Posted tagged ‘Oil’

Trump signs order aimed at opening Arctic drilling

April 28, 2017

Trump signs order aimed at opening Arctic drilling, Associated Press, Matthew Daly and Jill Colvin, April 28, 2017

It also directs Zinke to review the locations available for offshore drilling under a five-year plan Obama signed in November. The plan blocked new oil and gas drilling in the Atlantic and Arctic oceans. It also stopped the planned sale of new oil and gas drilling rights in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas north of Alaska, but allowed drilling in Alaska’s Cook Inlet southwest of Anchorage.

The order could open to oil and gas exploration areas off Virginia and North and South Carolina, where drilling has been blocked for decades.

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Working to dismantle his predecessor’s environmental legacy, President Donald Trump signed an executive order on Friday aimed at expanding drilling in the Arctic and opening other federal areas to oil and gas exploration.

With one day left to rack up accomplishments before he reaches his 100th day in office, Trump signed an order reversing some of former President Barack Obama’s restrictions and instructing Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to review a plan that dictates which federal locations are open to offshore drilling.

It’s part of Trump’s promise to unleash the nation’s energy reserves in an effort to reduce reliance on foreign oil and to spur jobs, regardless of fierce opposition from environmental activists who say offshore drilling harms whales, walruses and other wildlife and exacerbates global warming.

“This executive order starts the process of opening offshore areas to job-creating energy exploration,” Trump said during a White House signing ceremony. “It reverses the previous administration’s Arctic leasing ban and directs Secretary Zinke to allow responsible development of off-shore areas that will bring revenue to our treasury and jobs to our workers.”

“Today,” he said, “we’re unleashing American energy and clearing the way for thousands and thousands of high-paying energy jobs.”

The executive order reverses part of a December effort by Obama to deem the bulk of U.S.-owned waters in the Arctic Ocean and certain areas in the Atlantic as indefinitely off limits to oil and gas leasing.

It also directs Zinke to review the locations available for offshore drilling under a five-year plan Obama signed in November. The plan blocked new oil and gas drilling in the Atlantic and Arctic oceans. It also stopped the planned sale of new oil and gas drilling rights in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas north of Alaska, but allowed drilling in Alaska’s Cook Inlet southwest of Anchorage.

The order could open to oil and gas exploration areas off Virginia and North and South Carolina, where drilling has been blocked for decades.

Zinke said that leases scheduled under the existing plan will remain in effect during the review, which he estimated will take several years.

The order also directs Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to conduct a review of marine monuments and sanctuaries designated over the last 10 years.

Citing his department’s data, Zinke said the Interior Department oversees some 1.7 billion acres on the outer continental shelf, which contains an estimated 90 billion barrels of undiscovered oil and 327 trillion cubic feet of undiscovered natural gas. Under current restrictions, about 94 percent of that outer continental shelf is off-limits to drilling.

Zinke, who is also tasked with reviewing other drilling restrictions, acknowledged environmental concerns as “valid,” but he argued that the benefits of drilling outweigh concerns.

Environmental activists, meanwhile, railed against the signing, which comes seven years after the devastating 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Diana Best of Greenpeace said that opening new areas to offshore oil and gas drilling would lock the U.S. “into decades of harmful pollution, devastating spills like the Deepwater Horizon tragedy, and a fossil fuel economy with no future.”

“Scientific consensus is that the vast majority of known fossil fuel reserves – including the oil and gas off U.S. coasts-must remain undeveloped if we are to avoid the worst effects of climate change,” she said.

Jacqueline Savitz of the ocean advocacy group Oceana warned the order would lead to “corner-cutting and set us up for another havoc-wreaking environmental disaster” in places like the Outer Banks or in remote Barrow, Alaska, “where there’s no proven way to remove oil from sea ice.”

“We need smart, tough standards to ensure that energy companies are not operating out of control,” she said, adding: “In their absence, America’s future promises more oil spills and industrialized coastlines.”

Trump taps climate change skeptic, fracking advocate as key energy advisor

May 13, 2016

Trump taps climate change skeptic, fracking advocate as key energy advisor, ReutersValerie Volcovice, May 13, 2016

U.S. Representative Kevin Cramer (R-ND) speaks at the National Press Club in Washington, DC, United States on January 8, 2015. REUTERS/Larry Downing/File Photo

U.S. Representative Kevin Cramer (R-ND) speaks at the National Press Club in Washington, DC, United States on January 8, 2015. REUTERS/Larry Downing/File Photo

Republican presidential contender Donald Trump has asked one of America’s most ardent drilling advocates and climate change skeptics to help him draft his energy policy.

U.S. Republican Congressman Kevin Cramer of North Dakota – a major oil drilling state – is writing a white paper on energy policy for the New York billionaire, Cramer and sources familiar with the matter told Reuters.

Cramer was also among a group of Trump advisers who recently met with lawmakers from western energy states, who hope Trump will open more federal land for drilling, a lawmaker who took part in the meeting said.

Cramer said in an interview his paper would emphasize the dangers of foreign ownership of U.S. energy assets, burdensome taxes, and over-regulation. Trump will have an opportunity to float some of the ideas at an energy summit in Bismarck, North Dakota on May 26, Cramer said.

A spokeswoman for Trump’s campaign did not comment.

While the ultimate size and makeup of Trump’s energy advisory team is unclear, Cramer’s inclusion suggests the presumptive Republican presidential nominee’s oil policy could emphasize more drilling, less regulation and taxes, and curbs on efforts to combat climate change.

Cramer has said he believes the Earth is cooling, not warming, and he has opposed efforts by the Obama administration to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.

Trump has been light on details of his energy policy so far, though he recently told supporters in West Virginia that the coal industry would thrive if he were in the White House. He has also claimed global warming is a concept “created by and for the Chinese” to hurt U.S. business.

Trump only recently started building up teams of advisors on the economy, foreign policy and other issues to flesh out his platform for the Nov. 8 presidential election.

Cramer, North Dakota’s only congressman and an early Congressional Trump supporter, encountered Trump when they were guests on a radio show last month and Trump spoke about relaxing regulation and expanding drilling. Trump’s political team later asked Cramer to write the energy policy paper, the lawmaker said.

“The real opportunity for prosperity in this country has been to produce more because you have access to more markets,” Cramer said, referring to the recent lifting of a decades-old ban on oil exports. “The last thing we need is more rules.”

On foreign ownership of U.S. oil assets, Cramer said: “One-third of refining capacity is owned by OPEC countries. How does this fit into his (Trump’s) America first policy?”

OPEC members Saudi Arabia and Venezuela both have large stakes in U.S. refining capacity.

Cramer said he expected energy policy to be a vulnerability for Hillary Clinton, the frontrunner for the Democratic presidential nomination, in an election year where energy companies are going broke.

Clinton has advocated shifting the country to 50 percent clean energy by 2030, promised heavy regulation of fracking, and said her prospective administration would put coal companies “out of business.”

Saudi Arabia stews in policy hell

January 4, 2016

Saudi Arabia stews in policy hell, Asia Times, January 3, 2016

Last week’s mass executions in Saudi Arabia suggest panic at the highest level of the monarchy. The action is without precedent, even by the grim standards of Saudi repression. In 1980 Riyadh killed 63 jihadists who had attacked the Grand Mosque of Mecca, but that was fresh after the event. Most of the 47 prisoners shot and beheaded on Jan. 2 had sat in Saudi jails for a decade. The decision to kill the prominent Shia cleric Nimr al-Nimr, the most prominent spokesman for restive Saudi Shia Muslims in Eastern Province, betrays fear of subversion with Iranian sponsorship.

