Israel: IAEA finds traces of radioactive material at Iran site flagged by Netanyahu

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

TV: IAEA finds traces of radioactive material at Iran site flagged by Netanyahu

10 months after PM identified ‘secret atomic warehouse’ in Tehran, UN inspectors reportedly conclude that it was indeed used as a nuclear storage facility

Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the United Nations General Assembly on September 27, 2018 in New York City, and holds up a picture of what he said was a secret Iranian nuclear warehouse. (John Moore/Getty Images/AFP)

Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the United Nations General Assembly on September 27, 2018 in New York City, and holds up a picture of what he said was a secret Iranian nuclear warehouse. (John Moore/Getty Images/AFP)

Inspectors from the UN’s nuclear agency have found traces of radioactive material at a building in Tehran that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu identified last year as a “secret atomic warehouse,” an Israeli television report said on Thursday.

Inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency visited the site several times after Netanyahu identified it in an address to the UN General Assembly last September, took soil samples, and have now definitively concluded that there were “traces of radioactive material” there, Channel 13 news reported.

It quoted what it said were four senior Israeli officials involved in the matter, and said the UN agency’s findings had become known to these officials recently.

Iran has denied that the site was a nuclear facility or served any secretive purpose. In an initial response to Netanyahu’s UN speech, Iranian state media claimed the warehouse was actually a recycling facility for scrap metal.

Iran’s alleged ‘atomic warehouse’ in Turquzabad, Tehran (YouTube screenshot)

But the IAEA inspectors, who last visited the site in March, have reached a “definitive conclusion” that “there were traces of radioactive material” there, Channel 13 said, and are currently preparing a report on the matter.

The TV report noted that “the storing of radioactive material in a secret facility without informing the IAEA is a breach of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons [NPT], to which Iran is a signatory.”

Indicating that Washington is also aware of the IAEA inspectors’ findings, the TV report said that Israel and the US expect the agency to issue a public report on the matter shortly.

Coincidentally or otherwise, Netanyahu spoke on Wednesday by phone with US President Donald Trump about Iran. “The two leaders discussed cooperation between the United States and Israel in advancing shared national security interests, including efforts to prevent Iran’s malign actions in the region,” the White House said.

An image from a placard displayed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during his speech to the United Nations General Assembly showing a suspected “secret atomic warehouse” in the Turquzabad district of Tehran containing up to 300 tons of nuclear material. (GPO)

Speaking at the United Nations last September, Netanyahu called on the IAEA to inspect what he said was the “secret atomic warehouse” in the Iranian capital.

He claimed some 15 kilograms (33 pounds) of radioactive material had been recently removed from the atomic warehouse and squirreled away around Tehran, endangering the capital’s residents. The site may have contained as much as 300 tons of nuclear-related equipment and material in 15 shipping containers, Netanyahu added. He did not specify what nuclear material was contained at the site.

Netanyahu specified that there was a rug-cleaning business nearby: “Like the atomic archive [revealed by the prime minister in April], it’s another innocent-looking compound. Now, for those of you at home using Google Earth, this no-longer-secret atomic warehouse is on Maher Alley, Maher Street. You have the coordinates, you can try to get there. And for those of you who try to get there, it’s 100 meters from the Kalishoi, the rug cleaning operation. By the way, I hear they do a fantastic job cleaning rugs there. But by now they may be radioactive rugs.”

He added: “Now, countries with satellite capabilities may notice some increased activity on Maher Alley in the days and weeks ahead. The people they’ll see scurrying back and forth are Iranian officials desperately trying to finish the job of cleaning up that site. Because, you see, since we raided the atomic archive, they’ve been busy cleaning out the atomic warehouse.

“Just last month, they removed 15 kilograms of radioactive material,” he went on. “You know what they did with it? They had 15 kilograms of radioactive material, they had to get it out of the site, so they took it out and they spread it around Tehran in an effort to hide the evidence. The endangered residents of Tehran may want to know that they can get a Geiger counter on Amazon for only $29.99… They took this radioactive material and spread it around Tehran.

“Now, the Iranian officials cleaning out that site still have a lot of work to do because they’ve had at least, at least 15 ship containers, they’re gigantic, 15 ship containers full of nuclear related equipment and material stored there. Now, since each of those containers can hold 20 tons of material, this means that this site contains as much as 300 tons, 300 tons of nuclear related equipment and material.”

That speech came months after Israel’s disclosure that it had spirited away what it said was a “half-ton” of Iranian nuclear documents from Tehran, with Netanyahu saying both the archive and the warehouse were proof that Iran continues to seek atomic weapons despite the 2015 international agreement to limit its nuclear program. “Iran has not abandoned its goal to develop nuclear weapons…. Rest assured that will not happen. What Iran hides, Israel will find,” Netanyahu told the UN.

