The Russian Nuclear Horn Prepares for War (Daniel 8:8)

Russian President Vladimir Putin personally oversaw the launch of four nuclear-capable ballistic missiles as part of a test for Moscow’s strategic nuclear forces, according to the Kremlin.

The training exercise, which was conducted Thursday evening, included the testing of land, air and submarine-based ballistic missiles, Russia’s defense ministry said in a statement.

A Topol intercontinental ballistic missile was tested from the Plesetsk cosmodrome in northern Russia, hitting a target thousands of miles away at a military testing range on the Kamchatka Peninsula.

Three other intercontinental-range ballistic missiles were launched from nuclear-powered submarines.

“The training assignments were accomplished in full and all the practice targets were successfully destroyed,” the ministry said.

In a tweet at 7:09 p.m. London time (2:09 p.m. ET) on Thursday, Russia’s defense ministry posted a video that appeared to show the nuclear-capable ballistic missile tests.

Last month, Russia launched two intercontinental missiles in the space of two weeks amid escalating geopolitical tensions on the Korean Peninsula.

North Korea Prepares for Another Nuclear Test

Updated: 7:10 pm, Thursday, 26 October 2017

 

The recent warning from North Korea’s foreign minister of a possible atmospheric nuclear test over the Pacific Ocean should be taken literally, a senior North Korean official says.

‘The foreign minister is very well aware of the intentions of our supreme leader, so I think you should take his words literally,’ Ri Yong Pil, a senior diplomat in North Korea’s Foreign Ministry, told CNN.

North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho said last month Pyongyang may consider conducting ‘the most powerful detonation’ of a hydrogen bomb over the Pacific Ocean amid rising tensions with the US.

Speaking with Sky News, Acting Director of foreign policy defense at the United States Studies Centre Ashley Townshend says if a North Korean nuclear test occurred it would be a demonstration of force.

‘North Korea is talking about demonstrating in the most visceral way possible their ability to detonate a nuclear warhead. This would see, for the first time in decades, a mushroom cloud,’ Mr Townshend said.

‘How likely it is to occur is anyone’s guess, we hear a lot of provocation from Pyongyang. No one really knows how serious they are about one test or another, but I think it’s important to bear in mind that they are trying to demonstrate their progress made towards having a functional ICBM.’

The minister made the comment after President Donald Trump warned that North Korea, which has been working to develop nuclear-tipped missiles capable of hitting the United States, would be totally destroyed if it threatened America.

CIA chief Mike Pompeo said last week that North Korea could be only months away from gaining the ability to hit the United States with nuclear weapons.

Experts say an atmospheric test would be a way of demonstrating that capability.

All of North Korea’s previous nuclear tests have been conducted underground.

Trump next week will make a visit to Asia during which he will highlight his campaign to pressure North Korea to give up its nuclear and missile programs.

Despite the bellicose rhetoric, White House officials say Trump is looking for a peaceful resolution of the standoff. But all options, including military ones, are on the table.

The US Navy said on Wednesday a third aircraft carrier strike group was now sailing in the Asia-Pacific region, joining two other carriers, the Ronald Reagan and Theodore Roosevelt.

Navy officials said the Nimitz, which was previously carrying out operations in support of the fight against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, would be ready to support operations in the region before heading back to its home port.

On Wednesday, Trump was asked whether he would visit the tense demilitarised zone dividing North and South Korea during his Asia tour and responded enigmatically.

‘I’d rather not say, but you’ll be surprised,’ he told reporters.

Reuters

What Will Happen At The Sixth Seal (Revelation 6:12)

What If The Earthquake Had Hit Manhattan?

Today’s 5.9 magnitude earthquake was felt throughout the mid-Atlantic, but its epicentre — a small town in Virginia — took the brunt of its wrath. What if it had started in NYC instead? We may find out sooner than you think.

The Risk Is Real

New York isn’t very high on the list of places you think of when you think earthquake. But that’s more a lucky accident of the times we live in than a promise of future calm. In the 400 years that we’ve inhabited that small, skinny island off the coast of New Jersey, the city’s been hit at least three times by moderate-to-major earthquakes. A 1737 quake just outside the city limits shook chimneys to the ground. Another struck in 1783. And in 1884, a 5.5-magnitude event cracked the walls of buildings in Jamaica and was felt as far away as Maine. Historically speaking, we’re overdue.

