Nuclear-Free is a Biblical Fallacy The nuclear-free fantasy game

The Washington Times

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 Reality Of Nuclear War Under Trump (Revelation 15) Chomsky on the prospects for nuclear war under Trump

At The Stone, the philosophy blog of the New York Times, George Yancy interviews Noam Chomsky about the role of philosophy is social transformation, and the state of the US under Trump. In a surprisingly optimistic note, Chomsky says that the popularity of Bernie Sanders, and the activist that his supporters have spearheaded since the end of the election, has the potential to drastically transform the political landscape in the US over the long term. In the short term, however, Chomsky express the dire concern that the reckless Trump Administration has made nuclear war more likely now than even during the Cold War. Read an excerpt from the interview below, or the full text here:

G.Y.: Returning to Trump, I take it that you view him as fundamentally unpredictable. I certainly do. Should we fear a nuclear exchange of any sort in our contemporary moment?

N.C.: I do, and I’m hardly the only person to have such fears. Perhaps the most prominent figure to express such concerns is William Perry, one of the leading contemporary nuclear strategists, with many years of experience at the highest level of war planning. He is reserved and cautious, not given to overstatement. He has come out of semiretirement to declare forcefully and repeatedly that he is terrified both at the extreme and mounting threats and by the failure to be concerned about them. In his words, “Today, the danger of some sort of a nuclear catastrophe is greater than it was during the Cold War, and most people are blissfully unaware of this danger.”

In 1947, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists established its famous Doomsday Clock, estimating how far we are from midnight: termination. In 1947, the analysts set the clock at seven minutes to midnight. In 1953, they moved the hand to two minutes to midnight after the U.S. and U.S.S.R. exploded hydrogen bombs. Since then it has oscillated, never again reaching this danger point. In January, shortly after Trump’s inauguration, the hand was moved to two and a half minutes to midnight, the closest to terminal disaster since 1953. By this time analysts were considering not only the rising threat of nuclear war but also the firm dedication of the Republican organization to accelerate the race to environmental catastrophe.

Perry is right to be terrified. And so should we all be, not least because of the person with his finger on the button and his surreal associates.

The Funding of Korea’s Nukes

Exposed: How North Korea Secretly Funds Its Nuclear Weapons

Zachary Keck
June 16, 2017

A new report details the extensive illicit overseas network North Korea maintains to fund its nuclear-weapons and missile programs.

Despite being under some of the most draconian international sanctions to date, North Korea has continued to demonstrate that is capable of funding its effort to build a nuclear warhead and the necessary systems to deliver one. If anything, funding for these systems seems to have increased in recent years: since the beginning of last year, Kim Jong-un has tested more ballistic missiles than his father and grandfather tested in twenty-seven years combined. All of this costs a lot of money in terms of material and manpower.

After promising to prevent North Korea from acquiring an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) capable of delivering a nuclear warhead to the U.S. homeland, President Donald Trump has largely turned to China to increase the economic pressure on the Kim regime. To do this successfully will require first understanding how the North Korean regime pays for its weapons program.

Fortunately for the Trump regime, one organization has provided a modicum of hope. In a new report entitled, “Risky Business,” C4ADS, a DC-based nonprofit dedicated to providing data-driven analysis and evidence-based reporting on security issues, provides a stunningly thorough examination of the globe-spanning enterprise the Kim regime uses to fund its illicit activities.

C4ADS begins by disputing the notion that North Korea is an “isolated” hermit kingdom, declaring that “in truth, the North Korean regime, far from being isolated, is globally active through its overseas networks,” which extend as far as the United States. The report states that North Korea’s networks “have grown into a complex overseas financing and procurement system over the past decade, earning hard currency through reported schemes as diversified as sales of military equipment, cybercrime, printing of counterfeit currency, rhino horn smuggling, and narcotics trafficking.” It goes on to say, these “networks have shown a deep understanding of how the systems of international trade, finance, and transportation work and, thus, how to nest their illicit activities within them.”