A local businessman speaks to Tasnim news reporter near an alleged secret Iranian nuclear site in the Turquzabad district of Tehran on September 30, 2018. (screen capture: Tasnim)

Following Netanyahu’s UN appearance, IAEA head Yukiya Amano said nuclear inspectors had visited “all the sites and locations in Iran which it needed to visit,” while pushing back against the prime minister’s assertion that the organization had failed to act on intelligence provided by Israel on the warehouse.

Diplomats quoted in April, however, said the IAEA visited the site in Tehran’s Turquzabad district multiple times the previous month. They said tests were underway on environmental samples taken from the facility in order to determine if nuclear materials were present there. It was said then that results could be ready by June.

“We have nothing to hide and any access given to the IAEA so far has been in the framework of laws and regulations and nothing beyond that,” an Iranian official said at the time.

Referring to Netanyahu’s statements as “ridiculous,” an Iranian state TV report said the country was committed to nonproliferation and noted Iran’s nuclear program was under surveillance of the IAEA. A state TV website briefly reported the Netanyahu accusation and called it an “illusion.”

A Tasnim News reporter who visited the warehouse last October was told by a worker from inside the facility that it was not a military site, and that the Israeli leader was “a stupid person” for believing it was a nuclear warehouse. The reporter did not enter the facility, only speaking to the worker via intercom from outside the locked gate.

The owner of the nearby carpet cleaning business told Tasnim “there was nothing out of the ordinary” about the warehouse, and asserted that Netanyahu was fed disinformation to “make him a fool.”

In this photo released by official website of the office of the Iranian Presidency, President Hassan Rouhani, right, and Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, IAEA, Yukiya Amano shake hands for media at the start of their meeting at the Presidency office in Tehran, Iran, Sunday, December 18, 2016. (Iranian Presidency Office/AP)

Netanyahu was a vocal opponent of the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran when it was signed under Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama, arguing that it would not stop but only delay Iran’s nuclear weapon program, while removing sanctions critical to curbing Tehran. He praised Trump for withdrawing from the accord in May.

Iran has denied it is seeking atomic weapons, while warning it would walk back its commitment to the nuclear accord if it does not receive economic inducements from its remaining signatories — Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China. In recent days, it has breached the accord’s cap on uranium enrichment levels.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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Iran Says It Will Exceed Nuclear Deal’s Limit On Uranium ‘In 10 Days’

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NPR)

 

Iran Says It Will Exceed Nuclear Deal’s Limit On Uranium ‘In 10 Days’

Atomic Energy Organization of Iran spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi, pictured at a July 2018 news conference in Tehran, said Monday: “We have quadrupled the rate of enrichment and even increased it more recently.”

Atta Kenare/AFP/Getty Images

Updated at 11:50 a.m. ET

Within days Iran will exceed the limit on its stockpile of uranium under a 2015 nuclear deal, according to a spokesman for the country’s atomic energy agency, who also said Tehran would increase uranium enrichment levels in violation of the agreement, “based on the country’s needs.”

The remarks come amid increased tension between the U.S. and Iran, particularly after last week’s attack on two tankers in the Gulf of Oman that Washington has blamed on Tehran. Iran has denied any involvement.

Under the multilateral Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action that the U.S. withdrew from a year ago, Iran can keep no more than 300 kilograms (661 pounds) of uranium enriched no higher than 3.67% — far below the 90% level considered suitable for building nuclear weapons.

At a news conference at the Arak Nuclear Complex that was carried live Monday on Iranian television, Behrouz Kamalvandi, a spokesman for the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, said that stockpile limit could be exceeded within 10 days.

“We have quadrupled the rate of enrichment and even increased it more recently, so that in 10 days it will bypass the 300 kg limit,” Kamalvandi said.

He added that his country needs uranium enriched to 5% for its Bushehr Nuclear Power Plant, built in the 1990s with Russian help, and uranium of 20% purity to be used as fuel for the Tehran Research Reactor, which the U.S. supplied to Iran in 1967.

Although not weapons-grade, 20% purity is generally considered “highly enriched” uranium, and as The Associated Press notes, “going from 20% to 90% is a relatively quicker process, something that worries nuclear nonproliferation experts.”

Even so, Kamalvandi held out the possibility that “there is still time … if European countries act.”

“Iran’s reserves are every day increasing at a more rapid rate. And if it is important for them (Europe) to safeguard the accord, they should make their best efforts. … As soon as they carry out their commitments, things will naturally go back to their original state,” he said, according to AP.

