Russia would only use nuclear weapons faced with ‘existential threat’: Kremlin

Russia would only use nuclear weapons faced with ‘existential threat’: Kremlin
Russia would only use nuclear weapons in the context of the Ukraine conflict if it were facing an “existential threat,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told CNN International on Tuesday. (AFP)
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Updated 23 March 2022

Russia would only use nuclear weapons faced with ‘existential threat’: Kremlin

Russia would only use nuclear weapons faced with ‘existential threat’: Kremlin
  • "So if it is an existential threat for our country, then it can be used in accordance with our concept" Peskov said
  • Pentagon spokesman John Kirby called Moscow's rhetoric on potential use of nuclear weapons "dangerous"

WASHINGTON: Russia would only use nuclear weapons in the context of the Ukraine conflict if it were facing an “existential threat,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told CNN International Tuesday.
“We have a concept of domestic security, and it’s public. You can read all the reasons for nuclear arms to be used,” Peskov said. “So if it is an existential threat for our country, then it can be used in accordance with our concept.”
Peskov’s comment came as interviewer Christiane Amanpour pushed him on whether he was “convinced or confident” that President Vladimir Putin would not use the nuclear option in the Ukrainian context.
Days after Russian troops invaded Ukraine, Putin announced on February 28 that he had put the country’s strategic nuclear forces on high alert in a move that sparked global alarm.
Asked about Peskov’s statement, and Russia’s nuclear stance more broadly, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby called Moscow’s rhetoric on potential use of nuclear weapons “dangerous.”
“It’s not the way a responsible nuclear power should act,” he told reporters.
That said, Kirby stressed that Pentagon officials “haven’t seen anything that would lead us to conclude that we need to change our strategic deterrent posture.”
“We monitor this as best we can every day,” he added.
Russia maintains the world’s largest stockpile of nuclear warheads, and has earned minimal support around the world for its attack on its ex-Soviet neighbor.
Western defense officials said following Putin’s February announcement that they had not seen any significant sign of mobilization of Russia’s nuclear forces — its strategic bombers, missiles and submarines.
But Moscow has also warned that if the United States and NATO allies supplied Ukraine with fighter jets, it could escalate and expand the war, potentially putting Russia in direct confrontation with nuclear-armed rivals in the West.
Earlier this month Beatrice Fihn, who leads the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, warned Putin is using nuclear “blackmail” to keep the international community from interfering in his Ukraine invasion.
“This is one of the scariest moments really when it comes to nuclear weapons,” she said.
Questioned further about Russia’s offensive in Ukraine, Peskov said it had no intention of occupying its neighbor and asserted his country was not attacking civilians.
The main goals of the “operation,” he said, are “to get rid of the military potential of Ukraine.”
“This is why our military are targeting only military goals and military objects on the territory of Ukraine. Not civil ones,” he said.
Widespread photographic and video evidence supports human rights groups’ allegations that Russian forces have attacked numerous civilian targets in the ex-Soviet state.


Dutch refugee council sues state over ‘inhumane’ asylum centers

Dutch refugee council sues state over ‘inhumane’ asylum centers
Updated 8 sec ago

Dutch refugee council sues state over ‘inhumane’ asylum centers

Dutch refugee council sues state over ‘inhumane’ asylum centers

TER APEL, Netherlands: Teenager Munasar Muhidin says he fled Somalia in 2020 after militants killed most of his family and that his brother died trying to get to Europe. He hoped he had finally found a place of refuge in the Netherlands.

But when he reached the country’s main reception center for asylum seekers in the northern town of Ter Apel he found hundreds ahead of him in the queue and was forced to camp by the roadside, where he said fights broke out and thunderstorms soaked his bedding.

The Dutch Council for Refugees says Muhidin’s story and many similar ones have prompted it to sue the state over what it calls the “inhumane” treatment of newcomers.

“At a refugee camp in a conflict zone there is no other choice,” council spokesman Martijn Van der Linden said.

“In the Netherlands, we don’t have a refugee crisis. There is a political crisis that has resulted in people in Ter Apel sleeping outside.”

Hundreds are being forced to sleep on the muddy ground there, and the council says conditions at dozens of other centers for asylum seekers, while often better, still did not meet the most basic requirements.

“I have no family left,” said 18-year-old Muhidin, who described fleeing the El Dher district of Somalia after attacks by Al-Shabab militants nearly two years ago.

“They killed my mother, father and older brother.”

Weeping, he said he escaped with his only remaining brother, Abdallah, who drowned trying to cross by boat from Turkey to Greece. “He was my last dream.”

