He referred to his trips as aiming at creating full understanding and coordination with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, reinforcing relations with regional countries and putting an end to tensions between Iraq and its neighbors.
by Eldar Mamedov
There are few people in the universe of US foreign policy with the standing and prestige of Henry Kissinger. He is still actively giving his opinions and recommendations on critical diplomatic issues. All the more concerning, then, that on some of them his analysis is increasingly out of touch with reality. The danger is that the Kissinger’s imprimatur confers on some seriously flawed ideas an intellectual respectability that would otherwise have been lacking. Relations with Iran are a case in point.
In a recent article Kissinger warned that the defeat of the so-called Islamic State (ISIS or IS) would lead to a consolidation of an “Iranian radical empire” if the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and their “Shiite allies” in Iraq and Syria inherit the territory currently occupied by IS.
Whatever the reasons prompting someone with the reputation of preeminent realist to parrot this neoconservative mantra, the talk of a “radical Iranian empire” is utter nonsense, with dangerous implications if followed by the policymakers.
The reality that escapes Kissinger is that Iran’s regional policy is of a fundamentally defensive nature. Unlike other states in the region, Iran has no external security provider. While Turkey is a member of NATO and Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries and Israel enjoy an extensive security relationship with the US, Iran can only rely on itself. The war with Iraq, when almost the entire world rallied behind Baghdad against Tehran, has made Iranians painfully aware of this reality, and to this day deeply permeates their security thinking.
To neutralize or mitigate threats, Iran has cultivated a network of allies and proxies in the Middle East, which could be deployed as a forward defense in order to keep threats away from Iran’s borders. Contrary to the myth of the Shiite character of the new empire Iran is supposedly building, these forces are neither ideologically nor religiously homogenous: the spectrum spans from conventional Shiite Islamists like Lebanese Hezbollah to secular dictators like Syria’s Bashar al-Assad to Sunni fundamentalists like Hamas and even to a flirtation with Wahhabi Qatar when the opportunity presented itself.
On the other hand, as the recent visit of politically prominent Iraqi Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr to Saudi Arabia has shown, Iran is very far from controlling the political life of what are supposed to be the integral parts of its “empire.” The government of Iraq, even if Shia-dominated, has never been Tehran’s puppet. Even if the majority of Iraqis are Shias, they are also Arabs, and it would be foolish to dismiss the potency of Arab nationalism.
There is no evidence whatsoever that the majority of Shias in Iraq—or other Arab countries where their presence is significant like Bahrain and Saudi Arabia—see themselves as part of a Persian-led “empire,” subscribe to the unorthodox velayat-e fakih (the rule of the religious jurist) import from Iran, or recognize the Ayatollah Khamenei, rather than, for example, Ayatollah Sistani, as their supreme spiritual and political authority. Any sympathy for Iran to be found in those countries is largely a product of severe domestic repression of the local Shias by the Sunni monarchies rather than an imperial Iranian design—a point that Kissinger conveniently neglects to mention.
Further to the west, Syria’s secular dictatorship has relied heavily on Iran for its survival. But Iran is not the only actor in the country. Assad’s regime also has close ties with Russia, who is on the same side as Iran in that country’s war but not with identical interests. And in Lebanon, although Hezbollah undoubtedly has close ideological and operational links with Iran, it is first and foremost a grassroots Lebanese organization: an ally, not a client, of Iran.
If Kissinger were right, then Iran would have been well on its way to imposing on the region the kind of top-down relationship enjoyed by the Soviet Union vis-à-vis its satellites in Central Europe after the defeat of the Nazi Germany. Yet, as the examples above suggest, Iran is simply not powerful enough to accomplish that even if it sincerely wanted to. As a result, Iran, like other regional players, has to adapt to a set of constantly shifting regional dynamics at least as much as it contributes to shaping them. Iran is an opportunist rather than an imperial power.
