mass protests. His many atrocities from that time, including torture and murder, are well documented. Radan, who is on the international sanctions list, is also considered the architect of the “Gashte Ershad”, the so-called morality police, and advocates strict adherence to hijab regulations. With Radan, the tolerated loosening of the headscarf requirement, which could be observed on the streets of Tehran recently, is likely to come to an end, sooner rather than later, says Ali Sadrzadeh

    Surrounded by the most radical

    By the silent elite, Khamenei also means the influential clerics in Qom, the centre of Shia scholarship, who have unconditionally defended Khamenei’s rule for the past thirty years. For a long time, the Grand Ayatollahs Makarem, Nuri Hamedani and Amoli approved of everything Khamenei ordered and were constantly present in the media, but this is no longer the case.

    Now Khamenei is only surrounded by the most radical supporters. On 7 January 2023, when two demonstrators were executed, he also dismissed his police chief, Hussein Ashtari, likely for a lack of brutality. He was replaced by Ahmad Reza Radan. Sixty-year-old Radan was the country’s police chief in 2009, at the height of the mass protests. His many atrocities back then, including torture and murder, are well documented.

    Radan, who is on the international sanctions list, is also considered the architect of the “Gashte Ershad”, the so-called morality police, and advocates strict adherence to hijab regulations. With Radan, the tolerated loosening of the headscarf requirement, which has been seen on the streets of Tehran recently, is likely to come to an end – sooner rather than later.

    The intensified repression is also taking on absurd features. Last week, for example, a man was arrested for posting a recipe for hamburgers on Instagram. The day of publication was the anniversary of the assassination of General Qassem Soleimani by the Americans. One popular anecdote in circulation is that Donald Trump made mincemeat out of Soleimani.

    Ali Sadrzadeh

    The Iranian Horn Warns Babylon the Great

    Iran, Army, Zulfiqar, 1401, military, exercise
    An Iranian soldier participates in the Zulfighar-1401 military exercises held in December 2022 in this still from footage promoting the drills. Iran has amassed the region’s largest missile and drone arsenal, and has continued to advance its conventional capabilities while denying any intention of producing a nuclear weapon.ISLAMIC REPUBLIC OF IRAN ARMY

    Facing Drone Strikes, Iran Warns Any U.S. Military Action Means War

    BY TOM O’CONNOR ON 1/30/23 AT 4:18 PM EST

    In the wake of a drone strike against at least one defense factory in the central city of Isfahan, Iranian officials told Newsweek that any military option pursued by the United States against the Islamic Republic would result in all-out conflict with regionwide ramifications.

    While the U.S. military has denied any role in the attack that took place late Saturday, local time, unnamed U.S. officials cited in major outlets such as The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times have placed the blame on Israel, a U.S. ally and Iran’s top foe, which has neither accepted nor denied involvement. No other entity has come forward with claims of responsibility.

    But with President Joe Biden halting efforts to revive participation in the 2015 nuclear deal known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), administration officials including Secretary of State Antony Blinken have asserted that “every option remains on the table” in ensuring that Tehran could not produce a nuclear weapon.

    Iranian officials, who have consistently denied pursuing such a weapon of mass destruction, have warned that any military action the U.S. takes would spark a far larger escalation between the two powers.

    “In Iran’s perspective, the use of the military option at any level means U.S. entry into the war,” Iran’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations told Newsweek.

    “For now,” the Mission noted, “Iran considers such a possibility to be weak.”

    But the Mission also stated that “if the U.S. miscalculates and starts a war,” that the “consequences for the region and the world” of such conflict would be “up to” Washington.

    In the event of such a development, the Mission asserted that “there is no doubt that Iran possesses the capability to defend its security and interests.”

    The Iranian Ministry of Defense described the incident as an “unsuccessful attack” carried out by three small drones against one of the ministry’s “workshop complexes.” One of the drones was said to have been downed by the facility’s air defenses, while two others were said to have exploded after being caught by other defensive measures.

    “Fortunately, this unsuccessful attack did not cause any casualties and only caused minor damage to the roof of the workshop, which, by God’s grace,” the statement added, “did not cause a disruption to the equipment and the operations of the complex.”

    The ministry assured that “the actions of our centers to produce power, authority and security will continue with speed and seriousness, and these blind actions will not have an impact on the continuation of the country’s progress.”

    Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian condemned the attack in a press conference.

    “Following efforts by the enemies of Iran’s nation aiming to make Iran insecure in recent months, this cowardly act has been taken today,” Amir-Abdollahian told reporters. “Our country’s security will act with maximum potency to provide national security in the country, and such actions must not affect the will and intention of our experts to progress in the field of peaceful nuclear plans.”

    Reached for comment, a Pentagon spokesperson told Newsweek that “we’ve seen the press reports, but can confirm that no U.S. military forces have conducted strikes or operations inside Iran.”

    “We continue to monitor the situation, but have nothing further to provide,” the spokesperson added.

    Army Major John Moore, spokesperson for U.S. Central Command, also denied any Pentagon role in the event, telling Newsweek that “U.S. military forces were not involved in this weekend’s strike in Iran.”

    A spokesperson for the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) declined Newsweek‘s request to comment on the matter.

    The IDF has regularly neither confirmed nor denied conducting operations against Iran, most often in third countries such as Syria, where yet another strike was reported Monday, resulting in what the U.K.-based, opposition-led Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported to be the death of the commander of an Iran-backed militia and two of his companions. It was the third strike reported in less than 24 hours in the eastern province of Deir Ezzor, which borders Iraq.

    Newsweek has recently reported on the IDF’s so-called “war between wars,” which included a concerted effort to target Iran’s operations in Syria, where Tehran has set out to shore up air defense capabilities against foes such as Israel. Reports of Israeli action within Iran itself were less common, however, though Israel has been accused for years of orchestrating high-profile assassinations and sabotage attempts on Iranian soil, mostly against individuals and sites tied to Iran’s nuclear program.

    The latest unrest emerged as Blinken traveled to the Middle East, where he met Monday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

    Antony, Blinken, and, Benjamin, Netanyahu, Jerusalem, Israel
    US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (L) greets Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu following a joint press conference in Jerusalem on January 30. The two men affirmed their alliance and joint efforts to counter Iran days after the Islamic Republic was targeted by a drone attack.DEBBIE HILL/POOL/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

    https://938a6c104d2314f52de3ace2c9a19bfc.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-40/html/container.html

    “Our policy, and my policy, is to do everything within Israel’s power to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them, and that will remain so,” Netanyahu said. “But obviously, the fact that we and the United States are working together is something that is important for this common goal as well.”

    Blinken said the Biden administration agreed “that Iran must never be allowed to acquire a nuclear weapon,” and added that he and the Israeli premier “discussed deepening cooperation to confront and counter Iran’s destabilizing activities in the region and beyond.”

    Last week, the two allies held their largest-ever joint live-fire exercise in Israel, involving nearly 8,000 troops along with more than 140 aircraft, including fifth-generation fighter jets and long-range bombers, 12 naval vessels and a number of artillery systems such as the M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS).

