S President Donald Trump on Tuesday said that sanctions reimposed on Iran were the “most biting ever” as he warned other countries from doing business with Tehran.
“The Iran sanctions have officially been cast. These are the most biting sanctions ever imposed, and in November they ratchet up to yet another level,” he wrote in an early morning tweet.
“Anyone doing business with Iran will NOT be doing business with the United States. I am asking for WORLD PEACE, nothing less.”
The sanctions reimposed on Tuesday — targeting access to US banknotes and key industries such as cars and carpets — were unlikely to cause immediate economic turmoil.
Iran’s markets were actually relatively buoyant, with the rial strengthening by 20 per cent since Sunday after the government relaxed foreign exchange rules and allowed unlimited, tax-free gold and currency imports.
But a second tranche coming into effect on November 5 covering Iran’s vital oil sector, could be far more damaging — even if several key customers such as China, India and Turkey have refused to significantly cut their purchases.
Trump’s contempt for the nuclear deal dates back to his time as a presidential candidate and on May 8, he made good on a pledge to pull America out of the international agreement.
The unilateral withdrawal came despite other parties to the agreement — Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the EU — pleading with Trump not to abandon the pact aimed at blocking Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.
Related: Trump: North Korea summit would be great for the world (FOX News)
South Korean President Moon Jae-in said Sunday that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un had reaffirmed his commitment to the “complete denuclearization” of the Korean Peninsula and looked forward to meeting President Donald Trump on June 12, in the latest attempt by the two Korean leaders to keep recent engagement efforts on track.
The remarks by Mr Moon came a day after the two Korean leaders met for an unannounced summit at the inter-Korean truce village of Panmunjom on Saturday, in the second meeting between the two men in as many months.
Mr Moon said the North Korean leader reached out to him on Friday for talks, and that the two sides agreed to meet at Panmunjom in a surprise summit that Mr. Moon said on Sunday was “like an ordinary meeting between friends.”
The meeting, together with optimistic remarks from Mr Trump on Saturday, marked a swift reversal from Thursday when Mr Trump wrote an open letter to Mr Kim calling off plans for a meeting and instead reminded him of the power of the U.S. nuclear arsenal.
On Sunday, Mr Moon said that he and Mr Kim expected plans for a June 12 summit in Singapore between Messrs. Trump and Kim to be a success, and added that he hoped to later hold a trilateral meeting with the U.S. president and North Korean leader.
Mr Moon said Mr Kim had expressed concerns at their Saturday meeting about whether the U.S. “could be fully trusted to guarantee his regime’s survival” if North Korea were to give up its nuclear weapons.
“I conveyed President Trump’s message that the U.S. would guarantee his regime’s survival, and provide economic aid if North Korea pursues complete denuclearization,” Mr Moon said.
Asked by a reporter if Mr Kim had agreed to the U.S.’s call for complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization, Mr Moon said that the U.S. and North Korea needed to work together to come to an agreement on the nuclear issue.
Saturday’s meeting—the fourth in history between leaders of the two Koreas—was the latest turn in a series of diplomatic manoeuvres as the U.S. and South Korea seek to rein in North Korea’s nuclear ambitions.
It followed an April 27 summit between Messrs. Moon and Kim on the south side of the line dividing the inter-Korean truce village of Panmunjom, at which the two men signed a Panmunjom Declaration vowing an end to war and hostilities between the two sides.
It also came days after Mr. Trump abruptly scrapped a planned summit with Mr Kim in Singapore on June 12—only to say a day later that it might still take place.
Mr. Trump said Saturday that plans for a U.S.-North Korea summit were now “moving along pretty well.”
Speaking in the Oval Office late Saturday, Mr. Trump said “we’re looking at June 12 in Singapore. That hasn’t changed.”
“I think there’s a lot of goodwill,” Mr. Trump said. “We can be successful in the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”
Earlier Saturday, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said an advance team from the White House would travel to Singapore on Sunday, as scheduled, to prepare for a summit should it take place.
Mr. Trump had scrapped plans for the summit, citing “open hostility” from the North Korean regime, as the White House considered dozens of sanctions on Pyongyang.
However, he has since expressed his interest in seeing the summit through, following an immediate change in tone from North Korea’s leader following the cancellation.
North Korea confirmed the meeting with Mr. Moon and the discussion of the planned Singapore summit through its state media early Sunday, saying that the meeting between Messrs. Moon and Kim happened “all of a sudden.”
The two Koreas agreed to “meet frequently in the future,” North Korea’s report said, portraying the relationship of Messrs. Moon and Kim in warm terms.
“Kim Jong Un thanked Moon Jae In for much effort made by him for the DPRK-U.S. summit scheduled for June 12, and expressed his fixed will on the historic DPRK-U.S. summit talks,” the North Korean report said, referring to North Korea by the abbreviation for its formal name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
The two Koreas also agreed to meet again for working-level talks on June 1, in a resumption of dialogue that Pyongyang had scuttled earlier this month, when it criticized South Korea for participating in an air force drill with the U.S., and for failing to muzzle a North Korean defector who has been critical of Pyongyang’s recent pursuit of dialogue.