Others in Ter Apel on Wednesday evening spoke of fleeing violence or repression in Syria, Iran and Turkey.

They also said they had been unable to get access to safe shelter due to the long queues.

Van der Linden said the Netherlands was not an inhumane country, “but our government has failed these past years.”

Funding cuts and personnel shortages in the Dutch asylum and refugee system had created conditions “that are inhumane and also violate European guidelines for refugees.”

The council, whose case is due to be heard on Sept. 15, is demanding improved conditions by Oct. 1, including access to clean water, showers, privacy, adequate food and healthcare.

A spokesperson at the government’s Central Agency for the Reception of Asylum Seekers, which oversees the shelters, said the system was being overwhelmed by arrivals.


Ukraine’s Zelensky hosts talks with UN chief, Turkey leader

Ukraine’s Zelensky hosts talks with UN chief, Turkey leader
Updated 18 August 2022

Ukraine’s Zelensky hosts talks with UN chief, Turkey leader

Ukraine’s Zelensky hosts talks with UN chief, Turkey leader
  • At the meetings, Turkey agreed to help rebuild Ukraine’s infrastructure, including roads and bridges
  • Zelensky asked Guterres to seek UN access to Ukrainian citizens deported to Russia

LVIV, Ukraine: Turkey’s president and the UN chief met with Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelensky on Thursday in a high-stakes bid to ratchet down a war raging for nearly six months, boost desperately needed grain exports and secure Europe’s biggest nuclear power plant. But little progress was reported.
The gathering, held far from the front lines in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv, near the Polish border, marked the first visit to Ukraine by Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan since the outbreak of the war, and the second by UN Secretary-General António Guterres.
Erdogan has positioned himself as a go-between in efforts to stop the fighting. While Turkey is a member of NATO — which backs Ukraine in the war — its wobbly economy is reliant on Russia for trade, and it has tried to steer a middle course between the two combatants.
At the meetings, Turkey agreed to help rebuild Ukraine’s infrastructure, including roads and bridges, and Zelensky asked Guterres to seek UN access to Ukrainian citizens deported to Russia, according to the Ukrainian president’s website. Zelensky also requested UN help in freeing captured Ukrainian soldiers and medics.
On the battlefield, meanwhile, at least 17 people were killed and 42 wounded in heavy Russian missile strikes on Ukraine’s Kharkiv region on Wednesday night and Thursday morning, Ukrainian authorities said.
Russia’s military claimed that it struck a base for foreign mercenaries in Kharkiv, killing 90. There was no immediate comment from the Ukrainian side.
Heightening international tensions, Russia deployed warplanes carrying state-of-the-art hypersonic missiles to the country’s Kaliningrad region, an enclave surrounded by two NATO countries, Lithuania and Poland.
The three leaders’ agenda included the Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant in southern Ukraine. Moscow and Kyiv have accused each other of shelling the complex, and the fighting has raised fears of a nuclear catastrophe.
Zelensky has demanded that Russian troops leave the plant and that a team from the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency be allowed in.
Zelensky and the UN chief agreed Thursday on arrangements for an IAEA mission to the plant, according to the president’s website. But it was not immediately clear whether the Kremlin would consent to the proposed terms. As for a pullout of troops, a Russian Foreign Ministry official said that would leave the plant “vulnerable.”
Concerns about the plant mounted Thursday when Russian and Ukrainian authorities accused each other of plotting to attack the site and then blame the other side.
Earlier this month, Erdogan met in Russia with Russian President Vladimir Putin to discuss the fighting. And last month, Turkey and the UN helped broker agreements clearing the way for Ukraine to export 22 million tons of corn and other grain stuck in its Black Sea ports since Russia invaded Feb. 24. The agreements also sought to clear roadblocks to exports of Russian food and fertilizer to world markets.
The war has significantly worsened the global food crisis because Ukraine and Russia are major suppliers of grain. Developing countries have been hit particularly hard by shortages and high prices, and the UN has declared several African nations in danger of famine.
Yet even with the deal, only a trickle of Ukrainian grain exports has made it out. Turkey said more than 622,000 tons of grain have been shipped from Ukrainian ports since the deal was reached.
At a news conference Thursday in Lviv, Guterres touted the success of the grain export agreements but added, “There is a long way to go before this will be translated into the daily life of people at their local bakery and in their markets.”
The discussions about an overall end to the war that has killed untold thousands and forced over 10 million Ukrainians to flee their homes were not expected to yield anything substantive.
In March, Turkey hosted talks in Istanbul between Russian and Ukrainian negotiators, but the effort to end the hostilities failed, with the two sides blaming each other.
Erdogan has engaged in a delicate balancing act, maintaining good relations with both Russia and Ukraine. Turkey has provided Ukraine with drones, which have played a significant role in the fighting, but it has refrained from joining Western sanctions against Russia over the war.
Turkey is facing a major economic crisis, with official inflation near 80 percent, and is increasingly dependent on Russia for trade and tourism. Russian gas covers 45 percent of Turkish energy needs, and Russia’s atomic agency is building Turkey’s first nuclear power plant.
Sinan Ulgen of the Istanbul-based EDAM think tank characterized Turkey’s diplomatic policy as being “pro-Ukraine without being anti-Russia.”
“Turkey believed that it did not have the luxury to totally alienate Russia,” Ulgen said.


Salman Rushdie attack suspect pleads not guilty to attempted murder, assault

Salman Rushdie attack suspect pleads not guilty to attempted murder, assault
Updated 18 August 2022

Salman Rushdie attack suspect pleads not guilty to attempted murder, assault

Salman Rushdie attack suspect pleads not guilty to attempted murder, assault
  • Matar was arraigned at the Chautauqua County Courthouse on an indictment returned earlier in the day
  • His next court appearance was scheduled for Sept. 22

MAYVILLE, New York: A man accused of stabbing novelist Salman Rushdie last week in western New York pleaded not guilty to second-degree attempted murder and assault charges on Thursday during an arraignment hearing and was remanded without bail.
Hadi Matar, 24, is accused of wounding Rushdie, 75, on Friday just before the “The Satanic Verses” author was to deliver a lecture on stage at an educational retreat near Lake Erie. Rushdie was hospitalized with serious injuries in what writers and politicians around the world decried as an attack on the freedom of expression.
Matar was arraigned at the Chautauqua County Courthouse on an indictment returned earlier in the day by a grand jury that charged him with one count of second-degree attempted murder, which carries a maximum sentence of 25 years in prison, and one count of second-degree assault. He has been in jail since his arrest and wore a gray-striped jumpsuit, a white COVID-19 face mask and his hands were shackled.
His next court appearance was scheduled for Sept. 22.
The attack came 33 years after Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, then Iran’s supreme leader, issued a fatwa, or religious edict, calling on Muslims to assassinate Rushdie a few months after “The Satanic Verses” was published. Some Muslims saw passages about the Prophet Muhammad as blasphemous.
Rushdie, who was born in India to a Muslim Kashmiri family, has lived with a bounty on his head, and spent nine years in hiding under British police protection.
In 1998, Iran’s pro-reform government of President Mohammad Khatami distanced itself from the fatwa, saying the threat against Rushdie was over.
But the multimillion-dollar bounty has since grown and the fatwa was never lifted: Khomeini’s successor, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, was suspended from Twitter in 2019 for saying the fatwa against Rushdie was “irrevocable.”
In an interview published by the New York Post on Wednesday, Matar said he respected Khomeini but would not say if he was inspired by the fatwa. He said he had “read a couple of pages” of “The Satanic Verses” and watched YouTube videos of the author.
“I don’t like him very much,” Matar said of Rushdie, as reported in the Post. “He’s someone who attacked Islam, he attacked their beliefs, the belief systems.”
Iran’s foreign ministry on Monday said that Tehran should not be accused of being involved in the attack. Matar is believed to have acted alone, police have said.
Matar is a Shiite Muslim who was born in California to a family from Lebanon.
Prosecutors say he traveled to Chautauqua Institution, a retreat about 12 miles (19 km) from Lake Erie, where he bought a pass to Rushdie’s lecture.
Witnesses said there were no obvious security checks at the lecture venue and that Matar did not speak as he attacked the author. He was arrested at the scene by a New York State Police trooper after being wrestled to the ground by audience members.
Rushdie sustained severe injuries in the attack, including nerve damage in his arm, wounds to his liver, and the likely loss of an eye, his agent said.


