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.

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.”

The First Nuclear War (Revelation 8)

‘Limited’ Nuclear Strikes Could Still Wreak Climate Havoc

Image: National Nuclear Security Administration Nevada Site Office Photo Library/Wikimedia Commons

George Dvorsky

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?

Nuclear Horns Continue to Grow (Daniel 7)

Nuclear Powers Cut Weapons Numbers But Increase Modernization: Study

July 03, 2017 00:02 GMT

RFE/RL

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.”

For example, it said, the United States “plans to spend $400 billion in 2017–26 on maintaining and comprehensively updating its nuclear forces.”

‘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.

The Increasing Risk Of Nuclear War

What factors make nuclear war more likely?

BY DAVID KRIEGER, OPINION CONTRIBUTOR

We know that the risk of nuclear war is not zero. Humans are not capable of creating foolproof systems. Nuclear weapons systems are particularly problematic since the possession of nuclear weapons carries an implicit threat of use under certain circumstances. In accord with nuclear deterrence theory, a country threatens to use nuclear weapons, believing that it will prevent the use of nuclear weapons against it.

Nearly 15,000 nuclear weapons are currently under the control of nine countries. Each has a complex system of command and control with many possibilities for error, accident or intentional use.

Error could be the result of human or technological factors, or some combination of human and technological interaction. During the more than seven decades of the Nuclear Age, there have been many accidents and close calls that could have resulted in nuclear disaster. The world narrowly escaped a nuclear war between the United States and Soviet Union during the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.

Human factors include miscommunications, misinterpretations and psychological issues. Some leaders believe that threatening behavior makes nuclear deterrence more effective, but it could also result in a preventive first-strike launch by the side being threatened. Psychological pathologies among those in control of nuclear weapons could also play a role. Hubris, or extreme arrogance, is another factor of concern.

Technological factors include computer errors that wrongfully show a country is under nuclear attack. Such false warnings have occurred on numerous occasions but, fortunately, human interactions (often against policy and/or orders) have so far kept a false warning from resulting in a mistaken “retaliatory” attack. In times of severe tensions, a technological error could compound the risks, and human actors might decide to initiate a first strike.

There are many other factors that affect the risk of nuclear war. These include an increase in the number of countries possessing nuclear weapons and a greater number of nuclear weapons in each country’s nuclear arsenal. Both of these factors increase complexity and make the risk greater. Additionally, the higher the alert status of a country’s nuclear arsenal, the shorter the decision time to launch and the greater the risk of nuclear war. The risks are compounded when tension levels increase between nuclear-armed countries, increasing the likelihood of false assumptions and precipitous action.

Nuclear policies of the nuclear-armed countries can also raise the risk level of nuclear war. Policies of first use of nuclear weapons may make an opponent more likely to initiate a first strike and thus make a nuclear war more likely. First use is generally a default policy, if a country does not specifically pledge a policy of no first use, as have China and India. Policies of launch-on-warning cut into decision time for leaders to decide whether or not to launch a “retaliatory” strike to what may be a false warning The deployment of land-based missiles also raises the risk level due to the “use them or lose them” nature of these stationary targets.

In addition to identifiable risks of nuclear war, there are also unknown risks — those that cannot be identified in advance. Unknown risks include little-understood possibilities for cyber-attacks on nuclear weapons systems, attacks that could potentially either activate or deactivate nuclear-armed missile launches.

Given the catastrophic consequences of nuclear war, including destruction of civilization and human extinction, identifying and eliminating the factors making nuclear war likely or even possible is imperative. There are simply too many possibilities for failure in such a complex system of interactions.

This leads to the conclusion that the risks are untenable, and all nations should move rapidly to negotiate the elimination of all nuclear arms. While doing so, nations would be well served to adopt and declare policies of no first use and no launch-on-warning, and to eliminate vulnerable land-based missiles from their arsenals.

David Krieger is president of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation. He is the author of Zero: The Case for Nuclear Weapons Abolition.

