Obama Clinton and Uranium

Obama-Clinton uranium scandal w/Russia exposed?

Hillary and Putin RussiaWhile then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton decided whether to allow the sale of a company holding 20 percent of America’s uranium capacity to the Russian government, tens of millions of uranium investor dollars were received by the Clinton Foundation – not to mention a $500,000 speaking fee received by Bill Clinton from a Kremlin-affiliated bank.

President Donald Trump referred to this Russian deal scandal involving former President Barack Obama and Clinton in a tweet he posted Tuesday morning, where he indicated that Congress should look into the $145 million the Clintons received in donations from uranium investors before Russia’s energy agency, Rostatom, worked out the purchase of U.S.’s Uranium One. He noted that a probe should ensue – if Congress truly wanted to find evidence of U.S politicians colluding with Russia.

“Why isn’t the House Intelligence Committee looking into the Bill & Hillary deal that allowed big Uranium to go to Russia, Russian speech,” Trump tweeted. “… money to Bill, the Hillary Russian ‘reset,’ praise of Russia by Hillary, or Podesta Russian Company. Trump Russia story is a hoax. #MAGA!”

As Congress ponders the investigation of another Hillary scandal, it is currently reviewing allegations that Trump and his aides worked together with Russia to beat Hillary Clinton in November’s presidential election.

“The 2010 deal for a majority stake of Canadian-based Uranium One – which required approval from Clinton’s State Department and eight other federal agencies – and its plausible connection to major donations to the Clinton Foundation was exposed by author Peter Schweizer in his book Clinton Cash and confirmed in a 3,000 word, front-page story by the New York Times,” WND reported. “Former Uranium One chairman Ian Telfer was among several individuals connected to the deal who made donations to the Clinton Foundation.”

Clintons cashing in on U.S. uranium?

According to the Times, four foreign donations adding up to $2.35 million were made to the Clintons by Telfer.

“The donations flowed as the Russians gradually assumed control of Uranium One in three separate transactions from 2009 to 2013,” WND’s Art Moore explained. “Snopes and other ‘fact checkers’ who insist there was no quid pro quo have argued that most of the donations were made in 2008 – before Hillary Clinton became secretary of state. But she was running for president at that time.”

The covert dealings reportedly began more than a decade ago and continued on for years afterward.

“The origin of the deal traced back to 2005, when mining financier Frank Giustra traveled with Bill Clinton to work out an agreement with the government of Kazakhstan for mining rights,” Moore added. “Giustra has donated $31.3 million to the Clinton Foundation. [Then,} in June 2010, shortly after the Russians announced their intention to acquire a majority stake in Uranium One, Bill Clinton personally received a speaking fee of $500,000 from a Kremlin-tied Russian investment bank connected to the uranium deal.”

It was also noted by the Times that contributions given to the Clinton Foundation were not made public, according to Canadian tax records. This was a direct violation of an agreement that Clinton signed with the Obama administration when she assumed the role as secretary of state – which stated that she must disclose all donations made from abroad.

Furthermore, it was disclosed last week by the Daily Caller News Foundation Investigative Group that John Podesta – the campaign chairman for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign – likely opened himself up to a Russian “influence campaign” – an arrangement that was devised to modify his views to coincide with those held by the Kremlin.

“Podesta possibly violated federal law when he failed to fully disclose his membership on the executive board of an energy company that accepted millions from a Vladimir Putin-connected Russian government fund,” WND reported.

Giving Russia the edge

Hillary Clinton’s maneuverings while secretary of state reportedly turned the axis of nuclear power to Russia’s advantage.

“After Rosatom finally secured 100 percent of Uranium One in 2013, the Russian-government news website Pravda declared: ‘Russian Nuclear Energy Conquers the World,’” Moore pointed out. “The acquisition of uranium-mining stakes stretching from Central Asia to the American West made Rosatom one of the world’s largest uranium producers and brought Putin closer to his goal of controlling much of the global uranium supply chain, the New York Times said.”

Once approval from the U.S. government was secured, Putin was recorded in a staged interview with Rosatom Chief Executive Sergei Kiriyenko, who expressed the sheer magnitude of the deal.

“Few could have imagined in the past that we would own 20 percent of U.S. reserves,” Kiriyenko told Putin, according to WND.

This coincided with the famous boast uttered by the former first lady regarding U.S. relations with Russia.

“The agreement came as the Obama administration – led by Hillary Clinton’s State Department – famously was seeking to ‘reset’ strained relations with Russia,” Moore recounted. “Because uranium is considered a strategic asset that has implications for national security, the agreement had to be approved by a panel of representatives from a number of United States government agencies, including the State Department.”

The U.S. government and Rosatom made vows to each other in order to lessen tensions regarding ceding control of the company’s assets to the Russians – yet the Times reports that the promises were broken numerous times.

