The Saudi Nuclear Horn: Daniel 7

Military truck carrying intermediate-range ballistic missile of Pakistani army, November 27, 2008 (Courtesy SyedNaqvi90)

Military truck carrying intermediate-range ballistic missile of Pakistani army, November 27, 2008 (Courtesy SyedNaqvi90)

And What If Saudi Arabia Were The Owner Of Nuclear Missiles? – OpEd

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By Jonathan Power

In any body politic there will be a group of powerful people who, if not in the inner circle of the president or prime minister, can win access to it at regular intervals. Security is their profession, and they can be met at discrete academic conferences where they tend to stand out as rather earnest, if sombre, figures.

It is they who bend the ear of those in authority, consistent in their solicitations even as governments change, arguing that their country will only have true security if they possess a nuclear deterrent and that if their advice is not heeded one day there will be an enemy who will take advantage of their country’s naiveté.

The politicians whose ears they bend have won their authority not by knowing about the world outside their own country and its discontents but by climbing the ladder in domestic politics, perhaps becoming expert in one or two things e.g. tax law, civil rights, transport, climate change or the economy, very rarely in military and geo-political matters. They are often putty in the hands of these would-be nuclear strategists and nuclear bomb makers.

One of these I knew reasonably well, the erudite and charming nuclear physicist, the late Dr Munir Khan, one of the fathers of Pakistan’s nuclear bomb, who, it was said—although no proof was ever forthcoming—had used his previous position as a high official in the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to build clandestine contacts for Pakistan’s bomb makers. He explained to me, long after he was retired, how he and his fellow nuclear scientists manipulated the civilian leadership.

The late Olof Palme, prime minister of Sweden for many years, told me of how he had to “de-fang” the nuclear bomb establishment that was well under way with its plans when he came to power. It is not easy to roll back the nuclear lobby even when one is prime minister—there is always the danger, if you don’t take the scientists along with you, that they, believing they love the country more than the prime minister does, will conduct their future researches clandestinely or, if not in secret, under the guise of using it for “peaceful purposes” and await for the political currents to turn in their favour. This happened in white-ruled South Africa.

This is also in essence what happened in India. An authoritative study, The Politics of Nuclear Weapons in India and Pakistan” (Praeger) written by Haider Nizamani makes clear that their nuclear bomb programmes did not originate in response to specific security problems. Adversaries were not the cause. Rather, they had to be found. This explains India’s remarkable decision to put its bomb development on ice after its successful “peaceful” nuclear test in 1974. The “threat” from China had gone quiet and Pakistan, for all the acrimony, did not seem a real threat.

Only in the 1990s, by arguing that China with its nuclear weapons was becoming an enemy, were the bomb advocates able to win the ear of the politicians and alterative voices were gradually marginalized as “unpatriotic”. One of the pivotal figures was the strategic thinker K. Subrahmanyam who by sheer doggedness transformed a minority opinion into a mainstream assumption.

His calculation, correct as it turned out, is once a certain threshold has been crossed popular opinion, invariably nationalistic, will succumb to the call of patriotism. With the rise of the Hindu-nationalist party, the BJP, the bomb became inevitable.

We now see the same process afoot in Saudi Arabia. A couple of dozen years ago in this column I tried to draw attention to Saudi Arabia’s purchase of Chinese CSS-2 rockets. I wrote then that there could be no question these had not been purchased for conventional military activity, as they were unnecessarily powerful and, moreover, inaccurate with a normal explosive warhead. Their sole real purpose was to carry a nuclear weapon.

The Saudi military and strategists in effect hoodwinked the king and the ruling princes, persuading them that these rockets were the best deal on the market and the fact they could carry nuclear warheads was at that time irrelevant since they worked well with conventional warheads

For years, Western nuclear powers have connived to keep this, if not secret, quiet. Saudi Arabia has been a strategic ally, most important and long-standing, in the oil business. As successive administrations in Washington have viewed it, discretion has been the better part of valour, even though one of the targets for a Saudi bomb could be the Middle East’s other nuclear-bomb power, Israel, America’s staunch friend.

An article by Richard Russell in Survival, the quarterly of the influential International Institute for Strategic Studies, argued that whilst Saudi Arabia has not yet put nuclear warheads on these rockets it is probably only a matter of time before it does. Self-serving security issues are far more important in such decision-making that “an innate friendship” with the U.S.

For the desert kingdom with its small population and army but huge territory, nuclear weapons appear a sensible option.

After Washington belatedly discovered the purchase of the CSS-2s from China, 31 senators called on the Reagan Administration to suspend American arms sales to Saudi Arabia. But the Saudis were not intimidated. Requests by Washington to inspect the missiles have been refused. Saudi Arabia this year has become even more self-assertive, linking up with Russia to keep oil prices high. These days Saudi Arabia seems not to care a hoot what Washington wants of it.

As Israel long has, Saudi Arabia will always deny the intention to build a nuclear armoury. But common sense and much circumstantial evidence suggest that this is the way it will go. It is not the so-called “rogues” who pose the threat of uncontrolled nuclear proliferation; it is some of the Western powers’ “nearest and dearest”.

With Saudi Arabia now being led by the quite unscrupulous, not to say amoral, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, I would not be surprised to see him making the decision to go nuclear. A warhead would be easily purchasable from Saudi Arabia’s friend, Pakistan, a country that also likes to keep its distance from America.

What is Washington going to do about that?

About the author: The writer was for 17 years a foreign affairs columnist and commentator for the International Herald Tribune, now the New York Times. He has also written dozens of columns for the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Boston Globe and the Los Angeles Times. He is the European who has appeared most on the opinion pages of these papers. Visit his website: www.jonathanpowerjournalist.com

The Saudi Arabian Nuclear Horn: Daniel 7

Photo: Pakistan Ballistic Missile. Source: International Relations Insights & Analysis (IRIA)

And What If Saudi Arabia Were the Owner of Nuclear Missiles?

