MQ-9 UAVs Participate in Red Flag 17-2

Air Force News Agency–Remotely piloted MQ-9 Reaper aircrews from the 89th Attack Squadron at Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota, alongside the 432nd Operations Support Squadron and 42nd ATKS at Creech Air Force Base participated in Red Flag 17-2 from Feb. 27 through March 10, 2017, at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada.

MQ-9-Reaper-UAV-696x409.jpgMQ-9 Reaper UAV

The MQ-9s integrated with fourth-generation platforms, such as F-15 Eagles and F-16 Falcons, from various U.S. and allied forces in realistic combat training scenarios designed to test and challenge each and every aircrew and their platform.

“Red Flag 17-2 is a coalition exercise including multiple NATO assets,” said Maj. Dan, 89th ATKS assistant director of operations. “For MQ-9s, our role in this exercise was focused primarily on air interdiction, strike coordination and reconnaissance and dynamic targeting.”

The crews flew as enemy “red air” adversaries and coalition “blue air” during the exercise. When flying as red air, they provided air interdiction against blue air. When flying for blue air, the crews struck simulated weapons facilities and command and control nodes.

The exercise design provides aircrew an opportunity to practice in a contested and degraded operating environment forcing platforms to coordinate and integrate each of their assets’ unique capabilities to ensure overall mission success. Because it is a relatively new platform, it’s important to understand and demonstrate the MQ-9’s unique capabilities.

“When we started this Red Flag, we were somewhat overlooked,” said Capt. David, 432nd OSS assistant weapons and tactics officer and MQ-9 pilot participating in Red Flag 17-2.

He went on to say during the mission planning stage the crews ensured other platforms understood MQ-9 capabilities to guarantee successful integration.

Dan added one of the biggest challenges was contesting the notion that MQ-9s are solely intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets, when in reality, precision attack capabilities are a primary mission of the MQ-9.

Having the opportunity to mission plan with other assets, both national and multinational, allowed coordinated air supremacy by blue air.

“We don’t usually get to mission plan with everyone on a daily basis and have that face-to-face interaction, which is critical,” David said. “We’re flying real-world combat operations every day and integrate with other services and platforms, but having the ability to train with them and really understand their capabilities fully to integrate in the joint fight efficiently is extremely valuable.”

Since not every aviator will have the ability to train in such a dynamic environment, Dan explained the importance of playing with a common goal in mind.

“When we go to exercises like this, our squadron doesn’t stand down any combat lines,” Dan said. “The aircrew who get the experience take what they learned and present that knowledge to the rest of the squadron.”

Dan also said his leadership fully supports obtaining the skills that Red Flag can provide.

“We’re busy taking the fight to our enemies overseas, but Red Flag prepares us for the next fight,” Dan said.

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If Yemen’s Houthis weren’t Iranian proxies before, they could be soon-PRI’s The World

Source: If Yemen’s Houthis weren’t Iranian proxies before, they could be soon-PRI’s The World

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If Yemen’s Houthis weren’t Iranian proxies before, they could be soon-PRI’s The World

Leaders in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia and Washington, DC long argued, without much evidence, that Yemen’s Houthi rebels are puppets of Tehran. Those arguments, which many saw as exaggerated, are now beginning to ring true.

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The notion of a proxy war in Yemen is not new. Saudi Arabia and the US State Department cited the Iran/Houthi connection to justify the launch of a massive military operation designed to drive the group from power. They argued that Iran would turn Yemen into a Shiite stronghold on Saudi Arabia’s southern border, enabling Tehran to exert influence there as it does in Lebanon, Syria and Iraq.

Supporters of the Houthi movement demonstrate in Sanaa, Yemen July 1, 2016. The banner reads: “Allah is the greatest. Death to America. Death to Israel. A curse on the Jews. Victory to Islam.”

The Houthis, known in Yemen as Ansar Allah, use the “Death to America” slogan which originated in Iran and is frequently invoked by the Iranian-backed Hezbollah in Lebanon. But beyond the shared rhetoric, there is scant evidence that the Houthis aim to project Iranian power on the Arabian Peninsula.

