Iran-North Korea Military Link Suspected by Pentagon

(screengrab of Fox News video post)

Newsmax, by Karl Nelson, May 5, 2017:

Pentagon suspicions of a military connection between Iran and North Korea have been heightened by Tuesday’s attempted Iranian launch of a cruise missile from a type of “midget” submarine operated only by North Korea.

The missile test – which failed – provided the Pentagon with more evidence into North Korea’s influence in Iran, according to Fox News.

The same type of submarine sunk a South Korean warship back in 2010.

While others have worried about a North Korean missile capable of reaching the U.S., experts worry that if Iran or North Korea can launch nuclear warheads into Earth orbit they can knock out all power grids and communication lines below.

It’s suspected that North Korea could “place a satellite into orbit with a nuclear payload,” yet again this year, which is being viewed right now as the number one threat to U.S. security, said Henry Cooper, former director of the Pentagon’s Strategic Defense Initiative Organization, per The Daily Star.

“Both nations could deliver an EMP attack on the United States by simply detonating a nuclear weapon carried by one of their satellites as it passes over the United States,” said Cooper.

“I believe we have had a clear warning of the nature of this threat for years, and are collectively continuing to ignore and take ineffective countermeasures to deal with it,” he added. “We are essentially defenseless against this plausible threat.”

Adm. Harry Harris, head of American forces in the Pacific, said the U.S. has no “short- or medium-range” missiles located on any land because it endorses the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces (INF).

However, Iran and North Korea aren’t under any such treaty.

“We are being taken to the cleaners by countries that are not signatories to the INF,” said Harris.

In January, Iran tested a ballistic missile the Pentagon believes was based on a North Korean design, and last summer Iran conducted another launch similar to a North Korean design, which was apparently successful.

“The very first missiles we saw in Iran were simply copies of North Korean missiles,” said Jeffrey Lewis, a missile proliferation expert at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, per Fox News. “Over the years, we’ve seen photographs of North Korean and Iranian officials in each other’s countries, and we’ve seen all kinds of common hardware.”

“In the past, we would see things in North Korea and they would show up in Iran,” Lewis said. “In some recent years, we’ve seen some small things appear in Iran first and then show up in North Korea and so that raises the question of whether trade – which started off as North Korea to Iran – has started to reverse.”

U.S. Considers Re-Imposing All Sanctions on Iran, Dismantling Nuke Deal

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani delivers a speech during a parade on the country’s Army Day / Getty Images

Washington Free Beacon, by Adam Kredo, April 19, 2017:

The Trump administration is considering re-imposing a massive set of economic sanctions on Iran that were lifted by the Obama administration as part of the landmark nuclear agreement that gave Tehran billions in economic support, according to U.S. officials who told the Washington Free Beacon that Iran’s military buildup and disregard for international law could prompt U.S. reprisal.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told Congress in a letter sent Tuesday that Iran is complying with requirements for its nuclear program imposed under the nuclear accord. However, Tillerson emphasized that Iran continues to be the world’s leading state sponsor of terror.

Tehran’s malign activities across the Middle East and elsewhere have prompted the Trump administration to place all aspects of the nuclear agreement under critical review, which is viewed by some as a first step to nixing some controversial aspects of the accord, including the massive sanctions relief package.

U.S. officials familiar with the review told the Free Beacon that Iran’s continued support for terrorism has become a sticking point for the Trump administration as it reviews the agreement and the previous administration’s policy toward Iran.

“I think the key is what comes next,” one senior White House official familiar with the interagency review told the Free Beacon. “The question of ongoing sanctions relief will be critical—Iran has already gotten significant economic benefits from the nuclear deal and we need to take a hard look at what Iran is doing with the resources that continue to flow in.”

The Trump administration has been paying close attention to Iran’s ongoing military buildup, including its continued work on ballistic missiles and other offensive weapons aimed at interfering with U.S. operations in the Persian Gulf region.

“Yesterday was the annual Army Day celebration—also known as Death to Israel day—and they paraded some pretty serious new hardware through the streets,” the White House official disclosed. “That has to be a significant concern.”

The White House’s national security apparatus will closely monitor Iran’s behavior as it makes a decision about re-imposing sanctions lifted by the Obama administration.