    How Russia is getting even closer to Iran

    In his comments on Monday, the top U.S. diplomat went on to criticize Iran’s supply of drones to Russia as the Kremlin continued to wage war on neighboring Ukraine, which has received extensive assistance from the U.S. and NATO allies.

    Tehran’s growing defense ties with Moscow, along with crackdowns on nationwide protests gripping the Islamic Republic since the death of a woman in police custody in September, have been cited by U.S. officials as partially influencing the Biden administration’s decision to no longer “focus” on pursuing diplomacy toward reviving the JCPOA.

    The multilateral deal, forged under then-President Barack Obama, allowed for the lifting of international sanctions against Iran in exchange for strict curbs on the country’s nuclear activities, but then-President Donald Trump abandoned the accord in 2018 and imposed waves of new economic restrictions that have hindered Tehran’s international trade ties.

    Tensions between the U.S. and Iran under Trump nearly spilled into conflict on at least two occasions, following Iran’s shootdown of a U.S. spy drone over the Persian Gulf in June 2019 and the U.S. assassination of Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force commander Major General Qassem Soleimani in January 2020.

    Biden, who criticized his predecessor’s handling of Iran policy and supported the JCPOA, set out to restart negotiations toward returning the U.S. to the deal. He has demanded, however, that Iran first return to the nuclear enrichment limitations it suspended as a result of Washington’s exit and the threats of sanctions against other parties seeking to do business with Tehran.

    Nine rounds of JCPOA revival talks were held in the Austrian capital in Vienna and a “final” draft was established by the European Union, but discussions unraveled last August.

    US, Israel, Juniper, Oak, 2023, military, exercise
    A still from a video published January 27 shows a series of images from the joint U.S.-Israel Juniper Oak 2023 exercise held between January 23 and January 27 by the two allies, in their largest-ever live-fire training. U.S. Central Command chief General Michael Kurilla said of the exercises: “Today the partnership between CENTCOM and the IDF is stronger and continues to grow.”TECH SERGEANT DANIEL ASSELTA/U.S. AIR FORCE CENTRAL

    As the Russian Foreign Ministry condemned the drone strike in Iran as having the potential to stoke “an uncontrolled escalation,” Ukrainian officials appeared to welcome it. Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to the head of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky‘s office, suggested that the attack came as punishment for Iran transferring unmanned aerial systems to Russia.

    “War logic is inexorable & murderous,” Podolyak tweeted Sunday. “It bills the authors & accomplices strictly. Panic in RF—endless mobilization, missile defense in Moscow, trenches 1000 km away, bomb shelters preparation.”

    “Explosive night in Iran—drone & missile production, oil refineries,” he added. “[Ukraine] did warn you.”

    The comments drew the ire of the Iranian Foreign Ministry, which summoned the charge d’affaires of the Ukrainian Embassy in Tehran on Monday over Podolyak’s “outland and baseless comments.”

    “The Islamic Republic of Iran, while paying attention to the accepted principles of international law, has always emphasized the realization of national security and the protection of its interests, and will not compromise with any party on this matter,” ministry spokesperson Nasser Kanaani said.

    He also warned that “the Islamic Republic of Iran reserves its legitimate rights to take countermeasures against parties that have engaged in acts contrary to international law.”

    Newsweek has reached out to the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry for comment.

    Kanaani’s warning Monday extended to Washington as well, as he accused Blinken and the White House National Security Council of making “threatening statements” against Tehran and sponsoring unrest within the Islamic Republic itself.

    “The U.S. government knows all too well that Iran will not tolerate any aggression against its territory and interests,” Kanaani said, “and will respond to aggressors decisively and in a manner that would make them regret their action.”

    Israel Strikes the Iranian Nuclear Horn

    Explosion from an Israeli drone attack at the Iranian Defense Ministry’s ammunition facility in Isfahan. [Photo: Moshe Schwartz/@YWNReporter]

    Israeli drones, warplanes strike Iran and Syria

    Patrick Martin30 January 2023

    Israeli military and intelligence units carried out multiple acts of aggression over the weekend against Iran and Iranian forces in Syria. The attacks were the first offensive military operations under the ultra-right government newly installed in Israel, under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

    A drone attack, likely staged from within Iran by Israeli operatives, hit a weapons facility in the central Iranian city of Isfahan on Saturday night. This was followed Sunday night by airstrikes against a truck convoy operated by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps as it crossed the Iraq-Syria border headed into Syria.

    Definitive information about the scope, damage and casualties from these attacks was difficult to obtain, but the Wall Street Journal cited an unnamed US military source confirming Israeli responsibility for the drone attack in Isfahan.

    There were conflicting claims from Iran and from Israeli sources about the damage in Isfahan. The Iranian Defense Ministry said they caused minor damage and no casualties, and that several of what it called “Micro Aerial Vehicles (MAVs)” had been shot down.

    Given the small size of the drones, said to be quadricopters, and the location of Isfahan in the center of the country, hundreds of miles from the nearest border, military officials said the attack had likely been launched from within Iran by Israeli operatives. Israeli agents have carried out dozens of attacks within Iran, including assassinations, bombings and other acts of sabotage.

    Map of Iran, Isfahan is circled in red. [Photo by JRC, DG, ECHO, EC / CC BY 4.0]http://andrewtheprophet.com

    Iran’s principal nuclear fuel enrichment facility at Natanz is located in Isfahan province, but well away from the city, and it did not appear to be a target of the latest attacks. There is also a large air force base, an Iran Space Research Center site, and numerous smaller military-related facilities, including at least one ammunition warehouse or factory which was reportedly hit by the drone strike.

    The attacks came in the wake of a visit by CIA Director William Burns to Jerusalem for talks with Israeli officials, and coinciding with the arrival of US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who begins a two-day round of official meetings on Monday.

    And it follows the largest-ever US-Israeli joint military exercises, held in the eastern Mediterranean and across Israeli territory, and involving more than 7,500 troops. Among the reported actions was to test systems that would be vital in the initial stages of a major war against Iran, including advance strikes to take out air defense systems and aerial refueling of warplanes.

    The Jerusalem Post wrote, in a gloating tone:

    “Experts noted that the US and Israel just spent an entire week conducting military exercises around attacking targets, such as Iran, so carrying out such an attack immediately after these exercises could be meant to send a message as to their seriousness. They estimated that the visit of CIA Director William Burns to Israel just before the attack was evidence of a need for a special face-to-face meeting between the CIA and Mossad chiefs preparing the attack.”

    The coordination of the military strikes with Washington went beyond simply operational planning. It seems likely that the target within Iran was chosen in response to Iran’s military assistance to Russia in its proxy war with NATO in Ukraine.

    Russia has been making heavy use of Iranian-built drones in the war, although Tehran maintains that the weapons were sent before the war began as part of longstanding military cooperation.

    Both the US and NATO have made highly public claims of Iranian participation in the war. With the drone strike in Isfahan, the US and Israel appear to be expanding the Ukraine fighting far into the Middle East.