That sentiment was echoed by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Monday. “It’s a crucial moment, and France can still work with other signatories of the deal and play an historic role to save the deal in this very short time,” he was quoted by the Fars News Agency as saying during a meeting with France’s new ambassador in Iran.

Reuters reports that Rouhani said the collapse of the nuclear deal would not be in the interests of the region and the world.

In response to Iran’s announcement on uranium enrichment levels, National Security Council spokesman Garrett Marquis said in a statement: “Iran’s enrichment plans are only possible because the horrible nuclear deal left the their capabilities intact. President Trump has made it clear that he will never allow Iran to develop nuclear weapons. The regime’s nuclear blackmail must be met with increased international pressure.”

Following last week’s reported attack on the tankers Front Altair and Kokuka Courageous near the strategic Strait of Hormuz, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said “there’s no doubt” that Iran was responsible for disabling the vessels.

“The intelligence community has lots of data, lots of evidence,” Pompeo said on Fox News Sunday. “The world will come to see much of it, but the American people should rest assured we have high confidence with respect to who conducted these attacks as well as half a dozen other attacks throughout the world.”

On CBS’ Face the Nation, Pompeo said the U.S. was “considering a full range of options.”

“We are confident that we can take a set of actions that can restore deterrence, which is our mission set,” he said.

On Monday, Iran’s armed forces chief of staff again denied the country’s involvement in the attacks.

“Regarding the new incidents in the Persian Gulf … if the Islamic Republic of Iran decides to block exports of oil through the Strait of Hormuz, it is militarily strong enough to do that fully and publicly,” Maj. Gen. Mohammad Bagheri said, according to Fars News Agency.

1,500 Chernobyl ‘liquidators’ live in Israel. They are appallingly mistreated

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

1,500 Chernobyl ‘liquidators’ live in Israel. They are appallingly mistreated

A 2001 law promised housing, medical care to this group of heroes, but scandalously has never been implemented. Maybe interest sparked by the remarkable TV series will change that

Ksenia Svetlova
Chernobyl liquidators visiting the Knesset in Jerusalem. (Ksenia Svetlova)

Chernobyl liquidators visiting the Knesset in Jerusalem. (Ksenia Svetlova)

The much-discussed new TV series, “Chernobyl,” which focuses on the worst nuclear disaster of the twentieth century, has reminded the world about what happened at the plant’s No. 4 nuclear reactor 33 years ago.

Despite the very real health dangers, many curious tourists have been making their way to the remote Ukrainian city where time stopped in April 1986. And journalists have been seeking out the people who fought the devastating fire and built the Chernobyl sarcophagus, the massive steel and concrete structure that was constructed on top of the destroyed reactor to isolate it and limit radioactive contamination of the surrounding area.

The vast majority of the hundreds of thousands of Chernobyl “liquidators”— those who were called in to deal with the immediate aftermath of the catastrophic nuclear leak — who are still alive today reside in the former Soviet Union. But about 5,000 of them immigrated to Israel at the start of the 90s, and 1,500 of them still live here. Unfortunately, the liquidators are elderly and suffer from ill health. Unsurprisingly, those facts are less interesting than the painful memories from those terrible days: the friends who died, the hair that fell out, the diseases that spread.

I came into contact with this unique group of people four years ago in the course of the election campaign for the twentieth Knesset. The head of the association of Chernobyl liquidators here, Alexander Kalantirsky, got in touch with me before I was elected, and asked for my help. When we started talking, it emerged that he had studied construction engineering together with my mother at the same university in Moscow.

Alex Kalantirsky (R) during a demonstration of Chernobyl liquidators at the Knesset in Jerusalem. (Ksenia Svetlova)

Kalantirsky was in his 40s, married and with children, when he was sent to Chernobyl to work on the construction of the sarcophagus.

Did he know what was waiting for him there, and that his health would be irreparably harmed? Absolutely. But at no point did he contemplate evading this mission.

“We knew that if the radiation continued to spread, not only would Ukraine, Belarus, Lithuania and Russia be hit, but all of Europe, including the Mediterranean basin. That was all we were thinking about. We hoped we would be able to neutralize that immense danger,” he told me in our first discussion.

A concrete and steel sarcophagus that seals the Chernobyl nuclear power plant’s No. 4 reactor is seen in this picture from December 8, 1999, in Ukraine’s Chernobyl. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

The rights of the Chernobyl disaster liquidators are anchored in several international treaties to which Israel is not a signatory. Nonetheless, when the liquidators immigrated to Israel, they asked for the assistance that would enable them to deal with their illnesses and other needs.

And indeed in 2001, the late Knesset member Yuri Stern initiated legislation that recognized the liquidators’ work and gave them a unique status. The law specifies their right to public housing, to a one-time grant and to treatment in a special medical facility to be set up for this purpose.

