Antichrist Protects Iraq’s Borders

The Iraqi Cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. File photo.

Baghdad (IraqiNews.com) Iraqi Shia cleric and militancy leader Muqtada al-Sadr has urged the Iraqi government to ensure protection for its borders with Syria after a controversial deal between Islamic State militants and Lebanese militia Hezbollah helped the group redeploy there.
“The Iraqi government is required to secure the borders with Syrian al-Boukamal region,” Sadr tweeted on Thursday. “We are fully prepared to cooperate with it (the government)”.
A deal between Hezbollah and Islamic State fighters, approved by the Syrian government, has gone into force, granting IS militants a safe exit from the Syrian-Lebanese borders towards the Syrian Al-Boukamal city, near the borders with Iraq’s Anbar.
Baghdad has lambasted the agreement, saying it endangers its security. Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi called for an investigation by Damascus into the controversial deal.
Speaking to Alsumaria News, Naeem al-Kaoud, chairman of the Anbar province’s security committee, said IS had already deployed members coming from Syria at the province’s western areas. “Daesh (Islamic State) terrorist group has deployed a large number of their fighters coming from Syria at the towns of Annah, Rawa and Qaim”. He deemed the situation “violation of Iraq’s sovereignty”.
IS has held the three towns since 2014, and the government marks them as future targets of its military action seeking to end the group’s existence.

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Brace Yourselves for the Sixth Seal (Revelation 6)

https://i1.wp.com/www.ldeo.columbia.edu/news/images/nj-quake-030201.gif

Brace Yourselves, New Yorkers, You’re Due for a Major Quake

A couple of hundred thousand years ago, an M 7.2 earthquake shook what is now New Hampshire. Just a few thousand years ago, an M 7.5 quake ruptured just off the coast of Massachusetts. And then there’s New York.

Since the first western settlers arrived there, the state has witnessed 200 quakes of magnitude 2.0 or greater, making it the third most seismically active state east of the Mississippi (Tennessee and South Carolina are ranked numbers one and two, respectively). About once a century, New York has also experienced an M 5.0 quake capable of doing real damage.

The most recent one near New York City occurred in August of 1884. Centered off Long Island’s Rockaway Beach, it was felt over 70,000 square miles. It also opened enormous crevices near the Brooklyn reservoir and knocked down chimneys and cracked walls in Pennsylvania and Connecticut. Police on the Brooklyn Bridge said it swayed “as if struck by a hurricane” and worried the bridge’s towers would collapse. Meanwhile, residents throughout New York and New Jersey reported sounds that varied from explosions to loud rumblings, sometimes to comic effect. At the funeral of Lewis Ingler, a small group of mourners were watching as the priest began to pray. The quake cracked an enormous mirror behind the casket and knocked off a display of flowers that had been resting on top of it. When it began to shake the casket’s silver handles, the mourners decided the unholy return of Lewis Ingler was more than they could take and began flinging themselves out windows and doors.

Not all stories were so light. Two people died during the quake, both allegedly of fright. Out at sea, the captain of the brig Alice felt a heavy lurch that threw him and his crew, followed by a shaking that lasted nearly a minute. He was certain he had hit a wreck and was taking on water.

A day after the quake, the editors of The New York Times sought to allay readers’ fear. The quake, they said, was an unexpected fluke never to be repeated and not worth anyone’s attention: “History and the researches of scientific men indicate that great seismic disturbances occur only within geographical limits that are now well defined,” they wrote in an editorial. “The northeastern portion of the United States . . . is not within those limits.” The editors then went on to scoff at the histrionics displayed by New York residents when confronted by the quake: “They do not stop to reason or to recall the fact that earthquakes here are harmless phenomena. They only know that the solid earth, to whose immovability they have always turned with confidence when everything else seemed transitory, uncertain, and deceptive, is trembling and in motion, and the tremor ceases long before their disturbed minds become tranquil.”
That’s the kind of thing that drives Columbia’s Heather Savage nuts.

New York, she says, is positively vivisected by faults. Most of them fall into two groups—those running northeast and those running northwest. Combined they create a brittle grid underlying much of Manhattan.