Viewpoint by Jonathan Power

LUND, Sweden (IDN) — In any body politic there will be a group of powerful people who, if not in the inner circle of the president or prime minister, can win access to it at regular intervals. Security is their profession, and they can be met at discrete academic conferences where they tend to stand out as rather earnest, if sombre, figures.

It is they who bend the ear of those in authority, consistent in their solicitations even as governments change, arguing that their country will only have true security if they possess a nuclear deterrent and that if their advice is not heeded one day there will be an enemy who will take advantage of their country’s naiveté.

The politicians whose ears they bend have won their authority not by knowing about the world outside their own country and its discontents but by climbihttp://andrewtheprophet.comng the ladder in domestic politics, perhaps becoming expert in one or two things e.g. tax law, civil rights, transport, climate change or the economy, very rarely in military and geo-political matters. They are often putty in the hands of these would-be nuclear strategists and nuclear bomb makers.

One of these I knew reasonably well, the erudite and charming nuclear physicist, the late Dr Munir Khan, one of the fathers of Pakistan’s nuclear bomb, who, it was said—although no proof was ever forthcoming—had used his previous position as a high official in the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to build clandestine contacts for Pakistan’s bomb makers. He explained to me, long after he was retired, how he and his fellow nuclear scientists manipulated the civilian leadership.

The late Olof Palme, prime minister of Sweden for many years, told me of how he had to “de-fang” the nuclear bomb establishment that was well under way with its plans when he came to power. It is not easy to roll back the nuclear lobby even when one is prime minister—there is always the danger, if you don’t take the scientists along with you, that they, believing they love the country more than the prime minister does, will conduct their future researches clandestinely or, if not in secret, under the guise of using it for “peaceful purposes” and await for the political currents to turn in their favour. This happened in white-ruled South Africa.

This is also in essence what happened in India. An authoritative study, “The Politics of Nuclear Weapons in India and Pakistan” (Praeger) written by Haider Nizamani makes clear that their nuclear bomb programmes did not originate in response to specific security problems. Adversaries were not the cause. Rather, they had to be found. This explains India’s remarkable decision to put its bomb development on ice after its successful “peaceful” nuclear test in 1974. The “threat” from China had gone quiet and Pakistan, for all the acrimony, did not seem a real threat.

Only in the 1990s, by arguing that China with its nuclear weapons was becoming an enemy, were the bomb advocates able to win the ear of the politicians and alterative voices were gradually marginalized as “unpatriotic”. One of the pivotal figures was the strategic thinker K. Subrahmanyam who by sheer doggedness transformed a minority opinion into a mainstream assumption.

His calculation, correct as it turned out, is once a certain threshold has been crossed popular opinion, invariably nationalistic, will succumb to the call of patriotism. With the rise of the Hindu-nationalist party, the BJP, the bomb became inevitable.

We now see the same process afoot in Saudi Arabia. A couple of dozen years ago in this column I tried to draw attention to Saudi Arabia’s purchase of Chinese CSS-2 rockets. I wrote then that there could be no question these had not been purchased for conventional military activity, as they were unnecessarily powerful and, moreover, inaccurate with a normal explosive warhead. Their sole real purpose was to carry a nuclear weapon.

The Saudi military and strategists in effect hoodwinked the king and the ruling princes, persuading them that these rockets were the best deal on the market and the fact they could carry nuclear warheads was at that time irrelevant since they worked well with conventional warheads

For years, Western nuclear powers have connived to keep this, if not secret, quiet. Saudi Arabia has been a strategic ally, most important and long-standing, in the oil business. As successive administrations in Washington have viewed it, discretion has been the better part of valour, even though one of the targets for a Saudi bomb could be the Middle East’s other nuclear-bomb power, Israel, America’s staunch friend.

An article by Richard Russell in Survival, the quarterly of the influential International Institute for Strategic Studies, argued that whilst Saudi Arabia has not yet put nuclear warheads on these rockets it is probably only a matter of time before it does. Self-serving security issues are far more important in such decision-making that “an innate friendship” with the U.S.

For the desert kingdom with its small population and army but huge territory, nuclear weapons appear a sensible option.

After Washington belatedly discovered the purchase of the CSS-2s from China, 31 senators called on the Reagan Administration to suspend American arms sales to Saudi Arabia. But the Saudis were not intimidated. Requests by Washington to inspect the missiles have been refused. Saudi Arabia this year has become even more self-assertive, linking up with Russia to keep oil prices high. These days Saudi Arabia seems not to care a hoot what Washington wants of it.

As Israel long has, Saudi Arabia will always deny the intention to build a nuclear armoury. But common sense and much circumstantial evidence suggest that this is the way it will go. It is not the so-called “rogues” who pose the threat of uncontrolled nuclear proliferation; it is some of the Western powers’ “nearest and dearest”.

With Saudi Arabia now being led by the quite unscrupulous, not to say amoral, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, I would not be surprised to see him making the decision to go nuclear. A warhead would be easily purchasable from Saudi Arabia’s friend, Pakistan, a country that also likes to keep its distance from America.

What is Washington going to do about that?

About the author: The writer was for 17 years a foreign affairs columnist and commentator for the International Herald Tribune, now the New York Times. He has also written dozens of columns for the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Boston Globe and the Los Angeles Times. He is the European who has appeared most on the opinion pages of these papers. Visit his website: www.jonathanpowerjournalist.com [IDN-InDepthNews — 25 October 2022]

Photo: Pakistan ballistic missile. Source: International Relations Insights & Analysis (IRIA)

IDN is the flagship agency of the Non-profit International Press Syndicate.