An aerial view of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, the site of the world’s worst nuclear accident, is seen in April 1986, two to three days after the explosion in Chernobyl, Ukraine. In front of the chimney is the destroyed 4th reactor. (AP Photo)

Since the passage of the law 18 years ago, however, the state has not implemented it and has not allocated the funding to implement it. In the four years that I served as a Knesset member, I sought answers from the government ministries responsible for this failure. Some of their responses were quite fascinating.

The Immigrant Absorption Ministry, and the Construction and Housing Ministry, for example, completely ignored the liquidators. The insurance companies refuse to insure the liquidators, because of the high level of illness to which they were exposed, but an effort to involve the Treasury in this issue was thwarted, with the explanation that the Treasury has no right to require private companies to insure or not insure an individual.

Deputy health minister Yaakov Litzman during a press conference after meeting with president Reuven Rivlin at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem, April 15, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

But the most outrageous response of all was from Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman, who told me that “research does not prove that the Chernobyl disaster liquidators suffer from illnesses as a consequence of their work at the reactor. Most of them are smokers and it is possible that cancer in their cases is a consequence of that smoking.”

Once that contemptuous and offensive response was received, the path to a petition to the High Court of Justice was plainly open, since the 2001 legislation had instructed the government ministries to set up a medical facility to treat the Chernobyl liquidators. A petition was submitted by attorney Gilad Sher, who has been working for years on their behalf.

A doctor examines a boy who was evacuated from near the Chernobyl disaster area to Artek, June 14, 1986. (AP Photo)

At a hearing on December 17, 2018, the High Court accepted most of the liquidators’ key demands. The court made clear that the state had no right not to provide the liquidators with all their rights via a pretext that their medical situation was unclear.

The state was given 120 days to rectify the situation. But then the election campaign, and now the second election campaign, have frozen the work of the government and the Knesset, and nothing has moved.

Children from Chernobyl come to Israel for medical treatment in 1990 (Natan Alpert / GPO)

Very few reporters have taken an interest in this saga and the dire situation of the liquidators here. Among those who have focused on the story at all, most have concentrated on the awful details of what happened 33 years ago and interviewed these elderly, ailing people about that. For most of the liquidators, this is a profoundly traumatic experience.

And now came the remarkable “Chernobyl” historical drama.

Poster for Chernobyl, the 2019 miniseries

Says Kalantirsky: “This series returned me to the nightmare. The more I talk about my experiences there, the sicker I get.”

He and his friends, he says, do not understand why interviewers ignore their tales from the last three decades in Israel — the relentless battle they have been waging against government ministries who try to fob off responsibility from one ministry to another, and their dire financial situation.

“It’s been 18 years since Yuri Stern’s law passed. How many more years will it be before they start taking care of our issue?” asks Kalantirsky, a wise, intelligent, clearheaded man.

He has been amazed by the number of requests he has received for comments from the media, and disappointed by the superficiality of the questions.

“I have no problem talking about what happened at Chernobyl, even though it’s not easy for me,” he told me recently. “I watched the series. It was staggeringly accurate, apart for a few minor details. But it’s vital for me that it is not only the story of what happened then that is heard, but also our cry today.”

Workers who constructed the cement sarcophagus covering Chernobyl’s reactor four, pose with a poster reading: “We will fulfill the government’s order!” in summer of 1986 next to the uncompleted construction.(AP Photo/ Volodymyr Repik)

In contrast to the characters in the TV series, the Chernobyl disaster liquidators are real people, flesh and blood.

I can only hope that the renewed interest in the greatest ecological disaster of the twentieth century will eventually lead the media to focus not only on the horror stories of the two-headed chickens and the prematurely lost teeth, but also on the actual lives of 1,500 Israelis who live here.

Chernobyl ‘liquidators’ testify at a Knesset committee meeting (Ksenia Svetlova)

As their right, and not as an act of pity of charity, they require and deserve our practical help with homes and medical treatment. This is the least we should be doing for them, and it is scandalously long overdue.

The writer was a Zionist Union member of Knesset in 2015-19.

This article originally appeared in Hebrew on Zman Yisrael, ToI’s Hebrew site

Trump admin gave green light to nuclear permits for Saudi Arabia after Khashoggi killing

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NBC NEWS)

 

Trump admin gave green light to nuclear permits for Saudi Arabia after Khashoggi killing

Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia says the approvals show “President Trump’s eagerness to give the Saudis anything they want.”
Image: President Donald Trump shakes hands with Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the Oval Office of the White House on March 20, 2018.