Across town, Charles Merguerian has been studying these faults the old‐fashioned way: by getting down and dirty underground. He’s spent the past forty years sloshing through some of the city’s muckiest places: basements and foundations, sewers and tunnels, sometimes as deep as 750 feet belowground. His tools down there consist primarily of a pair of muck boots, a bright blue hard hat, and a pickax. In public presentations, he claims he is also ably abetted by an assistant hamster named Hammie, who maintains his own website, which includes, among other things, photos of the rodent taking down Godzilla.

That’s just one example why, if you were going to cast a sitcom starring two geophysicists, you’d want Savage and Merguerian to play the leading roles. Merguerian is as eccentric and flamboyant as Savage is earnest and understated. In his press materials, the former promises to arrive at lectures “fully clothed.” Photos of his “lab” depict a dingy porta‐john in an abandoned subway tunnel. He actively maintains an archive of vintage Chinese fireworks labels at least as extensive as his list of publications, and his professional website includes a discography of blues tunes particularly suitable for earthquakes. He calls female science writers “sweetheart” and somehow manages to do so in a way that kind of makes them like it (although they remain nevertheless somewhat embarrassed to admit it).

It’s Merguerian’s boots‐on‐the‐ground approach that has provided much of the information we need to understand just what’s going on underneath Gotham. By his count, Merguerian has walked the entire island of Manhattan: every street, every alley. He’s been in most of the tunnels there, too. His favorite one by far is the newest water tunnel in western Queens. Over the course of 150 days, Merguerian mapped all five miles of it. And that mapping has done much to inform what we know about seismicity in New York.

Most importantly, he says, it provided the first definitive proof of just how many faults really lie below the surface there. And as the city continues to excavate its subterranean limits, Merguerian is committed to following closely behind. It’s a messy business.

Down below the city, Merguerian encounters muck of every flavor and variety. He power‐washes what he can and relies upon a diver’s halogen flashlight and a digital camera with a very, very good flash to make up the difference. And through this process, Merguerian has found thousands of faults, some of which were big enough to alter the course of the Bronx River after the last ice age.
His is a tricky kind of detective work. The center of a fault is primarily pulverized rock. For these New York faults, that gouge was the very first thing to be swept away by passing glaciers. To do his work, then, he’s primarily looking for what geologists call “offsets”—places where the types of rock don’t line up with one another. That kind of irregularity shows signs of movement over time—clear evidence of a fault.

Merguerian has found a lot of them underneath New York City.

These faults, he says, do a lot to explain the geological history of Manhattan and the surrounding area. They were created millions of years ago, when what is now the East Coast was the site of a violent subduction zone not unlike those present now in the Pacific’s Ring of Fire.

Each time that occurred, the land currently known as the Mid‐Atlantic underwent an accordion effect as it was violently folded into itself again and again. The process created immense mountains that have eroded over time and been further scoured by glaciers. What remains is a hodgepodge of geological conditions ranging from solid bedrock to glacial till to brittle rock still bearing the cracks of the collision. And, says Merguerian, any one of them could cause an earthquake.

You don’t have to follow him belowground to find these fractures. Even with all the development in our most built‐up metropolis, evidence of these faults can be found everywhere—from 42nd Street to Greenwich Village. But if you want the starkest example of all, hop the 1 train at Times Square and head uptown to Harlem. Not far from where the Columbia University bus collects people for the trip to the Lamont‐Doherty Earth Observatory, the subway tracks seem to pop out of the ground onto a trestle bridge before dropping back down to earth. That, however, is just an illusion. What actually happens there is that the ground drops out below the train at the site of one of New York’s largest faults. It’s known by geologists in the region as the Manhattanville or 125th Street Fault, and it runs all the way across the top of Central Park and, eventually, underneath Long Island City. Geologists have known about the fault since 1939, when the city undertook a massive subway mapping project, but it wasn’t until recently that they confirmed its potential for a significant quake.

In our lifetimes, a series of small earthquakes have been recorded on the Manhattanville Fault including, most recently, one on October 27, 2001. Its epicenter was located around 55th and 8th—directly beneath the original Original Soupman restaurant, owned by restaurateur Ali Yeganeh, the inspiration for Seinfeld’s Soup Nazi. That fact delighted sitcom fans across the country, though few Manhattanites were in any mood to appreciate it.