Saudi-beheading22-300x183Official Saudi beheading

Why kill them all now? It is very hard to evaluate the scale of internal threats to the Saudi monarchy, but the broader context for its concern is clear: Saudi Arabia finds itself isolated, abandoned by its longstanding American ally, at odds with China, and pressured by Russia’s sudden preeminence in the region. The Saudi-backed Army of Conquest in Syria seems to be crumbling under Russian attack. The Saudi intervention in Yemen against Iran-backed Houthi rebels has gone poorly. And its Turkish ally-of-convenience is consumed by a low-level civil war. Nothing has gone right for Riyadh.

Worst of all, the collapse of Saudi oil revenues threatens to exhaust the kingdom’s $700 billion in financial reserves within five years, according to an October estimate by the International Monetary Fund (as I discussed here). The House of Saud relies on subsidies to buy the loyalty of the vast majority of its subjects, and its reduced spending power is the biggest threat to its rule. Last week Riyadh cut subsidies for water, electricity and gasoline. The timing of the executions may be more than coincidence: the royal family’s capacity to buy popular support is eroding just as its regional security policy has fallen apart.

For decades, Riyadh has presented itself as an ally of the West and a force for stability in the region, while providing financial support for Wahhabi fundamentalism around the world. China has been the kingdom’s largest customer as well as a provider of sophisticated weapons, including surface-to-surface missiles. But China also has lost patience with the monarchy’s support for Wahhabi Islamists in China and bordering countries.

According to a senior Chinese analyst, the Saudis are the main source of funding for Islamist madrassas in Western China, where the “East Turkistan Independence Movement” has launched several large-scale terror attacks. Although the Saudi government has reassured Beijing that it does not support the homegrown terrorists, it either can’t or won’t stop some members of the royal family from channeling funds to the local jihadis through informal financial channels. “Our biggest worry in the Middle East isn’t oil—it’s Saudi Arabia,” the analyst said.

China’s Muslims—mainly Uyghurs in Western China who speak a Turkish dialect—are Sunni rather than Shia.  Like Russia, China does not have to worry about Iranian agitation among Shia jihadis, and tends to prefer Iran to the Sunni powers. As a matter of form, Beijing wants to appear even-handed in its dealings with Iran and Saudi Arabia, for example in recent contacts between their respective navies. Chinese analysts emphasize that Beijing has sold weapons to both—more in absolute to terms to Iran but more sophisticated weapons to the Saudis.

More pertinent than public diplomacy, though, is where China is buying its oil.

Nonetheless, China’s oil import data show a significant shift away from Saudi Arabia towards Russia and Oman (which China considers part of the Iranian sphere of influence). Russia’s oil exports to China have grown fourfold since 2010 while Saudi exports have stagnated. Given the world oil glut, China can pick and choose its suppliers, and it is hard to avoid the inference that Beijing is buying more from Russia for strategic reasons.  According to Russian sources, China also has allowed Russian oil companies to delay physical delivery of oil due under existing contracts, permitting Russia to sell the oil on the open market for cash—the equivalent of a cash loan to Russia.

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China’s interests in Syria coincide with Russia’s. Both have reason to fear the growth of ISIS as a magnet for their own jihadis.  Thousands of Chinese Uyghurs make their way into Southeast Asia via the porous southern border of Yunnan province, with financial assistance from Saudi supporters and logistical support—including passports—from local Turkish consulates. Chinese Uyghurs were implicated in the bombing of Bangkok’s Erawan Temple last August, and have linked up with ISIS supporters as far south as Indonesia. Turkey reported last month that most jihadists crossing its border into Syria to join ISIS are Chinese Muslims.

With Kurdish and allied forces gaining control of Syria’s border with Turkey, aided by Russian air support, Chinese Uyghurs may lose access to Syria. Late in December Kurdish forces crossed to the western bank of the Euphrates River and are in position to link up with Kurdish militias in northwestern Syria, eliminating Turkish hopes of a “safe zone” controlled by Turkey on the southern side of the Syrian border.  For its part, Turkey risks paralysis from a low-intensity civil war with its Kurdish population. The Kurdish-majority southeast of the country is under siege and fighting has spread to Turkey’s western provinces.

It’s an ill wind that blows nobody good, and China seems hopeful that it has contained its jihadist problem. On New Year’s Day, the Communist Party leader in China’s Xinjiang province declared that “the atmosphere for religious extremism has weakened markedly.”

China is extremely reluctant to commit military forces to overseas conflicts, and its military is ill-prepared to do so even if Beijing were to change its mind. The People’s Liberation Army lacks ground attack aircraft like the two squadrons of Russian Su-24 and Su-25 deployed in Syria. Nonetheless, Beijing is happy that Russia is reducing ISIS forces in Syria as well as Saudi- and Turkish-backed Sunni Islamists like the Army of Conquest.

It will be hard to evaluate the success of Russian bombing in Syria until the dust settles, but there is a great deal of dust in the air. According to Israeli sources, Russia is dumping vast amounts of its Cold War inventory of dumb bombs on Syrian Sunnis with devastating effect. The Russian bombing campaign makes up in volume what it lacks in sophistication, killing far more civilians than Western militaries would tolerate, but changing the situation on the ground. That explains Russian President Vladimir Putin’s newfound popularity among world leaders. He is doing their dirty work.

Saudi Arabia’s proxies in Syria are in trouble. Early in 2015, the Army of Conquest (Jaish al-Fateh), a coalition of al-Qaida and other Sunni Islamists backed by the Saudis, Turks and Qataris, had driven the Syrian army out of several key positions in Northwest Syria, threatening the Assad regime’s core Alawite heartland. The coalition began breaking up in November, however, and the Syrian Army recently retook several villages it had lost to the Army of Conquest. One of the Army of Conquest’s constituent militias, Failaq al-Sham, announced Jan. 3 that it was leaving the coalition to defend Aleppo against regime forces reinforced by Russia.

Everything seems to have gone wrong at once for Riyadh. The only consolation the monarchy has under the circumstances is that its nemesis Iran also is suffering from the collapse of oil revenues and the attrition of war. Iran began withdrawing its Revolutionary Guard forces from Syria in December, largely due to high casualties. The high cost of maintaining the war effort as Iran’s finances implode also may have been a factor. Iran’s Lebanese Shia proxy, Hezbollah, has suffered extremely high casualties, virtually neutralizing its whole first echelon of combat troops. And Russia has shown no interest in interfering with Israeli air strikes against Hezbollah.

The oil price collapse turns the competition between Saudi Arabia and Iran into a race to the bottom. But the monarchy’s panicked response to its many setbacks of the past several months raises a difficult question. In the past, the West did what it could to prop up the Saudi royal family as a pillar of stability in the region, despite the Saudis’ support for jihadi terrorism. Soon the West may not be able to keep the House of Saud in power whether it wants to or not.