President Donald Trump shakes hands with Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the Oval Office of the White House on March 20, 2018.Mandel Ngan / AFP – Getty Images file

Kim Jong-un Executed and Purged Top Nuclear Negotiators

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES)

 

South Korean Daily Says That Kim Jong-un Executed and Purged Top Nuclear Negotiators

Kim Hyok-chol, left, the special envoy to the United States, during summit preparations in Hanoi, Vietnam, in February.CreditAssociated Press
Image
Kim Hyok-chol, left, the special envoy to the United States, during summit preparations in Hanoi, Vietnam, in February.CreditCreditAssociated Press

SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea has executed its special envoy to the United States on spying charges, as its leader, Kim Jong-un, has engineered a sweeping purge of the country’s top nuclear negotiators after the breakdown of his second summit meeting with President Trump, a major South Korean daily reported on Friday.

Kim Hyok-chol, the envoy, was executed by firing squad in March at the Mirim airfield in a suburb of Pyongyang, the North Korean capital, Chosun Ilbo, South Korea’s largest daily, reported on Friday, citing an anonymous source. Mr. Kim faced the charge that he was “won over by the American imperialists to betray the supreme leader,” the newspaper said.

Four officials of the North Korean Foreign Ministry were also executed, the South Korean daily reported, without providing any hint of who its source might be or how it obtained the information.

South Korean officials could not confirm the Chosun Ilbo report. North Korea has not reported any execution or purge of top officials in recent months. The country remains the world’s most isolated, and outside intelligence agencies have sometimes failed to figure out or have misinterpreted what was going on in the closely guarded inner circles of the country’s leader, Kim Jong-un.

But some signs in recent weeks have led analysts in South Korea to speculate that Mr. Kim may be engineering a reshuffle or a purge of his negotiating team in the wake of the summit meeting, held in February in Hanoi, Vietnam. The meeting was widely seen as a huge embarrassment for Mr. Kim, who is supposedly seen as infallible in his totalitarian state.

On Thursday, Rodong Sinmun, the official newspaper of the North’s ruling Workers’ Party, carried a commentary warning against “anti-party, anti-revolutionary acts” of officials who “pretend to work for the supreme leader in his presence but secretly harbor other dreams behind his back.”

“Such characters won’t escape the stern judgment from the revolution,” the North Korean newspaper said. North Korean state media has issued such warnings when it needed to engineer a political purge or warn against possible lagging loyalty among the elites, South Korean analysts said.

Chosun Ilbo, the South Korean newspaper, reported Friday that Kim Yong-chol, a senior Workers’ Party vice chairman who visited the White House as the main point man for diplomacy with the United States, had also been purged, sentenced to forced labor in a remote northern province.

Also sent to a prison camp was Kim Song-hye, a senior female nuclear negotiator who teamed up with Kim Hyok-chol in working-level negotiations ahead of the Kim-Trump summit, the South Korean newspaper said. North Korea even sent a summit translator to a prison camp for committing a translation mistake, it said.

During the Hanoi summit meeting, Mr. Kim demanded that Mr. Trump lift the most painful international sanctions against his country in return for partially dismantling his country’s nuclear weapons facilities. The meeting collapsed when Mr. Trump rejected the proposal, insisting on a quick and comprehensive rollback of the North’s entire weapons of mass destruction program before lifting sanctions.

Kim Yong-chol, left, a senior Workers’ Party vice chairman, and Kim Song-hye, a senior nuclear negotiator, with President Trump at the White House last year.CreditAndrew Harnik/Associated Press
Image
Kim Yong-chol, left, a senior Workers’ Party vice chairman, and Kim Song-hye, a senior nuclear negotiator, with President Trump at the White House last year.CreditAndrew Harnik/Associated Press

Mr. Kim took a long train ride to Hanoi to meet Mr. Trump, and North Korean state media reported high expectations for the summit meeting. But Mr. Kim had to return home empty-handed, without the sanctions relief that he badly needed to help ease his country’s deepening economic isolation.

Outside analysts have since wondered whether Mr. Kim’s negotiating team had failed to prepare him for such a breakdown in the talks or considered how Mr. Kim might react.

Kim Hyok-chol was appointed as North Korea’s special envoy only weeks before the Hanoi summit and had led pre-summit working-level negotiations with Stephen Biegun, Mr. Trump’s special envoy on North Korea.

Their negotiations could not narrow wide differences between their governments over the terms under which North Korea would give up its nuclear arsenal. As a consequence, Mr. Kim and Mr. Trump met without having crafted a draft agreement, as the negotiators from both sides left it to their leaders to sort out the thorniest problems that have bedeviled negotiations for decades.

Kim Yong-chol, the Workers’ Party leader, has seemed to disappear from state news media in recent weeks. Although he retained some of his top posts during a parliamentary meeting in April, he was replaced as head of the United Front Department, a key party agency in charge of relations with South Korea and the North’s intelligence affairs.