Scientifically speaking, too. A 2008 report in the Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America (PDF) showed that those three were just the perceptible earthquakes suffered by the region; a total of 383 tremors and shakes have occurred in the 39,000sqkm area around NYC since 1677. New York and its environs sit atop a vast networks of several small, active faults and a handful of lines capable of producing 6 and 7 magnitude events that have lain dormant. For now.

Best Case Scenario

The most likely occurrence — a 5ish magnitude quake in or near Manhattan — would be terrifically bad. Not end-of-the-world bad. Not cataclysmic. But horribly traumatic, according to a 2005 study by the New York City Area Consortium for Earthquake Loss Mitigation. The committee, a group of civil engineers, academics, and government officials, spent four years determining the fallout of a significant NYC quake. Let’s hope we never find out if they were right.

I spoke with Dan O’Brian, a Program Manager for the NYS Office of Emergency Management and one of the co-authors of that report. He said that while it was published in 2005, the findings largely hold true six years later. And that the biggest risk isn’t the city’s the towering skyscrapers; it’s the brownstones:

The [structures]that are of a particular concern are unreinforced masonry. The brownstones, six-story, turn of the century. Those are the buildings that don’t have much ability to withstand lateral forces, and they tend to crumble.

So what kind of damage are we talking about? According to the NYCEM report, an event of equal strength to what hit Virginia today would cost approximately $US45 billion (inflation adjusted) in building damage and lost income, with over 2500 buildings damaged and nearly 200,000 people left homeless. Forty tons of debris would cascade the streets, 25 times the amount caused by 9/11. The casualties: 1200 dead, 200,000 wounded.

“You’ve got so much there, if you were to have an epicentre of even a moderate sized earthquake, if it’s epicentered in the immediate NY area you’re likely to see a good bit of damage,” explains O’Brien. Most of that is due to the general building stock.”

The destruction wouldn’t be evenly distributed. Softer soil leads to stronger vibrations; that geological truth, combined with where most of that unreinforced masonry stock is located, make the Upper East Side and Chinatown most vulnerable to a quake. The city’s skyscrapers will hold (to a point), the bridges will survive as well today as they did in 1884. There would be nearly a thousand fires, but the NYFD would have the resources to handle them–assuming the water lines aren’t cut in the quake.

So yes, bad, right. But not doomsday. Although that’s an option, too.

Worst Case Scenario

Did you know that New York City sits less than 40km away from an active nuclear power plant? And that that same power plant sits just a mile south of an active seismic zone that’s considered capable of causing a 6.0-magnitude earthquake? That’s when things get apocalyptic.

The Indian Point nuclear plant, located just north of Manhattan, has provided power to Westchester County and the city itself for decades without incident. But while its operators have claimed that the structures can survive up to a magnitude 6 quake, seismologist Lynn Sykes told the Gotham Gazette recently that he isn’t so sure:

The plants are designed to withstand an event on the intensity scale of VII, which equals a magnitude of 5 or slightly higher in the region. (Intensity measures the effects on people and structures.) A magnitude 6 quake, in Sykes opinion, would indeed cause damage to the plant.

The two reactors provide 10 per cent of the state’s electricity and 30 per cent of NYC’s, meaning that in addition to the destruction outlined in our best case scenario, massive power outages could be expected. If the quake were strong enough to create fractures in Indian Point’s bedrock, radioactive materials could flow freely into the Hudson River. After the events of Fukushima earlier this year, that’s no longer an unthinkable occurrence.

So where does that leave us? We’re in no better or worse shape today than we were yesterday or last month. And the only part of this equation that might change in the next several years is Indian Point, which has been facing political pressure of late and whose contract may not be renewed. But really, the only thing that’s different now is the awareness that it’s not an if, it’s a when. That we’re just running out the clock. And that’s should have us shaking in our boots.

Tillerson Chastises Pakistani Terrorism (Daniel 8)

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Tillerson says ‘too many terrorist organizations’ find refuge in PakistanTillerson says ‘too many terrorist organizations’ find refuge in Pakistan

By ANNIE GOWEN | The Washington Post | Published: October 25, 2017

NEW DELHI — U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Wednesday that “too many terrorist organizations” find refuge in Pakistan and reiterated his call for the country to do more to address a rising problem of terrorism within its borders that, he said, threatens to destabilize Pakistan itself.