Russia’s endgame in Syria: Follow the Money

October 7, 2015

Russia’s endgame in Syria: Follow the Money, Center for Security Policy, John Cordero, October 6, 2015

(Is Putin engaging in a holy war against the Islamic State, an oily war or both? — DM)

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The one strategic motivation for Russia that has been widely ignored is the economic one.  Qatar, the richest country in the world per capita and also owner of the world’s largest natural gas field, proposed in 2009 to jointly construct a gas pipeline running through Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria, Turkey, and into Europe.  Assad, not wanting to provoke Moscow, refused to sign on.  Instead, he floated an alternative: an Iran-Iraq-Syria and possibly Lebanon pipeline, to then follow under the Mediterranean to Europe. The Qatar-Turkey pipeline would run through majority Sunni countries with the exception of Syria’s Alawite regime. Assad’s counter proposal follows the Shia crescent.

Russia, not wanting to lose its primary market in Europe, is adamantly opposed to a prospective Qatari project.  A military presence in Syria will guarantee that even if Assad is removed from power, the pipeline will not be built.  It will look on favorably to the Iranian proposal, provided Gazprom and other state-owned companies get their share of the pie.

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As Vladimir Putin orders airstrikes against rebels of all stripes fighting Bashar al-Assad’s regime, there are important strategic economic goals behind Russia’s actions in Syria.  The short term goal is easy to discern: prevent Assad’s collapse as no alternative suitable to Russian interests exists, preserve Russia’s only naval base in the Middle East at Tartus, and promote Russia both at home and abroad as a world power that counterbalances American hegemony.

Much of the media has focused on Putin as a personal driver of Russian behavior.  While forays into Georgia and Ukraine have accomplished the tactical goals of preventing increased European Union presence in Russia’s sphere of influence, these have come at a high cost both politically and economically in the form of isolation and sanctions. Putin seems to have concluded that intervening in Syria in the name of fighting terrorism can only help repair Russia’s battered image.

It is important to at least try to understand Putin’s motivation without delving too much into psychoanalysis.  He is on record as lamenting the collapse of the Soviet Union as “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century.”  In power since 2000, the former KGB officer is an ardent Russian nationalist, a promoter of a personality cult concerned with his country’s standing and perception in the world.  With his career spent in the service of the state, he is not one to take a background role in world affairs. Putin has effectively used Russia’s alliance with Iran as an effective tool to undermine the US, both regionally in the Gulf and globally with the nuclear deal.

The current buildup at Tartus and Latakia is nothing new: since Hafez al-Assad’s rise to power in 1970, the Former Soviet Union and then Russia was and is a stalwart ally, long attempting to position Syria as a counterbalance to American and Israeli military superiority in the Middle East.

Russia’s actions are also a message to the world: unlike the US, which abandoned long-time ally Hosni Mubarak during his time of need in Egypt, Russia is prepared to intervene, militarily if necessary, to preserve a friendly regime in danger.  Therefore, it pays for autocrats to court Moscow, especially if they possess valuable resources or are in prime strategic locations.

While Vladimir Putin ostensibly espouses the acceptable goal of a global alliance against IS, the strategic context is that he has entered into a sectarian alliance with Shia Iran, Iraq, Syria, and the proxy army Hezbollah (The P4+1) against the American-backed Sunni alliance of Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Jordan, and the UAE, all of whom insist that Assad has no future in Syria.

Through its airstrikes, Russia continues to advance the prior Syrian strategy of focusing efforts against pro-Western rebels, with the recognition that, while dangerous, the Islamic State is the one party in the conflict the West will never support.

The Islamic State will take advantage of both the respite, and the propaganda value of being the recognized number one enemy of the infidel coalition, which it uses to rally supporters simply by pointing out that its enemies are gathering to destroy the renewed Caliphate.

The one strategic motivation for Russia that has been widely ignored is the economic one.  Qatar, the richest country in the world per capita and also owner of the world’s largest natural gas field, proposed in 2009 to jointly construct a gas pipeline running through Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria, Turkey, and into Europe.  Assad, not wanting to provoke Moscow, refused to sign on.  Instead, he floated an alternative: an Iran-Iraq-Syria and possibly Lebanon pipeline, to then follow under the Mediterranean to Europe. The Qatar-Turkey pipeline would run through majority Sunni countries with the exception of Syria’s Alawite regime. Assad’s counter proposal follows the Shia crescent.

Russia, not wanting to lose its primary market in Europe, is adamantly opposed to a prospective Qatari project.  A military presence in Syria will guarantee that even if Assad is removed from power, the pipeline will not be built.  It will look on favorably to the Iranian proposal, provided Gazprom and other state-owned companies get their share of the pie.

Pipeline politics in the region have a long and varied history of Russian involvement.  The Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline was built only after Moscow’s demand for an alternative pipeline for Azeri oil to Russia was met.  During the 2008 Russia-Georgia war, US intelligence officials determined that an explosion on the pipeline near the Turkish-Georgian border was carried out via Russian government cyber warfare.  Days after the explosion, Russian fighter jets bombed positions in Georgia close to the pipeline. Although the BTC pipeline was built precisely to avoid Russian interference, the Kremlin has never let that stop them.

Turkey and Azerbaijan have also begun construction on a joint natural gas pipeline, theTANAP. This project’s stated goal is to reduce the EU’s dependence on Russian natural gas, a prospect that cannot please Moscow.   Both the BTC and TANAP bypass Armenia, a Russian ally and wary of its neighbors in the Caucasus.

As the endpoint for the Qatari project, Turkey is adamant in calling for Assad to step down or be removed, which dovetails with the proposed Sunni pipeline.  By clearing the way through Syria, Qatar and Saudi Arabia can receive a handsome return on their investment in backing jihadis fighting Assad.  On the other hand, Iran will not sit idly by and leave potential billions of dollars in the hands of its ideological and regional enemies.

Russian intervention in Syria is just beginning. There is every possibility that it will expand as more targets are found, perhaps those that are in the way of the proposed Iranian pipeline, directly threatening Damascus and by extension, the Russian monopoly of gas exports to Europe.  For the time being, Putin has the world’s attention.

The Iran scam worsens — Part II, North Korea – China connection

June 17, 2015

The Iran scam worsens — Part II, North Korea – China connection, Dan Miller’s Blog, June 17, 2015

(The views expressed in this article are mine and do not necessarily reflect those of Warsclerotic or its other editors. — DM)

It is likely that the P5+1 nuke “deal” with Iran will be approved soon. Military and other nuke sites which Iran has not “disclosed” will not be inspected. Nor will Iran’s nuke ties with North Korea — which P5+1 member China seems to be helping, Iran’s massive support for terrorism and abysmal human rights record be considered because they are also deemed unnecessary for “deal” approval. Sanctions against Iran are moribund and will not be revived regardless of whether there is a “deal.” However, a bronze bust of Obama may soon be displayed prominently in Supreme Leader Khamenei’s office and one of Khamenei may soon be displayed proudly in Dear Leader Obama’s office.

Iran fenced in

Part II — The North Korea – China connection

The North – Korea connection is a “natural,” and its basis should be obvious: Iran has been receiving funds through sanctions relief and will get substantially more when the P5+1 “deal” is made. North Korea needs money, not to help its starving and depressed masses, but to keep the Kim regime in power and for its favorites to continue their opulent lifestyles.

As I have written here, here and elsewhere, North Korea has been making substantial progress on nuclear weapons and means to deliver them, which it shares with Iran. Now, China appears to be intimately involved in their transfers of nuclear and missile technology as well as equipment.