The Houthis are homegrown. Their name comes from the Houthi family, who launched a religious revival in northern Yemen. In the 1990s, when Salafists began preaching the Saudi brand of Wahhabi Islam on what was essentially Houthi turf, the head of the family, Hussein al-Houthi, led a movement to reaffirm Zaidi Shiite traditions that had guided Yemeni culture for centuries.

Yemen’s central government saw Houthi’s growing influence as a security threat. Under the leadership of then-President Ali Abdullah Saleh, Yemeni armed forces launched a series of wars to beat back the Houthis. In 2009, Saudi Arabia sent its own troops to join in the fight to subdue the Houthis.

By 2011, as populist fervor was coursing through the Arab world, the Houthis had joined with other anti-government groups in Yemen to hasten the downfall of President Saleh. They argued that his leadership had become corrupt, and they called for his ouster.

In 2012, Saleh was forced to transfer executive power to his vice president, Abdo Monsuer Hadi. The same year, the Houthis came to the negotiating table to help draft a power-sharing agreement with other Yemeni factions through a UN-sponsored National Dialogue Conference.

But the NDC came up with recommendations that would have provided the Houthis with less than complete control of their historic lands in the north.

The Houthis were having none of that, and in a political move that continues to confuse observers, they formed a political alliance with their longtime nemesis, the deposed Saleh, who was already seeking to regain power in 2013.

Reporter Iona Craig, who was then living in Sanaa, recalls that the Houthis, with Saleh’s formidable political and military connections, were able in 2014 to gain control of northern Yemeni cities including the capital, Sanaa. “Certainly at the beginning of this war it was Saleh who was really the driving force behind the Houthis and, yes, they were politically aligned to Iran but there was very little evidence, really, of the Iranians supporting the Houthis.”

There was no need for Iranian weapons in 2014. Saleh may have been out of office, but he still controlled much of the well-stocked, American-supplied Yemeni arsenal.

By March 2015, the Houthi/Saleh forces had conquered most of Yemen’s major cities and driven out the caretaker government of President Hadi, thoroughly alarming the Saudi government that supported him.

On March 26, 2015, Saudi Arabia led a bombing campaign to take out the Houthi military and its weapons. The Saudis also instituted a naval blockade aimed at preventing Iranian weapons from entering Yemen. Both the air and sea operations continue as of this writing.

And while claims of Iranian weapons deliveries were seen to be groundless in the opening months of the Yemen war, there is evidence now that the Iranians are assisting the Houthis militarily.

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“In the last few months — as you know we’re going into the third year of war now in Yemen — there has been growing evidence of Iranian involvement on the weapons front,” says reporter Craig. “Ballistic missiles … have clearly been modified, and new missiles have been built in Yemen to fire over the Saudi border — long-range missiles that did not exist in the Yemeni arsenal before this war have been used.”
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If Iran’s influence in Yemen was hard to detect before, it is unmistakeable now. In the first months of 2017, the Houthis — and Tehran — have boasted of a newfound ability to attack Saudi Arabia. And as the war drags on, Iranian influence may grow.
“This is the risk and this is the danger,” says Craig. “The longer this war goes on, the likelihood is of more Iranian involvement rather than less.” That, says Craig, could drive Washington to step up its already significant material and logistical support of the Saudi-led military coalition.

And, Craig adds, it might even inspire the US to assume a more active role in Yemen. “The Trump Administration [could start] their own proxy war with Iran by bombing the Houthis,” she says, “and that’s the real danger now.”