“[Even though it cannot be proven that the donations had a direct impact on the uranium deal’s approval,] the episode underscores the special ethical challenges presented by the Clinton Foundation, headed by a former president who relied heavily on foreign cash to accumulate $250 million in assets – even as his wife helped steer American foreign policy as secretary of state, presiding over decisions with the potential to benefit the foundation’s donors,” the Times noted.

Brian Fallon, the spokesman for Clinton’s 2016 campaign, defended the questionable negotiations.

“[No one] has ever produced a shred of evidence supporting the theory that Hillary Clinton ever took action as secretary of state to support the interests of donors to the Clinton Foundation,” Fallon expressed during the campaign season last year – according to the Times – insisting the Canadian government and other U.S. agencies were also required to sign off on the problematic deal. “To suggest the State Department, under then-Secretary Clinton, exerted undue influence in the U.S. government’s review of the sale of Uranium One is utterly baseless.”

Feeling uneasy about leaked reports, the Clintons were forced to change their tone.

“The appearance of undue influence, however, prompted the Clinton Foundation to announce changes – including limiting donations from foreign governments and barring Russia from giving to all but its health care initiatives,” Moore indicated.

This, however, did not line up with the Clinton Foundations future dealings.

“[The Clinton Foundation continued to] accept contributions from foreign sources whose interests – like Uranium One’s – may overlap with those of foreign governments, some of which may be at odds with the United States,” reported the Times, which received information about the significance of the deal from Clinton’s U.S. ambassador to Russia at the time, Michael McFaul.

“Should we be concerned?” McFaul asked before answering his own question, according to the Times. “Absolutely. Do we want Putin to have a monopoly on this? Of course we don’t. We don’t want to be dependent on Putin for anything in this climate.”

Bill Clinton behind the scenes

Canadian mining financier Giustra had former President Bill Clinton strategically at his side to orchestrate his first major uranium deal – an arrangement that began Russia’s acquisition of American uranium deposits in Kazakhstan back in 2005, the Times reported.

Schweitzer stressed why Clinton’s role in the deal was so important, noting that Giustra wanted to have a large uranium concession in Kazakhstan, yet the Canadian could not get it from Nursultan Nazarbayev – the nation’s repressive dictator.

“Bill Clinton shows up, declares at a press conference that Nazarbayev is a wonderful leader, should actually lead an international human rights organization,” Schweizer explained. “And lo and behold, a couple of days later, Nazarbayev gives Frank Giustra this uranium concession. A few weeks after that, Bill Clinton’s Clinton Foundation gets more than $30 million from Frank Giustra.”

Bill and Hilary Clinton’s underhanded dealings to cash in were then clarified.

“[Bill Clinton undercut] American foreign policy and criticism of Kazakhstan’s poor human rights record by, among others, his wife, then a senator,” the Times stated.

A series of arrangements then took place that highlight the problematic negotiations between the U.S. and Russia.

“Giustra’s fledgling company, UrAsia Energy Ltd., signed a preliminary deal with Kazakhstan giving the company stakes in three uranium mines controlled by the state-run uranium agency Kazatomprom,” Moore informed. ”UrAsia merged in 2007 with Uranium One, a South African company with assets in Africa and Australia, which soon began purchasing companies with assets in the United States. By June 2009, Uranium One’s stock had dropped 40 percent, but Russia, lacking domestic uranium reserves, was eyeing a stake in the company. That’s when Uranium One pressed the U.S. Embassy in Kazakhstan, which was under Hillary Clinton’s authority, to talk with Kazakh officials about clearing the way for a deal. American cables show the U.S. Embassy energy officer met with Kazakh officials, and three days later, a wholly owned subsidiary of Rosatom completed a deal for 17 percent of Uranium One. Within a year, Russia sought a 51 percent controlling stake. The only obstacle to the deal was that the U.S. government, namely the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, had to sign off on it.”

It was further noted by the Times that when a Chinese government-owned company pursued a 51-percent stake in a small gold mining operation in Nevada back in 2009, the attempted acquisition triggered a covert Washington probe. Officials were reportedly concerned that the proximity of the mine to a U.S. military installation, which likely contained minerals, including uranium – might come under Chinese control.

Deal derailed?

According to Schweizer, a potential deal killer soon set in.

“When the Uranium One deal was under way,] a spontaneous outbreak of philanthropy among eight shareholders in Uranium One [took place], Schweizer noted. “These Canadian mining magnates decide now would be a great time to donate tens of millions of dollars to the Clinton Foundation.”

The reasoning behind the negotiations was then clarified.

“The national security issue at stake in the Uranium One deal was not primarily about nuclear weapons proliferation, but about American dependence on foreign uranium sources,” Moore emphasized.

