Iran

Jim Rogers On Commodities: ‘This Is A Correction In A Bull Market’

Not sure how I missed an interview of investor Jim Rogers on the Business Insider website back on November 14- because it’s a terrific one. From an exchange between BI co-founder, CEO, and Editor-In-Chief Henry Blodget and the “guru” who predicted the commodities boom that began in 1999:

HB: You made a great call on commodities more than a decade ago. We’re in a downturn now. What is your view going forward?
JR: Great question. I certainly missed this correction. The correction has been worse than I thought. Some of it I knew — I’ve been quite vocal that gold would go down and stay down for a while during this bull market, maybe even under $1,000 dollars per ounce. But still the overall correction I got wrong. My view, rightly or wrongly, is that this is a correction in a bull market. You will remember in the bull market in stocks between 1980 and the end of the century, we had some very serious corrections. And every time people said the bull market was over, it wasn’t. It ended in a bubble. My view is that’s what’s going to happen with commodities. We’re in a correction, a serious one, but that it will turn around. Back to what we said about oil, most major oil fields are in decline. In agriculture, we’re running out of farmers. So we’re facing a serious problem worldwide. I don’t see enough new supply to say the bear market has started again, that the bull market is over. I think there will be one more big leg.
HB: So is this a buying opportunity?
JR: For sugar maybe. Rice maybe. I do own gold, I do own silver. I haven’t bought any of significance in a few years. I haven’t sold any. Gold went up for 12 years in a row without a down year, which is extremely unusual in markets. So in my view the correction will be unusual as well. Gold has not had a 50% correction in years, which too is unusual. That would be $960 per ounce. I’m not predicting it’s going to go there. I’m just pointing out to you there’s going to be another chance to buy gold and silver in another year or two or three, I have no idea why. If America goes to war with Iran, I’ll probably buy gold at $1,600, begging to get more…

The former investing partner of George Soros in the Quantum Fund also talked about:

• U.S. stocks
• Fed stimulus
• More economic “hard times” ahead
• Crude oil
• Russia
• Ukraine
• Asia
• Timing investments
• Advice for young professional investors

The Business Insider piece really is one of the best interviews of Jim Rogers in a while, which you can read on their website here.

By Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

(Editor’s notes: Info added to “Crash Prophets” page; I am not responsible for any personal liability, loss, or risk incurred as a consequence of the use and application, either directly or indirectly, of any information presented herein.)

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Obama’s Foreign Policy In A Nutshell

I’m going to roll back things a bit today. Last night, I talked about the 1-hour Huckabee TV special “Threats To America” on FOX News. In the segment about China, KT McFarland, the FOX News National Security Analyst and host of FoxNews.com’s DEFCON 3, talked about how the Obama administration perceives our nation’s place on the world stage. McFarland told Huckabee viewers:

This administration came into office not thinking America should be the greatest power in the world. They thought if America gets taken back a peg or two, that’s going to make the world a better place. They don’t think America has necessarily been a force of good in the world. And as a result, they’re very comfortable with seeing the rising China, the rising Middle East, the rising Iran. And why? Because they think if America steps back, then somehow this global community is going to be in charge of things and we’ll all be at peace. When in fact, if it’s not America, then who is it? It’s Chinese rules. It’s Moscow rules. It’s Tehran rules. Or, even worse, it’s complete chaos.


KT McFarland on Obama’s foreign policy (starts at 2:37)
YouTube Video

I consider myself a lifelong student of U.S. foreign policy and international relations. And even have some academic and work experience in these areas as well. Having followed this administration’s dealings with the rest of the world since day one, I’d have to say McFarland- who’s held national security posts in the Nixon, Ford, Reagan administrations- seems pretty much spot-on in her assessment of Obama’s foreign policy.

“Somehow this global community is going to be in charge of things and we’ll all be at peace”

I used to think this might be possible (mostly skeptical however) back when I was a college/graduate student.

Then I wised up after observing how the real world works.

Got realpolitik? Because China, Russia, and Iran sure as hell do.

Remember what one of Barack Obama’s predecessors- John F. Kennedy- warned:

Domestic policy can only defeat us; foreign policy can kill us.

Amen to that. I’m not saying idealism is necessarily a bad thing. Just that U.S. foreign policy makers need to start “keeping it real” again, as other nations will pursue national self-interest over the “global good” when the situation arises, the two cannot be mutually-satisfied, and the perceived benefits outweigh the costs.

When America “gets taken back a peg or two,” in many cases spurning the greater good (and inviting the ire of Uncle Sam/others) doesn’t look nearly as “expensive” as it once did.

And some still wonder why China, Russia, Iran, and others have been so active on the international stage the last couple of years…

By Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

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NY Times Bestselling Author Brad Thor ‘Very Fearful’ Of Terrorist Attack In U.S.

Any readers ever hear of best-selling author Brad Thor? I first heard his name mentioned on TheBlaze website back in the spring. At that time, Thor- who’s brand-new thriller Act of War was just released Tuesday- announced he was moving his family from Chicago, Illinois, to Nashville, Tennessee, because of violent crime and high taxes.

I spotted Thor’s name again on Glenn Beck’s site last night. Erica Ritz wrote:

After 9/11, New York Times bestselling author Brad Thor was one of a select group of individuals asked to assist the United States government in “war gaming” the next move of radical jihadists.

Why? Because he and other thriller writers had demonstrated an uncanny ability to predict events years before they occur. Thor warned of the NSA spying scandal in his book “Black List,” and predicted the release of five of the most dangerous Guantanamo Bay detainees seven years ago in “The First Commandment.”

So where does Thor believe we are headed next?

He told listeners of The Glenn Beck Program yesterday:

What chilled me was Dick Cheney recently saying that within the next six years, we’re going to see a terrorist attack on American soil worse than 9/11. You know, with two-thirds of our border agents changing diapers and trying to feed these children coming across the border, that doesn’t leave many to guard a border that- even at 100-percent strength- people were still getting through. I’m very concerned that the enemies of the United States are exploiting- because they exploit every opportunity to get bad actors into the country. And we already know Iran has lots of bad actors already in the country- Agents that are in place, waiting to be activated should the Iranians trigger them and tell them to activate.