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Israel’s chief of staff says Hezbollah killed its own commander in Syria

The claim that Badreddine was killed by Hezbollah was echoed on Tuesday by Lieutenant General Gadi Eisenkot, Chief of the General Staff of the Israel Defense Forces. Speaking to the Associated Press,

Source: Israel’s chief of staff says Hezbollah killed its own commander in Syria

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Israel’s chief of staff says Hezbollah killed its own commander in Syria

An Israeli military official has repeated claims in the Arab media that the Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah killed its own military commander in Syria, following a dispute with Iran. Mustafa Amine Badreddine, 55, an expert in explosives and former bomb-maker, was a senior military commander in the military wing of Hezbollah. He rose through the ranks of the organization to become a trusted adviser to Hezbollah’s Secretary General, Hassan Nasrallah. In 2011, the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, set up by the United Nations, charged Badreddine with organizing the assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Hariri was killed with over 20 other people in a massive bomb blast in Beirut, in February of 2005. – Intel’News

 

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Soon after the outbreak of the Syrian Civil War, the leadership of Hezbollah dispatched Badreddine to the Syrian capital Damascus. His stated mission was to command thousands of Hezbollah troops, who fought under Iranian guidance in support of the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. But on May 13, 2016, Badreddine was reportedly killed in Damascus, causing observers to describe his death as the biggest setback for the Shiite militant group since the 2008 assassination of its leading commander, Imad Mughniyeh. Initial reports in Hezbollah-controlled Lebanese media suggested that Badreddine might have been killed in an Israeli air attack. But a press statement issued later by Hezbollah said the commander had been killed as a result of an armed attack by Sunni rebels. However, on March 8 of this year, the Saudi-owned pan-Arab television network al-Arabiya said it had conducted its own investigation into Badreddine’s death, and had concluded that he was killed by Hezbollah itself. The network claimed that Hezbollah’s Secretary General Nasrallah had ordered Badreddine’s killing, after the Iranians demanded it. Apparently the Iranians wanted him killed because he disputed the authority of Major General Qasem Soleimani, commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, who is often credited with having saved the Syrian government from demise during the Civil War.

The claim that Badreddine was killed by Hezbollah was echoed on Tuesday by Lieutenant General Gadi Eisenkot, Chief of the General Staff of the Israel Defense Forces. Speaking to the Associated Press, Lt Gen Eisenkot said that reports from Arab media that Badreddine was killed by his own forces agreed “with intelligence we have”, referring to the Israeli military. It is worth noting that Israeli officials rarely comment on intelligence operations, including assassination operations, choosing instead to adhere to a “refuse to confirm or deny” policy.

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Turkey and The West in Syria

Turkey’s relationship with Syria had been bitterly hostile up to the late 1990s, in significant part owing to the Syrian regime of Hafez al-Assad sheltering Abdullah Ocalan and his Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which Assad was instrumental in creating in collusion with the Soviet Union.8 The PKK launched a separatist insurgency inside Turkey in 1984, acting effectively as a proxy for the U.S.S.R. against a frontline NATO state. After the Soviet Empire collapsed, the PKK was drawn closer to Damascus.

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Turkey and The West in Syria

Source: Turkey and The West in Syria

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Turkey and The West in Syria

Kyle Orton\The Henry Jackson Society December 2016

Turkey began the “Arab Spring” period pursuing a policy of “zero problems with neighbours”. Primarily because of Syria, where Ankara got drawn further and further into the battle against the regime of Bashar al-Assad, this policy fell apart.

For Turkey, the threat of a contiguous statelet along its border controlled by the Syrian affiliate of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which the U.S.-led Coalition has chosen as its primary ground ally against the Islamic State (IS), has motivated a number of policies that culminated in a direct intervention in Syria in August 2016. Turkey cannot afford to accept the territorial ambitions of an affiliate of a domestic terrorist group as it views its internal Kurdish situation entirely through this prism, rather than also a consequence of Ankara’s repressive policy towards Turkey’s Kurds.

Al-Qaeda in Syria has used Turkey as a rear base and its networks on Turkish territory constitute a key node in its global network, able to strike at Europe and America if and when a decision is made. While Turkey’s intervention has helped exacerbate divisions between the Syrian opposition and al-Qaeda, some of the Islamist groups’ Turkey supports in Syria, notably Ahrar al-Sham, have strengthened al-Qaeda’s Syrian branch.