The Saudi Horn is Nuking Up: Daniel 7

 Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in 2019. In a 2018 CBS News interview, the crown prince said that his country would obtain a nuclear weapon if Iran does.

Will Seoul and Washington make Riyadh nuclear-weapons ready?

By Henry Sokolski | July 26, 2022

Iran’s nuclear program, oil, and human rights dominated Biden’s much-anticipated first presidential trip to the Middle East earlier this month. But there is one topic President Biden chose not to showcase during his visit with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman Al Saud—the Kingdom’s most recent interest in nuclear energy—and the nuclear weapons proliferation concerns that come with it.

Only weeks before Biden’s visit, Riyadh invited South Korea, Russia, and China to bid on the construction of two large power reactors. On that bid, Korea Electric Power Company (KEPCO) is the most likely winner. KEPCO has already built four reactors for Riyadh’s neighbor, the United Arab Emirates, and is the only vendor to bring a power reactor of its own design online in the Middle East. South Korea also is the only government to provide reliable, generous financing, free of political strings—something neither Moscow nor Beijing can credibly claim.

And then, there’s this: Any Korean sale would be covered by a generous 2011 South Korean nuclear cooperative agreement with Riyadh that explicitly authorizes the Saudis to enrich any uranium it might receive from Seoul. Under the agreement, Riyadh could enrich this material by up to 20 percent, without having to secure Seoul’s prior consent.

That should set off alarm bells.

Do the Saudis want a bomb? In 2018, Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman announced that “if Iran developed a nuclear bomb, we will follow suit as soon as possible.” As if to prove the point, late in 2020, word leaked that the Saudis have been working secretly with the Chinese to mine and process Saudi uranium ore. These are steps toward enriching uranium—and a possible nuclear weapon program.

Unlike the Emirates, which legally renounced enriching uranium or reprocessing spent fuel to separate plutonium, the Kingdom insists on retaining its “right” to enrich. Also, unlike most members of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Saudi Arabia refuses to allow intrusive inspections that might help the IAEA find covert nuclear weapons-related activities, if they exist, under a nuclear inspections addendum known as the Additional Protocol.

Saudi Arabia’s enrichment program and refusal to adopt the Additional Protocol, doubled with a possible permissive South Korean reactor sale, could spell trouble. South Korea currently makes its nuclear fuel assemblies using imported uranium, which mainly comes from Australia. This ore is controlled by Australia’s uranium export policy, which requires that the uranium be monitored by the IAEA and that materials derived from it not be retransferred to a third country without first securing Australia’s consent. Yet, if Seoul decides to pass Australian uranium on to Riyadh, the Saudis are free to enrich it up to 20 percent at any time without having to secure anyone’s approval. In addition, Riyadh could proceed to enrich this material without having to agree to intrusive IAEA inspections under the Additional Protocol, making it easier for Riyadh to enrich beyond 20 percent uranium 235 without anyone knowing.

Can Washington block the reactor export? In Washington, the US nuclear industry understandably is miffed that Riyadh excluded Westinghouse from bidding on the Saudi reactors. Meanwhile, State Department officials say that KEPCO can’t sell Riyadh its APR-1400 reactor because it incorporates US nuclear technology that is property of Westinghouse. KEPCO, they insist, would first need to secure US Energy Department approval under US intangible technology transfer controls (known as Part 810 authorizations). This requirement, they argue, gives Washington the leverage it needs to impose nonproliferation conditions on South Korea’s reactor export to Riyadh.

This sounds fine. But there’s a catch. South Korean officials insist that its APR-1400 design, which uses a Combustion Engineering data package that Westinghouse now owns, is entirely indigenous. Focusing on the matter of technology transfer authority also begs a bigger question: Does the Republic of Korea need Washington’s blessing to begin enriching uranium itself or to transfer enrichment technology to other countries, such as Saudi Arabia?

RELATED:

NPT Review Conference: Will it rise to the proliferation challenges?

The short answer is no.

South Korea has always been free to enrich uranium and transfer uranium enrichment technology to other countries so long as the uranium it enriched or the enrichment technology it shipped wasn’t of US origin. America’s veto over South Korean enrichment only applies to uranium that comes from the United States. As I learned from a recent interview of the two top negotiators of the 2015 US-Republic of Korea civilian nuclear cooperation agreement, Seoul has always known this. Yet, South Korea asked that Washington explicitly grant it authority to enrich uranium in the 2015 agreement—something Washington has yet to grant. According to the negotiators, South Korean officials preferred to have political permission from Washington to do so, even though they did not legally need it.

South Korea and the United States have a choice. South Korea’s previous administration under President Moon Jae-in announced in 2021 that South Korea would not export reactors to countries that had not yet agreed to adopt the IAEA’s Additional Protocol. Is this pledge one that President Yoon Suk-yeol will uphold? Or will Yoon reverse this policy in his effort to go all out to secure the reactor sale to Riyadh?

Similarly, how committed is the Biden Administration to prevent Saudi Arabia from enriching uranium and reprocessing spent reactor fuel? Previous administrations have tried to keep Riyadh clear of such activities. Will Washington keep Seoul’s and Saudi Arabia’s feet to the fire on this or will the administration’s desire to close ranks with South Korea and Saudi Arabia push these nonproliferation concerns to the sidelines? Anyone interested in preventing the further spread of nuclear weapons in the Middle East should want to know the answers.

US will soon need to deter the China and Russian Nuclear Horns

putin at podium
Vladimir Putin has threatened to use ‘all means’ to defend Russian territory. Photograph: Sputnik/Reuters

US will soon need to deter two major nuclear powers for first time, White House says

New national security strategy warns of Russia as more immediate threat and China as long-term competitor

Julian Borger in WashingtonWed 12 Oct 2022 14.33 EDT

Within a decade, the US will need to deter two major nuclear weapons powers for the first time, the Biden administration has warned, pointing to the Russian arsenal that is increasingly being brandished by Moscow and an expanding Chinese stockpile.

