A Third of Mankind Will Die (Ezekiel 13)

Billions Could Die If India and Pakistan Start a Nuclear War

Zachary Keck

With the world’s attention firmly fixated on North Korea, the greatest possibility of nuclear war is in fact on the other side of Asia.

That place is what could be called the nuclear triangle of Pakistan, India and China. Although Chinese and Indian forces are currently engaged in a standoff, traditionally the most dangerous flashpoint along the triangle has been the Indo-Pakistani border. The two countries fought three major wars before acquiring nuclear weapons, and one minor one afterwards. And this doesn’t even include the countless other armed skirmishes and other incidents that are a regular occurrence.

At the heart of this conflict, of course, is the territorial dispute over the northern Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, the latter part of which Pakistan lays claim to. Also key to the nuclear dimension of the conflict is the fact that India’s conventional capabilities are vastly superior to Pakistan’s. Consequently, Islamabad has adopted a nuclear doctrine of using tactical nuclear weapons against Indian forces to offset the latter’s conventional superiority.

If this situation sounds similar, that is because this is the same strategy the U.S.-led NATO forces adopted against the Soviet Union during the Cold War. In the face of a numerically superior Soviet military, the United States, starting with the Eisenhower administration, turned to nuclear weapons to defend Western Europe from a Soviet attack. Although nearly every U.S. president, as well as countless European leaders, were uncomfortable with this escalatory strategy, they were unable to escape the military realities undergirding it until at least the Reagan administration.

At an event at the Stimson Center in Washington this week, Feroz Khan, a former brigadier in the Pakistan Army and author of one of the best books on the country’s nuclear program, said that Pakistani military leaders explicitly based their nuclear doctrine on NATO’s Cold War strategy. But as Vipin Narang, a newly tenured MIT professor who was on the same panel, pointed out, an important difference between NATO and Pakistan’s strategies is that the latter has used its nuclear shield as a cover to support countless terrorist attacks inside India. Among the most audacious were the 2001 attacks on India’s parliament and the 2008 siege of Mumbai, which killed over 150 people. Had such an attack occurred in the United States, Narang said, America would have ended a nation-state.

The reason why India didn’t respond to force, according to Narang, is that—despite its alleged Cold Start doctrine—Indian leaders were unsure exactly where Pakistan’s nuclear threshold stood. That is, even if Indian leaders believed they were launching a limited attack, they couldn’t be sure that Pakistani leaders wouldn’t view it as expansive enough to justify using nuclear weapons. This is no accident: as Khan said, Pakistani leaders intentionally leave their nuclear threshold ambiguous. Nonetheless, there is no guarantee that India’s restraint will continue in the future. Indeed, as Michael Krepon quipped, “Miscalculation is South Asia’s middle name.”

Much of the panel’s discussion was focused on technological changes that might exacerbate this already-combustible situation. Narang took the lead in describing how India was acquiring the capabilities to pursue counterforce strikes (i.e., take out Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal in a preventive or more likely preemptive strike). These included advances in information, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities to be able to track and target Islamabad’s strategic forces, as well as a missile-defense system that could take care of any missiles the first strike didn’t destroy. He also noted that India is pursuing a number of missile capabilities highly suited for counterforce missions, such as Multiple Independently Targetable Reentry Vehicles (MIRVs), Maneuverable Reentry Vehicles (MARVs) and the highly accurate BrahMos missiles that Dehli developed jointly with Russia. “BrahMos is one hell of a counterforce weapon,” even without nuclear warheads, Narang contended.

As Narang himself admitted, there’s little reason to believe that India is abandoning its no-first-use nuclear doctrine in favor of a first-strike one. Still, keeping in mind Krepon’s point about miscalculation, that doesn’t mean that these technological changes don’t increase the potential for a nuclear war. It is not hard to imagine a scenario where the two sides stumble into a nuclear war that neither side wants. Perhaps the most plausible scenario would start with a Mumbai-style attack that Indian leaders decide they must respond to. In hopes of keeping the conflict limited to conventional weapons, Delhi might authorize limited punitive raids inside Pakistan, perhaps targeting some of the terrorist camps near the border. These attacks might be misinterpreted by Pakistani leaders, or else unintentionally cross Islamabad’s nuclear thresholds. In an attempt to deescalate by escalating, or else to halt what they believe is an Indian invasion, Pakistani leaders could use tactical nuclear weapons against the Indian troops inside Pakistan.

Iranian Hegemony in Syria (Revelation 8:4)

CIA Director Mike Pompeo Warns of Growing Iranian Presence in Syria, Iraq

John Hayward

The discussion ranged from defeating ISIS and countering Iran’s growing influence in the Middle East to Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

The University of Western Australia

Stephens began by asking Pompeo to identify the United States’ enemies in Syria, a question for which Pompeo said there was no singular answer. Obviously, the defeat of the Islamic State is America’s top priority at the moment, but the second name offered by the CIA director was Iran.

Today you have Iran extending its boundary, extending its reach, now making an effort to cross the borders and link up from Iraq,” said Pompeo. “It’s a very dangerous threat to the United States. Just yesterday, one more time we learned that Iran is the world’s largest state sponsor of terror, and they now have a significant foothold in Syria.”

Pompeo segued from Iran to Russia, saying he hoped the U.S. could find ways to work alongside the Russians in Syria, but “we really don’t have the same set of interests there.”

“When the decision was made to allow the Russians to enter into Syria, now coming on four years ago, it fundamentally changed the landscape, and it’s certainly been worse for the Syrian people,” he said.

Pompeo restated that point more forcefully later, during his question-and-answer session with the audience, recalling an editorial he co-wrote in 2013 saying that President Barack Obama should have acted in Syria, but instead he invited the Russians to step in and address the chemical weapons issue.

“The previous president instead chose to invite the Russians in, and that was a major turning point. That’s not a political statement, it’s a factual observation. It was a major turning point in the capacity of America to influence events in Syria. And so today we find ourselves in the position where we’re working to develop partners and those who are willing to work alongside us to get an outcome that’s in the best interests of America,” he said.

Pompeo said America’s objective in Syria, beyond defeating ISIS, should be enhancing the stability of the Middle East, an objective shared by America’s partners in the region as well as European allies.

Interestingly, he was somewhat ambivalent about whether the Kurds can be counted as an American friend in Syria, arguing that it is not accurate to speak of them as a unified individual element because of their complex internal politics. “Suffice to say there are places where we are definitely working alongside them and which they’re going to help us achieve the outcome that America wants,” he said.

On the biggest Syrian question, Pompeo deferred questions about whether America will push for the end of Bashar Assad’s dictatorship to the State Department. He quoted Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s assessment that Assad is “not a stabilizing influence” and agreed it is “difficult to imagine a stable Syria that still has Assad in power.”

He is a puppet of the Iranians. Therefore, it seems an unlikely situation where Assad will be sitting on the throne and America’s interests will be well-served,” Pompeo said.

He expressed concerns about Iran’s use of proxy forces like Hezbollah and Shiite militia groups in Syria, citing the threat posed by these forces to Israel and the Gulf states. He noted other Iranian proxy forces have gained a disturbing foothold in Iraq as well.

“This administration is going to have the task of unwinding what we found when we came in,” he said. “We’re working diligently to get the right place there. I will tell you that some of the actions we have taken have let folks know that we are at least back working this problem in a way that wasn’t the case six months ago.”

As for Russia’s interests in Syria, Pompeo pithily summed them up as: “They love a warm-water naval port, and they love to stick it to America.”

Asked if there was any evidence Russia has pursued a serious strategy against the Islamic State, instead of concentrating its fire on the more “moderate” opponents of the Assad regime, Pompeo bluntly answered, “No.”

However, he said he hoped there were other areas where counterterrorism cooperation with the Russians could be productive and explained it was his duty to work with them if they could provide valuable information about terrorist threats to Americans at home and abroad.

“We live in a world where the Russians have a massive nuclear stockpile and are firmly entrenched in Syria,” he pointed out. “They’ve retaken Crimea. They have a foothold in southeast Ukraine. Those are facts on the ground. America has an obligation to push back against that, not to allow that continued expansionism that has taken place, and to be serious in the way that we deal with them.”

“If we can do that by me working with someone who doesn’t share my value set, but works for the SVR, I’ll do it,” Pompeo said. (The SVR is Russia’s external intelligence agency, analogous to the CIA.)

Turning back to ISIS, Pompeo warned there are signs the terrorist organization is already mutating and spreading into other parts of the world to survive its inevitable defeat in Raqqa, naming Libya, the Sinai peninsula, and the hinterlands of Iraq and Syria as particular concerns.

“We broke the back of al-Qaeda. We crushed them. We didn’t do it just by taking out a handful of folks. We took down their entire network. That’s what we’re going to do again,” he promised.

He stressed that the Islamic State remains dangerous even without its “caliphate” territory, but America is “infinitely better off” with that territory liberated because holding cities in Iraq and Syria helped the Islamic State build the infrastructure it uses for recruiting and terrorist attacks around the world.

Pompeo said that, although the State Department has certified continued Iranian compliance with the JCPOA (i.e. the Iran nuclear deal), the Trump administration remains committed to pushing back against Iran in many areas. A longtime skeptic of the nuclear deal, he humorously compared Iran’s technical compliance with the behavior of a poor tenant who complies with the rules just enough to avoid eviction.

“Grudging, minimalist, temporary, with no intention really of what the agreement is designed to do,” he said. “It was designed to foster stability and have Iran become a re-entrant to the Western world, and the agreement simply hasn’t achieved that.”

Pompeo said it was not easy to articulate what would achieve those goals but stressed that “continued appeasement, continued failure to acknowledge when they do things wrong” will never be the right strategy. He expressed confidence that the Trump administration could engineer a fundamental shift in the Iranian situation.

Stephens turned to North Korea, suggesting that the competence of its nuclear and missile programs has improved to an alarming degree over the past few years. Pompeo said this was a result of “willing partners — suppliers, engineers, talented physicists who were able to come provide them with ways to get up the learning curve faster.”

He revealed that President Trump “rarely lets me escape the Oval Office without a question about North Korea. It is at the front of his mind.”

By contrast, he said previous administrations have “whistled past the graveyard” of North Korea’s nuclear ambitions, but it is too close to realizing those goals for the Trump administration to take the same approach.

“It would be a great thing to denuclearize the peninsula, to get those weapons off of that, but the thing that is most dangerous about it is the character who holds the control over them today,” Pompeo said. “From the administration’s perspective, the most important thing we can do is separate those two — separate capacity and someone who might well have intent, and break those two apart.”

Pompeo said it was still possible to interrupt North Korea’s march to a nuclear arsenal without resorting to military intervention, noting that there is a great difference between building a few nuclear missiles and development a large, reliable missile force along the lines of the American or Russian inventories. He suggested focusing on reducing North Korea’s access to the supplies and expertise it would need to develop anything beyond its first crude ICBMs. He also suggested the North Korean people might have some appetite for overthrowing their brutal dictatorship.

Asked if Russia attempted to intervene in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, Pompeo said yes, adding they tried to interfere with many previous elections as well. “They’ve been at this a long time, and I don’t think they have any intention of backing off,” he noted.

Pompeo explained that the cost of effective political interference in other nations has been greatly reduced by the Internet.

“It used to be it was expensive to run an ad on a television station. Now you simply go online and propagate your message,” he said. “They have found an effective tool, an easy way to reach into our systems and into our culture to achieve the outcomes they are looking for.” Later, in response to a question from the audience, he said the CIA is working with German intelligence agencies to investigate possible Russian interference in German elections, although he could not comment on the status of that investigation.

Stephens proposed that one of those tools is WikiLeaks and asked if Pompeo sees that website and its founder Julian Assange as witting or unwitting agents of Moscow.

“WikiLeaks will take down America any way they can and find any willing partner to achieve that end,” Pompeo declared. “If they can work with the Chinese, they’re happy to do it. If they can work with the Iranians, they’ll be part and parcel. If they can work with young American students in our colleges and on our campuses, they’re happy to work for them. You only need to go to WikiLeaks’ Twitter account to see that every month, they remind people that you can be an intern at the CIA and become a really dynamite whistleblower.”

“This is the nature of these non-state hostile intelligence services,” he said:

I think our intelligence community has a lot of work to figure out how to respond to them. We have spent decades figuring out how to respond to nation-state intelligence services that come after us. We have authorities, and rules, and processes that are focused on countries and regions. We now need to make sure that we understand that some of the intelligence threat, some of the threat to America is coming from these folks who don’t have constituents, people who live in their country but rather are free-range chickens, running around the world with resources to spare, and who don’t intend well for the United States of America, and are happy to use cyber or other means to achieve their ends.

Pompeo noted that the First Amendment makes it difficult to combat the spread of information obtained by organizations like WikiLeaks, so it is imperative for the intelligence community and other government agencies to maintain information security and keep that information from being released into the wild. He expressed hope that potential leakers would consider their responsibilities to America and make the right decision about jeopardizing national security.