As noted in an April 15, 2015 article titled Obama Hid North Korea Rocket Component Transfer to Iran,

US intelligence officials revealed that during the ongoing Iran nuclear negotiations, North Korea has provided several shipments of advanced missile components to the Islamic regime in violation of UN sanctions – and the US hid the violations from the UN. [Emphasis added.]

The officials, who spoke to the Washington Free Beacon on Wednesday on condition of anonymity, said more than two shipments of missile parts since last September have been monitored by the US going from North Korea to Iran.[Emphasis added.]

One official detailed that the components included large diameter engines, which could be used to build a long-range missile system, potentially capable of bearing a nuclear warhead. [Emphasis added.]

The information is particularly damaging given that Admiral Bill Gortney, Commander of North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) and US Northern Command (USNORTHCOM), admitted this month that the Pentagon fears that North Korea and possibly Iran can target the US with a nuclear EMP strike.

Critics have pointed out that the nuclear framework deal reached with Iran earlier this month completely avoids this question of Iran’s intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) program, which would allow it to conduct nuclear strikes. [Emphasis added.]

US President Barack Obama was given details of the shipments in his daily intelligence briefings, but the officials say the information was hidden from the UN by the White House so that it would not take action on the sanctions violations. [Emphasis added.]

On June 17th, Secretary Kerry stated, just before leaving to participate in P5+1 negotiations, that the

“US and its negotiating partners are not fixated on the issue of so-called possible military dimensions [of the Iranian nuclear program] because they already have a complete picture of Iran’s past activities.”

This comment was a compendium of contradictions and untruths.

Sure, John. A June 17th article at Power Line on the same subject is titled Kerry’s absolute idiocy.

Here are the highlights from a March 29, 2015 article at The Daily Beast titled Does Iran Have Secret Nukes in North Korea?

As can be seen from the North Korean base housing Tehran’s weapons specialists, Iran is only one part of a nuclear weapons effort spanning the Asian continent. North Korea, now the world’s proliferation superstar, is a participant. China, once the mastermind, may still be a co-conspirator. Inspections inside the borders of Iran, therefore, will not give the international community the assurance it needs. [Emphasis added.]

Inspections? We don’t need and won’t get no stinkin inspections since His Omniscience Kerry knows everything and is not troubled by it.

The cross-border nuclear trade is substantial enough to be called a “program.” Larry Niksch of the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C., estimates that the North’s proceeds from this trade with Iran are “between $1.5 billion and $2.0 billion annually.” A portion of this amount is related to missiles and miscellaneous items, the rest derived from building Tehran’s nuclear capabilities.

Iran has bought a lot with its money. Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, thought to be Tehran’s chief nuclear scientist, was almost certainly in North Korea at Punggye-ri in February 2013 to witness Pyongyang’s third atomic test. Reports put Iranian technicians on hand at the site for the first two detonations as well.

. . . .

The North Koreans have also sold Iran material for bomb cores, perhaps even weapons-grade uranium. The Telegraph reported that in 2002 a barrel of North Korean uranium cracked open and contaminated the tarmac of the new Tehran airport.

The relationship between the two regimes has been long-lasting. Hundreds of North Koreans have worked at about 10 nuclear and missile facilities in Iran. There were so many nuclear and missile scientists, specialists, and technicians that they took over their own coastal resort there, according to Henry Sokolski,  the proliferation maven, writing in 2003.

As noted in a January 31, 2014 Daily Beast article titled Iran and North Korea: The Nuclear ‘Axis of Resistance,’

Last September, at the same time Iran was secretly meeting with U.S. officials to set up the current nuclear talks, North Korea leaders visited Tehran and signed a science and technology agreement that is widely seen as a public sign the two countries are ramping up their nuclear cooperation.

“Iran declared Sept. 1, 2012 North Korea was part of their ‘Axis of Resistance,’ which only includes Iran, Syria, and Hezbollah. They’ve announced to the world they are essentially allies with North Korea,” said David Asher, the State Department’s coordinator for North Korea from 2001 to 2005. [Emphasis added.]

On February 13, 2013, DEBKAfile reported that North Korea —  Iran nuclear connection is substantial.

There is full awareness in Washington and Jerusalem that the North Korean nuclear test conducted Tuesday, Feb. 12, brings Iran that much closer to conducting a test of its own. A completed bomb or warhead are not necessary for an underground nuclear test; a device which an aircraft or missile can carry is enough. [Emphasis added.]

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s boast this week that Iran will soon place a satellite in orbit at an altitude of 36,000 kilometers – and Tehran’s claim on Feb. 4 to have sent a monkey into space – highlight Iran’s role in the division of labor Pyongyang and Tehran have achieved in years of collaboration: the former focusing on a nuclear armament and the latter on long-range missile technology to deliver it. [Emphasis added.]

Their advances are pooled. Pyongyang maintains a permanent mission of nuclear and missile scientists in Tehran, whereas Iranian experts are in regular attendance at North Korea’s nuclear and missile tests.[Emphasis added.]

Since the detonation of the “miniature atomic bomb” reported by Pyongyang Tuesday – which US President Barack Obama called “a threat to US National security”- Iran must be presumed to have acquired the same “miniature atomic bomb” capabilities – or even assisted in the detonation. [Emphasis added.]

On the same day, an article at Fox News observed,

In an exclusive interview with Fox News, Ambassador Thomas Graham, Jr, who has advised five U.S. presidents as a world renowned authority on arms control and nuclear non-proliferation, noted “If the assessments are correct as to his (Fakhrizadeh’s) role in the Iranian nuclear program, if China knowingly permitted him transfer from Iran across China to witness the North Korea test … then it would appear that China or at least some element in China are cooperating with nuclear programs in North Korea and Iran.” [Emphasis added.]

The Feb. 11 test has been described by experts as a miniaturized atomic bomb test of a relatively small yield of 6-7 kilotons, mounted on a Nodong missile.

. . . .

Ambassador Graham added: “The objective of this test has said to be the development of a compact highly explosive nuclear warhead mated with a North Korean missile. Iranian missiles were developed from North Korean prototypes. It could appear that North Korea is building nuclear weapons for transfer to Iran.” [Emphasis added.]

A June 11, 2015 Gatestone Institute article titled North Korea’s Serious New Nuclear Missile Threat, noted that North Korea already has upwards of twenty nukes and that

if North Korea’s technical advances are substantive, its missiles, armed with small nuclear weapons, might soon be able to reach the continental United States — not just Hawaii and Alaska. Further, if such missile threats were to come from submarines near the U.S., North Korea would be able to launch a surprise nuclear-armed missile attack on an American city. In this view, time is not on the side of the U.S. Submarine-launched missiles come without a “return address” to indicate what country or terrorist organization fired the missile.

The implications for American security do not stop there. As North Korea is Iran’s primary missile-development partner, whatever North Korea can do with its missiles and nuclear warheads, Iran will presumably be able to do as well. One can assume the arrangement is reciprocal.

Although attempts have been made to debunk recent photoshopped images of North Korea firing of a missile from a submerged platform, the immediately linked Gatestone article offers substantial reasons to think that it was indeed fired and that it is troubling.