North Korea has been so successful at establishing these networks partly because its operators have been able to obscure illicit activity within legitimate economic businesses. The report quotes one former senior U.S. official: “The line between North Korea’s licit and illicit money is nearly invisible.” North Korea disguises most of its illicit trade by moving it through China—unsurprising, as Pyongyang conducts 85 percent of its total trade with Beijing.

There is hope, however, as C4ADS “finds that the North Korean overseas regime financing and procurement system is centralized, limited, and vulnerable, and thus ripe for disruption” (emphasis in original). With regards to being centralized, the report writes that North Korea’s networks “are comprised of a limited number of commercial facilitators and regime agents, who freely conduct business within the licit commercial system.” One such facilitator is Fan Mintian, a Chinese national whom C4ADS identifies as a key node in North Korea’s network. Fan was in charge of the ship Jie Shun, which was seized in the Suez Canal in 2016 with thirty thousand PG-7 rocket-propelled grenades hidden under over two thousand tons of iron ore. Another of Fan’s companies also worked with Chinpo Shipping, which provided financial assistance to the ship Chong Chon Gang, seized in the Panama Canal while transporting weapons to North Korea from Cuba. Another company Fan owned reportedly operated the ship MV Light, interdicted while transporting missiles to Myanmar.

Nor is Fan an anomaly. According to the report, North Korea continuously uses the same limited number of commercial facilitators. This potentially makes its networks vulnerable to disruption if international authorities are able to apprehend these individuals. The issue, C4ADS notes, is that the UN Security Council has not effectively enforced its sanctions. Indeed, the report suggests that, as in the Fan case, many of North Korea’s facilitators continue to operate even after facing repeated seizures.

Another strategic choke point the report identifies as vulnerable to disruption is North Korea’s reliance on a centralized financing system. Although the facilitators often use shell and front companies to do business with unwitting companies, North Korea cannot purchase anything without access to the international financial system, which entities operating inside North Korea are denied. Instead, Pyongyang has relied on a select number of “gateway firms” that allow “sanctioned North Korean entities to conduct financial transactions that would appear to US and European correspondent banks as coming from companies based in the British Virgin Islands, Seychelles, England, Wales, or Hong Kong.” The U.S. Treasury already acted against one of the biggest gateway firms when it imposed sanctions on the Liaoning Hongxiang Group and its parent company, Dandong Hongxiang Industrial Development Co. Ltd.

A further vulnerability of North Korea’s overseas network is the limited number of companies involved. Overall, only 5,233 Chinese companies did business with North Korea between 2013 and 2016, compared to the 67,163 Chinese companies that export goods to South Korea. Moreover, many of these 5,233 companies are owned by the same parent company, and “a disproportionate share of that trade is centralized among an even smaller number of large-scale trading firms.” In fact, a single company reportedly purchased over 9 percent of North Korea’s total exports to China last year.

The level of detail in C4ADS’s report makes it a valuable resource in the growing body of work of North Korean regime’s economic networks, which also includes the invaluable studies done by the UN Security Council’s panel of experts on the subject. C4ADS’s conclusion—that the centralized and limited nature of North Korea’s overseas networks make them vulnerable to disruption—is true on its face. However, the core issue is not identifying these networks, but enticing China to take meaningful action to disrupt them. And as long as China believes that the collapse of the North Korean regime is worse than living with Kim Jong-un, it’s hard to see that actually happening, no matter how much information about the networks is exposed.

Trump Steps Up Pressure Against Korea


Pentagon Deploys 3rd US Naval Strike Force To Deter North Korea From Their Nuclear Ambitions

North Korea’s growing nuclear and missile threat is seen as a major security challenge for President Donald Trump, who has vowed to prevent the country from being able to strike the U.S. with a nuclear missile, a capability experts say Pyongyang could have some time after 2020.

The United States is sending a third aircraft carrier strike force to the western Pacific region in an apparent warning to North Korea to deter its ballistic missile and nuclear programs, two sources have told VOA.

The USS Nimitz, one of the world’s largest warships, will join two other supercarriers, the USS Carl Vinson and the USS Ronald Reagan, in the western Pacific, the sources told VOA’s Steve Herman.

The U.S. military has rarely simultaneously deployed three aircraft carriers to the same region.