Just days before the surprise summit at the DMZ, North Korea’s state media had lashed out at the U.S., saying that it wouldn’t participate in any summit with the U.S. focused on Pyongyang giving up its nuclear weapons while criticizing Vice President Mike Pence as a “political dummy.” The remarks were cited by Mr. Trump as the reason for the scrapping of the planned Singapore summit.
The tone from Pyongyang was markedly different on Sunday, in line with a conciliatory response from North Korea to Mr. Trump’s summit cancellation. On Saturday, Mr. Kim told Mr. Moon that they should work together to improve U.S.-North Korea relations, and thanked the South Korean leader for his efforts.
“The top leaders of the north and the south open-heartedly listened to each other’s opinions on the crucial pending matters without formality, and had a candid dialogue,” the North’s report said.
Photos and video released by the presidential Blue House on Saturday showed Mr. Moon in a bear hug with Mr. Kim, and of the two men wearing broad grins as they shook hands. They met at Unification Pavilion, a building on the north side of the military demarcation line, the South said.
Other photos showed Mr. Moon being greeted by Mr. Kim’s younger sister, Kim Yo Jong, and of the South Korean leader sitting across a table with Mr. Kim and Kim Yong Chol, a four-star North Korean general who has been a constant presence at his leader’s side in recent weeks. Mr. Moon was accompanied by Suh Hoon, the South’s spy chief.
Mr. Moon will share the details of the inter-Korean meeting Sunday at 10 a.m. Seoul time, said Yoon Young-chan, a spokesman for South Korea’s presidential office, in a statement Saturday evening.
The meeting was the second between Messrs. Moon and Kim in as many months, and the fourth in history between the leaders of the two Koreas. Kim Jong Un’s father, Kim Jong Il, met with South Korea’s presidents in 2000 and 2007, both times in Pyongyang.
Saturday’s summit showed that Messrs. Kim and Moon are both eager to keep the diplomatic momentum going despite recent setbacks, said Markus Bell, a lecturer in Korean and Japanese studies at the University of Sheffield in the U.K.
“Donald Trump has been flip-flopping on whether he’s going to get involved and move forward on a summit, and he’s given the window for North Korea to look like the levelheaded, rational actor,” Mr. Bell said.
Jenny Town, a research analyst at the Stimson Center think tank in Washington and managing editor of 38 North, a North Korea-focused blog, said Mr. Moon’s ability to hold a snap meeting with Mr. Kim highlights the willingness of both leaders to engage in back-channel diplomacy.
“They feel comfortable enough to have direct communication and to be able to meet on short notice,” Ms. Town said, adding that the body language between them underscored that.
Mr. Kim greeted Mr. Moon, she said, “like an old friend, instead of an awkward handshake.”
Mr. Moon had been a chief proponent of direct talks between Washington and Pyongyang, and said he was “perplexed” by Mr. Trump’s cancellation of the meeting.
Go Myong-hyun of the Asan Institute for Policy Studies, a private think tank in Seoul, said the two Korean leaders may also have been motivated by an attempt to stave off a return to U.S.-led pressure and sanctions against Pyongyang, as Mr. Trump said this week.
“The ultimate goal of this summit was to ensure that ‘maximum pressure’ doesn’t surface again in Washington after the cancellation of the U.S.-North Korea summit,” Mr. Go said.
Mr. Moon, eager to keep talks on track, was able to draw on his historically high domestic approval ratings to continue to push things forward with the North, even in the face of Mr. Trump’s calls for a return to “maximum pressure,” Mr. Bell said.
“Moon has positioned himself as the peacemaker, and he’s riding the wave of 80% approval to basically push forward his agenda to reach out to North Korea,” he said.
The message from Messrs. Moon and Kim, he added, was: “Why do we need the U.S. doing anything if Trump is going to oscillate between ‘fire and fury’ and sharing a hamburger with Kim? Maybe we should move things forward by ourselves.” (Wall Street Journal)
Britain has never been ‘naive’ about Iran’s nuclear programme, a spokesman for the government said on Monday night, after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused the Islamic Republic of lying to the world about its ambitions.
The spokesman also said inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) are vital to ensure Iran’s nuclear programme is used for peaceful means.
Netanyahu stepped up pressure on the United States to pull out of a 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, holding a primetime address on Israeli TV to present what he called evidence of a secret Iranian nuclear weapons programme.
‘We have never been naive about Iran and its nuclear intentions. That is why the IAEA inspection regime agreed as part of the Iran nuclear deal is one of the most extensive and robust in the history of international nuclear accords,’ a British government spokesman said in a statement.
‘It remains a vitally important way of independently verifying that Iran is adhering to the deal and that Iran’s nuclear programme is exclusively peaceful.’
Intelligence experts and diplomats said Netanyahu did not seem to have presented a ‘smoking gun’ showing that Iran had violated the agreement, although he may have helped make a case on behalf of hawks in the U.S. administration who want to scrap it.
Most of the purported evidence Netanyahu unveiled dated to the period before the 2015 accord was signed, although he said Iran had also kept important files on nuclear technology since then, and continued adding to its ‘nuclear weapons knowledge’.
Tehran dismissed Netanyahu as ‘the boy who cried wolf’, and called his presentation propaganda.
President Donald Trump has threatened to pull the United States out of the international deal unless it is renegotiated by May 12. After Netanyahu spoke, Trump repeated his criticism of the deal, suggesting he backed the Israeli leader’s remarks.