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

Falling on Trump’s Deaf Ears

McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, met Sartaj Aziz, Pakistan’s top foreign policy official, and also met army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa.

“Our relationship is more important perhaps than ever before,” McCain told Pakistan TV as he left the meeting.

U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration is exploring hardening its approach toward Islamabad over Pakistan-based militants launching attacks in Afghanistan, two U.S. officials told Reuters last month.

“We will not have peace in the region without Pakistan,” McCain, who was accompanied by senators Lindsey Graham, Elizabeth Warren, Sheldon Whitehouse and David Perdue, said later.

Aziz, who is Special Adviser to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs because PM Nawaz Sharif holds the Foreign Ministry portfolio himself, said that the strategic partnership between Pakistan and the United States was “was critical to achieve peace and stability in the region and beyond”.

U.S. officials say they seek greater cooperation with Pakistan, not a rupture in ties, after the review the 16-year-old war in Afghanistan, due in mid-July, where some 8,800 U.S. troops remain to support the Western-backed government.

Experts on America’s longest war say militant safe havens in Pakistan have allowed Taliban-linked insurgents a place to plot attacks in Afghanistan and regroup after ground offensives. Critics say Islamabad is not doing enough to crack down on militants such as the Taliban-affiliated Haqqani network.

Pakistan argues that it has done a great deal to help the U.S. in tracking down terrorists and points out that it has suffered hundreds of deaths in Islamist militants attacks in response to its crackdowns.

Pakistan last week also reacted sharply when the U.S. State Department on June 26 designated as a terrorist Syed Salahuddin, leader of the largest Kashmiri militant group fighting against Indian rule, accusing the U.S. of acquiescing to the wishes of visiting Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The Sunni Horn is Destroyed (Daniel 8)

Khamenei’s representative says Islamic state’s Baghdadi ‘definitely dead’: IRNA

A man purported to be the reclusive leader of the militant Islamic State Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has made what would be his first public appearance at a mosque in the centre of Iraq’s second city, Mosul, according to a video recording posted on the Internet on July 5, 2014, in this still image taken from video. REUTERS/Social Meda Website via Reuters TV
Iran’s state news agency quoted a representative of Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Thursday as saying Islamic State’s leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was “definitely dead”.

“Terrorist Baghdadi is definitely dead,” IRNA quoted cleric Ali Shirazi, representative to the Quds Force, as saying, without elaborating. IRNA later updated the news item, omitting the quote on Baghdadi’s death.

The Quds Force is in charge of operations outside Iran’s borders by the country’s elite Revolutionary Guard Corps. Iranian Foreign Ministry officials were not available to comment on the report of Baghdadi’s death.

The secretive Islamic State leader has frequently been reported killed or wounded since he declared a caliphate to rule over all Muslims from a mosque in Mosul in 2014, after his fighters seized large areas of northern Iraq.

Russia said on June 17 its forces might have killed Baghdadi in an air strike in Syria. Washington said on Thursday it had no information to corroborate such reports. Iraqi officials have also been skeptical in recent weeks.

(Writing by Parisa Hafezi; editing by Andrew Roche)

US Tells Pakistan to Stop Terrorism

US, India tell Pakistan: Don’t let terrorists use your territory

BilkulOnline.com

Washington, June 28 : Pakistan was put on notice by the US and India who called for rooting out terrorists’ safe havens and to fight groups including Pak-based Jaish-e-Mohammad, Lashkar-e-Taiba and D-company even as the two countries decided to broaden their strategic, defence and economic relationship.

The new direction in the bilateral relationship came during the summit meeting on Monday night between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Donald Trump who met for the first time six months after the host’s election to the top office.

The two leaders also told Pakistan to ensure that its territory is not used for terror attacks on other countries and asked it to bring to justice terrorists blamed for attacks in Mumbai and other places in India.

“The leaders stressed that terrorism is a global scourge that must be fought and terrorist safe havens rooted out in every part of the world. They resolved that India and the US will fight together against this grave challenge to humanity.