But North Korea’s growing nuclear and missile threat is seen as a major security challenge for President Donald Trump, who has vowed to prevent the country from being able to strike the U.S. with a nuclear missile, a capability experts say Pyongyang could have some time after 2020.

Sitting alongside Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Trump said Friday just before the start of Group of Seven (G-7) meetings in Sicily that G-7 leaders would have a “particular focus on the North Korea problem.”

US Navy Show Of Might Near North Korea:

A White House statement issued Friday said the two leaders have agreed to “enhance sanctions on North Korea” in an attempt to prevent the further development of North Korea’s ballistic missile and nuclear programs.

US tests missile defense system

The U.S. military, meanwhile, will test a system to shoot down an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) for the first time next week.It is intended to simulate a North Korean ICBM aimed at the U.S.

The Missile Defense Agency said it will test an existing missile defense system on Tuesday to try to intercept an ICBM. The Pentagon has used the Ground-Based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system to intercept other types of missiles, but never an ICBM.

The GMD has been inconsistent, succeeding in nine of 17 attempts against missiles without intercontinental range capability since 1999.

The most recent test, in June 2014, was successful — but three straight subsequent tests were failures.

The Problem With Trump’s Big Mouth

Has there ever been a more indiscreet world leader than Donald Trump? We knew in the campaign that he had a big mouth when he was caught on tape bragging about assaulting women and getting away with it, but very few people would have predicted that this propensity to discuss private matters in wildly inappropriate contexts would extend to classified intelligence.

After all,  month after month he excoriated Hillary Clinton for allowing some confidential emails to be inadvertently sent over her personal email server when she was secretary of state. He said it disqualified her, in fact, and “she should not have been allowed” to run for president because of it.

Trump told Clinton to her face that if he were president she would be in jail:

Well, Donald Trump is the president now and several different government entities are investigating his campaign and administration. And he’s been shamelessly blurting out highly sensitive intelligence to foreign adversaries, unstable tyrants and even the press without a second thought.

Trump felt the need to meet with the Russian ambassador and the foreign minister at the behest of Vladimir Putin and in the course of their conversation he bragged that he had “great intel” and proceeded to expose a foreign ally’s asset by giving them  highly sensitive “code-word” intelligence without the ally’s permission. As former CIA chief John Brennan explained in testimony  before Congress this week, while it’s true that a president has the authority to declassify information, he is supposed to follow protocols:

The first [protocol] is that this kind of intelligence is not shared with visiting foreign ministers or local ambassadors. It’s shared through intelligence channels. The second is that, before sharing any classified intelligence with foreign partners, it has to go back to the originating agency to ensure that revealing it won’t compromise sources, methods and future collection capabilities.

There has never been a need for a protocol to guide a proudly ignorant, inexperienced president with a pathological need to brag to everyone he meets, since nobody anticipated such a thing before. Now we know.

And nobody anticipated that this same president would visit the foreign ally he exposed and confirm to reporters from all over the world that it had been the source of that intelligence. But Trump did that too.

And while Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu put on a good face for the cameras, the effect on the relationship has been profound. After the breach was reported, BuzzFeed spoke to two Israeli intelligence officials who said that this was their worst fear confirmed. One explained, “There has to be trust for this sort of arrangement. I cannot speak for Israel’s entire security apparatus, but I would not trust a partner who shared intelligence without coordinating it with us first.”

Foreign Policy reported that the Israeli defense minister admitted that the two countries have since revised their “protocols” and when asked what they were he tartly replied, “Not everything needs to be discussed in the media; some things need to be talked about in closed rooms.” A certain president shouldn’t talk about such things in closed rooms either, since he is incapable of understanding protocols for anything.

But that wasn’t the only report we had this week of Donald Trump’s loose lips putting national security in danger. The Intercept released a transcript of the Trump’s recent phone call with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte. (I wrote about it here.) The actual words were worse than we knew. Not only did the president effusively compliment Duterte on his murderous drug war, he also insulted former President Barack Obama for failing to be equally impressed.