For the sake of argument, however, let’s imagine for a moment that Kissinger is right, that a “radical Iranian empire” is indeed in the cards, and that such a nefarious development must be prevented at all cost. Although he doesn’t say so directly, Kissinger is implying that the US has to ensure the survival of IS to balance the “Iranian empire.” Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), a close ally of President Trump, already muttered an idea along these lines in the wake of the IS-perpetrated terrorist attacks in Tehran in June this year. Although not even Iran uber-hawks support Rohrabacher’s loathsome views, this idea, when endorsed by someone of Kissinger’s stature, could become much more influential, especially in the current climate of demonization of Iran in Washington.
Although Iran is certainly not sinless, there is no reason to single it out as a uniquely malign influence in the region. And under no circumstances should the US even consider supporting or tolerating in any way a vicious terrorist organization like IS. To the contrary, its imminent defeat should be used by all responsible actors in the region and beyond as an opportunity to start talks on a truly inclusive, multilateral regional security arrangement, with the legitimate interests of all states on board. Nothing is to be gained by the perpetuation of zero-sum games of the sort advocated by Henry Kissinger in his latest, misguided essay.
This article reflects the personal views of the author and not necessarily the opinions of the European Parliament.
*This article was modified on August 11, 2017 to reflect Dana Rohrabacher’s party affiliation.
‘It was the most dangerous nuclear situation we have ever faced since I’ve been in the US government. It may be as close as we’ve come to a nuclear exchange. It was far more frightening than the Cuban missile crisis.’
— Richard J Kerr, former deputy director of the CIA, in an interview with reporter Seymour Hersh, describing the 1990 nuclear standoff between India and Pakistan.
In June 1989, Pakistan’s new prime minister, Benazir Bhutto, addressed a joint session of Congress in the US, where she said, ‘Speaking for Pakistan, I can declare that we do not possess, nor do we intend to make, a nuclear device.’ I was present when she made that public testimony. It was an outright lie to Congress. But she just did not know it. When she was accused of lying, I came to her defence. She did not know about the nuclear weapons because the ISI never told her. They had developed a bomb without the approval or the knowledge of the prime minister and Parliament. Incredible!
The incident testifies to the power that the ISI wields in the Pakistani political system. When I spoke privately with her at a prayer breakfast during that same visit, she told me how hopeless she felt trying to govern when the ISI, with American generals coaxing them on, controlled everything in Pakistan. Consequently, I was disappointed when President Bush followed Reagan’s lead and, once again, issued a certification that Pakistan did not possess a nuclear weapon, in October 1989. An exasperated Senator Glenn took to the floor of the Senate in November of that year to protest this certification, asserting that:
‘I must conclude that the President had to make the most narrow possible interpretation of law to conclude that Pakistan does not possess the bomb — a statement I find very difficult to accept and really believe. To me, the President’s action represents both bad policy and a disservice to a good law.’
Almost a year after the Soviet Army had withdrawn from Afghanistan, why did we feel the need to continue to funnel aid to Pakistan? I could not understand it. In October 1990, five years after the Pressler Amendment became law, President Bush finally invoked it. Why did President Bush enforce the law when President Reagan did not? Maybe it had something to do with the nuclear face-off between India and Pakistan in May 1990, a nuclear catastrophe narrowly avoided but kept largely under wraps by the US government until journalist Seymour Hersh revealed the details in an article in the New Yorker magazine on 29 March 1993.
The National Security Agency (NSA) had intercepted an order from the Pakistan Army’s chief of staff, General Mirza Aslam Baig, to actually assemble a nuclear weapon. The situation quickly escalated as India prepared an offensive ground strike into Pakistan and Pakistan planned to preempt this ground invasion with a nuclear hit on New Delhi. A quick intervention by American diplomats, including Robert Gates (who later served as President George W Bush’s and President Obama’s secretary of defense), was planned. Gates and his team were dispatched to the region to meet with the leaders of both India and Pakistan. They convinced both countries to stand down and move their troops away from the border. India agreed to improve the human rights conditions in Kashmir, and Pakistan agreed to shut down insurgent training camps in Kashmir. All sides agreed and war was averted, but many involved in the event consider it to be the closest the world has come to a nuclear exchange since the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962.