There are too many terrorist organizations that find a safe place in Pakistan from which to conduct their operations and attacks against other countries,” Tillerson said, speaking in India’s capital on a final stop of a tour through the Middle East and Asia. The terrorist groups’ growing strength and capability “can lead to a threat to Pakistan’s own stability,” Tillerson said.

At a news conference at India’s Ministry of External Affairs, Tillerson told reporters that during a meeting with Pakistan’s interim prime minister, its army chief and other leaders on Tuesday in Islamabad, he had outlined “certain expectations” of “mechanisms of cooperation” that Pakistan must fulfill to address the problem or face U.S. reprisals. Pakistan’s government has long denied the existence of safe havens for terrorist groups.

Pakistan has been mired in political turmoil since its prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, was ousted by the country’s Supreme Court in a financial scandal in July. His close ally, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, is serving as interim prime minister.

Tillerson’s arrival in India – his first trip to the country as secretary of state – comes at a time when the U.S.-Pakistan relationship is increasingly under strain and the Trump administration seeks a closer relationship with its “natural ally” India, the world’s most populous democracy and one of its biggest arms buyers.

Tillerson’s warm welcome in India – where he toured a memorial to revered freedom leader Mohandas Gandhi – was a contrast to the chilly reception he had received in Pakistan’s capital the day before. There, one prominent politician said Tillerson was “acting like a viceroy,” a reference to leaders of the British Raj.

India’s Minister of External Affairs, Sushma Swaraj, echoed Tillerson’s criticism of Pakistan. Recent terrorist attacks in Afghanistan “are proof that safe havens and supporters of terrorism are active,” she said. “Pakistan needs to act on this.”

Swaraj also said she and Tillerson discussed India’s relationship with North Korea. India maintains an embassy in Pyongyang but has moved to put new limits on trade. Swaraj said she told Tillerson the embassy should remain “so that some channels of communication are kept open” with friendly countries.

As the Trump administration maps out a long-term strategy in South Asia that includes increasing U.S. troop strength in Afghanistan to 13,500, Washington is urging India to boost its support to the war-torn country. India already has large-scale development projects there and provides $3 billion in assistance.

Earlier this month, in a major policy speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, Tillerson spoke of India and the United States as “bookends of stability on either side of the globe” amid the global terrorist threat, North Korea’s nuclear posturing and Chinese expansionism in the South China Sea.

“This is a signal to India that despite Trump’s penchant to jettison or discard Obama policies, there will be a certain amount of continuity in the relationship,” said C. Uday Bhaskar, director of the Society for Policy Studies in New Delhi.

Pakistan is a concern, Bhaskar said. “But the big ticket is China, and what kind of Asia is in the best interests of both India and the U.S. in the long term. He spoke of 100 years.”

Clinton Before Trump’s Own Watergate

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Trump says uranium deal with Russia on par with Watergate

Associated PressWed 3:25 PM, Oct 25, 2017

WASHINGTON (AP) President Donald Trump is claiming that an Obama era uranium deal with Russia is a scandal on par with Watergate.

And he’s promising that the Republican donor who funded the compiling of a dossier on him will be revealed.

The uranium deal involves the purchase of American uranium mines by a Russian-backed company in 2010.

Mr. Trump says that sale, reached while Hillary Clinton was secretary of state, was “so underhanded” and that it’s “Watergate modern age.”

Some investors in the company had relationships with former President Bill Clinton and donated to the Clinton Foundation.

Mr. Trump’s comments follow the revelation that Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign and the Democratic National Committee paid for the creation of a political dossier on Trump.

A Republican donor who opposed Trump reportedly paid for the dossier in the beginning of the campaign, but the research firm behind the dossier has refused to reveal that person’s identity.

Mr. Trump thinks the name “probably be revealed” eventually.

He posted a quote on Twitter that he attributes to Fox News.