I am very fearful that we could see some sort of terrorist attack in the United States…

As am I, Mr. Thor. As am I…


“Brad Thor Act Of War”
TheBlaze TV Video

By Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

Source:

Ritz, Erica. “Bestselling Author Brad Thor, Who Predicted NSA Spying Scandal and Controversial Prisoner Exchange, Shares What He Fears Is Next for America.” TheBlaze. 9 July 2014. (http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2014/07/09/bestselling-author-brad-thor-who-predicted-nsa-spying-scandal-and-controversial-prisoner-exchange-shares-what-he-fears-is-next-for-america/). 9 July 2014.

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Russia To Attack Petrodollar?

Here’s another story that’s not getting much attention this week:

Russia threatening to replace U.S. dollar-denominated transactions for their exports

Gleb Stolyarov reported on Reuters.com this morning:

Russia, keen to dodge threatened Western sanctions on its companies over the Ukraine crisis, said on Wednesday it was looking at ways for major state-owned exporters such as energy giants to be paid in roubles.

The idea of major exporters being paid in roubles rather than dollars has been gaining ground in recent weeks in response to sanctions imposed by the West on officials and companies over Russia’s annexation of Crimea and an uprising in Ukraine’s east.

“There are certain risks, but we are preparing a mechanism, we are working on it,” Finance Minister Anton Siluanov told reporters during a visit to Russia’s Baltic enclave of Kaliningrad…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

So exports would be paid for in rubles rather than dollars. So what?

Michael Snyder of The Economic Collapse blog highlighted what could be at stake. Snyder wrote yesterday:

This would essentially be like slamming an economic fist into our nose.

You see, Russia is not just a small player when it comes to trading oil and natural gas. The truth is that Russia is the largest exporter of natural gas and the second largest exporter of oil in the world.

If Russia starts asking for payment in currencies other than the U.S. dollar, that will essentially end the monopoly of the petrodollar

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Snyder continued:

So why is the petrodollar so important?

Well, it creates a tremendous amount of demand for the U.S. dollar all over the globe. Since everyone has needed it to trade with one another, that has created an endless global appetite for the currency. That has kept the value of the dollar artificially high, and it has enabled us to import trillions of dollars of super cheap products from other countries. If other nations stopped using the dollar to trade with one another, the value of the dollar would plummet dramatically and we would have to pay much, much more for the trinkets that we buy at the dollar store and Wal-Mart.

In addition, since the U.S. dollar is essentially the de facto global currency, this has also increased demand for our debt. Major exporting nations such as China and Saudi Arabia end up with giant piles of our dollars. Instead of just letting them sit there and do nothing, those nations often reinvest their dollars into securities that can rapidly be changed back into dollars if needed. One of the most popular ways to do this has been to invest those dollars in U.S. Treasuries. This has driven down interest rates on U.S. debt over the years and has enabled the U.S. government to borrow trillions upon trillions of dollars for next to nothing…

So if Russia really does pull the trigger on a “de-dollarization” strategy, that would be huge – especially if the rest of the planet started following their lead…

So would the rest of the planet follow Russia’s lead? Consider the following from the website for The Voice of Russia, the Russian government’s international radio broadcasting service. Valentin Mândrăşescu reported yesterday:

Of course, the success of Moscow’s campaign to switch its trading to rubles or other regional currencies will depend on the willingness of its trading partners to get rid of the dollar. Sources cited by Politonline.ru mentioned two countries who would be willing to support Russia: Iran and China. Given that Vladimir Putin will visit Beijing on May 20, it can be speculated that the gas and oil contracts that are going to be signed between Russia and China will be denominated in rubles and yuan, not dollars

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Stay tuned. This could get ugly.

By Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

Sources:

Stolyarov, Gleb. “UPDATE 2-Russia, wary of sanctions, wants exporters to be paid in roubles.” Reuters.com. 14 May 2014. (http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/05/14/russia-exports-rouble-idUSL6N0O01RI20140514). 14 May 2014.

Snyder, Michael. “De-Dollarization: Russia Is On The Verge Of Dealing A Massive Blow To The Petrodollar.” The Economic Collapse. 13 May 2014. (http://theeconomiccollapseblog.com/archives/de-dollarization-russia-is-on-the-verge-of-dealing-a-massive-blow-to-the-petrodollar). 14 May 2014.

Mândrăşescu, Valentin. “Russia strives to exclude the dollar from energy trading.” 13 May 2014. (http://voiceofrussia.com/2014_05_13/Russia-strives-to-exclude-the-dollar-from-energy-trading-5138/). 14 May 2014.

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Iran Can Now Produce Enough Weapons-Grade Uranium To Build A Nuclear Weapon Within 2 Weeks?

“Despite what this White House or its predecessors have repeatedly told the American people, it’s my belief that Iran will soon have nuclear weapons (barring military intervention by us or our allies).”

-Christopher E. Hill, Survival And Prosperity, January 20, 2011

There’s been plenty of talk lately that Iran may be able to produce enough weapons-grade uranium soon to build themselves a nuclear weapon.

To be fair, the prospect of the Iranians carrying out this achievement is something that keeps popping up in the news on a regular basis.

Still, I stand by that initial statement.

And here’s the latest chatter about the Islamic Republic of Iran getting their weapons-grade uranium and nuke. On October 5, AP White House Correspondent Julie Pace interviewed U.S. President Barack Obama on a wide range of topics. One of those was Iran. From their exchange:

Q: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said this week that Iran is about six months away from being able to produce a nuclear weapon. You said in March, before your trip to Israel, that you thought Iran was a year or more away. What’s the U.S. intelligence assessment at this point on that timetable?

THE PRESIDENT: Our assessment continues to be a year or more away.

U.S. intelligence on an Iranian nuclear weapon? One year.