After the attempted coup in Turkey there has been a wide-scale crackdown, which has targeted all opposition to the government. This has accelerated Turkey’s drift toward authoritarianism and damaged the anti-IS cause by removing key military officials with whom the West was working. It is possible that the West will lose, or be threatened with the loss of, basing rights altogether in Turkey.

Key Recommendations

  1. Work with Turkey to delineate an acceptable role for the PKK in Syria, imposing some limits on an organization that has heretofore enjoyed uncritical Western support. This will help avert opening another front in the war, and diverting resources from the anti-IS campaign.
  2. Though the removal of Bashar al-Assad by force is no longer feasible, the maintenance of the West’s official posture that wishes to see him ousted remains essential in helping bring allies, inside Syria and in the surrounding states, to support Western strategy, including fighting IS and al-Qaeda. Applying penalties against the pro-Assad forces for egregious crimes might keep open the chance of a political settlement.
  3. Have Turkey crack down on al-Qaeda’s operations on its territory, and pressure Turkey to reduce its support to Ahrar al-Sham and other Islamist groups that enable al-Qaeda in northern Syria, or condition such support on these groups distancing themselves from al-Qaeda
  4. Explore alternative basing locations, notably Cyprus and Iraqi Kurdistan, to ensure there actually is an alternative if the Coalition is evicted from Turkey and to ensure meanwhile that Ankara does not have excessive leverage from the ability to make this threat.
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DOD’s Report On Enhancing Security and Stability In Afghanistan

DefenceTalk-The Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) have begun their third year in the lead for security in Afghanistan and the second year in
which they have full security responsibility with limited U.S. or coalition support on the battlefield. During the December 1, 2015, to May 31, 2016, reporting period, the ANDSF addressed key capability gaps as they recovered from a tough 2015, maintained a high operational tempo during the winter months amidst challenging security conditions, and developed and began to implement an offensive campaign plan as they headed into the traditional spring and summer fighting season.

Through Operation Freedom’s Sentinel (OFS), United States Forces – Afghanistan (USFOR-A) continue to conduct two well-defined and complementary missions: training, advising, and assisting the ANDSF through the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)-led Resolute Support (RS) mission and supporting counterterrorism operations against the remnants of al Qaeda and its associates. In recognition of the threat of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) (also known as Daesh) outside of its Iraq-Syria base and the emerging foothold of an affiliate in the Afghanistan and Pakistan region, in this reporting period President Obama authorized USFOR-A to conduct offensive counterterrorism operations against the Islamic State – Khorasan (IS-K) (also known as the Islamic State – Khorasan Province), the ISIL affiliate in Afghanistan.

Consistent with the President’s Obama October 2015 announcement that U.S. forces would maintain a force posture in Afghanistan of up to 9,800 military personnel through most of 2016, USFOR-A maintained its forces at or below this level throughout the reporting period.

These U.S. forces served alongside approximately 6,876 forces from NATO Allied and partner nations who are committed to Afghanistan’s continued development. In particular, the continued U.S. and coalition presence in Afghanistan is focused on making progress in developing the ANDSF into
a more effective, sustainable, and affordable force that can protect the Afghan people and contribute to regional and international security. This force presence will also help prevent threats to the homeland, U.S. allies, and U.S. interests abroad from terrorist actors in the region, particularly al Qaeda, and it will maintain pressure on other terrorist groups such as IS-K.

Read Full Report Enhancing_Security_and_Stability_in_Afghanistan-June_2016

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DefenceTalK: David Krieger on Nuclear Proliferation and Nuclear Arms Control-Interview

Ahmed Ali Shah

 

Q&A

DT: Which nuclear states are more dangerous; the nuclear romantics (those seeking nukes for prestige) or nuclear realists (those seeking nukes for defence against other nuke states)? Nuclear Realists claim they possess nuclear weapons only because nuclear romantics create fear in them.