The two leaders  discussed the threat from North Korea, mused about the mental state of Kim Jong-un and batted around the idea that nuclear war might end up being necessary. Trump said he hoped the Chinese would take care of it but promised that if they didn’t the U.S. would. Then he shared some military secrets with a foreign leader widely seen as unbalanced and untrustworthy:

We have two submarines – the best in the world – we have two nuclear submarines – not that we want to use them at all. I’ve never seen anything like they are but we don’t have to use this but [Kim] could be crazy so we will see what happens.

According to BuzzFeed, the Pentagon was in shock:

“We never talk about subs!” three officials told BuzzFeed News, referring to the military’s belief that keeping submarines’ movements secret is key to their mission.

While the US military will frequently announce the deployment of aircraft carriers, it is far more careful when discussing the movement of nuclear submarines. Carriers are hard to miss, and that, in part, is a reason the US military deploys them. They are a physical show of force. Submarines are, at times, a furtive complement to the carriers, a hard-to-detect means of strategic deterrence.

Trump, Duterte, Kim Jong-un and nuclear weapons. What could go wrong?

There are dozens of reasons why America’s allies and adversaries alike are starting to panic a little bit about Donald Trump serving as the supposed leader of the free world. Until now, despite major misgivings, it was not entirely clear whether Trump might grow into the job or whether American institutions and expertise would be able to guide his behavior. After four months it seems clear that’s not as easy as everyone hoped.

In this context, the fact that U.S. officials apparently leaked the identity of the accused Manchester bomber to the press before U.K. authorities were ready to do so was received with sharp irritation by the British government. If this had happened under any other administration, the misunderstanding between two close allies would likely have been handled quietly. But it’s obvious that the gusher of leaks throughout the government and at high levels of the White House has other countries spooked.

Along with the president’s ongoing inability to understand and respect the seriousness of classified intelligence, this lack of trust in the United States government’s basic competence and predictability is making the world order as we’ve known it for the last 60 years suddenly feel very unstable. It will be interesting to see whether the NATO meeting being held over the next few days can provide any sense of reassurance.

Iran is Controlled by Esau (Genesis 28)

Iran’s presidential election next week presents a false choice to their restive people. There are two main candidates in the race, both of whom are rubber-stamped by the mullahs in Tehran. They are fighting over a very narrow sliver of turf. No matter who wins, count on Iran remaining viciously repressive, destabilizing to the region and ever-eager to attain nuclear weapons.

In a recent survey of Iranians in 15 provinces, by the International American Council on the Middle East and North Africa, 79 percent of those asked said they don’t believe the outcome of the election will make any difference in their lives. Faces change, but policies remain the same.

The vitality and diversity of the Iranian people’s politics is well-known. There are religious conservatives of course, but the streets teem with young people who hold secular, democratic views. There are savvy entrepreneurs, environmentalists and everything in between. Much of the body politic remains disaffected and disenfranchised by the unrealized economic gains that were promised after the end of nuclear sanctions with the rush of cash that filled Tehran’s coffers.

According to U.S. intelligence estimates and the analysis of Iranian opposition groups, the “nuclear accord dividend” has been siphoned off by the state’s instruments of violence and repression, including a huge budget increase to the brutal Iranian Revolutionary Guard, massive expenditures in ballistic missile development and ongoing interference in Iraq, Syria, Yemen and elsewhere.

Meanwhile, the lot of the Iranian people remains dire as wages stagnate, needed investments in infrastructure are deferred and corruption runs rampant. These grievances have no real outlet and no real hope for redress. The greatest danger in a theocracy is that all state actions are sanctified by an authority for whom there is no higher appeal. Democracy is but a mirage under the theocracy.

Still, the Iranian people have no alternative but to boycott the elections and call for genuine regime change. There is a real Iranian opposition; they are jailed, hunted and murdered by the score, or otherwise pushed into exile. So, the mullahs have stacked the deck, offering their own alternative: current President Hassan Rouhani, who, of course, played a key role in suppressing a 1999 uprising of the people and bragged about lying to U.N. nuclear weapons inspectors.

His rival, the midlevel cleric Ebrahim Raisi is a close ally of the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. The other notable candidate, Mohammad Bagher Qalibaf, who withdrew from the race in favor of Raisi, was a commander of the notorious Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps before becoming Tehran’s mayor.