On October 25, Oren Dorell reported on the USA TODAY website:

Iran could produce enough weapons-grade uranium to build a nuclear bomb in as little as a month, according to a new estimate by one of the USA’s top nuclear experts.

The top nuclear expert Dorell was referring to was David Albright, president of Washington, D.C.-based Institute for Science and International Security and a former inspector for the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency. From the non-profit, non-partisan ISIS in an October 24, 2013, summary for their report entitled “Iranian Breakout Estimates, Updated September 2013″:

We evaluated a range of breakout scenarios based on the current enriching IR-1 centrifuges and LEU stockpiles, total installed IR-1 centrifuges, and a possible covert facility containing IR-2m centrifuges. This analysis utilizes a modified form of the well-known four-step enrichment process that was developed under A.Q. Khan for Pakistan’s centrifuge program and transferred to other countries, such as Iran. Using all four steps, Iran would enrich natural uranium to 3.5 percent in step one, then to 20 percent in step two, then to 60 percent in step three, and finally to WGU in step four. This analysis considers the four-step, three-step, and two-step process also with the use of existing LEU stockpiles.

The table lists the major estimated breakout times of the four scenarios considered in this report. Today, Iran could break out most quickly using a three-step process with its installed centrifuges and its LEU stockpiles as of August 2013. In this case, Iran could produce one SQ in as little as approximately 1.0-1.6 months, if it uses all its near 20 percent LEU hexafluoride stockpile. Using only 3.5 percent LEU, Iran would need at least 1.9 to 2.2 months and could make approximately 4 SQs of WGU using all its existing 3.5 percent LEU stockpile.

(Editor’s notes: Italics added for emphasis)

ISIS on Iran being able to produce one significant quantity (SQ) of weapon-grade uranium (WGU)? One month.

It was also noted in that summary:

The estimates in this report do not include the additional time that Iran would need to convert WGU into weapons components and manufacture a nuclear weapon. This extra time could be substantial, particularly if Iran wanted to build a reliable warhead for a ballistic missile. However, these preparations would most likely be conducted at secret sites and would be difficult to detect.

Which doesn’t rule out the possibility then that some manufacturing hasn’t already been going on.

And finally, Raphael Ahren reported yesterday on The Times Of Israel website:

Iran could produce enough weapons-grade uranium to build an atomic weapon within two weeks and has, “in a certain way,” already reached the point of no return in its nuclear program, a former senior International Atomic Energy Association official said Monday.

“I believe that if certain arrangements are done, it could even go down to two weeks. So there are a lot of concerns out there that Iran can hopefully now address, in this new phase, both at the P5+1 [talks between Tehran and six world powers] and with the IAEA,” former IAEA deputy director Olli Heinonen said, confirming a report released last week by the Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security, which stated Iran could muster enough uranium for a bomb by converting all of its 20-percent enriched stockpile within 1 to 1.6 months.

Former IAEA deputy director on Iran producing enough uranium for a nuke? Two weeks.

Two weeks.

Something tells me that while the Obama administration would have liked to kick the prospect of an Iranian nuclear weapon down the road as far as possible, they might actually welcome these latest estimates as a convenient distraction for the American public away from other problems the White House is currently trying to deal with.

Stay tuned.

By Christopher E. Hill, Editor
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

Sources:

“Full text of Obama’s interview with AP.” Associated Press. 5 Oct. 2013. (http://www.timesofisrael.com/full-text-of-obamas-interview-with-ap/). 29 Oct. 2013.

Dorell, Oren. “Report: Iran may be month from a bomb.” USA TODAY. 25 Oct. 2013. (http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2013/10/24/iran-bomb-one-month-away/3181373/). 29 Oct. 2013.

“Iranian Breakout Estimates- Summary.” Institute for Science and International Security. 24 Oct. 2013. (http://www.isis-online.org/uploads/isis-reports/documents/Breakout_Study_Summary_24October2013.pdf). 29 Oct. 2013.

Ahren, Raphael. “‘Iran two weeks away from weapons-grade uranium’” The Times of Israel. 28 Oct. 2013. (http://www.timesofisrael.com/iran-two-weeks-away-from-weapons-grade-uranium/). 29 Oct. 2013.

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Major Terrorist Attack On U.S. ‘Within Weeks’?

I stumbled on the following article on the website of WND (formerly WorldNetDaily), an independent news company. Reza Kahlili wrote Monday:

Iran has given the go-ahead to operatives of three terrorist groups that have infiltrated the United States to carry out missions, including what is expected to be a Mumbai-style attack on a hotel where innocent bystanders would be killed, WND has learned…

Three targets have been chosen within America for imminent attack, and the terror teams have now cut communications with the operational center in Iran, a sign that they are moving ahead with the attacks, according to a high-level intelligence officer within the Islamic regime.

According to an update to the piece Tuesday, Kahili’s “source” revealed the major attack would take place “within weeks.”

Interesting reading (can’t speak for how reliable the information provided is though), which can be viewed in its entirety on the WND site here.

By Christopher E. Hill, Editor
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

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Pentagon: Iran Could Flight-Test ICBM Capable Of Striking U.S. By 2015

Here’s a bit of disturbing news concerning Iran’s advancing nuclear capability I caught yesterday from Defense Update, an online defense magazine published in Israel. From their website:

A new Pentagon assessment of Iran’s military power maintains that in two years time, Iran could flight-test an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of striking the United States, given “sufficient foreign assistance”, is provided to Tehran. The new assessment reiterated a longstanding estimate of the U.S. intelligence community. Iran could test such a missile by 2015 with assistance from nations like North Korea, China or Russia.

Apparently, this comes from an unclassified portion of the Annual Report on Military Power of Iran, dated January 2013 and made available by the Pentagon on April 25, 2013.

You can read the rest of the article on the Defense Update site here.

By Christopher E. Hill, Editor
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

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Iran, North Korea Nuclear Threat Update

Two nations are rapidly climbing America’s nuclear threat board these days:

Iran and North Korea.