Marin Katusa, who authored The Colder War: How the Global Energy Trade Slipped from America’s Grasp, said that even though America receives 20 percent of its electricity from nuclear plants, it generates only about a fifth of the uranium that it needs.

“The Russians are easily winning the uranium war, and nobody’s talking about it,” Katusa told the Times. “It’s not just a domestic issue, but a foreign policy issue, too,” Katusa explained.

Ceding control to the Russians

A letter showing fears about the U.S. losing power to the Russians via the Uranium One deal was written by four members of the House of Representatives.

Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wy.) and two other House members started pushing legislation to kill the deal.

“[The Uranium One deal] would give the Russian government control over a sizable portion of America’s uranium production capacity,” Barraso expressed to Obama.

It was noted that a major decision-maker in the deal was Obama’s former secretary of state.

“Still, the ultimate authority to approve or reject the Russian acquisition rested with the cabinet officials on the foreign investment committee, including Mrs. Clinton – whose husband was collecting millions in donations from people associated with Uranium One,” the Times stated.

The Times was told by an insider who had information about the Clinton Foundation’s fundraising operation – on condition of anonymity – that money was used to buy influence.

“Why do you think they are doing it – because they love them?” the informant sarcastically posed.

The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States started its review two months afterward, but it was disclosed that a massive coverup soon ensued.

“Did the committee weigh the U.S. desire to improve bilateral relations with Russia against the potential risks of allowing the Russian government control over the biggest uranium producer in the United States?” Moore pondered. “That information has never been disclosed, but the deal was approved in October after, the Times said, citing two people involved, ‘a relatively smooth process.’”

The Deteriorating US Nuclear Horn

America’s nuclear weapons infrastructure is crumbling

by Robbie Gramer

President Donald Trump wants the United States to be at the “top of the pack” with nuclear weapons. But his goal has already hit a snag: The infrastructure that supports the country’s nuclear weapons is crumbling to “alarming” levels, a Congressional panel warned on Thursday.

Much of the infrastructure that supports the US nuclear weapons programs, including labs, production facilities and weapons storage complexes were built six decades ago.

The ageing buildings require constant upgrades and renovations to ensure the safety of the government employees handling the weapons – and secure the weapons themselves. But it’s not happening.

There’s a $3.7 billion backlog in deferred essential repairs to the US nuclear weapons infrastructure, overseen by the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), a semi-autonomous arm of the Department of Energy. The maintenance problems are “quite alarming” and “pose the risk of a dangerous nuclear accident”, said Democrat Congressman Tom O’Halleran during a House Armed Services subcommittee hearing on infrastructure needs of the nuclear security enterprise.

The warnings come as the US government begins to pour more than $1 trillion into modernising its nuclear weapons stockpile over the next 30 years. It’s a top priority for Energy Secretary Rick Perry – who once ran a presidential campaign that called for abolishing the Department of Energy entirely – but the sorry state of NNSA facilities may bog down modernisation efforts from the start.

Alarm bell

Much of the NNSA’s facilities “date to the Eisenhower Administration and, in some cases, the Manhattan Project era,” said Frank Klotz, administrator of the NNSA and under secretary of the Energy Department. “I can think of no greater threat to the nuclear security enterprise than the state of NNSA’s infrastructure.”

As they maintain or research nuclear weapons, NNSA employees are subject to leaky roofs, faulty ventilation and even “routine encounters” with snakes and rodents, according to Michelle Reichart, a top managing contractor for nuclear weapons sites.

The NNSA has sounded the alarm bell on its ageing infrastructure before, and in previous years Congress set aside funds to curb the ballooning deferred-maintenance issues. But it wasn’t until last year that the NNSA halted the growth of the problem.

Congressional members on the panel appeared willing to earmark further funds, but the NNSA ran into a roadblock of its own making. Congressman Mike Rogers asked Perry and the NNSA in January for a list of specific infrastructure projects that in the “intermediate-range” could use stopgap funding. As of Thursday’s panel, the NNSA still hadn’t provided the list to Congress. “That is disappointing,” Rogers told Klotz at the hearing. The NNSA didn’t immediately respond to Foreign Policy’s request for comment.

Beyond the crumbling infrastructure, security experts worry the weapons themselves could be at risk. History’s proved them right in the past.

In 2012, three anti-nuclear activists including an octogenarian nun broke into one of the country’s most secure nuclear weapons facilities, the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. In an embarrassing lapse in security, they spent two hours in the facility painting protest signs on buildings that processed weapons-grade uranium inside. The incident sparked immediate rebuke from Congress and the Department of Energy pledged to take action.

Meanwhile, that trillion-dollar nuclear-weapons modernisation program will require thousands of warheads to be shipped across the country. But the office in charge of shipping those weapons is mired with problems that put the security of those weapons at risk, as a new Los Angeles Times investigation revealed. The energy department’s Office of Secure Transportation grappled with “widespread alcohol problems” from its workers, who are responsible for driving nuclear bombs in ageing semi-trucks across the country.

Foreign Policy

Robbie Gramer is a staff writer at FP

Foreign Policy distributed by the New York Times Syndicate

Russia Nuclear Horn Refuses to Back Down

Vladimir Putin warns US over ‘NUCLEAR STRIKE’ threat as Russia WON’T back down

RUSSIA: Vladimir Putin warned the US that missiles in Alaska heighten the threat of nuclear war
The Russian leader laid down the ultimatum as he promised Russian military build-up will continue in the face of US missiles deployments in Alaska and Europe.

Putin warned the US missiles defence systems are “one of the most serious problems in modern times”.

His comments come after Russian military chiefs warned of the rising threat of “nuclear war” in Europe.

Putin said: “While what we are doing is of local nature, what the US is doing in Alaska is of global nature. A missile defense system is being developed there.

“This system is one of the most serious problems of the modern times in the security sphere. It’s not just a defense system, it’s a part of the nuclear potential brought to the periphery.”

He added: “This is not something that prevents a nuclear missile attack, but something that minimises the so-called retaliatory strike.”

Putin stressed Russia doesn’t intend to be at war or compete with the US – but would respond to threats from the Pentagon.

But he called for “cooperation” between the powers – as US President Donald Trump is thought to want to warm up relations with Russia.

Putin said: “Russia and the US are nuclear powers. We have a special responsibility to the planet, to the international community for the international security.

“Of course, the sooner we establish cooperation in the military sphere, the better.”

Doomsday Clock scientists previously warned US missile developments could trigger nuclear war with Russia.

New York Quake Overdue (The Sixth Seal) (Rev 6:12)

New York City Is Overdue For Large Earthquake: Seismologist

Ramapo Fault Line

New York City could start shaking any minute now.

Won-Young Kim, who runs the seismographic network for the Northeast at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, said the city is well overdue for a big earthquake.

From Metro New York:

The last big quake to hit New York City was a 5.3-magnitude tremor in 1884 that happened at sea in between Brooklyn and Sandy Hook. While no one was killed, buildings were damaged.

Kim said the city is likely to experience a big earthquake every 100 years or so.

“It can happen anytime soon,” Kim said. “We can expect it any minute, we just don’t know when and where.”

New York has never experienced a magnitude 6 or 7 earthquake, which are the most dangerous. But magnitude 5 quakes could topple brick buildings and chimneys.

Seismologist John Armbruster said a magnitude 5 quake that happened now would be more devastating than the one that happened in 1884.

“Today, with so many more buildings and people … we’d see billions in damage,” Armbruster said. “People would probably be killed.”

Russia Fears US Nuclear Threat

Russia warns that US missiles based in Europe are increasing the risk of a nuclear war

By Dailymail.com Reporter 11:56 EDT 28 Mar 2017, updated 13:06 EDT 28 Mar 2017

Russia warned US deployment of THAAD was a threat to world security

It also warned that the anti-missile system would spark a new arms race

US has deployed THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense) missile system in South Korea in response to North Korea’s provocative ballistic missile tests

Russia has warned the US deployment of an anti-missile system will spark a new arms race and was a threat to world security designed to contain Russia and China.

The US has deployed its THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense) missile system in South Korea in response to North Korea’s increasingly provocative ballistic missile tests.

It is designed to shoot down short, medium and intermediate range ballistic missiles.

The reclusive state has conducted five nuclear tests and a series of missile launches in defiance of UN resolutions.

Shoots down short and medium-range ballistic missiles in the terminal phase of their flight

  • Uses hit-to-kill technology – where kinetic energy destroys the incoming warhead
  • Has a range of 200km and can reach an altitude of 150km
  • US has previously deployed it in Guam and Hawaii as a measure against potential attacks from North Korea

Viktor Poznikhir told a disarmament conference in Genev: ‘The presence of the global ABM [anti-ballistic missile] system lowers the threshold for the use of nuclear weapons, because it gives the US the illusion of impunity for using strategic offensive weapons from under the protection of the ABM “umbrella”.

‘The ABM shield is a symbol of the build-up of rocket forces in the world and a trigger for a new arms race.’

The Russian defence ministry also said it regarded US naval patrols in the Black Sea as a potential threat to its safety, because it was unclear what kind of missiles the ships were carrying.

Russia, which illegally annexed Ukraine’s Crimea in 2014, has its own Black Sea Fleet based at Sevastopol.

THAAD is designed to shoot down short, medium and intermediate range ballistic missiles
Earlier this month, North Korea fired ballistic missiles that landed in the sea less than 200 miles off the northwestern coast of Japan.

