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[personal profile] fridi
A few days ago Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the UN provided a glimpse into Trump's plans for his policy towards Iran. Sure, the details are yet to be forged out, but the international community got the idea. And things ain't looking good at all:

Haley lays out case for US to leave Iran deal

Trump himself is going to announce his intentions about Iran next month. But Ms Haley is preparing the world with what her boss perceives to be a long list of Iranian transgressions, making the case for the upcoming confrontation.

It's a long list really, and the accusations are serious. Given the events in Syria, the list will probably be growing even longer. Because Iran is about to turn Syria into its colony, as regional observers are so eager to point out. As far-fetched as such an assessment may sound, it's not exactly groundless.

All of this could serve as an excuse for scrapping the nuclear deal with Iran. Because Iran's regional ambitions are not subject to that agreement, and they're pretty obvious. As are the US ones.

Read more... )
halialkers: Green-skinned alien with four lights behind him caption "There is no war in Ba Sing Se" (War is peace)
[personal profile] halialkers
 Well, in the last few days, things have escalated very rapidly indeed with North Korea, illustrating ultimately that the world escaped the tragedy of a Cold War nuclear crisis to get the farce that may well finally end the nuclear taboo with North Korea and Donald Trump's America. 

North Korea goes from sadly amusing to genuinely frightening )

A crucial bit of context that changes the pucker factor not a bit )

Trump goes Trumanesque )

Nuclear war with North Korea, and a President who was a source of satire for old cartoons and the basis of the villain in an 80s sci-fi film. 

This would be the scenario of a grimdark satire in any other reality, but it is the one that actually exists. 

And the worst bit is that it would literally matter not at all who won the Presidential election in the USA here. North Korea was developing these weapons since the George W. Bush years. It ended the armistice of Panmunjom in 2013, at one stroke ending all diplomatic possibilities it could use in favor of a cycle that ultimately only ends in a nuclear exchange. Other Presidents wouldn't use Trumanesque rhetoric posturing about nuclear weapons, perhaps, but the broader geopolitical picture would be no different, nor would the existential threat of a nuclear war. 

And when, not if, the cycle continues to escalate unless somehow it's broken and neither Trump nor North Korea seem to care overmuch to do that, the nuclear taboo will finally be shattered. 

And when it is, the chain leading to a global nuclear exchange of some sort shifts up tremendously quick as the Chinese are unlikely to accept a US nuclear strike next to their border without flexing their own arsenal, and the Chinese lack the military ability to deal as much damage to the USA as it can do to it. Scary times, to be sure. 
halialkers: (Default)
[personal profile] halialkers
So, as was recently shown, North Korea has indeed developed ICBMs that give it the capacity now to strike US soil, specifically Alaska (not that there'd be anything of actual value beyond wildlife lost if they did).
Iraq and North Korea: Axis of Idiotic US fixations  )

Context in all its morbid and even hilarious irony  )

The Cold War repeated as farce )

Of such morbid irony is the whim of reality, which unlike fiction needs no pretense of consistency or event A logically and neatly following from a cause that would indicate that this event could become that one.

[identity profile]
Even when the nuclear state directly suspended the armistice it claimed to adhere to years ago.

Also a cut )
Personally I hope nothing comes of this but with this Administration there is no certainty that it'll be the usual pantomime and same old con artist game on the part of the USA and North Korea alike. And that lack of certainty with not one but two scenarios involving other nuclear states is ah......not the best route by any means.
[identity profile]
 So, not satisfied with merely sending a carrier to the Indian Ocean, Dorito Benito has decided to treat nuclear weapons deployments to counter a nuclear state perfectly happy to use them on South Korea and Japan as a first option.
Cut )

I guess Dorito Benito wasn't kidding when he said he wanted to fire the damned things off.
[identity profile]
The lurching continues! The week began with the savvy explanation by Lord Dampnut that the media is the enemy of the people. Several individuals made the point that describing a press independent of the government in such a way is usually a rather totalitarian attitude. Still, having decided that media is the enemy he did hold his first post-election rally which some suggest looked suggestive of a 2020 election campaign. Personally I think it was narcassistic cry for affirmation.

The following day, the "enemy of the people" was presenting reports that Lord Dampnut's team had been working on a plan to use the National Guard to round up illegal immigrants. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer denied the report as "100 per cent false" on Twitter (here it is, however it soon emerged that the memo had been circulating and had been under consideration for at least three weeks.

Clearly it is impossible to get through a week without an opportunity for comic ridicule, so the following day the baffling suggestion of terrorist attacks "last night" in Sweden led provided not only a request for clarification from the Swedish government but also the opportunity for Swedes themselves to offer suggestions.

Returning to bravado the week ended with Lord Dampnut's proposal to rebuild the United State's nuclear arsenal to be "top of the pack". So rather than encourage other countries to reduce their arsenals, the suggestion is to start a new nuclear arm's race. For those who live through the 1980s and witnessed to gradual removal of the threat of nuclear was in that period, the prospect is frankly terrifying. Still, Lord Dampnut did promise to have a plan to defeat ISIS in thirty days. Perhaps this is it, more nukes. What could possibly go wrong?
[identity profile]

So, Trump makes a silly statement about US support of nuclear proliferation that's supposedly disastrous. Yes, in theory the USA should not have supported nuclear proliferation. It would indeed be a simpler world if Washington and Moscow alone had nukes, not Washington, Moscow, Paris, Beijing, Karachi, New Delhi, and anyone else I forgot to mention. Only one problem here: the USA does enable around 400 nuclear weapons in a Cold War-style triad used by Israel in a literal intent to destroy the Middle East and if some reports are right a significant portion of the EU with Israel if it ever gets into a real war again and loses it badly (and when Israel has this possible intention and then wonders why the EU doesn't give it affection, how predictably ironic and hypocritical).

Of all states, the USA included, with nuclear weapons, only one ever gave them up: the Republic of South Africa. One could just as easily argue that nuclear proliferation guarantees peace for the same reason that the nuclear weapons in existence have forestalled yet another general Great Power conflict and thus to a degree nuclear proliferation might be good in the sense that it makes the doomsday option and peace by guaranteed annihilation almost inevitable.

Whatever one's feelings, however, the idea that the USA does oppose nuclear proliferation is a farce. It has done nothing whatsoever to halt it with Pakistan and Israel, US allies, India, US frenemy, or North Korea, global trainwreck waiting to implode South Korea and the entire region it's in with it whenever the final death spiral happens. There is no logic whatsoever for how Pakistan and India and  North Korea getting nuclear weapons is not destabilizing (the moreso since India and Pakistan are the only nuclear powers likely to directly fight each other on the battlefield and since Pakistan's already collapsed once) but South Korea and Japan getting them is.

Ah, realpolitik. What an enabling of cowardice, thuggery, and opportunism thou art. 
[identity profile]

So nowadays Pakistan, in its infinite wisdom, has decided to revive the old tactical nuke concept of the Cold War, and showing that its problem is not the absence of balls (brains, yes, balls no) is using US plans for WWIII with the USSR to justify this. Leaving aside that the USA did not use tactical nuclear weapons (and for that matter that Pershings and the like were not tactical nuclear weapons, but strategic), the reality is that Pakistan is a huge, impoverished, unstable country riddled by religious fanaticism. It has already fought the only war in modern times where two nuclear powers went to war directly, not via proxy. Tactical nuclear weapons were considered a bad idea by the superpowers in an age when calmly planning out a war that could have only ended civilization in nuclear fire was all the rage.

Now the idea is once again being revived by a country which again has collapsed once, and is appealing to plans for the end of civilization as we know it as a justification. Frankly my dear, I don't give a damn how they're justifying it, I see only bad things coming out of this.