    A top aide to Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky made this connection explicitly on Twitter. “Explosive night in Iran,” Mykhailo Podolyak taunted. “Did warn you.”AVAILABLE FROM MEHRING BOOKSThe struggle against imperialism and for workers’ power in IranA pamphlet by Keith Jones

    Already, at his first Middle East stop in Cairo, where he met with Egyptian military dictator Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, Blinken reiterated the bullying US position that “all options are available on the table to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.”

    In the airstrike in Syria, which has not been confirmed by Israeli or US military sources—as is usual in such acts of illegal warfare—fighter-bombers attacked a group of 25 Iranian trucks at the al-Qa’im crossing on the Syria-Iraq border. 

    The Saudi-backed Al-Arabiya network said the trucks had crossed the border and then were hit. According to Syrian media, six refrigerated trucks were among those attacked. Syrian sources also said a meeting of Iranians was targeted in the airstrikes as well.

    The details and implications of this expanding warfare will become more apparent. But behind the Israeli aggression is not only the strategic interests of US imperialism, but the deepening internal crisis within the Zionist state. 

    Thursday’s bloodbath in Jenin, when Israeli troops on a raiding party shot dead 10 Palestinians, produced a retaliatory act of terrorism on Friday night when a Palestinian attacked a synagogue outside Jerusalem, killing seven Israelis. This was followed by further acts of violence around Jerusalem in which both Israelis and Palestinians were killed and wounded.

    The new Netanyahu government has taken office with the most sweeping assertion of the reactionary expansionist goals in the history of Israel. Its statement of principles asserts the “exclusive right” of the Jewish people to Israel and the occupied West Bank, and the coalition was formed on the basis of an agreement to formally annex the West Bank when Netanyahu chooses to do so, and to legalize the dozens of unauthorized settlements there, which are illegal even under current Israeli law.

    The government has already seen the largest opposition demonstrations in recent history, in which both Jews and Arabs took part, against its threat to neuter the Supreme Court and assume effectively absolute power. This has been followed by the Jenin massacre, which has provoked near-civil war conditions in the occupied West Bank.

    More Killing in the Pakistani Horn

    Security officials and rescue workers gather at the site of suicide bombing, in Peshawar, Pakistan, Monday, Jan. 30, 2023.  (AP Photo/Zubair Khan)
    Security officials and rescue workers gather at the site of suicide bombing, in Peshawar, Pakistan, Monday, Jan. 30, 2023. (AP Photo/Zubair Khan)

    Death toll from Pakistan mosque bombing rises to 59

    More than 150 injured in suicide bomb attack on police compound

      By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS |

      PUBLISHED: January 30, 2023 at 5:24 a.m. | UPDATED: January 30, 2023 at 10:28 a.m.

      By Riaz Khan | Associated Press

      PESHAWAR, Pakistan — A suicide bomber struck a crowded mosque inside a police compound in Pakistan on Monday, causing the roof to collapse and killing at least 59 people and wounding more than 150 others, officials said.

      Most of the casualties were police officers. It was not clear how the bomber was able to slip into the walled compound, which houses the police headquarters in the northwestern city of Peshawar and is itself located in a high-security zone with other government buildings.

      Sarbakaf Mohmand, a commander for the Pakistani Taliban, claimed responsibility for the attack on Twitter. The main spokesman for the militant group was not immediately available for comment.
      “The sheer scale of the human tragedy is unimaginable. This is no less than an attack on Pakistan,” tweeted Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif, who visited the wounded in Peshawar and vowed “stern action” against those behind the bombing. He expressed his condolences to families of the victims, saying their pain “cannot be described in words.”

      Pakistan, which is mostly Sunni Muslim, has seen a surge in militant attacks since November, when the Pakistani Taliban ended their cease-fire with government forces.

      Earlier this month, in another attack claimed by the Pakistani Taliban, a gunman shot and killed two intelligence officers, including the director of the counterterrorism wing of the country’s military-based spy agency Inter-Services Intelligence. Security officials said Monday the gunman was traced and killed in a shootout in the northwest near the Afghan border.

      Monday’s assault on a Sunni mosque inside the police facility was one of the deadliest attacks on security forces in recent years.

      The militant group, also known as Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan or TTP, is separate from but a close ally of the Afghan Taliban. The TTP has waged an insurgency in Pakistan in the past 15 years, seeking stricter enforcement of Islamic laws, the release of its members in government custody and a reduction in the Pakistani military presence in areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province it has long used as its base.

      More than 300 worshippers were praying in the mosque, with more approaching, when the bomber set off his explosives vest. Many were injured when the roof came down, according to Zafar Khan, a police officer, and rescuers had to remove mounds of debris to reach worshippers still trapped under the rubble.

      Meena Gul, who was in the mosque when the bomb went off, said he doesn’t know how he survived unhurt. The 38-year-old police officer said he heard cries and screams after the blast.

      Mohammad Asim, a spokesman at the main government hospital in Peshawar, put the death toll at 59, with 157 others wounded. Police official Siddique Khan the bomber blew himself up while among the worshippers.

      Senior police and government officials attended the funerals of 30 police officers and arrangements to bury the rest were being made. Coffins were wrapped in the Pakistani flag their bodies were later handed over to relatives for burials.

      Peshawar is the capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, where the Pakistani Taliban have a strong presence, and the city has been the scene of frequent militant attacks.

      The Afghan Taliban seized power in neighboring Afghanistan in August 2021 as U.S. and NATO troops pulled out of the country after 20 years of war.

      The Pakistani government’s truce with the TTP ended as the country was still contending with unprecedented flooding that killed 1,739 people, destroyed more than 2 million homes, and at one point submerged as much as a third of the country.

      Mohmand, of the militant organization, said a fighter carried out the attack to avenge the killing of Abdul Wali, who was widely known as Omar Khalid Khurasani, and was killed in neighboring Afghanistan’s Paktika province in August 2022.

      Afghanistan’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement that it was “saddened to learn that numerous people lost their lives and many others were injured by an explosion at a mosque in Peshawar” and condemned attacks on worshippers as contrary to the teachings of Islam.

      Condemnations also came from the Saudi Embassy in Islamabad, as well as the U.S. Embassy, adding that “The United States stands with Pakistan in condemning all forms of terrorism.”

      U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called the bombing “particularly abhorrent” for targeting a place of worship, U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.

      Cash-strapped Pakistan faces a severe economic crisis and is seeking a crucial installment of $1.1 billion from the International Monetary Fund — part of its $6 billion bailout package — to avoid default. Talks with the IMF on reviving the bailout have stalled in the past months.

      Former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan called the bombing a “terrorist suicide attack.” He tweeted: “My prayers & condolences go to victims families. It is imperative we improve our intelligence gathering & properly equip our police forces to combat the growing threat of terrorism.”

      Sharif’s government came to power in April after Khan was ousted in a no-confidence vote in Parliament. Khan has since campaigned for early elections, claiming his ouster was illegal and part of a plot backed by the United States. Washington and Sharif dismiss Khan’s claims.

      Associated Press writer Munir Ahmed in Islamabad contributed.