The incident was one of the numerous military tests conducted by the despotic state, which has expanded its ballistic and nuclear missile capability in the wake of what it views as US and South Korean aggression.

Pyongyang insists that it needs nuclear weapons for self-defence against ‘hostile enemies’.

South Korean and U.S. troops began the large-scale joint drills on March 1 that the North calls an invasion rehearsal.

US moves parts of missile defence equipment to South Korea

A Closer Look At The Sixth Seal (Rev 6:12)

A Look at the Tri-State’s Active Fault Line

455544140_86d9192ae5_zMonday, March 14, 2011

The Ramapo Fault is the longest fault in the Northeast that occasionally makes local headlines when minor tremors cause rock the Tri-State region. It begins in Pennsylvania, crosses the Delaware River and continues through Hunterdon, Somerset, Morris, Passaic and Bergen counties before crossing the Hudson River near Indian Point nuclear facility.

In the past, it has generated occasional activity that generated a 2.6 magnitude quake in New Jersey’s Peakpack/Gladstone area and 3.0 magnitude quake in Mendham.

But the New Jersey-New York region is relatively seismically stable according to Dr. Dave Robinson, Professor of Geography at Rutgers. Although it does have activity.

“There is occasional seismic activity in New Jersey,” said Robinson. “There have been a few quakes locally that have been felt and done a little bit of damage over the time since colonial settlement — some chimneys knocked down in Manhattan with a quake back in the 18th century, but nothing of a significant magnitude.”

Robinson said the Ramapo has on occasion registered a measurable quake but has not caused damage: “The Ramapo fault is associated with geological activities back 200 million years ago, but it’s still a little creaky now and again,” he said.

“More recently, in the 1970s and early 1980s, earthquake risk along the Ramapo Fault received attention because of its proximity to Indian Point,” according to the New Jersey Geological Survey website.

Historically, critics of the Indian Point Nuclear facility in Westchester County, New York, did cite its proximity to the Ramapo fault line as a significant risk.

In 1884, according to the New Jersey Geological Survey website, the  Rampao Fault was blamed for a 5.5 quake that toppled chimneys in New York City and New Jersey that was felt from Maine to Virginia.

“Subsequent investigations have shown the 1884 Earthquake epicenter was actually located in Brooklyn, New York, at least 25 miles from the Ramapo Fault,” according to the New Jersey Geological Survey website.

The Continued Influence of the Iranian Horn (Daniel 8:4)

Sunni-Shia-Map-PEWCourted by Sunni neighbours, Iraq’s Abadi seeks to strike balance with Iran

BAGHDAD, Iraq – On the edge of the almost exclusively Sunni city of Fallujah, at one of the many army checkpoints on the road from Baghdad, drivers cannot help noticing a larger-than-life-size portrait of Iraq’s Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi.

Is this picture of a Shia who heads a Shia-majority coalition government meant to warn Sunnis that Iraq has changed and they must learn to live in a country which they have lost the right to rule?

Appearances are deceptive. The Abadi portrait is an exception. Posters and public pictures of the prime minister are remarkably rare, in contrast to the practice when his predecessor Nouri al-Maliki held the job until three years ago, let alone when Saddam Hussein ran his family dictatorship.

More than that, most Iraqis, including Sunnis, view Abadi as a more acceptable ruler than Maliki was. He is seen as balanced, modest and pragmatic – a fitting symbol of the normalisation Baghdad is gradually undergoing, 14 years after the overthrow of Saddam.

A crucial chunk of Mosul is still in the hands of Islamic State militants. The third of the country which IS once held remains largely in ruins although people are gradually drifting home.

The chronically low oil price is causing widespread economic problems. Corruption is rife. But at least in the capital city violence and bombs, despite a succession of deadly IS attacks at the start of this year, are less frequent dangers than they used to be and a reasonable life is possible again.

There are fewer checkpoints than six years ago, when this journalist last visited, and drivers get less angry with the queuing, accepting it as necessary. People take their children to ice cream cafes in the evenings or stroll around the shops. Iraqis in the diaspora are taking their teenage children on vacations to the “homeland” to see where their parents used to live.

“The Abadi government doesn’t have strong teeth to bite people. The prime minister has two qualities: he’s against violence and he’s not hostile to any group,” said Abdul Latif al-Humayem, a respected Sunni sheikh who served in Saddam Hussein’s administration and now heads a large government-supported charity, the Iraqi Sunni Waqf (Endowment).

“Abadi is Dawa to the bone,” a foreign diplomat told MEE, referring to the Islamic party that the prime minister and his predecessor and rival, Maliki, have spent most of their lives in.

“But Abadi is emerging as a national figure and expressing opinions which differ from traditional Dawa.”

Even some Maliki loyalists acknowledge Abadi’s skill at keeping all sides in play, on foreign as well as domestic Iraqi issues.