“They committed to strengthen cooperation against terrorist threats from groups including Al Qaeda, ISIS, Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), D-Company and their affiliates,” said the joint statement issued after their meeting.

India appreciated the US designating the Pakistan-based Hizbul Mujahideen leader Syed Salahuddin as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist — just ahead of the Trump-Modi meet of Monday — “as evidence of the commitment of the US to end terror in all its forms”.

The statement specifically referred to the terror attacks in Mumbai (2008) and Pathankot (2016) that it said were perpetrated by Pakistan-based groups and said the terrorists must be expeditiously brought to justice.

The LeT was blamed for the Mumbai mayhem of November 2008 that killed 166 Indians and foreigners including Americans. The Jaish was accused of attacking the Indian Air Force base at Pathankot in Punjab, leaving seven security personnel dead.

Also, in their joint remarks to the media after delegation level talks, both Modi and Trump spoke of their commitment to combat terrorism.

Modi said battling terror and destroying terrorist hideouts would be an important part of mutual cooperation.

“We will enhance the intelligence exchange to boost coordination to address our common concerns over terrorism and will deepen our policy coordination accordingly.”

Modi said the two countries had agreed to increase cooperation to tackle increasing radicalisation, extremism and terrorism.

Trump said both India and the US had been struck by terrorism, “and we are both determined to destroy terrorist organisations and the radical ideology that drives them.

“We will destroy radical Islamic terrorism,” he said.

“Our militaries are working every day to enhance cooperation between our military forces. And next month, they will join together with the Japanese navy to take place in the largest maritime exercise ever conducted in the vast Indian Ocean.”

Answering questions later, Indian Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar said the US move to declare Syed Salahuddin as a global terrorist had sent a clear signal.

“You should take the step for what it is. It is in a sense fixing responsibility, highlighting a problem.

“There is a context to it… It is focusing on a particular group and a particular individual… I think none of us can really miss that message.”

The Foreign Secretary said there was a broad discussion on Pakistan. It was also extensive and very detailed on certain issues.

“We had very much converging viewpoint of what is the problem, let us diagnose the problem. And it is not just the Indian situation… A lot of discussion related to what was happening in Afghanistan.”

On economic cooperation, the two countries said they plan to undertake a comprehensive review of trade relations to expedite regulatory processes and increase market access in areas such as agriculture, information technology and manufactured goods and services.

They also resolved to pursue increased commercial engagement in a manner that advances the principles of free and fair trade.

“Prime Minister Modi and President Trump looked forward to conclusion of contractual agreements between Westinghouse Electric Company and the Nuclear Power Corporation of India for six nuclear reactors in India and also related project financing,” the statement said.

Against the backdrop of Trump’s remarks against India and China regarding the Paris climate change agreement, the statement said the two leaders called for a rational approach that balances environment and climate policy, global economic development and energy security needs.

The US cleared the sale of Guardian drones to India with the two countries pledging to deepen their defence and security cooperation.

The statement said that the two countries look forward to working together on advanced defence equipment and technology “at a level commensurate with that of the closest allies and partners of the United States.”

“Reflecting the partnership, the United States has offered for India’s consideration the sale of Sea Guardian Unmanned Aerial Systems, which would enhance India’s capabilities and promote shared security interests,” it said.

The United States expressed strong support for India’s early membership in the Nuclear Suppliers Group, the Wassenaar Arrangement and the Australia Group.

It also reaffirmed the support of the United States for India’s permanent membership of a reformed U.N. Security Council .

Ex-Nuke Commanders Worry About Nuclear War (Revelation 15)

A man passes by a TV news program in May in South Korea showing a file image of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. The letters read: “North Korea launched a missile on April 29.” | AP Photo

An international group of ex-nuclear commanders Wednesday issued the first in a series of recommendations to world leaders to head off the rising threat of a nuclear war — calling on the Trump administration to open direct talks with North Korea, urging the United States, Russia and NATO to immediately establish military-to-military talks, and calling on India and Pakistan to set up a nuclear hotline.