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has been doing a lot of saber-rattling since I last blogged about the Communist state last month. At that time, I asked:

So what kind of timeframe are we talking about here before North Korea has an ICBM capable of reaching and hitting the continental U.S.?

Based on expert opinion, it could just be 4 short years.

And how does America know North Korea’s intentions are to target it with nuclear weapons? Ju-min Park and Choonsik Yoo reported on the Reuters’ website last Thursday:

North Korea said on Thursday it would carry out further rocket launches and a nuclear test that would target the United States, dramatically stepping up its threats against a country it called its “sworn enemy”…

“We are not disguising the fact that the various satellites and long-range rockets that we will fire and the high-level nuclear test we will carry out are targeted at the United States,” North Korea’s National Defence Commission said, according to state news agency KCNA.

(Editor’s note: Italics added for emphasis)

Park and Yoo added:

North Korea is not believed to have the technology to deliver a nuclear warhead capable of hitting the continental United States, although its December launch showed it had the capacity to deliver a rocket that could travel 10,000 km (6,200 miles), potentially putting San Francisco in range, according to an intelligence assessment by South Korea.

And then there’s the Islamic Republic of Iran. According to former top U.S. diplomat Henry Kissinger last week, a crisis involving a nuclear-armed Iran looks to be a good possibility. From the BBC website Thursday:

Former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger has warned that a crisis involving a nuclear Iran is in the “foreseeable future”.

The Nobel Peace laureate, 89, was speaking about prospects in the Middle East at the World Economic Forum.

He said nuclear proliferation in the region triggered by an armed Iran would increase the chances of an atomic war – “a turning point in human history”.

Kissinger, who served as Secretary of State under Presidents Nixon and Ford, explained his concerns in more detail. From the piece:

The consequences of Tehran’s programme, he said, would be that other countries in the region would also want nuclear arms.

“The danger is that we could be reaching a point where nuclear weapons would become almost conventional, and there will be the possibility of a nuclear conflict at some point… that would be a turning point in human history,” he said.

(Editor’s note: Italics added for emphasis)

The nuclear Pandora’s Box has indeed been opened.

By Christopher E. Hill, Editor
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

Sources:

Park, Ju-min and Yoo, Choonsik. “North Korea to target U.S. with nuclear, rocket tests.” Reuters. 24 Jan. 2013. (http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/01/24/us-korea-north-nuclear-idUSBRE90N03I20130124). 27 Jan. 2013.

“Davos 2013: Kissinger says Iran nuclear crisis close.” BBC. 24 Jan. 2013. (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-21177535). 27 Jan. 2013.

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4 Years Until North Korea Has ICBM That Can Reach Continental United States?

As if Iranian nuclear weapons weren’t already a worry for us (and more so Israel), now the North Koreans are one step closer to having an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of reaching the continental United States. Jack Kim and Mayumi Negishi reported on the Reuters website this morning:

North Korea successfully launched a rocket on Wednesday, boosting the credentials of its new leader and stepping up the threat the isolated and impoverished state poses to opponents.

The rocket, which North Korea says put a weather satellite into orbit, has been labeled by the United States, South Korea and Japan as a test of technology that could one day deliver a nuclear warhead capable of hitting targets as far away as the continental United States.

According to Kim and Negishi, the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) verified the North Koreans’ claims.

And here’s something that’s particularly worrisome- if it’s true. From the article:

U.S. intelligence has linked North Korea with missile shipments to Iran. Newspapers in Japan and South Korea have reported that Iranian observers were in the North for the launch, something Iran has denied.

Great. Just great.

So what kind of timeframe are we talking about here before North Korea has an ICBM capable of reaching and hitting the continental U.S.?

Well, Elisabeth Bumiller and David Sanger reported on The New York Times website back on January 11, 2001:

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates warned Tuesday that North Korea was within five years of being able to strike the continental United States with an intercontinental ballistic missile, and said that, combined with its expanding nuclear program, the country “is becoming a direct threat to the United States.”

Mr. Gates is a former director of the C.I.A., and his statement, officials said, reflected both a new assessment by American intelligence officials and his own concern that Washington had consistently underestimated the pace at which the North was developing nuclear and missile technologies.

Considering that statement was made almost a year ago, it could be only 4 years before North Korea is able to hit the continental U.S. via a nuclear-armed missile.

From an AFP piece this morning:

“This launch certainly bolsters their credibility when they say that they have missiles that can strike the United States,” said James Schoff, a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

“It’s harder to wave that off after a successful test like this,” said Schoff, a former Pentagon official.

It looks to me that the United States is most likely looking at a nuclear-armed Iran and an ICBM-armed North Korea down the road.

Sources:

Kim, Jack and Negishi, Mayumi. “North Korea launches rocket, raising nuclear arms stakes.” Reuters. 12 Dec. 2012. (http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/12/12/us-korea-north-rocket-idUSBRE8BB02K20121212). 12 Dec. 2012.

Bumiller, Elisabeth and Sanger, David E. “Gates Warns of North Korea Missile Threat to U.S.” The New York Times. 11 Jan. 2011. (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/12/world/asia/12military.html?_r=0). 12 Dec. 2012.

“North Korea rocket raises nuclear stakes, poses threat to US: Analysts.” Agence France-Presse. 12 Dec. 2012. (http://www.straitstimes.com/breaking-news/asia/story/n-korea-rocket-raises-nuclear-stakes-analysts-20121212). 12 Dec. 2012.