“We have a publication – you work for it, Bret – that published the name of an undercover officer at the Central Intelligence Agency. I find that unconscionable,” Pompeo said, and then stared at Stephens for a few tense moments while the Aspen Security Forum audience applauded.

Stephens retorted that President Trump was known to declare, “I love WikiLeaks!” on the 2016 campaign trail after it began releasing documents from the Democratic National Committee.

“I don’t love WikiLeaks,” Pompeo said flatly.

Pompeo agreed with Stephens that a pattern of recent incidents suggest the U.S. intelligence and defense communities have an “insider threat” problem, although he stressed that excessive compartmentalization can result in a catastrophic failure of agencies to share vital information, as in the case of the run-up to 9/11. “We’re working inside my organization to make sure we have that balance correct,” he said.

“I come home every night, my wife says, ‘How was your day? What did you do?’ I can’t tell her what I did, but I can tell her that my day was great because America is awesome, and the people who work at the CIA are doing amazing things. I just can’t always share them with you,” said Pompeo, bringing a round of applause from the audience. He stressed that some of those “amazing things” are very much directed against Russian cyber-espionage.

Later, when pressed by an audience question from former 9/11 Commission member Richard Ben-Veniste about President Trump’s dismissal of the investigation into Russian election interference as a “witch hunt,” Pompeo argued that it was not out of bounds for the many high officials served by the intelligence community to challenge its work.

“It is not always the case that our answers are binary,” he said, pointing out that some of the findings in the intelligence community’s analysis of the 2016 election were expressed with more confidence than others. However, he repeated with some exasperation that he personally does not doubt the findings that efforts were made by Russia to meddle in the election.

“I think if you watch this administration’s actions with respect to Russia, it is no comparison in respect to how this administration has dealt with Russia and the previous one,” Pompeo said.

Turning to the war against terrorism, Pompeo provocatively stated that he does not believe in the “lone wolf” designation for many of the terrorists who have struck across the Western world in the past decade.

“I’ve never seen a wolf alone,” he noted. “They always know how to find the pack and where to find them. Someone is always helping each of these folks, so networks still exist.”

However, Pompeo added that terrorism has changed “to the extent it is less centralized, more diffuse, just like effective corporations in America today that have decentralized.” To combat that threat, he said he is working to “decentralize the Central Intelligence Agency, so we can be as nimble as our adversary.”

Of Course North Korea And Iran Are In Nuclear Collusion

ARE NORTH KOREA AND IRAN COOPERATING TO BUILD LONG-RANGE WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION? AN ASSESSMENT.

Iran and North Korea have long cooperated in some aspects of their missile development and probably in some aspects of their nuclear programs as well. Some of the details of this cooperation are clear, but many are not—at least at the open-source level of data available outside the intelligence community. This raises critical issues in evaluating the progress each country is making in the development of its nuclear forces, and how much cooperation they still have in shaping their missile forces.

It also raises the issue of how possible it is to establish effective arms-control efforts and stable structures of deterrence when key aspects of each country’s military development can be affected by the actions of a distant and very different power. Containing, deterring, and defeating either Iran or North Korea is difficult enough when each nation is treated separately. It becomes far more difficult to the extent they are cooperating to develop missile and nuclear forces.

A Strategic Alliance Between Seeming Opposites

Any such alliance is scarcely based on common sets of values. Iran and North Korea are very different powers. Iran still has important democratic and secular elements, but it technically is an Islamic theocracy center around Persian culture and the goal of revolutionizing Islam. North Korea, or the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), has become a hereditary autocracy or dictatorship, although it technically is a secular, anti-religious, Marxist authoritarian one-party state.

Two problems Iran and North Korea share, however, are similar and critical security problems and challenges in modernizing and strengthening their military forces. Since the fall of the shah and Khomeini’s religious revolution in 1979-1980, Iran has provoked a hostage crisis with the United States and then kept itself an enemy of the U.S., it has been a source of religious extremism in much of the world, sponsored terrorist attacks, and been hostile power to most of its Arab neighbors.

With the exception of limited arms sales and transfers of military technology by Russia and China, Iran’s actions have alienated so many states that it has lacked support from a major outside power in developing its military forces. Iran has been forced to turn to the international black market in arms sales and military technology, and has faced critical problems in importing arms and modernizing its military forces. Furthermore, its economic policies, war, and sanctions have badly weakened its economy, and it has a limited industrial base. This has virtually forced Iran to turn to any ally outside the region that it can find.

Recent OPEC reports also show that Iran has gotten only marginal benefits from the easing of sanctions resulting from its nuclear-arms agreement. Its petroleum-export income peaked at $99 billion in 2011, in constant 2016 dollars. It then dropped steadily as a result of sanctions and the “crash” in oil prices in 2012-2014. It only rose from a low of $29.4 billion in 2015 to $36.2 billion in 2016. These revenues still leave Iran in a position to buy from North Korea, but they also force it to seek any savings it can find in buying arms and technology.

North Korea, in turn, has been under a de facto dictatorship that has used the specter of foreign enemies to justify itself since the cease-fire in the Korean War. It initially had the support of the Soviet Union in creating what remains the most militarized state in the world, but it lost much of its Soviet aid in arms transfers following the death of Stalin, became caught up in the split between the Soviet Union and China, and then lost even more aid and support as the Soviet Union broke up in the early 1990s and China focused more on regional stability and trade. China has remained an ally, but has not given North Korea substantial military aid in the face of its violent provocations of its neighbors and confrontation with the United States. Like Iran, North Korea lacks major allies and is seen as a threat by many of its neighbors.

North Korea also has to support one of the most militarized nations in the world with one of the weakest economies. Iran has oil wealth and large dollar earnings that it can use to buy arms, missiles, and nuclear technology. Despite sanctions and a crash in world oil prices since 2014, the CIA Factbook reports that Iran still had a GDP of over $1.4 trillion in 2016, a per capita income of $18,100, and exports of over $87 billion. The CIA puts North Korea’s GDP at an extraordinarily low $40 billion, its per capita income at $1,800, and its exports at $4.1 billion.

There are no reliable estimates of either Iranian or North Korean military expenditures, but it seems doubtful that North Korea can afford more than 20 percent of Iran’s spending in dollar terms. If Iran has sometimes been desperate to buy arms and military technology, North Korea has always been desperate to sell arms and military technology, and it too is under intense pressure to find any ally it can outside the region. It is in the awkward position of being one of the most militarized countries in the world, and one of the least able to afford its militarism.

Both countries also share a common strategic interest in creating strong missile and nuclear forces. Iran and North Korea do have large conventional military forces by regional standards, but all of the public reporting on their military forces shows that their internal economic problems and lack of outside support in arms transfers and sales of military and dual-use technology has led to a sharp deterioration in their level of military modernization. Many key elements of their conventional military forces—particularly their air forces—are aging and are of mediocre quality, with some elements bordering on obsolescence. The result is that both powers have been forced to look for some way to compensate for their military weakness in the face of hostile regional military power and U.S. power-projection capabilities.

One way both countries have chosen to compensate for these problems is creating asymmetric forces that can fight in unconventional ways. Another has been to develop missile forces and seek nuclear weapons. Each has sought to use missiles and weapons of mass destruction to deter regional powers and the U.S. from using advanced conventional weapons against them, and to develop more effective ways of threatening their neighbors and the U.S. This may well have led both nations to cooperate in developing some aspects of their nuclear forces—although there is no hard public evidence of such cooperation in nuclear-weapons development—and has definitely led them to cooperate in developing their missile forces.

The Uncertain Nature of Nuclear Cooperation

It is important to stress the fact that much of the open-source reporting on their possible cooperation in nuclear-weapons development is contradictory and uncertain. There have been many reports of such cooperation from the 1990s onward, and many more surfaced as a result of the debates over the Iran Nuclear Agreement (the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) that was formally adopted Oct. 18, 2015, and Iran was formally stated to have implemented Jan. 16, 2016.

There have also been reports that Iran has sent delegations and deployed scientists and technical experts to North Korea and that North Korea has sent its experts to Iran. In a number of cases, there have been claims that North Korea sent at least three delegations to aid Iran in its nuclear-weapons efforts, and that Iran sent observers to North Korean nuclear weapons tests—although exactly what a delegation could gain from observing an underground test is unclear.

North Korea and Iran have openly signed agreements like their Scientific Cooperation Agreement at meetings like a summit of the 120-member Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) in September 2012. North Korea’s state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) described this agreement as one for covering “cooperation in science, technology and education,” and some observers have noted that it was similar an agreement North Korea and Syria signed in 2002 that may have led to North Korea covertly giving Syria nuclear-reactor technology it could use for its nuclear program.

A Congressional Research Service study published in February 2016—Iran-North Korea-Syria Ballistic Missile and Nuclear Cooperation—also states that, “Some press reports have pointed to alleged instances of nuclear-related cooperation, such as the possibility of Iranian officials witnessing North Korean nuclear tests.” There are questions about the accuracy of each of the sources the CRS study cites—although there have been other reports such a visit took place. However, other sources do indicate that a list of the Iranian scientists at the 2013 test was published in the Iranian official press and was later deleted.

Most statements about actual nuclear cooperation have been vague, contradictory, or politically motivated. There have, however, been notable exceptions. One extraordinarily detailed article was published in February by two retired Israeli officers—Lt. Col. Dr. Refael Ofek and Lt. Col. Dr. Dany Shoham. The article was published by the BESA Center, a conservative Israeli think tank that has generally opposed the Iran nuclear agreement. It described Ofek as “an expert in the field of nuclear physics and technology, who served as a senior analyst in the Israeli intelligence community,” and Shoham as “an expert in the field of weapons of mass destruction who served as a senior intelligence analyst in the Israel Defense Forces.”

The article noted the importance of the September 2012 agreement between Iran and North Korea and stated that:

From the 1990s onward, dozens—perhaps hundreds—of NK scientists and technicians apparently worked in Iran in nuclear and ballistic facilities. Ballistic missile field tests were held in Iran, for instance near Qom, where the NK missiles Hwasong-6 (originally the Soviet Scud-C, which is designated in Iran as Shehab-2) and Nodong-1 (designated in Iran as Shehab-3) were tested. Moreover, in the mid-2000s, the Shehab-3 was tentatively adjusted by Kamran Daneshjoo, a top Iranian scientist, to carry a nuclear warhead. … Furthermore, calculations were made that were aimed at miniaturizing a nuclear implosion device in order to fit its dimensions and weight to the specifications of the Shehab-3 re-entry vehicle. These, together with benchmark tests, were conducted in the highly classified facility of Parchin. Even more significantly, Iranian experts were present at Punggye-ri, the NK nuclear test site, when such tests were carried out in the 2000s.

… A meaningful event took place in September 2012, when Daneshjoo, then the Iranian Minister of Science and Technology, signed an agreement with NK establishing formal cooperation. The agreement formally addressed such civil applications as “information technology, energy, environment, agriculture and food.” However, the memorandum of the agreement was ratified by Ali Akbar Salehi, head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran. Iranian Supreme Leader Khamenei has since clarified that the agreement is an “outcome of the fact that Iran and NK have common enemies, because the arrogant powers do not accept independent states.” It is reasonable to infer that the agreement went far beyond its alleged civilian sphere.

…The September 2012 agreement was probably intended to mask an evolving Iranian-NK cryptic interface, intended by Iran to compensate technologically for the following development…. A delegation of Iranian nuclear experts headed by Mohsen Fakhrizadeh-Mahabadi, director of the Iranian NW project, was covertly present at the third NK nuclear test in February 2013. This test was apparently based—unlike the previous plutonium-core-based field tests—on an HEU (highly enriched uranium) core nuclear device (as, presumably, were the fourth and fifth nuclear tests, which took place in 2016). In 2015, information exchanges and reciprocal delegation visits reportedly took place that were aimed at the planning of nuclear warheads. These include four NK delegations that visited Iran up until June 2015, one month before the VND was completed. It may be noted that in August 2015, a new gas centrifuge hall apparently became operational in the NK main uranium enrichment facility.

The current Iranian-NK interface, which appears to be fully active, presumably serves as a productive substitute for the Iranian activities prohibited by the VND. It enables Iran, in other words, to continue its pursuit of NW.

A Lack of Official U.S. Confirmation That Such Cooperation Exists

The problem with this article and other detailed reports is that it does not provide hard evidence or clearly reliable sources for the statements that confirm Iranian and North Korean cooperation in developing and producing nuclear weapons. This is particularly important because the U.S intelligence community has been asked for nearly two decades whether it has such proof. It has never confirmed such cooperation, although it has repeatedly described their cooperation in developing missiles. The issue of official U.S. confirmation became particularly serious during the congressional debate over the Iran Nuclear Agreement in 2016, when Sen. Ted Cruz, R.-Texas, asked James Clapper, then director of national intelligence, “Has the U.S. intelligence community observed any possible nuclear collaboration between Iran and North Korea?”