Both Kim Hyok-chol and Kim Yong-chol were absent from the North Korean delegation when Kim Jong-un met last month with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia. In their places were senior officials from North Korea’s Foreign Ministry, like Minister Lee Yong-ho and First Vice Minister Choe Son-hui, who have emerged as the new faces of North Korean diplomacy.

Mr. Kim has said he will give Washington until the end of the year to make a new denuclearization proposal he can accept, or he may abandon his diplomacy with Mr. Trump. As if to press the point, North Korea has recently resumed tests of short-range missiles.

Even Kim Jong-il’s sister and adviser, Kim Yo-jong, did not accompany Mr. Kim to the meeting with Mr. Putin, although she has been a fixture in high-profile summit meetings with American, Chinese and South Korean leaders.

Chosun Ilbo said the sister may have been reprimanded by Mr. Kim or may be sick with pneumonia.

Jung Chang-hyun, head of the Korean Peace and Economy Institute, a research group affiliated with South Korea’s Moneytoday news media group, said he had heard that four North Korean Foreign Ministry officials were executed by firing squad around March, not because of the breakdown of the Hanoi summit meeting, but rather for a separate corruption scandal.

It remained unclear whether the four officials included Kim Hyok-chol, said Mr. Jung, an expert on the North Korean regime and author of books on the North. But Mr. Jung said that officials under Kim Jong-un’s sister were also involved in the corruption scandal and that as a consequence, Ms. Kim was put on probation by her brother. Mr. Jung said he acquired the information from third-country sources who meet or communicate with North Korean officials through China.

Since taking power seven years ago, Kim Jong-un has engineered a series of bloody political purges to remove or execute many of the top officials who had served under his late father, Kim Jong-il, and consolidate his own leadership. The most prominent victim has been Jang Song-thaek, Mr. Kim’s uncle, who was executed in the Mirim airfield in 2013 on charges of corruption and plotting a military coup against Mr. Kim.

Tehran to Continue Enriching Uranium, Rouhani Warns Against Internal Divisions

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Tehran to Continue Enriching Uranium, Rouhani Warns Against Internal Divisions

Sunday, 5 May, 2019 – 08:00
A general view of the Bushehr nuclear power plant, some 1,200 km (746 miles) south of Tehran October 26, 2010. REUTERS/IRNA/Mohammad Babaie
London- Asharq Al-Awsat
As the US intensifies its pressure campaign aimed at curbing Tehran’s ballistic missile program and its regional influence, the Iranian clerical-led regime reaffirmed its plans to resume enriching uranium, heavy (deuterium0-based) water and exporting oil.

Speaker Ali Larijani said Tehran would continue to enrich uranium and produce heavy water, regardless of restrictions on shipping abroad.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, for his part, warned that the recent host of US economic sanctions, a part of Washington strategy to counter Iranian malicious behavior, risks stoking internal tensions. Reformists in Rouhani’s administration and Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei loyalists have been at odds on Iran’s response policy to pressure.

“Under the [nuclear accord] Iran can produce heavy water and this is not in violation of the agreement. Therefore, we will carry on with enrichment activity,” the semi official Iranian news agency, ISNA, quoted Parliamentary speaker Ali Larijani as saying on May 4.

“We will enrich Uranium whether you move to buy it or not,” Larijani said.

On May 3, the US President Donald Trump’s administration slapped new restrictions on Iran’s nuclear activities as it looks to force Tehran to stop producing low-enriched uranium and expanding its only nuclear power plant, intensifying a campaign aimed at halting Tehran’s ballistic missile program and curbing its regional power.

Despite increasing pressure on Iran, the United States on May 3 extended five sanction waivers that will allow Russian, China, and European countries to continue to work with Iran’s civilian nuclear program at Bushehr. But it said it may punish any activity that expands the site.

At the same time, the State Department said it was ending two waivers related to Iranian exports of enriched uranium in what it called “the toughest sanctions ever on the Iranian regime.” All of the waivers were due to expire on May 4.

The 45- to 90-day extensions were shorter than the 180 days granted previously but can be renewed.

It was the third punitive action taken against Iran in as many weeks. Last week, it said it would grant no more sanctions waivers for countries buying Iranian oil, accelerating its plan to push Iran’s oil exports to zero. The Trump administration also took the unprecedented step of designating Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard Corps as a foreign terrorist organization.

“The Trump administration continues to hold the Iranian regime accountable for activities that threaten the region’s stability and harm the Iranian people. This includes denying Iran any pathway to a nuclear weapon,” State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said.

The Trump administration pulled out of the nuclear accord a year ago and vowed “maximum pressure” aimed at curbing the regional role of Iran.”

Iranian Minister Threatens To Quit Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Iranian minister threatens to quit nuclear non-proliferation treaty

Iran’s foreign minister says leaving the pact is one of Tehran’s ‘many options’ to retaliate against US sanctions

Iran's uranium conversion facility near Isfahan, which reprocesses uranium ore concentrate into uranium hexafluoride gas, which is then taken to Natanz and fed into the centrifuges for enrichment, March 30, 2005.  (AP/Vahid Salemi)

Iran’s uranium conversion facility near Isfahan, which reprocesses uranium ore concentrate into uranium hexafluoride gas, which is then taken to Natanz and fed into the centrifuges for enrichment, March 30, 2005. (AP/Vahid Salemi)

TEHRAN, Iran — Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has said leaving the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty is one of the “many options” Tehran has to retaliate against US sanctions, state media reported Sunday.

The United States has imposed a raft of sanctions against the Islamic Republic since US President Donald Trump withdrew last year from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal with world powers.

Last week Washington announced an end to sanction waivers for buyers of Iranian crude oil, and earlier this month the US declared Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards a “foreign terrorist organization.”

“The Islamic Republic has many options… (leaving) the NPT is one of them,” Zarif said in remarks to Iranian reporters in New York aired by state television.

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on the CBS program Face the Nation, April 27, 2019. (YouTube screenshot)

State news agency IRNA said Zarif was asked why he had not touted leaving the nuclear treaty as one of Iran’s possible reactions during his trip, as he had done so previously.

“The country’s officials are deliberating” the different options and measures, Zarif replied, adding that the possibility of leaving the NPT was among those options. He did not list the other options.

Iran has branded the US sanctions “illegal” and Zarif warned on Wednesday that there would be consequences should Iran be barred from selling its oil.

The 2015 Iran nuclear deal with six world powers — Britain, China, France, Russia, the United States and Germany — had given the Islamic Republic sanctions relief in exchange for curbs on its nuclear program.

Speaking to Fox News Sunday, Zarif claimed Israel, US National Security Adviser John Bolton, Saudi Arabia,and the United Arab Emirates were pushing a reluctant Trump into war.

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Kim Tightens Leadership Over North Korea

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NPR NEWS)

 

Kim Tightens Leadership Over North Korea In Major Government Reshuffle

North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un listens during a meeting in February with President Trump at the second U.S.-North Korea summit in Hanoi.

Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has further cemented his grip on power, in a big reshuffle of the country’s leadership. However, he didn’t signal a retreat, either from negotiations with the U.S. or a self-imposed moratorium on testing of missiles and nuclear bombs, something Pyongyang said he had been considering.

Instead, Kim’s remarks pointed to economic belt-tightening in an attempt to ride out economic sanctions — and perhaps the Trump administration, too – while hanging on to his country’s nuclear arsenal.

At a session in Pyongyang of the newly elected parliament — the result of voting last month in which all candidates ran unopposed — Kim was re-elected as Chairman of the State Affairs Commission. That means he retains, as expected, his posts as leader of the ruling party, state and military.

He added an extra honorary title though, “Supreme Representative of all the Korean People,” apparently for use in ceremonial and diplomatic occasions.

Long-serving officials such as 91-year-old Kim Jong Nam, the titular head of state, and Premier Pak Pong Ju, 80, were either retired or promoted to symbolic posts and replaced by younger officials.

Kim’s main message came on Wednesday, when he told ruling Workers’ Party officials to make the country’s economy self-sufficient, “so as to deal a telling blow to the hostile forces who go with bloodshot eyes, miscalculating that sanctions can bring (North Korea) to its knees,” the official Korean Central News Agency reported.

The remarks were clearly aimed at Washington, and they come weeks after a second summit between Trump and Kim in Hanoi that ended abruptly with no progress toward the U.S. goal of ending North Korea’s nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs.

Kim’s comments and his reshuffle of the leadership appear to have two aims, says Park Hyeong-jung, a North Korea expert at the Korea Institute for National Unification, or KINU, a government think-tank in Seoul.

“One is to double down on economic self-reliance, through strengthened mobilization,” Park says. “The second is to reinforce control over society.” He explains that tighter control is necessary because anecdotal evidence out of North Korea suggests the economy is deteriorating under the pressure of sanctions, and citizens feeling the pinch are starting to gripe.

There are fewer merchants and fewer customers, for example, in the “jangmadang” or free markets, Park says. And North Korean officials, he adds, are becoming more “extractive” and predatory, demanding bigger bribes from merchants as a sort of tax on the markets.