The October 2001 quake itself was small—about M 2.6—but the effect on residents there was significant. Just six weeks prior, the city had been rocked by the 9/11 terrorist attacks that brought down the World Trade Center towers. The team at Lamont‐Doherty has maintained a seismic network in the region since the ’70s. They registered the collapse of the first tower at M 2.1. Half an hour later, the second tower crumbled with even more force and registered M 2.3. In a city still shocked by that catastrophe, the early‐morning October quake—several times greater than the collapse of either tower—jolted millions of residents awake with both reminders of the tragedy and fear of yet another attack. 9‐1‐1 calls overwhelmed dispatchers and first responders with reports of shaking buildings and questions about safety in the city. For seismologists, though, that little quake was less about foreign threats to our soil and more about the possibility of larger tremors to come.

Remember: The Big Apple has experienced an M 5.0 quake about every hundred years. The last one was that 1884 event. And that, says Merguerian, means the city is overdue. Just how overdue?

“Gee whiz!” He laughs when I pose this question. “That’s the holy grail of seismicity, isn’t it?”

He says all we can do to answer that question is “take the pulse of what’s gone on in recorded history.” To really have an answer, we’d need to have about ten times as much data as we do today. But from what he’s seen, the faults below New York are very much alive.

“These guys are loaded,” he tells me.

He says he is also concerned about new studies of a previously unknown fault zone known as the Ramapo that runs not far from the city. Savage shares his concerns. They both think it’s capable of an M 6.0 quake or even higher—maybe even a 7.0. If and when, though, is really anybody’s guess.

“We literally have no idea what’s happening in our backyard,” says Savage.

What we do know is that these quakes have the potential to do more damage than similar ones out West, mostly because they are occurring on far harder rock capable of propagating waves much farther. And because these quakes occur in places with higher population densities, these eastern events can affect a lot more people. Take the 2011 Virginia quake: Although it was only a moderate one, more Americans felt it than any other one in our nation’s history.

That’s the thing about the East Coast: Its earthquake hazard may be lower than that of the West Coast, but the total effect of any given quake is much higher. Disaster specialists talk about this in terms of risk, and they make sense of it with an equation that multiplies the potential hazard of an event by the cost of damage and the number of people harmed. When you take all of those factors into account, the earthquake risk in New York is much greater than, say, that in Alaska or Hawaii or even a lot of the area around the San Andreas Fault.

Merguerian has been sounding the alarm about earthquake risk in the city since the ’90s. He admits he hasn’t gotten much of a response. He says that when he first proposed the idea of seismic risk in New York City, his fellow scientists “booed and threw vegetables” at him. He volunteered his services to the city’s Office of Emergency Management but says his original offer also fell on deaf ears.

“So I backed away gently and went back to academia.”

Today, he says, the city isn’t much more responsive, but he’s getting a much better response from his peers.

He’s glad for that, he says, but it’s not enough. If anything, the events of 9/11, along with the devastation caused in 2012 by Superstorm Sandy, should tell us just how bad it could be there.

He and Savage agree that what makes the risk most troubling is just how little we know about it. When it comes right down to it, intraplate faults are the least understood. Some scientists think they might be caused by mantle flow deep below the earth’s crust. Others think they might be related to gravitational energy. Still others think quakes occurring there might be caused by the force of the Atlantic ridge as it pushes outward. Then again, it could be because the land is springing back after being compressed thousands of years ago by glaciers (a phenomenon geologists refer to as seismic rebound).

“We just have no consciousness towards earthquakes in the eastern United States,” says Merguerian. “And that’s a big mistake.”

Adapted from Quakeland: On the Road to America’s Next Devastating Earthquake by Kathryn Miles, published by Dutton, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House, LLC. Copyright © 2017 by Kathryn Miles.

Pence Prepares for the Presidency

Vice President Pence (center right) and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (center in wheel chair) help move debris during a visit to an area hit by Hurricane Harvey in Rockport, Tex., on Thursday, Aug. 31, 2017.

Pence careful not to outshine Trump in Harvey role

The Washington Post Ashley Parker 2 hrs ago
© Eric Gay/AP Vice President Pence (center right) and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (center in wheel chair) help move debris during a visit to an area hit by Hurricane Harvey in Rockport, Tex., on Thursday, Aug. 31, 2017. He hugged victims of Hurricane Harvey and comforted those with tears in their eyes. He prayed and posed for photos, at one point blaring his message of support into a bullhorn. And he donned durable blue gloves and cleared brush, working up a sweat as he dragged debris away from a damaged white mobile home.
Put another way, he did what many other presidents have done in the face of disaster. But the blue jeans-clad man who spent Thursday communing with victims of the 1-in-1,000-year flood event in Southeast Texas was Vice President Pence — not President Trump.The images of Pence’s trip to Texas on Thursday offered a striking contrast between Trump — who came under bipartisan criticism for initially failing to seem to empathize with those affected by the devastating storm — and his No. 2, who spent the week performing relief duties. White House officials said the president and the vice president were merely working in tandem to coordinate the federal government’s response to Harvey, magnifying their efforts through complementary skill sets. Trump, after all, visited Texas on Tuesday — though he steered clear of flood areas or victims — and plans another trip to the Gulf Coast on Saturday. Trump also took several moments Wednesday to address “the deeply tragic situation in Texas and Louisiana” before a scheduled speech on taxes in Missouri.
But Harvey put an uncomfortable spotlight yet again on Pence, underscoring the delicate balance the vice president must manage in supporting and complementing the president — while never overshadowing him.
In many ways, Pence’s handling of Harvey — from his visit to the Federal Emergency Management Agency Monday to the slew of local radio interviews he did — would be routine but for the president he serves, a man whose own instinct for public displays of compassion are often unconventional. During Trump’s visit to southeastern Texas on Tuesday, he managed to place himself squarely in the eye of the storm, at one point convening an impromptu if brief political rally. (“What a crowd! What a turnout!” he enthused).
Pence, said Ron Klain, a chief of staff to both former vice presidents Al Gore and Joe Biden, “is doing normal stuff in an abnormal situation.”
“A lot of this other stuff is kind of de rigueur for a vice president, but when you have the president behaving oddly, as he did the other day in Texas, there is an interesting role for the vice president,” Klain said. “If both the president and the vice president console victims, if both are busy speaking out about the loss, if both are busy doing the things that are normal in this situation, then what the vice president is doing is just additive to the situation. What’s striking here is that what the vice president is doing is in some ways substituting for what the president is doing, and that’s what makes it more in the spotlight.”
White House officials said ­every relief action Pence took this week was part of a methodical, coordinated effort between his and Trump’s teams, with a particular emphasis on communication — one of the most important roles they think the administration can perform during a natural disaster. Trump’s initial Texas trip was intentionally focused on coordinating federal, state and local response, while Pence’s visit two days later offered more latitude to focus on the survivors who are just beginning to rebuild their lives, officials said.
“It is important to over-communicate in a natural disaster to get your message out, and the president deployed the vice president and his whole team to communicate directly to the people in the path of the storm throughout the week,” said Jarrod Agen, Pence’s deputy chief of staff. “That’s leadership and smart management, and that’s what the president provided and directed.”
The president, one senior White House official said, was eager to head to Texas on Tuesday to clearly convey his support for those suffering but was conscious of not wanting to interfere with search-and-rescue efforts or divert resources. His trip on Saturday, the official added, will allow him to personally connect with those affected by the storm.
The two men have been speaking “multiple times” a day, aides to both said, and their teams have been working in lockstep to coordinate the administration’s response. Pence’s speechwriter, for example, checked in with the president’s aides before Pence delivered a speech Wednesday in West Virginia, to better amplify Trump’s message.
“As someone who works closely with both of them, and has witnessed their round-the-clock attention to this crisis, you cannot put a piece of tissue paper between the president and the vice president on their leadership, their management and their messaging of the White House and federal government’s response to Harvey,” said Kellyanne Conway, counselor to the president. “Their messages are repetitive, not competitive.”
Scrutiny of his role has left Pence’s allies and aides exasperated at times, believing that the media hypes — and over­analyzes — just about everything he does. Early in the administration, Pence weathered a spate of articles about how he seemed to be in the dark on several issues, including a high-profile incident in which former national security adviser Michael Flynn misled the vice president about his conversations with the Russian ambassador. Later, news reports said Pence was operating as more of a shadow president with Oval Office aspirations of his own.
Pence can’t, his aides argue, be simultaneously out of the loop and angling for the top job.
“I think the media is looking for a way to drive a wedge between the president and the vice president, and suggest that there are different approaches and different strategies that show division,” said Marc Short, the White House’s director of legislative affairs who previously was a longtime Pence aide. “Whereas I think the White House looks at it and says, ‘There are very complementary and different skill sets that each bring, and therefore it is better to utilize both.’ So the strategies are actually intentional and, in my mind, complementary and harmonious.”
Some of the images of Pence dealing with Harvey, however, raised eyebrows, including photos of him over the weekend in the Situation Room flanked by Cabinet officials while Trump video-conferenced into the meeting from Camp David.
Pence’s Twitter account also sent out — and then deleted — a photo of him seated behind a desk making calls to senators whose states were hardest hit. An aide said Pence was uncomfortable with the tweet because he preferred the focus to be on first responders and heroic Texans, not himself.
In Texas on Thursday, Pence — a loyal-almost-to-the-point-of-obsequious soldier — was careful to repeatedly invoke Trump, including during a news conference at the end of his visit. He made clear he was simply bringing tidings of support and gratitude from the president.
Arriving in Rockport, Tex., Pence told the gathered crowd he had called Trump from Air Force Two.
“Just tell them we love Texas,” Pence said Trump told him to convey.
At that, a woman in the crowd returned attention back to where Pence is most comfortable — away from himself and squarely on his boss: “We love Trump!” she cried.

Even Russia Fears Trump’s Sanity

The majority of U.S. citizens do not trust President Donald Trump to make wise decisions about nuclear weapons, according to the latest poll by a leading research center.
The Pew Research Center released Tuesday the results of a nationwide survey of people’s views toward Trump’s conduct and handling of his role as president, finding that 58 percent of respondents “don’t like” the way the Republican leader has carried himself in office. The same percentage lack confidence in his ability to wield the world’s second largest nuclear weapons arsenal, especially as Trump garners controversy over his responses to nuclear-armed North Korea’s continued defiance of U.S. attempts to disarm the reclusive, Communist state.
“Majorities say they are not too confident or not at all confident in him on each of these issues (58 percent on nuclear weapons, 59 percent on immigration), including more than four-in-10 who say they are not at all confident in him on these issues,” a report accompanying the survey results read.
In this handout photo released by the South Korean Defense Ministry, a U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancer nuclear-capable bomber (left) drops a bomb during a South Korea–U.S. joint live-fire drill in South Korea, on July 8. President Donald Trump’s “fire and fury” threats to use military force to disarm nuclear-armed North Korea have added to anxieties in the U.S. that the Republican leader’s unpredictable demeanor could lead to disaster. South Korean Defense Ministry via Getty Images
After initially boosting U.S. military presence to pressure North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in April, Trump has adopted an increasingly hardline stance against the ninth nuclear weapons power. Evading Trump’s red line on a sixth North Korean nuclear weapons test, Kim instead opted to test his country’s first intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) in July, and a second one later that month. Arguably even more significant than another nuclear test, the successful ICBM launch put the U.S. within range of North Korea for the first time ever.
In response, Trump threatened “fire and fury” against North Korea and has made deeply disputed claims about the U.S. military’s capabilities. He said he had improved the country’s nuclear arsenal since taking office in January and later that U.S. missiles were “locked and loaded” in preparation to attack North Korea.
Earlier this month, nuclear experts shared pictures of themselves chugging wine in concern over the president’s heated words and the consequences they might have. Trump has previously called for an increase in nuclear arms, reversing a decades-long trend of reducing weapons of mass destruction among the world’s leading powers.
Faith in Trump’s ability to handle decisions in regard to nuclear weapons was divided by ideology. Some 77 percent of Republicans expressed trust in the president, compared to only 11 percent of Democrats. Republicans were less confident in Trump’s nuclear weapons policy than they were in his ability to negotiate favorable trade agreements with other countries (86 percent), make good appointments to the federal courts (83 percent) and make wise decisions about immigration policy (80 percent).
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President Donald Trump said in a February 23 Reuters interview that he wants to ensure the U.S. nuclear arsenal is at the “top of the pack,” saying the U.S. has fallen behind in its weapons capacity. Federation of American Scientists/Stockholm International Peace Research Institute/U.S. Department of Energy/U.S. Government Accountability Office/U.S. Department of Defense/U.S. Air Force/Congressional Research Service/Reuters
Trump’s willingness to flex his nuclear muscles and recent testing of the B61-12 high-precision nuclear bombs have also got the world’s foremost nuclear weapons power concerned. Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the U.S.’s latest, most accurate nuclear bombs could make Trump more likely to use them.
“The advantage of the new modification of the B61-12, according to U.S. military experts themselves lies in the fact that it will be, as they put it, ‘more ethical’ and ‘more usable,’” Mikhail Ulyanov, the head of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s Nonproliferation and Weapons Control Department, told the state-run Tass Russian News Agency.
“From this we can conclude that the clearing of such bombs for service could objectively lead to lowering the threshold for the use of nuclear arms,” he added. “This, we can imagine, is the main negative impact of the ongoing modernization.”
Most Americans have little or no confidence in Trump in dealing with nuclear weapons, immigration