Clapper never publicly replied in any detail, although some retired U.S. intelligence experts, U.S. officials, and military officers have implied such cooperation has existed in the past. For example, Maj. Gen. Robert Scales, a former commandant of the U.S. Army War College, stated in an interview with Fox News in January 2016 that, “We know that the Iranians were at the last nuclear test a couple of year ago, [and] we know that the Iranians are helping the North Koreans miniaturize their nuclear weapons.” He indicated that the North Korean nuclear program experienced several failures until it received assistance from Iran. “What does this say about our nuclear deal with Iran?” Scales asked. “It says Iran is able to circumvent it by using their technological colleagues in Pakistan and their test-site facility in North Korea to push their own nuclear ambitions.” He added that “the Iranians and North Koreans are both developing long-range ballistic missiles by collaborating together.”

It is also interesting that the Congressional Research Service study cited earlier reported that officials in the executive branch had stated that there is “no evidence that Iran and North Korea have engaged in nuclear-related trade or cooperation.” This wording does not seem ambiguous, but one former CRS expert on the subject, Larry Niksch, noted such statements might not be fully accurate in testimony he gave after he had left the CRS, and cited a wide range of indicators that nuclear cooperation might be taking place:

The unwillingness—of the executive branch of the U.S. government to disclose information about the Iran-North Korea relationship. There have been some public disclosures about Iranian-North Korean collaboration in the development of missiles. On nuclear collaboration, there has been a virtual blackout of public information. …This blackout includes this denial, avoiding specific answers when asked about this, and denial statements in unclassified and declassified U.S. intelligence assessments. …Thus, little has appeared in the American news media about this. There are, however, a couple of notable exceptions.

…In September 2012, Iran and North Korea signed an agreement for wide-ranging technology and scientific cooperation. This did draw a reaction from Obama administration officials, which The Wall Street Journal reported on March 8, 2013. The report asserted that Obama administration officials were concerned that the head of Iran’s atomic energy agency was present at the signing ceremony. It described U.S. officials as concerned that Iran and North Korea share nuclear technology.

The Washington Post reported on November 7, 2011, that “secret intelligence” provided to the International Atomic Energy Agency showed that Iran had received “crucial technology” from North Korea for the development of nuclear warheads. This included mathematical formulas and codes for warhead designs, “some of which appear to have originated in North Korea.”

Daniel R. Coats, the director of national intelligence appointed by the Trump administration, did not make any new declarations about Iranian and North Korean cooperation in his annual Worldwide Threat Testimony to Congress on May 11. He made it quite clear that the U.S. intelligence community recognized a nuclear and missile threat from both Iran and North Korea, but he dealt with each country separately and in notably different ways.

Coats described the nuclear and missile threat from Iran as follows:

Iran’s implementation of the JCPOA has extended the amount of time Iran would need to produce enough fissile material for a nuclear weapon from a few months to about a year. The JCPOA has also enhanced the transparency of Iran’s nuclear activities, mainly through improved access by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and its investigative authorities under the Additional Protocol to its Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement. … Iran is pursuing capabilities to meet its nuclear energy and technology goals and to give it the capability to build missile-deliverable nuclear weapons, if it chooses to do so. Its pursuit of these goals will influence its level of adherence to the JCPOA. We do not know whether Iran will eventually decide to build nuclear weapons.

We judge that Tehran would choose ballistic missiles as its preferred method of delivering nuclear weapons, if it builds them. Iran’s ballistic missiles are inherently capable of delivering WMD, and Tehran already has the largest inventory of ballistic missiles in the Middle East. Tehran’s desire to deter the United States might drive it to field an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). Progress on Iran’s space program could shorten a pathway to an ICBM because space launch vehicles use similar technologies.

…Iran continues to develop a range of new military capabilities to monitor and target US and allied military assets in the region, including armed UAVs, ballistic missiles, advanced naval mines, unmanned explosive boats, submarines and advanced torpedoes, and anti-ship and land-attack cruise missiles. Iran has the largest ballistic missile force in the Middle East and can strike targets up to 1,242 miles from Iran’s borders. Russia’s delivery of the SA-20c surface-to-air missile system in 2016 provides Iran with its most advanced long-range air defense system.

Coats gave the following description of such threats from North Korea:

North Korea’s nuclear weapons and missile programs will continue to pose a serious threat to U.S. interests and to the security environment in East Asia in 2017. North Korea’s export of ballistic missiles and associated materials to several countries, including Iran and Syria, and its assistance to Syria’s construction of a nuclear reactor, destroyed in 2007, illustrate its willingness to proliferate dangerous technologies.

North Korea has also expanded the size and sophistication of its ballistic missile forces—from close-range ballistic missiles (CRBMs) to ICBMs—and continues to conduct test launches. In 2016, North Korea conducted an unprecedented number of ballistic missile tests. Pyongyang is committed to developing a long-range, nuclear-armed missile that is capable of posing a direct threat to the United States; it has publicly displayed its road-mobile ICBMs on multiple occasions. We assess that North Korea has taken steps toward fielding an ICBM but has not flight-tested it…We have long assessed that Pyongyang’s nuclear capabilities are intended for deterrence, international prestige, and coercive diplomacy.

…North Korea’s weapons of mass destruction program, public threats, defiance of the international community, confrontational military posturing, cyber activities, and potential for internal instability pose a complex and increasingly grave national security threat to the United States and its interests.

North Korea’s unprecedented level of testing and displays of strategic weapons in 2016 indicate that Kim is intent on proving he has the capability to strike the U.S. mainland with nuclear weapons. In 2016, the regime conducted two nuclear tests—including one that was claimed to be of a standardized warhead design—and an unprecedented number of missile launches, including a space launch that put a satellite into orbit. These ballistic missile tests probably shortened North Korea’s pathway toward a reliable ICBM, which largely uses the same technology. Kim was also photographed beside a nuclear warhead design and missile airframes to show that North Korea has warheads small enough to fit on a missile, examining a reentry-vehicle nose cone after a simulated reentry, and overseeing launches from a submarine and from mobile launchers in the field, purportedly simulating nuclear use in warfighting scenarios. North Korea is poised to conduct its first ICBM flight test in 2017 based on public comments that preparations to do so are almost complete and would serve as a milestone toward a more reliable threat to the U.S. mainland. Pyongyang’s enshrinement of the possession of nuclear weapons in its constitution, while repeatedly stating that nuclear weapons are the basis for its survival, suggests that Kim does not intend to negotiate them away at any price.

Lt. Gen. Vincent R. Stewart provided a very similar set of views in his first Worldwide Threat Assessment under the Trump administration on May 23. He provided more detail on Iranian and North Korean nuclear and missile activities, and expressed his concern about “North Korea’s proliferation activities,” but again dealt with Iran and North Korea totally separately. He summarized Iranian nuclear and missile threats as follows:

The JCPOA has curtailed Iran’s nuclear program and has established benchmarks for the lifting of UN restrictions on the import and export of certain advanced conventional weapons and ballistic missiles through 2020 and 2023, respectively—pending Iran’s continued compliance. If the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reaches the “broader conclusion” that Iran’s nuclear program is peaceful before those dates, these restrictions will end. Since implementation of the JCPOA, the IAEA has been monitoring Iran’s nuclear-related obligations under the agreement. The agency continues to verify and report that Iran has not enriched uranium above allowable levels, maintains limits on centrifuge numbers, allows the IAEA to monitor nuclear fuel and heavy water stocks, and has been conducting enrichment R&D within JCPOA-prescribed limits.

Iran will look to the UNSCR 2231 and JCPOA dates as benchmarks to expand its military modernization. The regime will also seek to distribute some financial gains from the JCPOA to its security forces, although we believe domestic social and economic expenditures will remain the priority for Tehran in the near term.

Iran has the region’s largest ballistic missile arsenal, consisting of at least five different systems. Tehran has claimed its missiles can strike targets throughout the region, up to 2,000 kilometers from Iran’s border. Iran will continue to improve the range, lethality, and accuracy of some of those systems and will pursue the development of new systems, despite restrictions placed on development of nuclear capable ballistic missiles by UNSCR 2231. Tehran has claimed it is also pursuing long-range, precision cruise missiles, which will present an increased threat in the region. In addition, Iran maintains the largest underground facility program in the Middle East and primarily uses this capability to protect and conceal many aspects of its missile program. In 2016, Iran publicly unveiled two new short-range ballistic missiles, which Tehran claims are capable of striking targets in a 500-km and 700-km range. Iran will continue to develop space launch vehicles—boosters that are capable of ICBM ranges if configured for that purpose.

Stewart summarized developments in North Korea in notably different ways:

North Korea is an antagonistic state actor and remains a critical security challenge for the United States. Pyongyang is committed to developing a long-range, nuclear-armed missile that is capable of posing a direct threat to the United States, as demonstrated by two probable nuclear tests and an unprecedented level of ballistic missile launches in 2016. Last year, the North flight-tested over a dozen theater ballistic missiles as well as its submarine-launched ballistic missile system and launched a satellite into space. It also conducted an unusual number of displays in 2016 of its missile programs—including a reentry vehicle heat shield test and ground-level propulsion tests. Earlier this year, North Korea launched what it claimed to be a land-based variant of its submarine-launched ballistic missile and paraded a variety of missiles, including some new systems. More recently, on 13 May, North Korea tested another ballistic missile—successfully launched from western North Korea and impacting in the Sea of Japan. Taken together, these activities highlight Pyongyang’s commitment to diversifying its missile forces and nuclear delivery options while strengthening missile force survivability.

Kim Jong Un views nuclear weapons as the principal tool of regime survival against outside threats—a view underpinned by North Korea’s constitution. In 2016, Kim noted that the main mission of North Korea’s nuclear force was to deter a nuclear war, adding that, “the stronger our nuclear strike capability gets, the more powerful our deterrent to aggression and nuclear war grows.”

North Korea continues efforts to expand its stockpile of weapons-grade fissile material. It claimed that its last nuclear test, in September 2016, was a “standardized” nuclear warhead for a ballistic missile. This test followed its fourth test in early January 2016, after which North Korea issued a statement claiming it had successfully carried out a test of a “hydrogen bomb.” We remain concerned about North Korea’s proliferation activities in contravention of multiple UN Security Council Resolutions including most recently, Resolution 2321 passed in November 2016.

But Such Cooperation Is Certainly Possible, Even Probable, at Some Level

It is hard to believe that either Coates or the director of DIA would omit evidence regarding the level of North Korean and Iranian cooperation, given the Trump Administration’s opposition to the Iran nuclear agreement. At the same time, there are security and policy reasons why they might limit their testimony, and finding hard intelligence on the level of cooperation is extremely difficult—as the lack of any detailed evidence in outside open-source reporting also shows.

The politics of arms control and U.S. relations with Iran and North Korea aside, it is extremely hard to determine what level of cooperation exists in nuclear-weapons development—if any—without the kind of rare intelligence breakthrough that provides direct evidence of both the existence and nature of such cooperation. Cooperation in dual-use nuclear technology between two powers that also are developing nuclear power plants can provide critical technology in developing plutonium weapons using the reactor, in developing uranium weapons by creating advanced centrifuges to produce reactor fuel—and both Iran and North Korea have centrifuge facilities.

No one can ignore the fact that Iran could now benefit from the fact that North Korea has become a real nuclear power. Once again, there are no detailed official U.S. estimates of its progress. However, David Albright—a widely respected expert on proliferation and president and founder of the Institute for Science and International Security—estimated at the end of 2016 that North Korea’s nuclear programs had reached the following status:

• 33 kilograms of separated plutonium (median value of a distribution).

• 175-645 kilograms of weapon-grade uranium, where 175 kilograms corresponds to a median estimate for the case of one centrifuge plant and 645 kilograms corresponds to the median estimate for the case of two centrifuge plants.

• 13 to 30 nuclear weapons, where these values reflect the utilization of 70 percent of the available, estimated stocks of plutonium and weapon-grade uranium. The limits correspond to the median values for the cases of one or two centrifuge plants and each weapon contains either plutonium or weapon-grade uranium.

• Based on this cumulative estimate, North Korea is currently expanding its nuclear weapons at a rate of about three-five weapons per year.

• 30 percent of North Korea’s total stocks of plutonium and weapon-grade uranium are assessed as in production pipelines, lost during processing, or held in a reserve.

Albright was careful to add a caveat to his estimate, and noted that:

The above range of 13-30 nuclear weapons as of the end of 2016, based on the estimates of North Korea’s production and use of plutonium and WGU, is an assessment. … North Korea may have a handful of plutonium-based warheads for its Nodong ballistic missile. … It is unknown if North Korea could mount a warhead on a Nodong that uses only weapon-grade uranium or has a composite core. In particular, are they too large for the Nodong? However, both possibilities appear increasingly likely. … Continued underground testing will provide North Korea opportunities to improve significantly its weapons in terms of less fissile material (particularly plutonium) per weapon, increased warhead miniaturization, and/or greater explosive yields. … Developing thermonuclear weapons, which can achieve all three above goals, is a declared priority of North Korea.