Everyone in Washington who was involved in non-proliferation knew about this crisis before Hersh’s article was published a few years later, but no one talked about it publicly. After this crisis, making the certification required under the Pressler Amendment was going to be very difficult and the State Department knew it. In August 1990, the department sent a ‘Top Secret’ memorandum to Brent Scowcroft, the President’s national security adviser. In it were recommendations that President Bush send letters to both Pakistan’s Prime Minister Bhutto and President Ghulam Ishaque Khan. The memo and draft letters, recently declassified and released, outlined a proposed diplomatic strategy that would allow President Bush to rationalise the Pressler Amendment annual certification. ‘We believe that non-certification would spark an accelerated Indo-Pak nuclear race, putting the pronuclear elements in both governments under highly public and emotional pressure to move ahead full tilt.’ Weren’t they already moving ahead ‘full tilt’ — with American taxpayers’ support?
The memo went on to recommend asking Pakistan,
to demonstrate tangibly that it is complying with the three steps we had earlier told them are essential for certification (cease production of highly enriched uranium, refrain from production of highly enriched uranium metal, ensure that Pakistan does not possess any highly enriched uranium metal in the form of nuclear device components).
The State Department made it clear they believed that Pakistan would never allow US officials to inspect its nuclear facilities:
Demanding inspection of all Pakistan’s HEU [highly enriched uranium] has almost no chance of acceptance. In these circumstances, if we believe the Pressler standard can be met with less than [an] inspection of HEU, we should not limit the President’s ability to certify by setting our standards at an unrealistically high level.
Essentially, the State Department was arguing that President Bush should be satisfied with Pakistan’s stated intentions. I could not understand how we could ever be satisfied by Pakistan’s promises. They were empty. President Bush obviously agreed. Two months later, he finally invoked the Pressler Amendment and refused to certify to Congress that Pakistan did not have a nuclear weapon. He bucked the State Department. How could he ever have made any other choice? Bush’s action stunned the world — and particularly the Octopus*. I was so happy and proud that Bush took this bold action. It was risky, because he might have incurred the wrath of all those who stood to gain from arms sales to Pakistan, including the delivery of numerous fighter jets with a nuclear delivery capability.
*By the Octopus, what is being referred to, is Washington, or the Military Industrial State. Andrew J Bacevich Sr, a professor at Boston University, and respected American military historian, wrote about the ‘Octopus’ in his book titled ‘American Rules’:
As used here, Washington (the Military Industrial State) is less geographic expression than a set of interlocking institutions headed by people, who, whether acting officially or unofficially, are able to put a thumb on the helm of state. Washington (the Military Industrial State), in this sense, includes the upper echelons of the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of the federal government. It encompasses the principal components of the national security state — the Departments of Defense, State, and more recently, Homeland Security, along with various agencies comprising the intelligence and law enforcement communities. Its rank extends to select think tanks and interest groups. Lawyers, lobbyists, fixers, former officials, and retired military officers who still enjoy access are members in good standing. Yet Washington (the Military Industrial State) also reaches beyond the Washington ‘Beltway’ to include big banks and other financial institutions, defense contractors, and major corporations, and television networks . . . With rare exceptions, acceptance of the Washington (the Military Industrial State) rules forms a prerequisite for entry into this world.
Published Date: Aug 05, 2017 03:33 pm | Updated Date: Aug 05, 2017 03:37 pm
Tensions are growing between India and Pakistan over the disputed territory of Jammu and Kashmir. So far this month, 11 people have been killed and another 18 injured amid violations of the ceasefire along the line of control. RIA Novosti contributor Ilya Plekhanov warns that the conflict risks turning into a threat to global stability.
So far in the month of July, nearly a dozen people have been killed, with 4,000 more forced to leave their homes amid rising tensions on the line of control, the military delineation between the Indian and Pakistani-controlled portions of Jammu and Kashmir. Delhi and Islamabad have traded accusations over the crossfire.
The Indian Defense Ministry accused Pakistani forces of targeting civilians in artillery attacks. Meanwhile, following ceasefire violations on July 21, Pakistan blamed India for violating ceasefire norms, and summoned the Indian deputy high commissioner to discuss the issue.