What say you?
[identity profile]
On December 8, 1953, President Eisenhower made an address to the 470th Plenary Meeting of the United Nations General Assembly, a speech now called the Atoms for Peace speech. In it, he noted that the US and the USSR, both with atomic weapons, had the power to do unspeakable damage to the planet if those weapons were ever actually used, and which resulted in a stalemate now called the Cold War, where the two nuclear superpowers reserved the right to destroy each other if one flinched:

To pause there would be to confirm the hopeless finality of a belief that two atomic colossi are doomed malevolently to eye each other indefinitely across a trembling world. To stop there would be to accept helplessly the probability of civilization destroyed, the annihilation of the irreplaceable heritage of mankind handed down to us from generation to generation, and the condemnation of mankind to begin all over again the age-old struggle upward from savagery towards decency, and right, and justice. Surely no sane member of the human race could discover victory in such desolation.

Pres. Eisenhower then continued, suggesting an alternative direction to a hopeless standoff. He proposed formation of a UN-led "international atomic energy agency" to "be made responsible for the impounding,storage and protection of the contributed fissionable and other materials" and, more importantly, "to devise methods whereby this fissionable material would be allocated to serve the peaceful pursuits of mankind."

Experts would be mobilized to apply atomic energy to the needs of agriculture, medicine and other peaceful activities. A special purpose would be to provide abundant electrical energy in the power-starved areas of the world.

Thus the contributing Powers would be dedicating some of their strength to serve the needs rather than the fears of mankind.

Here's some interesting alternate history fodder: What if the US had actually followed this path to peace? )

NB: I'm pulling double shifts at work all week, so this is a quickie, full of the flaws most quickies have. If I do further research on this and find it to be full of crap, I'll note such a thing later.
[identity profile]
There are entire towns in Russia with an access regime resembling that of concentration camps. Their residents don't have the right to host guests at home, except on some extraordinary occasions. There are currently 42 publicly acknowledged "closed cities" (as they're called) in Russia, with a total population of 1.5 million people. Most of them are administered by the Ministry of Defense, some by the Federal Atomic Energy Agency. There are allegedly another 15 closed cities around Siberia, but their location remains a state secret.

Take Ozyorsk for example. It's in the Chelyabinsk Oblast in the Urals, some 1600 km away from Moscow. The "Mayak" (Lighthouse) plant is located next to the town, where nuclear waste is being processed. In Soviet times the Mayak used to produce plutonium for the nuclear bombs of the Russkies. In 1957 a huge accident happened there, a container with 80 tons of radioactive waste exploded. Thousands of people across the Urals were evacuated, many subsequently died. Even today large portions of the mountain separating Europe from Asia are uninhabited. But that's not a story many people in the West have heard, although it was as serious as Chernobyl.

Living in "the box" )
[identity profile]
Children attending middle school today have no direct experience of the events that led to the quagmire in Afghanistan. Likewise, they have no experience of the pre-9/11 world. They have grown up in a time and place that bears the imprint of that tragic act of war and all of the knee-jerk stupidity that followed in its wake.

A comparable event for people of my generation might be the construction of the Berlin Wall or, better, the Cuban Missile Crisis. It was an event that left a lasting impression on the adults and older children of our youth. Its trauma was tangible given that it was the closest the US and USSR got to a full blown exchange of nuclear munitions. The fear left a mark on those who lived it while the youngest of us picked up on it in a second-hand fashion. It seemed as if the world was always that way just as today's middle school students know nothing of life before Homeland Security and the Patriot Act.

The collapse of the Soviet Union has made it possible for us to get a glimpse of the machinations behind the scenes in Moscow. A. A. Fursenko and Timothy Naftali published a joint study of the event as an East/West collaboration. The work includes the impression that IRBM (intermediate range ballistic missile) deployment by US/UK/NATO in England, Italy, and Turkey made on Soviet leaders. These missiles were brought up in the negotiations over withdrawal of Soviet MRBs and IRBMs from Cuba. Another historian, Philip Nash, has published an account of these other missiles and President Kennedy's secret agreement to dismantle them.

The event left us with expressions such as being eyeball to eyeball when the other guy blinked as well as an eloquent description of a rope upon which the knot of war is tied. Dean Rusk, the American Secretary of State at the time, describes the origin of the "eyeball to eyeball" remark in his personal memoir.