…It appears capable of developing thermonuclear weapons. It is far more likely to be working on one-stage thermonuclear weapons rather than traditional two stage thermonuclear weapons, or “H-Bombs.” The Institute does not assess North Korea as yet capable of building two stage thermonuclear weapons or utilizing gaseous mixtures of deuterium and tritium in a U.S-style boosted fission weapon. However, North Korea is assessed as able to handle solid forms of lithium-6, deuterium, and/or tritium, such as those used in one-stage thermonuclear weapons or other types of boosted fission weapons.

Ongoing cooperation in actual weapons design and production could also be very difficult to detect at some levels. This is a level of progress that could be of immense value to Iran if it ever seeks to break out of the Iran Nuclear Agreement. Moreover, North Korea could benefit from any Iranian lead in centrifuge technology—developments that are not banned by the Iran agreement. It is also possible that it might transfer a weapon for enough money in the future. Albright estimates that it could have enough material for 32-50 plutonium weapons by 2020.

Many of the critical components in a nuclear weapon have some dual use, and cooperation in the individual technologies that shape the design and production of nuclear weapons is extraordinarily difficult to detect, characterize, and price. A significant amount of actual nuclear-weapons-design data are now covertly available from third parties, and many of the critical calculations in fluid dynamics and other aspects of weapons designs can also be characterized as dual-use, and covert exchange of such scientific information is extremely difficult to detect.

Some key aspects of a nuclear-armed missile—like reentry capability and generic warhead and related technology—can be described as designs for conventional warheads and precision-guided systems, and again involves technology transfers that are difficult to detect and characterize. Some critical aspects of the design of boosted weapons, weapons reliability, and thermonuclear weapons present the same problem.

Observing a nuclear test does not provide useful data, but getting the actual data obtained from such tests can be critical in ensuring success and higher yields. A closed society like North Korea can also be a relatively secure place for Iran to carry out simulated explosive tests of weapons designs using non-fissile materials, a host of other directly weapons related tests, and possibly even the test of an Iranian fissile device in ways that again are difficult to detect and have some degree of plausible deniability.

Furthermore, official U.S. confirmation of any given form of such cooperation in any detail inevitably discloses U.S. knowledge of Iranian and North Korean progress in nuclear weapons design, production, and deployment. It generally will reveal some aspects of sources and methods. It can disclose important nuclear-weapons data to other proliferators, and it can reveal targeting and arms-control-violation data knowledge.

At the same time, simply making generic official statements that nuclear cooperation does exist encourages leaks, congressional and media probing to get the details, international challenges to the statement’s credibility, demands for proof, and outside speculation described as fact. It also can effectively “market” North Korea and Iran as sources of nuclear technology and missiles to other potential proliferators.

So, North Korean and Iranian cooperation in nuclear weapons design and manufacture may exist—even at the levels described in the Ofek and Shoham article. The Iran Nuclear Agreement also does potentially give Iran even more reason to seek North Korean assistance in order to hide Iranian weapons efforts. At the same time, it is unclear that any nuclear weapons or proliferating state will give away the “crown jewels” of its nuclear-weapons efforts—particularly given the risk that U.S. and other third-party intelligence services will gain access to them and learn far more about the level of Iranian and/or North Korean progress.

Despite all the different (and often conflicting) articles written about such cooperation, the most that can be said is that such cooperation it is certainly possible, and even probable at some level—given the balance of incentives and disincentives. But, Iranian and North Korean cooperation in any form—and particularly at advanced and critical levels—still have to be described as unproven.

The Uncertain Evolution of Iranian and North Korean Cooperation in Missiles

There is no such uncertainty about several critical aspects of Iranian and North Korean cooperation in developing and deploying several of the versions of ballistic missiles that have previously been displayed and fielded, even if there is uncertainty as to how cooperation has evolved. Both countries have gone beyond cooperating in the development of short- and medium-range ballistic missiles. They have pursued what seem to be somewhat different paths in developing intermediate-range ballistic missiles that could hit any target in their region, and while North Korea has openly stated that it is developing and will deploy an intercontinental ballistic missile with nuclear warheads that could strike the U.S., there is no similar evidence that Iran is developing such a missile or has an active nuclear-weapons program.

Both Iran and North Korea now seem to be pursuing different paths to developing long-range, solid-fuel ballistic missiles, which both need to increase the mobility, concealability, and reliability of their missile forces, and to reduce the problems moving missiles, setting them up for firing, and fueling them—as well as in reaction times, and targetability and vulnerability of their missile forces. Both seem to be pursuing different paths to creating submarine-launched missiles, and both seem to be pursuing different paths to cruise missiles. This does not preclude ongoing cooperation in many aspects of missile development, but the evidence is far less clear and easy to characterize.

From the Scud to No Dong and Shahab 3,4

The origins of Iranian and North Korean cooperation in developing missile forces date to the 1980s. Iran had to fight Iraq in the bloodiest war in the modern history of the Middle East from 1980 to1988, when it had major problems in obtaining arms imports. Iran did make efforts to revolutionize Iraqi Shiites that helped provoke Saddam’s invasion, but once the fighting started, Iran faced an Iraq that initially had a monopoly on ballistic missiles, had a monopoly on the ability to use poison gas, and was actively seeking nuclear weapons.

Iraq began firing Scud and modified Scud missiles at Iran’s major cities, and Iran faced the possibility that Iraq might use missiles with chemical warheads. Iran could not sustain its air force once it broke with the U.S., had no missiles when the war began, and became desperate for some source of missiles to use to retaliate against Iraq.

There are no reliable open-source data on exactly how Iran reached out to North Korea (or vice versa), but it is clear North Korea initially had major contracts with Iraq—including building a premature monument to Iraq’s victory in the war. It is also clear that Iran offered enough money to North Korea to turn away from Iraq and—along with Libya—to provide Iran with a supply of Scud B (R-17) missiles.

North Korea needed the money and a partner. Again, open-source reporting is uncertain as to the details. Some reports indicate Iran had problems in getting arms from the Former Soviet Union and China, had bought Scud B missiles from Egypt in 1979-1980, and had reverse-engineered a copy and developed a missile-production base that led to test flights in 1984 and actual production in 1985. Less reliable reports indicate that North Korea did get some Scud B missiles from the FSU in the early 1970s, and that the former Soviet Union might have transferred a full Scud production facility. In any case, North Korea had reverse-engineered the Soviet Scud B to create its own version of the missile, which it called the Hwasong, and evidently slowly improved its accuracy, reliability, and range as it acquired more experience in design and production. Estimates differ, but it seems to have had nominal performance of 300 kilometers (184 miles) with a 1,000-kilogram warhead, and a guidance platform theoretically capable of a 400-meter accuracy.

Iran initially did not acknowledge that it received Scud Bs from North Korea and Libya during the Iran-Iraq War, but in 2006 did confirm it had done so. It is also clear that Iran was aware that by the late 1980s that North Korea was completing development of a longer-range version of the Scud B/Hwasong—which is generally referred to as the Scud C—with nominal performance of 600-650 kilometers with a 600-750 kilogram warhead, and a guidance platform theoretically capable of a 750-meter accuracy. The new system was tested in 1990 and rushed into some form of initial production in 1991—although it may well have been improved during its relatively long production phase. Iran obtained this missile, and design and production technology from North Korea, and called it Shahab 2.

The next key step was North Korean development of a midrange ballistic missile generally called the No Dong (sometimes Rodong), which represented the first North Korean missile that went far beyond modifications of a Scud design and was fully capable of reaching targets in Japan. Development may have begun almost simultaneously with the effort to produce the Scud C, and some reports indicate a variant was tested as early as 1990. However, a successful test did not occur until at least 1993, and there are indications that it was modified in production through 1995.

The No Dong was a much larger missile than the Scud, and some reports indicate that its larger engine was designed and produced with Russian commercial aid, as well as aid from Chinese and Ukrainian sources. It may initially have had substantial Iranian financing, and led to closer North Korean-Iranian cooperation in missile-production technology for at least several years. Reports exist of Iranians being present at North Korean test and production facilities.

At this point, however, open-source reports on Iranian and North Korean cooperation often conflict. Some sources indicate that Pakistan worked with North Korea during the 1990s to develop a nuclear-armed missile system called the Ghauri, Hatf-5, or Ghauri II. Still other sources indicate that cooperation between North Korea and Iran broke down over financing issues and because of U.S. pressure on North Korea over the nuclear/missile negotiations, and that Iran was forced to design and produce its own variants of the Shahab with help from Russian experts and Chinese companies like Great Wall Industries Corp.—which also began to provide it solid fuel and other key missile technologies

In any case, Iran took time to produce its own version of a missile very like the No Dong, which it called the Shahab-3 and sometimes the Zelzal-3. Reports on initial performance of the Shahab-3 differ, but it may have a range of between 1,350 and 1,600 kilometers. Estimates of its payload range from 650 to 750, and 1,000 kilograms. Iran did not test its first Shahab missile until 1998, and the test seems to have been a partial success. Iran announced the system was in production in 1999, but other reports indicated that, contrary to other reports about cooperation, Iran had to buy rocket engines from North Korea in 2000. Reports on flight tests in 2000 are conflicting or ambiguous but do not indicate the missile was as yet reliable or particularly accurate.

What is clear is that the exact nature of Iranian-North Korean cooperation became increasingly harder to assess with each advance in each country’s missile type and range after the early 1990s, and that Pakistan had also developed some links to North Korea in missile development. Various sources indicate North Korea and Iran developed their own national variants of the basic No Dong and Shahab designs with nominal ranges of well over 1,000 kilometers with smaller payloads, as well as began to actively develop solid-fuel designs.

Various reports talk about the possible design and test of much longer versions of Shahab 4 and No Dong B with ranges variously reported at 2,000, 3000, or 4,000 kilometers. Open-source reporting differs over whether versions of the No Dong and Shahab had hardened warheads, simple ABM evasion technologies, cluster munitions, and if chemical/biological warheads were also developed, but again, no reliable open-source data confirms this. In fact, U.S. intelligence sources did not confirm full deployment of the initial No Dong as late as 1998.

What is not clear, however, is how much of the post No Dong/Shahab technology was actually shared, how much test and reliability data were shared, and how much warhead data were shared. Similarly, it is unclear which reports of actual cooperation in activities like Iranian and North Korean expert visits and working cooperation are more than rumors. Many are potentially credible, but none seem to have been proved.

Open-source estimates of North Korean and Iranian cooperation after the deployment of the initial No Dong and Shahab 3 missiles are often conflicting, and many of the estimates of performance and detailed similarities between systems seem to have been made largely on the basis of missile type, appearance, and size. Other guesstimates about their performance seem to depend on conflicting accounts of missile test firings rather than on the basis of any test data or telemetry. Data on accuracy are generally based on estimates of the optimal accuracy of the guidance platform, without regard to actual missile performance. No open-source data became available on reliability, no hard data were available on warhead types and actual payload size, and no hard data were available on fusing, height of burst, and lethality. Speculation about designing warheads to carry nuclear weapons virtually always is based on warhead shape, not on any evidence as to the actual content of the warhead.

The fact remains, however, that Iran and North Korea may well have begun cooperating on space boosters and systems during this period, and were also gaining experience with anti-ship cruise missiles. It is also clear that both countries were developing much-longer-range missiles with higher payloads. These advances in range-payload improved capability to deliver satellites, but also improved their ability to carry conventional and nuclear payloads. There is no meaningful difference between missile bodies that carry “nuclear” and “conventional” payloads, and both countries have a major incentive to develop their own advanced, higher-payload intelligence satellites.

North Korea and Iran Move Toward Longer-Range Missiles, Space Systems, and Nuclear Warheads

Open-source reporting on North Korea and Iran efforts to acquire far longer-range missiles, create a space program, and develop nuclear-armed missiles is even more uncertain, with many conflicting accounts and estimates in various articles. It seems likely, however, that North Korea already had midrange and possibly ICBM design goals by the late 1980s, and saw nuclear weapons as a key way of intimidating South Korea and Japan, giving it leverage over China and countering the U.S. advantage in theater nuclear weapons—as well as eventually giving it the capability to threaten the United States.

It seems equally likely that Iran may have begun to at least consider such goals toward the end of the Iran-Iraq war in 1988. Iraq’s use of chemical weapons, and growing knowledge of Iraq’s nuclear and biological weapons ambitions, led Iran’s supreme leader, the Ayatollah Khomeini, to restart the shah’s nuclear-weapons program during the Iran-Iraq War as well as create an active Iranian chemical and biological weapons program.

For an Iran then fighting an existential war with Iraq, this again made North Korea a natural ally to the extent that Iran could gain access to North Korea’s longer-range-missile programs and target all of Iraq as well as the Arab state aiding it. For North Korea, Iran again represented a source of dollar income for its hard-pressed economy, a potential additional source of technology and manufacturing experience, and a threat to American interests in the Gulf that put pressure on the U.S. in a different region and complicated U.S. power-projection capabilities and strategic planning.