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Wednesday, December 12th, 2012 Asia, Foreign Policy, Middle East, Public Safety, Technology 2 Comments

Iran, North Korea Push On With Their Nuclear Programs

September 1995. Loyola University of Chicago, Rogers Park campus. My graduate school classmates and I are busy one autumn evening randomly-drawing names of notable political scientists to interview for a class project. I pick Alexander George out of Stanford University (was fantastic and insightful to talk to, by the way). My classmate and good friend Allison ends up with Graham T. Allison out of Harvard. I have no idea at that time how much Dr. Allison, now director of Harvard’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, would eventually contribute to my future knowledge about- and concern over- the threat of nuclear terrorism to America. The author of Nuclear Terrorism: The Ultimate Preventable Catastropheicon, which was selected by The New York Times as one of the “100 most notable books of 2004” and is now in its third printing, had this to say about the danger in a 2007 debate (also noted in my “About” page):

This debate asks how likely is it that terrorists will explode a nuclear bomb and devastate a great American metropolis. In the judgment of former U.S. Senator Sam Nunn, the likelihood of a single nuclear bomb exploding in a single city is greater today than at the height of the Cold War. Nuclear Terrorism states my own judgment that, on the current trend line, the chances of a nuclear terrorist attack in the next decade are greater than 50 percent. Former Secretary of Defense William Perry has expressed his own view that Nuclear Terrorism underestimates the risk.

From the technical side, Richard Garwin, a designer of the hydrogen bomb who Enrico Fermi once called, “the only true genius I had ever met,” told Congress in March that he estimated a “20 percent per year probability with American cities and European cities included” of “a nuclear explosion—not just a contamination, dirty bomb—a nuclear explosion.” My Harvard colleague Matthew Bunn has created a probability model in the Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science that estimates the probability of a nuclear terrorist attack over a ten-year period to be 29 percent—identical to the average estimate from a poll of security experts commissioned by Senator Richard Lugar in 2005.

“The chances of a nuclear terrorist attack in the next decade are greater than 50 percent.” And Dr. Allison said this in 2007. I’ll have to check with the Harvard professor and administrator to see if he still believes this is the case in light of the progress being claimed by the Obama administration in the “War on Terror.” But based on recent reports about advancements in the nuclear programs of both Iran and North Korea, I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s still sticking to his guns here.

Concerning Iran, the Associated Press reported Wednesday:

Iran will step up its uranium enrichment program by sharply increasing the number of centrifuges used to make nuclear fuel, a senior official said Wednesday, in direct defiance of Western demands.

The statement by Iran’s nuclear chief, Fereidoun Abbasi, is likely to escalate tensions…

“Despite sanctions, we will most likely see a substantial increase in the number of centrifuge machines this year. We will continue enrichment with intensity,” Abbasi was quoted by state TV as saying Wednesday. The Iranian calendar year ends on March 20.

His remarks came days after the U.N. agency said Iran is about to double its output of higher enriched uranium at its fortified Fordo underground facility. That could move Iran closer to weapons capability.

Anyone out there still think the Islamic Republic of Iran won’t be getting a nuclear weapon short of a military conflict?

I wonder if the Iranians will be televising the parade from downtown Tehran when that happens?

As for the North Koreans? Reuters’ Fredrik Dahl reported Thursday:

North Korea has made further progress in the construction of a new atomic reactor, the U.N. nuclear chief reported on Thursday, a facility that may extend the country’s capacity to produce material for nuclear bombs.

Pyongyang “has continued construction of the light water reactor and largely completed work on the exterior of the main buildings,” Yukiya Amano, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said…

North Korea says it needs nuclear power to provide electricity, but has also boasted of its nuclear deterrence capability and has traded nuclear technology with Syria, Libya and probably Pakistan.

At the end of summer, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea was already thought to have 23 nuclear weapons in their arsenal.

The world was already a dangerous place, but grows even more so in our time. Especially as it concerns nuclear proliferation.

Sources:

“Iran nuclear chief: Uranium enrichment to be stepped up with new centrifuges, reactor.” Associated Press. 28 Nov. 2012. (http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle_east/iran-nuclear-chief-enrichment-to-move-ahead-with-intensity/2012/11/28/98834224-3965-11e2-9258-ac7c78d5c680_story.html). 30 Nov. 2012.

Dahl, Fredrik. “North Korea pushing ahead with new nuclear reactor: IAEA.” Reuters. 29 Nov. 2012. (http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/11/29/us-korea-north-nuclear-idUSBRE8AS0OT20121129). 30 Nov. 2012.

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Romney 3, Obama 0

Last night I watched the last in a series of U.S. Presidential debates between former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and the sitting President Barack Obama.

Once again, the incumbent came out swinging. However, despite it sounding once again like the audience was in his corner, President Obama lost.

More so than in the second debate, if you ask me.

An analyst on one of the TV stations covering the debate said it best when she pointed out that Obama was, in effect, debating himself. Since his Republican challenger lacked significant foreign policy experience (the supposed focus of last night’s exchange), it was the incumbent’s record in this area over the past four years that came under scrutiny.

And plenty of dedicated observers of U.S. foreign policy- myself included- will tell you that it’s in shambles.

Particularly in the Middle East.

As I see it, the Obama administration, in its attempt to tone-down what it perceives as an overly-aggressive U.S. foreign policy under the Republicans, has:

Not deterred Iran from advancing towards a nuclear weapon. Regular readers of this blog know that I believe the Islamic Republic of Iran continues to take advantage of proposed “talks” and other delays to continue work on such a weapon. Notwithstanding military action, they will get a nuke. The prospect of having one is just too tempting. Pop one or two of these over the U.S., and we’ll have a real problem on our hands.

Not left a stable regime in place in Iraq. I predict a real power vacuum here in the coming years, with a number of internal and external actors vying for ultimate control of the geopolitically-important failed state and its resources.

Made a big blunder in announcing the withdrawal of U.S. combat troops from Afghanistan in 2014. Nothing like giving an enemy a timetable to work with. I suspect Al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and their allies will throw everything they’ve got at our men and women in uniform over there as the end of 2014 draws closer, knowing full-well they need only sustain such intensity until the announced exit date. Then what? Attack us on our home soil, possibly. Some terrorism experts have suggested one reason why Al-Qaeda hasn’t launched a massive operation against the United States mainland since 9/11 is because they’ve figured out it’s simply easier to kill scores of Americans on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan. Remember, their stated goal is 4 million Americans dead. Back to being another failed state down the road.