“The Nuclear Crisis Group assesses that the risk of nuclear weapons use, intended or otherwise, is unacceptably high and that all states must take constructive steps to reduce these risks,” the former military and diplomatic leaders — from nations as diverse as Russia, China, India, Pakistan, and the United States — write in an 11-page report about what they consider the biggest nuclear flashpoints.

The crisis group was established earlier this year under the auspices of Global Zero, an leading arms control organization that supports the ultimate abolition of nuclear weapons.

A primary concern is the deteriorating situation with North Korea, which continues to test long-range missiles and prepare additional nuclear tests, and has been the focus of rising threats from President Donald Trump. Among the group’s recommendations: “To reduce immediate nuclear risks, the United States and North Korea should resume bilateral discussions immediately without preconditions.”

It also calls on Washington and Pyongyang to “refrain from nuclear threats and adopt nuclear no-first-use statements” and to further reduce tensions the U.S. should “suspend flights of strategic bombers and visits by strategic submarines in return for key commensurate restraints by North Korea.”

The calls for action on North Korea coincided with a letter Wednesday to Trump from a bipartisan group of former top U.S. leaders — including former secretaries of State, Defense and Energy — also urging him to open direct talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

“Tightening sanctions can be useful in increasing pressure on North Korea, but sanctions alone will not solve the problem,” the letter states. “Pyongyang has shown it can make progress on missile and nuclear technology despite its isolation. Without a diplomatic effort to stop its progress, there is little doubt that it will develop a long-range missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead to the United States.”

The letter to Trump was signed by William Perry, former secretary of Defense under Bill Clinton; George Shultz, secretary of State under Ronald Reagan; Robert Gallucci, who was was chief U.S. negotiator during the North Korean nuclear crisis of 1994; Siegfried Hecker, the former director of the Los Alamos National Laboratory, who has visited North Korea seven times; former Republican Sen. Richard Lugar, who chaired the Foreign Relations Committee; and Bill Richardson, a former secretary of Energy and another frequent visitor to the isolated communist regime.

On Russia, the report from the former nuclear commanders says the escalating standoff between the United States and its European allies and Moscow also requires urgent action by all parties, including limiting the size, nature and secrecy of military exercises.

“I think the consensus here is that Russia is a much dicier story than people understand, with the intercepts in the air and all the rest,” said Bruce Blair, co-founder of Global Zero and a former nuclear missile officer, referring to recent military confrontations between the U.S. and Russian militaries. “The gravity and the potential for escalation have been widely underestimated. We worry about Russian escalation to the use of nuclear weapons.”

Among its recommendations, the group calls for leaders to “urgently resume effective US-Russia and NATO-Russia high-level dialogues and military-to-military discussions.”

They also call on Trump and President Vladimir Putin to agree to extend the 2012 New START nuclear arms reduction treaty between the United States and Russia when they meet in Germany next week.

“Crisis instability between the United States and Russia remains unacceptably high,” says the report. “There is growing concern that military and doctrinal moves by NATO and Russia could provoke a conflict with nuclear ramifications.”

The group also offers a series of recommendations to lower nuclear dangers in South Asia, where the arsenals of India and Pakistan are considered particularly destabilizing because they do not have the same of security procedures as other nuclear powers.

“They lack safety features and the risk they would detonate from an accident is uncomfortably high,” said Blair. “They have not developed the safety features that the U.S. and Russia have,”

Another area of high concern not receiving enough attention is the potential for a cyberattack on nuclear command and control systems.

“All states with nuclear should also consider establishing a formal dialogue to prevent cyber-based interference in nuclear operations, command-and-control and early warning capabilities,” the report says. “The growth and uncertainties surrounding national offensive cyber capabilities must be walled off from nuclear operations and early warning to protect against a new dangerous potential source of instability and crisis manipulation.

Added Blair: “Two or more of these crises could develop simultaneously and we have a vacuum of leadership in the world.”