His tweet says: “Clinton campaign & DNC paid for research that led to the anti-Trump Fake News Dossier. The victim here is the President.” FoxNews”

The president has derided the dossier as “phony stuff,” bit the FBI has worked to corroborate the document

Islamic State’s fall in Iraq reshapes region

27 Oct 2017 at 03:50 657 viewed
NEWSPAPER SECTION: NEWS | WRITER: MAYSAM BEHRAVESH

Islamic State has been routed in Iraq. On Oct 5, the militant group lost the northern town of Hawija — its last urban stronghold after Iraqi forces recaptured Mosul and Tal Afar earlier this year. The brutal battles for these cities have been well documented. Less noticed, however, has been how the near-total defeat of IS is reshaping political and sectarian alliances in the region.

The rise and fall of IS has had a sobering and unifying effect on relationships between Sunnis and Shia. In Iraq, where thousands died in the vicious sectarian war that followed the fall of Saddam Hussein, residents of the mainly-Sunni cities of Mosul and Hawija nonetheless jubilantly welcomed the mostly-Shia Iraqi forces who freed cities from the Sunni extremists of IS. “They helped liberate us,” one Hawija Sunni leader told TheNew York Times of the fighters. Nor does a Shia backlash against Sunnis seem imminent given Shia recognition of Sunni suffering in the IS-occupied cities.

The IS experience has affected Iranian politics too. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei seemed to show a softer attitude toward Sunnis in a rare pronouncement — seen as carrying the weight of a fatwa — publicly prohibiting any discrimination against minorities. Sunnis have fewer rights than Shia in Iran, and Mr Khamenei’s August comment was made in response to an inquiry by Molavi Abdul Hamid, a prominent Sunni cleric from Iran’s impoverished Sunni-dominated Sistan-Baluchistan province on the Pakistan border. In Syria too, IS’s faster-than-expected battlefield defeats suggest that the group does not enjoy much local support among the Sunni tribes and populations it has been ruling for the past couple of years.

The biggest changes can be seen in Iraq, where Shia leaders’ attempts to develop a post-IS foreign policy are driven in part by fear of Iran’s growing influence and in part by the IS-inflicted suffering in Iraq. Many observers believe the pursuit of sectarian policies at the expense of Iraqi Sunnis — as systematically practised under the former Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki — expedited the rise of IS.

The result of the new dynamic is that Iraq’s main Shia leaders are distancing themselves from Iran as they make once-unthinkable overtures to the region’s Sunni Arab bloc. In one of the latest signs of that shift, Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar Al-Abadi declined Tehran’s official invitation to take part in President Hassan Rouhani’s second-term inauguration ceremony on Aug 5. Such a refusal would have been unimaginable a few years ago.

Similarly, prominent Shia leaders such as Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani and Moqtada al-Sadr snubbed Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi, the newly-appointed chairman of Iran’s Expediency Council — a governing body set up to mediate disputes between Parliament and the Council of Guardians over whether planned legislation conforms with Islamic law — during an official visit to Iraq as the envoy of Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei.

Underscoring the point, Baghdad slammed a deal made by Hezbollah, Iran’s chief proxy in the region, to evacuate a group of IS fighters from Lebanon to eastern Syria, near the Iraqi border. The Tehran-backed agreement was “unacceptable” and “an insult to the Iraqi people,” Prime Minister Abadi said in August.

Iranian influence on Iraq’s domestic politics is shrinking too. Ammar al-Hakim resigned as head of the Tehran-backed Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq — the country’s largest Shia party — a month after a June meeting with Khalid al-Faisal, the governor of Mecca and an informal adviser to Saudi Arabia’s King Salman. Hakim promptly went on to form the National Wisdom Movement, a political party to “embrace” all Iraqis. At the same time, Iran-funded, Shia-dominated militias known as Popular Mobilisation Forces are divided over whether they should be integrated into the regular Iraqi army — a measure that would loosen Iran’s foothold in Iraq’s security apparatus — or whether they should remain independent of the Iraqi government. Groups loyal to Sadr and Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani have started taking steps to register with the army; those led by Hadi al-Amiri of the Badr Organisation and Qais al-Khazali of Asaib Ahl al-Haq remain in the pro-Iran camp.

Against this backdrop, Iraq is trying to improve its ties with Saudi Arabia. In addition to several recent diplomatic visits between the two countries, including one by Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to Riyadh, Moqtada al-Sadr — an influential Shia cleric with a large following among Iraq’s urban poor — made rare and well-received visits to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. After meeting with Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman, Mr Sadr said he was “very pleased with what we found to be a positive breakthrough in the Saudi-Iraqi relations,” and that he hoped it was “the beginning of the retreat of sectarian strife in the Arab-Islamic region.”