The candidates are approved by the unelected watchdog body, the Guardian Council, as are all the candidates in the election. This includes a process that entails complete acceptance of the Supreme Leader’s ideology and policy “suggestions,” which explains why only six out of 1,636 candidates were allowed to run.

Given the sad reality that not much will change, no matter who is elected, what does the future look like?  Well, what is past is prologue. Rouhani, the “moderate” presided over a record number of state executions that far outpaced his predecessor, the firebrand Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Raisi has been part of the judiciary of the regime since its establishment and has made a reputation for himself as a brutal personality. As a member of a “death commission” in 1988, he authorized the execution of 30,000 political prisoners — men, women and even children, mostly belonging to the main opposition, the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK), as “enemies” of the state. There is little differentiation between the whip and the hand that holds it.

Today, the regime is more vulnerable than ever, from its internal divisions, its failure to wipe out all of my fellow dissidents in Iraq (who were successfully transferred to Europe) and the Trump administration’s vow to review its Iran policy. All of these developments point to an unprecedented opportunity for the opposition to play a significant role in wresting control from the Mullahs and reshaping the country’s future.

Regardless of when that would happen, millions of disgruntled Iranians may prove to be a force to be reckoned with for the regime in the near future and the true partners of the United States.

Soona Samsami is the Representative in the United States for the National Council of Resistance of Iran, which is dedicated to the establishment of a democratic, secular republic in Iran.

The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the views of The Hill. 

Iran Continues To Build Its Nuclear Program (Daniel 8:4)

Iran Furiously Building Nuclear Program Because Obama Treaty Protects Them From Scrutiny

Daniel Coats, America’s top spymaster, informed Congress this week in an intelligence briefing that Iran’s ballistic missile work continues unimpeded and could be used by the Islamic Republic to launch a nuclear weapon, according to unclassified testimony.

Iran continues to make critical technological strides in its efforts to perfect an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of delivering nuclear weapons over great distances, efforts that violate international prohibitions, according to the director of national intelligence, who informed Congress this week that the Islamic Republic “would choose ballistic missiles as its preferred method of delivering nuclear weapons.”

The disclosure comes just days after Iranian leaders announced the upcoming launch of two new domestically produced satellites. Iran has long used its space program as cover for illicit missile work, as the know-how needed to launch such equipment can be applied to long-range ballistic missile technology.

Daniel Coats, America’s top spymaster, informed Congress this week in an intelligence briefing that Iran’s ballistic missile work continues unimpeded and could be used by the Islamic Republic to launch a nuclear weapon, according to unclassified testimony.

Turns out Obama’s “historic deal” was actually a cover for Iran to build nuclear weapons faster:

Iran’s ballistic missile work, particularly its focus on ICBMs, runs counter to United Nations resolutions barring such activity, though it remains unclear if the Trump administration plans to pursue new sanctions on Iran.

Iran continues to perform key research and development on nuclear missile capabilities despite the landmark nuclear agreement with Western powers, according to the last U.S. intelligence assessments.

“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” Coats wrote in his written testimony to the Senate intelligence committee.

U.S. officials are unsure if Iran will build nuclear weapons, but it is likely this intention would dictate Tehran’s future adherence to the nuclear deal, which the administration of former President Barack Obama framed in such a way as to leave out the issue of ballistic missiles.

The reality of Obama’s Iranian Nuclear Deal:

The United States assesses that Iran remains about a year away from a functional nuclear missile if it decides to build one in violation of the nuclear deal.

Iranian military leaders claim their missile work is unrelated to the nuclear agreement and permissible under it. The country’s refusal to abandon this work has caused concern on Capitol Hill, as well as among U.S. national security insiders who view the work as related to Iran’s aspirations for regional dominance.

The U.S. intelligence community maintains that Iran—which has the largest inventory of ballistic missiles in the Middle East—likely would use this technology to launch a nuclear weapon.

“We judge that Tehran would choose ballistic missiles as its preferred method of delivering nuclear weapons, if it builds them,” according to Coats. “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),” Coats wrote, referring to Iran’s covert missile work. “Progress on Iran’s space program could shorten a pathway to an ICBM because space launch vehicles use similar technologies.”