The president’s new national security strategy (NSS) depicts China as the most capable long-term competitor, but Russia as the more immediate, disruptive threat, pointing to its nuclear posturing over Ukraine. It warns that threat could grow as Russian forces continue to suffer defeats on the battlefield.

“Russia’s conventional military will have been weakened, which will likely increase Moscow’s reliance on nuclear weapons in its military planning,” the strategy blueprint says. Its publication was scheduled in the spring but was postponed because of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Vladimir Putin has threatened to use “all means” to defend Russian territory, in which he included Crimea, annexed in 2014, and four Ukrainian regions he now claims. The NSS pledges US support for Ukrainian resistance would not be affected by such threats.

Russian President Vladimir Putin gestures while speaking during a meeting with employees of the nuclear industry on their professional holiday, Nuclear Industry Worker's Day, at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia

“The United States will not allow Russia, or any power, to achieve its objectives through using, or threatening to use, nuclear weapons,” the document says.

In a foreword, Biden makes a distinction between the types of threats posed by Moscow and Beijing. “Russia poses an immediate threat to the free and open international system, recklessly flouting the basic laws of the international order today, as its brutal war of aggression against Ukraine has shown,” the president writes.

He describes China, on the other hand as “the only country with both the intent to reshape the international order and, increasingly, the economic, diplomatic, military and technological power to advance that objective”.

The policy document portrays Beijing as “America’s most consequential geopolitical challenge”.

“The People’s Republic of China harbors the intention and, increasingly, the capacity to reshape the international order in favor of one that tilts the global playing field to its benefit, even as the United States remains committed to managing the competition between our countries responsibly,” it says.

China has an estimated 350 nuclear warheads, according to an assessment by the Federation of American Scientists, compared with 5,977 in Russia’s stockpile, against the US inventory of 5,428. However, the Pentagon believes the Chinese force will grow to more than 1,000 warheads by 2030, making it a third major nuclear power.

Under the last remaining major arms control agreement in place, the New Start treaty, the US and Russia observe a ceiling of 1,550 deployed strategic warheads, referring to those warheads mounted on land or sea-launched missiles, or ready for loading on to long-range bombers.

Daryl Kimball, the head of the Arms Control Association, expressed concern over whether the new language in the strategy document could herald a rethink about the size of the US arsenal.

“If we have to worry about two near-peer nuclear rivals by the year 2030, what does that mean for the number of targets in Russia and China that the president believes we need to hold at risk to deter those nuclear threats? And how does that affect that total number of strategic nuclear weapons the United States and the president believes he needs to deploy?” Kimball asked.

“They’re basically looking at issues and questions that could lead to a larger number calculation,” he said, adding: “It’s not hard science. It could be more; it could be less. I would argue that even if China has twice the number of nuclear weapons, we still can and should reduce the total number of strategic nuclear weapons because what we have is excessive of any reasonable calculation of what it takes to deter a nuclear attack.”

Where will it all end? The conflict in Ukraine appears further than ever from resolution. Nuclear threats, mass graves, the sense that both sides are “all in”.

It’s our job at the Guardian to decipher a rapidly changing landscape, and report the facts in sober fashion, without getting carried away. Our correspondents are on the ground in Ukraine and Russia and throughout the globe delivering round-the-clock reporting and analysis during this fluid situation.

We know there is no substitute for being there – and we’ll stay on the ground, as we did during the 1917 Russian Revolution, the Ukrainian famine of the 1930s, the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 and the first Russo-Ukrainian conflict in 2014. We have an illustrious, 200-year history of reporting throughout Europe in times of upheaval, peace and everything in between. We won’t let up now.

Tens of millions have placed their trust in the Guardian’s fearless journalism since we started publishing 200 years ago, turning to us in moments of crisis, uncertainty, solidarity and hope. We’d like to invite you to join more than 1.5 million supporters from 180 countries who now power us financially – keeping us open to all, and fiercely independent.

Unlike many others, the Guardian has no shareholders and no billionaire owner. Just the determination and passion to deliver high-impact global reporting, always free from commercial or political influence. Reporting like this is vital to establish the facts: who is lying and who is telling the truth.

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The Developing Saudi Nuclear Horn: Daniel 7

Saudi Arabia developing national capabilities in nuclear technology: Minister 

Saudi Arabia developing national capabilities in nuclear technology: Minister 

Prince Abdulaziz praised the International Atomic Energy Agency’s role in developing countries’ capabilities in facing nuclear threats (Shutterstock)

Updated 26 September 2022

WAFFA WAEL AND DANA ABDELAZIZ 

September 26, 202216:14

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia is working to enhance people’s skills and abilities in the nuclear technology sector and its regulatory aspects, the Kingdom’s minister of energy said.

Speaking at the 66th General Conference of the International Atomic Energy Agency in Austria, Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman spoke of the importance of his government developing peaceful uses for nuclear technology with the highest standards of transparency, reliability and the highest levels of safety. 

“As a result of these programs, national capabilities have grown rapidly to keep pace with the best international standards,” he said, later adding: “We are also working in cooperation and coordination with the agency to develop national plans to enable nuclear energy to contribute to the national energy mix.” 

Prince Abdulaziz praised the agency’s role in developing countries’ capabilities in facing nuclear threats.

He said the Kingdom would continue to back the agency’s efforts and initiatives in harnessing nuclear technology to find solutions to global challenges in terms of a safe environment from nuclear threats.

Speaking of Saudi Arabia’s support, he said the Kingdom has contributed an amount of $2.5 million to support the IAEA’s initiative to modernize its laboratories. 

This is In addition to $1 million handed over to back the agency’s initiative in the work of combating zoonotic diseases to prevent the outbreak of infectious diseases from animals. 

