NYT: Pentagon Readies Plan to Deploy 120,000 Troops as U.S.-Iran Tensions Mount

H1 pentagon troops iran middle east

As tensions continue to mount between the United States and Iran, the New York Times reports the Pentagon has drawn up a plan to send as many as 120,000 troops to the Middle East if President Trump decides to take military action against Iran.

The U.S. recently deployed a carrier strike group and a bomber task force to the region claiming there was a “credible threat by Iranian regime forces.”

Meanwhile the European Union is urging the Trump administration to show “maximum restraint” following a meeting Monday between Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and EU diplomats in Brussels. Iran has announced it will stop complying with parts of the landmark 2015 nuclear deal if others signatories of the deal do not take action to shield Iran’s oil and banking sectors from U.S. sanctions.

We’ll have more on Iran after headlines.

Putin warns US with new missiles aimed at Western capitals

Moscow will retaliate in kind if US deploys new missiles in Europe, Russian president says as he addresses the nation.

Putin warns US with new missiles aimed at Western capitals
Putin said the US abandoned a key arms control pact to free its hands to build new missiles and shift the blame on Russia [Sputnik/Kremlin via Reuters]

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin warned the United States against deploying new missiles in Europe, threatening to retaliate in kind by targeting Western capitals with his own new weaponry.

Delivering a state of the nation address, Putin said the US abandoned a key arms control pact – the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty – to free its hands to build new missiles and tried to shift the blame for the move on Russia.

Many analysts say abandoning the treaty effectively signalled the start of a new arms race.

The longtime Russian leader warned Washington against deploying any new missiles in Europe following the collapse of the key Cold War-era treaty, saying Moscow would consider it a “serious threat”.

“I’m saying this clearly and openly, Russia will be forced to deploy weapons that can be used… against the decision-making centres that are behind the missile systems which threaten us,” Putin said.

“The capability of such weapons, including the time to reach those centres, will be equivalent to the threats against Russia.”

He did not say what specific new weapons Moscow could deploy, but he reported quick progress on an array of new systems presented a year ago.

The INF deal was signed in 1987 by then US president Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and resolved a crisis over Soviet nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles targeting Western capitals.

New arms

Putin said the first batch of Avangard hypersonic glide vehicles will be deployed this year.

He added the tests of the new Sarmat heavy intercontinental ballistic missile, the Burevestnik nuclear-powered cruise missile and the Poseidon nuclear-powered underwater drone have been progressing successfully.

The first submarine equipped to carry the Poseidon will be commissioned later this year, Putin reported.

He also announced the coming deployment of the new Zircon hypersonic missile for the Russian navy, saying it’s capable of flying at nine times the speed of sound and will have a range of 1,000km.

He said the Zircon programme will not be too costly as the missile has been designed to equip Russia’s existing surface ships and submarines.

While issuing a tough warning to the US, Putin also said Russia still wants friendly relations with Washington and remains open to arms control talks.

“We don’t want confrontation, particularly with such a global power as the US,” he said.

The US has accused Russia of breaching the INF treaty by deploying a cruise missile that violates its limits – accusations Moscow rejected.

The INF treaty banned the production, testing and deployment of land-based cruise and ballistic missiles with a range of 500km to 5,500km.

The intermediate-range weapons were seen as particularly destabilising as they take less time to reach their targets compared with the intercontinental ballistic missiles.

That would leave practically no time for decision-makers, raising the likelihood of a global nuclear conflict over a false launch warning.

‘Unacceptable’ threats

The US State Department said Washington was not developing “exotic new nuclear weapons delivery systems” and repeated its claim that Russia violates the INF treaty while the United States does not.

“President Putin’s remarks are a continuation of Russia’s propaganda effort to avoid responsibility for Russia’s actions in violation of the INF Treaty,” added a State Department spokeswoman on condition of anonymity.

NATO on Wednesday condemned Putin’s “unacceptable” threats.

“Russian statements threatening to target Allies are unacceptable. We call on Russia to focus on returning to compliance with the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty,” NATO deputy spokesman, Piers Cazalet, said in a statement.