The Taepodong, Unha, Kosar, Shahab 5, and Shahab 6

In any case, North Korea’s next key development was the North Korean Taepodong-1 missile, which was North Korea’s first design with the range of an intermediate-range ballistic missile. Various reports indicate it was some 26 meters long, had ranges estimated at 2,000-2,500 kilometers, and payloads estimated at 1,000-1,500 kilograms. The missile was liquid-fueled, like Iran’s previous missiles, but was North Korea’s first major two-stage design. It seems largely to have been a test bed for even larger missiles that could be used to deliver nuclear warheads. It has its first test in August 1998. Some reports give it 1,600-kilometer range, other indicate it may have had a much smaller payload and that fragments of a potential satellite sized payload went 4,000 kilometers.

The Taepodong-1 was followed by a much larger version—generally called the Taepodong-2—that had the potential range payload to grow into an ICBM that could potentially deliver a nuclear weapon against some part of the U.S. Again, reports differ, but it seems to have been around 32 meters long, had a three-stage liquid fuel system with a much larger booster, and a range of 4,000-6,700 kilometers depending on payload.

The Taepodong-1 seems to have been designed primarily for satellite launches, although all of its technology helped North Korea move toward much-longer missile ranges. Its first test was in 2006 and was a failure. Variants called the Unha failed to launch satellites in 2009 and 2012, but it did succeed in launching one later in 2012 and again in 2016. It is important to note, however, that the Taepodong requires major support facilities, a large fixed launch pad, and takes days to fuel. It provides lessons for the development of an IRBM and ICBM but is scarcely a good military platform for quick-reaction launches and concealment of a missile force.

North Korea may have sold at least some of the technology for the Taepodong to Iran and Pakistan. One report indicates North Korea made sale of the technology and possibly elements of the missile available to Iran in 2004. In any case, Iran developed its own long-range missile, which various countries and articles label as the Shahab 5, Shahab 6, and Kosar. Reports have given the Shahab 5/Kosar ranges of 3,500-3,750 kilometers with a 1,000-750-kilogram warhead, and given the Shahab 6 a range of 4,000-4,300 kilometers with the same warhead. Like the Taepodong, accuracy is likely to be limited, and a military version would need a nuclear weapon to reliably hit and damage even a city-size target.

The level of cooperation between North Korea and Iran in developing such advanced systems remains uncertain. Some reports indicate the Kosar/Shahab 5/Shahab 6 uses the same booster as the Taepodong. Other sources indicate North Korea sold Iran booster engines. Sttill other reports indicate that the Iranian missile used different Russian engine designs from the physically similar North Korean missile.

Michael Elleman, consulting senior fellow for missile defense at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, a U.K.-based think tank, summarizes these uncertainties as follows,

…many observers note the similarity between the satellite-launch vehicles, or SLVs, used by Iran and North Korea, and speculate that the two countries are collaborating on large rocket development. It is true that the Taepodong-1 SLV launched by Pyongyang in 1998, and Iran’s Safir SLV have first stages powered by the Nodong engine. It is also true that the first stage of the North Korea’s Unha SLV and Iran’s Simorgh SLV use a cluster of four-Nodong engines, and the upper-most stages of both SLVs are propelled by the steering engines originally employed by the now-retired Soviet R-27 SLBM.

But a closer look at the SLVs reveals differences inconsistent with close cooperation between Pyongyang and Tehran. The most obvious difference is that the two North Korean SLVs operate using three stages, whereas Iran’s two SLVs are two-stage systems. This likely reflects the more conservative design approach taken by North Korea, where until late-2015, engineers had limited experience developing new missiles and launchers. The paucity of missile-development testing, and learned knowledge accrued from testing activities, likely led North Korean specialists to over-design the Taepodong-1 and Unha launchers to ensure each succeeded in lofting a specified payload to a certain orbit. There may, however, be other reasons behind the decision to employ three rather than two stages. Regardless, the divergent design philosophies argue against deep cooperation.

One key point, however, is that relying on very large, complex multistage liquid-fuel missiles presents the same problems in setup and reaction time, reliability, and targetability for both countries. They are far less desirable for military applications compared with more modern, cheaper and smaller alternatives—especially solid-fuel missiles—although the large liquid-fuel boosters have broad value for space launches. Smaller, cheaper, and generally more mobile and reliable missile systems can be used to attack all neighboring and more in-theater targets, and shifting to solid fuels reduces setup and reaction time, size and mobility/concealment problems, reliability problems, and costs.

The Uncertain Nature of current and Future Cooperation in Missile Technology and Production

From roughly the later 1990s onward, North Korea and Iran had common incentives to examine other missile technologies and designs, including solid-fuel missiles, precision-guided conventional missiles, and cruise missiles, along with countermeasures to ballistic-missile defenses, which both need to increase their mobility, concealability, and reliability of their missile forces, and to reduce their setup, reaction times, targetability, and vulnerability. Both countries, however, seem to be pursuing different paths to creating submarine-launched missiles, and both seem to be pursuing different paths to cruise missiles. Both countries also seem to have different access to Russian and Chinese technology and supply sources, although experts outside the intelligence community debate all of these issues.

Iran does seem to have had less strategic incentive to seek a nuclear-armed ICBM than North Korea, although this might change if it attempted a nuclear breakout and sought to more directly deter the United States. North Korea has faced direct nuclear threats and has had reason to find some way of posing a similar direct threat to the United States. The U.S. openly deployed tactical and theater nuclear weapons in South Korea until 1991, and the U.S. still has a de facto commitment to providing South Korea with “extended deterrence” that could involve the deployment of U.S. nuclear weapons. This helps explain why North Korea has openly committed itself to developing and deploying nuclear weapons, and has made efforts to acquire nuclear weapons and develop a nuclear-armed ICBM threat against the United States. It also can do so with less risk of provoking its neighbors into their own forms of nuclear proliferation. South Korea and Japan are very different political cases from Israel and the Arab states.

As became all too clear in 2016 and 2017, a nuclear-armed ICBM threat (and potentially a submarine-launched missile threat) has become a key overt part of North Korea’s strategy. A nuclear-armed-missile threat gives North Korea far more credibility in direct confrontation with South Korea, Japan, and the U.S. Dispersed solid-fuel ICBM and IRBMs, and submarine-basing of its nuclear missiles make it far harder for the U.S. to detect and target North Korean forces and conduct any kind of first strike against it. Moreover, North Korea may well calculate that threats or use of such nuclear-armed systems would also act as a “trigger force” that could push China into becoming involved on North Korea’s side, giving it added leverage over both China and the U.S.

In contrast, Iran has never faced a direct nuclear threat from the U.S. and has little incentive to provoke one, increase the nuclear threat from Israel, or push its Arab neighbors into acquiring their own nuclear weapons. Iran can use much-shorter-range precision-guided and conventionally-armed missiles to strike at critical petroleum, military, desalination, electric generation, and fixed military targets throughout the Gulf, and threaten Gulf cities and population centers as well.

Moreover, once Iran develops conventionally-armed precision-guided missiles, it can fire mixed volleys of precision-guided and older missile systems to try to saturate U.S. and Gulf missile defenses. Precision-guided missiles can allow Iran to shift from “weapons of mass destruction” to “weapons of mass effectiveness. An Iranian focus on conventionally-armed missiles has not provoked the same kind of worldwide opposition and sanctions as its efforts to acquire nuclear weapons and does not drive its neighbors to proliferate.

This different set of strategic conditions does not mean that Iran is not seeking nuclear-armed missiles or ICBMs, or preclude ongoing cooperation in many aspects of missile development. Iran may still see a reason for a covert ICBM program and at least a contingency capability to deliver nuclear warheads. But it does mean that North Korean and Iranian interests are less identical than at the point when their missile cooperation began. That, combined with the wider range of options each state has to develop its full range of missiles, helps explain why evidence regarding their current level of cooperation is less clear and difficult to characterize.

Current Indications Regarding Iranian and North Korean Missile Cooperation

As is the case with nuclear weapons, there are a great many, often conflicting, open-source reports about the current state of Iranian and North Korean cooperation. One striking area where cooperation may have continued is in the development of a large 80-ton booster that can be used for both satellite launches and long-range missiles. The U.S. State Department formally sanctioned the Iranian Shahid Hemmat Industrial Group (SHIG) and two of its employees for working with North Korea in “the development of the 80-ton rocket booster.” It is unclear whether the 80-ton figure referred to an entire missile or an 80-ton engine—although North Korea has tested an engine that size and one that may be a version of the Chinese YF-20.

At the same time, such reports about Iran’s ties to North Korea must be kept in perspective. It is also clear that Chinese commercial agents and companies, as well as their Russian equivalents, are other major sources of missile technology. The U.S. Treasury provided the following description of the role Chinese companies played in Iran’s missile programs in sanctions that it issued in February:

Today, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) sanctioned multiple entities and individuals involved in procuring technology and/or materials to support Iran’s ballistic missile program, as well as for acting for or on behalf of, or providing support to, Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force (IRGC-QF). … This action reflects the United States’ commitment to enforcing sanctions on Iran with respect to its ballistic missile program and destabilizing activities in the region and is fully consistent with the United States’ commitments under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

More specifically: OFAC designated several networks and supporters of Iran’s ballistic missile procurement, including a critical Iranian procurement agent and eight individuals and entities in his Iran- and China-based network, an Iranian procurement company and its Gulf-based network, and five individuals and entities that are part of an Iran-based procurement network connected to Mabrooka Trading, which was designated on January 17, 2016. This action was taken pursuant to Executive Order (E.O.) 13382, which targets proliferators of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery and supporters of such activity.

…Iran’s continued support for terrorism and development of its ballistic missile program poses a threat to the region, to our partners worldwide, and to the United States. Today’s action is part of Treasury’s ongoing efforts to counter Iranian malign activity abroad that is outside the scope of the JCPOA,” said Acting OFAC Director John E. Smith. “We will continue to actively apply all available tools, including financial sanctions, to address this behavior.

North Korean Developments

At the same time, other work by Michael Elleman notes that North Korea may have increased its dependence on Iran in its efforts to develop solid-fuel rocket motors—although there are differences between the two major North Korean and Iranian missiles that are most likely to be involved—the Iranian Sajji/Ashora and the North Korean KN-11 (variants of which are designated the KN-15):

Iran, unlike North Korea, has pursued both liquid- and solid-fueled missiles since its dual-track approach to missile acquisition started in the early 1980s. Iran now possesses a family of short-range missiles, including the Fateh-110 and Fateh-313, which were developed over a period of at least two dozen years. Tehran is also developing a two-stage, medium-range missile, the Sajjil. The Sajjil program likely began in or about the year 2000. The first ground tests of the 13.5-metric ton, stage-one motor reportedly occurred in 2005. The Sajjil, though dubbed Ashoura at the time, underwent its initial flight test, which failed, in 2007; a successful test occurred in 2008, though only the first stage was active. Flight-testing continued until 2011, when launches abruptly stopped before the missile was fully developed. The reasons behind the halt in testing remain unclear.

North Korea, on the other hand, has limited experience developing and producing solid-fueled missiles. The largest solid-rocket motor manufactured by Pyongyang before 2016 weighs only one-metric ton and propels the KN-02 missile, a copy of the Soviet Tochka. The KN-02 has a maximum range of about 100 km, though versions of the original Tochka can reach beyond 120 km. In April 2016, North Korea conducted a ground test of a large solid fueled motor and test launched at least two solid-propellant missiles from an underwater platform, likely its GORAE-class submarine. The KN-11, submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) is a two-stage system. Each stage consists of a solid-propellant rocket motor substantially larger than any tested by the North before, excepting the April ground test. Learning to manufacture large-diameter, solid-fueled rocket motors typically requires decades of effort, as illustrated by the history of Iran’s program, as well as others. Yet, with no public reporting of large solid-motor development in North Korea prior to 2016, the KN-11 emerged suddenly and flies successfully to a distance of 500-600 km.

The sudden, unexpected appearance of the solid-fueled KN-11 led to speculation that Iran may have aided Pyongyang’s efforts to design, develop and manufacture large-rocket motors, or perhaps supplied the motors to North Korea outright. Tal Inbar, an Israeli analyst who closely follows the missile and space programs of Iran and North Korea, asserts that the KN-11’s 1.25 m diameter motors are the same as those found on Iran’s Sajjil missile. He further states that the KN-11 is built using a propellant that is “identical to the technology developed in Iran.

Elleman concludes that the two missiles are too physically different to use the same rocket motor, and if North Korea is really seeking to deploy a submarine-launched ballistic missile, Iran also lacks a current capability to build its own submarines and probably cannot modify its Russian Kilo class submarines to deck-mount a large ballistic-missile launcher. If Iran is supplying solid-fuel data to North Korea—and/or obtaining large rocket motor or booster data from North Korea for its satellites—this may well indicate that their cooperation is entering a different phase—one in which Iran’s efforts are harder to tie to any Iranian ICBM or nuclear program.