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David Krieger: I don’t find the distinctions between nuclear romantics and nuclear realists to be helpful. All states possessing nuclear weapons have some mix of both qualities. In my mind, there is nothing romantic about nuclear weapons and it is detached from reality to believe that nuclear weapons can be held indefinitely in nuclear arsenals and their use threatened without being used again.

DT: Realists belief is that nuclear weapon free world is a Utopian idea. Even if nations completely disarm themselves their nuclear raw materials, nuclear scientists, engineers and nuclear facilities will continue to exist. Therefore; when they deem it necessary they can redevelop their nuclear weapons. And in such a case the possibility of usage of nuclear weapons is higher than it is now. How do you respond to this belief?

David Krieger: I think it is far more utopian to believe that some states can maintain nuclear arsenals without engendering nuclear proliferation and eventual use of nuclear weapons, by accident or design. If states would find it in their interest to seek to abolish nuclear weapons in a phased, verifiable, irreversible and transparent manner, it is likely that they would assure in the process that it is extremely difficult for any state to develop or redevelop nuclear weapons.

DT: NPT was signed during the Cold War. The 5 Nuclear States promised to disarm themselves on a future date. Today there is no Cold War and more states possess nuclear weapons then before. What is the future of NPT in your view? And do you believe a complete disarmament is possible on NPTs terms?

David Krieger: For the foreseeable future the NPT is necessary, but of course it has serious contradictions, such as the promise of nuclear disarmament on the one hand and the seemingly inconsistent position on the other hand that peaceful nuclear technology is an “inalienable right.” As states become more serious about abolishing nuclear weapons, the NPT should give way to a Nuclear Weapons Convention, which sets forth the roadmap for the phased, verifiable, irreversible and transparent elimination of nuclear weapons.

DT: The US congress passed a controversial Presslers Amendment which barred US government from selling F-16s and other military hardware to Pakistan because it was pursuing nuclear weapons. On the other hand US sold over 250 F-16s to Israel, who was already known to possess nuclear weapons at that time. Similar examples can be found on other accounts related to other countries. Do you think that the double standards on behalf of United States, on who should and who should not possess nuclear weapons, are pushing 3rd World Countries to acquire nuclear weapons?

David Krieger: I strongly oppose such double standards. I believe they are a provocation to nuclear proliferation. We need a unitary and universal standard leading to the abolition of all nuclear weapons.

DT: What are your views on Bush Nuclear Doctrine? Is the policy to pursue nonproliferation by force the right one? Or has it brought the world to a dangerous point? Has it in anyway made US a more secure country, even by a small percentage?

David Krieger: I think the orientation of trying to control proliferation by the use of force, including preemptive nuclear strikes, is extremely dangerous. It is an expression of imperial policy and an incentive to proliferation. I also believe that it is neither practical nor effective. It has not made the US more secure.

DT: In your paper Why Nations Go Nuclear you have pointed out 4 principle reasons to the question, while you say that North Korea seems to be pioneering the 5th one, that is: to use the weapons as a bargaining chip to gain security guarantees and financial concessions. How real is danger of such nuclear blackmail? Will more states be encouraged to follow this rout? If so, how can they be stopped?

David Krieger: I don’t see North Korea’s position as nuclear blackmail in the sense of threatening to use nuclear weapons. Rather, it is using the prospect of developing or maintaining a nuclear arsenal as a bargaining chip to gain security and development assistance. I think that North Korea fears the US use of force against it and certainly has great need of development assistance. I think it is well worth the bargain for the US to provide such security guarantees and development aid in exchange for North Korea giving up its nuclear arsenal. I think this situation is unique, and is unlikely to be a model for other states.

DT: In your paper US Leadership for Global Zero you say Barack Obama recognizes the importance for US and global security of achieving a world free of nuclear weapons. D.W. Eisenhower & Ronald Reagan spoke of General and Complete (C&G) Disarmament on different occasions but neither achieved it. In fact both pursued better nuclear delivery systems and counter nuclear missile technologies. G.W. Bush on the other hand pursued all this without even showing slightest interest in either disarmament or arms control. What makes you believe that Obama is or will be serious on complete nuclear disarmament or as you put Nuclear Zero?