Tillerson’s emphasis on Iran’s terror operation is “a first step, but we have to remain focused on the threat Tehran poses to America and our allies,” the official said.

Obama administration officials, while selling the nuclear deal to Congress, vowed that Iran would roll back its nefarious activities if it received relief from sanctions.

Tillerson informed Congress this has not happened. After receiving billions in cash assets and other economic relief, Iran invested heavily in its military and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, or IRGC, which continues to meddle in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and a host of other countries.

“Iran remains a leading state sponsor of terror through many platforms and methods,” Tillerson told Congress. “President Donald J. Trump has directed a National Security Council-led interagency review of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) that will evaluate whether suspension of sanctions related to Iran pursuant to the JCPOA is vital to the national security interests of the United States.”

“When the interagency review is completed, the administration looks forward to working with Congress on this issue,” Tillerson wrote.

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VP Mike Pence from Korean Demilitarized Zone: ‘Era of Strategic Patience Is Over’

Breitbart, by Michelle Moons April 17, 2017:

Speaking from Freedom House within the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), Vice President Mike Pence delivered strong words to American and Republic of Korea (ROK) military troops, reassuring South Korea of U.S. commitment to denuclearization and warning North Korea that every option is on the table.

“The patience of the United States and our allies in this region has run out, and we want to see change,” Pence warned.

Pence made clear that the U.S. wants to see the Democratic Peoples’ Republic of Korea (DPRK), or North Korea, abandon “its nuclear program and its ballistic missile program” and that the U.S. hopes to see China take actions necessary to achieve this change.

The Vice President recalled more than a quarter-century ago, when the U.S. became aware North Korea’s attempts at developing a nuclear weapon:

We want to see North Korea abandon its reckless path of the development of nuclear weapons. And also its continual use of and testing of ballistic missiles is unacceptable. That clarity we hope will be received in North Korea, and that they will understand that the United States of America, the people of South Korea, our allies across the region are resolved to achieve our objectives through peaceable means or ultimately by whatever means are necessary to protect the interest, the security of the people of South Korea and to bring stability to the region.

He went on to tell the group:

We are heartened by the support of allies across the Asia Pacific, including China, who will continue to advance this objective on the Korean Peninsula. And I’m here to express the resolve of the people of the United States and the President of the United States to achieve that objective through peaceable means, through negotiations, but all options are on the table as we continue to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the people of South Korea for the denuclearization of this peninsula and for the long-term prosperity and freedom of the people of South Korea.

Pence again recalled his father’s military service in the Korean War. “People across the world should know that the bonds between our people are not simply strategic and military and economic, but they are personal, and they span generations of Americans and South Koreans,” he said.

Asked about what role China could have in denuclearizing North Korea, Pence stated that he and the President are “heartened by some initial steps that China has taken in this regard, but we look for them to do more.”

The Vice President said that he and the President hope to achieve denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula “through peaceable means” with the cooperation of China, South Korea, Japan, and other allies in the region.

“All options are on the table to achieve the objectives and ensure the security of the people of this country and the stability of this region,” said the Vice President, who was clear that the Administration stands by its policy of not talking about military tactical decisions. He also reaffirmed that the U.S. stands with the people of South Korea.

Asked what message he had for the “people on the other side of this line,” Pence responded, “We seek peace, but America has always sought peace through strength. And my message here today standing with U.S. Forces Korea, standing with courageous soldiers from the Republic of Korea, is a message of resolve.”

“The alliance between South Korea and the United States is ironclad.  We will fulfill that alliance for the sake of our people and the people of South Korea,” Pence continued. He went on to say, “As the President has made very clear, either China will deal with this problem or the United States and our allies will.”

Follow Michelle Moons on Twitter @MichelleDiana 

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US nukes at Turkey base at risk of seizure: report

US Air Force tanker planes sit on the tarmac of Incirlik Airbase in southern Turkey (AFP Photo/Tarik Tinazay)

US Air Force tanker planes sit on the tarmac of Incirlik Airbase in southern Turkey (AFP Photo/Tarik Tinazay)

Yahoo News, by Thomas Watkins, Aug. 15, 2016:

Washington (AFP) – Dozens of US nuclear weapons stored at a Turkish air base near Syria are at risk of being captured by “terrorists or other hostile forces,” a Washington think tank claimed Monday.