Amid the flaring of tensions, Indian ex-minister of information and broadcasting Venkaiah Naidu, recently nominated as the National Democratic Alliance party’s candidate for vice president, said on Sunday that Pakistan should remember its loss in the 1971 India-Pakistan War, after which Bangladesh broke with Islamabad and gained independence.
Meanwhile, last week, former Indian defense minister and opposition Samajwadi party chairman Mulayam Signh Yadav claimed that China was preparing to attack India, and was looking to use the Pakistani nuclear arsenal against Delhi.
Earlier this year, analysts told The New York Times that there was circumstantial evidence to suggest that Delhi was considering a reinterpretation of its nuclear doctrine, which presently prohibits the first use of nuclear weapons. Under the current doctrine, India prescribes the use of its nuclear arsenal for a massed retaliatory strike against enemy cities in the event of a Pakistani attack.
Now, experts warn, the Indian military is considering modifying its doctrine to include limited preemptive strikes against Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal, ostensibly for self-defense. For now, the idea remains speculation, and based on an analysis of recent statements by Indian officials.
According to RIA Novosti contributor Ilya Plekhanov, such speculation even carries the risk of pushing Pakistan to increase its own nuclear capabilities, and unleashing a nuclear arms race between the two nuclear powers. Secondly, the journalist warned, a revision of India’s doctrine could lead Islamabad to consider any escalation as a pretext for an Indian first strike.
India and Pakistan are estimated to have stockpiles of about 120-130 and 130-140 warheads each, respectively. Indian delivery systems include the Prithvi and Agni short, medium and intermediate range missiles, as well as a submarine-launched intercontinental ballistic missile (currently under development). Pakistan, meanwhile, possesses the Babur short to medium range nuclear-tipped cruise missile, nuclear-capable medium range ballistic missiles, and is reported to be testing new air- and sea-launched cruise missile systems, as well as nuclear-capable tactical missiles.
The long range ballistic Agni-V missile is displayed during Republic Day parade, in New Delhi, India.
© AP Photo/ Manish Swarup
The long range ballistic Agni-V missile is displayed during Republic Day parade, in New Delhi, India.
Earlier this year, Pakistan accused India of speeding up its nuclear program, and of preparing for the production of up to 2,600 nuclear warheads. In early July, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute’s report on global nuclear arsenals said that both countries are expanding their nuclear weapons stockpiles, and developing new delivery capabilities.
Last week, Pakistan Army brigadier (ret.) Feroz Khan, an expert on Pakistan’s nuclear program, told a panel in Washington that Islamabad’s doctrine on the use of nuclear weapons was similar to the one NATO had during the Cold War, when alliance policy was to use tactical nukes against advancing Warsaw Pact forces in the event of war.
Indians critical of Pakistan’s nuclear posture say that Islamabad uses its nuclear status to provide cover for terrorist attacks against India in the state of Jammu and Kashmir.
Meanwhile, Plekhanov wrote, for India, Pakistan’s arsenal of tactical nuclear has become a strategic problem. “If Pakistan uses only tactical nuclear weapons, and only on the battlefield, then an Indian response involving the bombing of Pakistani cities would make look Delhi look very bad. Hence the talk in India about changing the interpretation of their doctrine, including the elimination of Pakistani arsenals before they are put into operation.”
Donald Trump’s arrival in the White House is another reason for growing Indian assertiveness, the journalist added. “India believes that with the new American president, it will have much more decision-making freedom in its nuclear policy. US-Pakistani relations under Trump are also on the decline; Washington has stopped considering Islamabad a reliable ally in the fight against militants in Afghanistan. India, naturally, is reassured by this.”
Pakistan Army firing NASR missile, July 2017
© Youtube/Pakistan Defence Official
Pakistan Army firing NASR missile, July 2017
Ultimately, Plekhanov warned that the growing tension on the Indian subcontinent could lead to disastrous consequences. “An escalation in Jammu and Kashmir, or a major terrorist attack in India, like the one on Mumbai, may very well serve as a trigger, kicking off a chain of events and leading to a preventative nuclear strike by one side against the other.”
