N. Korea completes upgrade of rocket site, shows no signs of launch preparations yet

North Korea has completed construction to upgrade its main rocket launch facility, but is still showing no signs of preparations to launch a long-range rocket or missile from the facility, a U.S. research institute said Wednesday.

The website 38 North made the assessment citing recent satellite imagery of the North’s Sohae Satellite Launching Station. South Korean officials said last week the North completed upgrading the facility to enable it to handle bigger rockets, and a launch could come around the 70th anniversary of the founding of the Workers’ Party in October.

“There are still no indications at Sohae that test preparations are underway to support a long-range SLV (satellite launch vehicle) launch. There is also no public evidence to suggest that a decision has been made by the leadership in Pyongyang to move forward with a launch,” 38 North said in a report.

“In the coming weeks, if preparations are indeed underway, we would expect to see other on-the ground indications at Sohae, including increased rail activity and the possible arrival of missile related railcars, activity at facilities associated with rocket assembly,” it said.

38 North said the North has completed all construction work at the facility

(LEAD) N. Korea completes upgrade of rocket site, shows no signs of launch preparations yet

NATO eastward expansion would be ‘catastrophic': Russian official – Yahoo News

NATO enlargement into Ukraine and Georgia would have “catastrophic consequences” for Europe, Russia’s envoy to NATO warned Tuesday in a television interview, as relations between Moscow and the West sink to Cold War-era lows.

“Any political game concerning NATO expansion into Georgia and Ukraine is filled with the most serious, most profound geopolitical consequences for all of Europe,” Russia’s permanent representative to NATO, Alexander Grushko, told LifeNews television channel.

“I hope that people in Brussels and other capitals fully understand the danger of this game, the danger of the cards some forces are still trying to play. This would have catastrophic consequences,” he told the Russian channel.

NATO eastward expansion would be ‘catastrophic': Russian official – Yahoo News

Russia is implicitly telling us that Eastern Europe is the Russian sphere of influence. Russia will decide what happens in this sphere, not the individual countries. Western interference will bring nuclear war with Russia. Of course, there is the nasty problem of the Baltics. The Baltics is in Russia’s sphere of influence. How is Russia going to reconcile that?

Clearly Georgia should not be in NATO because defending it is too difficult. But what about Ukraine? Shouldn’t Ukraine be allowed to decide its own fate?

In my mind, this is just Russia telling us to prepare for the nuclear war that is coming anyway – because of the Baltics. The only issue is timing. Knowing Putin, the issue of timing will be determined by events. So stay tuned.

Experts Concerned China May Soon Establish Southern ADIZ

U.S. and international security experts have expressed concerns that it may just be a matter of time before China establishes an air defense identification zone over disputed waters in the South China Sea.

China has been rapidly reclaiming land and making artificial islands in the South China Sea during the past year, causing strong reaction in the U.S. and many other countries.

Senator John McCain, Chairman of the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee, said island building is just the beginning.

McCain said the next step for China will be to militarize those islands and declare an Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) over the South China Sea to further its sovereignty claims.

Experts Concerned China May Soon Establish Southern ADIZ

Israel’s Choice: Conventional War Now, or Nuclear War Later – WSJ

Yet when even a famous Iranian “moderate” like the former President Hashemi Rafsanjani has said—as he did in 2001, contemplating a nuclear exchange—that “the use of even one nuclear bomb inside Israel will destroy everything. However, it will only harm the Islamic world. It is not irrational to contemplate such an eventuality,” how can deterrence work?

The brutal truth is that the actual alternatives before us are not Mr. Obama’s deal or war. They are conventional war now or nuclear war later. John Kerry recently declared that Israel would be making a “huge mistake” to take military action against Iran. But Mr. Kerry, as usual, is spectacularly wrong. Israel would not be making a mistake at all, let alone a huge one. On the contrary, it would actually be sparing itself—and the rest of the world—a nuclear conflagration in the not too distant future.

Israel’s Choice: Conventional War Now, or Nuclear War Later – WSJ

China losing control as stocks crash despite emergency measures

Margin debt on the Chinese stock market has reached $1.2 trillion. ‘We suspect that it’s a matter of time before banks may have to face the music,’ Bank of America says

Chinese equities have suffered the sharpest one-day crash in eight years, sending powerful tremors through global commodity markets and smashing currencies across East Asia, Latin America and Africa.

The violence of the moves unnerved investors worldwide, stirring fears that the Communist Party may be losing control after stoking a series of epic bubbles in property, corporate investment and equities to keep up the blistering pace of economic growth.

China losing control as stocks crash despite emergency measures

All is not well in Russia, and Putin continues to postpone decisions

“This summer, however, he is arguably wasting time and maneuvering himself into a corner, from which the only escape will be jumping into another spasm of hostilities in eastern Ukraine with the hope that a victory can cancel all other problems.”

Russia had all but disappeared from the international arena in the last couple of weeks, particularly following the July 14 signing of the international de-nuclearization deal reached with Iran. Indeed, as long as the pause in the Ukraine war holds, Moscow’s opinions on international relations attract little attention because its ability to influence key global matters has shrunk to irrelevance. …

Putin cannot fail to see that Russia’s stagnant economy undercuts his ambitions for a place of prominence among the “emerging powers”—which may be prone to entertaining ideas about dismantling US “hegemony,” but always prioritize the goal of achieving investment-driven economic dynamism. …

The Kremlin cannot really know when this squeeze on the middle class and the impoverishment of pensioners may reach a critical mass of discontent. …

The army, an institution that is supposed to be a rock-solid pillar of Putin’s power, is showing dangerous cracks. …

Putin has always preferred to postpone decisions until the last possible moment and to keep his lieutenants and international counterparts in the dark about his intentions. This summer, however, he is arguably wasting time and maneuvering himself into a corner, from which the only escape will be jumping into another spasm of hostilities in eastern Ukraine with the hope that a victory can cancel all other problems. The risks are frighteningly high, and Putin has avoided them for yet another week. But now August is approaching—a month that has traditionally brought Russia multiple disasters (see EDM, August 2, 2010; September 4, 2013).

How Long Can Putin Continue Doing Nothing? | The Jamestown Foundation

Mideast expert: Israel forced to consider attack on Iran

“Assuming the (agreement) goes through the U.S. government and the U.N. Security Council, it’s hard to see what the Israelis can do to protect themselves other than attack the Iranian facilities,” said Middle East Forum president Daniel Pipes in an interview with G2.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been outspoken in his opposition to the agreement.

Pipes, a historian, writer and political commentator, said that he sees such an attack as “the next stage” and suggests Israel could receive the assistance of Saudi Arabia.

“The now-open relationship between Riyadh and Jerusalem makes the prospect of Saudi assistance less far-fetched than it once was,” Pipes said.

He added that “leaks of Saudi documents shows how preoccupied the leadership is with the Iranian threat.”

“So, yes, (Saudi assistance to Israel) could happen,” he said.

Mideast expert: Israel forced to consider attack on Iran

Fate of Iran Deal to be Decided on Jewish Days of Judgement – Israel News

Rabbi Nachman Kahana, an orthodox rabbinic scholar, offers comfort to believers who sense a connection between the Iranian nuclear deal and the End of Days. He cites the Yalkut Shimoni, a 16th century rabbinic commentary on the Bible, which describes the current situation prophetically.

“The Yalkut states that Paras (Persia-Iran) will be the dread of humanity. The world’s leaders will be frustrated in their futile efforts to save what they can. The people of Yisrael will also be petrified by the impending danger,” he wrote. “And HaShem [God] will say to us, ‘Why are you afraid? All of this I have done in order to bring you the awaited redemption. And this redemption will not be like the redemption from Egypt, which was followed by suffering. This redemption will be absolute, followed with peace.’”

Fate of Iran Deal to be Decided on Jewish Days of Judgement – Israel News

OK, it turns out well for Israel, but what about the rest of us? I think the rest of us have a big problem in Iran.

Putin Threatens America with Nuclear Annihilation

As the National Institute for Public Policy documents in the report, “Foreign Nuclear Developments: A Gathering Storm,” Russia has a new military doctrine that anticipates using nuclear weapons, and the regime has embarked on “a massive strategic modernization program to deploy new nuclear weapons and delivery systems.”

Not only that, but Russia has a ballistic missile defense to use against us.

Geopolitical analyst Jeff Nyquist tells Accuracy in Media, “The Russians became angry and threatening when NATO tried to build a very modest missile defense system to stop an Iranian missile. Yet Russia has over 10,000 dual purpose SAM/ABMs for defense against our missiles and will be deploying a new ABM prototype next year.”

He adds, “Russia has potential war winning advantages over the U.S. and NATO—not necessarily in the number of nuclear weapons but in the number of its ABM batteries, and the upgrading of these batteries with a new generation of interceptor rockets while the American side makes no effort in this direction. The U.S. ABMs in Alaska and California would be lucky to stop 12 Russian warheads.”

Putin Threatens America with Nuclear Annihilation

The new Hezbollah: How Israel’s No. 1 enemy is preparing for third Lebanon War

While Israeli intelligence officials believe the Shiite organization is experiencing the most difficult phase in its history after losing some 1,300 fighters in the Syrian battlefields, its leader Nasrallah is only intensifying preparations for the next conflict with Israel. World powers’ nuclear agreement with Iran could strengthen Hezbollah even more.

We should pay attention to Nasrallah’s statements in this context. Before the Second Lebanon War he promised to release Samir Kuntar and the rest of the Lebanese prisoners. When he kidnapped IDF soldiers Regev and Goldwasser on July 12, 2006, Nasrallah convened a press conference and referred to the abduction operation as ‘the truth guaranteeing operation’ – in other words, fulfilling his historic commitment.

He is using the same words today regarding the ‘liberation’ of the Galilee: ‘The promise that won’t be broken.’ In other words, a promise which he has to fulfill, on a personal level.”

So what do you think he is planning?

“There is no intention of conquering the entire area for good. But it’s enough for Hezbollah cells to deploy in the area, hide for a while and hit vehicles and meeting points of the fighting forces preparing to enter Lebanon, in order to deeply sabotage any IDF plan of action.”