“NATO is a defensive alliance, which stands ready to defend all members against any threat. We do not want a new arms race, and allies have repeatedly called on Russia to verifiably destroy its intermediate-range missiles.”

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg has said several times in recent weeks that the alliance would not deploy any new land-based nuclear weapons in response to the Russian missiles.

Internal audience

Putin’s tough talk on missiles seemed aimed at stirring up patriotic support for the 66-year-old leader, who won re-election last year with more than 76 percent of the vote but has been recently struggling with dropping poll numbers.

A survey by Russia’s independent Levada Centre released in January found his approval rating at 64 percent – a figure many Western leaders could only dream of, but Putin’s lowest in five years.

WATCH

Is a new hypersonic arms race underway?

Most of Wednesday’s speech focused on promises to address poor living standards, a key source of frustration for many Russians nearly 20 years after Putin came to power.

“We cannot wait, the situation must change for the better now,” Putin told assembled legislators from Russia’s lower house State Duma and upper house Federation Council.

“Within this year, [Russians] should feel changes,” he said.

Putin lamented about 19 million Russians were living below the poverty line, saying: “This is too much … The state should help.”

He focused, in particular, on help for Russian families, pointing to a demographic crisis that has seen birth rates fall drastically since the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union.

Last year, the government’s statistics agency said the country’s birth rate had fallen by 11 percent in 2017 to the lowest level in a decade.

“The incomes of Russian families should of course rise,” he said, promising new child benefits and lower taxes for larger families.

Javier Solana on possible arms race in Europe: 'I'm very worried'

TALK TO AL JAZEERA

Javier Solana on possible arms race in Europe: ‘I’m very worried’

SOURCE: NEWS AGENCIES

Petition Calling for Impeachment of the President of the United States

p05kdxbj

https://www.change.org/p/the-people-impeach-donald-j-trump

 

or

https://www.needtoimpeach.com/petition/

 

(When the future asks, “What did you do?”)

 

 

‘Huge mistake’: Fears of arms race as US, Russia suspend INF pact

The US suspended the INF Treaty after accusing Russia of violating the pact with its 9M729 missile system [Yuri Kochetkov/EPA]
The US suspended the INF Treaty after accusing Russia of violating the pact with its 9M729 missile system [Yuri Kochetkov/EPA]

In an escalating standoff over nuclear weapons, Russia and the United States have suspended compliance with the Cold War-era Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, prompting fears of a new arms race that analysts and politicians say could push the world “much closer” to a nuclear war.

The long-running dispute between Washington and Moscow came to a head on Friday when US President Donald Trump accused Russia of violating the 1987 bilateral treaty with “impunity”, and announced his government was suspending its obligations under the landmark pact.

Pledging to “move forward” with its own military response options, Trump said the US will withdraw from the accord  in six months unless Moscow destroyed land-based missiles allegedly deployed in violation of the treaty.

In a tit-for-tat move on Saturday, Russian President Vladimir Putin said he was also suspending Moscow’s participation in the agreement.

“Our American partners have announced they were suspending their participation in the treaty and we will do the same,” he said in a televised meeting with his defence and foreign ministers.

“They have announced they will conduct research and development, and we will act accordingly.”

Russia will start work on creating new missiles, including hypersonic weapons, he said, adding that Moscow will not deploy such weapons in the European part of the country or elsewhere unless the US does so.

‘Huge mistake’

The reciprocal moves effectively terminate a pact regarded as one of the most important safeguards against nuclear war.

They come amid strained relations between Washington and Moscow over issues including Russia’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine, and its alleged interference in the 2016 US presidential elections.

Analysts said Trump’s decision to scrap the pact leaves Russia free to shape the military balance in Europe.

The strategic advantages for the US, however, were less clear, they said.

“Nothing good will come out of the US withdrawal,” said Mark Fitzpatrick, executive director of the non-proliferation programme at the Washington-based International Institute for Strategic Studies.

“The Trump administration has made a huge mistake – it’s a breakdown of arms control. It’s a breakdown of trust between US and Russia. The US will have problems with its European allies, and it will engage in a new arms race with China as well.”