Alienated our ally Israel. President Obama seems to see Israel- like past U.S. foreign policy- as being too aggressive. And it doesn’t appear the sitting President doesn’t care too much for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu either- despite Vice President Biden and all that “Bibi” talk from the Vice Presidential debate. Consider the following:

November 3, 2011- Several media outlets reported an open-mic incident where then French President Nicolas Sarkozy told his American counterpart, “Netanyahu, I can’t stand him. He’s a liar.” Obama reportedly responded with, “You are sick of him, but I have to work with him every day.”

September 11, 2012- The White House said President Obama would not meet Prime Minister Netanyahu during a U.S. visit later that month. A number of media outlets suggested the Israeli leader was being spurned.

September 12, 2012- President Obama was taped for the CBS show 60 Minutes. From an exchange with Steve Kroft:

KROFT: You’re—you’re saying you don’t feel any pressure from Prime Minister Netanyahu in the middle of a campaign to try and get you to change your policy and draw a line in the sand? You don’t feel any pressure?

OBAMA: When it comes to our national security decisions, any pressure that I feel is simply to do what’s right for the American people. And I am going to block out any noise that’s out there.

Israeli concern over an Iranian nuke is “noise?”

Don’t even get me started on Libya and the deaths of 4 Americans, including an ambassador.

How the Obama administration has handled the Middle East is indicative of U.S. foreign policy as a whole.

Weak.

Worse yet, our adversaries recognize it and actively exploit it.

It shouldn’t be too much of surprise U.S. foreign policy has come to this. After all, Democrats aren’t really known to be big on foreign affairs. If anything, they seem to look at it as an annoyance.

Whenever I think of foreign policy in the Clinton years, two words come to mind.

Cruise missiles.

These days, perhaps it can reduced to just one word.

Drones.

Mitt Romney did a good job at pointing out the poor foreign policy record of the Obama administration.

But, truth be told, most Americans don’t care too much about international affairs.

The Republican challenger won this last debate not by talking about foreign policy- as was the intended focus- but by leading the discussion back to President Obama’s equally-dismal record on the economy.

This is what I meant when I said “more so than in the second debate, if you ask me” earlier in this post.

Romney kept hammering away at Obama’s domestic record as it pertains to take-home pay, unemployment, food stamps, government overreach, over-regulation, small-business woes, trillion dollar deficits, the $16 trillion national debt, the list goes on, and all the way to the end.

It was circling back to the Chicago Democrat’s domestic record these past four years that won the Republican challenger the debate.

In fact, all three debates.

Whether this will translate into a White House win come November 6 remains to be seen.

Regrettably, when it comes to that financial crash I predict is in store for us, I doubt a Romney win will make much of a difference at this point in the game. Economic pain is a certainty. Still, if he’s elected President of the Unites States and implements a sustained, meaningful program of fiscal responsibility, our financial “reckoning day” may not be as devastating as I suspect it would be should the nation continue on its current path.

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How Close Is Iran To Getting A Nuke?

As President Obama spoke to world leaders at the U.N. General Assembly this morning and vowed the United States “will do what we must” to prevent Iran from gaining a nuclear weapon, I became curious as to just how close the Western Asia country was to getting a “nuke.”

If you believe the Israelis, the Iranians are several months away from having the capability to build such a weapon. From Matt Spetalnick and Dan Williams on the Reuters website back on September 16:

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned on Sunday that Iran was just six to seven months away from the brink of being able to build a nuclear bomb, adding urgency to his demand that President Barack Obama set a “red line” for Tehran in what could deepen the worst U.S.-Israeli rift in decades.

Taking to the television airwaves to make his case directly to the American public, Netanyahu said that by mid-2013 Iran would be “90 percent of the way” toward enough enriched uranium for a weapon.

(Editor’s note: Italics added for emphasis)

6 to 7 months away from being able to build a nuclear weapon.

Pop this device over the continental United States and we could be in a real world of hurt.

Is Netanyahu’s warning credible? Regrettably, it seems so.

Spetalnick and Williams added:

He appeared to be referring to Iran’s enrichment of uranium to 20 percent purity, a level it says is required for medical isotopes but which also is close to bomb-fuel grade. According to an August report by U.N. inspectors, Iran has stockpiled 91.4 kg of the 20 percent material.

Experts say about 200-250 kg (440-550 pounds) would be the minimum required to enrich further into enough material for a bomb, a threshold Iran could potentially reach soon by producing roughly 15 kg (33 pounds) a month, a rate that could be speeded up if it activates new uranium centrifuges.

(Editor’s note: Italics added for emphasis)

Glenn Kessler wrote in the Washington Post’s The Fact Checker blog on September 16:

Israeli officials have a long history of claiming that Iran is close to having a nuclear weapon–indeed, in 1992, Israeli officials suggested Iran was just a “few years” from a nuclear weapon. So with that track record, the latest assertion by the Israeli prime minister might be easy to ignore.

But in this case, Netanyahu is on the right track. In fact, a case could be made that Iran already is ahead of his timeline. Note that he did not say Iran would have a nuclear bomb—just that the Islamic Republic would have the material for a nuclear bomb.

The latest report from the International Atomic Energy Agency suggests that Iran already has more than enough uranium enriched to 20 percent that could converted into weapons-grade (90 percent) uranium for at least one nuclear weapon.

(Editor’s note: Italics added for emphasis)

Kessler went on to provide supporting evidence for this fact check.

So 6 to 7 months then.

And I once thought “Atomic Ayatollahs” would be a great name for a rock band.

Not so much anymore.

The allure of having a nuclear weapon is just too great for the Islamic Republic of Iran to let diplomacy get in the way. If anything, they’ll continue using it as a stall tactic to keep on working uninhibited.

Then look for Iran to throw a parade sometime in the near future celebrating its breakthrough.

However, I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s an attack on Iran by Israel alone, the United States alone, one or the other as part of a coalition, or some other combination.

Some even believe such a strike might take place before the November election.