The Growing Risk of the First Nuclear War (Revelation 8)

India and Pakistan have fought three wars and have been on the brink of another several times, a worrying prospect given that both have growing stockpiles of nuclear weapons and questions about how secure they are.

The arms race between the South Asian neighbors has moved to enhancing the delivery systems for the warheads, which could annihilate the subcontinent several times. India’s recent launch of more than 100 satellites with a single rocket foreshadows the capability of sending up a missile with multiple nuclear weapons.

The volatility of the situation is further exacerbated because neither country has a national missile defense system, and it likely would take several years to get one in place.

While the policy of mutually assured destruction has kept hostilities from overheating so far, experts believe that a misunderstanding or misadventure could escalate to a full-fledged war with nuclear weapons in play.

And there are plenty of risks.

Kashmir a flashpoint

Kashmir has been a flashpoint since the subcontinent was partitioned in 1947 and caused the most recent flare-up last November. Both sides accuse each other of harboring terrorists who launch cross-border attacks. Therefore, the question is whether the nukes in South Asia could fall into the wrong hands during mobilization in the fog of war.

Nuclear arms experts Hans Kristensen and Robert Norris estimate that Pakistan has 120-130 nuclear warheads compared with India’s 110-120. India is said to have a stockpile of 540 kilograms of weapons grade plutonium, enough to produce 130 warheads. Pakistan has 3,100 kilograms of highly enriched uranium, sufficient to build 300 warheads. That’s a lot to keep an eye on.

“The nukes were safe when these were in storage areas in both countries,” Michael Krepon, co-founder and senior associate at Stimson Center, said in an interview with VOA’s Urdu Service. “But when these have to be moved around in a state of war, it surely raises a red flag about their security on many counts.

Serious concerns

“The biggest concern was about Pakistan’s tactical weapons, which have a very short range,” Krepon said. “It means that these will have to be moved very close to the battlefield. There are fears that independent groups who want to settle scores with either Pakistan or India could attack them.

“Secondly, these could be attacked by Indian warplanes. Thirdly, since the fissile material has to be transported separately to combine with the main structure, this fissile material could also come under attack. These factors pose greater concerns, especially in the United States.”

Professor Scott Sagan of Stanford University adds: “The plausible place to move these tactical nuclear weapons would be to roads where these would be less vulnerable to Indian attack due to their flexibility. However, this also generates a fear that these could become vulnerable to terrorists’ seizure in whole or in part. The same was true for India.”

The countries have continued to expand their nuclear capacity long past the stated goal of a “credible deterrence” the vow of no first use. “No first use policy in India was a misnomer, and India would opt for the first strike if it deemed necessary,” said Mueed Yousuf of the United States Institute for Peace.

Professor Paul Kapoor of the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School added: “If India used nuclear weapons, it would use them in massive way to inflict an unacceptable harm to adverse countries.”

A two-pronged policy

Zamir Akram, a former Pakistani ambassador and U.N. representative, said Pakistan’s nuclear doctrine initially was based on India’s much larger superiority in conventional weapons. However, in response to India’s “Cold Start” doctrine, allowing it to attack Pakistan with conventional weapons to prevent nuclear retaliation, Pakistan changed its policy of minimum credible deterrence to full spectrum response with tactical weapons armed with low-grade nuclear material for use in the battlefield, Akram said.

Kapoor says that results in a two-pronged policy: use low-grade tactical nuclear weapons in a conventional war, and use nuclear weapons in case of an imminent nuclear attack by India.

“While Pakistan had a bigger stockpile of nukes as compared to India, the induction of very short-range tactical weapons into its conventional warfare mechanism was a worrying factor,” Krepon said.

India developed its first strategic ballistic missile in 1996 with a range of 250 kilometers. During the last decade, it has added medium- and long-range missiles that can reach Pakistan and China.

Pakistan has missiles capable of carrying conventional and nuclear warheads up to 2,750 kilometers, enough to target all major Indian cities, and cruise missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads.