Assad and Iran’s Militia in the Middle East

Those operating in the Middle East at the behest of Iran for Iran and Syria have been identified, now what? Saudi Arabia with the cooperation of other Gulf nations has been quite assertive to end the conflicts in Syria, Yemen, Iraq and so forth yet Iran, Syria and Russia have zero interest in stopping Assad. How long into the future will this fester and will it eventually plateau only when the United States has a new president and who can lead and be effective among the candidates?

To understand the history between Shiite and Sunni, click here.

Iran won’t surrender militias that conduct Assad’s war

Not long before the Riyadh-Tehran diplomatic row that followed the execution of Saudi Shia cleric Nimr Al Nimr, a showdown between the two countries unfolded in New York. While it is difficult to draw a direct correlation between the two events, the incident can help us understand the depth of the continuing crisis.

On December 18, heated debate ensued between representatives of the two countries at a meeting in New York over the listing of armed groups operating in Syria for possible determination as terrorist organisations. The list, which Jordan was asked to develop, would name extremist groups that must be defeated as part of the UN-sponsored political process for Syria.

A month earlier in Vienna, Saudi Arabia had insisted on including in the list foreign Shia militias fighting on the side of president Bashar Al Assad. Riyadh argued that all foreign fighters must leave Syria, regardless of which side they supported. In New York, Iran, joined by Russia, strongly objected to the demand and the standoff caused a deeper rift between the two countries.

For now, the designation of terror groups in Syria has been referred to a committee comprising several European and regional countries. They first determined indicators and criteria of what constitutes a terrorist organisation, then named armed groups currently fighting in Syria. There is a preliminary list of more than 160 Sunni and Shia organisations.

Iran categorically rejects including any Shia groups in the list. For Tehran, the fate of the Assad regime it supports is critically tied to the presence of those Shia militias. It is a fact that adds to the many issues that compound the conflict in Syria – issues that the international community would seemingly rather sweep under the carpet instead of deal with head on.

The Syrian regime controls about 30 per cent of the country, though it probably controls over 50 per cent of the population. According to the defence think tank IHS Jane’s, the regime lost 16 per cent of its territory over the past year. These figures are particularly damning if one considers that foreign Shia militias were on the front line of key battles against the rebels – in the Qalamoun region, Aleppo and central and western Syria – over this period.

The growing role of these militias last year came as the Syrian army showed signs of internal weakening, something that Mr Al Assad has admitted. During his most recent speech, almost exactly a month before the Russian intervention in September, the president said that the army lacked “manpower”. Also last year, paramilitary fighters with the National Defence Forces (NDF) began to focus on their local areas rather than deploy in the front lines elsewhere – a task that foreign fighters took on.

Youssef Sadaki, a Syrian researcher who closely focuses on Shia militias, says those foreign fighters acted as the main strikers in battles outside the regime’s heartlands, while the NDF fighters defended their areas or secured and held newly-captured areas.

According to Mr Sadaki, foreign militias lead the regime’s battles in southern Aleppo, and the front lines between Idlib, Aleppo, Latakia, Homs and Hama. Hizbollah has spearheaded key battles in southern Syria near the Lebanese borders, while other militias guard the front lines in Damascus and fought in Deraa.

Phillip Smyth, a close observer of Shia militancy, says that most of the regime’s offensives over the past two years were led by foreign forces, including in areas where the regime’s elite units operate, such as in Damascus.

“When we look at Aleppo, the entire offensive there was spearheaded and planned by the Iranians, it was their Shia militia proxy forces which showcased the entire campaign,” said Mr Smyth, from the University of Maryland. “It’s quite clear that they are a – if not the main – fighting force in many areas.”

Last month on these pages, I highlighted that while Iran and Russia might in theory be willing to accept the removal of Mr Al Assad, there are practical reasons why they would not do that, because consequences are unpredictable and the result is not guaranteed.

For the rebels, no peace is possible while Mr Al Assad is in power, so his future complicates the peace talks. So does the presence of Shia militias in Syria.

Reliance on these foreign forces means that their departure will have to follow the consolidation of the government’s military control over the country. They operate in critical areas and the regime’s army or NDF do not appear to be prepared to take their place.

The presence of Shia militias is important for the regime and for its backer in Tehran. Many of these militias are also key Iranian proxies in Iraq, with recent reports suggesting that Iran has diverted them to Syria to assist in the wake of the Russian intervention in Syria. So the issue has also a regional dimension that cannot be ignored.

Iran finds itself in a situation where it seeks to save the regime in Syria through the help of religious zealots, while pushing for the designation as terrorists of Sunni extremists fighting on the side of the opposition.

In western capitals, strangely, that seems to be a reasonable position. For the opposition and regional backers such as Saudi Arabia, that is double dealing that further complicates the already-complex conflict in Syria.

Meanwhile, back to Iran and the big money. What future trouble will the monetary windfall coming for Iran play in the region?

Iran to Receive Major Economic Windfall as Nuclear Deal Begins

FreeBeacon: Expert: ‘Kerry might as well have wired the money directly into the Revolutionary Guards’ bank accounts’

Iran’s economy is set to receive a substantial boost in the next two years as a result of billions in sanctions relief from the nuclear deal, according to a new forecast, a windfall that could also secure more resources for the Iranian military and its terrorist proxies.

The World Bank said in a report that Iran’s GDP is projected to increase by 5.8 percent this year, compared to just 1.9 percent last year. Economic growth is then estimated to rise by 6.7 percent in 2017.

As part of the nuclear agreement reached between Iran and world powers last year, the Islamic regime could collect as much as $150 billion in unfrozen assets from foreign accounts after it places some restrictions on its nuclear program. Tehran will also be permitted to resume more oil exports, which could increase its sales by 0.5 to 0.7 million barrels per day this year.

The nuclear deal “opens the door for reintegration of [Iran] into the global economy and the reinvigoration of its oil, natural gas, and automotive sectors,” the World Bank said in its global economic prospects report.

“Sanctions could begin to be lifted in early 2016 if the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) indicates the Iranian government has fulfilled its commitments under the pact,” the report continued. “Renewed optimism about the potential of the Iranian economy has already generated a flurry of investment interest by foreign companies.”

Michael Rubin, an expert on Iran and the Middle East at the American Enterprise Institute, said in an email that he also expects the Iranian economy to grow in the wake of the nuclear deal, though he cautioned that the World Bank can be too reliant on flawed statistics from Tehran. Rising growth in Iran would represent a stark contrast to the economic situation before the nuclear negotiations, when the country’s economy contracted under the weight of U.S.-led sanctions.

At the talks, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry turned in “probably the worst negotiating performance any U.S. secretary of state has had in the last century,” Rubin said, because he failed to pressure Iran into eliminating all aspects of its nuclear program.

“Rather than use Iran’s precarious economic situation as leverage in U.S. negotiations, Secretary of State John Kerry effectively caved,” said Rubin, who is also a former Pentagon official in the George W. Bush administration.

“The Obama administration effectively bailed Iran out,” he added.

Analysts have raised concerns that the Islamic regime could devote billions of its sanctions relief to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), the elite paramilitary unit that also supports terrorist groups in Lebanon, Gaza, and Yemen. The American Action Forum estimated last year that the Guard Corps’ budget could increase by about $3 billion after the nuclear deal is fully implemented.

“If Iran’s economy does grow—and that growth is not eroded from significant inflation from the hard currency influx—then the chief beneficiaries will be the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps who have a stranglehold over the oil industry, import-export, and construction,” Rubin said. “Kerry might as well have wired the money directly into the Revolutionary Guards’ bank accounts, because that is the net effect.”

Iran could also use the sanctions relief to bolster its ballistic missile program. Iranian forces have tested two ballistic missiles since the nuclear agreement was reached, including one in October that was capable of carrying a nuclear warhead and violated a United Nations Security Council ban. President Hassan Rouhani has said the military should allocate more resources to its missile program if the United States decides to impose sanctions for the missile tests.

Additionally, an Iranian military with more funding could further exacerbate sectarian tensions in the Middle East. Following the execution of a Shiite cleric by Saudi Arabia, a Sunni Muslim nation and Iran’s bitter regional rival, Iranian protesters stormed the Saudi embassy in Tehran, prompting the Saudis to break off diplomatic relations. Iran has now accused a Saudi-led coalition of launching airstrikes near its embassy in Yemen.

Rubin warned that Iran previously capitalized on negotiations and trade in the early 2000s to augment its nuclear program.

“Between 1999 and 2005, Europe’s trade with Iran almost tripled and the price of oil about quintupled,” he said. “Iran put about 70 percent of that hard currency windfall into its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.”

“The reason for the expansion of Iran’s illicit programs early the last decade was too much diplomacy, not too little,” he continued. “The Supreme National Security Chairman at the time directing those programs? Hassan Rouhani. Kerry is simply making the same mistake twice.”

Obama’s Next Career Stop Leading the UN?

Could it come down to Obama versus a female to head the United Nations? Obama is a globalist and he has proven to be very loyal to the Muslim Brotherhood and those Islamic based countries could endorse him, but….no previous sitting U.S. president has built a failed legacy in foreign affairs as Barack Obama has including Jimmy Carter.

There are others with some interest in the post.

Kevin Rudd.
He is an Australian ex-Prime Minister and current Foreign Minister. He has made public his intentions to run for Secretary-General.

Rudd is popular in the Australian and international community – including China (he speaks fluent Mandarin).

Note that Ban-Ki Moon’s successor has not been named yet, as of writing. There are others as noted here.

Those countries with a vote, one should determine who would support Obama in this role. Saudis, Russians, Chinese?

TownHall: U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s term expires in early 2017, making Obama’s bid for the position a possibility. Last year after his speech at West Point, some pointed out that he sounded an awful lot like he was campaigning for the role.

Netanyahu leading effort to thwart Obama bid for U.N. chief

WashingtonTimes: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly is planning payback for President Obama’s dismissing Mr. Netanyahu’s objections to the Iran nuclear deal last year. Mr. Netanyahu is said to be rallying moderate Arabs to thwart Mr. Obama’s bid to become the Secretary-General of the United Nations after he leaves the White House next year.

Mr. Obama has already discussed the issue with Republican, Democratic and Jewish officials in the United States, according to Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Jarida.
Mr. Netanyahu recently is said to have gotten wind of Obama’s plans which he calls the Obama Project. “Wasn’t eight years of having Obama in office enough?” Mr. Netanyahu is quoted in the Kuwaiti daily as telling associates. “Eight years during which he ignored Israel? And now he wants to be in a position that is liable to cause us hardships in the international arena.”

“Obama is the worst president Israel has had to deal with and the worst president for the Middle East and its allies, the moderate Arab states,” the paper quotes a Netanyahu aide.

Another source close to the Prime Minister said “his presidency was characterized by [Washington’s] moving closer to the Muslim Brotherhood, toppling the regime of Hosni Mubarak, and attempts to ally itself with political Islam.”

“Obama’s term is ending with him forging an alliance with Iran, coming to an agreement with it on its nuclear program which in the end will result in a similar scenario that took place with North Korea. Israel will not allow this to happen … It will take all of the necessary steps to prevent Iran from manufacturing a nuclear weapon either covertly or overtly.”


THAAD vs. North Korea weapon test

I was asked today if the facts told by North Korea launching a thermonuclear weapon was accurate. My response was kinda sorta. The matter of North Korea performing this launch test was no surprise for those paying attention as North Korea warned of this last month.

One would think that after this recent North Korea test and the three previous tests, the National Security Council, the White House and the Pentagon would announce the placement of all offensive measures with respect to North Korea and Iran…so far…nothing announced at all. Hummmm.

This test appears to be a hybrid weapon of sorts or a primary test launch for that they are designing and building. Either way, there are many widespread implications and it is necessary to put China and Iran into the blame equation. The Obama White House as well as the John Kerry State Department immediately threw cold water on the whole notion of accuracy in the successful post launch announcement. Of course they did given this administration is not equipped or opposed enough to condemn the action except to pass it off to the United Nations for a lame and feeble isolation resolution.

What never does get mention is what are the defenses against a successful more destructive launch either by Iran or North Korea? We DO have them.

Missile Defense

Learn about THAAD. Perhaps a courtesy of Ronald Reagan and his ‘star wars’ mission.

THAAD = Terminal High Altitude Area Defense



Gertz/FreeBeacon: Preliminary U.S. intelligence estimates have concluded that North Korea’s fourth underground nuclear test on Tuesday involved a small explosion that could be a component of a larger-scale thermonuclear device.

U.S. officials familiar with intelligence reports of the underground test estimated the low yield of the detected blast to be between 5 kilotons to 7 kilotons—far less than would be detected in a two-stage thermonuclear blast, or hydrogen bomb.

The Pyongyang government announced that the test that took place Wednesday morning local time at a nuclear testing site in northeast North Korea and that it was a successful “first H-bomb test.”

The test was announced in two official statements broadcast on state-run radio and television.

Unlike the past three nuclear tests, the regime conducted the test with no advance notice. Past tests were preceded by stern public warnings in state-run media.

Also in a break with practice, the two official North Korean statements asserted the test was directly ordered by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. A copy of Kim’s written order was shown on North Korean television, and he was shown signing the order.


Another unusual feature in the handling of the nuclear test were statements indicating the blast was carried out “safely and flawlessly” without harming the environment. The statements noted that North Korea is a responsible nuclear power and would not be the first to use nuclear arms in a conflict and would not transfer nuclear technology unless “hostile forces infringe upon its sovereignty.”

Initial U.S. intelligence analysis of the official statements indicates the test had two goals.

One key objective for the underground blast was to bolster statements last month by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un that the North has developed a hydrogen bomb.

By conducting the test, Kim is seeking to cement his position within the regime. The supreme leader turns 33 on Friday and is widely viewed by intelligence analysts as inexperienced, compared to his father and grandfather, Kim Jong Il and Kim Il Sung.

A second objective of the test was to persuade China, North Korea’s main patron, to back off pressuring the regime to abandon its nuclear program.

The harsh language used in the official statement—including a threat to adopt a more hostile posture in the coming months—were interpreted as a sign that the current tense relations with China over its opposition to the nuclear program was a main driver behind the surprise nuclear test.

“Initial reports indicate the North Koreans may be bragging a little bit too much,” said one official of the claims of a hydrogen bomb test.

The test was widely reported on social media shortly after it took place based on detection of a 5.1 magnitude seismic event Tuesday evening near a nuclear test site called Punggye-ri, in Kilju, North Hamgyong Province.

The test prompted international condemnation but a limited reaction from the Obama administration, which sought to play down the latest nuclear provocation.

In New York, the United Nations held an emergency meeting during which additional sanctions on North Korea were discussed. Sanctions were imposed after earlier nuclear tests in 2006, 2009, and 2013.

At the Pentagon, Defense Secretary Ash Carter, who was briefed on the test by Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, commander of U.S. Forces in Korea, spoke by telephone to South Korean Defense Minister Han Min Koo. Both officials agreed the test was an “unacceptable and irresponsible provocation” as well as a “flagrant violation of international law and a threat to the peace and stability of the Korean Peninsula and the entire Asia-Pacific region,” according to a statement.

Carter stressed in the call the United States was committed to maintaining U.S. extended nuclear deterrence protection for South Korea.

The White House said the United States and regional allies would take up the test at the United Nations, which sanctioned North Korea for past nuclear and missile tests.

“What is true is that North Korea continues to be one of the most isolated nations in the world and their isolation has only deepened as they have sought to engage in increasingly provocative acts,” spokesman Josh Earnest said.

On Capitol Hill, senior Republican leaders criticized the Obama administration for weak policies toward the rogue state.

House Speak Paul Ryan said the increasing nuclear threat posed by North Korea grew out of the failed nuclear agreement with North Korea reached by the Bill Clinton administration.

“This is exactly what happens when we appease and embolden rogue regimes,” Ryan said, noting the test had not been confirmed.

“President Obama has been guilty of this on more than one occasion,” he added, noting failed policies in Syria and Iran.

“The world is a safer place when we stand up to brutal regimes like those in Tehran, Damascus, and Pyongyang—and that’s not happening under our current president,” Ryan said.

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry said the test shows “the world is rapidly growing more dangerous, and the United States cannot afford to focus only on ISIS or Iran or Russia.”

“We must be prepared to protect our national security against many threats,” Thornberry said. “Unfortunately, the view around the world is that U.S. leadership is in decline while the administration’s inaction only fuels those concerns.”

Thornberry called for deployment of the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense anti-missile system in South Korea and for strengthening the U.S. nuclear deterrent.

Rep. Mike Rogers, chairman of the Armed Services subcommittee on strategic forces, criticized the president’s policies.

“We are watching seven years of President Obama’s failures play out—this is what ‘leading from behind’ has wrought,” said Rogers (R., Ala.)

“While the president has wasted his two terms in office, North Korea has continued to develop its ballistic missile and nuclear weapons capabilities,” Rogers added.

Former Pentagon nuclear forces official Mark Schneider said the reported low yield of the test indicates the blast was not a thermonuclear device.

“It could be a fission trigger or primary for a thermonuclear weapon,” he said.

Schneider said nuclear specialists at Los Alamos National Laboratory are betting at estimating nuclear yields than U.S. intelligence agencies, which during the Cold War consistently underestimated Soviet thermonuclear tests.

“If the yield is significantly higher than the 6-kt estimated in [news reports], it could be more than a primary test,” Schneider added.

North Korea is estimated to have a stockpile of between one and several dozen missile-deliverable warheads.

Rep. Mike Pompeo, a member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, said the North Korean nuclear threat is “a frightening vision of a future with President Obama’s nuclear agreement with Iran.”

“This is yet another example of how President Obama and former secretary [of state Hillary] Clinton’s policy of ‘strategic patience’ with North Korea has led the U.S. down a perilous path, and we are in urgent need of a new approach,” said Pompeo (R., Kan.)

“We cannot continue President Obama’s policy of turning a blind eye to North Korea and Iran.”

A Chinese government spokesman said Beijing opposed the test but warned Japan not to take provocative counter actions in response.

China has sought to rein in North Korea military provocations, including nuclear and long-range missile tests.

“We strongly urge [North Korea] to remain committed to its denuclearization commitment, and stop taking any actions that would make the situation worse,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said.

The European Union, in a statement, said that if the test blast is confirmed as nuclear it would be “a grave violation” of North Korea’s international obligations under U.N. resolutions not to produce or test nuclear weapons.

A nuclear test would be “a threat to the peace and security of the entire North East Asia region,” the EU said.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg criticized the announced nuclear test. “I condemn the continued development by North Korea of nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs and its inflammatory and threatening rhetoric,” he said.

The latest nuclear test was not a surprise and followed a recent boast from Kim, the North Korean leader, that his state had developed a thermonuclear bomb.

South Korea’s Chemical, Biological, and Radiological Defense Command, a Defense Ministry group, stated in a report made public Sunday that a nuclear test was expected but that it likely would not be a large-scale thermonuclear blast.

“We can’t discount the possibility that the North’s excavation of a new tunnel at its Punggye-ri test site could be designed for thermonuclear weapons tests,” command said. “Considering its research of nuclear technology, its history of underground and projectile tests, and elapsed time since its nuclear development, North Korea has the foundation for thermonuclear weapons, the report added according to the semi-official Yonhap news agency.

Thermonuclear bombs are advanced weapons that employ a nuclear blast to create a larger hydrogen blast.

Former Defense Intelligence Agency official Bruce Bechtol said if the test was a hydrogen bomb “this means the North Koreans are advancing their nuclear weaponization program at a faster and more efficient—and deadly—pace than most analysts have predicted in the past.”

“Yes it changes things,” he added. “It increases the possibilities regarding the threat that North Korea can pose to South Korea, the region, and the USA.”

The nuclear test follows North Korea’s successful submarine missile ejection test Dec. 21 from a submerged submarine. The test was regarded by U.S. intelligence agencies as a significant advance in Pyongyang’s bid to develop nuclear-armed submarine-launched missiles.

The submarine used in the test, known as the Gorae, or Whale, suffered a serious malfunction in attempting an ejection test Nov. 28. That test nearly sank the submarine, which returned to port listing at a 45-degree angle, according to U.S. officials.

Escalation by N. Korea with Hydrogen Bomb Launch

Seismic event in country’s northeast measures 5.1 on Richter scale

North Korea nuclear brief

– Around 10 nuclear warheads
– Conducted 3 tests
– Maximum missile range of 4,000 km
– Seeks range to reach US

Earthquake, possible nuclear test, in North Korea

WASHINGTON — North Korea declared on Tuesday that it had detonated its first hydrogen bomb.

North Korea Says It Has Detonated Its First Hydrogen Bomb

NYT: The assertion, if true, would dramatically escalate the nuclear challenge from one of the world’s most isolated and dangerous states.

In an announcement, North Korea said that the test had been a “complete success.” But it was difficult to tell whether the statement was true. North Korea has made repeated claims about its nuclear capabilities that outside analysts have greeted with skepticism.

“This is the self-defensive measure we have to take to defend our right to live in the face of the nuclear threats and blackmail by the United States and to guarantee the security of the Korean Peninsula,” a female North Korean announcer said, reading the statement on Central Television, the state-run network.