READ MORE

5 things to know about threatened US-Russia nuclear weapons deal

The INF Treaty was signed following the Euromissile crisis in the late 1970s and 1980s, when the Soviet Union’s mobilising of cruise missiles that could hit most of Europe prompted the US to deploy to the region ballistic missiles that could reach Moscow in 10 minutes.

The pact banned all ground-based missiles with ranges between 500km and 5,500km, ridding Europe of an entire category of destabilising weapons – nearly 3,000 ground-launched intermediate ballistic and cruise missiles were destroyed.

The treaty does not cover air- or sea-launched weapons, and did not include other powers such as China, North KoreaIran and Israel, allowing these countries to grow their stockpile of weapons.

Strategic benefits

Since 2014, US officials have accused Russia of breaching the treaty with its 9M729 missile. Moscow rejects the allegation, saying the missile’s range does not exceed 500km. It also accused the US of violating the treaty with its missile defence systems in Romania and Poland – a claim the US denies.

“Let’s be clear – the Russians were cheating,” said Tom Nichols, a US-based defence analyst. “It was a provocation to menace the Europeans and to see if they could bait the Americans into walking away.”

The US response only showed how “confused” Washington’s nuclear arms policy was, he said.

Observers said most European and NATO countries were unlikely to host any land-based intermediate-range missiles that the US might develop, meaning Washington was pulling out of the deal without any real strategic benefit.

Poland and Romania, scarred by past Soviet occupation, may be more enthusiastic to host such weapons, according to Leo Hoffman at the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, but such a move could divide the NATO alliance.

“This is also completely the wrong approach to take,” the Brussels-based campaigner said, “because by arming yourself to the teeth, you make yourself a target”.

The US’ unilateral decision was “jeopardising” Europe’s security, he added.

Carl Bildt, a co-chair of the European Council on Foreign Relations, agreed. The INF Treaty’s demise will allow Russia to deploy its Kalibr cruise missiles with a range of 1,500km from ground launchers, he said in a Twitter post on Friday.

“This would quickly cover all of Europe with an additional threat,” he said.

Carl Bildt

@carlbildt

After demise of INF Treaty Russia can now also deploy its Kaliber cruise missiles with ranges around 1.500 km from ground launchers. This would quickly cover all of Europe with an additional threat. https://twitter.com/Liveuamap/status/1091637014431182848 

Liveuamap

@Liveuamap

Replying to @Liveuamap

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu: After the US withdrawal from the treaty, I propose to use Kaliber missiles with land-based launchers https://russia.liveuamap.com/en/2019/2-february-russian-defense-minister-sergei-shoigu-after-the #Russia

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China’s nuclear missile arsenal

The “real reason” for the US pullout, according to Fitzpatrick, was Washington’s concern over China’s buildup of intermediate-range missiles in the Western Pacific.

China’s inventory contains more than 2,000 ballistic and cruise missiles, approximately 95 percent of which would violate the INF Treaty if Beijing were a signatory, according to US officials. But the INF Treaty prevents the US from placing short and intermediate range missiles on land near China as a deterrent.

However, it was unclear how willing US allies in Asia, such as Japan or South Korea, maybe to host such weapons. So while the US move “sends a signal of concern about China, it comes without any plan or response in place,” said Fitzpatrick. “And I think that’s a big danger.”

For its part, China has appealed to the US and Russia to preserve the treaty, saying the US move “may trigger a series of adverse consequences”.

OPINION

The end of INF: Another nuclear treaty bites the dust

Alexander Gillespie
by Alexander Gillespie

In Moscow, Pavel Felgenhauer, a Russian military analyst, said he was concerned about Putin’s order to develop hypersonic ballistic missiles.

“Such a weapon would avoid missile defence systems in Europe and the Middle East. That brings the situation into a higher level, more dangerous … and that would bring nuclear war much closer,” he said.

In Washington, Trump’s political opponents have labelled the president’s INF Treaty move a “disaster” and submitted legislation to bar the US from using a nuclear weapon unless attacked with one first.

Elizabeth Warren, a Democrat senator and presidential hopeful who introduced the No First Use Act, urged the country’s Congress to pass her bill and prevent Trump “from unilaterally starting a nuclear war”.

Elizabeth Warren

@SenWarren

We can hold Russia accountable without tearing up the INF Treaty. Withdrawing won’t make America any safer – it just increases the potential for a new arms race that would make the world even more dangerous.

Elizabeth Warren

@SenWarren

.@realDonaldTrump wants to upgrade our nuclear arsenal AND end decades-old arms control agreements. That’s a recipe for disaster. Congress must immediately pass my bill to prevent him (or any president) from unilaterally starting a nuclear war. https://www.cnn.com/2019/01/30/politics/warren-adam-smith-nuclear-weapons/index.html 

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With the INF Treaty all but gone, all eyes are on the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), a 2010 pact that limits the US and Russia to no more than 700 deployed strategic missiles and bombers and no more than 1,550 deployed strategic warheads.

The treaty expires in two years, but can be extended by up to five years.

“If New START lapses in 2021, no treaties will constrain US and Russian nuclear forces, a break from some 50 years of nuclear arms control between Washington and Moscow,” Steven Pifer, a fellow at Brookings Institute, said in a post on Axios, a US-based news and information website.

“That world invariably will be less stable, less predictable and less secure,” he wrote.

Zaheena Rasheed contributed reporting to this article.

SOURCE: AL JAZEERA NEWS

Russia and the United States pull out of a Cold War-era nuclear pact igniting fears of a new arms race.

 

A treaty that has helped keep the world safe from nuclear war appears to be falling apart.

The United States withdrew from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty on Friday, accusing Russia of violating it.

Moscow has now followed suit.

President Putin denies breaking the deal and says Russia will start developing new missiles.

Fears are now growing of a new phase in the arms race. Does it make the world a more dangerous place?

Presenter: Martine Dennis

Guests:

Pavel Felgenhauer – Defence and military analyst

Mark Fitzpatrick – Director of the non-proliferation programme at the International Institute for Strategic Studies

Leo Hoffman – Liaison to the EU and NATO at the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons

Source: Al Jazeera News

Trump tells US spy chiefs: ‘Go back to school’

US President Donald Trump holding an order withdrawing the US from an landmark nuclear deal with IranPresident Trump withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal in May 2018

President Donald Trump has called US intelligence agencies “naive” on Iran and also dismissed their assessment of the threat posed by North Korea.

“Be careful of Iran. Perhaps Intelligence should go back to school!” Mr Trump tweeted.

The testy response came after a US intelligence report said Iran was not making nuclear weapons.

It also said that North Korea remained “unlikely to give up” its weapons stockpiles and production abilities.

National intelligence director Dan Coats and other intelligence chiefs presented the Worldwide Threat Assessment report to the Senate on Tuesday.

Last year, the US pulled out of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, triggering widespread criticism from Washington’s allies.

Mr Trump also launched a diplomatic push to improve relations with North Korea, meeting the country’s leader Kim Jong-un in Singapore last June to discuss denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula.

At the time, Mr Trump said this meeting had ended the North Korean nuclear threat – a claim questioned by a number of US politicians and experts.

N Korea’s leaders ‘view nuclear as key to regime survival’

The US intelligence report also warned that cyber threats from China and Russia were a growing concern, and both countries may be seeking to influence the 2020 US presidential elections.

What did Trump say about Iran?

In a series of tweets, Mr Trump said US intelligence officials “seem to be extremely passive and naive when it comes to the dangers of Iran. They are wrong!”

Iran, he continued, was “making trouble all over the Middle East, and beyond” in 2016, but had been “much different” since the US pullout from the “terrible” Iran nuclear deal.

However, Mr Trump warned that Tehran remained “a source of potential danger and conflict”, referring to reported recent Iranian rocket tests.

Donald J. Trump

At the Senate hearing, CIA director Gina Haspel said Iran was “technically… in compliance” with the nuclear deal, despite the US withdrawal and the imposition of stricter sanctions against Tehran.