‘Iran’s leaders repeatedly deny ever pursuing nuclear weapons,’ Netanyahu said at Israel’s Defence Ministry, standing in front of stacks of files representing what he described as a vault full of Iranian nuclear documents obtained weeks before.
‘Tonight I’m here to tell you one thing: Iran lied.’
‘Iran lied about never having a nuclear weapons programme,’ he said. ‘One hundred thousand secret files prove it did. Second, even after the deal, Iran continued to preserve and expand its nuclear weapons knowledge for future use.’
Although the presentation was live on Israeli television, Netanyahu made clear that his audience was abroad: he delivered most of his speech in English, before switching to Hebrew.
Netanyahu said he had shared the intelligence with the United States and would dispatch envoys to France and Germany to present it. He also spoke by phone to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Tehran has denied ever seeking nuclear weapons and accuses its arch-foe Israel of stirring up world suspicions against it.
A senior U.S. official said Netanyahu gave new US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo a heads-up about the presentation he would give while on a visit to Tel Aviv at the weekend.
‘We were made aware of his plans,’ the official said.
Under the 2015 nuclear deal struck by Iran and six major powers – Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States – Tehran agreed to limit its nuclear program in return for relief from the U.S. and other economic sanctions.
Trump gave Britain, France and Germany a May 12 deadline to fix what he views as the deal’s flaws – its failure to address Iran’s ballistic missile program, the terms by which inspectors visit suspect Iranian sites, and ‘sunset’ clauses under which some of its terms expire – or he will re-impose U.S. sanctions.
Much of what Netanyahu presented is unlikely to surprise world powers, which have long concluded that Iran was pursuing atomic weapons before the agreement was signed in 2015: that is in part why they imposed sanctions in the first place.
The French ambassador to Washington, Gerard Araud, tweeted that information about past Iranian nuclear activity was, in fact, an argument in favour of the nuclear deal, not against it.
A German government spokesman said it was vital to keep the independent inspections provided for under the deal.
Washington’s European allies say Tehran has generally abided by the terms of the deal since then, and have urged Trump not to scrap it. Some independent analysts and diplomats said Netanyahu appeared to be presenting old evidence.
Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Monday that Iran is keen to develop ties with the rest of the world, which is ‘not merely’ the United States and…Eran Etzion, a former deputy Israeli national security adviser who now heads the Israeli-European think-tank Forum of Strategic Dialogue, said on Twitter: ‘No ‘smoking gun’ was revealed this evening, nor was it proven that Iran is today developing nuclear weaponry or violating the (nuclear deal) in any other way.’
A senior European diplomat told Reuters: ‘We knew all of this and what especially stands out is that Netanyahu doesn’t speak of any recorded violations’ of the deal itself.
Speaking after Netanyahu’s presentation, Trump told a White House news conference the nuclear deal was ‘a horrible agreement for the United States’. He said it would let Tehran develop nuclear arms after seven years and had ‘proven right what Israel has done today’ with Netanyahu’s disclosures.
However, Washington itself has concluded that Iran has not violated the deal’s terms. Two U.S. intelligence officials who have monitored Iran’s nuclear weapons program for years said nothing in Netanyahu’s remarks appeared to contradict that view.
‘We have seen no new and credible evidence that Iran is violating the agreement, whether in the Prime Minister’s remarks today or from other sources,’ said one of the officials, both of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity.
Moments before Netanyahu spoke Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted: ‘The boy who can’t stop crying wolf is at it again’.
Abbas Araqchi, a senior Iranian foreign ministry official, was quoted by Iran’s Tasnim news agency as calling Netanyahu’s presentation ‘a childish and ridiculous game’ with the goal of influencing Trump’s decision ahead of the May 12 deadline.
Israel is widely believed to be the only nuclear-armed state in the Middle East, though it neither confirms nor denies possessing atomic weapons. (Daily Mail)
GOYANG, South Korea — With a single step over a weathered, cracked slab of concrete, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un made history Friday by crossing over the world’s most heavily armed border to greet South Korean President Moon Jae-in for talks on North Korea’s nuclear weapons. Kim then invited Moon to cross briefly back into the north with him before they returned to the southern side.
Those small steps must be seen in the context of the last year — when the United States, its ally South Korea and the North seemed at times to be on the verge of nuclear war as the North unleashed a torrent of weapons tests — but also in light of the long, destructive history of the rival Koreas, who fought one of the 20th century’s bloodiest conflicts and even today occupy a divided peninsula that’s still technically in a state of war.
“I feel like I’m firing a flare at the starting line in the moment of (the two Koreas) writing a new history in North-South relations, peace and prosperity,” Kim told Moon as they sat at a table, which had been built so that exactly 2018 millimeters separated them, to begin their closed-door talks. Moon responded that there were high expectations that they produce an agreement that will be a “big gift to the entire Korean nation and every peace-loving person in the world.”
Beyond the carefully choreographed greeting, however, it’s still not clear whether the leaders can make any progress in talks on the nuclear issue, which has bedevilled U.S. and South Korean officials for decades. North Korea’s nuclear and missile tests last year likely put it on the threshold of becoming a legitimate nuclear power. North Korea claims it has already risen to that level.