The linked Gatestone article continues, despite hopes that China may force or talk North Korea into halting its missile development program and sharing with Iran, such hopes are

painfully at odds with China’s established and documented track record in supporting and carrying out nuclear proliferation with such collapsed or rogue states as Iran, Syria, Pakistan, North Korea and Libya, as detailed by the 2009 book The Nuclear Express, by Tom C. Reed (former Secretary of the Air Force under President Gerald Ford and Special Assistant to the President of National Security Affairs during the Ronald Reagan administration) and Daniel Stillman (former Director of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory).(Emphasis added.]

Far from being a potential partner in seeking a non-nuclear Korean peninsula, China, say the authors, has been and is actually actively pushing the spread of nuclear weapons to rogue states, as a means of asserting Chinese hegemony, complicating American security policy and undermining American influence. [Emphasis added.]

The problem is not that China has little influence with North Korea, as China’s leadership repeatedly claims. The problem is that China has no interest in pushing North Korea away from its nuclear weapons path because the North Korean nuclear program serves China’s geostrategic purposes. [Emphasis added.]

As Reed and Stillman write, “China has been using North Korea as the re-transfer point for the sale of nuclear and missile technology to Iran, Syria, Pakistan, Libya and Yemen”. They explain, “Chinese and North Korean military officers were in close communication prior to North Korea’s missile tests of 1998 and 2006.″ [Emphasis added.]

Thus, if China takes action to curtail North Korea’s nuclear program, China will likely be under pressure from the United States and its allies to take similar action against Iran and vice versa. China, however, seems to want to curry favor with Iran because of its vast oil and gas supplies, as well as to use North Korea to sell and transfer nuclear technology to both North Korea and Iran, as well as other states such as Pakistan. As Reed again explains, “China has catered to the nuclear ambitions of the Iranian ayatollahs in a blatant attempt to secure an ongoing supply of oil.” [Emphasis added.]

What about Russia which, like China, is a P5+1 member? Russia announced in late May of this year that it would build an Iranian nuclear reactor for “peaceful” generation of electricity. It announced in April that it would provide accurate, long range S-300 missiles to Iran.

Iranian news sources are reporting that negotiations with Russia to buy the S-300 surface-to-air missile systems were “successful.”

Western officials say delivery of the system would essentially eliminate the military option to stop Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.

During a press conference Monday, Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister for Arab and African Affairs Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said that the missiles will be delivered as soon as possible.

On September 23, 2014, the Iranian FARS News Agency announced that Iran was completing its own version of the S-330 missile.

Last month, senior Iranian military officials announced that their home-grown version of the Russian S-300 missile defense system, called Bavar (Belief)-373, has already been put into test-run operation and has once shot at a target successfully.

Commander of Khatam ol-Anbia Air Defense Base Brigadier General Farzad Esmayeeli told the Iranian state-run TV that “Bavar-373 has fired a first successful shot”.

Might Russia have given Iran the plans needed to build its own version of the Russian missile? Why not?

Conclusions

We have to guess far more than we actually know about the North Korea – China – Iran nuclear connection. That is unfortunate. It is absurd that the P5+1 joint plan of action and the White House summary focus on Iran’s uranium enrichment to the exclusion of its militarization of nukes. Since nuke militarization, among other substantial matters, is deemed irrelevant to whether there is a “deal,” so is the connection with North Korea, China and possibly Russia.

Obama wants a “deal” with Iran, regardless of what it may say or — more importantly — what it may not say.

NK and Iran

Death by Lashing: Saudi Arabia

June 11, 2015

Death by Lashing: Saudi Arabia, The Gatestone InstituteSalim Mansur, June 11, 2015

  • Nothing could uplift the universal image of Saudi Arabia and King Salman more than if today he issued a pardon. World leaders, including U.S. President Barack Obama, who has so far been silent on the issue, should immediately speak out — as should the media and human rights groups.
  • There was no insult of Islam, of the prophet, or of the Quran, in what Badawi wrote; and, truth be told, God, Islam and the prophet are all beyond insults, and beyond the reach of profanity that occasionally spills forth from the bigoted or tortured minds of individuals.
  • The treatment of Raif Badawi stands out, not merely for its cruelty, but how it has come to symbolize the grotesquely repulsive nature of the Saudi kingdom and what it represents behind the mask of religious austerity.

Tomorrow, Friday, the virtual death sentence by 1000 lashes, delivered “very harshly” according to the flogging order, fifty at a time, might continue for Raif Badawi, a 31-year-old Saudi blogger and father of three, for allegedly “insulting Islam.”

The flogging sentence, plus ten years in prison, was upheld last week by Saudi Arabia’s supreme court, and can now only be overturned by a pardon from King Salman.

Although Badawi, who is ill and frail, would most certainly perish, in Saudi justice there is little concern for sentences to be proportionate to the crimes for which the accused are found guilty, or for adequate legal representation. Badawi’s lawyer, Walid Abu al-Khair, was also jailed, effectively for the crime of representing him.

Badawi was accused of insulting Islam in his blog posts. In a country where thinking is forbidden, Badawi had expressed forbidden thoughts by questioning the nature of his society and going public with them.

Badawi, for instance, had written, “Muslims in Saudi Arabia not only disrespect the beliefs of others, but also charge them with infidelity — to the extent that they consider anyone who is not Muslim an infidel. They also, within their own narrow definitions, consider non-Hanbali [the Saudi school of Islam] Muslims as apostates. How can we be such people and build… normal relations with six billion humans, four and a half billion of whom do not believe in Islam?”

1106Raif Badawi and his children, before his 2012 arrest.

There was naivety in putting such thoughts in writing, as Badawi did, and drawing the attention of Saudi thought police. In another post, Badawi suggested, “Secularism respects everyone and does not offend anyone… Secularism is the practical solution to lift countries (including ours) out of the third world and into the first world.”

It appears Badawi wrote in the first blush of what seemed to have been a breath of fresh air, characterized as the “Arab Spring,” that wafted across the politically bleak landscape of the Arab world in early 2011. There had come news of a Tunisian vendor who had put lit himself on fire protesting police brutality, and had died as a result; his death sparked a movement against Arab despots.

The anguish of the Tunisian vendor, Mohammed Bouazizi, was genuine. His tragic death brought people into the streets, and the Tunisian strongman, Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, eventually fled into exile in January 2011. The Tunisian protest stirred Egyptians to rise against their strongman, President Hosni Mubarak, and succeed in toppling him in February 2011.

The “Arab Spring,” for those brief few weeks in early 2011, held forth the promise of change for better across the Arab world. And young men like Raif Badawi could be forgiven for imagining that they, too, in Saudi Arabia, could no longer be denied freedom, democracy, and secularism — the accepted norms in the West.

But the hard realities of the Arab world turned the promise of the “Arab Spring” into the nightmare of religious terror and counter-terror. Saudi Arabia is the incubator and citadel of Islamic fascism, otherwise known as Wahhabism. And here in the land of the two holy cities of Islam — Mecca and Medina — religion and politics are inseparable, and anyone who trespasses either does so at the risk of losing his head — literally — in the public beheadings that are the hallmark of the Saudi kingdom.

Raif Badawi was arrested, and has been held in prison in Jeddah since June 2012. The arrest of Badawi and Souad al-Shammari came after they together set up the web site called Saudi Liberal Network. It was promptly closed by the authorities when Badawi posted criticism of the Saudi religious police.

