Threats From The Russia Nuclear Horn (Daniel 8)

More Russian nuclear saber-rattlin

Reuters and the newspaper L’Obs reported last week that the French navy in January detected a Russian ballistic missile submarine off the French Atlantic coast in the Bay of Biscay. There was no military reason for that submarine to be there. Was this Moscow’s latest attempt at nuclear intimidation?

The report was sourced to an official in the French defense ministry. On the record, the ministry declined to confirm or deny the story, though a navy official commented to Reuters: “Russian naval activity has been on the rise for several months, if not years.”

No military reason to be there

Nuclear-armed submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) have long been a part of U.S. and Russian strategic forces. They constitute the most important element of the American strategic triad, deploying some 60 percent of U.S. strategic warheads. Once the submarines go to sea and submerge, they are very hard to find and very survivable.

Ballistic missile submarines seek to remain undetected. U.S. Ohio-class boats on deterrence patrols are typically assigned large ocean spaces in which to operate, and no one ashore knows exactly where they are in that space. Open ocean increases the submarine’s ability to maneuver to avoid any ships that may get near. Coming close to a coast, on the other hand, increases the possibility of detection and limits the submarine’s ability to maneuver away from a potential threat.

The Russian submarine that the French detected reportedly was a Delta-class boat. It carries sixteen SS-N-23 SLBMs, each of which can deliver multiple warheads to targets 8,000 kilometers (5,000 miles) away. It did not have to sail near France to target France. Delta submarines home-ported on the Kola Peninsula can target France from dockside. From the more open waters of the Norwegian Sea midway between Norway and Greenland, a Delta’s SS-N-23s can reach not only all of France and all of Europe, but most of the continental United States.

There would be no logical military reason for a Russian ballistic missile submarine to enter the Bay of Biscay. Doing so would increase the possibility of detection—which apparently happened—and compromise its survivability.

Nuclear intimidation?

So why did the submarine go there?

Over the past few years—especially in parallel with Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea and military aggression in eastern Ukraine—the Kremlin has escalated its nuclear rhetoric. Vladimir Putin regularly makes reference to his country’s large nuclear arsenal, as if he fears the world might somehow forget. Russian outlets Sputnik and RT run articles boasting of Russia’s nuclear capabilities. Moscow’s ambassador to Copenhagen threatened to target nuclear-armed missiles against Denmark last year.

Moscow seems to see value in such irresponsible nuclear saber-rattling, at a time when it has adopted a more bellicose line toward the West.

Meanwhile, nuclear-capable Russian Tu-95 Bear bombers have become far more frequent visitors to the air space near the United States, Canada, and NATO European members than was the case three or four years ago. (During the Cold War, the United States regularly flew strategic bombers near Soviet air space, but it has largely discarded that practice.)

Moscow seems to see value in such irresponsible nuclear saber-rattling, at a time when it has adopted a more bellicose line toward the West. The Kremlin sometimes appears to be trying to convey an impression that, when it comes to nuclear weapons, Mr. Putin might be a little bit crazy. It’s all part of an effort to intimidate.

That would explain why a Delta-class submarine would visit the Bay of Biscay. Like the Bear bombers skirting NATO airspace, bringing close to France a ballistic missile submarine would send a political message—and make us all a bit more nervous.

Antichrist’s followers begin sit-in in Baghdad

Moqtada al-Sadr’s followers begin anti-corruption sit-in in Baghdad

Fri Mar 18, 2016 11:28pm IST
By Saif Hameed

BAGHDAD (Reuters) – Supporters of Iraq’s powerful Shi’ite Muslim cleric Moqtada al-Sadr began a sit-in outside the walls of Baghdad’s fortified Green Zone on Friday to press the government to see through a move to stem endemic corruption.

Leveraging his ability to mobilise grassroots pressure on the government, Sadr wants Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to replace cabinet ministers with non-party technocrats to tackle systemic political patronage that has fostered graft.

Sadr rejected calls to cancel the sit-in prompted by fears of clashes between his supporters and security forces guarding the highly sensitive Green Zone, which hosts major government offices and foreign embassies in the Iraqi capital.