Kim and Moon in their talks vowed to have more meetings, according to Moon’s spokesman, Yoon Young-chan, with Kim joking that he would make sure not to interrupt Moon’s sleep anymore, a reference to the North’s drumbeat of early morning missile tests last year. Kim also referred to a South Korean island that North Korea attacked with artillery in 2010, killing four, saying the residents of Yeonpyeong Island who have been living in fear of North Korean artillery have high hopes the summit will help heal past scars. Kim said he’d visit Seoul’s presidential Blue House if invited.Earlier, both leaders smiled broadly as Moon grasped Kim’s hand and led him along a blindingly red carpet into South Korean territory, where schoolchildren gave Kim flowers and an honor guard stood at attention for inspection, a military band playing traditional Korean folk songs beloved by both Koreas and the South Korean equivalent of “Hail to the Chief.” It’s the first time a North Korean leader has crossed over to the southern side of the Demilitarized Zone since the Korean War ended in 1953.
Kim’s news agency said that the leader would “open-heartedly” discuss with Moon “all the issues arising in improving inter-Korean relations and achieving peace, prosperity and reunification of the Korean peninsula” in a “historic” summit.
The greeting of the two leaders was planned to the last detail. Thousands of journalists were kept in a huge conference centre well away from the summit, except for a small group of tightly controlled pool reporters at the border. Moon stood near the Koreas’ dividing line, moving forward the moment he glimpsed Kim, dressed in dark, Mao-style suit, appearing in front of a building on the northern side. They shook hands with the borderline between them. Moon then invited Kim to cross into the South, and, after he did so, Kim grasped Moon’s hand and led him to the North and then back into the South. They took a ceremonial photo facing the North and then another photo facing the South.
Two fifth-grade students from the Daesongdong Elementary School, the only South Korean school within the DMZ, greeted the leaders and gave Kim flowers. Kim and Moon then saluted an honour guard and military band, and Moon introduced Kim to South Korean government officials. Kim returned the favour, introducing Moon to the North Korean officials accompanying him. They then took a photo inside the Peace House, where the summit was to take place, in front of a painting of South Korea’s Bukhan Mountain, which towers over the South Korean Blue House presidential mansion. Kim’s sister, Kim Yo Jong, was by his side throughout the ceremony, handing him a pen to sign a guestbook, taking the schoolchildren’s flowers from his hand and scribbling notes at the start of the talks with Moon.
Nuclear weapons will top the agenda, and Friday’s summit will be the clearest sign yet of whether it’s possible to peacefully negotiate those weapons away from a country that has spent decades doggedly building its bombs despite crippling sanctions and near-constant international opprobrium.
Expectations are generally low, given that past so-called breakthroughs on North Korea’s weapons have collapsed amid acrimonious charges of cheating and bad faith. Sceptics of engagement have long said that the North often turns to interminable rounds of diplomacy meant to ease the pain of sanctions — giving it time to perfect its weapons and win aid for unfulfilled nuclear promises.
Advocates of engagement, however, say the only way to get a deal is to do what the Koreas tried Friday: Sit down and see what’s possible.
The White House said in a statement that it is “hopeful that talks will achieve progress toward a future of peace and prosperity for the entire Korean Peninsula. … (and) looks forward to continuing robust discussions in preparation for the planned meeting between President Donald J. Trump and Kim Jong Un in the coming weeks.”
Moon, a liberal whose election last year ended a decade of conservative rule in Seoul, will be looking to make some headway on the North’s nuclear program in advance of a planned summit in several weeks between Kim and Trump.
Kim, the third member of his family to rule his nation with absolute power, is eager, both in this meeting and in the Trump talks, to talk about the nearly 30,000 heavily armed U.S. troops stationed in South Korea and the lack of a formal peace treaty ending the Korea War — two factors, the North says, that make nuclear weapons necessary.
North Korea may also be looking to use the talks with Moon to set up the Trump summit, which it may see as a way to legitimize its declared status as a nuclear power.
One possible outcome Friday, aside from a rise in general goodwill between the countries, could be a proposal for a North Korean freeze of its weapons ahead of later denuclearization.
Seoul and Washington will be pushing for any freeze to be accompanied by rigorous and unfettered outside inspections of the North’s nuclear facilities since past deals have crumbled because of North Korea’s unwillingness to open up to snooping foreigners.
South Korea has acknowledged that the most difficult sticking point between the Koreas has been North Korea’s level of denuclearization commitment. Kim has reportedly said that he wouldn’t need nuclear weapons if his government’s security could be guaranteed external threats were removed.
Whatever the Koreas announce Friday, the spectacle of Kim being feted on South Korean soil was striking.
Kim and Moon enjoyed each other’s company in the jointly controlled village of Panmunjom near the spot where a defecting North Korean soldier fled south last year in a hail of bullets fired by his former comrades, and not too far where North Korean soldiers axe-murdered two U.S. soldiers in 1976. (Associated Press)
Russian state-owned television is urging the country’s residents to stock their bunkers with water and basic foodstuffs because Moscow could go to war with Washington.
Warning that the potential conflict between the two superpowers would be “catastrophic,” an anchor for Russia’s Vesti 24 showed off shelves of food, recommending that people buy salt, oatmeal and other products that can last a long time on the shelves. Powdered milk lasts five years while sugar and rice can last up to eight years, the newscaster explained before showing videos of pasta cooking in a bomb shelter.