The 66th Annual Regular Session of the IAEA General Conference is being held from Sept. 26 to 30 at the Vienna International Center.

Did Trump Enable the Saudi Nuclear Horn?

‘It Could Be Anything’: Experts Tell Us What Kind of Nuclear Secrets Trump Could Steal

When it comes to nuclear weapons, basically everything is classified.

By Matthew Gault

August 12, 2022, 8:11am

When the FBI raided Mar-a-Lago in search of sensitive documents Monday, it was looking for classified information related to nuclear weapons, a source familiar with the investigation told the Washington Post. Trump denied the allegation on Truth Social, calling it a hoax and comparing it to accusations of Russian meddling in the 2016 election. The problem is, because of the way nuclear secrecy works in the U.S., it’s possible Trump took something without realizing it was classified. Presidents have done similar things before with regards to nuclear secrets.

I reached out to several nuclear weapons experts, and they all told me the same thing: They had no idea what it was, and the list of possibilities was enormous. The category of “classified documents relating to nuclear weapons” is so broad as to be meaningless.

“I’ve seen other experts speculating it could be anything from the ‘biscuit’ that held the nuclear codes during his presidency (and that would have been changed when Biden assumed office), to information about another country’s nuclear program in the form of briefing materials or other documents, to information about design or basing,” Emma Claire Foley, a senior associate in policy and research at Global Zero, a nonprofit that seeks the elimination of nuclear weapons, told me. “As things stand, there’s no way of knowing, and there’s a huge range of things it might be.”

Jeffrey Lewis, director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Project at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, concurred. “It could be anything,” he said. “That document could contain information that you would find totally unremarkable but still be marked restricted data, known as Q.”

Q Clearance refers to Top-Secret Restricted Data related to America’s nuclear programs. It’s also where the QAnon conspiracy gets its name. “I once gave a talk about Iran’s centrifuge program and the person next to me kept whispering, ‘That’s Q,’ thinking that I was disclosing ‘information related to nuclear weapons,’” he said. “I felt bad when I told her that I didn’t have a clearance but it was nice the government was also aware of the issues that Iran was having with its enrichment program.”

One of the problems with narrowing down what the FBI was looking for is the nature of how the U.S. handles information related to its nuclear program. According to Alex Wellerstein, a historian of science and author of the book Restricted Data: The History of Nuclear Secrecy in the USA, anything related to nukes in the U.S. is classified by default.

According to Wellerstein, the Senate committee drafting the Atomic Energy Act in 1946 got worried about losing the secret of the bomb. 

“The problem is, the same committee did not want to give the federal government the power to classify the entire world of science and technology. They feared too much classification, AND too little classification,” he said on Twitter. “So to square this circle they created a concept called ‘restricted data,’ which was defined as essentially all information about nuclear weapons and nuclear power that had not been removed from that category explicitly.”

Wellerstein also told me he wouldn’t speculate on what Trump could have taken, but he did say it’s not the first time a president has run afoul of the FBI over nuclear secrets. An FBI memo from November 1956 showed the FBI fretting over what to do about former President Harry Truman.

“In August of 1956, during the discussion at the Democratic National Convention regarding the Democratic platform, Truman made the statement that the first atomic bomb contained [redacted] of fissionable material,” an FBI memo said. “[Redacted] advised that this information had been checked thoroughly by the [Atomic Energy Commission] people, and that its present classification is ‘Secret—Restricted Data.’”

Wellerstein had the whole story. “In November 1956, the FBI became aware that Truman was apparently telling people how much fissile material was in the atomic bomb,” he said. “After the Trinity test, Truman was given a short initial report on it, at Potsdam. According to the people there, he sort of read it out loud as he walked around the room, many times, triumphantly. Throughout his life, you can find him still quoting bits from that report, like he burned it into his memory.”

Wellerstein said one piece of the report that amazed Truman was that the bomb used only 13 and a half pounds of plutonium. “And there’s something about that ‘thirteen and a half’ but he wrote it down at Potsdam, and it HAS to be what the FBI report is about,” he said. “Harry Truman was telling people about the atomic bomb and spat out that phrase without probably having the slightest clue it was classified.”

On Twitter, Wellerstein pointed out that the AEC doesn’t contain provisions for a president to declassify Restricted Data. “It’s a different category of law and classification altogether,” he said. “But this is real bleeding-edge of presidential powers and classification law. I have certainly never seen it discussed in the long history of nuclear secrecy in the USA.”

This isn’t the first time people have raised concerns about how Trump handles nuclear secrets. Allegations of mishandling plagued him during much of his presidency. In 2019, whistleblowers raised concerns that Trump was trying to transfer sensitive nuclear data to Saudi Arabia. In 2019 Trump was also the first U.S. president to confirm that U.S. nuclear weapons are housed at an air base in Turkey, long considered an open secret, and tweeted out a classified satellite photo of an explosion at a space launch facility in Iran, despite pushback from aides. So far he has not faced consequences for any of these actions.

The nuclear secrets the FBI is looking for could be innocuous, or they could be world-shattering. The possibilities are so large that there’s no way to know. Historically, the consequences for stealing nuclear secrets in America are pretty dire. Early Trump lawyer and mentor Roy Cohn made his career by prosecuting Julius and Ethel Rosenberg for stealing nuclear secrets and passing them to the Soviet Union. Cohn won the case, and the Rosenbergs were executed in the electric chair.

Saudis Threaten to Nuke Up: Daniel 7

Al-Wasil speaking at the Tenth Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons on Wednesday.

Iran’s practices increase risks of nuclear proliferation — Saudi envoy to UN

Al-Wasil speaking at the Tenth Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons on Wednesday.