Critics have long been alarmed by America’s estimated stockpile of about 50 nuclear bombs at Incirlik in southern Turkey, just 70 miles (110 kilometers) from the border with war-torn Syria.

The issue took on fresh urgency last month following the attempted coup in Turkey, in which the base’s Turkish commander was arrested on suspicion of complicity in the plot.

“Whether the US could have maintained control of the weapons in the event of a protracted civil conflict in Turkey is an unanswerable question,” said Monday’s report from the Stimson Center, a nonpartisan think tank working to promote peace.

Incirlik is a vital base for the US-led coalition fighting the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria, with the strategically located facility affording drones and warplanes fast access to IS targets.

But the Pentagon in March ordered families of US troops and civilian personnel stationed in southern Turkey to quit the region due to security fears.

“From a security point of view, it’s a roll of the dice to continue to have approximately 50 of America’s nuclear weapons stationed at Incirlik Air Base in Turkey,” report co-author Laicie Heeley said.

“There are significant safeguards in place. … But safeguards are just that, they don’t eliminate risk. In the event of a coup, we can’t say for certain that we would have been able to maintain control,” she told AFP.

– ‘Avoided disaster so far’ –

While the Pentagon does not discuss where it stores nuclear assets, the bombs are believed to be kept at Incirlik as a deterrent to Russia and to demonstrate America’s commitment to NATO, the 28-member military alliance that includes Turkey.

The Incirlik nuke issue has been the subject of renewed debate in the United States since the coup attempt.

“While we’ve avoided disaster so far, we have ample evidence that the security of US nuclear weapons stored in Turkey can change literally overnight,” Steve Andreasen, director for defense policy and arms control on the White House National Security Council staff from 1993 to 2001, wrote in an opinion piece in the Los Angeles Times last week.

Kori Schake, a fellow at the California-based Hoover Institution, noted in a written debate in the New York Times that “American nuclear forces cannot be used without codes, making the weapons impossible to set off without authorization.”

“The fact that nuclear weapons are stationed in Turkey does not make them vulnerable to capture and use, even if the country were to turn hostile to the United States,” she argued.

The Pentagon declined to comment on questions arising from the Stimson study.

“We do not discuss the location of strategic assets. The (Department of Defense) has taken appropriate steps to maintain the safety and security of our personnel, their families, and our facilities, and we will continue to do so,” it said in a statement.

The Incirlik concerns were highlighted as part of a broader paper into the Pentagon’s nuclear modernization program, through which the United States would spend hundreds of billions of dollars to update its atomic arsenal.

The authors argue that a particular type of bomb — the B61 gravity bomb — should be immediately removed from Europe, where 180 of the weapons are kept in Belgium, Italy, Germany, the Netherlands and Turkey.

A secret group bought the ingredients for a dirty bomb — here in the U.S.

radioactive

Washington Post, by  Patrick Malone, Aug. 4, 2016:

The clandestine group’s goal was clear: Obtain the building blocks of a radioactive “dirty bomb” — capable of poisoning a major city for a year or more — by openly purchasing the raw ingredients from authorized sellers inside the United States.

It should have been hard. The purchase of lethal radioactive materials — even modestly dangerous ones — requires a license from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, a measure meant to keep them away from terrorists. Applicants must demonstrate they have a legitimate need and understand the NRC’s safety standards, and pass an on-site inspection of their equipment and storage.

But this secret group of fewer than 10 people — formed in April 2014 in North Dakota, Texas and Michigan — discovered that getting a license and then ordering enough materials to make a dirty bomb was strikingly simple in one of their three tries. Sellers were preparing shipments that together were enough to poison a city center when the operation was shut down.

The team’s members could have been anyone — a terrorist outfit, emissaries of a rival government, domestic extremists. In fact, they were undercover bureaucrats with the investigative arm of Congress. And they had pulled off the same stunt nine years before. Their fresh success has set off new alarms among some lawmakers and officials in Washington about risks that terrorists inside the United States could undertake a dirty bomb attack.