“He wants balance in regional affairs,” said Saad al-Muttalibi, who sits on the Baghdad city council as a member of Maliki’s State of Law coalition.

Almost no Saudi companies invest in Iraq whereas Iran and Iraq invest in each other’s countries and Basra gets its electricity from Iran

The looming defeat of IS in Mosul has given a new weight to Abadi’s foreign policy options. What will the role of Iran and the United States be in Iraq’s post-IS future? How will the internal dynamics of Sunni and Shia rivalries play out?

General James Mattis, the new US defence secretary and a longtime hawk on Iran, visited Baghdad in February. He was soon followed by Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister Adel al-Jubeir, making the first trip by a senior Saudi official since 1990.

According to Iraqi analysts, the aim was to try to pull Iraq into an anti-Iranian posture now that Tehran’s help against IS is no longer needed. The pressure on Abadi will continue at this week’s Arab League summit in Amman.

Ankara forum

Certain countries want a Sunni bloc to confront Iran. The Gulf states, Jordan and Turkey are very concerned about Iran,” said Dhiaa al-Asadi, who heads the faction in Parliament which is loyal to Muqtada al-Sadr, the nationalist Shia cleric.

He pointed to the way Iraq’s Sunni neighbours were intervening in internal Iraqi politics. Turkey invited several senior Iraqi Sunni leaders to Ankara earlier this month for a conference which seemed designed to create a new Sunni political alliance and perhaps lead to demands for federal autonomy for western Iraq where most Sunnis live.

Along with Turkey, the Saudi, Qatari, UAE and Jordanian governments are believed to have financed the conference and those who attended. They included Vice-President Osama al-Nujaifi, former deputy prime minister Saleh al-Mutlaq, former finance minister Rafi al-Issawi and a controversial multi-millionaire businessman, Khamis al-Khanjar, who openly advocates making Iraq a federation with separate Sunni, Shia and Kurdish entities.

There is a general consensus among Iraq’s political class that IS was able initially to win support in Sunni areas because many people in western Iraq felt marginalised.

But looking to a federation as a solution is considered too radical by many Sunnis who vigorously opposed the Ankara forum. Some disliked the involvement of foreign powers, seeing it as a potential repetition of the proxy wars which have helped to tear Syria apart.

Mahmoud Mashhadani, who served as speaker of parliament from 2006 to 2008, saw the Ankara meeting as a device to undermine a document called “the unified vision of the Sunni Arabs on the historic settlement initiative” which was drawn up under his leadership in a group called the Front for National Decisions.

It proposes changes in the constitution to authorise more devolution of power to governorates without going as far as splitting Iraq into regions.

The document is being given to the United Nations office in Iraq which has invited all interested politicians to give their views on Iraq post-IS, including election law reform, human rights and economic development.

“If Iraq is to become a state with three components it will increase the power struggle”, Mashhadani told MEE.

“We are all asking why security collapsed and Daesh [IS] took over. The answer is the weakness of the Iraqi state [since Saddam], its sectarian division, and the delay in building a country with a national vision.”

‘Wrong place, wrong time, wrong people’

He blamed the Americans for creating sectarian quotas after they invaded in 2003.

“The Ankara conference was wrong in the timing, the place, and the people who were invited. They’re under foreign control. We reject it. It gives the Shia an excuse to turn to Iran, and the Kurds to turn to Israel and other countries. It undermines the national reconciliation which we want,” added Mashhadani.

The Ankara forum invited Salim al-Jabouri, the current speaker of Parliament, to chair the project as it moves forward.

“I accepted on certain conditions which have been agreed. The aim must not be to divide Iraq, so ‘internal’ Sunnis must be brought in as well as those who live abroad. The movement must also co-operate with the Abadi government,” he told MEE.

In spite of these changes, the project still disturbs some Sunni politicians because of the heavy foreign influence. Several of the project’s leaders have been invited to Amman to meet foreign ministers after the Arab League summit.

The issue of Iran’s influence in Iraq is the key issue but it is widely exaggerated, according to Saad al-Muttalibi, the Maliki supporter.

“In fact it is fading,” he told MEE. “No Iraqi of importance turned up at the Iranian embassy on their national day in February.”

He claimed that those who voted for Maliki in the last elections felt betrayed because Iran switched its support to Abadi.

Iran ‘playing the long game’

No one denies that the cultural and economic links with Iran are close in contrast to those between Iraq and its other large neighbour, Saudi Arabia.

Iraq has six border crossings with Iran but none with Saudi Arabia that is open to trade. Almost no Saudi companies invest in Iraq whereas Iran and Iraq invest in each other’s countries and Basra gets its electricity from Iran.

“The Iranians are playing a long game and a waiting game,” said Sajad Jiyad, the director of the Al Bayan Centre for Planning and Studies.

“Their investment in defeating IS will pay off. They got their hands dirty in Iraq. They put their skins on the line. They lost three or four generals plus a dozen senior officers,” Jiyad said.

The Iranians saw the seriousness of the threat which IS posed. This explained why, in spite of their long-standing differences with the United States, the Iranians have not attacked US forces in Iraq since the Americans returned in 2014.

This contrasted with Iranian policy of a decade ago when Iran sent weapons to militias who were fighting US forces, he noted.

Yasser Abdul Hussein, the director of another think tank, the Al-Beladi Centre for Strategic Studies and Research, said people were grateful to Iran because it “helped immediately after Mosul collapsed in June 2014 while the Americans waited for three months”.

US airpower may be decisive in the final stages of the battle against IS but Iran’s early contribution is not forgotten.

No analyst in Baghdad expects Abadi to turn against Iran or join an anti-Iranian alliance of Sunni politicians and Sunni states, however much pressure the Trump administration or the Saudis decide to apply. Balance remains the name  of the prime minister’s game.

The Upcoming Korean-Iranian Nuclear Test

Sixth nuclear test imminent, says Seoul

Another North Korean nuclear test is imminent, with preparations likely to wrap up this week, intelligence authorities in Seoul said Wednesday.

The test, North Korea’s sixth, could be conducted as early as next week

“We have intelligence that North Korea may conduct its sixth nuclear test in the first week of April and are in the process of confirming this,” said a South Korean military intelligence source who requested anonymity. “We have determined that North Korea is expected to finish all preparations for a nuclear test by March 31.”

There were expectations that the North could conduct a nuclear test ahead of the upcoming meeting between Chinese President Xi Jinping and U.S. President Donald Trump expected to be held on April 6 and 7 at the Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida.

“We are analyzing that there is a high possibility that North Korea will conduct a nuclear test ahead of U.S. President Trump and Chinese President Xi’s summit in the United States,” another intelligence official said.

Pyongyang launched an intermediate-range missile on Feb. 11 to coincide with Trump’s meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at Mar-a-Lago after their summit at the White House the previous day. It was the North’s first such missile test since the onset of the Trump administration.

Some military officials here speculate that Pyongyang may follow the Pakistan model and conduct multiple tests in the near future, including both plutonium and uranium devices. Pakistan conducted its first five simultaneous underground nuclear tests on May 28, 1998, jointly called Chagai-I, and a second nuclear test two days later on May 30 called Chagai-II.

“This would be in order to officially declare itself a nuclear state and be recognized as one,” a military official said. “North Korea will aim to push the stakes up to the maximum ahead of the U.S.-China leaders’ summit.”

Other possible dates for a provocation by the North that have been raised by analysts include the lead-up to the late North Korean founder Kim Il Sung’s 105th birthday anniversary on April 15. Pyongyang will hold a meeting of the Supreme People’s Assembly, its rubber-stamp legislature, on April 11.

The North Korea monitoring website 38 North, run by the U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies, said Tuesday that its latest satellite imagery of the Punggye-ri nuclear test site in Kilju County, North Hamgyong Province strongly indicates that nuclear test preparations are in the final stages.

The satellite imagery from March 25 shows the continued presence of three to four vehicles or equipment trailers at the entrance to the North Portal at the Punggye-ri test site, it pointed out, while the texture of the ground at the portal entrance suggests that communications cables may have been laid down there.

This equipment, according to its analysis, “would likely be used to initiate the test, collect data from the explosion and process the data,” while water is being pumped out of the portal and drained downhill, apparently to keep the tunnel dry for monitoring or communications equipment.

“The combination of these factors strongly suggests that test preparations are well underway, including the installation of instrumentation,” it added.

There was no significant activity at the other areas of the test site, it said, aside from several mining carts at the West Portal. This lack of activity “may mean that test preparations are in their final stages,” said 38 North, calling for caution because Pyongyang is aware the world is watching and “is capable of deception.”

BY LEE CHUL-JAE, SARAH KIM [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]

North Korea Prepares For Another Iranian Test

Satellite imagery of the Punggye-ri nuclear test site in North Korea on Mar. 25, 2017.

DigitalGlobe | 38 North | Getty Images

Satellite imagery of the Punggye-ri nuclear test site in North Korea on Mar. 25, 2017.

Satellite imagery of North Korea’s main nuclear test site taken over the weekend indicates that Pyongyang could be in the final stages of preparations for a sixth nuclear test, a U.S. think tank reported on Tuesday.

Washington-based 38 North, a website that monitors North Korea, said the images from Saturday showed the continued presence of vehicles and trailers at the Punggye-ri test site and signs that communications cables may have been laid to a test tunnel.

Water was also being pumped out and was draining downhill “presumably to keep the tunnel dry for monitoring or communications equipment,” it said.

“The combination of these factors strongly suggests that test preparations are well under way, including the installation of instrumentation. The imagery, however, does not provide any definitive evidence of either a nuclear device or the timing of a test.”

A lack of activity elsewhere at the site “may mean that test preparations are in their final stages,” the report said, although it added: “Since North Korea knows the world is watching and is capable of deception, caution should be used before declaring that a nuclear test is imminent.”

The think tank reported over the weekend that the vehicles and trailers at the site could have been used to install a nuclear device for an underground test.

Another 38 North report said recent satellite images of North Korea’s nuclear research center at Yongbyon showed rail and vehicle movements that could indicate a plan to resume reprocessing of spent fuel rods to produce plutonium for bomb fuel.

North Korea has conducted five nuclear tests and a series of missile launches, in defiance of United Nations sanctions, and is believed by experts and government officials to be working to develop nuclear-tipped missiles that could reach the United States.

A South Korean military official said on Friday that North Korea had maintained readiness to conduct a new nuclear test at any time and U.S. officials also say they are concerned about additional missile and nuclear tests in the near future.

North Korea said last year it had mastered the ability to mount a warhead on a ballistic missile and has been ratcheting up a threat that its rivals and the United Nations appear powerless to contain despite successive rounds of sanctions.

U.S. officials told Reuters on Monday that North Korea had carried out another test of a rocket engine that could be part of its program to develop an intercontinental ballistic missile.

The Nuclear Horns Protest Nuclear Ban

The United States and most other nuclear powers, including Russia, oppose the talks. The Obama administration voted against convening them.

The talks come against the backdrop of increasing worries over the intentions of a reclusive North Korea, which has tested nuclear weapons and missiles that could conceivably carry them. Defying international sanctions, the North Koreans have threatened to strike the United States and its allies with what North Korea’s state news media has called the “nuclear sword of justice.”

Ms. Haley and Ambassador Matthew Rycroft of Britain emphasized that their countries had vastly reduced the size of their nuclear arsenals since the height of the Cold War.

Mr. Rycroft said his country was not participating in the talks “because we do not believe that those negotiations will lead to effective progress on global nuclear disarmament.”

Ms. Haley questioned whether countries favoring a weapons ban understood the nature of global threats. Referring to nations participating in the talks, she said, “You have to ask yourself, are they looking out for their people?”

She cited North Korea and Iran in articulating her opposition to the talks. But those countries have taken divergent positions. North Korea, like the United States and its allies, is sitting out the talks. Iran, which does not have nuclear weapons and has promised not to acquire them, is participating.

“Is it any surprise that Iran is in support of this?” Ms. Haley said.

Her counterparts from Russia and China, both veto-wielding permanent members of the Security Council, did not join her protest group. But they are not participating in the talks.

Foreign Minister Sergey V. Lavrov of Russia said in Moscow last week that his government did not support a global nuclear weapons ban, essentially agreeing with the American position.

“Efforts to coerce nuclear powers to abandon nuclear weapons have intensified significantly recently,” the Tass news agency quoted him as saying. “It is absolutely clear that the time has not yet come for that.”

Proponents of a nuclear weapons ban have acknowledged the challenges of reaching a treaty, but have been encouraged by efforts that led to landmark prohibitions on other weapons, including chemical weapons, land mines and cluster munitions.

If a sufficient number of countries were to ratify a nuclear weapons ban, supporters contend, it would create political and moral pressure on holdouts, including the big nuclear powers.

Beatrice Fihn, the executive director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, said in a statement that the opposition expressed by Ms. Haley and her allies “demonstrates how worried they are about the real impact of the nuclear ban treaty.”

Ms. Fihn, whose organization is a strong supporter of the negotiations, said a treaty would “make it clear that the world has moved beyond these morally unacceptable weapons of the past.”

Humanitarian aid groups not directly engaged in disarmament causes also endorsed the talks.

“Of course, adopting a treaty to prohibit nuclear weapons will not make them immediately disappear,” Peter Maurer, the president of the International Committee of the Red Cross, said in a statement. “But it will reinforce the stigma against their use, support commitments to nuclear risk reduction and be a disincentive for proliferation.”

As the talks began inside the General Assembly hall, Toshiki Fujimori, a survivor of the Hiroshima atomic bombing, made an emotional appeal to diplomats.

“I’m here at the U.N. asking for an abolition of nuclear weapons,” he said through an interpreter. “Nobody in any country deserves seeing the same hell again.”

More than 2,000 scientists signed an open letter endorsing the talks.

“We scientists bear a special responsibility for nuclear weapons, since it was scientists who invented them and discovered that their effects are even more horrific than first thought,” stated the letter, posted on the website of the Future of Life Institute, a charitable organization that promotes the peaceful use of technology.

Quoting President Ronald Reagan, the letter stated, “A nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.”