If you believe war is in the cards, it’s probably a good idea to start considering the potential repercussions it could have back on Main Street. Higher energy prices? Retaliatory strikes on U.S. soil by Iran and/or its affiliates? I plan on blogging about this in the coming days.

Sources:

Spetalnick, Matt and Williams, Dan. “Iran on brink of nuclear bomb in six-seven months: Netanyahu.” Reuters. 16 Sep. 2012. (http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/09/16/us-iran-nuclear-netanyahu-idUSBRE88F06P20120916). 25 Sep. 2012.

Kessler, Glenn. “Netanyahu’s claim that Iran is ‘six months’ from having nuclear bomb material.” The Fact Checker. 16 Sep. 2012. (http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/fact-checker/post/netanyahus-claim-that-iran-is-six-months-from-having-nuclear-bomb-material/2012/09/16/7497078e-002f-11e2-b260-32f4a8db9b7e_blog.html). 25 Sep. 2012.

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Jim Rogers Talks About Potential Investment Opportunities In Commodities, His Portfolio

I don’t like to buy things that are moving up. I like to buy things that are moving down… I don’t want to buy anything for a 5 to 10 percent move- that’s not the way I invest. Now, there are many short-term traders who make brilliant amounts of money as short-term traders and a 5 or 10 percent move up is great for them. It’s not my way of investing. I like to find things that are going to go up for many years and go up many many percentages.

-Investor Jim Rogers, on CNBC Awaaz (India) in early September

Legendary investor Jim Rogers recently appeared on the Indian financial news channel CNBC Awaaz. On their Market Leaders show, Rogers talked primarily about commodities, potential investment opportunities in hard assets, and what his portfolio looks like these days.

When asked if the commodities bully market is over, the Singapore-based investor who correctly predicted its beginning back in 1999 told viewers:

Oh no no no, not at all. It will be over eventually. It will be over someday. All bull markets have come to an end. But Gorica (spelling?), it will not come to an end until a lot of supply comes on-stream.

On the topic of supply, Rogers said:

I don’t expect world economic conditions to get better anytime soon. I would suspect that 2013 and 2014 will see worse economic conditions after the American election is over, and after the German election is over. I think you’ll see worse conditions. Which means, of course, that there’s not much supply. Now Gorica, if the world economy gets better, then obviously they are going to be shortages of commodities because we don’t have much supply. But, let’s assume I’m right, and the world economy doesn’t get better, then you’re going to have most governments printing a lot of money- that’s not good for the world. But unfortunately, that’s what politicians do. And when people debase currencies, when they print money, the way to protect yourself is to own real assets.

The creator of the Rogers International Commodities Index (RICI) back in 1998 said there were potential investment opportunities in agriculture, precious metals, and crude oil. On agriculture, Rogers said:

If I were an investor looking to invest in commodities, I would start by looking at the things that are most depressed…

Sugar, for instance, is 65 or 70 percent below it’s all-time high… You know, sugar is down 65 to 70 percent from where it was 38 years ago Gorica. That’s astonishing…

Cotton had a big run-up two or three years ago. Made all-time highs. It has come down sharply since then because people planted more cotton. But I would be optimistic about cotton because the prices are down dramatically from where they were. They still are not high enough to bring in lots of new production yet. The world economy has not collapsed yet. China is a net importer of cotton. So, I would be looking favorably at cotton. If someone were looking for a potential place for new investments in agriculture, I would suggest cotton as a place to start looking, because the prices are down from historic highs.

Regarding precious metals, the Chairman of Rogers Holdings repeated a lot of what he’s been saying lately about gold. Rogers said:

I own gold. I am not selling gold. Whenever gold goes down, I buy more. If it goes down a lot, I hope I’m smart enough to buy a lot more, because the price is going to go up much higher over the next decade. Gorica, politicians around the world are printing a lot of money. That’s the wrong thing to do but that’s what they’re doing. And whenever they print money, the way to protect yourself is to own gold, silver, platinum, palladium. Any precious item will protect you in periods like that.

The former investing partner of George Soros likes the prospects of silver more than gold. Rogers explained:

Well, of the two, if I had to buy one today, Gorica, I would buy silver… Silver is about 40 percent below its all-time high. Gold is about 10 or 15 percent below its all-time high. I usually prefer the things that are cheaper. I’m not buying either today, but if I were buying one today, Gorica, I would buy silver on a valuation basis. I own them both. I’m keen on both. Both will go much higher over the next decade. Silver, at the moment, happens to be the cheaper of the two.

The commodities guru sees crude oil going over $150 a barrel in the coming decade. Rogers told viewers:

If America goes to war with Iran, crude’s going to go to $200. If Spain goes bankrupt next month, or somebody, some big surprise occurs in the market, then crude could go to $80 or $70. Who knows where it would go with some sort of sudden bankruptcy. It depends on world conditions. When crude goes down, I buy more. If it goes up, I sit and watch, because I do know that crude is going to go over $150, over $200 a barrel- U.S. dollars a barrel- over the course of the decade…

But I own it, and I don’t plan to sell it for a long time to come.

Talking about his investment portfolio, Jim Rogers revealed:

I mainly am long commodities and long currencies. And I’m short stocks in my portfolio…

I happen to be very bullish on commodities. I think I know what I’m doing. I think that the big shortages are developing, as I said. Whether the economy gets better or doesn’t get better, I want to have my money in commodities.

Great interview.


“Market Leaders: Jim Rogers”
YouTube Video

(Editor’s notes: Info added to “Crash Prophets” page; I am not responsible for any personal liability, loss, or risk incurred as a consequence of the use and application, either directly or indirectly, of any information presented herein)

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Nuclear-Armed Iranian Navy Off U.S. Coasts Soon?

Who out there believes that Iran is looking to weaponize their nuclear program?

Okay, who out there believes a nuclear-armed Iran would like to be in-range of detonating a newly-acquired weapon or two high in the atmosphere over North America and send the “Great Satan” back to the Stone Age?