“The main problem,” the journalist stressed, was that “no one knows exactly what criteria Pakistan has for the use of its nuclear weapons, or what exactly it may consider as the formal beginning of a war by India. The second problem is that terrorist attacks in India may not be connected to Pakistan at all, but that it will be very difficult to convince the Indian side of this.”
A 2008 study focused on the environmental consequences of a nuclear war between India and Pakistan by researchers from the University of Colorado and the University of California found that although the two countries nuclear arsenals are small, their use would lead to a climate catastrophe resulting in mass famine.
As a result, according to the study, about 1 billion people would die in the space of a decade. In other words, Plekhanov noted, “it seems that the distant problem concerning India and Pakistan” is not so distant after all, and “concerns the whole world.”
The agreement to help “combat terrorism” was signed a day after the Iraqi prime minister Haider Al Abadi said Shiite militias backed by Iran would remain an integral part of the state.
Iranian military advisers have played a key role in the campaign to drive ISIL from territory seized by the extremist group in 2014 and the militias, known as Hashed Al Shaabi, have also fought against the extremists along with Iraq’s regular military and police.
But the militias have been accused of abuses against Sunni populations in areas recaptured by government forces and there are fears over their future role in the country.
The agreement between Iran and Iraq, which extends “cooperation and exchanging experiences in fighting terrorism” was signed in Tehran by the Iranian defence minister Hossein Dehghan and his Iraqi counterpart, Erfan Al Hiyali.
The agreement also covered border security, logistics and training, the Iranian official news agency IRNA reported.
Since the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq, Iran’s influence in the country has increased, empowering Shiite leaders and leaving Sunni populations neglected and resentful of the central government, which contributed to the rise of ISIL.
With the extremists defeated in Mosul, the last major city under its control, many Sunnis are fearful of a sectarian backlash as the country tries to rebuild.
The role of the Hashed Al Shaabi in Iraq has been an issue of widespread contention and will be a key issue in elections next year.
The government passed a bill in November that made the Hashed a legitimate entity of Iraq’s security forces and on Saturday Mr Al Abadi declared after meeting militias commanders that “the forces are an essential and neutral security entity and will remain within the structure of the Iraqi state”.
While maintaining that “the state is the main leader” of the security structure in the country, he said the Hashed “is a neutral security establishment, and it is here to stay”.
“It is our duty to protect it, because we are one,” Mr Al Abadi added.
The announcement is the clearest sign of support from the prime minister for the Hashed’s continued role in Iraq after ISIL’s defeat. While his predecessor, Nouri Al Malaki, was widely condemned for his sectarian policies, Mr Al Abadi has been more conciliatory.
He has condemned sectarian violence carried out by the militias and tried to build ties with Sunni countries in the region. Last month, he travelled to Jeddah and met King Salman after the Saudi foreign minister visited Baghdad in February.
But the Hashed endorsement will raise concerns among Sunni leaders in Iraq.
Sarah Allawi, advisor to Iraqi vice president Ayad Allawi, said: “We thank the security forces for their efforts in liberating Mosul from ISIL – however we now are entering a new phase rebuilding Iraq post ISIL, which is aiming to achieve national reconciliation between political forces.”
The Hashed are an amalgamation of various subgroups with allegiances to Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Iraq’s top Shiite clerics Ali Al Sistani and Muqtada Al Sadr, according to a report on the militias by the Carnegie Middle East Center.
“Some subgroups have assumed political roles and will seek to leverage their roles in combatting ISIL to win votes in Iraq’s 2018 elections,” said the report.
For militia members, the legitimacy of their struggle against ISIL is a direct result of a fatwa issued by Ali Al Sistani in response to the fall of Mosul in 2014 in which he called the fight a “sacred defence”.
“As of November 2016 and the passing of the Hashed Al Shaabi law, the Hashed has become a formally institutionalised part of Iraq’s security apparatus tied to the office of the commander-in-chief,” said Fanar Haddad, senior research fellow in the National University of Singapore.
“However, unlike other security units, disbanding the Hashed would not be a straightforward administrative procedure given their immense popularity and legitimacy amongst many Iraqis and given the Hashed’s powerful backers in Iraq and Iran”.