Iran “continues to leverage cyber espionage, propaganda, and attacks to support its security priorities, influence events and foreign perceptions, and counter threats—including against U.S. allies in the region,” Coats testified.

This includes cyber attacks “directly against the United States,” such as in 2013, when an Iranian hacker penetrated the computer systems of a U.S. dam.

Iran also is pursuing a massive buildup of its military, which observers have described as unprecedented.

The U.S. intelligence community has confirmed that Iran is developing “a range of new military capabilities to monitor and target U.S. and allied military assets in the region, including armed UAVs [drones], ballistic missiles, advanced naval mines, unmanned explosive boats, submarines and advanced torpedoes, and anti-ship and land-attack cruise missiles,” according to Coats.

Iran Continues To Develop Nuclear Weapons (Daniel 8:4)

The annual report released Thursday notes that if Iran “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.”

The World Threat Assessment also notes that “Iran continues to be the foremost state sponsor of terrorism and, with its primary terrorism partner, Lebanese Hizbailah, will pose a continuing threat to US interests and partners worldwide.”

The report states that U.S. intelligence believes “Tehran would choose ballistic missiles as its preferred method of delivering nuclear weapons, if it builds them.” Ballistic missiles are the delivery vehicle for a nuclear warhead.

Iran has violated international sanctions on a multitude of occasions by carrying out ballistic missiles tests.

“Tehran already has the largest inventory of ballistic missiles in the Middle East,” the World Threat Assessment’s report states. “Tehran’s desire to deter the United States might drive it to field an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).”

The report also notes that Iran’s progress in its space program could expedite its path to an ICBM since space launch vehicles use similar technologies.

Last year’s report similarly stated that while the United States does not know whether the Iranian government will eventually decide to build nuclear weapons, but added that “Iran’s implementation of the JCPOA, however, has extended the amount of time Iran would need to produce fissile material for a nuclear weapon from a few months to about a year.”

It has been well over a year since the JCPOA was implemented. On July 14, the JCPOA will reach its two-year mark.

Last month, a report — which included alleged satellite imagery and intelligence said to be provided by informants working covertly inside the Iranian military — indicated the Iranian regime is secretly, and illegally, developing weapons at its “off-limits” Parchin nuclear site.

Also last month, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson stated, in a letter addressed to House Speaker Paul Ryan, that Iran has remained compliant with the 2015 nuclear deal. In that same letter, Tillerson noted, “Iran remains a leading state sponsor of terror, through many platforms and methods.”

Follow Adelle Nazarian on Facebook and Twitter.

Americans Are Wrong About North Korea

GettyImages-669024730Nuclear War With North Korea Is Highly Likely, Voters Say

By Juliana Rose Pignataro @julie_pignataro On 05/12/17 AT 2:09 PM
The United States’ tenuous relationship with North Korea is on the minds of most Americans, according to a new poll. A Rassmussen Reports poll released Thursday found that 57 percent of U.S. voters believe a nuclear war with North Korea will take place before the end of the century.

Twenty-four percent consider it very likely, while 32 percent said it is unlikely to occur within the next 80 years. Only five percent of voters said it was not at all likely.

Tensions have increased between North Korea and the U.S. in recent days, leading Vice President Mike Pence to declare that the country’s long-standing policy of “strategic patience” was over during a visit to South Korea in April. The policy of “strategic patience” is hard to pin down, but in general, refers to the U.S.’s decision to wait patiently for North Korea to denuclearize on its own.

“Since 1992, the United States and our allies have stood together for a denuclearized Korean Peninsula,” Pence said during a news conference in Seoul. “We hope to achieve this objective through peaceable means, but all options are on the table.”

The U.S. and North Korea have been repeatedly lobbing warnings back and forth about impending military action. After reports emerged that North Korea was planning to conduct additional missile tests, the U.S. warned it would launch a pre-emptive strike if they got wind of any concrete plans. North Korea, for its part, said it would “hit the U.S. first” with nuclear artillery if it became aware of an imminent strike.

North Korea also fired back after the U.S. installed a missile defense system in South Korea. The Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense system, or THAAD, would ideally intercept missiles launched by the North.