The channel’s newscasters also displayed charts explaining how much water people need to store for drinking, washing their face and hands, and preparing food every day—and how that amount changes depending on the temperature of a person’s bomb shelter. The program also recommended that people stock up on gas masks and read guides on how to survive a nuclear war.
Related: Russian warships put to sea from Syrian naval base (Fox News
Russian warships put to sea from Syrian naval base
The program aired just one day after sources told Newsweek that “there is a major war scare” in Moscow, as President Donald Trump prepares to strike Syria in retaliation for the use of chemical weapons against civilians over the weekend. The Trump administration has said it believes Syria’s Russian-backed President Bashar al-Assad was responsible for the attacks, and it plans to ensure that Assad pays the price. Russian military forces have responded by saying that Moscow would meet fire with fire and said that it will shoot down any U.S. missiles.
“If there is a strike by the Americans, then the missiles will be downed and even the sources from which the missiles were fired,” warned Alexander Zasypkin, Russia’s ambassador to Lebanon, during an interview on Tuesday with a television station linked to Hezbollah.
The increasingly bellicose rhetoric has sparked fears that a conflict could break out between two nuclear-armed superpowers. On Wednesday morning, Trump took to Twitter to issue a stark warning to Russia, which he accused of partnering with “a Gas Killing Animal who kills his people and enjoys it!”
But he later walked back the statement, calling for an end to the arms race with Russia. Newsweek
Theresa May was poised last night to defy calls for a Commons vote on military action in Syria
The Prime Minister summoned ministers back to London to seek their support for joining an American-led attack on the Assad regime within days.
Clearing the way for action, she declared the use of chemical weapons could not go unchallenged and said ‘all the indications’ suggested that Bashar Assad’s forces were responsible for Saturday’s atrocity near Damascus.
Military chiefs are said to have ordered British submarines armed with Tomahawk cruise missiles to move within range of Syria.
Despite fears of a military confrontation with Russia, no preparations are being made to recall MPs from their Easter recess. It is understood No 10 believes it can launch a one-off, punitive strike without consulting Parliament.
Donald Trump dramatically escalated the crisis yesterday by telling Russia to ‘get ready’ because ‘nice and new and smart’ cruise missiles would be coming.
He warned Vladimir Putin not to stand by President Assad, who he described as a ‘gas killing animal’.
Russia’s ambassador to Lebanon had said his country was ready to target US planes and ships if they fired at Syrian regime forces. That would effectively lead to a state of war, according to Sir Richard Barrons, a senior former military commander.
And Julian Lewis, who chairs the Commons defence committee, was among MPs to warn of the risks of intervention. ‘Embroiling ourselves in a military clash with Russia in the context of a civil war between an inhumane government and opposition-controlled by jihadi fanatics is not a sensible one, to put it mildly,’ he said.
In other developments:
British officials were said to be in talks with their counterparts in France and the US about which military assets should be deployed for military action.
‘We are committed to deter and prevent the use of chemical weapons,’ said a government source.
‘We now have to establish the best way of getting there, and those conversations are carrying on, officials are speaking to their counterparts in France and America right now. In terms of precisely what happens next, that is still to be confirmed.’
The PM will hold a Cabinet meeting this afternoon. Ministers were understood to be privately urging her to act, although is not clear whether the British public would support an expansion of military action in Syria.
Brexit Secretary David Davis voted against military action against the Assad regime in 2013.
Speaking on a visit to Birmingham yesterday, Mrs May said: ‘The continued use of chemical weapons cannot go unchallenged.’
Asked whether she was concerned about Mr Trump’s tweet, she replied: ‘We are working with our allies, we have been working to get an understanding of what happened on the ground. We are rapidly reaching that understanding. All the indications are that the Syrian regime was responsible.
‘We will be working with our closest allies on how we can ensure that those who are responsible are held to account and how we can prevent and deter the humanitarian catastrophe that comes from the use of chemical weapons in the future.’
Tory MP Mr Lewis insisted there should be a vote before the UK took action. ‘There is a real danger that what starts out as justified punishment for the use of chemical weapons ends up with the Royal Air Force serving as the air arm of the jihadi extremist rebels in Syria,’ he said.
‘It sends a very bad signal to the country that they don’t submit themselves to parliamentary scrutiny before involving in taking military action by choice in the context of a civil war where both sides equally atrocious.’
Tory colleague Bob Seely said: ‘Trump is declaring war on Twitter. Both Trump and Putin need to remember what the stakes are.
‘This crisis could escalate very quickly into a shooting war in Syria. If Russians are injured, the Kremlin will hit back. The most important thing our generation can achieve is to avoid actual conflict with Russia.
‘If we are reckless or thoughtless in our actions, it will make conflict now or in future more likely to happen.’
Russia’s ambassador to Lebanon, Alexander Zasypkin, said any US missiles fired at Syria would be shot down along with the ships or planes that fired them.
He told Hezbollah’s Al Manar TV: ‘If there is a strike by the Americans then … the missiles will be downed and even the sources from which the missiles were fired.’
Then, in the early hours of yesterday morning, Mr Trump responded on Twitter, saying: ‘Russia vows to shoot down any and all missiles fired at Syria. Get ready Russia, because they will be coming, nice and new and smart! You shouldn’t be partners with a Gas Killing Animal who kills his people and enjoys it.’
In a further tweet 40 minutes later, he said: ‘Our relationship with Russia is worse now that it has ever been, and that includes the Cold War.
‘There is no reason for this. Russia needs us to help with their economy.’
Russia’s foreign ministry spokesman responded by saying ‘smart missiles should fly towards terrorists, not lawful government’.
General Barrons, who led the UK’s joint forces command until 2016, said of the Russian ambassador’s warning: ‘He is saying not only are they going to shoot down the missiles in flight, but by saying launch sites, he is saying they are going to try and sink ships, sink submarines and shoot aircraft out of the sky. That’s war.’
Charles Crawford, former British Ambassador to Bosnia, warned the range of options for dealing with the crisis varied between ‘terrible and catastrophic’.
Don’t attack without a vote, MPs from all parties urge May
MPs from across Parliament last night urged Theresa May to change her mind as she prepared to launch military action against Bashar al-Assad without a Commons vote.
Cabinet sources said there was now a ‘broad view’ in Downing Street that the Prime Minister does not need to seek the approval of MPs before launching strikes.
Some senior Tories yesterday joined Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the SNP in demanding MPs are given a say, as they warned of the dangers of how the crisis could escalate.Since the Iraq War a precedent has been set that all military action abroad is first approved by Parliament, but sources last night told the Mail that no preparations have been made for MPs to return to Westminster before Monday when their Easter recess ends.
When asked if she would recall parliament yesterday, Mrs May declined to answer the question directly. Tory MP Sir David Amess said the Prime Minister needed to come to the Commons before retaliating against Assad following the chemical weapons attack in Syria.
He said: ‘I think we have to look at this situation very, very carefully because since I have been in Parliament we have been involved in conflicts in Iraq and in Afghanistan. Neither with terribly good outcomes.’
Russian President Putin watching the launch of a missile during naval exercises in Russia’s Arctic North aboard the nuclear missile cruiser Peter the Great in 2005.REUTERS/ITAR-TASS/PRESIDENTIAL PRESS SERVICE
Russia says it has tested a new nuclear-capable intercontinental ballistic missile; Russian President Vladimir Putin has said the missile can defeat any US missile defences.
Putin and President Donald Trump have been squaring off over who has the better nuclear arsenal, with Trump reportedly telling Putin he would beat him in an arms race.
Putin and Trump seem on the path toward escalating an arms race that has already produced horrific nuclear devices.
Russia on Friday said it had tested a new type of nuclear-capable intercontinental ballistic missile known by NATO as the “Satan 2.”
The country’s president, Vladimir Putin, has said the missile can defeat any US missile defences amid growing talk of an arms race with the US and President Donald Trump.
And the feeling of nuclear inadequacy may be mutual.
This is how you get an arms race
Putin’s nuclear chest-thumping “really got under the president’s skin,” according to a White House official cited by NBC News on Thursday.
On a recent phone call between the two leaders, which made headlines for Trump’s decision to congratulate Putin on his less-than-democratic reelection, Trump and Putin reportedly butted heads.
“If you want to have an arms race, we can do that, but I’ll win,” Trump told him, according to NBC.
Putin said in his address that Russia was working on more and more-varied nuclear weapon delivery systems than the US. Trump has also planned a few new nuclear weapons for the US, but they show a very different philosophy.
“We had a very good call,” Trump said last week of his chat with Putin. “I suspect that we’ll probably be meeting in the not-too-distant future to discuss the arms race, which is getting out of control, but we will never allow anybody to have anything even close to what we have.“
The US and Russia once endangered the world with almost 70,000 nukes
Nuclear weapons stockpiles and inventories of the US and the Soviet Union/Russia from 1945 to 2006.Wikimedia Commons User: Fastfission
In saying he would not allow anyone to match the US’s nuclear might, Trump may have unknowingly articulated just how arms races spiral out of control. Because Trump won’t allow Russia to catch up with the US’s nuclear might, and Russia feels the same way, the two sides seem destined to continue building up arms.
But arms races have come and gone before. At the height of the Cold War, for instance, the US alone had 30,000 nuclear weapons, with Russia holding a similar number.
US President Donald Trump; North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un
President Donald Trump has agreed to a historic first meeting with Kim Jong Un in a stunning development in America’s high-stakes nuclear standoff with North Korea.
Standing in front of the White House, South Korean National Security Advisor Chung Eui-Yong announced the first-ever meeting between a US president and North Korean leader, which he said would take place by the end of May.
Chung had recently returned from Pyongyang, where he met Kim, who, he said: “expressed his eagerness to meet President Trump as soon as possible.”
Trump hailed “great progress” in the push to persuade Pyongyang to end its nuclear weapons program.
“Meeting being planned!” he tweeted. “Kim Jong Un talked about denuclearization with the South Korean Representatives, not just a freeze. Also, no missile testing by North Korea during this period of time.”
“Great progress being made but sanctions will remain until an agreement is reached.”
News of the summit is the latest step in a quickening diplomatic detente that has seen North and South Korea exchange envoys.
Pyongyang also sent a delegation to the Winter Olympics in the South, which Seoul had dubbed the “Peace Games” and which saw the two countries marching under a unified flag.