Mr Sadr’s Aug 13 meeting with Emirati crown prince Zayed al-Nahayan appeared equally successful. “Experience has taught us to always call for what brings Arabs and Muslims together, and to reject the advocates of division,” Mr Nahyan told Mr Sadr, in a veiled reference to Iran as one of the dividers.

It is clearly in Iraq’s strategic interests to diversify its relationships beyond reflexive sectarian or ideological lines. Improved ties with Riyadh pave the way for Baghdad to receive much-needed financial aid from Saudi Arabia and establish an economic relationship that could help counter the political and military influence established when Iran cultivated Shia proxies to fight US-backed forces in Iraq. The outreach can also signal to Iraq’s Sunni minority that the Baghdad government is not an Iranian stooge.

Iraq’s post-IS foreign policy could have broader regional benefits too. For Riyadh, closer ties with Baghdad can help the Saudi leadership feel less threatened by Iran’s rising influence and the perception that Riyadh’s share of regional power has diminished as a result. That in turn may lead to a thaw in Iranian-Saudi ties and a broader contribution to regional security.

While this balancing act could help mitigate the Shia-Sunni tensions in the Middle East, it would be naïve to assume that deeply-rooted ideological and religious schisms will disappear any time soon.

The recent Kurdish referendum, for example, already seems to have made Baghdad more willing to invoke Iran’s military and economic leverage to dissuade Iraqi Kurds from declaring independence.

Nor will Iraqi Shia quickly forget their anger over actions like Riyadh’s unequivocal support for the Sunni-dominated regime of Saddam Hussein during the Iran-Iraq war of 1980 — 1988, or Saudi Arabia’s harsh treatment of its Shia minority.

Nonetheless, the fact is that neither Riyadh nor Tehran can achieve sustainable hegemony in the region at the expense of the other.

It’s ironic that it may be the routing of extremist IS that serves as the catalyst to ease the bitter sectarian rifts that have divided them for so long. REUTERS

Maysam Behravesh is a PhD candidate in the Department of Political Science and a researcher at the Centre for Middle Eastern Studies, Lund University, Sweden.

The Importance of Korean and Iranian Collusion

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The Real Importance of North Korean and Iranian Pursuit of Nuclear Weapons

Jonathan Adelman
Professor Jonathan Adelman

All of the extensive talks and negotiations in the last decade and two over North Korea and Iran getting nuclear weapons have missed an important point. The discussions have shown that the Western policy, led by the United States, of negotiation with these two would be (In the case of Iran) or already has been (in the case of North Korea) a serious mistake. It has shown that allowing these countries to have (North Korea) or soon gain nuclear weapons (Iran) poses a major threat to the Middle East and East Asia respectively.

But, a point that is frequently missed, is to ask how the success of the Iranians and North Koreans in moving over decades towards nuclear weapons will now encourage other Third World states to acquire such weapons. We begin by examining those countries that have nuclear weapons already. Most of them (United States, Russia, Great Britain, France, China and India and Israel) are or have been historically First World powers either militarily or politically. Only Pakistan would be neither a major political or military power but is a significant middle ranging power in long term conflict with nuclear India. So too is Israel in conflict with Iran and its Middle East allies.

Their nuclear arsenals have developed over decades. The United States and Russia, emerging from victories in World War II as superpowers, both developed approximately 7,000 nuclear powers in the later 1940s. Significant middle range powers Great Britain, which developed over 200 nuclear weapons in the 1950s, and France obtained 300 nuclear weapons by 1960. Rising Third World countries China (270 nuclear weapons) in 1964 and India (115 nuclear weapons) in 1974 developed nuclear weapons. India’s move led its enemy Pakistan to develop nuclear weapons in 1985. Israel, possibly with foreign help, developed its nuclear arsenal of 80-200 nuclear weapons in the 1960s.

Let’s look at more than a dozen other countries that began to work on nuclear weapons but then took a different path. They fall into four categories.

First, over half of these countries—Sweden, South Korea, Taiwan, South Africa, Brazil, Algeria and Argentina—started down the nuclear path and then gave up. All seven (save for Algeria) were essentially pro-Western countries. Their acquiring nuclear weapons would have had local significance but did not threaten the international political order. Also, their decisions caused them to leave behind the nuclear path in the 1960s (Sweden), 1970s (Taiwan, Brazil, South Korea ), 1980s (Argentina, Algeria) and 1990s (South Africa). In South Africa’s case they already had a few nuclear weapons but gave up their pursuit for local political reasons.

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Second, three of these countries had significant nuclear power from the disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1991 —Belarus (81 nuclear weapons), Kazakhstan (1,400 nuclear weapons) and Ukraine (5,000 nuclear weapons).All three in the mid 1990s gave up their nuclear weapons under strong Russia pressure and lesser opposition from other major powers.

Third two nuclear powers—Iraq (1981) and Syria (2007)—had their programs abruptly stopped because of Israel bombing of their nuclear facilities. The Israelis felt the need to do this from some unusual factors. They felt extremely vulnerable from the tiny size of Israel (8,000 square miles), the width from Tel Aviv to Haifa of as little as nine miles and the concentration of most Israelis in only three metro areas (Tel Aviv, Haifa and Jerusalem). Also, it worked in stopping the two countries near to Israel from developing nuclear weapons.

Fourth, and finally, Iran is moving close to having nuclear weapons while North Korea already has them. Both are highly authoritarian anti-American countries which the United States has tried to propitiate over a number of years. Thus, they don’t fall into the usual categories and their success will encourage other authoritarian anti-American countries to gain nuclear weapons. They could also be encouraged by a simple fact that this could allow dictatorships to survive despite the great differences between them and the West. They are very aware that the overthrow of Middle East dictators Saddam Hussein (Iraq) and Muammar Qadaffi (Libya) came in countries that lacked the ultimate deterrence of having nuclear weapons.

In short, success by authoritarian Iran and North Korea could also leave to a number of other such countries emulating them by going down the nuclear path to preserve their anti-West status.

Saudis and Antichrist Try to Make Mends

 

A recent warming of ties between Saudi Arabia and Iraq could signal a move away from Iran’s influence over Baghdad, analysts say, but with Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi arriving on Wednesday in Tehran, that remains to be seen.

On Sunday, Saudi Arabia and Iraq inaugurated a coordination committee and signed a number of agreements. The developments come after years of tension between Saudi Arabia and Iraq.

Al-Abadi visited Riyadh for the second time in four months, as part of a regional tour that also included stops in Egypt and Jordan.

In a statement addressing the inauguration of the committee, King Salman of Saudi Arabia said the body presents the two countries with a “historic opportunity to build an effective partnership to achieve common aspirations”.

The coordination committee includes a range of political, security, economic, trade and development deals.

As part of the agreements, Saudi Arabia will open a consulate in Iraq, relaunch airline flights between the two countries, open the border, and jointly develop ports and highways.

The two nations also agreed to allow Saudi investment in Iraq, study a trade exchange area, and review customs cooperation agreements.

For his part, al-Abadi expressed his optimism and “deep satisfaction” with the recent developments between the neighbouring countries.

What has changed?

Since the fall of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein’s government in 2003 during the US-led invasion, Iran has advanced its influence in Baghdad.

Iran has helped Iraq in the fight against ISIL (also known as ISIS) while supporting powerful Shia militias in the country.

The fallout in Saudi-Iraqi relations began after Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990. Following the demise of Hussein’s regime, incoming Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s administration in Baghdad did not offer much optimism to solve the myriad of post-war problems.

Since 1990, Saudi Arabia has had its embassy in Iraq shut down and borders closed.

However, the first signs of easing tensions between the two countries started in 2015 when Saudi Arabia reopened its embassy in Iraq.

In February, Adel al-Jubeir, the Saudi foreign minister, visited Baghdad marking the first visit by a Saudi foreign minister to the Iraqi capital in almost 27 years.

“Abadi’s tenure has contrasted somewhat starkly with that of Maliki, who was a much more divisive figure, populist, and sectarian in his outlook and rhetoric,” Ranj Alaaldin, a visiting fellow at Brookings Doha Center, told Al Jazeera.

“Since the arrival of Abadi, Iraq has been presented with an opportunity to open a new chapter with the region.”