Read more

Obama says nuclear terrorist attack would ‘change our world’

Peace, man: Surrounded by world leaders, President Barack Obama gave the peace sign at the end of a nuclear security summit today

Peace, man: Surrounded by world leaders, President Barack Obama gave the peace sign at the end of a nuclear security summit today

Fox News, April 1, 2016:

Addressing the last nuclear security summit of his administration, President Obama warned that despite measurably reducing the risk of a devastating attack, the prospect of a terror group like the Islamic State obtaining nuclear weapons is “one of the greatest threats to global security.”

“There is no doubt that if these mad men ever got their hands on a nuclear bomb or nuclear material, they would certainly use it to kill as many people as possible,” the president said, opening the last day of the international summit in Washington on Friday.

Though Obama was determined to end the summit on a hopeful note, discussions among the dozens of world leaders that took place Friday were focused on Islamic terrorism, which followed Thursday’s conversations about the growing threat of North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.

Obama also used the controversial deal with Iran to promote a “carrot and stick” approach to nuclear diplomacy, saying that while it has not swept away all of the other issues the U.S. and other nations still have with Iran, it’s been an effective way to address the narrower issue of nuclear proliferation with Iran.

“This is a success of diplomacy that hopefully we will be able to copy in the future,” he said.

Meanwhile, the U.S. and Japan are pledging to remove highly enriched uranium from a Japanese research reactor to reduce the risk of theft and nuclear terrorism. Fuel from the Kyoto University Critical Assembly will be sent to the United States to be down-blended, and the reactor converted to use low-enriched uranium instead. The allies made the announcement Friday.

Their statement does not say when this process would be complete. Japanese media reports that more than 300 kilograms of plutonium is en route to the Savannah River Site, a federal government facility, despite objections from South Carolina governor Nikki Haley.

This is just one thread in an overall concern about the accessibility of bomb-making material across the globe.

The International Panel on Fissile Material stated last year that the stockpile of accessible fissile material such as highly enriched uranium and separated plutonium remains around 1700 metric tons. What worries security officials is the lack of oversight and utter insecurity of many of these stockpiles, and the potential of “dirty bombs” in the world’s most insecure places.

“It is plausible that certain (terrorist) organisations could attack transports of nuclear material or civilian installations and try to steal radioactive material,” said Benjamin Hautecouverture, a senior fellow at Foundation for Strategic Research in France.

“There is a black market where such material is available coming from central and eastern Europe.”

The absence of nuclear states like Russia at the summit this week underscore the reality that not all governments are on the same page on this issue.

The White House called the absence of Russian President Vladimir Putin a “missed opportunity.” Russia’s stockpile is only rivaled by the U.S. nuclear arsenal. Moscow consequently, has scoffed at the Washington summit, complaining that the U.S. wanted merely to control the process and take power away from international agencies.

Nawaz Sharif, prime minister of Pakistan, another nuclear state, canceled his trip to the event following an Easter Sunday bombing that killed 72 people in Lahore. Pakistan is reported to have a nuclear stockpile of roughly 120 weapons, making it one of the most nuclear-equipped states in the world.

Furthermore, Obama stated that Latin America and the Caribbean are now “free of highly enriched uranium.”

The White House also praised Argentina’s commitment to converting the rest of its stockpile of radioactive material into a less dangerous material. Since the 1980’s, Argentina has cooperated with American authorities to dispose of its uranium stockpile.

With the removal process now complete, the White House has stated that no Latin American state possesses more than one kilogram of highly enriched uranium, labeling Latin American and the Caribbean as a “region free of the material.”

That does not include North America, though according to newly declassified data, the amount of highly enriched uranium held by the U.S. government is dropping.

Statistics indicate its own national inventory of the material has dropped from 741 metric tons two decades ago to 586 metric tons as of 2013.

Despite all of the good news, less than half of the governments attending the summit agreed to secure their radioactive sources – mainly those available in academic institutions and in research hospitals.

The earlier sessions focused on stopping North Korean provocations. Obama discussed steps to deter further North Korean missile tests with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

In another session with the leaders of Japan and South Korea, he called for vigorous implementation of stepped-up U.SN. sanctions. In January, North Korea reportedly detonated its fourth nuclear bomb.

Fox News’ Rich Edson, Daniel Lativa and The Associated Press contributed to this report

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Chairman of FDD’s Leadership Council Jim Woolsey comments on the nuclear summit and proliferation.

