The Growing Korean Nuclear Threat

North Korea’s ICBM tests may be a deception tactic to hide a much more capable threat

A top missile analyst says the ICBMs North Korea shows off may be propaganda that has fooled experts and the military.

Most analysis of North Korean missiles comes from images released from Pyongyang, and they could be purposefully deceptive. The real ICBM program may be a hidden silo-based missile, which would be much more dangerous.

North Korea has shocked the world by making huge strides in missile technology since debuting an intercontinental ballistic missile on July 4, but according to James Kiessling, the road-mobile missile may just be an act of deception.

Kiessling, who works at the Office of the Secretary of Defense, gave Business Insider his personal views on North Korea, which do not represent the Pentagon’s official stance.

“If you’re really concerned about an ICBM from anyone, go back and look at history for what everyone has ever done for ICBMs,” said Kiessling. “All early liquid ICBMS are siloed.”

Through a painstaking analysis of imagery and launch statistics from North Korea’s missile program, Kiessling has concluded that the road-mobile, truck-based missiles they show off can’t actually work as planned, and may instead be purposeful distractions from a more capable missile project.

In a paper for Breaking Defense, Kiessling and his colleague Ralph Savelsberg demonstrated a model of the North Korean ICBM and concluded its small size made it basically useless for reaching the US with any kind of meaningful payload.

History suggests that building a true liquid-fueled ICBM that can be transported on a truck presents huge, if not insurmountable problems, to designers.

“The US and the Soviets tried very hard and never managed to reach a level of miniaturization and ruggedness that would support a road-mobile ICBM,” said Kiessling, referring to the minaturization of nuclear warheads needed to fit them onto missiles.

ICBMs that use liquid fuel, as North Korea’s do, are “very likely to crumple or damage the tankage” while being carted around on a bumpy truck.

“While it may not be impossible, it’s bloody difficult and extremely dangerous,” to put a liquid-fueled ICBM on a truck, according to Kiessling.

Instead, the US, Soviets, and Chinese all created silo-based liquid-fueled missiles, as the static missiles are more stable and less prone to sustaining damage.

But there’s no evidence of North Korea building a silo for missile launches, and Kiessling said that could be due to a massive deception campaign that may have fooled some of the world’s top missile experts.

Kiessling thinks that North Korea has actually been preparing for a silo-based missile that combines parts of the Hwasong-14, its ICBM, with its space-launch vehicle, the Unha. Both the Unha and the Hwasong-14 have been tested separately, and Kiessling says they could easily be combined.

This analysis matches the comments of Mike Elleman, a senior fellow for missile defense at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, who told Business Insider he saw the Hwasong-14 as an “interim capability” that North Korea was using to demonstrate an ICBM as quickly as possible.

Elleman believes that North Korea well develop a “heavier ICBM” that “may not be mobile,” but can threaten the entire continental US and carry a heavier payload, including decoys and other penetration aides.

But other prominent analysts disagree with Kiessling’s model, saying he incorrectly judged the size of the Hwasong-14. To that, Kiessling says that North Korean imagery, which has all been purposefully released by a regime known to traffic in propaganda, is geared towards deception.

“One of the hardest problems imaginable is to find something you’re not looking for,” said Kiessling, of a possible missile silo in North Korea.

“If I was in the place of Kim Jong Un, and I wanted to have a cleverly-assembled ICBM program, I’d do it the way everyone else does it,” said Kiessling, referring to silo-based missiles. “But at the same time, you run a deception program to distract everyone else from what you’re doing until you’re done.”

A silo would also prove an inviting target for any US strikes on North Korea, as the target can’t hide once its found. If the US were to find out that North Korea hadn’t succeeded in miniaturizing its warheads enough to fit on its mobile missiles, a smaller-scale strike against fixed targets may seem like an attractive, doable option.

Authorities Expecting The Sixth Seal? (Rev 6:12)

US Raises Threat of Quake but Lowers Risk for Towers

New York Times



Here is another reason to buy a mega-million-dollar apartment in a Manhattan high-rise: Earthquake forecast maps for New York City that a federal agency issued on Thursday indicate “a slightly lower hazard for tall buildings than previously thought.”

The agency, the United States Geodetic Survey, tempered its latest quake prediction with a big caveat.

“The eastern U.S. has the potential for larger and more damaging earthquakes than considered in previous maps and assessments,” the agency said, citing the magnitude 5.8 quake that struck Virginia in 2011.

Federal seismologists based their projections of a lower hazard for tall buildings — “but still a hazard nonetheless,” they cautioned — on a lower likelihood of slow shaking from an earthquake occurring near the city, the type of shaking that typically causes more damage to taller structures.

“The tall buildings in Manhattan are not where you should be focusing,” said John Armbruster, a seismologist with the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University. “They resonate with long period waves. They are designed and engineered to ride out an earthquake. Where you should really be worried in New York City is the common brownstone and apartment building and buildings that are poorly maintained.”

Mr. Armbruster was not involved in the federal forecast, but was an author of an earlier study that suggested that “a pattern of subtle but active faults makes the risk of earthquakes to the New York City area substantially greater than formerly believed.”