The initial sentence for Badawi by the Criminal Court in Jeddah for mischief and subverting public order was for 600 lashes and seven years in prison. He appealed, and the court returned the verdict by raising the sentence to 1000 lashes and 10 years in prison. The Saudi supreme court has upheld this sentence.

In the interim Badawi was given 50 lashes in a Jeddah public square in January of this year, while further lashings were suspended on medical grounds. Badawi’s wife, Ensaf Haidar, fears the lashings will resume — according to court order the 1000 lashes are to be completed in 20 sessions in front of a mosque — and could be fatal for her husband.

* * *

There is very little the outside world can do to change the nature of the Saudi regime, or for that matter the regime in Iran, which is indistinguishable from the Saudi regime in terms of tyranny and the cruelty to which, in both countries, dissidents are subjected.

After Raif Badawi was arrested, Ensaf Haidar and her children found refuge in Quebec, Canada. Across Quebec there has been heartfelt popular support expressed for Raif Badawi, and condemnation of his punishment. Quebec has officially protested Badawi’s sentence, while demanding his release from Saudi Arabia so that he might join his family where they have settled.

In response to a Quebec National Assembly resolution, passed unanimously in February, condemning Badawi’s lashings in Jeddah in January 2015, the Saudi ambassador to Canada wrote a letter to the Quebec politicians. The same letter was also sent to the Canadian government in Ottawa.

The letter, signed by the Saudi ambassador, Naif Bin Bandir Alsudairy, was obtained by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC). It states, “The Kingdom does not accept at all any attack on it in the name of human rights especially when its constitution is based on Islamic law, which guarantees the rights of humans and preserves his blood, money, honour and dignity.”

The stand taken by the Quebec government apparently rattled the Saudi kingdom sufficiently to have its ambassador write a letter addressed to members of a provincial legislature.

* * *

It is one of the anomalies of our age that when, by a fluke of nature, large deposits of fossil fuels are discovered in a country, as in Saudi Arabia, it is accorded attention and respect by other countries in excess of anything it has done, or achieved, or by the record of its conduct in human affairs.

Apart from the oil reserves of the kingdom, the House of Saud is indistinguishable from the House of Kim ruling North Korea, and it is as deserving of the same contempt.

Oil has not only made the difference for Saudi Arabia, it has also made the West complicit in the evil that Saudi Arabia does at home and perpetrates abroad: spreading its pre-modern and perverted culture as Islam or, more appropriately, Wahhabism; and funding terror as jihadism.

The treatment of Raif Badawi stands out, not merely for its cruelty, but how it has come to symbolize the grotesquely repulsive nature of the Saudi kingdom and what it represents behind the mask of religious austerity.

Saudi Arabia is possessed with the opposite of the “Midas touch”: wherever its money buys influence, there, the natural goodness in society is stained and corroded by its touch.

The tragedy surrounding Raif Badawi is both the savage treatment meted out to a young man by the Saudi regime for simply expressing his thoughts, and of how innocence, when it goes against the culture of Saudi intolerance, is mocked, abused, and strangled.

Raif Badawi is also the face of why “official” Islam — the one portrayed by Saudi Arabia and the other OIC member states, and to which the West routinely defers – is so terribly retarded. Freedom of thought is anathema to “official” Islam and its defenders, as it once was in the former Soviet Union; it is the defining characteristic of a closed, totalitarian society.

Raif Badawi is a young man, and the thoughts he expressed were the unsullied thoughts of the young that are at once universal in expectations and desires, as they are innocent and unburdened by the hardness of life’s experiences.

There was no insult of Islam, of the prophet, or of the Quran, in what Badawi wrote; and truth be told, God, Islam, and the prophet are all beyond insults, and beyond the reach of profanity that occasionally spills forth from the bigoted or tortured minds of individuals.

“Official” Islam is an insult to Muslims and non-Muslims alike — for “official” Islam is politics devoid of any redeeming quality found in faith, which nourishes the spiritual yearning of people and uplifts them in a broken world. Through betrayal and hypocrisy, “official” Islam insults God, Islam, and the prophet, every minute of each day, and has become a torment to Muslims.

It is “official” Islam, and Wahhabism in its most perverted expression among Sunni Muslims, that has turned God — Allah in Arabic — repeatedly invoked in the Quran as the “Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful,” into a vengeful and capricious deity.

The Quran states that on the Day of Reckoning the prophet will speak forth, “O my Lord! Lo! mine own folk make this Qur’an of no account” (25:30). In another verse, the Quran instructs the prophet to tell the wandering Arabs of the desert that they have merely submitted, but they have no belief “for the faith hath not yet entered into your hearts” (49:14). And then there is the verse stating categorically, “There is no compulsion in religion” (2:256).[1]

When religion is reduced to politics then it is the logic of politics, hence power and coercion, that takes precedence. In Albert Camus’s striking formulation, “Politics is not religion, or if it is, then it is nothing but the Inquisition.”[2] In Saudi Arabia, religion is a daily dose of inquisition, and the executioner with his sword is both the reality and the symbol of the vengeful deity that bears little resemblance to the merciful and compassionate God of the Quran.

Raif Badawi’s innocence betrayed him. Age and experience would have taught him the hard reality of his culture, veiled by the mask of “official” Islam. This hard reality of Arab culture has been best understood by Arab poets through the years of Arab and Muslim history. Here is one example of a poet’s disgust with the hard reality of his country’s culture and politics. These are lines from a poem of Nizar Qabbani (1923-98), a much-loved Syrian-Arab poet:

When a helmet becomes God in heaven
and can do what it wishes
with a citizen – crush, mash
kill and resurrect
whatever it wills,
then the state is a whorehouse,
history is a rag,
and thought is lower than boots.

When a breath of air
comes by decree
of the sultan,
when every grain of wheat we eat,
every drop of water we drink
comes only by decree
of the sultan,
when an entire nation turns into
a herd of cattle fed in the sultan’s
shed, embryos will suffocate
in the womb, women will miscarry
and the sun will drop
a black noose over our square.[3]

The Sultan’s power is vainglorious, whimsical, easily insulted, and secured by perpetrating fear, and the realm he rules by decree is by necessity a slaughterhouse.

If Raif Badawi survives the thousand lashes in the slaughterhouse that is the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, it will be a testimony of how an individual’s courage, born of innocence, might well defy the Sultan’s decree.

Nothing could uplift the universal image of Saudi Arabia or King Salman more than if today he issued a pardon.

World leaders, including U.S. President Barack Obama, who has so far been silent on the issue, should immediately speak out — as should the media and human rights groups.

________________________

[1] Verses quoted from the Quran are from The Meaning of the Glorious Koran, translated by Mohammed Marmaduke Pickthall (New York: Alfred A. Knopf and Everyman’s Library, 1930, 1992).

[2] A. Camus, The Rebel (New York: Vintage Books, Random House, 1956), p. 302.

[3] Nizar Qabbani, “From The Actors” in Salma Khadra Jayyusi (editor), Modern Arabic Poetry: An Anthology (New York: Columbia University Press, 1987), pp. 378-379.

North Korea’s Serious New Nuclear Missile Threat

June 11, 2015

North Korea’s Serious New Nuclear Missile Threat, The Gatestone InstitutePeter Huessy, June 11, 2015

China . . . seems to want to curry favor with Iran because of its vast oil and gas supplies, as well as to use North Korea to sell and transfer nuclear technology to both North Korea and Iran, as well as other states such as Pakistan. As Reed again explains, “China has catered to the nuclear ambitions of the Iranian ayatollahs in a blatant attempt to secure an ongoing supply of oil”.