Iran challenged

With Iraqi elections coming up less than a year from now, Saudi Arabia is attempting to establish new alliances in Iraq to ensure its interests and relations with Baghdad remain secure, according to analysts.

One of the goals is to “sideline and challenge Iran’s alliances in Baghdad”, Alaaldin said.

“The US backs Abadi and sees him as a counterweight against Iran-alliances – including Maliki and Shia militia groups that aligned with Iran,” he said.

Another common interest between Saudi Arabia and al-Abadi’s government is to “reconstruct and rehabilitate Arab Sunni cities in northern Iraq – financially and politically”, Alaaldin said, in order to enhance Arab-Sunni political participation with elections around the corner.

In July, Iraq’s nationalist Shia leader Muqtada al-Sadr made a surprise visit to Saudi Arabia’s Jeddah, where he met Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

‘Balanced approach’

How effective the Saudis can be in containing Iran’s influence in Iraq remains unclear.

Marwan Kabalan, an associate political analyst at the Doha Institute, said it is unknown if the Saudis can succeed “given their poor foreign policy performance vis-a-vis Iran”.

Al-Abadi will maintain a “balanced” approach in his regional relations, he said, with the Iraqi prime minister arriving in Tehran for talks on Thursday.

“[al-Abadi] would most probably assure the Iranians that his visit to Saudi Arabia is not against them,” Kabalan told Al Jazeera.

“All he is trying to do is to invite much [needed] investment money to rebuild Iraq’s destroyed cities, something the Iranians cannot offer. This is important especially for his Shia base of support, which is very sceptical about Saudi Arabia.”

The Sixth Seal Is Long Overdue (Revelation 6)

ON THE MAP; Exploring the Fault Where the Next Big One May Be Waiting

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By MARGO NASH

Published: March 25, 2001

 

Alexander Gates, a geology professor at Rutgers-Newark, is co-author of ”The Encyclopedia of Earthquakes and Volcanoes,” which will be published by Facts on File in July. He has been leading a four-year effort to remap an area known as the Sloatsburg Quadrangle, a 5-by-7-mile tract near Mahwah that crosses into New York State. The Ramapo Fault, which runs through it, was responsible for a big earthquake in 1884, and Dr. Gates warns that a recurrence is overdue. He recently talked about his findings.

Q. What have you found?

A. We’re basically looking at a lot more rock, and we’re looking at the fracturing and jointing in the bedrock and putting it on the maps. Any break in the rock is a fracture. If it has movement, then it’s a fault. There are a lot of faults that are offshoots of the Ramapo. Basically when there are faults, it means you had an earthquake that made it. So there was a lot of earthquake activity to produce these features. We are basically not in a period of earthquake activity along the Ramapo Fault now, but we can see that about six or seven times in history, about 250 million years ago, it had major earthquake activity. And because it’s such a fundamental zone of weakness, anytime anything happens, the Ramapo Fault goes.

Q. Where is the Ramapo Fault?

 A. The fault line is in western New Jersey and goes through a good chunk of the state, all the way down to Flemington. It goes right along where they put in the new 287. It continues northeast across the Hudson River right under the Indian Point power plant up into Westchester County. There are a lot of earthquakes rumbling around it every year, but not a big one for a while.

Q. Did you find anything that surprised you?

A. I found a lot of faults, splays that offshoot from the Ramapo that go 5 to 10 miles away from the fault. I have looked at the Ramapo Fault in other places too. I have seen splays 5 to 10 miles up into the Hudson Highlands. And you can see them right along the roadsides on 287. There’s been a lot of damage to those rocks, and obviously it was produced by fault activities. All of these faults have earthquake potential.

Q. Describe the 1884 earthquake.

A. It was in the northern part of the state near the Sloatsburg area. They didn’t have precise ways of describing the location then. There was lots of damage. Chimneys toppled over. But in 1884, it was a farming community, and there were not many people to be injured. Nobody appears to have written an account of the numbers who were injured.

Q. What lessons we can learn from previous earthquakes?

A. In 1960, the city of Agadir in Morocco had a 6.2 earthquake that killed 12,000 people, a third of the population, and injured a third more. I think it was because the city was unprepared.There had been an earthquake in the area 200 years before. But people discounted the possibility of a recurrence. Here in New Jersey, we should not make the same mistake. We should not forget that we had a 5.4 earthquake 117 years ago. The recurrence interval for an earthquake of that magnitude is every 50 years, and we are overdue. The Agadir was a 6.2, and a 5.4 to a 6.2 isn’t that big a jump.

Q. What are the dangers of a quake that size?

A. When you’re in a flat area in a wooden house it’s obviously not as dangerous, although it could cut off a gas line that could explode. There’s a real problem with infrastructure that is crumbling, like the bridges with crumbling cement. There’s a real danger we could wind up with our water supplies and electricity cut off if a sizable earthquake goes off. The best thing is to have regular upkeep and keep up new building codes. The new buildings will be O.K. But there is a sense of complacency.

MARGO NASH

Democrats Try To Block Trump’s Nuclear Power

Democrats push bill to stop a Trump pre-emptive strike on North Korea

Julian Borger
Last modified on Thursday 26 October 2017 17.27 EDT

The US military test fires an unarmed intercontinental ballistic missile from the Vandenberg air force base in California on 3 May 2017.

Congressional Democrats have introduced legislation aimed at preventing Donald Trump from launching a pre-emptive attack on North Korea, as concerns grew about the administration’s failure to explore talks with Pyongyang.

The “No Unconstitutional Strike against North Korea” bill is the second legislative attempt to curtail’s Trump power to start a war unilaterally. Earlier this year, a bill was introduced to prohibit the president from ordering a nuclear first strike against a foreign adversary without a declaration of war by Congress, amid concerns over Trump’s belligerent language, erratic behaviour and frequent tweeted threats against other countries.

The new legislation prohibiting an attack on North Korea without congressional authority was launched by Democrats John Conyers in the House and Ed Markey in the Senate. It has two Republicans among the 61 backers in the House, but at present no formal Republican backing in the Senate.

“As a veteran of the Korean war, I am ashamed that our commander-in-chief is conducting himself in a reckless manner that endangers our troops stationed in South Korea and our regional allies,” Conyers said.

“President Trump’s provocative and escalatory rhetoric, with threats to unleash ‘fire and fury’ and ‘totally destroy’ North Korea, cannot be allowed to turn into reality,” Senator Markey said. “As long as President Trump has a Twitter account, we must ensure that he cannot start a war or launch a nuclear first strike without the explicit authorization of Congress.”

The bill’s supporters acknowledge that it will not pass without attracting more Republican support, but they argue that it helps focus attention on the unlimited authority of a US president to order the use of nuclear weapons, many of which can be launched within a few minutes. No official has the power to stop or even delay the launch.

Senator Dianne Feinstein, speaking at a conference organised by the Ploughshares Fund, an non-proliferation advocacy group said she once asked a former head of US Strategic Command if he would carry out a launch order even if he knew it was a catastrophically bad decision. “He looked me straight in the eye and said: Yes,” Senator Feinstein recalled.

Tensions on the Korean peninsula have reached critical levels since Pyongyang carried out a sixth nuclear test in September and a series of long-range missile tests. Trump has tweeted a series of threats against the regime and declared at the UN in September that he could “totally destroy” North Korea.

Meanwhile, Trump and his administration have given mixed signals on whether they would consider any kind of dialogue with Pyongyang, and no overtures appear to have been made in that direction.

NBC News reported on Thursday that Joseph Yun, the top American diplomat on North Korean issues, has been warning of a breakdown in diplomatic efforts at meetings in Congress and seeking help in persuading the White House to give negotiations a chance.

William Perry, a former US defence secretary and a veteran of the Cuban missile crisis, said there was a rising danger of the US stumbling into a war with North Korea by making Pyongyang think a “decapitation strike” is imminent and panicking it into launching its own nuclear weapons.

“What we’re doing is making the regime think they are about to go, so they might as well go out in a blaze of glory,” Perry said, adding that the best thing Congress could do to stop the drift to nuclear war was to pass the Conyers-Markey legislation.

“It doesn’t seem now it can be passed, but things can change,” he said.

Ted Lieu, the Democratic congressman who co-authored the bill in January to limit the president’s power to launch a first strike said the best recruiter for Republican support was Trump’s behaviour.

“Every time the president does something erratic, which is every day, we get more co-sponsors,” Lieu said.