The KN-15 is reported to be a two-stage solid-fuel missile and may be identical to—or very similar to—the one referred to by Elleman. While the missile is variously estimated to have a range of 1,200 to 5,500 kilometers, and seems to be designed to carry a nuclear warhead, it flew 500 kilometers before landing in the East Sea. However, it also reached an altitude of 550 km (340 miles) and may have been carried out to test warhead-entry capability. The same missile also had another high apogee test May 21, which would have given it a normal trajectory range of some 1,250 kilometers. (To put these ranges in perspective, this would reach targets in Japan and South Korea, but U.S. bases in Guam are some 3,200 kilometers from North Korea).

The KN-15 (11? 17?) is variously described as a transporter-erector-launcher-based missile, which is the most probable way Iran would base and use such a missile, while other sources like the South Korean JCS have previously reported that the DPRK Naval Strategic Rocket Forces successfully tested a Pukgukong SLBM on Aug. 24, 2016. Still other reports suggest there may be a land-based Pukguksong-2 and a Pukguksong-1 sea-launched variant, again illustrating the uncertainties in the reporting on one country’s developments, which further complicate any reporting on both.

North Korea also continued to openly moved toward developing nuclear-armed ICBMs and openly threaten the U.S. and the region with nuclear war—threats it openly began making in 2015. It conducted an exceptionally high number of missile tests after President Trump’s inauguration—nine tests or groups of tests by the end of May. Some tests were political—one occurred Jan. 12, just two days before a U.S.-Chinese Summit meeting, and seems to have been a KN-15 or Pukguksong-2 medium-range missile. Others were part of its effort to develop other reliable longer-range missiles. North Korea also may have tested a Musudan IRBM on March 21. The missile exploded within seconds of launch, however, and this marked another test failure for a missile that North Korea had conducted eight test-firings of in 2016, with only one success.

North Korea displayed some 15 missiles at an annual military parade April 15, including three canisters or missiles that seemed to be designed to show it was developing nuclear-armed ICBMs, although they may have been showpieces rather than real-world designs. One missile canister was large enough to hold a KN-08, or Hwasong-13. This is a design said to be a three-stage missile with a theoretical range of about 7,500 miles. Another was large enough to have held the equivalent of the Russian Topol-M. North Korea also displayed a black-and-white missile that was potentially of ICBM size that also could have been a KN-08, although it was mounted on a smaller missile vehicle designed for the medium-range Musudan missile.

Iranian Developments

In contrast, Iran has conducted far fewer long-range tests, made no nuclear threats, and has seemed to focus on developing precision-guided weapons—including a precision-guided and upgraded version of the Shahab 3 called the Emad, and cruise missiles like the Soumar—that would make conventional warheads effective against point targets in the Gulf and at ranges that could include Israel, Turkey, all of Saudi Arabia, and possibly Europe.

Iran has rejected UN resolutions 1929 and 2231, which call for it to halt all missile tests that have the range payload to carry a nuclear weapon and any effort to link them to the Iran Nuclear Agreement. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif stated on Jan. 31 that these UN resolutions were not part of the Iran Nuclear Agreement; would deprive it of the ability to fire all or general significant ballistic missiles regardless of whether that had a conventional warhead, a key counterbalance to the superior air forces in the Arab Gulf states; and that the U.S., Britain, and France can project into the Gulf region. He also again denied that Iran was seeking a nuclear weapon.

Iran has rejected U.S. pressure to halt its missile tests, and conducted its first MRBM test of 2017 on Jan. 29—sending a clear signal to the Trump administration. It then conducted tests in early February after the Trump administration imposed sanctions in reaction to Iran’s first test. It also launched two more missile tests—including what seems to have been a precision-guided anti-ship version of the Fateh 110 SRBM—on March 5. This seems to have marked the 14th set of Iranian missile tests since the Iran Nuclear Agreement was signed in July 2015, although accounts differ in detail.

However, Iran has never declared that it is developing an ICBM or a capability to target U.S. The most it has done is to have officers like Brig. Gen. Seyyed Mehdi Farahi, an officer in the Revolutionary Guards Corps, then the managing director of Iran’s Defense Industries Organization, who seems to have stated in 2010 that Iran had the technological ability to target any point on the planet with an intercontinental ballistic missile should it so choose.

The Prospects for On-Going North Korean and Iranian Cooperation in Missiles

Iran may still be pursuing its nuclear ambitions at some covert level and working with North Korea, and may have a covert ICBM program that it continued to develop under the guise of creating space boosters and in coordination with North Korea. There is no publicly available hard evidence of such efforts, however, and the two nations may now be cooperating largely on a transactional basis, trading technologies, test data, key components, and other elements of different indigenous missile programs.

It is possible, for example, that covertly trading test data would allow both countries to reduce the risks posed by their individual test programs or accelerate their programs at the same level of risk. North Korea may be in a position to sell re-entry and advanced warhead technology before Iran can develop it. Iran may have the advantage in precision-guidance technology, and both countries might gain in trading solid-fuel-motor technology, cruise missile, anti-missile technology, and other types of warhead data. At a lower level, they might exchange missile transporter-erector-launcher and missile-carrier data, as well as deployment, concealment, shelter methods, and technology.

The relative need each country has for such exchanges of technology is unclear. In the past, many experts felt Iran had a clear lead in solid-fuel technology over North Korea, but the previous reporting shows that North Korea did much to demonstrate longer-range solid-fuel missiles in 2016 and 2017, and that showed it had competing development efforts in such programs. In late May, it was also North Korea that made ambitious claims regarding precision guidance for its longer-range missiles, claiming it had launched a Scud-like missile on May 29 that had “advanced automated prelaunch sequence” to reduce its reaction time and exposure to attack, was mounted on a TEL, and had a new type of precision–guidance system that flew 400 kilometers and whose warhead struck only 7 meters from its target. Given these uncertainties, it is hard to make even broad estimates of which nation needs the other more in any given area of missile technology.

At the same time, recent U.S. sanctions and a wide range of reporting indicate that Iran and North Korea may be making such trades and sales as part of a broad cooperation effort with other powers. Rather than focusing on bilateral efforts, they may be making deals involving Pakistan, Chinese agents and companies, Russian technical experts and companies, and engaging in covert purchasing efforts in the U.S. and Europe. In short, it seems highly likely that Iranian and North Korean cooperation continues at some level, but it is far harder to characterize than in the past, and there are no recent intelligence reports or leaks that provide a firm foundation for estimating the actual level of cooperation between them.

***

Read more from Tablet’s special Iran Week.

USA’s Fukushima At The  Sixth Seal (Rev 6)

 

Recent series of Indian Point shutdowns worst in years

Ernie Garcia, elgarcia@lohud.com

BUCHANAN — Four unplanned reactor shutdowns over a two-month period at Indian Point are the most setbacks the nuclear power plant has experienced in years.

A review of unplanned shutdowns from January 2012 to the present showed this year’s events happened within a short time frame, between May 7 and July 8, in contrast with events from other years that were more spread out, according to data released by Indian Point.

So many mishaps at the Entergy-owned plant haven’t occurred since 2009, when one of two units at the Buchanan site experienced a similar series, said plant spokesman Jerry Nappi.

Besides a May 9 transformer failure that spilled some 3,000 gallons of oil into the Hudson River, this year’s shutdowns were prompted by a May 7 steam leak, a July 8 pump motor failure and a June 15 switch yard breaker failure offsite in a Consolidated Edison substation.

If a nuclear plant has more than three unplanned shutdowns in a nine-month period, its performance indicator could be changed by the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which results in additional oversight. That’s what happened with Entergy’s Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station in Plymouth, Mass., after four unplanned shutdowns in 2013.

So far, Entergy said there doesn’t appear to be a pattern to the Indian Point shutdowns.
“You do want to look at these events holistically to see if there is something in common, but you also look individually to see what the causes were,” Nappi said. “A plant shutdown in and of itself is not a safety issue.”

One of the four recent Buchanan shutdowns triggered a special inspection by the NRC and calls to close the nuclear plant by environmental groups and elected officials. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has said in the past Indian Point should close, but his office did not respond to a request for comment about whether the recent shutdowns have prompted any state scrutiny.

The NRC is expected to release a quarterly report on Indian Point this month that will address the transformer failure and, by year’s end, is planning an inspection of the transformer and an analysis of transformer issues since 2007.

Besides its transformer-related inquiries, the other three shutdowns have not raised “any immediate safety concerns or crossed any thresholds that would result in additional NRC oversight,” agency spokesman Neil Sheehan wrote in an email.

The unplanned shutdowns at Indian Point and Pilgrim in Massachusetts were mostly preventable, said Paul Blanch, a former Indian Point employee with 45 years of nuclear power experience.
“For this to happen this frequently indicates a deeper problem,” he said. “I believe it’s management oversight in the maintenance of these plants.”

Nappi said the transformer that failed May 9 and caused a fire and oil spill into the Hudson was regularly monitored. Investigators determined the failure was due to faulty insulation.

“The transformer inspection and reviews were in accordance with our standards and industry expectations, yet there was no indication the transformer was going to fail,” Nappi said.
The NRC conducted a separate, but related special inspection into the May 9 incident that focused on a half-inch of water that collected in an electrical switchgear room floor. Inspectors determined a fire suppression system’s valve failed to close properly.

Inspectors noted in their report that Entergy knew about that problem since April 2011 and replaced the valve but didn’t discover the actual cause — a dysfunctional switch — until after the fire.

Indian Point’s Unit 3 was down 19 days May through July, with the transformer failure accounting for 16 days. The shutdowns didn’t cause the public any supply problems because New York’s grid can import electricity from other states and New York has an energy plan to maintain reliability, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

The nuclear energy industry judges a power plant on how continuously it produces energy, which is called a capacity factor.

There were 100 nuclear plants in the United States in 2014, a record year in terms of efficiency. In January, the Nuclear Energy Institute announced the U.S. average capacity factor was 91.9 percent.
Indian Point has an above-average efficiency rate. The plant’s Unit 2 and 3 reactors were each online more than 99 percent of the time during their most recent two-year operating cycles. They are currently in the middle of other cycles.

US Prepares For a Korean Attack

Hawaii is preparing for a North Korea nuclear attack

Officials in Hawaii are launching a campaign to help residents plan for a nuclear missile attack from North Korea — much to the dismay of the state’s tourism industry.

The Aloha State’s Emergency Management Agency is kicking off an educational campaign aimed at helping people figure out what to do if strongman Kim Jung Un decides to follow through with his threats, according to Hawaii News Now.

“We need to tell the public what the state is doing,” agency chief Vern Miyagi said. “We do not want to cause any undue stress for the public; however, we have a responsibility to plan for all hazards.”

The plan, which will be unveiled in full on Friday, includes Cold War-style evacuation drills for school students and announcements that say “Get inside, stay inside, and stay tuned,” according to the Honolulu Star Advertiser.

The plan also includes tests of a new emergency siren on the first work day of every month, according to Hawaii News Now.

Tourism officials said the plan could be a blow to one of the state’s most important industries.

“Everyone’s safety in Hawaii is always our top priority,” Charlene Chan, a spokeswoman for the state’s Tourism Authority, said in a statement reported by the Star Advertiser. “However, we also know from speaking to our tourism industry partners that if reports are misinterpreted about the state’s need to prepare for an attack, this could lead to travelers and groups staying away from Hawaii. The effect of such a downturn would ultimately be felt by residents who rely on tourism’s success for their livelihood.”

But Miyagi said the public should simply liken the preparation for a doomsday to the work being done to prepare for hurricanes and tsunamis.

“We don’t know the exact capabilities or intentions of the North Korean government, but there is clear evidence that it is trying to develop ballistic missiles that could conceivably one day reach our state,” Miyagi said.

“Therefore, we cannot wait to begin our public information campaign to ensure that Hawaii residents will know what to do if such an event occurs.”

The hermit nation this month tested an intercontinental ballistic missile, drawing condemnation from the US and other countries.

Experts say such an ICBM could reach Alaska, and possibly even Hawaii, where officials consider a worst-case scenario to be a 15-kiloton nuke detonated 1,000 feet above Honolulu.

Obama Dealed. Now We Must Pay

Did Iran’s Nuclear Deal Come at Too High a Price?

Published: 20 July 2017
By INU Staff

INU – It’s been two years since Iran’s nuclear deal the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) was signed. The other day, Robert Malley, an American lawyer, political scientist and specialist in conflict resolution, tweeted an article co-written by Philip Gordon, American diplomat and foreign policy expert and Richard Nephew, researcher and expert who dealt with Iran’s nuclear file between 2011 and 2013, in The Atlantic magazine. Malley tweeted ‘Why the Iran deal has worked, and why its critics have it wrong’. Gordon and Nephew’s article was titled, “The ‘Worst Deal Ever’ That Actually Wasn’t!”