The Iranian Korean Nuclear Axis


The North Korean Axis of Middle East Proliferation
by Matthew RJ Brodsky
August 31, 2017 12:26 P
Last week, Reuters revealed the existence of a confidential U.N. report claiming that two North Korean shipments bound for the government agency in charge of Syria’s chemical weapons were intercepted in the past six months.
Put in its proper context, the news of the shipments, both of which violated existing international sanctions, is further evidence of North Korea’s nefarious role in spreading weapons of mass destruction and missile technology to other rogue regimes across the globe. The U.N. report highlights the extent to which North Korea has been a principal strategic partner to Iran and Syria for decades. Understood correctly, it should have major implications not only for how the U.S. handles the saber-rattling regime of Kim Jong-un but for how the Trump administration chooses to approach Iran today.
Pulling a single thread reveals the tangled web of relations between Pyongyang, Tehran, and Damascus. Take, for instance, the 2007 Israeli raid that destroyed Syria’s covert nuclear reactor. North Korean scientists provided the technology and material for that reactor, which, according to former CIA director Michael Hayden, was “an exact copy” of a North Korean reactor. “The Koreans were the only ones to build these reactors since they purloined the designs from the British in the 1960s,” Hayden recalled. Ten North Koreans who “had been helping with the construction” of the Syrian reactor were killed in the Israeli strike, according to media reports at the time.
In 1991, then-Syrian president Hafez al-Assad made a military-acquisition alliance with North Korea, which allowed him to purchase missiles from the North, and gave him access to the expertise needed to produce more-advanced weapons domestically. North Korea also helped the Syrian Scientific Studies and Research Center construct a missile complex in Aleppo used for fitting chemical weapons on Scud missiles in the early 1990s. A quarter century later, it turns out the two recently intercepted North Korean shipments were headed for the same Syrian agency.
The timing is suspect as well. The U.N. report specifically addressed shipments intercepted in the last six months. The Assad regime only retook Aleppo from the rebels in December 2016. It doesn’t take an expert, then, to guess at the likely contents of the shipments.
In the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the two states signed a “scientific cooperation” agreement. The year was 2002 — the same year that the existence of Iran’s own plutonium reactor in Arak was publically exposed. Tehran appeared to understand the benefits of redundancy; it was an insurance policy if something should befall its own burgeoning nuclear program. That helps to explain why Iran financed the North Korean nuclear venture in Syria to the tune of $1 billion. It was only then, in 2002, that the construction of Assad’s al-Kibar plutonium reactor began in earnest.
Although Israel destroyed the site five years later, denying Iran the dividends from their investment, they were impressed by the cooperative agreement reached between the Kim and Assad regimes in 2002. The result was a duplicated and expanded science-and-technology deal inked between Iran and North Korea a decade later.
The North Korean Nexus with Iran
Of course, the bilateral collaboration between Pyongyang and Tehran predates that 2012 agreement. For example, WikiLeaks exposed a February 2010 diplomatic cable from confirming Iran’s purchase of 19 advanced ballistic missiles from North Korea — missiles that put Western European capitals within Tehran’s reach.
The watershed year between the two states came in 2012, as President Obama was concluding his disastrous nuclear deal with Tehran.
Just as Iran’s Shahab-2 missile is modeled on North Korea’s Hwasoong-6, Iran’s Shahab-3 missile also matches North Korea’s Nodong. That shouldn’t be too surprising, considering that Iranian scientists and military officers frequently attend North Korean test launches of long-range ballistic missiles and have maintained a presence at North Korean nuclear-test sites for at least the last decade. It’s only natural that such curiosity would run both ways, too: From the 1990s onward, dozens of North Korean scientists and technicians are also known to have worked inside Iran.
The watershed year between the two states came in 2012, as President Obama was concluding his disastrous nuclear deal with Tehran. According to detailed analysis published in February by Israel’s BESA Center, since reaching their cooperation agreement, North Korea and Iran have been working on “miniaturizing a nuclear implosion device in order to fit its dimensions and weight to the specifications of the Shahab-3 re-entry vehicle.” The authors of that analysis went on to conclude that, “the nuclear and ballistic interfaces between the two countries” are “long-lasting, unique, and intriguing,” and that North Korea is ready and able to clandestinely assist Iran in circumventing the nuclear deal, while Iran is likely helping North Korea upgrade its own strategic capacities.