However, the intelligence report warned that Iran’s “regional ambitions and improved military capabilities” would probably threaten US interests in the future.

What about Trump’s remarks on North Korea?

The president wrote that “time will tell what will happen with North Korea, but at the end of the previous administration, relationship was horrendous and very bad things were about to happen.

“Now a whole different story. I look forward to seeing Kim Jong Un shortly. Progress being made – big difference!”

The US intelligence report earlier concluded that North Korea was “unlikely to give up” its weapons stockpiles and production abilities while it tried to negotiate “partial denuclearisation steps to obtain key US and international concessions”.

Having nuclear weapons was seen as “critical to regime survival”, the report added.

In Singapore, Mr Trump and Mr Kim signed an agreement pledging to “work toward complete denuclearisation” – but there was no agreed pathway and little progress has been made since then on the issue.

The White House has said there will be a second summit in February, but no date or location has yet been confirmed.

Presentational white space

For Trump and intelligence chiefs, a gaping chasm is normal

Analysis by BBC Security Correspondent Gordon Corera

It used to be that finding the tiniest gap between the statements of a political leader and his intelligence chiefs would make for front-page news.

Yet these days a gaping chasm between President Trump and the heads of his intelligence agencies has almost become a new normal.

The willingness of Donald Trump to attack intelligence assessments began after his election and before he took office, when the intelligence community at the tail end of the Obama administration produced an assessment that said Russia had interfered in the 2016 election.

Rather than see the legitimacy of his victory undermined, he targeted the credibility of the spies.

That trend has continued in office even with intelligence chiefs who now serve at his pleasure.

They have to tread a thorny path (easier walked together than alone) between being seen to maintain their integrity in telling “truth to power”, and not risking the wrath of a president which in turn could undermine their work.

Presentational white space

Is this the first time Trump has clashed with US intelligence bosses?

No.

Last year, Mr Trump faced a barrage of criticism from both Democrats and Republicans after he defended Russia over claims it meddled in the 2016 US presidential elections.

US intelligence agencies concluded in 2016 that Russia was behind an effort to tip the scales of the US election against Hillary Clinton, with a state-authorised campaign of cyber attacks and fake news stories planted on social media.

But after face-to-face talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki in July 2018, Mr Trump said there had been no reason for Russia to interfere.

“President Putin says it’s not Russia. I don’t see any reason why it would be,” Mr Trump told a news conference.

Just 24 hours later, the US president said he misspoke and should have said, “I don’t see any reason why it wouldn’t be” Russia.

Trump says he “misspoke” at Putin summit, but is it too late? Anthony Zurcher explains

US special counsel Robert Mueller is continuing his investigation into alleged Russian collusion in the 2016 US election.

President Trump has repeatedly described the investigation as a “witch-hunt”.

Intelligence Community Contradicts Trump on Iran, N. Korea, ISIS

JAN 30, 2019

H2 intelligence hearing

Senior members of the intelligence community directly contradicted statements by President Trump on several major issues Tuesday. Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats told the Senate Intelligence Committee that North Korea will likely not move toward complete denuclearization.

Dan Coats: “We currently assess that North Korea will seek to retain its WMD capabilities and is unlikely to completely give up its nuclear weapons and production capabilities, because its leaders ultimately view nuclear weapons as critical to regime survival.”

Coats also said Iran is not producing a nuclear weapon. Trump withdrew the U.S. from the landmark 2015 Iran nuclear deal last year, despite international condemnation of the move and U.N. inspectors saying Iran was adhering to the deal. On ISIS, Coats said the group still has thousands of fighters in Iraq and Syria and is “very likely” to launch attacks on U.S. and allied targets. Last month, Trump announced he was withdrawing all U.S. troops from Syria, declaring, “We have won against ISIS. We’ve beaten them, and we’ve beaten them badly.” Intelligence officials did not signal the situation at the U.S.-Mexico border as a major security threat, despite Trump repeatedly saying it constitutes a national emergency.