The Hashed’s role in defeating ISIL has also given them support from other sections of Iraq and not just Shiites.
“The fact is that the Hashed will be a permanent feature of Iraq’s social, political and military landscapes for the foreseeable future,” Mr Haddad added.
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.
(CNSNews.com) – Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif on Monday accused Saudi Arabia of sponsoring Iran’s enemies, ranging from the exiled opposition movement to the perpetrators of a terrorist attack targeting parliament in Tehran last month.
The kingdom did so, he said at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, because it hates the fact that Iran enjoys what it does not – democracy.
Zarif characterized Shi’ite Iran as the victim of Sunni-sponsored terrorism. In fact, the U.S. government has long maintained that Iran is the world’s leading state-sponsor of terrorism.
In conversation with CFR president Richard Haass, Zarif attributed extremism in the region both to a history of foreign intervention and to frustration of people living in countries where they have no ability to vote for their leaders.
He made it clear he was referring in the latter instance to Arab Gulf states. They and other Sunni countries made common cause against Iran with President Trump during last May’s U.S.-Arab-Islamic summit in Riyadh.
Haass then asked Zarif about a comment last May by Mohammed bin Salman – then Saudi deputy crown prince, now crown prince – who said he would work to ensure that the fight for regional influence takes place “inside Iran, not in Saudi Arabia.”
Asked what he made of that, Zarif said the comment amounted to a threat – “and a threat they have been trying to make real for some time, by helping terrorist organizations.”
“You saw them participating in person in the rallies in Paris of terrorist organizations, who are chanting outside this hall too. They were there. They support various terrorist organizations who are operating from Pakistan, and finally they were able to bring some of them to our parliament – the place they hate the most because that reflects something that we have that they don’t and that is a type of democracy.”
“They brought terrorism to Iran,” he said.
He accused the regime of pursuing “expansionist ambitions, criminal practices, interferences in the internal affairs of other countries, flagrant violations of the international law, and violations of the principles of good-neighborliness, coexistence and mutual respect.”
Iran rejects claims of support for terrorism, charging that it is the West and its Sunni Arab allies that are sponsoring terrorists like ISIS, while insisting that it supports only legitimate “resistance” groups – its label for terrorist groups like Hezbollah and Hamas.
Zarif’s claim that Iran’s foes do not enjoy democracy points to the fact that Saudi Arabia, ruled by a royal family, does not hold national elections. Until 2015 it did not even allow women to stand or to vote in municipal elections.
Iran does hold elections, of a sort. In the most recent presidential election, in May, a small body appointed by supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei disqualified more than 1,600 aspiring candidates, allowing just six to run. Two dropped out shortly before election day and President Hasan Rouhani won a second term. Khamenei wields overall power.
The Washington-based democracy watchdog Freedom House ranks both countries as “not free,” although its current annual evaluation of political rights and civil liberties gives Iran marginally better scores than Saudi Arabia.
Image: National Nuclear Security Administration Nevada Site Office Photo Library/Wikimedia Commons
With the Cold War a fading memory, some nuclear powers have adopted strategies allowing for limited nuclear strikes. But a disturbing new study shows that even small batches of nukes can have disastrous environmental consequences on a global scale.
In the 1980s, experts warned of a nuclear winter—a severe and protracted global cooling event triggered by an all-out nuclear war. A new study published in Environment Magazine warns that a scaled down version of a nuclear winter is still possible through the application of limited nuclear strikes, and that these so-called “nuclear autumns” could be caused by as few as five conventional nuclear bombs—and possibly even just one. The paper is a grim wakeup call for military planners who think small batches of nukes won’t result in severe environmental consequences.
Back during the Cold War, with the globe basically divided into two hostile camps, our civilization faced the threat of an all-out, Armageddon-inducing nuclear war between the United States and the Soviet Union. The prospect of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD), it can be argued, prevented such a horrendous conflagration from transpiring.
But we no longer live in a bipolar world, and some nuclear powers are starting to adopt tactical doctrines that allow for limited nuclear strikes and the first use of nuclear weapons. The Russians, for example, have said they’d use limited nukes to deter or end conventional wars. The US, perhaps bound by its NATO obligations, might decide to use limited nukes when defending an ally. Alternately, it could drop a bomb or two on a country following a biological or chemical attack, or as a way to bring a“rogue” state under control.
A weird sort of complacency appears to have settled in as regards the limited use of nukes, but Adam Liska and his colleagues from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln are hoping to crush any illusions we might have about these horrific weapons.
With the help of Robert Oglesby, a professor of Earth and atmospheric sciences, and Eric Holley, an expert in use of natural resources, Liska analyzed publically available data on 19 types of weapons held by five major nuclear powers: the USA, Russia, China, the UK, and France. With this information, the researchers then calculated how many bombs in each category of strength would be sufficient to trigger a nuclear autumn, also known as a “nuclear drought.”
As previous work has pointed out, the nuking of a sufficiently large city would be enough to generate a global-scale nuclear autumn. Take Los Angeles, for example, a city that extends for 500 square miles. The explosion and resulting fires would send an estimated 5.5 million tons of ash and soot into the stratosphere, causing sunlight, temperatures, and rainfall to temporarily decrease around the world. Globally, this would result in diminished growing seasons for the next half-decade, and temperatures would be the lowest in a thousand years. In some parts of the world, rainfall would be down by as much as 80 percent.
But unlike this earlier work, which focused on relatively small, 15-kiloton nukes exploding over cities, the new study looked at whether today’s more powerful weapons could trigger nuclear autumn all on their own. They can. Liska and his colleagues found that the US, Russia, and China all have weapons that could trigger a nuclear autumn through the detonation of fewer than five bombs. This includes nuclear warheads placed atop air-dropped bombs, intercontinental ballistic missiles, and land-based missiles. Frighteningly, China—with its five megaton bombs—could cause a nuclear autumn with the launch of a single missile.
“As long as conventional nuclear weapons are prevalent, the breadth of existing research indicates that the question is not whether a nuclear drought can occur, but what factors increase its probability of occurring and what actions can be taken to mitigate the potentially devastating global impacts,” conclude the authors in the study.
This may be more than a depressing thought-exercise. With North Korea now apparently in the possession of intercontinental ballistic missiles, and with international relations steadily degrading among the various nation states of the world, the prospect of a country opting to use its nukes is only increasing.
On a positive note, a global treaty was signed last week that could eventually lead to the decommissioning of all nuclear weapons and forever prohibit their use. Called the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, it provides a path for nuclear powers to join in. But will they?
July 03, 2017 00:02 GMT
The number of nuclear weapons in the world is continuing to decline, but nations possessing such arsenals are modernizing their stockpile and are not likely to give them up for the foreseeable future, a new study says.
Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) on July 3 said nine countries possessed about 4,150 operationally deployed nuclear weapons.
If all nuclear weapons are counted, the figure comes to 14,935, down from 15,395 a year earlier, it said.
It listed the countries with nuclear weapons as the United States, Russia, the United Kingdom, France, China, India, Pakistan, Israel, and North Korea.
At the top of the list is Russia, with 1,950 deployed warheads and 5,050 other warheads. At the bottom was North Korea, which SIPRI listed as having 10-20 other warheads.
The United States has 1,800 deployed warheads and 5,000 other warheads.
The other countries were listed with total warheads of below 300 each.
The report said “deployed warheads” refers to those placed on missiles or located on bases with operational forces.
“Other warheads” are those held in reserve or out of service and awaiting dismantlement.
“The decrease in the overall number of nuclear weapons in the world is due mainly to Russia and the USA — which together still account for nearly 93 per cent of all nuclear weapons—further reducing their inventories of strategic nuclear weapons,” the report said.
It said, though, that both countries have “expensive nuclear modernization programs under way.”
‘Despite the recent progress in international talks on a treaty banning nuclear weapons, long-term modernization programs are under way in all nine states,’ SIPRI Senior Researcher Shannon Kile said.
“This suggests that none of these states will be prepared to give up their nuclear arsenals for the foreseeable future,” he added.