There were no reports of disturbances. A senior Sadr aide, Ibrahim al-Jabri, said the protest would last for 10 days if needed, until the end of a 45-day deadline Sadr gave on Feb. 12 to Abadi for a cabinet overhaul.

Corruption is eating away at the central government’s financial resources at a time when revenues are declining due to rock-bottom oil prices and Abadi needs to increase funding the U.S.-backed war against Islamic State militants.

Abadi on March 11 asked political blocs in parliament and “influential social figures” to nominate technocrats, but his room for manoeuvre appears limited by pressure from political factions not to erode their powerful influence.

GREEN ZONE

The Green Zone was originally set up in 2003 to protect U.S. occupation forces that had toppled Saddam Hussein from suicide bombings and other Islamist militant attacks, and has been kept in place by successor Iraqi authorities for security reasons.

Thousands of demonstrators held Friday prayers in a main street leading into the Green Zone nearby, then set up tents to accommodate those staying on for the sit-in.

The Interior Ministry said it had not granted approval for the sit-in and riot police initially blocked roads and bridges leading to the Green Zone, before relenting and allowing demonstrators to march almost to its entrance.

On al-Jumhuriya (Republic) Bridge, riot police moved aside and let the demonstrators pull aside barbed wire barriers. “Let’s get rid of them, they’re all thieves!” they shouted as they advanced across the Tigris River span.

Waving Iraqi flags, the protesters also chanted, “Yes, yes to Iraq; no, no to corruption!”
Sadr published a statement on his website thanking the police for “their cooperation and devotion to their people.”

On Thursday, he branded the Green Zone “a bastion of support for corruption” but also asked followers to refrain from any violent reaction should they be stopped by security forces.

Authorities beefed up security around the sprawling capital, deploying additional checkpoints and police patrols, amid fears that the Shi’ite crowds could be attacked by Islamic State, whose Sunni militants hold swathes of northern and western Iraq.

(Reporting by Saif Hameed; Writing by Maher Chmaytelli; Editing by Mark Heinrich; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

North Korea Fires Back At Babylon

North Korea launches ballistic missiles 
By KJ Kwon, Barbara Starr and Jim Sciutto, CNN
Updated 2034 GMT (0434 HKT) March 18, 2016

(CNN)North Korea has launched two ballistic missiles off the west coast of the Korean peninsula, the South Korean military and U.S. defense officials said Friday.

The South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff said that one ballistic missile flew a distance of 800 kilometers overland toward the sea off the country’s east coast, while a second projectile, assumed to be a missile, was detected by radar but disappeared at an altitude of about 17 kilometers.

The military said it was closely tracking and monitoring the situation and maintaining a readiness posture for any North Korean provocation.

U.S. official confirmed the launch, with a U.S. defense official telling CNN that it tracked two ballistic missiles.

The launch came around 5:55 a.m. local time, near Sukchon county, South Pyongan province, the Joint Chiefs of Staff said.

Authorities Expecting The Sixth Seal? (Revelation 6:12)