The Parchin Connection
It should set off alarm bells that North Korea and Iran have been working together to overcome some of the remaining challenges that prevent Pyongyang from targeting the U.S. homeland with nuclear warheads — namely, the warhead-miniaturization process and the perfection of its long-range ballistic missiles. But it should set off sirens that some of that work has been carried out at Parchin, the Iranian facility that Tehran insists is a military site and keeps off limits to international inspections.
Parchin should be familiar. When Obama administration officials were cooking up their nuclear deal with Iran, they repeatedly promised that critically important “anytime, anywhere” inspections would have to be part of the agreement. What happened instead was that they folded like a tablecloth, as they did on every declared red-line issue crucial to verifying Iran’s past nuclear-related military activity.
In 2015, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei personally and repeatedly rejected any access to what he called military sites, including Parchin. So Team Obama came up with a secret side agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which would allow Iran to inspect its own site and provide its own soil samples.
Anyone could have guessed what would happen next.
In 2015, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei personally and repeatedly rejected any access to what he called military sites, including Parchin.
“Despite years of Iran sanitizing the site and the Iranians taking their own environmental samples, the IAEA nonetheless detected the presence of anthropogenically-processed (‘man-made’) particles of natural uranium,” reads a new report released by the Institute for Science and International Security.
After years of Iranian denials and attempts to block access to the site, it turns out “substantial evidence exists that Iran conducted secret nuclear weapons development activities at Parchin,” including “the presence of uranium particles” and “a variety of other evidence of work related to nuclear weapons,” the report claims. It goes on to note the many suspicious site alterations that Iran made after the IAEA requested access in 2012 — which, again, is when Iran and North Korea signed their science-and-technology cooperation agreement.
It is also worth mentioning that in November 2012, the IAEA reported that Iran completed the installation of some 2,800 centrifuges at its Fordow uranium-enrichment facility, which was built and buried deep inside a mountain near the city of Qom. That report also noted that Iran installed more centrifuges at its fortified, underground fuel-enrichment plant in Natanz. Both facilities were producing uranium enriched up to 20 percent — a level useful only in the production of nuclear weapons.
Add it all up, and it becomes clear that because of Mr. Obama’s nuclear deal, the U.S. and the IAEA don’t know the scope of Iran’s past nuclear activities at precisely the moment when that knowledge is critical. The same lack of access afforded by the deal also prevents the U.S. from grasping the range of North Korea’s nuclear efforts, specifically experiments relevant to the detonation of a warhead that took place at Parchin. And the kicker is that a growing chorus of analysts today is calling for the Trump administration to negotiate a similar agreement with Kim Jong-un. Let that sink in for a moment.
An Evolving Axis
Fifteen years ago, many scratched their heads at President George W. Bush’s inclusion of North Korea alongside Iraq and Iran in what he described as “an axis of evil.” Few recall that North Korea was actually the first of the three countries he listed in his 2002 State of the Union address, followed by Iran. It’s quite clear now that the third state on that list should have been Syria rather than Iraq. After all, according to Hayden, by 2001 the CIA was gathering “scattered, unverified and ambiguous information” regarding nuclear ties between Syria and North Korea. Even if the literal picture presented by Israel didn’t become clear until a few years later, by 2002 the two had signed their scientific-cooperation agreement and Iran’s plutonium reactor had become public. The writing was on the wall.
The recent sanctions-busting North Korean shipments to Iran highlight how dangerous it is to seal a structurally defective nuclear deal with a rogue state while leaving other distressing aspects of that state’s behavior untouched. They should make it abundantly clear that we must seriously address this blooming axis of proliferation, because any bilateral agreement with one of its members can be easily undone by another.