Saudi Gazette report

NEW YORK — Saudi Arabia’s new Permanent Representative to the United Nations Ambassador Dr. Abdulaziz Al-Wasil said that Iran’s practices increase the risks of nuclear proliferation.

Al-Wasil was speaking at the Tenth Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons on Wednesday.

He said that freeing the Middle East from nuclear weapons is a collective responsibility.

“Transparency is necessary for the peaceful use of nuclear energy. Iran’s lack of transparency with the International Atomic Energy Agency violates the UN Charter.”

He pledged the Kingdom’s support to the expansion of the Non-Proliferation Treaty. Al-Wasil indicated that Saudi Arabia supports all efforts aimed at preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.

He stressed the necessity of confronting nuclear proliferation in the Middle East as this threatens the Middle East and the world as a whole.

August 03, 2022

Plagues Upon Plague: Revelation 6

Gabriel Morales faced terrible pain after contracting the monkeypox virus but had trouble finding treatment.
Gabriel Morales faced terrible pain after contracting the monkeypox virus but had trouble finding treatment.Amir Hamja for The New York Times

For Monkeypox Patients, Excruciating Symptoms and a Struggle for Care

As New York City and the federal government strain to supply enough vaccines, patients face a private battle to find treatment and relief from serious symptoms.

July 18, 2022Updated 9:53 a.m. ET

Although he was covered with lesions, it took four hours of phone calls, and then five hours in a Harlem emergency room, for Gabriel Morales to be tested for the monkeypox virus earlier this month. And that was just the beginning of his wait.

Mr. Morales was sent home and told the Department of Health would call with his results in less than a week. The call never came.

He spent the next eight days alone in his apartment in what he described as excruciating pain, trying to find someone to prescribe him pain medication and a hard-to-access antiviral drug.

As time passed, the disorganization in the public health response disturbed him more and more: the city’s vaccine website glitches; a vaccine rollout that seemed designed to reach the privileged and that turned him away; an opaque process to access medicine that he believed could help, but that he couldn’t find.

When he received a $720 bill for his emergency room visit, it felt like more than incompetence. It felt like a lack of compassion.

“I understand that this is new — but it is urgent,” said Mr. Morales, 27, who was eventually prescribed the antiviral drug to help with his symptoms. His test, he found out after 10 days, had never been picked up from the hospital. “It was just the worst pain I’ve experienced in my life.”

While monkeypox can sometimes result in mild symptoms, it is turning out to be unexpectedly severe for a substantial number of patients infected in this outbreak, according to doctors, public health officials and patients in New York City, the epicenter of the nation’s cases.

Beyond the very public shortcomings in the government’s vaccination efforts are the private struggles of the men infected with the disease who have found care hard to come by. Internal lesions in the anus, genitals and mouth can be particularly painful, and there is growing concern that they may cause debilitating scarring.

“What many of us learned in medical schools is that monkeypox is a mild, self-limiting illness,” said Dr. Mary Foote, medical director of the office of emergency preparedness and response at the city’s Department of Health, speaking at a Thursday briefing hosted by the Infectious Diseases Society of America. “But the reality on the ground is that a lot of people with this infection are really suffering.”

What’s also striking, she said, about this outbreak, is “how many of these patients have had difficulty getting the care they need to treat these symptoms.”

What to Know About the Monkeypox Virus


What is monkeypox? Monkeypox is a virus endemic in parts of Central and West Africa. It is similar to smallpox, but less severe. It was discovered in 1958, after outbreaks occurred in monkeys kept for research, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

What to Know About the Monkeypox Virus


What are the symptoms? Monkeypox creates a rash that starts with flat red marks that become raised and filled with pus. Infected people may also have a fever and body aches. Symptoms typically appear in six to 13 days but can take as long as three weeks after exposure to show, and can last for two to four weeks. Health officials say smallpox vaccines and other treatments can be used to control an outbreak.

What to Know About the Monkeypox Virus


How infectious is it? The virus spreads mainly through body fluids, skin contact and respiratory droplets, though some experts suggest that it could occasionally be airborne. Typically it does not lead to major outbreaks, though it has spread in unusual ways this year, and among populations that have not been vulnerable in the past.

What to Know About the Monkeypox Virus


Should I be worried? The likelihood of the virus being spread during sexual contact is high, but the risk of transmission in other ways is low. Most people have mild symptoms and recover within weeks, but the virus can be fatal in a small percentage of cases. Experts say that monkeypox is unlikely to create a pandemic scenario similar to that of the coronavirus.

What to Know About the Monkeypox Virus


What’s the situation in the United States?Experts say that the rapid spread of monkeypox across the country and the government’s sluggish response raise questions about the nation’s preparedness for pandemic threats. Tests will not be readily available until later this month and vaccines will be in short supply for months. Official case counts, now in the hundreds, are likely a gross underestimate.

Monkeypox, endemic in parts of Africa for decades, has been spreading globally since early May through networks of men who have sex with men, probably sparked by transmission at one or more raves in Europe, researchers believe. The disease, which mostly transmits though intimate, skin-to-skin contact, has resulted in fatalities in Africa, but no one has yet died of the disease in the United States.

The first American case was recorded on May 18. There have now been more than 1,800 cases, affecting almost every state. Experts are concerned that if the outbreak is not contained, the virus will persist and spread more widely.

In New York City, cases have nearly tripled over the past week to 461 total cases on July 15, up from 160 on July 8. While some of that increase stems from expanded testing capacity and awareness, the spread of the disease in the city is “exponential,” said Dr. Foote, and is likely to continue for a while.

The unexpected severity of symptoms is making patients’ encounters with an overburdened health care system that was not prepared for this outbreak even more difficult. Interviews with six recent and current monkeypox patients in New York City, and three in other cities across the country, suggest that the public health response has been slow and underresourced at every level, from testing to treatment to vaccination.