“By relentlessly bringing in a number of strategic nuclear assets to the Korean peninsula, the U.S. is gravely threatening the peace and safety and driving the situation to the brink of a nuclear war,” North Korean officials said in a statement, according to KCNA. “This has created a dangerous situation in which thermos-nuclear war may break out at any moment.”

Satellite images emerged of North Korean infrastructure being erected on artificial islands in the Yellow Sea. It was unclear what, exactly, the mysterious construction was for, but experts said it was likely going to be used for some sort of military purpose, including missile launches.

In perhaps one of the most heated moments yet, North Korea accused U.S. officials of plotting to kill Kim Jong Un with a biochemical weapon. In a report released by state news outlet Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), North Korea alleged that the CIA, alongside a North Korean citizen and South Korean officials, attempted to kill the nation’s leader at a recent public event. No media outlets were able to verify the claims.

“This heinous crime, which was recently uncovered and smashed in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is a kind of terrorism against not only the DPRK but the justice and conscious of humankind and an act of mangling the future of mankind,” the ministry of state security said in a statement.

As relations between the two nations have become increasingly strained, President Donald Trump has voiced his own thoughts about a possible impending collision with North Korea.

“There is a chance that we could end up having a major, major conflict with North Korea,” Trump told Reuters in April. “We’d love to solve things diplomatically but it’s very difficult.”

Korea Plans On Sixth Nuclear Test

“I can say that the nuclear test will be conducted at the place and time as decided by our supreme leader, Kim Jong Un,” Choe told U.K.-based media agency Sky News.

Reports emerged last month claiming the reclusive, militarized state was planning a nuclear test on North Korea’s “Day of the Sun,” which commemorates the birthday of North Korea’s founder and Kim Jong Un’s grandfather, Kim Jong Il. President Donald Trump responded by sending a naval strike group to the region alongside vows to prevent Pyongyang from going through with such a test. The nuclear weapons test never occurred, but North Korea has publicly disavowed any foreign opposition to its nuclear program, even from its traditional ally, China, which also has criticized North Korea’s possession of weapons of mass destruction.

As the U.S. continues to pressure China to bring its neighbor to the negotiating table, Choe said Wednesday that North Korea was unphased by Trump’s threats. He cited Pyongyang’s decision to conduct two ballistic missile launches as evidence of the nation’s resolve. The two tests ultimately failed, but were condemned by the U.N. Security Council, which passed a U.S.-drafted statement threatening further action if Pyongyang did not end its nuclear program. Choe dismissed the U.S.’s rhetoric as empty because of North Korea’s nuclear arsenal, which he said would prevent the U.S. from intervening as it did “in weak countries, including Afghanistan and Libya.

“If the U.S. moves an inch, then we are ready to turn to ashes any available strategic assets of the U.S.,” Choe said.

“They cannot actually attack the strong countries, although they talk about it,” he later added. “We have to have nuclear power. We have shown our strong military power and nuclear power this April. Because of our strong military power, the U.S. could not attack us first.”


Commercial satellite imagery of the Punggye-ri Nuclear Test Facility, which 38 North says indicates an apparent resumption of activity in North Korea, is seen in this image from April 25 released on May 3, 2017. Airbus Defense & Space/38 North/Reuters

Recent satellite imagery has indicated new activity at North Korea’s Punggye-ri nuclear test site, a development that U.N. International Atomic Energy chief Yukiya Amano said Thursday gave the agency “concrete information that the nuclear program is going ahead.” A report on the site provided by analysts Joseph Bermudez and Jack Liu to North Korea monitoring group 38 North determined that “it is unclear if this activity indicates that a nuclear test has been canceled, the facility is in stand-by mode or that a test is imminent.”

North Korea is believed to possess 10 to 20 nuclear weapons and an arsenal of around 1000 ballistic missiles. Kim announced earlier this year that the country was in the final phases of developing an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of reaching the U.S., however, analysts have raised doubts as to how close North Korea is to producing such a projectile and to developing the technology required to fit a nuclear warhead onto it. The nation’s current military capabilities, however, put nearby U.S. allies such as South Korea and Japan, both of which host U.S. military installations, at risk of attack.