Earthquake
US Raises Threat of Quake but Lowers Risk for Towers
New York Times
Earthquake!
By SAM ROBERTS
JULY 17, 2014
Here is another reason to buy a mega-million-dollar apartment in a Manhattan high-rise: Earthquake forecast maps for New York City that a federal agency issued on Thursday indicate “a slightly lower hazard for tall buildings than previously thought.”
The agency, the United States Geodetic Survey, tempered its latest quake prediction with a big caveat.
“The eastern U.S. has the potential for larger and more damaging earthquakes than considered in previous maps and assessments,” the agency said, citing the magnitude 5.8 quake that struck Virginia in 2011.
Federal seismologists based their projections of a lower hazard for tall buildings — “but still a hazard nonetheless,” they cautioned — on a lower likelihood of slow shaking from an earthquake occurring near the city, the type of shaking that typically causes more damage to taller structures.
“The tall buildings in Manhattan are not where you should be focusing,” said John Armbruster, a seismologist with the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University. “They resonate with long period waves. They are designed and engineered to ride out an earthquake. Where you should really be worried in New York City is the common brownstone and apartment building and buildings that are poorly maintained.”
Mr. Armbruster was not involved in the federal forecast, but was an author of an earlier study that suggested that “a pattern of subtle but active faults makes the risk of earthquakes to the New York City area substantially greater than formerly believed.”
He noted that barely a day goes by without a New York City building’s being declared unsafe, without an earthquake. “If you had 30, 40, 50 at one time, responders would be overloaded,” he said.
The city does have an earthquake building code that went into effect in 1996, and that applies primarily to new construction.
A well-maintained building would probably survive a magnitude 5 earthquake fairly well, he said. The last magnitude 5 earthquake in the city struck in 1884. Another is not necessarily inevitable; faults are more random and move more slowly than they do in, say, California. But he said the latest federal estimate was probably raised because of the magnitude of the Virginia quake.
“Could there be a magnitude 6 in New York?” Mr. Armbruster said. “In Virginia, in a 300 year history, 4.8 was the biggest, and then you have a 5.8. So in New York, I wouldn’t say a 6 is impossible.
Mr. Armbruster said the Geodetic Survey forecast would not affect his daily lifestyle. “I live in a wood-frame building with a brick chimney and I’m not alarmed sitting up at night worried about it,” he said. “But society’s leaders need to take some responsibility.

The Islamic Horns of Prophecy (Daniel 8)

Islamic ‘NATO’: Strategic repercussions for India
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Saudi Arabia, Pakistan working on ‘NATO-like’ military alliance of Islamic countries

Abhishek G Bhaya

Gulf regional power Saudi Arabia and nuclear-armed Pakistan are working on a proposal to form a ‘NATO-like’ military alliance of Islamic countries, British newspaper The Independent reported on 15 March citing a report on Pakistani TV channel Dunya News a day earlier.

While the report credited Saudi Arabia to be the brain behind the initiative, it said Pakistan had been entrusted to develop the framework for the proposed military alliance of 34 Muslim majority nations.
“The Kingdom [of Saudi Arabia] has requested Pakistan to lead the initiative. Pakistan and Saudi Arabia have agreed to continue consultations on the proposal. This remains uncertain whether the proposed alliance will be a further upgradation of the already established 34-nation alliance or a different initiative altogether,” said the Dunya News report.

The development gains significance as Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is poised to visit Saudi Arabia early next month with maritime security and increasing military cooperation placed high on the agenda.

Reports suggest India will be taking diplomatic steps to ensure greater cooperation in the Middle East with its latest plan to hold joint naval and military exercises with Saudi Arabia.

Let us explore the factors that led to the emergence of this proposed Islamic ‘NATO’ and the strategic repercussions of this regional coalition for India.

‘Northern Thunder’

The genesis of an Islamic ‘NATO’ alliance appeared to have emerged during the recently-held war games in Hafr al Batin region of Saudi Arabia, the closing ceremony of which was attended by Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Shareef and Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Shareef.

Billed as the region’s biggest-ever military exercise, the 12-Day ‘Northern Thunder’ manoeuvres, which concluded on 10 March, saw participation from over 20 nations from the Middle East, Africa and Asia. These included: Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, Jordan, Senegal, Sudan, Maldives, Morocco, Pakistan, Chad, Tunisia, Comoro Islands, Djibouti, Malaysia, Egypt, Mauritania, and Mauritius.

It is important to note that in December 2015, Saudi Arabia announced a military alliance of 34 Muslim nations (all Sunni-majority) including Pakistan, Egypt and Turkey. The Islamic Military Alliance was envisioned with the mission to fight terrorism in Iraq, Syria, Libya, Egypt and Afghanistan. The command centre of the 34-nation military bloc was planned to be based in Riyadh.

Pakistan, at that time, had reacted with surprise saying its consent was not taken for the alliance, but later Islamabad welcomed the initiative and confirmed its participation in the ‘anti-terror’ alliance.
The ‘Northern Thunder’ war games were the first collective show of strength for this newly-formed alliance which saw over 350,000 troops, 2,500 warplanes, 20,000 tanks and 450 helicopters in action. The subsequent proposal of an Islamic ‘NATO’ appears to be a logical extension of this new military coalition.