This is of course a realistic option, but there are those in the intelligence community who say there is a different reason: Immediately after the battles began in 2006, Israel has learned, a delegation of senior Iranians – led by representatives of the Revolutionary Guards, Hezbollah’s adoptive body – arrived in Beirut. The delegation reprimanded Nasrallah mercilessly. The military preparations we are devoting and giving you for a conflict with Israel were meant for a completely different time, they lashed out at him. They were meant for a response in case Israel bombs Iran’s nuclear facilities. You have revealed the cards and the abilities we have given you without any reason, simply in order to kidnap soldiers and fulfill your promise to bring Samir Kuntar back home. And who is Kuntar anyway, someone added. Just a f**king Druze.

Since that admonition, which almost cost Nasrallah his seat, he has been holding fire and restraining himself, according to that perception, not for fear of Israel – but for fear of Iran.

If that is the situation, then now that the nuclear agreement has been signed, “it will be clear to the Iranians that Israel is not about to attack them, and they will therefore let go a bit and allow Nasrallah to respond as he pleases,” says Cohen (*). From the moment the nuclear agreement is signed and the sanctions on Iran are lifted, Tehran is able to transfer more funds to Hezbollah, and much more easily.

The new Hezbollah: How Israel’s No. 1 enemy is preparing for third Lebanon W… – Israel News, Ynetnews

  • * – Colonel (res.) Ronen Cohen, the former director of the Terrorism Desk at the IDF Military Intelligence Directorate and deputy head of Military Intelligence’s Research Division.

The signing of the nuclear agreement is clearly a milestone. The big payoff comes when $100-$150 billion is unfrozen from its international accounts. That appears to be at least six months down the road – February, 2016. Does that mean Iran has to wait at least that long before creating a lot more trouble? I wouldn’t count on it. Of course, it takes time to absorb that much money, but we’re probably going to see increasing trouble in the Middle East sooner than we might like.

And what happens if Israel really does decide to attack Iran? Each day I wonder if I am going to wake up to that headline on Google News after the signing of the nuclear agreement.

Bulk of Iran sanctions to be lifted upon fufilment of Lausanne conditions | World news | The Guardian

Iran will be freed from almost all economic and financial sanctions under the plan agreed with major world powers in Lausanne, but only after fulfilling a list of stringent conditions in a process that is expected to take at least six months, according to western diplomats.

The diplomats also conceded that the process could take significantly longer, raising the risk that the Iranian public might grow disillusioned with the agreement, and strengthen the country’s hardliners.

The plan agreed on Thursday includes a set of parameters for a comprehensive agreement on Iran’s nuclear programme due to be signed in Vienna at the end of June. They require Iran to carry out a set of tasks intended to extend its breakout time, the period it would take to produce enough fissile material for a warhead, to a year.

The tasks include:

Bulk of Iran sanctions to be lifted upon fufilment of Lausanne conditions | World news | The Guardian

Iran trade-off: Deal could leave Iran without a nuclear bomb, but stronger – LA Times

One of Iran’s top priorities was relief from the sanctions that have battered its economy, especially in the last five years. The agreement provides that once the U.N. certifies that Iran has mothballed its centrifuges, cut its uranium stockpile and taken other required steps, sanctions imposed by the U.S. and the European Union will be lifted and Iran’s financial ties to the rest of the world will be restored.

On that day, which is being called “implementation day,” Iran will gain access to some $100 billion to $150 billion that has been frozen in international accounts.

Iran says it intends to devote that money to domestic infrastructure projects, but officials in Israel and Arab countries allied with the U.S., as well as some U.S. analysts, worry that the money could be used, instead, to further support Iran’s proxies in Yemen, Syria, Lebanon and elsewhere.

Iran trade-off: Deal could leave Iran without a nuclear bomb, but stronger – LA Times

When Sanctions Lift, How Will Iran Spend Its Billions? : Parallels : NPR

But those familiar with Iran’s ravaged economy say it’s unlikely Tehran will go on a foreign policy spending spree.

For starters, says Anthony Cordesman at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Hamas and Hezbollah couldn’t absorb billions of dollars in cash and weaponry.

“We’re probably talking at most about several million, over time,” he says. “You’re not going to turn the Hezbollah into a major conventional force; you’re not going to turn Hamas into a major force because you can’t get to them, you can’t supply them. So I just think we really do need to keep this in careful perspective.”

When Sanctions Lift, How Will Iran Spend Its Billions? : Parallels : NPR

Iran could be hoarding more than 50m barrels of oil ahead of end of sanctions – far more than previously thought | This is Money

[At $40 a barrel, the 50m barrels will bring in 2.0 billion in revenue.]

Iran could be hoarding more than 50m barrels of oil ahead of the end of sanctions – far more than previously thought.

Windward, a Tel Aviv-based maritime data and analytics firm, reported there are 51.5m barrels of oil on super-tankers in the Persian Gulf – and if it enters the market in one go it could push already weak oil prices much lower.

Iran could be hoarding more than 50m barrels of oil ahead of end of sanctions – far more than previously thought | This is Money

Monitoring emerging risks.