      Israel Drone Hits Iranian Nuclear Horn

      A still frame of an explosion at a building at night.
      A video capturing what is said to be the moment a drone hit a military factory in Isfahan, Iran.Credit…West Asia News Agency, via Reuters

      While the target’s purpose is unclear, the city of Isfahan is a major center of Iranian missile production, research and development.

      A still frame of an explosion at a building at night.

      By Ronen BergmanDavid E. Sanger and Farnaz Fassihi

      Jan. 29, 2023

      TEL AVIV — A drone attack on an Iranian military facility that resulted in a large explosion in the center of the city of Isfahan on Saturday was the work of the Mossad, Israel’s premier intelligence agency, according to senior intelligence officials who were familiar with the dialogue between Israel and the United States about the incident.

      The facility’s purpose was not clear, and neither was how much damage the strike caused. But Isfahan is a major center of missile production, research and development for Iran, including the assembly of many of its Shahab medium-range missiles, which can reach Israel and beyond.

      Weeks ago, American officials publicly identified Iran as the primary supplier of drones to Russia for use in the war in Ukraine, and they said they believed Russia was also trying to obtain Iranian missiles to use in the conflict. But U.S. officials said they believed this strike was prompted by Israel’s concerns about its own security, not the potential for missile exports to Russia.

      The strike came just as Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken was beginning a visit to Israel, his first since Benjamin Netanyahu returned to office as prime minister. The director of the Central Intelligence Agency, William J. Burns, visited Israel last week, though it is not clear anything about the operation in Isfahan was discussed.

      American officials quickly sent out word on Sunday morning that the United States was not responsible for the attack. One official confirmed that it had been conducted by Israel but did not have details about the target. Sometimes Israel gives the United States advance warning of an attack or informs American officials as an operation is being launched. It is unclear what happened in this case.

      Isfahan is the site of four small nuclear research facilities, all supplied by China many years ago. But the facility that was struck on Saturday was in the middle of the city and did not appear to be nuclear-related.

      Iran made no effort to hide the fact that an attack had happened, but said it had done little damage. In statements, senior Iranian officials contended that the drones — apparently quadcopters, a kind of aircraft with four separate propellers — had all been shot down.

      Iran’s official news agency, IRNA, reported on Sunday that the drones had targeted an ammunition manufacturing plant, and that they had been shot down by a surface-to-air defense system. It is not clear why Iran would build an ammunition production plant in the middle of a city of roughly two million people.

      Iran’s foreign minister, Hossein Amir Abdollahian, said at a news conference in Tehran on Sunday that “a cowardly drone attack on a military site in central Iran will not impede Iran’s progress on its peaceful nuclear program.”

      This is Israel’s first known attack inside Iran since Mr. Netanyahu reassumed office, and it may indicate that he has adopted the strategy formed under his two predecessors and political rivals, Naftali Bennett and Yair Lapid, who expanded Israeli attacks inside Iran.

      The quadcopters have become a signature of such operations.

      In August 2019, Israel sent an exploding quadcopter into the heart of a Hezbollah-dominated neighborhood in Beirut, Lebanon, to destroy what Israeli officials described as machinery vital to the production of precision missiles.

      In June 2021, quadcopters exploded at one of Iran’s main manufacturing centers for centrifuges, which purify uranium at the country’s two major uranium enrichment facilities, Fordow and Natanz. That attack was in Karaj, on the outskirts of Tehran. Iran claimed that there was no damage to the site, but satellite images showed evidence of significant damage.

      A year ago, six quadcopters exploded at Kermanshah, Iran’s main manufacturing and storage plant for military drones.

      And in May 2022, a drone strike targeted a highly sensitive military site outside Tehran where Iran develops missile, nuclear and drone technology.

      The targets — presumably including the military facility in Isfahan — have been chosen in part to shake the Iranian leadership, because they demonstrate intelligence about the locations of key sites, even those hidden in the middle of cities.

      Crowds of people, some holding Iranian flags, surround a missile pointing up that is being paraded through a street in Tehran.
      A Shahab missile at a rally in Tehran last year. The facility that was attacked is in Isfahan, a major center of missile production.Credit…Abedin Taherkenareh/EPA, via Shutterstock

      But the strikes also reflect a change in Israeli strategy made after Mr. Bennett became prime minister in June 2021. He lasted a year in the post.

      Mr. Bennett says in a forthcoming YouTube video shared with The New York Times that he decided to “create a price tag” and strike inside Iran in response to any attack on Israelis or Jews around the world. “The Iranians beat us, and soldiers die on the border,” Mr. Bennett says in the self-produced interview, while Iranian leaders “sit quietly in Tehran and we do nothing to them.”

      It was not just the quadcopter attacks.

      After “Iran tried to murder Israelis in Cyprus, in Turkey,” Mr. Bennett says, the Revolutionary Guards Corps commander behind it “was eliminated in Tehran.” He is referring to the assassination of Sayad Khodayee, who Israel claimed was a leader of a covert unit responsible for the abduction and killing of Israelis and other foreigners around the world.

      After Israel adopted the new strategy, Mr. Bennett says in the video, President Biden, during a meeting, made a “sharp request” that Israel inform the United States in advance “of any action we take in Iran.”

      Mr. Bennett refused, he says.

      “There are things you do not want to know about in advance,” he recalls telling the American president.

      The intelligence communities of Israel and the United States clashed on the issue in April 2021 after an operation by the Mossad to blow up bunkers at the Natanz enrichment site surprised the United States.

      Mr. Burns called his counterpart at the Mossad at the time, Yossi Cohen, to express concern over the snub. Mr. Cohen said that the belated notification was the result of operational constraints and uncertainty about when the Natanz operation would take place.

      Obama’s Anti-Imperialist Fantasy Bears Bitter Fruit: Daniel 8

      Andrew Harnik - Pool/Getty Images
      Mark Makela/Getty Images

      ‘In life, as in politics, incompetence can often explain more than bad ideas’MARK MAKELA/GETTY IMAGES

      Obama’s Anti-Imperialist Fantasy Bears Bitter Fruit

      The longer we refuse to acknowledge the mistakes of the Iran deal, the greater a price we pay

      BY

      MARK DUBOWITZ

      JANUARY 08, 2023

      The eventual fall of the Islamic Republic of Iran will reveal the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement to have been one of the worst unforced strategic errors in the history of U.S. foreign policy. At home, the Islamic Republic is the enemy of perhaps 80% or more of its own people, who see it as a criminal entity that murders them in the streets. Abroad, the clerical regime sows further chaos and bloodshed, threatening the United States and its allies and earning the hatred of peoples across the Middle East. Locking the United States in a nearly decadelong embrace of a failing theocratic totalitarian state is a policy disaster of unrivaled proportions, driven by no apparent external necessity. So why is the Biden administration finding it so difficult to move on?

      Oddly, or not, the answers—or nonanswers—to this mystery seem to reveal as much about the unique psyche of the American president at the time, Barack Obama, as they do about the decadelong policy debate on Iran that continues to consume Washington. Yet for some of his supporters and detractors, Obama was simply a practioner of fact-based geopolitics—even if the facts in the end were against him. In this view, Obama as president understood the Islamic Republic as posing a severe threat to American interests and forged a limited agreement to constrain a regime that would be even more dangerous with nuclear weapons. To these critics, he pursued the right goals, but was just remarkably bad at achieving them. A more experienced bargainer might have achieved a better deal.

      Alternatively, to others, the explanation of what went wrong is rooted in the unique character and upbringing of the American leader himself. According to this reading, Obama’s choices were rooted in a personal distaste for Western imperialism and American power that was not shared by many of the deal’s supporters or its detractors. It was Obama’s own picture of the world, not any broader consensus view of how American power should be employed or conserved in the Middle East, that led him into a delusional engagement with anti-Western Sunni and Shiite actors, notably the Muslim Brotherhood and the Islamic Republic, and into a strategic realignment that strengthened these American adversaries against America’s traditional allies, notably Saudi Arabia and Israel.

      In life, as in politics, incompetence can often explain more than bad ideas. In this reading, Obama deserves more blame for his negotiating ineptitude with the mullahs than he does for some ill-conceived scheme of Middle East realignment that supercharged Persian regional power. The 2015 deal, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA, was simply a bad deal that wouldn’t stop Iran’s nuclear weapons programs, not a bad idea rooted in anti-Western theories from the American faculty lounge, where Obama had spent considerable time. But then why are we still stuck backing such an obvious loser? 

      Even as the clerical regime publicly disintegrates, JCPOA supporters continue to argue for the merits of a limited agreement that would even temporarily put Iran’s nuclear program “back in a box,” as Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, put it. Opponents counter that, more than seven years later, a return to the 2015 agreement would be even more wrongheaded than the original deal. Sunsets kick in over a few short years, and the regime would receive a windfall of an estimated $245 billion in sanctions relief in the first year, and over $1 trillion by 2030 when Iran’s nuclear program would be free and clear from meaningful limitations—rescuing a tottering, ill-intentioned and widely hated regime by pumping it full of cash that it would use to build nuclear weapons and sow regional chaos. The arms control paradigm, in which supporters and critics argue back and forth over what would constitute “a better deal,” is preventing a clear acknowledgement of Obama’s failure—and blocking the development of a workable strategy for dealing with current developments in Iran and throughout the region.

      The faults of the JCPOA have been covered many times, including by this author. The Obama administration abandoned its negotiating leverage, provided mainly by a bipartisan Congress which passed biting economic sanctions on Iran between 2009 and 2012 over the objections of the Obama White House. The administration concluded a flawed interim nuclear agreement in 2013, and an even worse final agreement in 2015. The eventual deal trashed decades of bipartisan U.S. policy and multiple U.N. Security Council resolutions calling on Iran to cease enriching uranium or reprocessing plutonium on its soil. While it temporarily delayed Iranian nuclear expansion, the deal ceded the right to develop nuclear fissile material to the Islamic Republic and contained a series of sunset provisions under which nuclear restrictions disappeared. These sunsets permitted Tehran to develop, over time, an industrial-size enrichment program, near-zero nuclear breakout capability, and an advanced centrifuge-powered sneak-out capacity, as even Obama himself acknowledged after the deal was concluded.

      Many critics of the deal argued that a longer, stronger, and broader agreement was possible if Obama had maximized the pressure on the regime, including through a credible threat of military force. Indeed, the Trump administration came into office promising to do exactly that. Trump withdrew from the JCPOA in 2018, imposed crushing sanctions that ravaged the Islamic Republic’s finances, and dealt a serious blow to Iranian regional power with the joint Mossad-CIA killing of Qassem Soleimani, Iran’s most competent military strategist and most feared battlefield commander.

      Analysts and partisans continue to debate what could have transpired if this “maximum pressure campaign” had lasted longer than two years. But Biden reversed Trump’s pressure strategy, looked the other way as Chinese purchases of Iranian oil spiked, and waited too long before tackling a massive clandestine sanctions network that earned the regime tens of billions of dollars in hard currency. Predictably this “maximum deference” approach, meant to lure Iran back to the bargaining table, has failed to deliver any agreement, including even a return to a weaker version of the JCPOA. Instead, Iran’s nuclear program has rapidly and dangerously expanded under Biden’s watch, with no serious discussion about how to stop it—aside from stuffing the Islamic Republic’s pockets with more cash.

      Getty Images

      The Iran Deal’s Inevitable SequelBarack Obama’s plan was never about stopping Iran from obtaining a bomb. It was about realigning American interests in the Middle East in order to remake the Democratic Party at home.

      BYGABRIEL NORONHA

      As protests continue to rage in Iran, with more than 2,000 demonstrations in over three months across all of Iran’s provinces and Iranians demanding regime change and “death to the dictator,” the place to start to answer the question of how we got ourselves into this mess is an earlier Iranian uprising: the 2009 Green Revolution. Then, the fraudulent reelection of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, in an even more blatant act of election manipulation than had been common in the Islamic Republic, led to massive pro-democracy demonstrations in Tehran.

      The 2009 demonstrations were bigger in size than anything since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, including the current protests. The Green Revolution had clear leadership with support inside some elements of the regime itself; it arguably represented a more cohesive and threatening political opposition to the regime than this year’s leaderless street demonstrations. Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei himself said that the 2009 protests had taken the clerical regime “to the edge of the cliff.” So why did the 2009 Green Revolution fail?

      The key to the regime’s successful campaign of repression in 2009 was America’s decision to appease the Islamic Republic at the expense of the Iranian people. The demonstrators were clearly looking outward with the expectation of Western support, especially from the young, supposedly idealistic, newly elected American president. When Obama instead took pains to reassure the Iranian leadership of his commitment to engagement, he made it clear to the demonstrators that they were on their own against their jailers. Within a few weeks, the would-be revolution collapsed.

      In the moment, many people outside Iran cut Obama considerable slack. It was just the beginning of his presidency, and his focus was clearly on getting out of Iraq, as he had promised. Yet, in retrospect, there is something disturbing about what Obama did in 2009 that looks even more troubling from the vantage point of Syria, Crimea, and the Donbas, and America’s continuing inability to forget about the JCPOA.

      Why did Obama so comprehensively and demonstratively turn his back on the Iranian democracy protesters in 2009, in what was his first major foreign policy decision as president? It is a deep question, especially since Obama himself, after bipartisan and European support swung behind the 2022 protests, has belatedly acknowledged that his lack of support for the Green Revolution was a mistake.

      The first set of answers again lies in the familiar area of realpolitik: Obama didn’t want any distractions in getting the United States out of Iraq, and he saw Iran as the keystone to a smooth withdrawal. Angering the Iranian leadership would only lead to greater American casualties, which could cause a political firestorm, with Obama blamed for getting U.S. soldiers killed. That would force him to surge in more troops to Iraq to assuage the Pentagon and Congress, rather than withdrawing them.