Target Iran?

While both Saudi Arabia and Pakistan have asserted that the proposed alliance would not be against any particular country but would combat terrorism and threats coming from extremist groups like Islamic State; the composition of mainly Sunni-majority nations makes it amply clear that the Saudi-led coalition is a consolidation of forces against the regional Shiite rival Iran.

Riyadh cut diplomatic ties with Tehran earlier this year after mobs ransacked Saudi diplomatic missions in Iran following the execution of a prominent Saudi Shiite cleric.

Saudi Arabia and Iran are engaged in proxy wars in Syria and Yemen where they are backing opposing sides. Riyadh is also concerned about a resurgent Iran, which is increasingly asserting itself in the region post its nuclear deal with the world powers that ended the sanctions against Tehran.

Iran does not seem to shy away from a belligerent display of its military prowess every now and then, as was evident again in its latest series of ballistic missile tests last week and also by its audacious detention of US Navy sailors in January just before the nuclear deal was implemented.

Seen from the perspective of Saudi Arabia and its allies, the Tehran regime has gone beyond its periphery, posing a serious threat to the stability of the region. This has made the Sunni bloc try to overcome its divisions and forge a common front that can deal with the Iranian threat.

The Russian factor

Also, Russia’s military intervention in Syria and its close alliance with the Iran-led Shiite troika (including Syria and Iraq) seems to have prompted the major Sunni countries in the region to form such a military alliance.

On the other hand, after Turkey downed the Russian military plane, the wedge between the two countries reached a serious point. It can be reasonably said that Russian military intervention in the Middle East has sowed the seed of this counter-alliance to deal with the emerging situation.

Weakening US influence in the Middle East has also contributed to the emergence of this alliance. With this new Islamic Military Alliance, the regional players will have more vital roles in Middle East affairs. Countries like Turkey and Egypt have long been supporters of regional solutions to regional problems.

The formation of this broad-based alliance is certainly aimed at checking Iran’s regional aspirations and stall increasing Russian influence that run contrary to the interests of Riyadh and its friends.

Bulwark against India

With Pakistan playing a leading role in the formation of this Islamic ‘NATO’, it wouldn’t be out of place to imagine that Islamabad would eventually use the alliance as a bulwark against India.

Just like the NATO was founded as an alliance against the erstwhile Soviet Union and eventually encircle and target Russia, Pakistan – with its India-centric foreign policy – is bound to lead the alliance into an anti-India trajectory.

Although India has strategic ties with several Muslim countries – including Saudi Arabia, UAE and Oman – that are, or may become, part of this coalition; in the event of a future conflict between the nuclear-armed neighbours, these member countries would be bound by the principle of collective defence (as in NATO), wherein an attack against one ally is considered as an attack against all allies.

A military alliance on doorsteps, in all likelihood, will trigger a dangerous arms race and a realignment of forces in the region. Countries like Russia, Iran and India that may feel targeted by the Islamic ‘NATO’ alliance may eventually be compelled to form their own coalition as a strategic counterweight.

It will be interesting to see what line Israel takes.

Impact on Indo-Saudi ties

Meanwhile, the current ties between India and Saudi Arabia are on the upswing. In 2014, the two countries signed an MoU on defence cooperation, which allows exchange of defence-related information, military training and education as well as cooperation in areas varying from hydrography and security to logistics.

According to reports, the Indian Army has also agreed to hold joint military exercises with the Royal Saudi Land Force. In fact, there are talks of India establishing a mountain warfare training school to help Riyadh improve their offensive and defensive capabilities. These issues are expected to come up for discussion during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit next month.

Acknowledging India’s growing status as a major power in the region, Saudi Arabia has allowed New Delhi to carry out hydrographic surveys off the Saudi coastline. Such surveys, which facilitate the operation of submarines, had until now been outsourced only to the US.

Modi must candidly share India’s concerns about the proposed military alliance during his talks with Saudi officials. Only time will tell what impact will the Islamic ‘NATO’ have on the robust bilateral relations between India and Saudi Arabia.