If you answered “I do” to both of these questions, then the following two articles may be of some concern. From the Associated Press on the CBS News website yesterday:

Diplomats say the U.N. atomic agency has new intelligence that Iran has advanced its work on calculating the destructive power of a nuclear warhead, a step toward building such a weapon.

The diplomats say the information — from the U.S., Israel and at least one other country — alleges the research was done within the past three years.

Iran denies that it has worked on nuclear arms and says allegations to the contrary are based on fabricated intelligence.

But the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) gives credence to the suspicions and says it cannot disprove them unless Iran starts cooperating with its probe of the allegations.

The information comes from six diplomats who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss intelligence.

Then there’s this excerpt from a September 4 article on the FOX News website that talks about the aspirations of the Islamic Republic of Iran Navy (IRIN), also known as the Iranian Navy. From the Associated Press:

The head of Iran’s navy says the country aims to put its warships in international waters off the U.S. coast “in the next few years.”

The comments Tuesday from Admiral Habibollah Sayyari on state TV are part of Iran’s response to Washington’s beefed up naval presence in the Persian Gulf…

Iran has made similar claims in the past that its ships could soon sail into international waters off the U.S. coast.

In the last two years, Iran has sent naval units to the Mediterranean Sea and the Indian Ocean.

Sources:

“AP: IAEA has new intelligence showing Iran carried out nuclear warhead research.” Associated Press. 11 Sep. 2012. (http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-202_162-57510180/ap-iaea-has-new-intelligence-showing-iran-carried-out-nuclear-warhead-research/). 12 Sep. 2012.

“Iran’s navy aims to sail off US shores soon.” Associated Press. 4 Sep. 2012. (http://www.foxnews.com/world/2012/09/04/iran-navy-aims-to-sail-off-us-shores-soon/). 12 Sep. 2012.

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Wednesday, September 12th, 2012 Middle East, Military No Comments

U.S. Going To War With Iran Before Election Day?

I’ve been saying this for a number of years now to anyone who would listen:

The Islamic Republic of Iran will obtain a nuclear weapon- unless military action by Israel/the United States/some coalition prevents them from getting it.

And now it appears Iran is closer to having “the bomb” than previously thought.

Barak Ravid reported on the Haaretz (Israel’s oldest daily newspaper) website on Tuesday:

New intelligence information obtained by Israel and four Western countries indicates that Iran has made greater progress on developing components for its nuclear weapons program than the West had previously realized, according to Western diplomats and Israeli officials who are closely involved in efforts to prevent Iran from building a nuclear bomb.

(Editor’s note: Italics added for emphasis)

Just an Israeli newspaper trying to stir things up? Not sure- Haaretz is supposedly a left-leaning rag. And we’re not exactly talking about a fly-by-night operation here either (paper founded 1918).

Supposedly, the White House is aware of Iran’s progress. Ravid added today:

President Barack Obama recently received a new National Intelligence Estimate report on the Iranian nuclear program, which shares Israel’s view that Iran has made surprising, significant progress toward military nuclear capability, Western diplomats and Israeli officials have informed Haaretz.

This NIE report on Iran was supposed to have been submitted to Obama a few weeks ago, but it was revised to include new and alarming intelligence information about military components of Iran’s nuclear program. Haaretz has learned that the report’s conclusions are quite similar to those drawn by Israel’s intelligence community.

The NIE report contends that Iran has made surprising, notable progress in the research and development of key components of its military nuclear program.

Based on the history of both the Bush and Obama administrations on this issue, military action against Iran’s nuclear facilities- basically, war with Iran- is probably the last thing this White House wants. Especially this close to the November election.

But what if the United States were dragged into a shooting match with the Islamic republic… before Election Day?

Sefi Rachlevsky wrote on the Haaretz website on Tuesday:

In private talks, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and [Ehud] Barak reiterate the logic behind going to war against Iran at this time. They claim that the aim of conducting a war now is to drag the United States into it, contrary to the Americans’ wishes.

The logic is simple. According to Netanyahu and Barak, Israel has the military power to delay Iran’s nuclear project by only one year. This is the up-to-date estimate based on operations research by the body in charge of the matter in Israel: the air force. There is no significance to a delay of that length. There is, however, a force that can stop the Iranian project militarily: the United States. The problem, Netanyahu says, is that the U.S. administration is not willing to do so.

The solution is simple. A moment before the U.S. presidential elections, when Mitt Romney – the candidate of Netanyahu’s patron, Sheldon Adelson – is breathing down Barack Obama’s neck, and in the wake of the large number of casualties and the extensive damage that the Iranian response is likely to cause in the region and particularly in Israel, the American president will have no choice but to order his armed forces to join in the war.

Netanyahu is gambling that if Obama does not do so, he will lose the elections. Then Romney will replace him and, as a token of gratitude, will complete the military work. And if the gamble fails? For that there is no backup plan.

(Editor’s note: Italics added for emphasis)

Interesting- and scary- stuff from Haaretz.

And only 89 days until the election.

Sources:

Ravid, Barak. “New intelligence reveals Iranian military nuclear program advancing faster than previously thought.” Haaretz. 7 Aug. 2012. (http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/new-intelligence-reveals-iranian-military-nuclear-program-advancing-faster-than-previously-thought.premium-1.456426). 9 Aug. 2012.

Ravid, Barak. “Obama gets new U.S. NIE: Iran making surprising progress toward nuclear capability.” Haaretz. 9 Aug. 2012. (http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/obama-gets-new-u-s-nie-iran-making-surprising-progress-toward-nuclear-capability.premium-1.456921). 9 Aug. 2012.

Rachlevsky, Sefi. “The secret behind an Iran war order.” Haaretz. 7 Aug. 2012. (http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/opinion/the-secret-behind-an-iran-war-order.premium-1.456524). 9 Aug. 2012.

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Thursday, August 9th, 2012 Foreign Policy, Government, Middle East, Military, War No Comments


Christopher E. Hill, Editor
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