      Yet Obama had a problem in carrying out his withdrawal from Iraq: Congress was passing tough sanctions on Iran over the objections of the White House. In response, he wrote letters to Iran’s supreme leader offering an end to U.S.–Iranian hostilities and greater political and economic engagement. As the regime took Obama’s messaging as a green light to rapidly increase its influence in Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, Yemen, and Gaza, even as America’s Sunni allies warned of a “Shiite crescent” that threatened their own stability, Obama did little to confront Tehran.

      Yet Obama’s strategic priority in 2009 was not to cement a U.S. deal with Iran at any cost. It was to engage with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who was seen as the commander of the Sunni Muslim Brotherhood. Obama characterized Erdogan as the type of moderate Muslim leader that could help him stabilize a turbulent Middle East. Turkey was a NATO member and major Middle Eastern military power. Engaging with Erdogan and the Muslim Brotherhood also meant taking out Egypt’s authoritarian president Hosni Mubarak, who had repressed the Brotherhood, and stood in the way of the Arab Spring.

      It is possible from one angle to see Obama’s support for the Arab Spring as support for democracy in the Middle East. Yet as his decision to turn his back on the Iranian pro-democracy protesters suggests, Obama was hardly a supporter of regional democrats. Nor was he particularly interested in supporting Iraq’s struggling democracy, which he saw as a tar pit that would only prolong U.S. engagement in the region—which he strongly opposed. In place of U.S. engagement, Obama supported anti-Western, “one election” Islamists who, like the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, Erdogan in Turkey, and Khamenei in Iran, used and abused democratic mechanisms to gain and keep power. His preference was not for democrats per se, but for anti-imperialists who overthrew or sought to overthrow autocratic U.S. allies.

      Yet the Arab Spring turned out very differently than Obama expected. When the Arab Spring in Egypt led to the takeover by the Muslim Brotherhood, the Egyptian military, backed by many secular Egyptians who had demonstrated against Mubarak, launched a coup to restore secular authoritarian rule. In Syria, a democratic uprising led to a brutal crackdown by Bashar Assad, with support from Iran-backed ground troops.

      The failures of the Arab Spring meant the collapse of Obama’s vision for a Middle East led by the Muslim Brotherhood and its affiliates. It was only after that vision collapsed that Obama sent his advisers Jake Sullivan and Bill Burns to Oman in 2013 to explore nuclear negotiations with the Iranians—in the hopes of finding another Middle Eastern power aside from Turkey that could “stabilize” the region in the wake of America’s withdrawal from Iraq.

      Unsurprisingly, Iran often seemed to exist for Obama not as a threat to U.S. interests but as a historical victim of Western imperialism, which supposedly overthrew a “democratically elected” Iranian prime minister and installed the shah. Iran’s repressive theocratic regime seemed less notable for its blatant offenses against its own people, or its efforts to destabilize neighboring states, than for its role as the bête noire of warmongering neoconservatives in the United States, who supported a regional structure that put America on the side of troublemakers such as Israel and Saudi Arabia. Faced with the choice between the Islamic Republic and its enemies, Obama found it surprisingly easy to take the side of the mullahs—putting himself and the United States crossways both to U.S. interests and the hopes and dreams of the Iranian people.

      Obama’s big Iran play, which continues to shape U.S. regional policy to this day, was therefore neither “values-driven” nor purely pragmatic. His apparent goal was to extricate the United States from a cycle of endless conflict—one of whose primary causes, as he saw it, was Western imperialism. In doing so, Obama sought to be the first anti-imperialist American president since Dwight Eisenhower, who had backed Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser against the British, French, and Israelis in the 1956 Suez war. (Eisenhower later admitted that backing Nasser and abandoning the United States’ traditional allies had been one of the biggest mistakes of his presidency.)

      Yet the Iranians were not, in fact, powerful enough to play the “balancing” role Obama envisioned for them, as their failure to stabilize Syria proved. He therefore stood aside, willingly or not, as the Russians intervened on the Iranian side to bomb the Syrian resistance. For rescuing the Islamic Republic and its allies in Syria, Putin was allowed to invade Crimea and the Donbas with minimal opposition from the Obama administration.

      Anti-imperialist narratives were clearly important to Obama, and make sense as products of his unique upbringing. The fact that they utterly failed to correspond to regional realities caused multiple problems on the ground in the Middle East. Obama’s policy of trying to put the United States on the side of his own preferred client states created a slaughter in Syria that in turn led to multiple other slaughters throughout the region. The rise of ISIS was fueled partly in response to vicious Iran-backed attacks against Iraqi and Syrian Sunnis. The shocking rise of the Islamic State required Obama to send U.S. troops into Syria and back into Iraq. It also emboldened Putin, who invaded Ukraine for the third time in 2022.

      Obama’s ongoing and catastrophic policy failure, which has blocked the Biden administration from developing any kind of workable strategic vision for dealing with current realities in Iran and throughout the region, demonstrates that substituting American narratives about purity and guilt for hard-power realities is a dangerous business. Ideologically driven anti-Western narratives led the United States to place dangerous and wrongheaded bets on Sunni Islamists and Shiite theocrats at the expense of our own interests and friends. Poorly executed policy led to a fatally flawed nuclear agreement that continues to bedevil the Biden administration and America’s European and Middle Eastern allies. The JCPOA was a big mistake. The longer we refuse to admit that, the higher the price we will continue to pay.

      The Pakistani Horn’s Nuclear Threat: Daniel 8

      Pakistan's Nuclear Threat And A Two Front War!

      Pakistan’s Nuclear Threat And A Two Front War!

      Coming to TWO FRONT WAR narrative of Indian thinkers — one has to take into account that it would no more be a regional conflict. It would definitely escalate to a global conflict, with many nations getting involved directly or indirectly.

      26 Jan 2023

      A latest book, ‘Never Give an Inch: Fighting for the America I Love l’ by Mike Pompeo, an ex Secretary of State of USA, during Donald Trump’s presidency, has caused a national defence and security storm of a great magnitude in India. He has talked of two issues. The first issue pertains to late Sushma Swaraj, former External Affairs Minister (EAM), during first tenure of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, from 2014- 2019. Mike Pompeo emphatically says that he did not pull on well with Sushma Swaraj. He also thinks that Sushma Swaraj did not have much  say in the foreign policy of India. He further reveals that he had good relations with NSA, Ajit Doval. Mike Pompeo goes on to say that he had good working relations with current EAM, Dr. S Jaishankar. He finds him very cordial, knowledgable and very confident .

      Second point he makes is about Balakot Surgical Strike by Indian Air Force on 26 Feb 2019. It was in response to Pakistan sponsored terror attack near Srinagar, where a bus carrying CRPF men, was attacked and 45 men were martyred. In response to Balakote surgical strike by India, stresses Mike Pompeo, that Pakistan had contemplated to carry out a nuclear strike. It is this revelation which has caused it to become a hot subject of debate in India. According to Pompeo, India too had geared up for a befitting nuclear response.

      Defence analysts in India have revived the debate on likely nuclear conflagration in the region. What is under question is ‘No First Use’ nuclear policy of India! Suggestions are being made to shed this policy and adopt a ‘pre- emptive’  approach. Analysts are more worried about the likelihood of a ‘two front’ war with China and Pakistan in unison. They question if India can withstand and sustain in such a scenario. Finally, it is also feared that China, who is militarily more stronger than India, can repeat a la – 1962 disgrace on India. These are obvious apprehensions and speculations of defence and security planners of India.

      The above apprehensions ought to be seen in a realistic assessment of the geo-strategic, geo-economical and geo-political environments. It is no doubt that ‘Brute Force wars’ have given way to ‘Brain Force Wars’, where technology plays a vital role. New concept of ‘No Contact wars’ have gained momentum. Missiles, Drones, Laser Guns, EMP Guns, Artificial Intelligence (AI), Cyber Warfare, Robotics and Nano – Technology has added new dimensions to war – making.

      Thus, in the 21st Century, the war – making, at a scale being apprehended by Indian critics, is simply a joke. They are unrealistic in their assessment of geo- strategic and geo-political facts. To imagine that China can engage India in an all out military confrontation is without taking into accounts Chinese aims and objectives vis – a- vis Indian capabilities. China can do so only at a risk — grave one too—to jeopardise Xi Jinping’s not only ‘ONE CHINA’  policy but also his global supremacy desire by 2049.

      In fact, USA and West would be too happy to see two Asian Giants in a military confrontation. And China knows it. Besides, China also knows that India was NO MILITARY PUSHOVER like in 1962. In fact it was confused the Indian leadership of 1962, which did not use IAF. The outcome would have been different, if it was done. IAF then was far superior to PLAAF.

      Coming to TWO FRONT WAR narrative of Indian thinkers — one has to take into account that it would no more be a regional conflict. It would definitely escalate into a global conflict, with many nations getting involved directly or indirectly. Pakistan in any case is no more in a position to sustain a conventional war economically, atleast not in the near future.

      Do not forget the statement made by current Pakistani Prime Minister, Sh Shehbaz Sharief. He begged India to re-commence talks so as to normalise relations. His appeal was necessitated because of the dire economic crisis now Pakistan has got into! Having gone everywhere with a begging bowl but with no success, he had realised that economy can not be revived without normal relations with India. His priority is reviving economy and not rush to war. In fact, former Chief of Pakistan Army, Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa had recommended improving relations with India. He was over ruled by then Prime Minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan.

      As regards likelihood of a nuclear threat from Pakistan —one feels it was being overstated. No doubts Pakistan has adequate nukes- both tactical and strategic. Also, she has been advocating ‘Full Soectrum Deterrence’ (FSD) to neutralise Indian conventional force supremacy. FSD seeks use of TNW (Tactical Nuclear Weapons) to checkmate India. Bottomline of employing FSD was against India gaining an upper hand in a conventional military confrontation. It is unlikely that it would indulge in a panic reaction after incidents like Balakot. An option is always considered but it remains in the meeting hall. Mike Pompeo might have knowledge of Pakistan military’s consideration of such an option. But it was not favoured. However, Pompeo is creating a sensation to sell his book in India. Such revelations are deliberately pushed so as to exploit great Indian market. Take it with a pinch of salt.

      Any nation with a policy of ‘FIRST USE’ of nuclear strike has to first decide ‘how much’ would be needed to incapacitate your adversary totally? Pakistan would have to ensure that India did not still have a second strike capability — because Indian response would be merciless, aimed at totally wiping out Pakistan from earth’s map. Therefore a question arises if Pakistan can achieve 100% kill of Indian nuke capability?

      This ALL OUT response of India is known to Pakistan’s Military. India might be 50% destroyed by Pak’s First Strike but India would then ensure Pakistan was 100% destroyed. Indian geography ensures at least 50% safety against Pak nuke strikes.

      It was this known response of India that military planners of Pakistan had, in the past, thought about STRATEGIC DEPTH in Afghanistan. Unfortunately, it is NO more available. In fact, Afghanistan was no more friendly to Pakistan. The Taliban from Afghanistan attack across the Durand Line. One must know what Pakistan military thinks about the use of Nuclear weapons. Erstwhile Pakistan’s strongman General Pervez Musharaff had said that NUKES were only to be used as deterrent. General Bajwa laid emphasis on Geo- Economics. Present Chief cannot think otherwise because Military knows the consequences.

      Also note that extensive use of nukes against India would be as destructive to Pakistan as India. Nuclear strikes would throw up so much smoke, debris and dust that whole region would be covered. In a ‘War Game’ carried out in USA, last year, an Indo – Pak Nuclear War would kill 270 million people instantly, in seconds and minutes. Worst will follow after this. Survivors would envy the dead.

      Don’t forget about what happened after Balakote attack, then Pakistan Prime Minister, Imran Khan, had said in the Pakistan National Assembly! He had asked in anger: “DO YOU WANT ME TO ATTACK INDIA”? There are revelations made by PML ( N) that PM’s LEGS WERE SHAKING, when he had said so. (Tange Kaanp rahi thi).

      It is not easy for any leader of any country to make such a decision. Why are USA and WEST not interfering in Ukraine? Russia has made clear its bottom line of nuke attack. Should USA directly intervene, it would be a nuclear war. Putin minces no words on this. Should Pakistan even think of it, India will respond with greater speed. Indian military satellites must be keeping a 24 hours watch on likely nukes silos of Pakistan.


      (Col. Rajinder Kushwaha is an ex-NDA, commissioned into 3 Bihar. He is a battle-hardened veteran who served in  ’71 War & has operated extensively in various insurgency environs across the country. He is a renowned author, and a highly respected defence & national security expert writing for several reputed publications such as  ‘Defence and Security Alert’ (DSA), the ‘Indian Defence Review’ (IDR) among others. You can reach him on Twitter: @RajeeKushwaha, Email ID: rajee749@yahoo.com)

      (Views expressed are the authors own, and do not reflect the editorial policy of ‘Mission Victory India’)

      For more defence related content, follow us on Twitter: @MVictoryIndia and Facebook: @MissionVictoryIndia

      Putin Is Close To Using Nukes In Ukraine: Revelation 16

      Putin The President Russia Power Politics

      Russia’s President Vladimir Putin

      Is Putin Close To Using Nukes In Ukraine? – OpEd

         Timothy Hopper  0 Comments

      By Timothy Hopper

      The destruction of the crucial Kerch Bridge on the Sea of Azov – a Russian red line – as well as recent attacks on the North Stream 1 and 2 pipelines at the bottom of the North Sea, show that Washington and Moscow are more willing than ever to exert pressure on one another and alter the nature of the battlefield.

      What other destructive weapons would Russia and the US employ before resorting to nuclear weapons? It would be simple to predict how long it will be before nuclear weapons are used and how much nuclear damage will be done once other destructive weapons have lost their effectiveness.

      The current battlefield conditions suggest that the time has come for Moscow and Washington to think and decide because how they continue the war in Ukraine will determine whether they lose or win the potential nuclear war. Although Biden regards Putin as a “rational actor,” he believes the risk of nuclear Armageddon is at its highest since the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. As Russia approaches defeat, is it likely that insanity replaces Putin’s rationality and the risk of nuclear war increases?

      After the Russian army failed to achieve its predetermined goal to completely invade Ukraine in a few weeks, Kremlin declared that it would use nuclear weapons “if Russia’s very existence was threatened”. Even the deputy chairman of the Russian Security Council, Dmitry Medvedev, stated that Moscow will use any weapon required to defend areas that should join Russia. He claimed that Moscow has the right to protect its borders with any weapon in its arsenal, including strategic nuclear weapons.

      A few months ago, during a visit to the Office of the US Director of National Intelligence, US President Joe Biden emphasized that the US intelligence services are “better than” their Russian counterparts and that Putin is “sitting on top of an economy that has nuclear weapons and oil wells and nothing else”. “He knows he’s in real trouble, which makes him even more dangerous” he added. In a guest essay for The New York Times President Biden wrote: “any use of nuclear weapons in this conflict on any scale would be completely unacceptable to us as well as the rest of the world and would entail severe consequences” for Russia.

      Furthermore, during his mysterious trip to Washington, Ben Wallace, the UK Secretary of State for Defense, described his talks with his American counterpart and senior White House officials as “beyond belief,” indicating that extremely sensitive and critical issues such as the withdrawal of Russian military forces and Putin’s possible use of unconventional warfare were discussed.

      When Putin and Biden, as the leaders of two nuclear powers, threaten to utilize nuclear weapons, it seems likely that they are preparing the world’s population for the potential of nuclear war. Seventy-seven years after the first-ever nuclear explosions in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the likelihood of this lethal weapon being used again has skyrocketed. The military and intelligence agencies are also conducting computer simulations at nuclear facilities. These powers keep iterating that they have a variety of devastating methods for destroying each other, which is not a bluff.

      To ensure its supremacy, the US used unconventional tactical warfare in Japan, Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq. Along the same line, if push comes to shove and Russia loses more grounds, particularly Donbas and Crimea, Putin will use nuclear weapons to save himself and Russia. If Putin decides to use nuclear weapons, the West must accept defeat or risk a full-scale nuclear war when faced with “the only option of countermeasure.”

      In the case of a nuclear confrontation between the two military superpowers, the West will have to decide whether victory against Russia is worth losing Washington, London, Paris, and Berlin. According to Sky News, Russia is capable of destroying significant cities in the West, such as London and Washington. Once fired, Russia’s nukes take around 20 minutes to hit London. Approximately 4,477 nuclear weapons are in Russia’s arsenal, according to estimates from Western intelligence agencies, notably the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists (March 2022), whereas 5,943 nuclear warheads are in the hands of the Western coalition supporting Ukraine (with the US having 5428, the UK 225, and France 290 warheads). Additionally, on the TNT scale, each nuclear bomb has an explosive force of 300 to 800 kilotons.

      To prepare the minds of the citizens of Western countries, movies have been made that demonstrate how a nuclear weapon equivalent to 300 kilotons of TNT can demolish Washington, London, or Paris. By making threats like this, Russia hopes to influence analysts and decision-makers to concentrate on the threat rather than assisting Ukraine. 

      The West seeks victory or conditions that will force Putin to sit at the negotiating table and compensate for the damage done to Ukraine. NATO began its two-week-long military exercises over the skies of northwest Europe on October 17 in response to Russian naval mines and its 58 advanced nuclear submarines to ensure nuclear deterrence policy against Russia. This exercise included sixty aircraft from 14 countries, as well as underwater drones.

      Additionally, on October 19, General Michael Kurilla, the commander of CENTCOM, paid a visit to the USS West Virginia, a nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine operating in the Red Sea, as NATO conducted nuclear exercises. This visit, which took place at an undisclosed location at sea level, is a rare move that emphasizes the importance of nuclear deterrence policy in a time of tension with Russia and China.

      Nonetheless, a new cold war has begun, one that is fundamentally different from the Soviet-era cold war. Political threats replaced military threats to maintain peace at the time, whereas in the new cold war, which is actually a hot war, military threats have replaced political threats and nuclear war is not improbable.

      India and Pakistan coming close to nuclear war: Revelation 8

      Mike Pompeo

      India and Pakistan came close to nuclear war: Pompeo

      By Soutik Biswas

      India correspondent

      India and Pakistan came “close” to a “nuclear conflagration” in February 2019, former US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said in his new memoir.

      This happened after Delhi launched strikes against militants in Pakistani territory following an attack on Indian troops in Kashmir.

      Pakistan had then said it had shot down two Indian military jets and captured a fighter pilot.

      India and Pakistan claim all of Kashmir, but control only parts of it.

      India has long accused Pakistan of backing separatist militants in the Kashmir valley – a charge Islamabad denies. The nuclear-armed neighbours have fought three wars since independence from Britain and partition in 1947. All but one were over Kashmir.

      In Never Give An Inch: Fighting for the America I Love, Mr Pompeo says he does “not think the world properly knows just how close the India-Pakistan rivalry came to spilling over into a nuclear conflagration in February 2019”.

      “The truth is, I don’t know precisely the answer either; I just know it was too close,” he writes.

      Mr Pompeo says he will “never forget the night” he was in Hanoi at a summit “negotiating with the North Koreans on nuclear weapons” when “India and Pakistan started threatening each other in connection with the decades-long dispute over the northern border region of Kashmir”.

      After the attack on Indian troops that killed more than 40 soldiers – “an Islamist terrorist attack… probably enabled in part by Pakistan’s lax counter-terror policies”, according to Mr Pompeo – India had responded with air strikes inside Pakistan. “The Pakistanis shot down a plane in a subsequent dogfight and kept the Indian pilot prisoner.”

      Image purportedly showing wreckage of Indian plane
      Image caption,A Pakistani government image purporting to show wreckage from one of the downed jets

      Mr Pompeo said he was awakened in Hanoi to speak with an Indian “counterpart”, who is unnamed.

      “He believed the Pakistanis had begun to prepare their nuclear weapons for a strike. India, he informed me, was contemplating its own escalation,” Mr Pompeo writes.

      “I asked him to do nothing and give us a minute to sort things out.”

      Mr Pompeo writes he began to work with the then National Security Adviser John Bolton who was with him in the “tiny secure communications facility in our hotel”.

      He says he reached out to Pakistan’s then army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa, with “whom I had engaged many times”, and told him what the “Indians had told me”.

      “He said it wasn’t true. As one might expect, he believed the Indians were preparing their nuclear weapons for deployment. It took us a few hours – and remarkably good work by our teams on the ground in New Delhi and Islamabad – to convince each side that the other was not preparing for nuclear war.

      “No other nation would have done what we did that night to avoid a horrible outcome,” Mr Pompeo writes.

      Neither India nor Pakistan have commented so far on Mr Pompeo’s claims.

      The 2019 attack on Indian soldiers was claimed by a group based in Pakistan, Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), and India had vowed to retaliate.

      India’s aerial attacks across the Line of Control (LoC) dividing Indian and Pakistani territory were the first since a war in 1971. India said it had killed a large number of militants but Pakistan called the claim “reckless”.