Another of those patients, Sebastian Kohn, 39, felt exhausted and feverish through much of the July 4 weekend and had painful, swollen lymph nodes. Then the rash started. 

Mr. Kohn, who lives in the Flatbush neighborhood of Brooklyn, has private health insurance, so he went to a local urgent care to get tested while dizzy with a 103-degree fever. But he was not prescribed anything stronger than Tylenol for the pain. “The most painful thing are the anal rectal lesions,” he said. “They are just excruciating.”

Ultimately, he said, lidocaine helped, but for a week, no one prescribed it to him.

Both Mr. Morales and Mr. Kohn are sexually active gay men, as are most patients so far in the outbreak in New York and beyond. Within that group, privilege and know-how has helped some people find care faster than others.

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A lawyer who asked to be identified by his initial, M., to protect his medical privacy, said he went into full litigator mode after a sexual partner called him on June 15 to tell him he had monkeypox.

M. was able to get a first vaccine dose at Bellevue, the city’s main public hospital and a hub of its monkeypox response, by showing up and insisting. After he tested positive despite the dose, he was able to get the sought-after antiviral drug, TPOXX, which relieves symptoms but requires special approval for each patient, because one medical practice helped.

“It was still horrible but I was lucky,” he said. “I’m just worried about everybody else.”

Mr. Kohn also eventually received TPOXX, but only after an exhausting process.

The urgent care center where he had been tested told him to call the Department of Health. The Department of Health told him he had to be referred by his primary care doctor. His doctor’s office told him to speak to the health department.

Eventually, he received a call back from a sexual health clinic affiliated with NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, which said someone at the health department had referred him. “It’s just no coordination at all,” he said. “It’s just not fair to have patients who are severely ill run in circles to organize their own care.”

TPOXX, or tecovirimat, which was originally developed in case of a smallpox bioterrorism incident, is only available for monkeypox treatment through a compassionate-use protocol, which requires submitting hours of paperwork to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for each patient. It is not approved by the Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of monkeypox, though anecdotally it is showing positive results, clinicians say.

Providers and local health officials are pushing the federal government to open up access to the drug.

“This is not a mild disease, for a percentage of people it is much more worse than I would have anticipated,” said Dr. Jason Zucker, an infectious disease specialist at the NewYork-Presbyterian clinic.

His clinic has given the antiviral to 26 patients so far, he said. Citywide, 70 prescriptions have been written, Dr. Foote said.

“As a city and a system, we are still really struggling to meet the demand,” she said.

Sergio Rodriguez, 39, is a queer trans man who lives on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. Because he was already a patient at Callen-Lorde, a well-known sexual health clinic, he was able to quickly get an appointment to be swabbed there for lesions on July 5. But his results never came back, either.

A week after his test, he did receive a call from the Health Department — but it was a contact tracer telling him he had been exposed to someone else with the virus. Mr. Rodriguez told the tracer he was living with his immunocompromised, 76-year-old father, and that he desperately needed him vaccinated.

Finally, on July 15, the department called his father to arrange for his vaccination.

Mr. Rodriguez was frustrated with the response. “In my experience, especially as a trans Latino person in New York City, my health and my concerns are not going to be emphasized,” he said. “Things are going to go to people that have more access and that have more strings to pull and also who are of a different socioeconomic class.”

Dr. Foote said the Health Department is well aware of the difficulties people are having in accessing care. City health officials are trying to push the federal government for more vaccines and access to TPOXX and are concerned about equity in distributing it. Mayor Eric Adams recently wrote a letter to President Biden asking for more vaccines.

In recent weeks, aspects of the response have improved. Testing capacity has grown after LabCorp, a commercial lab, began offering tests. Vaccines have begun to flow into the city in greater numbers, though demand still far outstrips supply. On Friday, 9,200 vaccine appointments were booked in seven minutes, the city said.

The city has also been working to improve its vaccine rollout system, reserving some doses for distribution through community providers and developing a mass vaccination plan. And education among health care providers, though still uneven, has been growing: L.G.B.T.Q. health organizations have held webinars, and the city has issued treatment guidance to providers.

Eli, 28, a Chelsea resident who works in nightlife and asked to be identified by his nickname to protect his medical privacy, was among the first in New York to test positive for monkeypox. He came down with a fever on June 22 and began noticing anal pain the next day, as did three friends he had been sexually active with on Fire Island.

The next day, he went to the Chelsea Sexual Health Clinic, where he was told by two providers that he most likely had a different sexually transmitted disease, not monkeypox.

By Sunday night, the pain had increased so much that he and his friends went to an urgent care clinic in Union Square. The doctor at first refused to test him for monkeypox, he said, but eventually agreed to submit photos of his lesions to the Department of Health.

He said the Health Department called five days later with his results, and that, after he pushed, the contact tracer gave him the cellphone number for the Department of Health’s head of bioterrorism. That connection helped him obtain shots for 26 close contacts — friends and people he works with in nightlife who he knew were at high risk.

Though his own case was relatively mild, Eli said he has found it very upsetting to watch the government flub its virus response. He has known from the beginning, he said, that it probably wasn’t going to go well. 

“‘Y’all are being dumb about this,’” he recalled yelling at the Health Department tracer. “‘This is going to be bad.’”

US, Saudi Arabian Horns agree on stopping Iran getting nuclear weapons: Daniel 7

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US, Saudi Arabia agree on stopping Iran getting nuclear weapons

JEDDAH: The United States and Saudi Arabia agreed on the importance of stopping Iran from “acquiring a nuclear weapon”, during a visit by US President Joe Biden, a joint statement carried by the Saudi state news agency (SPA) said.

The statement said Biden also affirmed the United States’ continued commitment to supporting “Saudi Arabia’s security and territorial defence, and facilitating the Kingdom’s ability to obtain necessary capabilities to defend its people and territory against external threats.”