David Krieger: President-elect Obama has made many statements that show he is deeply concerned about nuclear proliferation and nuclear terrorism. I think he recognizes that the US and the world would be far safer without nuclear arms. I am certain that he will take steps in this direction, but I imagine that they will be cautious steps and will emerge initially from negotiations with the Russians. I believe he will set the goal of global zero, but will not be able to achieve this goal within his possible two terms in office. I have high hopes that he will follow in the footsteps of Ronald Reagan in seeking global abolition, hopefully more successfully than Reagan. Much will depend upon Obama’s willingness to halt missile defenses in Europe, which the Russians have consistently opposed and continue to find provocative.

DT: Do you think that miniaturized low yield tactical nuclear weapons, with lower (very limited) contamination and destructive power, can (or should) be possible alternative to nuclear weapons with the capability of mass destruction?

David Krieger: I don’t see mini-nukes as an alternative to massive-nukes. Leaders could well be more willing to use low yield tactical nuclear weapons, thus breaking the taboo that has existed on nuclear weapons use since Nagasaki was destroyed. This could open a Pandora’s Box of proliferation and nuclear use.

DT: States like Pakistan and North Korea find themselves conventionally weaker against their rivals. They claim that only thing deterring their rivals is their nuclear arsenal. Iran seems to follow the same logic. Such states would be reluctant to disarm themselves. How can these states be encouraged to join the disarmament club, or as your say: Nuclear Weapons Convention, if Nuclear Zero takes place?

David Krieger: To convince these states to engage in nuclear disarmament will require a new global security environment. For these states, nuclear weapons now seem to be a military equalizer. The stronger states are going to have make commitments in the form of security agreements to convince these states to give up their nuclear arms. Such commitments will actually make the more powerful states more secure as well. Changing the global security environment will not be easy, but it will be greatly helped by the most powerful states giving clear signs that they are prepared themselves to go to zero.

DT: In case Iran produces a deliverable nuclear weapon, there is a risk that Saudi Arabia and Egypt will also seek to acquire nuclear weapons, while Israel will also go overt. How much will this affect proliferation control? What measures should be taken to prevent Iran or Middle East as whole from going nuclear?

David Krieger: Iran developing nuclear weapons would encourage more nuclear proliferation in the Middle East. Israel’s nuclear weapons already encourage such proliferation, by Iran and others. The UN has long called for a Middle East Nuclear Weapons Free Zone. This remains an important objective and pressure should be put on Israel by its allies to achieve this goal. In my view, no states, including the current nuclear weapons states, should be allowed to enrich uranium. Uranium enrichment should be universally banned. The reprocessing of plutonium should only be done under strict and effective international control.

DT: In your Briefing for the New President you wrote Deterrence is not defense against a nuclear attack. If it were, missile defenses would not be needed. If true then what deterred the two super powers of the Cold War from a nuclear exchange, especially during times of high tension like the Cuban Missile Crisis?

David Krieger: Deterrence is not physical protection from nuclear attack. It is a psychological concept, which provides no assurance of effectiveness. There is no proof that deterrence prevented a nuclear war during the period of the Cold War. We know a nuclear war did not occur, but we do not know that it was fear of retaliation that was the cause of this. But even if the threat of mutual assured destruction (MAD) did protect psychologically against the use of nuclear weapons during the Cold War, it cannot be assumed that the same conditions would prevail in the case of other nuclear weapons states. Deterrence requires rational actors, and we surely know that not all leaders are rational at all times. I would not bet the future of one’s country or of the human race on reliance upon rationality. To do so would be irrational.

BackGround

David Krieger is a founder of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, and has served as President of the Foundation since 1982.

Dr. Krieger has lectured throughout the United States, Europe and Asia on issues of peace, security, international law, and the abolition of nuclear weapons. He has received many awards for his work for a more peaceful and nuclear weapons-free world. He has been interviewed on CNN Hotline, MSNBC, NPR and many other television and radio shows nationally and internationally.

 

 

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