Kim’s expectations of tough times ahead seemed to anticipate President Trump’s comments to visiting South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Thursday that he was unwilling to ease sanctions on the North, or make big concessions in nuclear negotiations.

Moon’s trip to Washington was seen in Seoul as a crucial test of his role as mediator between North Korea and the U.S. South Korea’s government had voiced hopes for a “good-enough deal,” and an “early harvest.” In other words, a smaller, interim deal to get the denuclearization ball rolling.

But Trump mostly rebuffed Moon, saying “at this moment, we’re talking about the big deal. The big deal is we have to get rid of the nuclear weapons.”

Trump did leave some wiggle room for incremental progress. “I’d have to see what the deal is,” he told reporters. “There are various smaller deals that maybe could happen.”

“The question is what Kim can be convinced to give up at a future meeting, in exchange for what he left on the table in Hanoi,” says Leif-Eric Easley, an international relations expert at Ewha Womans University in Seoul.

Trump and Kim failed to reach a deal in Hanoi in February, Easley says, because North Korea’s offer to dismantle its main nuclear facility at Yongbyon was not enough for a comprehensive deal, while Pyongyang’s “asking price — the lifting of key U.N. Security Council resolutions — was unreasonably high.”

Seoul says Moon’s next step will be to seek a fourth summit with Kim Jong Un to try to broker a deal.

But whether Kim Jong Un will be interested in another meeting is unclear, says KINU’s Park Hyeong-jung.

“Probably, North Korea would assess that South Korea does not have much leverage to change U.S. attitudes,” he says, as evidenced by Moon’s meeting Thursday with Trump, and therefore Moon’s usefulness as a broker is questionable.

We’re Cracking Apart From The Inside, With Missiles Aimed At Our Back

We’re Cracking Apart From The Inside, With Missiles Aimed At Our Back

 

I’m sorry, but I don’t exactly like the Title either. Here in our Country we are acting like it is back in the 20’s or something ignorant like that. We have our HollyWood and our Politics, the never-ending battle between the Dems and the GOP and we pick Our Country apart. We have several outside State Players and other well-funded hate groups who are actually in the Chess Possession to make this play. Folks, I hope they do not push the ‘ignite’ button. This would be the end of the world as we all know it all because of a couple of dozen people from around whom have some Power in this world who hate us and hate everything’ the West’ stands for. Attacking us from the inside while we bicker among ourselves is a sure Cancer to our Cells.

 

Our current Government has weakened Us with our long-standing Allies and gotten off to a bad start with several other ‘not so friendly States.’ There is always the issue of other ‘unfriendliness’ such as Hezbollah, Hamas and many others. I pray for our Children, and Theirs. Hate, it is such a disgusting thing when we direct it at each other. Our System has many errors within it but it could be very much better. We need to address these things quickly before there is no tomorrow in which to be concerned about.

 

 

 

Damn… I Sure Hope I’m Wrong

Damn… I Sure Hope I’m Wrong

 

Folks this is simply the thoughts of an old man, roll with it where you will, or not. Time, age, it does give one advantage to the times people see fads come and go. I know that I am not the brightest bulb in the package but I do enjoy history and memories what one sees and understands often come from that. This article to you tonight is strictly a ‘what if’ letter and damn, I sure hope I’m wrong.

 

What If, what if President Trump is considered to be at the weakest point of his Presidency right now? What if right now even our Allies have no trust at all in Mr. Trump’s Leadership or even worse, if they consider the U.S. to now be a likely enemy? Now our real Enemies challenge U.S. authority all over the globe, Russia has been pushing the “West” for a fight over Crimea and now over the mainland of Ukraine, Mr. Putin has installed several hundred tanks facing Ukraine along their Border. Russian Naval Ships have fired on boarded and taken control of Ukraine Naval Ships.

 

If Mr. Putin and President Xi Jinping decided on a date over this Christmas Holiday to coordinate an attack on two fronts, first with Russia doing an all out attack on Ukraine and second, China doing an all out assault on Taiwan. Then of course this day would happen to be the time Hamas does an all out assault on Israel from the south and also the day Hezbollah does the same into northern Israel. My question is how would the U.S. Government and Military handle these situations, or could they in any real way enter into a WW3 situation, and win? There would also be the reality of every Three-Bit Dictator attacking whomever they choose all around the world. If the U.S. had great leaders would they take this kind of a chance? The reality is, we don’t have a mentally competent Leader in the Oval Office. So, what would happen if all of this occurred? You know folks, there is one thing that the world seems to forget about. Folks wake up, all of our ‘ways of life’ can change is just a fraction of a second with one bright flash up in the skies.

 

As I said, this was just a ‘what if’ theory and all I can honestly say is, I sure hope I’m Wrong!

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