Russia says Ukraine planning ‘provocation’ at nuclear plant; Kyiv dismisses accusation

Russia says Ukraine planning ‘provocation’ at nuclear plant; Kyiv dismisses accusation
Updated 18 August 2022

Russia says Ukraine planning ‘provocation’ at nuclear plant; Kyiv dismisses accusation

Russia says Ukraine planning ‘provocation’ at nuclear plant; Kyiv dismisses accusation
  • A Ukrainian official dismissed what he depicted as a cynical assertion by Moscow
  • Russian forces should leave the plant they captured soon after invading Ukraine nearly six months ago

LONDON: Russia said on Thursday there was a risk of a manmade disaster at Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant and accused Kyiv and the West of planning “provocation” there on Friday during a visit to Ukraine by UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres.
A Ukrainian official dismissed what he depicted as a cynical assertion by Moscow and said Russian forces should leave the plant they captured soon after invading Ukraine nearly six months ago, demine it and remove any munitions stored there.
The Zaporizhzhia nuclear reactor complex (ZNPP), the largest in Europe, has come under repeated shelling, with both Moscow and Kyiv trading blame.
Russia says Ukrainian forces are recklessly firing at the plant, but Ukraine says Russia is deliberately using the reactor complex as a base to launch attacks against its population.
Russia’s foreign ministry said at a news briefing that a proposal from Guterres to demilitarise the area around the plant was “unacceptable.”
Russian defense ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov told reporters Moscow was taking measures to ensure safety at the complex and denied it had deployed heavy weapons in and around the plant.
However, the ministry said a shutdown of the plant might be attempted if shelling continued.
Yevgeny Balitsky, head of the Russian-installed administration in Zaporizhzhia region, said earlier there was a risk that shelling could damage the cooling system of the reactor complex and was quoted as saying the plant was operating with only one unit.
It is not clear how the plant would be shut down, but the ministry said two of the plant’s six units may be put into “cold reserve.” The plant accounts for one-fifth of Ukraine’s annual electricity production.
Ukrainian state nuclear energy company Energoatom said shutting down the plant would increase the risk of “a radiation disaster at the largest nuclear power plant in Europe.” Disconnecting the complex’s generators from Ukraine’s power system would prevent them being used to keep nuclear fuel cool, in the event of a power outage at the plant, it said on the Telegram messaging app.

’PROVOCATION’
The Russian defense ministry accused Ukraine and what it called its “US handlers” of trying to stage a “minor accident” at the plant in southern Ukraine to blame Russia.
It said the “provocation” was timed to coincide with a visit to Ukraine by UN chief Guterres, who arrived in Lviv or Wednesday and was due to visit the Black Sea port of Odesa on Friday, and that it may involve a radiation leak.
Reuters could not verify Russia’s assertion.
Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, dismissed the Russian defense ministry’s remarks, saying it “laughs cynically.”
“There is a solution. You just need to take the (munitions)out of the halls, demine the buildings, release the plant’s personnel from cells, stop shelling (the southern city of) Nikopol from (the plant’s) territory and leave the station,” he wrote on Twitter.
In a briefing, Igor Kirillov, head of Russia’s radioactive, chemical and biological defense forces, said the plant’s back-up support systems had been damaged as a result of shelling.
Kirillov presented a slide, showing that in the event of an accident at the plant, radioactive material would cover Germany, Poland and Slovakia.
Guterres, who is set to meet Zelensky later on Thursday, has called for a halt to all fighting near the plant.


Former CIA station chief urges Biden to block Iran leader from attending UN General Assembly

Former CIA station chief urges Biden to block Iran leader from attending UN General Assembly
Updated 18 August 2022

Former CIA station chief urges Biden to block Iran leader from attending UN General Assembly

Former CIA station chief urges Biden to block Iran leader from attending UN General Assembly
  • Rogue nation attacks Saudi Arabia and US, says Norman Roule
  • Salman Rushdie assault ‘part of Tehran’s global terror’ plans

CHICAGO: Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi should be prevented from attending next month’s UN General Assembly because Tehran is complicit in the attack on novelist Salman Rushdie in New York on Aug. 12, and continues to foment violence and terrorism across the world.

This is the view of Norman Roule, the CIA’s former national intelligence manager for Iran, who said that President Joe Biden and the UN must send a strong message that Tehran’s actions will not be tolerated in an interview with Arab News’ Ray Hanania Show.

Roule said the attack on Rushdie by 24-year-old Hadi Matar, a Lebanese American from Fairview, New Jersey, was a “clear act of terrorism” that reflects a wider campaign of Iranian-sponsored violence that demands a forceful response from the US, its European allies and the UN.

 

“But I think because of the actions against the United States at this very sensitive time we need to send a message to the Iranian government that this will not be tolerated,” Roule told Arab News.

“It (banning Raisi from the UNGA) would also send a message to other adversaries and rogue states that there is a consequence to actions. And if you undertake these sorts of actions this is how you will have to endure diplomatic isolation. If Raisi comes to the United States (for the UNGA) it sends the reverse message. It sends the message that you can conduct these sorts of actions. You’ll get a statement by the state department spokesman. Maybe a tweet from a US official. Maybe a sanction against an organization that has no financial assets in the United States. But otherwise it is pretty much cost free. I think we really want to avoid that.”

If this had been an act of Al-Qaeda, Roule said, the reaction from the US and other European allies “would be different.” In the past, Roule noted, the US had a “robust program” to punish any action by Al-Qaeda for its terrorism, especially in the US.

If Biden does not ban Raisi from entering the US to attend the UNGA meeting in mid-September, then the next option would be to boycott Raisi’s speech, argued Roule, who is a non-resident fellow at Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs.

 

“It is a campaign of violence throughout the world by Iran. There have been actions in Argentina recently. There have been missiles fired, Iranian missiles fired from Yemen against the international population of Saudi Arabia. One other aspect that could happen is that when President Raisi speaks, representatives from those countries who are partners and allies could walk out of the room. That has been done also in the past,” said Roule who served in his post at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence from 2008 until 2017.

“We cannot allow them to get away with this cost-free or it encourages further violence.”

Roule argued that past administrations have taken very decisive actions in response to terrorism including when former President Ronald Reagan launched an attack against Libya’s strongman Muammar Gaddafi after American personnel were targeted in Germany.

 

“We have had a series of Iranian actions almost always involving other nationals beyond Iranian officials because it allows Iran to conduct actions that are attributable to Iran so it gets its message (across) but in a sense it is deniable,” Roule said.

“What the United States and also Europe have done is I think a dangerous strategy. They are following a dangerous strategy. In essence we pursue the local actor under law enforcement aspects and then we make public statements ascribing the action to Iran and threatening privately or publicly severe consequences if someone succeeds. In most cases, Iran’s actions fail.

“But in essence we are sending a message that they are swinging the bat at killing Americans and we have had a number of attempts by Iran this year that have been frustrated per press reports. But we don’t punish them for the effort, which in essence encourages them to continue to try these actions. But also to put out propaganda on Twitter, (and on) the Supreme Leader’s account and other places, which encourage people to undertake actions that in essence satisfy Iran’s political goal.”

Roule said that Iran clearly is not only behind the attack on Rushdie, but also attempted to harm others including former UN Ambassador and US National Security Adviser John Bolton, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and leaders in other countries including Adel Al-Jubeir, the former Saudi foreign minister, who is currently the minister of state for foreign affairs and the Kingdom’s new climate envoy.

 

“Certainly Iran is responsible for creating a worldwide atmosphere, propagating an atmosphere that encouraged this action. Iran not only put out a fatwa which has been reaffirmed, not recently but not often but it has been reaffirmed. But Iran has actually increased the money in the pot it would pay for the violence against Salman Rushdie,” Roule said, noting that the passage of 33 years does not undermine the original death fatwa which was issued in 1989 but has never been revoked by Iran’s leaders.

“Iran is responsible for creating this sense that this (Rushdie attack) is a necessary action. I think we have got something that is identical to what Al-Qaeda did with its worldwide propaganda campaign instigating other acts of violence. So maybe Al-Qaeda didn’t undertake the specific act but actions were undertaken because people were informed on social media by a specific line of propaganda.”

Roule noted that Biden has threatened to pursue other actions to stop Iran’s terrorism but “hasn’t provided a lot of details” on this policy.

“It even underscores that when Iran makes a threat, that threat may eventually be achieved over time. There is a lesson there that the United States and the international community should have dealt with this fatwa differently, should not have tolerated the fact that the fatwa remained (intact), should not have tolerated the fact that Iran did not withdraw this. But we did, hoping that it sort of would drift into obscurity whereas there are plenty of people who follow the propaganda that Iran puts in social media and this individual acted accordingly,” Roule said.

Failure to respond to Iran over the Rushdie attack, and the other attacks, sends a “dangerous message,” Roule argued.

 

“In essence what we got is a situation in which we punish people we capture under law enforcement. We tell Iran privately and publicly we will respond to a successful attack,” Roule said.

“But failed attacks seem to provoke no response from not only the United States but also friends and our European partners. And I think this encourages individuals in Iran to think that there is no penalty for their efforts to conduct terrorism in the United States and elsewhere.”

The Ray Hanania Show is broadcast live every Wednesday at 5 p.m. Eastern EST on WNZK AM 690 radio in Greater Detroit including parts of Ohio, and WDMV AM 700 radio in Washington D.C. including parts of Virginia and Maryland. The show is rebroadcast on Thursdays at 7 a.m. in Detroit on WNZK AM 690 and in Chicago at 12 noon on WNWI AM 1080.

You can listen to the radio show’s podcast by visiting ArabNews.com/rayradioshow.