Gordon and Nephew argued in their article, “In fact, the deal is doing exactly what is was supposed to do: prevent Iran from acquiring enough fissile material for a nuclear weapon, demonstrate to the Iranian public the benefits of cooperation with the international community, and buy time for potential changes in Iranian politics and foreign policy,” and added, “Anyone who thought a deal would immediately change Iran’s regional agenda or who maintains that, if only America and its partners had insisted on such changes in the talks they would have materialized, has a misguided sense of what sanctions and diplomatic pressure can accomplish. Having been deeply involved in the negotiations, we think it’s important to be clear about the purpose, enduring benefits, and inevitable limitations of the agreement.”

The co-writers wrote, “What the deal has done, at least for the next decade, is deter any realistic threat of a near-term Iranian nuclear weapon. The United States should use that decade wisely: standing up to and imposing costs on Iranian transgressions, supporting US allies in the region, making clear to the Iranian public that the West is not an enemy, and preparing for the day when some of the deal’s restrictions will no longer apply. If, by 2030, Iran has not demonstrated that its nuclear program is exclusively peaceful and that it is willing to live in peace with its neighbors, the United States and its international partners will have difficult decisions to make about how to handle the issue going forward.”

They conclude, saying, “But since there is a chance that Iran will have different leaders or policies by then—the current Supreme Leader will almost certainly be gone, and a new generation may have come to power—why make those difficult decisions now? The Iran deal has bought valuable time. Squandering that time without a better plan would be foolish.”

It is said that Malley and Gordon were both very close to former President Obama and Hillary Clinton. Many opinion polls showed that they expected to be a members of Hillary Clinton’s team, had she won. Many other Democrats strongly defend the nuclear deal.

In his article for ASHARQ AL-AWSAT, Eyad Abu Shakra talks about what he refers to as ‘Liberal’ Democrats. He says,

“Those ‘Liberal’ may be divided into two camps:
1. ‘Progressive apologists’ led by president Obama himself, who tacitly admire Tehran’s ‘revolutionary’ rhetoric against ‘militaristic’ and ‘conservative’ Arab regimes.
2. Trusted ‘Israel friends’ who believe that civil and sectarian wars within and between its neighboring states would be the best guarantee for Israel’s safety and security.”

He says further that Israel’s interests have always been a strategic policy of every US administration, but “the fate of the Arab countries never occupied a high position in Obama’s list of political priorities, recalling how he reneged on almost everything he promised in what was his ‘historic’ 2009 Cairo speech. This fate hit an all-time low after the collapse of his ‘Red Lines” many had thought existed in Syria to prevent Bashar Al-Assad’s massacring of his own people by chemical weapons and other means.”

Since the nuclear deal, nothing has changed in Iran. Former Secretary of State John Kerry reiterated that the JCPOA negotiations were restricted to the nuclear file, and never touched on other ‘regional issues’.

Eyad Abu Shakra says that “it was well known that among those ‘regional issues’ was the IRGC’s occupation of four Arab capitals, its destruction of cities in both Syria and Iraq, and its uprooting and displacing tens of millions of Syrians and Iraqis most of whom were Sunni Arabs!”

He adds that ISIS has provided “the perfect excuse to redraw the boundaries of the ‘New Middle East’, and the much sought after factor to justify bringing down everything, leaving only ‘failed states’, sectarian animosities, epidemics of ignorance and intolerance, and systematic destruction of institutions, landmarks of civilizations and cultural heritage.”

He concludes, “The whole Middle East has paid – and is still paying – a heavy price for the ‘decade’ the nuclear deal has gifted to Iran.”

Preparing For The Sixth Seal (Revelation 6:12)

Preparing for the Great New York Earthquake
by Mike MullerShare

New York Quakes

New York Quakes Fault lines and known temblors in the New York City region between 1677-2004. The nuclear power plant at Indian Point is indicated by a Pe.

Most New Yorkers probably view the idea of a major earthquake hitting New York City as a plot device for a second-rate disaster movie. In a city where people worry about so much — stock market crashes, flooding, a terrorist attack — earthquakes, at least, do not have to be on the agenda.

A recent report by leading seismologists associated with Columbia University, though, may change that. The report concludes a serious quake is likely to hit the area.

The implication of this finding has yet to be examined. Although earthquakes are uncommon in the area relative to other parts of the world like California and Japan, the size and density of New York City puts it at a higher risk of damage. The type of earthquake most likely to occur here would mean that even a fairly small event could have a big impact.

The issue with earthquakes in this region is that they tend to be shallow and close to the surface,” explains Leonardo Seeber, a coauthor of the report. “That means objects at the surface are closer to the source. And that means even small earthquakes can be damaging.”

The past two decades have seen an increase in discussions about how to deal with earthquakes here. The most recent debate has revolved around the Indian Point nuclear power plant, in Buchanan, N.Y., a 30-mile drive north of the Bronx, and whether its nuclear reactors could withstand an earthquake. Closer to home, the city adopted new codes for its buildings even before the Lamont report, and the Port Authority and other agencies have retrofitted some buildings. Is this enough or does more need to be done? On the other hand, is the risk of an earthquake remote enough that public resources would be better spent addressing more immediate — and more likely — concerns?

Assessing the Risk

The report by scientists from the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University at summarizes decades of information on earthquakes in the area gleaned from a network of seismic instruments, studies of earthquakes from previous centuries through archival material like newspaper accounts and examination of fault lines.

The city can expect a magnitude 5 quake, which is strong enough to cause damage, once every 100 years, according to the report. (Magnitude is a measure of the energy released at the source of an earthquake.) The scientists also calculate that a magnitude 6, which is 10 times larger, has a 7 percent chance of happening once every 50 years and a magnitude 7 quake, 100 times larger, a 1.5 percent chance. Nobody knows the last time New York experienced quakes as large as a 6 or 7, although if once occurred it must have taken place before 1677, since geologists have reviewed data as far back as that year.

The last magnitude 5 earthquake in New York City hit in 1884, and it occurred off the coast of Rockaway Beach. Similar earthquakes occurred in 1737 and 1783.

By the time of the 1884 quake, New York was already a world class city, according to Kenneth Jackson, editor of The Encyclopedia of New York City.”In Manhattan,” Jackson said, “New York would have been characterized by very dense development. There was very little grass.”

A number of 8 to 10 story buildings graced the city, and “in world terms, that’s enormous,” according to Jackson. The city already boasted the world’s most extensive transportation network, with trolleys, elevated trains and the Brooklyn Bridge, and the best water system in the country. Thomas Edison had opened the Pearl Street power plant two years earlier.

All of this infrastructure withstood the quake fairly well. A number of chimneys crumbled and windows broke, but not much other damage occurred. Indeed, the New York Times reported that people on the Brooklyn Bridge could not tell the rumble was caused by anything more than the cable car that ran along the span.

Risks at Indian Point

As dense as the city was then though, New York has grown up and out in the 124 years since. Also, today’s metropolis poses some hazards few, if any people imagined in 1884.

In one of their major findings, the Lamont scientists identified a new fault line less than a mile from Indian Point. That is in addition to the already identified Ramapo fault a couple of miles from the plant. This is seen as significant because earthquakes occur at faults and are the most powerful near them.

This does not represent the first time people have raised concerns about earthquakes near Indian Point. A couple of years after the licenses were approved for Indian Point 2 in 1973 and Indian Point 3 in 1975, the state appealed to the Atomic Safety and Licensing Appeal Panel over seismic issues. The appeal was dismissed in 1976, but Michael Farrar, one of three members on the panel, dissented from his colleagues.

He thought the commission had not required the plant to be able to withstand the vibration that could occur during an earthquake. “I believe that an effort should be made to ascertain the maximum effective acceleration in some other, rational, manner,” Farrar wrote in his dissenting opinion. (Acceleration measures how quickly ground shaking speeds up.)

Con Edison, the plants’ operator at the time, agreed to set up seismic monitoring instruments in the area and develop geologic surveys. The Lamont study was able to locate the new fault line as a result of those instruments.

Ironically, though, while scientists can use the data to issue reports — the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission cannot use it to determine whether the plant should have its license renewed. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission only considers the threat of earthquakes or terrorism during initial licensing hearings and does not revisit the issue during relicensing.

Lynn Sykes, lead author of the Lamont report who was also involved in the Indian Point licensing hearings, disputes that policy. The new information, he said, should be considered — “especially when considering a 20 year license renewal.”

The state agrees. Last year, Attorney General Andrew Cuomo began reaching out to other attorneys general to help convince the commission to include these risks during the hearings.

Cuomo and the state Department of Environmental Conservation delivered a 312-page petition to the commission that included reasons why earthquakes posed a risk to the power plants. The petition raised three major concerns regarding Indian Point:

  • The seismic analysis for Indian Point plants 2 and 3 did not consider decommissioned Indian Point 1. The state is worried that something could fall from that plant and damage the others.
  • The plant operators have not updated the facilities to address 20 years of new seismic data in the area.
  • The state contends that Entergy, the plant’s operator, has not been forthcoming. “It is not possible to verify either what improvements have been made to [Indian Point] or even to determine what improvements applicant alleges have been implemented,” the petition stated.

A spokesperson for Entergy told the New York Times that the plants are safe from earthquakes and are designed to withstand a magnitude 6 quake.

Lamont’s Sykes thinks the spokesperson must have been mistaken. “He seems to have confused the magnitude scale with intensity scale,” Sykes suggests. He points out that the plants are designed to withstand an event on the intensity scale of VII, which equals a magnitude of 5 or slightly higher in the region. (Intensity measures the effects on people and structures.) A magnitude 6 quake, in Sykes opinion, would indeed cause damage to the plant.

The two reactors at Indian Point generate about 10 percent of the state’s electricity. Since that power is sent out into a grid, it isn’t known how much the plant provides for New York City. Any abrupt closing of the plant — either because of damage or a withdrawal of the operating license — would require an “unprecedented level of cooperation among government leaders and agencies,” to replace its capacity, according to a 2006 report by the National Academies’ National Research Council, a private, nonprofit institution chartered by Congress.

Beyond the loss of electricity, activists worry about possible threats to human health and safety from any earthquake at Indian Point. Some local officials have raised concerns that radioactive elements at the plant, such as tritium and strontium, could leak through fractures in bedrock and into the Hudson River. An earthquake could create larger fractures and, so they worry, greater leaks.

In 2007, an earthquake hit the area surrounding Japan’s Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant, the world’s largest. The International Atomic Energy Agency determined “there was no significant damage to the parts of the plant important to safety,” from the quake. According to the agency, “The four reactors in operation at the time in the seven-unit complex shut down safely and there was a very small radioactive release well below public health and environmental safety limits.” The plant, however, remains closed.

Shaking the Streets

A quake near Indian Point would clearly have repercussions for New York City. But what if an earthquake hit one of the five boroughs?

In 2003, public and private officials, under the banner of the New York City Area Consortium for Earthquake Loss Mitigation, released a study of what would happen if a quake hit the metropolitan area today. Much of the report focused on building damage in Manhattan. It used the location of the 1884 quake, off the coast of Rockaway Beach, as its modern muse.

If a quake so serious that it is expected to occur once every 2,500 years took place off Rockaway, the consortium estimated it would cause $11.5 billion in damage to buildings in Manhattan. About half of that would result from damage to residential buildings. Even a moderate magnitude 5 earthquake would create an estimated 88,000 tons of debris (10,000 truckloads), which is 136 times the garbage cleared in Manhattan on an average day, they found.

The report does not estimate possible death and injury for New York City alone. But it said that, in the tri-state area as a whole, a magnitude 5 quake could result in a couple of dozen deaths, and a magnitude 7 would kill more than 6,500 people.

Ultimately, the consortium decided retrofitting all of the city’s buildings to prepare them for an earthquake would be “impractical and economically unrealistic,” and stressed the importance of identifying the most vulnerable areas of the city.

Unreinforced brick buildings, which are the most common type of building in Manhattan, are the most vulnerable to earthquakes because they do not absorb motion as well as more flexible wood and steel buildings. Structures built on soft soil are more also prone to risk since it amplifies ground shaking and has the potential to liquefy during a quake.

This makes the Upper East Side the most vulnerable area of Manhattan, according to the consortium report. Because of the soil type, the ground there during a magnitude 7 quake would shake at twice the acceleration of that in the Financial District. Chinatown faces considerable greater risk for the same reasons.

The city’s Office of Emergency Management agency does offer safety tips for earthquakes. It advises people to identify safe places in their homes, where they can stay until the shaking stops, The agency recommends hiding under heavy furniture and away from windows and other objects that could fall.

A special unit called New York Task Force 1 is trained to find victims trapped in rubble. The Office of Emergency Management holds annual training events for the unit.

The Buildings Department created its first seismic code in 1995. More recently, the city and state have adopted the International Building Code (which ironically is a national standard) and all its earthquake standards. The “international” code requires that buildings be prepared for the 2,500-year worst-case scenario.

Transportation Disruptions

With the state’s adoption of stricter codes in 2003, the Port Authority went back and assessed its facilities that were built before the adoption of the code, including bridges, bus terminals and the approaches to its tunnels. The authority decided it did not have to replace any of this and that retrofitting it could be done at a reasonable cost.

The authority first focused on the approaches to bridges and tunnels because they are rigid and cannot sway with the earth’s movement. It is upgrading the approaches to the George Washington Bridge and Lincoln Tunnel so they will be prepared for a worst-case scenario. The approaches to the Port Authority Bus Terminal on 42nd Street are being prepared to withstand two thirds of a worst-case scenario.

The terminal itself was retrofitted in 2007. Fifteen 80-foot tall supports were added to the outside of the structure.

A number of the city’s bridges could be easily retrofitted as well “in an economical and practical manner,” according to a study of three bridges by the consulting firm Parsons Brinckerhoff. Those bridges include the 102nd Street Bridge in Queens, and the 145th Street and Macombs Dam bridges, which span the Harlem River. To upgrade the 155th Street Viaduct, the city will strengthen its foundation and strengthen its steel columns and floor beams.

The city plans upgrades for the viaduct and the Madison Avenue bridge in 2010. The 2008 10-year capital strategy for the city includes $596 million for the seismic retrofitting of the four East River bridges, which is planned to begin in 2013. But that commitment has fluctuated over the years. In 2004, it was $833 million.

For its part, New York City Transit generally is not considering retrofitting its above ground or underground structures, according to a report presented at the American Society of Civil Engineers in 2004. New facilities, like the Second Avenue Subway and the Fulton Transit Center will be built to new, tougher standards.

Underground infrastructure, such as subway tunnels, electricity systems and sewers are generally safer from earthquakes than above ground facilities. But secondary effects from quakes, like falling debris and liquefied soil, could damage these structures.

Age and location — as with buildings — also add to vulnerability. “This stuff was laid years ago,” said Rae Zimmerman, professor of planning and public administration at New York University. “A lot of our transit infrastructure and water pipes are not flexible and a lot of the city is on sandy soil.” Most of Lower Manhattan, for example, is made up of such soil.

She also stresses the need for redundancy, where if one pipe or track went down, there would be another way to go. “The subway is beautiful in that respect,” she said. “During 9/11, they were able to avoid broken tracks.”

Setting Priorities

The city has not made preparing its infrastructure for an earthquake a top priority — and some experts think that makes sense.

“On the policy side, earthquakes are a low priority,” said Guy Nordenson, a civil engineer who was a major proponent of the city’s original seismic code, “and I think that’s a good thing.” He believes there are more important risks, such as dealing with the effects of climate change.

“There are many hazards, and any of these hazards can be as devastating, if not more so, than earthquakes,” agreed Mohamed Ettouney, who was also involved in writing the 1995 seismic code.

In fact, a recent field called multi-hazard engineering has emerged. It looks at the most efficient and economical way to prepare for hazards rather than preparing for all at once or addressing one hazard after the other. For example, while addressing one danger (say terrorism) identified as a priority, it makes sense to consider other threats that the government could prepare for at the same time (like earthquakes).

Scientists from Lamont-Doherty are also not urging anybody to rush to action in panic. Their report is meant to be a first step in a process that lays out potential hazards from earthquakes so that governments and businesses can make informed decisions about how to reduce risk.

“We now have a 300-year catalog of earthquakes that has been well calibrated” to estimate their size and location, said Sykes. “We also now have a 34-year study of data culled from Lamont’s network of seismic instruments.”

“Earthquake risk is not the highest priority in New York City, nor is dog-poop free sidewalks,” Seeber recently commented. But, he added, both deserve appropriately rational responses.

The South Korean Nuclear Horn (Daniel 7:7)

South Korea considers its nuclear options

July 20 (UPI) — South Korea has started thinking about its own nuclear options in response to the growing nuclear and missile threat from North Korea.

National Assembly member Lee Jong-kul, who is close to President Moon Jae-in, said “the most effective deterrent to nuclear weapons is a nuclear weapon itself.”

“I believe we need a phased strategy for nuclear armament,” he told an audience in Washington, D.C., this week.

One phase would be the relocation of U.S. tactical nuclear weapons in South Korea.

“[I]n the final phase, we should develop our own nuclear weapons,” Rep. Lee concluded.

His remarks about the return of U.S. tactical nukes was echoed by Dr. Hyun-ik Hong, a senior research fellow at the Sejong Institute, a leading South Korean think tank. Both speakers made clear that the Moon administration’s first step will be to propose renewed inter-Korean dialogue on peace and security on the peninsula, ultimately leading to denuclearization.

President Donald Trump signed off on Moon taking the lead on a dialogue initiative during their recent meeting.

Lee said that the nuclear armament proposals would be pursued if North Korea would enter meaningful talks and continued its missile and nuclear testing. The return of U.S tactical nukes to South Korea was one of several options offered to Trump by his National Security Council in April.

Tactical nukes were removed by the United States from Korea in 1991 as a trust-building measure prior to the signing of a Joint Declaration between the two Koreas in 1992. In it, both parties agreed not to possess, produce, or use nuclear weapons, and prohibited uranium enrichment and plutonium reprocessing.

The agreement has been extensively breached by North Korea. China is likely to react strongly to renuclearization in South Korea. However, some observers believe the prospect may lead China to take the North Korean nuclear threat more seriously. China undertook to prevent nuclear development in North Korea at the time of the 1992 Declaration yet has failed to deliver.

Lee was speaking at the International Forum on Building an Alliance for One Korea, organized by Action for Korea United, One Korea Foundation, and the Global Peace Foundation.

Nuclear-Free is a Biblical Fallacy

https://metrouk2.files.wordpress.com/2017/05/aw-bible-nuclear-explosion-ww3.jpg?w=748&h=392&crop=1EDITORIAL: The nuclear-free fantasy game

The Washington Times http://www.washingtontimes.com
ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Faith is the assurance of things hoped for. The Bible tells us so. One of the things on anybody’s wish list is a nuclear-free world. But without assurance that the hope will be redeemed such wishes are the stuff of idle delusion. That goes double for the expectation that the Trump administration’s recertification of the deal proscribing Iran’s nuclear program, and the United Nations’ nuclear weapons ban, will give wing to the dove of peace.

The White House announced this week that it would declare the Islamic Republic of Iran in technical compliance with the terms of the flawed nuclear agreement signed two years ago by President Obama. Mindful of Donald Trump’s vow as a presidential candidate to tear up the deal, the official statement says Iran is “in default of the spirit” of the pact, recognizing that Iran bends the rules to its aims without quite breaking them. President Trump’s recertification gives the mullahs a pass to continue the nuclear research into weapons that would threaten everybody, and particularly the hated West, with its Judeo-Christian democratic traditions.

Like a police officer who charges the thrower of a Molotov cocktail with littering rather than arson, the State Department followed the compliance certification with new sanctions on Iran for its ballistic missile program and its other “malign activities” in the Middle East. The mullahs can laugh in their turbans at the toothless reprimand and at 18 sanctioned men, women and organizations. They tout their penalties as badges of honor.

Earlier this month the United Nations adopted an equally hollow Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. The measure was backed by 122 nations, nearly all unable to build anything more dangerous than a popgun. Brave Netherlands voted against the ban, and Singapore, afflicted with a large restive Muslim population, abstained. The ban applies to the development and stockpiling of nuclear weapons, and the prohibition on threatening to use them.

The global body might as well have gone a step further and outlawed war. Missing from the balloting — and the preceding three weeks of negotiation — were the nine nations that actually have nuclear arsenals of various size: the United States, Great Britain, France, Russia, China, Israel, India, Pakistan and North Korea. None are inclined to give up the protection of their nuclear weapons on instruction from the United Nations. More likely, those non-nuclear nations would beat their plowshares into swords out of sight of the U.N.

An injunction against nuclear bombs comes at a curious time — just when the communist regime in North Korea is working feverishly to build an arsenal of nuclear missiles with which to threaten the world. Kim Jong-un greets every entreaty for peaceful accommodation with a chortle and the launch of another test rocket. Steady progress has brought the hermit regime to the verge of capability to strike the U.S. mainland with a weapon that could kill millions. President Trump has indulged lots of talk about the threat from North Korea, but like his harsh rhetoric about Iran, it may resound in the ears of the mullahs as nothing more than hot air.

It’s easy to forswear something unattainable. When that something is nuclear weapons, the nuclear have-nots can count themselves among the angels. Wishing for a nuclear-free world is a game any number can play.

The Antichrist’s Men (Revelation 13:18)

https://i.ytimg.com/vi/uK4Qex6rApw/maxresdefault.jpgIraq’s armed forces urgently need reform

The unsettling detail of the Iraqi army’s final conquest of Mosul from terrorist forces was the sectarian flags and icons that decorated military vehicles. The recapture seemed a pyrrhic victory that was caught up in the religious, ethnic and political divisions that plague Iraq.

With a supposed active force of some 270,000 military personnel, the army could only field 48,000 as Daesh overran swathes of Iraq in 2014. The country’s military institutions, babied by the US since the 2003 invasion, have suffered from corruption, administrative dysfunction and sectarianism that have affected their potency as a fighting force.

An understanding of the modern history of Iraq’s armed forces is essential to explaining its failure today. Set up by the British after the 1920 revolt, since its inception Iraq’s army has been a force geared toward internal security. Its first major action was putting down a Kurdish insurrection in Sulaimaniyah in 1924, and its subsequent involvement in the coups of 1936, 1941, 1958, 1963 and 1968 ensured it remained prey to factionalism and politicization.

Its only wartime battle engagements in the Arab-Israeli war of 1948, the Iran-Iraq war and the invasion of Kuwait were all military failures. Since then, sanctions and the consequences of the US-led invasion have stripped it of its ability to institutionalize, leaving it a hive of corruption and infighting.

Daesh’s dramatic initial success was in great part due to the unpreparedness and inefficiencies of Iraq’s army. In the context of the group’s initial conquest of Mosul, 800 fighters dislodged 30,000 Iraqi troops who scarpered from their 40-1 advantage over the enemy. Troops ill-trained to fight and unwilling to die for the authorities led to a state of affairs where the terrorists controlled up to 40 percent of the country.

The post-invasion Iraqi authorities have failed to build a state that all citizens are willing to subscribe to, reflected in the ineffectiveness of its fighting men and the ease with which civilians were absorbed by Daesh. The lack of inclusiveness in the Iraqi state is perfectly reflected in the security forces. Under the divisive tenure of former Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki, nepotism and rampant corruption came to characterize the military.

Hollowed out by the resignation of senior and experienced officers following de-Baathification, the force shrunk and became heavily reliant on sectarian militias. Between 70,000 and 120,000 militiamen have played a central role in the army’s push from the Shiite-dominated south to the Daesh-controlled north and west.

The sectarian nature of these militias has raised serious questions about their role in Iraq going forward. Hard-line cleric Moqtada Al-Sadr, whose Mahdi Army has now been renamed the Peace Companies, has publically called for the role of such militias to be curtailed in post-Daesh Iraq.

The authorities must combat racism, discrimination and sectarianism to strengthen the unity of their fighting force, and to encourage all elements of society to take part in the defense of the nation. The army must be molded into a national institution that seeks to defend all Iraqis.

Zaid M. Belbagi

The sectarian nature of these militias alongside certain elements of the army has exacerbated an already very delicate state-building process that Iraq desperately needs. The military’s adoption of apocalyptic sectarian discourse alongside religious acts and iconography defies international conventions that oblige states to work to prevent racist practices and actions that cause intolerance and human rights violations.

The disproportionate violence of some Iraqi army units in areas retaken from Daesh are of great concern. Article 20 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights states that any propaganda for war shall be prohibited by law; this includes most of the aforementioned violations.

In this context, the Iraqi authorities must combat racism, discrimination and sectarianism to strengthen the unity of their fighting force, and to encourage all elements of society to take part in the defense of the nation.

Arguably the most compelling case against the issues with which the army has been associated is that of “ghost soldiers,” when in 2014 50,000 fictitious members of the armed forces were identified. It transpired that over 120 billion Iraqi dinars ($104 million) had been diverted to the pockets of corrupt commanders as a result of the affair.

More worryingly, the scandal contributed to the significant lack of boots on the ground, deeply impacting the performance of Iraqi troops in Mosul, Salahuddin and Anbar — in some cases, the fighting capability of battalions was no more than 20 percent, according to senior commanders.

Such instances have highlighted to both the authorities and international audiences that Iraq’s forces are as yet unable to defend the country. Symptomatic of this problem, as the Pentagon signs off on the further supply of resources to Iraqi forces, the New York Times reported that “some of the weaponry recently supplied by the army has already ended up on the black market and in the hands of Islamic State (Daesh) fighters.”

Following a long battle against the terror groups operating in Iraq, Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi has promised a crackdown on corruption. Going forward, the army must be molded into a national institution that seeks to defend all Iraqis.

• Zaid M. Belbagi is a political commentator. He also acts as an adviser to private clients between London and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).