Tehran and Riyadh, the leading Shia and Sunni Muslim powers in the Middle East, severed ties in 2016 over backing opposing sides in proxy wars across the region, from Yemen to Syria and elsewhere.

Saudi Arabia and the United States underscored the need to further deter Iran’s interference in “the internal affairs of other countries, its support for terrorism through its armed proxies, and its efforts to destabilise the security and stability of the region,” the statement said.

Both sides stressed the importance of preserving the free flow of commerce through strategic international waterways such as the Bab al-Mandab and the Strait of Hormuz.

In 2015, Iran signed a deal with six major powers to limit its nuclear programme to make it harder to obtain a weapon in exchange for relief from economic sanctions. Iran says its nuclear programme seeks only civilian atomic energy.

In 2018, then-US President Donald Trump pulled the United States out of the pact, saying it was insufficient to keep Iran from developing nuclear weapons.

Iran has since ramped up some nuclear activities, putting a ticking clock on an attempt to return to a deal in talks between Western powers and Tehran in Vienna.

U.S. President Joe Biden participates in a bilateral meeting with Saudi Arabias Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, at Al Salam Royal Palace, in Jeddah.

U.S. President Joe Biden participates in a bilateral meeting with Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, at Al Salam Royal Palace, in Jeddah. 

The US president will also hold bilateral talks with the leaders of Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Iraq before taking part in the wider summit where he will “lay out clearly” his vision and strategy for America’s engagement in the Middle East, US national security adviser Jake Sullivan said on Friday.

“He’s intent on ensuring that there is not a vacuum in the Middle East for China and Russia to fill,” Sullivan said.

Biden will discuss energy supplies with Gulf oil producers, but Washington said it does not expect OPEC heavyweight Saudi Arabia to boost oil output immediately and will await the outcome of an OPEC+ meeting on Aug. 3.

Gulf states, who have refused to side with the West against Russia in the Ukraine conflict, are in turn seeking a concrete commitment from the United States to strategic ties that have been strained over perceived US disengagement from the region.

Riyadh and Abu Dhabi have been frustrated by US conditions on arms sales and for being excluded from indirect US-Iran talks to revive a 2015 nuclear pact that they see as flawed for not tackling regional concerns about Tehran’s missile programme and behaviour.

“The most important demand from the Saudi leadership and other Gulf leaders — and Arabs in general — is clarity of US policy and its direction towards the region,” said Abdulaziz Sager, chairman of Riyadh-based Gulf Research Center.

Israel, which shares their concerns over Iran, encouraged Biden’s trip to the kingdom, hoping it would foster a warming between Saudi Arabia and Israel as part of a wider Arab rapprochement after the UAE and Bahrain forged ties with Israel in US-brokered pacts that received Riyadh’s blessings.

‘Groundbreaking process’

In a sign of progress under what Biden described as a groundbreaking process, Saudi Arabia said on Friday it would open its airspace to all air carriers, paving the way for more overflights to and from Israel.

Washington and Riyadh also announced the removal of US and other peacekeepers from Tiran — an island between Saudi and Egypt in a strategic position leading to the Israeli port of Eilat. The troops have been stationed as part of accords reached in 1978 and which led to a peace deal between Israel and Egypt.

The US-Arab summit would discuss “tighter coordination and collaboration when it comes to Iran,” Sullivan said, as well as regional integration, including that of Iraq, where Tehran has built deep influence. Support by wealthy Gulf states for global infrastructure and investment will also be discussed.

The United States and Israel are also seeking to lay the groundwork for a security alliance with Arab states that would connect air defence systems to combat Iranian drone and missile attacks in the Middle East, sources have said.

Such a plan would be a hard sell for Arab states that do not have ties with Israel and balk at being part of an alliance seen as against Iran, which has built a strong network of proxies around the region including in Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen.

Senior Emirati official Anwar Gargash said on Friday the idea of a so-called Middle East NATO was difficult and that bilateral cooperation was faster and more effective. Read full story

The UAE, he said, would not back a confrontational approach: “We are open to cooperation, but not cooperation targeting any other country in the region and I specifically mention Iran.”

The Saudi Nuclear Horn:Daniel 7

Saudi and Iraqi leaders

Saudi crown prince, Iraq PM discuss ‘regional stability’

Iraq’s prime minister met with Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, in the kingdom Sunday as part of Baghdad’s efforts to mediate between Riyadh and Tehran.

Mustafa al-Kadhemi, who headed to Saudi Arabia on Saturday, is expected to then visit Iran, its regional rival with which Riyadh has had no diplomatic ties since 2016.

Prince Mohammed and Kadhemi addressed “bilateral relations and opportunities for joint cooperation”, reported the official Saudi Press Agency.

“They exchanged points of view on a number of issues that would contribute to supporting and strengthening regional security and stability,” it added.

Iraq has over the past year hosted five rounds of talks between the two regional rivals, with the last session held in April.

Kadhemi said at the time he believed that “reconciliation is near” between Riyadh and Tehran, a further reflection of shifting political alignments across the region.

On Saturday an Iraqi cabinet source said that Kadhemi’s trip to Saudi Arabia and Iran “comes in the context of talks that Riyadh and Tehran recently held in Baghdad”.

The source said those talks “represented a road map for mending relations and returning to the right course of strengthening bilateral relations” between Saudi Arabia and Iran, which support rival sides in conflict zones around the region.

Saudi Arabia and Iran have had no diplomatic ties for six years.

In early March, Prince Mohammed said his country and Iran were “neighbours forever”, and that it was “better for both of us to work it out and to look for ways in which we can coexist”.

After his arrival in the kingdom, Kadhemi performed the minor pilgrimage, known as umra, in the holy city of Mecca, according to pictures released by his office.

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