The North’s announcement came about an hour after detection devices around the world had picked up a 5.1 seismic event along the country’s northeast coast.

It may be weeks or longer before detectors sent aloft by the United States and other powers can determine what kind of test was conducted. Ned Price, a spokesman for the White House National Security Council, said in a statement that American officials “cannot confirm these claims at this time.”

But he said the White House expected “North Korea to abide by its international obligations and commitments.”

The tremors occurred at or near the Punggye-ri nuclear test site, where three previous tests have been conducted over the past nine years.

In recent weeks, the North’s aggressive young leader, Kim Jong-un, has boasted that the country has finally developed the technology to build a thermonuclear weapon — far more powerful than the low-yield devices tested first in 2006, then in different configurations months after President Obama took office in 2009 and again in 2013.

The North Korean announcement said the test had been personally ordered by Mr. Kim, only three days after he signed an order on Sunday for North Korean engineers to press ahead with the attempt.

The announcer added that for the North to give up its nuclear weapons while Washington’s “hostile policy” continued would be “as foolish as for a hunter to lay down his rifle while a ferocious wolf is charging at him.”

Satellite photographs analyzed by 38 North, a Washington research institute that follows the North’s nuclear activity closely, showed evidence of a new tunnel being dug in recent weeks.

Another test by itself would not be that remarkable. The North is believed to have enough plutonium for eight to 12 weapons, and several years ago it revealed a new program to enrich uranium, the other fuel for a nuclear weapon.

But if the North Korean claim about a hydrogen bomb is true, this test was of a different, and significantly more threatening, nature.

In recent weeks, Mr. Kim, believed to be in his early 30s and determined to accelerate the nuclear weapons program that his grandfather and his father promoted to give the broken country leverage and influence, boasted that North Korea had finally developed the technology to build a thermonuclear weapon.

When Mr. Kim first made the claim, in December, the White House expressed considerable skepticism, and several other experts say that the accomplishment would be a stretch, though not impossible.

Outside analysts took the claim as the latest of several hard-to-verify assertions that the isolated country has made about its nuclear capabilities. But some also said that although North Korea did not yet have H-bomb capability, it might be developing and preparing to test a boosted fission bomb, more powerful than a traditional nuclear weapon.

Weapon designers can easily boost the destructive power of an atom bomb by putting at its core a small amount of tritium, a radioactive form of hydrogen.

Lee Sang-cheol, the top nonproliferation official at the South Korean Defense Ministry, told a forum in Seoul last month that although Mr. Kim’s hydrogen bomb boasts might be propaganda for his domestic audience, there was a “high likelihood” that North Korea might have been developing such a boosted fission weapon.

And according to a paper obtained by the South Korean news agency Yonhap last week, the Chemical, Biological and Radiological Command of the South Korean military “did not rule out the possibility” of a boosted fission bomb test by the North, although it added it “does not believe it is yet capable of directly testing hydrogen bombs.”

For the Obama administration, which only six months ago defused the Iranian nuclear threat with an agreement to limit its capabilities for at least a decade, the announcement rekindles another major nuclear challenge — one that the administration has never found a way to manage.

The North has refused to enter the kind of negotiations that Iran did. Unlike Iran, which denies it has interest in nuclear weapons, the North has forged ahead with tests and told the West and China it would never give them up.

Mr. Obama, determined not to give the country new concessions, has neither acknowledged that North Korea is now a nuclear power nor negotiated with it. The White House has said that it would only restart talks with the North if the goal — agreed to by all parties — was a “denuclearized Korean Peninsula.”

China has also failed in its efforts to reign in Mr. Kim. He has never been invited to Beijing since his father’s death, and Chinese officials are fairly open in their expressions of contempt for him. But they have not abandoned him, or cut off the aid that keeps the country afloat.

With the test conducted Tuesday night — Wednesday in North Korea — three of the North’s four explosions will have occurred during Mr. Obama’s time in office.

Combined with the North’s gradually increasing missile technology, its nuclear program poses a growing threat to the region — though it is still not clear the North knows how to mount a nuclear weapon on one of its missiles.

The test is bound to figure in the American presidential campaign, where several candidates have already cited the North’s nuclear experimentation as evidence of American weakness — though they have not prescribed alternative strategies for choking off the program.