Kennedy came away from the event with mixed reviews. He was seen as a strong leader in the eyes of some and a spineless wimp in the eyes of others. Although Kennedy achieved the withdrawal of Soviet IRBMs from Cuba, he promised in return not to invade Cuba and to dismantle American IRBMs. This did not sit well with hard line anti-Communists at the time. Although the removal of the missiles occurred months later, their removal was suspected as a concession to the Soviets. It turned out to be an accurate suspicion since Kennedy's promise to Khrushchev included a removal time frame that was adhered to.

Missile photos beneath the cut. )

Do you have any observations on US/Soviet/Cuban relations to mark this 50th anniversary of the Missile Crisis? Are there any lessons from that event that political leaders today can learn from?

Links: Fursenko and Naftali's book, One Hell of a Gamble. Philip Nash's book, The Other Missiles of October. Khrushchev's "knot of war" letter. Dean Rusk's memoir, As I Saw It.
[identity profile]
Here's the situation in a nutshell.

Israel says Iran is trying to develop a nuclear technology because it wants to create a nuclear weapon.
Iran says it is trying to develop a nuclear technology because it wants to make electricity.
Thus, the international community believes Iran is trying to make a nuclear weapon.

Iran says Israel has killed its nuclear scientists to prevent Iran from advancing their nuclear technology.
Israel says it has not killed Iranian nuclear scientists and Iran is imagining things.
Thus, the international community believes Israel is not killing scientists.

Israel says Iran is instructing terrorists to kill Israeli diplomats in retaliation of the killing of the nuclear scientists.
Iran says it is not instructing terrorists to kill Israeli diplomats, but it's still angry for the killed scientists.
Thus, the international community believes Iran is the chief exporter of terrorism in the world.

Q. Interesting. Does Israel kill Iranian nuclear scientists or not? Does Israel secretly raid Iranian nuclear facilities - or not? Does that make Israel the other chief exporter of terrorism in the world, or not? Does Iran instruct terrorists to kill Israeli diplomats - or not? And whose side is the international community on? (I'm not asking about the US, that's a whole other story).

Meanwhile, Turkey is rubbing hands in delight seeing itself as the big winner, as its influence grows while Iran is bickering with Israel, Saudi Arabia is bickering with Iran, Iran's buddy Syria is losing ground under its feet, Russia is being the world's douchebag, China is flexing economic/diplomatic muscle, and Egypt is out of the game for the time being, Iran's buddies from the Muslim Brotherhood waiting to take over there. Iraq is falling under increasing Iranian influence, Afghanistan is nowhere near peace, Pakistan is failing to deal with the Taliban, nationalism is rising in Central Asia much to Russia's and China's displeasure and Turkey's pleasure, and the rest of us are left scratching our heads wondering if all of this shouldn't get nuked from orbit and we shouldn't go home and have a drink. Interesting times?
[identity profile]
Iran is far from being a homogeneous society and a united regime, contrary to what some people might think. In fact it's a very complex society, and its political landscape is defined by strong internal contradictions. On one side, it's a theocracy - ruled by the supreme clergy. And most of all, by ayatollah Khamenei, who seems incapable of compromises. President Ahmadinejad is more like his political rival than ally, and it's unclear how far exactly his power stretches. On the other hand, the power of the regime rests upon the Revolutionary Guard, an institution whose influence has practically turned Iran into a quasi-military dictatorship. There are strong discrepancies within the camp of the ayatollahs too.

The pro-reformist bloc which includes the former presidential candidate Hussayn al-Musawi and former president Mohammad Khatami, are also opposed to Ahmadinejad. The camp of the clerics is torn by internal power struggles and ideological discord. All that said, nominally, and to a great extent practically, the main power is in the hands of ayatollah Khamenei, who never misses a chance to demonstrate that. Besides, the mass protests in Tehran (interpreted by the regime as a direct attempt by the West to undermine their rule - no surprise there) have shown that the pro-liberal Iranians are also a formidable factor, although being suppressed with brute force - for now.

Read more... )
[identity profile]
Although uninvited, Iran insists to join the club of the nuclear powers. The recent weeks have increased the concerns about that. This is bound to cause a conflict of international proportions. IAEA doesn't rule out the possibility that Iran has renewed its military nuclear program, although Iran keeps claiming their only goal is the peaceful production of energy. The main players in this game are well known: Iran, Israel, the US. Partly China, Russia as well. The international sanctions have been tightened, and Iran responded by kicking out the UK ambassador.

Things started getting out of control when Iranian mobs attacked the UK embassy in Tehran, and UK was forced to close it and cut its relations with the ayatollahs. Meanwhile the US accused Iran of a conspiracy to kill the Saudi ambassador in Washington. Add the captured US drone that fell on Iranian territory, and the ayatollahs' plans to sue 15 people on charges of espionage on behalf of USA and Israel, and the US plans to relocate some of their Iraqi forces to Kuwait; and the battlefield for geopolitical domination that is Syria... And you've got the picture.

So what next for Iran? )
[identity profile]

Congress has just passed the New START Treaty minutes ago. 13 Republicans* broke rank with their leadership and joined Democrats in passing the first arms control treaty of this administration. the treaty will limit the number of deployed strategic nuclear warheads to 1,550, nearly a 2/3 reduction since the original START treaty in 1991, and a 30 percent reduction since the 2002 Moscow Treaty. Currently, the Russian Federation has 2,787 nuclear warheads on 620 delivery vehicles, and the United States has 2,200 on 851 delivery vehicles (2009 figures). The treaty requires on ground inspections to insure compliance, and is seen by many as a critical component of keeping enriched uranium out of the hands of terrorists.

The treaty had the support of five previous secretaries of state, including Condoleezza Rice.

Chart pron behind the cut! )

* including: Lamar Alexander (TN), Judd Gregg (NH), Bob Corker (TN), Thad Cochran (MS), Johnny Isakson (GA), Dick Lugar (IN), Susan Collins (ME), Scott Brown (MA), Mike Johanns (NE), George Voinovich (OH), Olympia Snowe (ME), Lisa Murkowski (AK), and Bob Bennett (UT).
[identity profile]
Well, this is certainly interesting.  Not that I can say I am particularly heartbroken, or even terribly surprised.  Stratfor has come to the conclusion that it was most likely a foreign power with inside help.  That much is probably pretty obvious to most.  So the question is:  Which foreign power was it?  For that matter, which internal group do you think helped?  Do you think the foreign power was the lead in this or the internal element?  Finally, how much of a setback to Iranian nuclear development do you think this is, and what is Iran likely to do about it?
[identity profile]
Seeing as it's International Relations Week, here is another hot potato for you.

Ok , I have my own take on this, but it is contentious - so convert me!

I think that Britain should not replace Trident, the nuclear missile system , because the UK does not need it.
It isn't just that we can hide behind America and use theirs instead - I think we should give up using nukes altogether.

Ok - who is going to attack the UK?
Well, Argentina and Spain might. Argentina already has, in fact. But nuclear weapons did not deter agression. The resolute use of conventional force evicted the Argantine invaders from the Falklands, though, so Britain should keep conventional forces and abandon Trident, I say.

But what about the Russians, I hear some ask.
Well, if Russia wants to invade the UK, it isn't starting from th Berlin Wall anymore. That landmark is not even there. The reds have got to start from their own border, fight thru Poland, then half of  Germany, just to get where they used to be - then carry on invading Europe to reach us. And have they got the means and the motive any more? I doubt it.
Korea? They have to invade China first.
China? Surely they don't have any ambition to invade Europe - they would be more interested in competition with Japan and other places in that side of the world.

So, I don't think any nation has got the means and the motivation to attack us. but what do you say?
Also, nuclear  weapons produce the ingredients for the ' dirty bomb '- a decent option from a terrorist's POV.
Nuclear power produces a mere 4 % of our electricity, but 100% of our weapons grade plutonium.
I think we can safely do without nuclear power, and the nukes they produce.
What say you, O politically savvy community watchers?

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