The thaw came after a period of extreme tension between Washington and Pyongyang that sounded like the growing drumbeat of war.
Just months ago, Trump mocked Kim by calling him “little rocket man” and Kim returned the favour by describing Trump as “mentally deranged” and a “dotard.”
The United States and North Korea were foes throughout the Cold War and fought on opposite sides of a bloody war in the 1950s.
In the last two decades, they have been engaged in what is perhaps the world’s most dangerous nuclear standoff, with 30,000 US military personnel stationed just over the border in the South.
– Paradigm shift –
Pyongyang’s decades-long race to develop a nuclear weapon capable of hitting the continental United States has proved a problem for successive administrations.
Trump’s strategy has been to ramp up sanctions, tighten the diplomatic screws and regularly threaten military force.
The White House said in a statement that strategy of “maximum pressure” would stay in place, for now.
“We look forward to the denuclearization of North Korea. In the meantime, all sanctions and maximum pressure must remain.”
But the prospect of a top-level meeting is a paradigm shift.
North Korean leaders have sought face-to-face talks with consecutive US presidents, who have rebuffed the idea as an effort to achieve strategic parity that does not exist.
Pyongyang now seems to have achieved its goal, while only agreeing to a temporary suspension of nuclear tests.
It is a gambit fraught with risk for Trump. On multiple occasions, Kim’s father Kim Jong Il dangled the prospect of talks and denuclearization as a means of buying time, easing sanctions and dividing South Korea from its allies.
However, his decision also carries historic echoes of Richard Nixon’s visit to communist China or Barack Obama’s overture to Cuba, both of which offered the hope of better ties.
Those are the conclusions of a report by the International Institute of Strategic Studies (IISS), which says that although war between the great powers is not inevitable, Washington, Moscow and Beijing are now preparing for the possibility.
The IISS’s annual Military Balance 2018 report sets out at length how China’s leadership has stepped up its military programme in recent years, with huge spending on new technology that could give it an advantage on land, sea and air.
The opening of China’s first overseas military base in Djibouti will enable it to carry out missions over vast distances, and has been viewed as a major statement of intent.
While the pace of militarisation is slower in Russia, partly due to a shortage of funding and industrial capacity, the country is “benefiting from experience of real life combat in Syria and Ukraine and has shown extensive capabilities in the field of hybrid warfare including cyber attacks”, says The Independent.
The Foreign Office said last night that the Russian military was reponsible for the NotPetya cyber attack on Ukraine last year.
In a bid to combat the growing threat posed by Russia and China, reports CNN, the US Pentagon is asking for a boost in military spending for 2019, requesting Congress approve a budget of $686bn – one of the largest in US history.
The budget proposal also included cuts to international diplomacy and overseas aid.
Touting the plans earlier this week, Donald Trump said the additional spending would make the US military the strongest it has ever been, with “increasing arsenals of virtually every weapon”.
But Dr John Chipman, the chief executive of the IISS, said the US could still find itself outgunned.
“Some governments in the West will look to ‘leap-ahead’ technologies to augment and even deliver military power,” he said, “but these are no guarantee of success.” (The Week)
WASHINGTON — A treaty committing the United States and Russia to keep their long-range nuclear arsenals at the lowest levels since early in the Cold War goes into full effect on Monday. When it was signed eight years ago, President Barack Obama expressed hope that it would be a small first step toward deeper reductions, and ultimately a world without nuclear weapons.
Now, that optimism has been reversed. A new nuclear policy issued by the Trump administration on Friday, which vows to counter a rush by the Russians to modernize their forces even while staying within the treaty limits, is touching off a new kind of nuclear arms race. This one is based less on numbers of weapons and more on novel tactics and technologies, meant to outwit and outmaneuver the other side.
The Pentagon envisions a new age in which nuclear weapons are back in a big way — its strategy bristles with plans for new low-yield nuclear weapons that advocates say are needed to match Russian advances and critics warn will be too tempting for a president to use. The result is that the nuclear-arms limits that go into effect on Monday now look more like the final stop after three decades of reductions than a way station to further cuts.
Yet when President Trump called on Congress to “modernize and rebuild our nuclear arsenal” in his State of the Union address last week, he did not mention his administration’s rationale: that President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia has accelerated a dangerous game that the United States must match, even if the price tag soars above $1.2 trillion. That is the latest estimate from the Congressional Budget Office, one that many experts think is low by a half-trillion dollars.
Mr. Trump barely mentioned Mr. Putin in the speech and said nothing about Russia’s nuclear buildup. His reluctance to talk about Russia and its leader during his campaign and first year in office — and his refusal to impose sanctions on Russia mandated by Congress — has fueled suspicions about what lies behind his persistently friendly stance toward Mr. Putin.
In the State of the Union speech, the president focused far more on North Korea and on battling terrorism, even though his defense secretary, Jim Mattis, had announced just days ago that “great power competition — not terrorism — is now the primary focus of U.S. national security.”
In contrast to the president’s address, the report issued on Friday, known as the Nuclear Posture Review, focuses intensely on Russia. It describes Mr. Putin as forcing America’s hand to rebuild the nuclear force, as has a series of other documents produced by Mr. Trump’s National Security Council and his Pentagon.
The report contains a sharp warning about a new Russian-made autonomous nuclear torpedo that — while not in violation of the terms of the treaty, known as New Start — appears designed to cross the Pacific undetected and release a deadly cloud of radioactivity that would leave large parts of the West Coast uninhabitable.
It also explicitly rejects Mr. Obama’s commitment to make nuclear weapons a diminishing part of American defenses. The limit on warheads — 1,500 deployable weapons — that goes into effect on Monday expires in 2021, and the nuclear review shows no enthusiasm about its chances for renewal.
The report describes future arms control agreements as “difficult to envision” in a world “that is characterized by nuclear-armed states seeking to change borders and overturn existing norms,” and in particular by Russian violations of a series of other arms-limitation treaties.
“Past assumptions that our capability to produce nuclear weapons would not be necessary and that we could permit the required infrastructure to age into obsolescence have proven to be mistaken,” it argues. “It is now clear that the United States must have sufficient research, design, development and production capacity to support the sustainment and replacement of its nuclear forces.”
The new policy was applauded by establishment Republican defense experts, including some who have shuddered at Mr. Trump’s threats to use nuclear weapons against North Korea, but have worried that he was insufficiently focused on Russia’s nuclear modernization.
“Obama’s theory was that we will lead the way in reducing our reliance on nuclear weapons and everyone else will do the same,” said Franklin C. Miller, a nuclear expert who served in the George W. Bush administration and was an informal consultant to Pentagon officials who drafted the new policy. “It didn’t work out that way. The Russians have been fielding systems while we haven’t, and our first new system won’t be ready until 2026 or 2027.”
“This is a very mainstream nuclear policy,” Mr. Miller said of the document, arguing that new low-yield atomic weapons would deter Mr. Putin and make nuclear war less likely, rather than offer new temptations to Mr. Trump. “Nothing in it deserves the criticism it has received.”
A senior administration official, who would discuss the policy only on the condition of anonymity, said Mr. Trump had been briefed on the new nuclear approach, but was leaving the details to Mr. Mattis and to his national security adviser, Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster. The president, the official said, was primarily concerned about staying ahead in any nuclear race with Russia, and to a lesser degree with China.
Even Mr. Trump’s harshest critics concede that the United States must take steps as Russia and China have invested heavily in modernizing their forces, making them more lethal. The administration’s new strategy describes the Russian buildup in detail, documenting how Moscow is making “multiple upgrades” to its force of strategic bombers, as well as long-range missiles based at sea and on land. Russia is also developing, it adds, “at least two new intercontinental-range systems,” as well as the autonomous torpedo.
Russia has violated another treaty, the United States argues, that covers intermediate-range missiles, and is “building a large, diverse and modern” set of shorter-range weapons with less powerful warheads that “are not accountable under the New Start treaty.” Yet Mr. Trump has not publicly complained about the alleged treaty violation or the new weapons.
Though members of the Obama administration were highly critical of the Trump administration document, there is little question that Mr. Obama paved the way for the modernization policy. He agreed to a $70 billion makeover of American nuclear laboratories as the price for Senate approval of the 2010 New Start.
The new document calls for far more spending — a program that at a minimum will cost $1.2 trillion over 30 years, without inflation taken into account. Most of that money would go to new generations of bombers and new submarines, and a rebuilding of the land-based nuclear missile force that still dots giant fields across the West.
While those systems are the most vulnerable to attack, and the most decrepit part of the force, they are also among the most politically popular in Congress, because they provide jobs in rural areas.
In some cases, Mr. Trump’s plan speeds ahead with nuclear arms that Mr. Obama had endorsed, such as a new generation of nuclear cruise missiles. The low-flying weapons, when dropped from a bomber, hug the ground to avoid enemy radars and air defenses.
Other weapons, though, are completely new. For example, the policy calls for “the rapid development” of a cruise missile that would be fired from submarines, then become airborne before reaching its target. Mr. Obama had eliminated an older version.
It also calls for the development of a low-yield warhead for some of the nation’s submarine ballistic missiles — part of a broader effort to expand the credible options “for responding to nuclear or non-nuclear strategic attack.” But critics of the low-yield weapons say they blur the line between nuclear and non-nuclear weapons, making their use more likely.
Andrew C. Weber, an assistant defense secretary during the Obama administration who directed oversight of the nation’s nuclear arsenal, called the new plan a dangerous folly that would make nuclear war more likely.
“We’re simply mirroring the reckless Russian doctrine,” he said. “We can already deter any strike. We have plenty of low-yield weapons. The new plan is a fiction created to justify the making of new nuclear arms. They’ll just increase the potential for their use and for miscalculation. The administration’s logic is Kafkaesque.”
One of the most controversial elements of the new strategy is a section that declares that the United States might use nuclear weapons to respond to a devastating, but non-nuclear, attack on critical infrastructure — the power grid or cellphone networks, for example.
All of the new or repurposed warheads would come from the National Nuclear Security Administration, an arm of the Energy Department that officials say is already stretched thin.
“We’re pretty much at capacity in terms of people,” Frank G. Klotz was quoted as saying after retiring last month as the agency’s head. “We’re pretty much at capacity in terms of the materials that we need to do this work. And pretty much at capacity in terms of hours in the day at our facilities.” (The New York Times)