The United States did not develop its first thermonuclear weapons — commonly known as hydrogen bombs — until 1952, seven years after the first and only use of nuclear weapons in wartime, the weapons dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Russia, China and other powers soon followed suit.

Iran unveils second underground missile site

Oh, wonder if the Obama will give Tehran an Academy award for Iran’s theatrics, behavior and violations.

DUBAI (Reuters) – Iran unveiled a new underground missile depot on Tuesday with state television showing Emad precision-guided missiles in store which the United States says can take a nuclear warhead and violate a 2010 U.N. Security Council resolution.

The defiant move to publicize Iran’s missile program seemed certain to irk the United States as it plans to dismantle nearly all sanctions on Iran under a breakthrough nuclear agreement.

Tasnim news agency and state television video said the underground facility, situated in mountains and run by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, was inaugurated by the speaker of parliament, Ali Larijani. Release of one-minute video followed footage of another underground missile depot last October.

The United States says the Emad, which Iran tested in October, would be capable of carrying a nuclear warhead and U.S. officials say Washington will respond to the Emad tests with fresh sanctions against Iranian individuals and businesses linked to the program.


Iran’s boasting about its missile capabilities are a challenge for U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration as the United States and European Union plan to dismantle nearly all international sanctions against Tehran under the nuclear deal reached in July.

Iran has abided by the main terms of the nuclear deal, which require it to give up material that world powers feared could be used to make an atomic weapon and accept other restrictions on its nuclear program.

But President Hassan Rouhani ordered his defense minister last week to expand the missile program.

The Iranian missiles under development boast much improved accuracy over the current generation, which experts say is likely to improve their effectiveness with conventional warheads.

The Revolutionary Guards’ second-in-command, Brigadier General Hossein Salami, said last Friday that Iran’s depots and underground facilities are so full that they do not know how to store their new missiles.


Iranian-Saudi Tensions May Distract Iran’s Efforts to Attack Israel

InvestigativeProject: The dramatic escalation in the Iranian-Saudi Arabian rivalry poses critical potential ramifications for Israeli national security, according to the former head of Israel’s National Security Council, Yaakov Amidror.

Amidror – also formerly the head of Israeli military intelligence – told the Jerusalem Post that he expects the Iranian-Saudi crisis to prolong the Syrian civil war, leading both sides to increase support for their respective proxies in that country.

Such a scenario can intensify Israeli concerns of unpredictable and radical terrorist organizations consolidating bases of operations on the Jewish state’s northern borders.

However, other analysts view Syrian fragmentation as a strategic benefit – at least temporarily removing Syria as a conventional military threat and forcing Iranian proxies, including Hizballah, to divert resources and manpower to the Syrian front instead of conducting major attacks against Israel.

According to this perspective, Iran will also be more preoccupied with confronting Saudi Arabia in other regional theaters – including Bahrain, Yemen, and Iraq.

“That doesn’t meant they won’t do anything [toward Israel]. This doesn’t mean, for instance, that this will influence Hezbollah [backed by Iran] not to carry out revenge attacks against Israel. But it means that whenever there is something, there will be someone in Iran who will say that they have other problems to think about; we will not be the only issue they will be focusing on,” Amidror said.

This assessment supports other analyses that believe Hizballah failed to effectively retaliate to Israel’s reported assassination of arch-terrorist Samir Kuntar. On Monday, Hizballah detonated a large explosive on the Israel-Lebanon border, targeting two military vehicles. Israel said it suffered no casualties. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) followed with artillery fire against Hizballah targets in Lebanon, but limited its response to avoid escalating tensions.

The relatively weak show of force from Hizballah suggests that the terrorist organization continues to be bogged down in the Syrian civil war, unwilling and incapable of seriously challenging Israel at the moment. Fighting in Syria has cost Hizballah as much as a quarter of its fighters, Israeli military affairs journalist Yossi Melman points out.

Those losses “neutralized the Shi’ite-Lebanese organization’s ability to act against Israel,” he writes. At the least, it makes the prospect of opening a second front with Israel less appealing. Hizballah still enjoys an arsenal of more than 100,000 rockets it can fire at Israel when it opts for a confrontation.

Even though Hizballah and other Iranian proxies continue to enhance their presence in the Golan Heights for the purposes of targeting Israel, recent Iranian-Saudi tensions will likely force terrorist organizations at Iran’s behest to focus more of their efforts and resources on other fronts beyond the Jewish state.