Also see:

Belgium Revelations Add Troubling Twist to Nuclear Security Summit

shutterstock_277314425.sized-770x415xtPJ Media, by Bridget Johnson, March 31, 2016:

White House officials acknowledged that concerns about nuclear surveillance by terrorists linked to the Belgium and Paris attacks will be on the agenda at this week’s Nuclear Security Summit in Washington, but only because ISIS was on the agenda before last week’s bombings.

Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes told reporters on a Tuesday conference call previewing the summit that they know “terrorist organizations have the desire to get access to these raw materials and their desire to have a nuclear device.”

“That was certainly the case with al-Qaeda, and that is certainly the case with ISIL as well. And given the ongoing concern about chemical weapons in Iraq and Syria, we have seen ample proof that terrorist organizations like ISIL have no regard for innocent human life or international norms, and that only redoubles the need for us to have effective international nuclear security approaches,” Rhodes said.

“As the president said back in Prague, a terrorist attack with an improvised nuclear device would cost an enormous amount in terms of human life, and could also have profound political and economic and environmental effects on global security as well. And so, therefore, this is a challenge that demands the type of international cooperation that we are promoting through the Nuclear Security Summit process.”

The summit begins Thursday as President Obama holds a meeting with his South Korean and Japanese counterparts about North Korea, followed by a bilateral with Chinese President Xi Jinping. All leaders in town for the summit will join Obama at a working dinner to “share perspectives on the evolving nuclear terrorism threat,” Rhodes said.

Obama’s Friday schedule is largely dedicated to “mark the progress that has been made in implementing the Iran deal.”

Laura Holgate, senior director for WMD and terrorism at the National Security Council, was asked if the Belgium attacks impacted the conference agenda — specifically, reports that Belgian bombers Ibrahim and Khalid el-Bakraoui were involved in video monitoring of a Belgian nuclear official who had access to sites harboring a range of materials that could be used in weapons. That video was reportedly given to Mohammed Bakkali, a planner of the Paris attacks now in custody.

Concerns over the terrorists’ interest in nuclear officials and sites range from ISIS cells constructing their own dirty bombs to sabotaging a country’s nuclear infrastructure.

Holgate said “having a portion of the discussion that focuses on counter-ISIL is a judgment that was made in January, but it turns out that it’s obviously very timely, unfortunately.”

“We have seen those reports about targeting nuclear facilities as part of a broader-level — broader plot. And certainly the video footage is of concern and suggests that there is at least some interest by ISIL. But we don’t have any indications that it was part of a broader planning to acquire nuclear materials, and we don’t have any information that a broader plot exists,” she said.

Holgate added “we’ve been working closely with Belgium over the years on nuclear security issues.”

“We’ve worked with them to reduce the amount of highly enriched uranium at that particular site where that manager worked. And there’s extensive cooperation between our regulatory bodies that includes discussions of nuclear security and related issues,” she said. “And we stand ready to help the Belgians in any way should they require or wish to cooperate more deeply with us on these issues.”

Rhodes added that the working meetings can look “at denying access to the most dangerous materials and going on offense against ISIL broadly.”

“We’ve seen over the years different terrorist organizations have ambitions related to acquiring nuclear materials. We’ve seen that in their public statements. We’ve seen that in different cases in terms of their monitoring of nuclear facilities. And that’s why the summit process is so important,” he said. “Because different countries have different levels of security at their facilities or in terms of how they are handling nuclear materials. Belgium has advanced nuclear security protocols in place, but we have a variance among different countries.”

Asked if the administration is more concerned about terrorists constructing a dirty bomb or obtaining fissile material or a nuclear weapon, Holgate replied it’s “hard to handicap” the scenarios.

“They’re both ones that we’re working hard to prevent and avoid. Certainly there is much more extensive radiologically material out there in the world than there is highly enriched uranium or plutonium that you need to make an actual nuclear weapon. You find radiological material in industrial, medical, academic and other communities, and there is a code of conduct that identifies best practices on how to secure that,” Holgate said.

“…That having been said, there are abandoned sources, orphan sources that concern us. And the potential for that kind of a device certainly exists. At this point, we don’t have explicit indications that ISIL is looking to achieve either type of a nuclear or a radiological capability, but we’re keeping a close eye on that.”

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