***********************

  • China continues to transfer, through its own territory, nuclear weapons technology involving both North Korea and Iran.
  • In April, North Korea launched a ballistic missile from a submerged platform. The North Korean underwater launch test was closely related to the further development of a missile-firing submarine capable of hitting the U.S. — “a first step,” according to Uzi Rubin, “in achieving a very serious and dangerous new military capability… it will take many years to build up the missile defenses, so we had better use the time wisely.”
  • Although the Chinese profess to be against nuclear proliferation, documented evidence illustrates just the opposite — as a means of asserting Chinese hegemony, complicating American security policy and undermining American influence.
  • Unfortunately, no matter how attractive a strategy of diplomatically ending North Korea’s nuclear program might look, it is painfully at odds with China’s established record of supporting nuclear proliferation with such collapsed or rogue states as Iran, Syria, Pakistan, North Korea and Libya.
  • China’s nuclear assistance to Pakistan did not stay just in Pakistan.

North Korea appears to have made significant progress in extending its capability as a nuclear-armed rogue nation, to where its missiles may become capable of hitting American cities with little or no warning.

What new evidence makes such a threat compelling?

North Korea claims to have nuclear warheads small enough to fit on their ballistic missiles andmissiles capable of being launched from a submerged platform such as a submarine.

Shortly after North Korea’s April 22, 2015 missile test, which heightened international concern about the military capabilities of North Korea, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry urged China and our regional allies to restart the 2003 “six-party talks” aimed at eliminating nuclear weapons from the Korean peninsula and reining in North Korea’s expanding nuclear missile program.

There are some “experts,” however, who believe that North Korea’s threat is highly exaggerated and poses no immediate danger to the United States. Consequently, many believe that, given China’s oft-repeated support for a “nuclear weapons free” Korean peninsula, time is on America’s side to get an agreement that will guarantee just such a full de-nuclearization.

But, if North Korea’s technical advances are substantive, its missiles, armed with small nuclear weapons, might soon be able to reach the continental United States — not just Hawaii and Alaska. Further, if such missile threats were to come from submarines near the U.S., North Korea would be able to launch a surprise nuclear-armed missile attack on an American city. In this view, time is not on the side of the U.S. Submarine-launched missiles come without a “return address” to indicate what country or terrorist organization fired the missile.

The implications for American security do not stop there. As North Korea is Iran’s primary missile-development partner, whatever North Korea can do with its missiles and nuclear warheads, Iran will presumably be able to do as well. One can assume the arrangement is reciprocal.

Given recent warnings that North Korea may have upwards of 20 nuclear warheads, the United States seems to be facing a critical new danger. Would renewed negotiations with China, Japan, South Korea and North Korea really be able to address this threat?

Two years ago, Andrew Tarantola and Brian Barrett said there was “no reason to panic;” that North Korea was “a long way off” — in fact “years” — before its missiles and nuclear weapons could be “put together in any meaningful way.”

At the same time, in April 2013, an official U.S. assessment by the Defense Intelligence Agency stated the U.S. had “moderate” confidence that “North Korea had indeed developed a nuclear device small enough to mount on a ballistic missile.”

That was followed up two years later, on April 7, 2015, when the commander of Northcom, Admiral Bill Gortney, one of the nation’s leading homeland security defenders, said the threat was considerably more serious. He noted that, “North Korea has deployed its new road-mobile KN-08 intercontinental ballistic missile and was capable of mounting a miniaturized nuclear warhead on it.”[1]

At a Pentagon press briefing in April, Admiral Cecil Haney, Commander of the US Strategic Command and America’s senior military expert on nuclear deterrence and missile defense, said it was important to take seriously reports that North Korea can now make small nuclear warheads and put them on their ballistic missiles.[2]

And sure enough, in April, North Korea launched a ballistic missile from a submerged platform. Media reaction to the North Korean test has been confused. Reuters, citing the analysis of two German “experts,” claimed the North Korean test was fake — a not-too-clever manipulation of video images.

The Wall Street Journal, on May 21, 2015, echoed this view, noting: “[F]or evidence of North Korea’s bending of reality to drum up fears about its military prowess,” one need look no further than a consensus that North Korea “doctored” pictures of an alleged missile test from a submarine. This, they claimed, was proof that the “technology developments” by North Korea were nothing more than elaborately faked fairy tales.

However, Israeli missile defense expert Uzi Rubin — widely known as the “father” of Israel’s successful Arrow missile defense program — explained to this author that previous North Korean missile developments, which have often been dismissed as nothing more than mocked-up missiles made of plywood, actually turned out to be the real thing — findings confirmed by subsequent intelligence assessments.

Rubin, as well as the South Korean Defense Ministry, insist that on April 22, the North Korean military did, in fact, launch a missile from a submerged platform.[3]

1104Kim Jong Un, the “Supreme Leader” of North Korea, supervises the April 22 test-launch of a missile from a submerged platform. (Image source: KCNA)

What gave the “faked” test story some prominence were the misunderstood remarks of the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral James Winnefeld. He had said, on May 19, that the North Korean missile launch was “not all” that North Korea said it was. He also mentioned that North Korea used clever video editors to “crop” the missile test-launch images. Apparently, that was exactly what the editors did. The Admiral, however, never claimed in his speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies there had been no successful missile test.[4]

The same day, a high-ranking State Department official, Frank Rose — Assistant Secretary of State for Arms Control, Verification, and Compliance — told a Korean security seminar on Capitol Hill that North Korea had successfully conducted a “missile ejection” test, but from an underwater barge rather than a submarine.[5]

To confuse matters further, additional pictures were released by the South Korean media to illustrate stories about the North Korean test. Those pictures, however, were of American missiles, which use both solid and liquid propellant; as a result, one photo showed a U.S. missile with a solid propellant smoke trail and one, from a liquid propellant, without a smoke trail. These photographs apparently befuddled Reuters’ “experts,” who may have jumped to the conclusion that the photos of the North Korean test were “faked,” when they were simply of entirely different missile tests, and had been used only to “illustrate” ocean-going missile launches and not the actual North Korean test.[6]

According to Uzi Rubin, to achieve the capability to eject a missile from an underwater platform is a significant technological advancement. The accomplishment again illustrates “that rogue states such as North Korea can achieve military capabilities which pose a notable threat to the United States and its allies.”

Rubin also stated that the North Korean underwater launch test was closely related to the development of a missile-firing submarine, “a first step in achieving a very serious and dangerous new military capability.”[7]

Admiral Winnefeld and Secretary Rose, in their remarks, confirmed that the North Korean test was not the “dog and pony show” some have claimed. In other words, the U.S. government has officially confirmed that the North Koreans have made a serious step toward producing a sea-launched ballistic missile capability.

While such an operational capability may be “years away,” Rubin warns that “even many years eventually pass, and it will also take many years to build up the missile defenses, so we had better use the time wisely.”[8]

Will diplomacy succeed in stopping the North Korean threats? U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry seemed to think it worth a try; so he began the push to restart the old 2003 “six-party” talks between the United States, North Korea, Russia, China, South Korea and Japan, to bring North Korea’s nuclear weapons under some kind of international control and eventual elimination.

After all, supporters of such talks claim, similar talks with Iran appear to be leading to some kind of “deal” with Tehran, to corral its nuclear weapons program, so why not duplicate that effort and bring North Korea back into the non-nuclear fold?

What such a “deal,” if any, with Iran, will contain, is at this point unknown. Celebrations definitely seem premature. If the “deal” with North Korea is as “successful” as the P5+1’s efforts to rein in Iran’s illegal nuclear weapons program, the prognosis for the success of diplomacy could scarcely be more troubling.

Bloomberg’s defense writer, Tony Carpaccio, reflecting Washington’s conventional wisdom, recently wrote that of course China will rein in North Korea’s nuclear program: “What might be a bigger preventative will be the protestations of China, North Korea’s primary trade partner and only prominent international ally. Making China angry would put an already deeply impoverished, isolated North Korea in even more dire straits.”

Unfortunately, no matter how attractive a strategy of diplomatically ending North Korea’s nuclear program might look on the surface, it is painfully at odds with China’s established and documented track record in supporting and carrying out nuclear proliferation with such collapsed or rogue states as Iran, Syria, Pakistan, North Korea and Libya, as detailed by the 2009 book The Nuclear Express, by Tom C. Reed (former Secretary of the Air Force under President Gerald Ford and Special Assistant to the President of National Security Affairs during the Ronald Reagan administration) and Daniel Stillman (former Director of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory).

Far from being a potential partner in seeking a non-nuclear Korean peninsula, China, say the authors, has been and is actually actively pushing the spread of nuclear weapons to rogue states, as a means of asserting Chinese hegemony, complicating American security policy and undermining American influence.

The problem is not that China has little influence with North Korea, as China’s leadership repeatedly claims. The problem is that China has no interest in pushing North Korea away from its nuclear weapons path because the North Korean nuclear program serves China’s geostrategic purposes.

As Reed and Stillman write, “China has been using North Korea as the re-transfer point for the sale of nuclear and missile technology to Iran, Syria, Pakistan, Libya and Yemen”. They explain, “Chinese and North Korean military officers were in close communication prior to North Korea’s missile tests of 1998 and 2006”.

Thus, if China takes action to curtail North Korea’s nuclear program, China will likely be under pressure from the United States and its allies to take similar action against Iran and vice versa. China, however, seems to want to curry favor with Iran because of its vast oil and gas supplies, as well as to use North Korea to sell and transfer nuclear technology to both North Korea and Iran, as well as other states such as Pakistan. As Reed again explains, “China has catered to the nuclear ambitions of the Iranian ayatollahs in a blatant attempt to secure an ongoing supply of oil”.

North Korea is a partner with Iran in the missile and nuclear weapons development business, as Uzi Rubin has long documented. Thus, it is reasonable to believe that China may see any curtailment of North Korea’s nuclear program as also curtailing Iran’s access to the same nuclear technology being supplied by North Korea. Any curtailment would also harm the Chinese nuclear sales business to Iran and North Korea, especially if China continues to use the “North Korea to Iran route” as an indirect means of selling its own nuclear expertise and technology to Iran.

It is not as if Chinese nuclear proliferation is a recent development or a “one of a kind” activity. As far back as 1982, China gave nuclear warhead blueprints to Pakistan, according to Reed. These findings indicate that China’s nuclear weapons proliferation activities are over three decades old.[9]

Reed and Stillman also note that nearly a decade later, China tested a nuclear bomb “for Pakistan” on May 26, 1990, and that documents discovered in Libya when the George W. Bush administration shut down Libyan leader Muammar Kaddafi’s nuclear program revealed that China gave Pakistan the CHIC-4 nuclear weapon design.

Unfortunately, China’s nuclear assistance to Pakistan did not stay just in Pakistan. The nuclear technology made its way from Pakistan to North Korea. For example, high explosive craters, construction of a 50 megawatt nuclear reactor (finished in 1986) and a secret reprocessing facility begun in 1987 all were done in North Korea with major Pakistani help from the A.Q. Khan “Nukes R Us” smuggling group, as Reed and Stillman document in their book.

Reed and Stillman write that when, amid disclosures in 2003 of a major Libyan nuclear weapons program, the U.S. government sought help in shutting down the Khan nuclear smuggling ring, “Chinese authorities were totally unhelpful, to the point of stonewalling any investigation into Libya’s nuclear supply network.”

More recently, Chinese companies have now twice — in 2009 and 2011 — been indicted by the Attorney for the City of New York for trying to provide Iran with nuclear weapons technology.

The indictments document that Chinese companies were selling Iran steel for nuclear centrifuges and other banned technology. A leaked State Department cable, discussing the indictments at the time, revealed “details on China’s role as a supplier of materials for Iran’s nuclear program,” and that “China helped North Korea ship goods to Iran through Chinese airports.”

And more recently, in April 2015, the Czech government interdicted additional nuclear technology destined for Iran — the origin of which remains unknown — in violation of current sanctions against Iran.

From 1982 through at least the first part of 2015, the accumulation of documentary evidence on nuclear proliferation reveals two key facts:

First, despite literally hundreds of denials by Iran that it is seeking nuclear weapons, and amid current negotiations to end Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons, there is solid evidence that Iran still seeks nuclear weapons technology; and that North Korea has nuclear weapons and is advancing their capability.

Second, China continues to transfer, through its own territory, nuclear weapons technology involving both North Korea and Iran.

Although the Chinese profess to be against nuclear proliferation, their track record from the documented evidence illustrates just the opposite.

In summary, it is obvious North Korea’s nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles are a serious threat to America and its allies. And China, from its proliferation record for the past three decades, is making such a threat more widespread.

In this light, is dismissing North Korea’s advances in military technology and ignoring China’s record of advancing its neighbors’ nuclear weapons technology really best for U.S. interests?

_______________________

[1] The Washington Post, May 20, 2015, Anna Fifield, “North Korea says it has technology to make mini-nuclear weapons“; and Admiral Bill Gortney, US NORAD Commander, quoted in “NORAD commander: North Korean KN-08 Missile Operational“, by Jon Harper, in “Stars and Stripes”, of April 7, 2015; the Admiral said: “Our assessment is that they have the ability to put a nuclear weapon on a KN-08 and shoot it at the homeland.” He said “Yes sir” when asked if the U.S. thinks North Korea has succeeded in the complicated task of miniaturizing a warhead for use on such a missile. North Korea has conducted three nuclear tests since 2006.

[2] Department of Defense Press Briefing by Admiral Cecil Haney, Commander, U.S. Strategic Command, March 24, 2015.

[3] Personal communication with Uzi Rubin, President of Rubincon, May 21, 2015.

[4] Admiral James Winnefeld, Remarks at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) Briefing on Missile Defense, May 20, 2015.

[5] U.S. Department of State, Daily Digest Bulletin, Frank Rose, Remarks on “Missile Defense and the U.S. Response to the North Korean Ballistic Missile and WMD Threat”, May 20, 2015.

[6] Explanation provided by Israel missile expert Uzi Rubin, personal communication, May 20, 2015.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

[9] According to Reed and Stillman, in “The Nuclear Express,” none of China’s nuclear help to Pakistan and Iran could have been possible without China’s transfer of the nuclear technology through Chinese airspace.