He noted that barely a day goes by without a New York City building’s being declared unsafe, without an earthquake. “If you had 30, 40, 50 at one time, responders would be overloaded,” he said.

The city does have an earthquake building code that went into effect in 1996, and that applies primarily to new construction.

A well-maintained building would probably survive a magnitude 5 earthquake fairly well, he said. The last magnitude 5 earthquake in the city struck in 1884. Another is not necessarily inevitable; faults are more random and move more slowly than they do in, say, California. But he said the latest federal estimate was probably raised because of the magnitude of the Virginia quake.

“Could there be a magnitude 6 in New York?” Mr. Armbruster said. “In Virginia, in a 300 year history, 4.8 was the biggest, and then you have a 5.8. So in New York, I wouldn’t say a 6 is impossible.”

Mr. Armbruster said the Geodetic Survey forecast would not affect his daily lifestyle. “I live in a wood-frame building with a brick chimney and I’m not alarmed sitting up at night worried about it,” he said. “But society’s leaders need to take some responsibility.”

The Antichrist Unifies the Islamic Horns

Muqtada al-Sadr ‘bans anti-Saudi slogans from Iraqi streets’

Middle East Eye

Influential Iraqi Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr have given orders to his followers to remove all anti-Saudi images, slogans and banners from Iraq’s streets, according to claims in Iraqi media.

Anti-Saudi street banners and slogans have been raised after Shia cleric Nimr al-Nimr, who was a driving force of the protests that broke out in 2011 in the Sunni-ruled kingdom’s Eastern Province, was executed by Saudi Arabia in 2016.

The report came in the Baghdad Post earlier this week. The claims could not be independently verified by Middle East Eye.

Meanwhile, the Saudi government has been forcibly relocating residents of Nimr’s hometown of Awamiya as clashes continue between soldiers and militant groups in the old city. Awamiya has long been a flashpoint for protests by Saudi’s Shia minority and demonstrations and unrest have been frequent.

The Sadrist movement also announced in a statement on Tuesday that Sadr – a fierce Iraqi nationalist who has recently been highly critical of the influence of Saudi’s regional rival Iran in Iraq and neighbouring Syria – would adopt a new moderate religious discourse.

The moves came after Sadr met with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Sunday in a rare trip to the kingdom.

Little information has been publicly given about the reasons for the trip, which Sadr’s office described as his first in 11 years.

But Kurdistan 24 reported that Salman and Sadr discussed the future of Iraq and the impact of the 25 September Kurdistan independence referendum. Both reportedly stressed a need for a unified Iraq while acknowledging increasing tensions between Erbil and Baghdad.

According to the Baghdad Post, Sadr said Saudi Arabia had pledged to allocate $10m to help Iraqi refugees.

Relations between Saudi Arabia and Iraq were severed after Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990 and were only re-established in 2015.

Last month, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi met King Salman in Saudi Arabia in a bid to strengthen ties between the two countries.

“The countries agreed to establish a coordination council to upgrade relations to the hoped-for strategic level and open new horizons for cooperation in different fields,” said the statement carried by the official Saudi Press Agency.

It said the two countries had achieved a “quantum leap” in bilateral relations and stressed the importance of further official visits.

Antichrist Moves Away From Iran (Daniel 8:8)

Addressing Iranian Influence in Iraq

by Giorgio Cafiero

As Iraqis celebrate Mosul’s liberation from the Islamic State (ISIS or IS), their country’s future is anything but certain. Although it is premature to conclude that the fight against IS in Iraq is over, the Trump administration’s approach to Iraq is likely to focus more on countering Iran’s influence in the Shi’ite-majority Arab country. Saudi Arabia will support Trump in this. Until recently, Riyadh avoided engaging the Shi’ite leadership in Baghdad based on the view that the post-2003 political order in Iraq has been entirely under Tehran’s thumb. Last month’s rare visit to Riyadh of Muqtada al-Sadr, a prominent Iraqi Shi’ite cleric who has called for the disbanding of Iranian-backed militias in Iraq, signaled how the kingdom too has a heightened interest in attempting to bring Iraq farther away from the Islamic Republic’s orbit of influence.

Although Washington and Tehran have fought IS in parallel, no mutual interest in defeating it has resulted in any substantial or official cooperation. The Obama administration was far more accommodating of Iran in the fight against IS than Trump’s administration. For example, last year then-Secretary of State John Kerry asserted that, despite all the problems in Washington-Tehran relations, “Iran in Iraq has been in certain ways helpful, and they clearly are focused on ISIL-Daesh, and so we have a common interest, actually.” Trump and his team, nonetheless, are determined to distinguish themselves from Obama by conducting a foreign policy that is more hawkish and aggressive toward Iran in areas where they believe the previous president was “weak” or willing to concede too much to Tehran for the purpose of peacefully resolving the nuclear standoff.

Despite reluctantly certifying Tehran’s compliance with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the White House is imposing new sanctions on Iran, signaling its intention to sabotage the accord, and even talking of regime change against the Islamic Republic. Additionally, Trump recently praised Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s government for fighting on the “front lines in the fight against ISIS, al-Qaeda and Hezbollah.” Since he became president earlier this year, the United States has intentionally conducted direct military strikes on Syrian government military infrastructure and Washington has increased support for the Saudi-led campaign against Iranian-backed rebels in Yemen.

Odds are good that Iraq will become more of a flashpoint in tension between the United States and Iran as the post-IS chapter begins in Mosul, leaving the two countries with even less common interest in the city and Iraq at large. In May, while speaking at the Arab Islamic American Summit, Trump said that in Iraq Iran “funds, arms, and trains terrorists, militias, and other extremist groups that spread destruction and chaos.” In turn, Tehran maintains that the US military presence in Iraq is a root cause of much of the country’s chaotic tumult.

Iraq’s position in the Middle East’s geopolitical order will also largely depend on the extent to which Baghdad and Riyadh can overcome their tensions that prompted officials in the latter to avoid engaging with the Shi’ite leadership in the former. In light of the recent visits of the Iraqi prime minister, minister of interior, and al-Sadr, the kingdom is clearly set on reaching out to elements in Baghdad with which Saudi Arabia seeks to work, rather than Nouri al-Maliki, whom Riyadh views as an Iranian puppet. Underlying Saudi Arabia’s new approach toward Iraq is pressure from the White House and a desire to counter Tehran’s expanded clout in the Arab country.

By bringing Iraq further from the Iranian-led “resistance axis” and closer to the Sunni Arab fold, Saudi Arabia hopes to cultivate ties with Shi’ite politicians in Baghdad who advocate a foreign policy that restores Iraqi’s leadership role in the Arab world. Ultimately, in a battle for geopolitical leverage in the region, Saudi Arabia and Iran will compete when it comes to the reconstruction of parts of Iraq destroyed by the campaign to defeat IS.

On July 23, Iran and Iraq signed a military cooperation agreement to combat “terrorism and extremism,” marking yet another blow to Washington’s efforts to counter Tehran’s consolidated influence in the Middle East. The memorandum of understanding, according to Iranian state-owned media, “includes expansion of cooperation and exchange of experiences on combating terrorism and extremism, security of borders, as well as educational, logistic, technical and military support.” The following day, Iran’s Foreign Ministry declared that Iranian-Iraqi relations were a bilateral matter of no business to any other government. The message was directed toward both Washington and Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) members, chiefly Saudi Arabia.

Tehran opposes America’s military presence in post-IS Iraq. Iran’s security apparatus has maintained the same view of America’s military intervention in nearby countries, which has endured through all the changes in Washington-Tehran relations since 1979. The regime’s perception of the existential threat of the US military in Iraq did not fade even when the Obama administration made diplomatic overtures to Iran.

Iran’s regime sees militant Salafist-jihadist groups in Iraq as an existential threat too. The leaders of the Islamic Republic maintain a popular narrative based on the premise that the world has plotted against Iran. It believes that extremists near its borders, such as the Taliban in Afghanistan in the 1990s and 2000s and IS in Iraq today, are not outcomes of the dissolution of authoritarian secular regimes, failed states, wars, and other multifaceted problems. Instead, according to the narrative, these violent forces have conspired to topple the Islamic Republic after spreading chaos to other Muslim countries with support from Saudi Arabia and other GCC states at every step.

Although Iranian officials affirm that their country’s military action in Iraq and Syria is not geared toward expanding Tehran’s regional clout but instead toward promoting regional security and protecting Iran and its neighbors from global terrorists, there are undeniable geopolitical interests driving the country’s foreign policy vis-à-vis Iraq. Based on Tehran’s pursuit of logistical links between Iran’s capital city and Lebanon’s Mediterranean coast via a host of its Shi’ite proxies, chiefly the Popular Mobilization Units that work closely with the Iraqi army and Lebanese Hezbollah, Mosul’s future matters immensely for the Islamic Republic and its strategies for countering security threats as well as asserting greater leverage throughout the Levant and greater Middle East.

An important factor shaping Iraq’s future will be the extent to which the central government in Baghdad can improve its relationship with Iraq’s Sunni minority in al-Anbar province and build trust that was entirely absent at the time of the caliphate’s meteoric ascension to power just over three years ago. Doubtless, the Iranian-backed Shi’ite militias’ human rights violations waged in their fight against IS bode poorly for the prospects of national Iraqi unity under the Shi’ite-led government’s authority in the future. Failure to hold such militias accountable may well create the breeding grounds for an IS 2.0 to regain territory in Iraq’s Sunni-majority western territory in the future.

Facing new pressures from its neighbors and the Trump administration, the Iraqi government must not only take on the domestic challenges of resolving the issues in Mosul that enabled IS to seize control of the city and other swathes of Iraqi territory in 2014, but also navigate the region’s volatile geopolitical order as outsiders compete for influence over the country’s future now that attention is shifting away from the fight against the caliphate. In reality, Iran essentially has free rein in much of Iraq now that many of Tehran’s militant proxies have consolidated their positions of power. It remains unclear how Washington and Riyadh will be able to meaningfully change this reality.

Photo: Iraqi cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman