The Sixth Seal Is Long Overdue (Revelation 6:12)

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

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

Save the Oil and the Wine (Revelation 6:6)

What Trump’s decision on Iran nuclear deal means for oil prices

President Trump said he would announce Tuesday whether he will scrap the Iran nuclear deal and reimpose sanctions, but the uncertainty over his decision has already been roiling the Iranian economy and international oil markets.

Since December, Iran’s currency has lost one-third of its value. Foreign investors, who have been jittery ever since Trump took office, have delivered only a fraction of their commitments. And while the Iranian economy has generated 600,000 jobs a year since the nuclear deal took effect in 2016, unemployment is running at an all-time high.

“There is a sense of panic among Iranians about what the future holds. Trump has absolutely exacerbated a sense of financial insecurity,” said ­Suzanne Maloney, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.

The rising price of uncertainty has rippled through international crude oil markets as well. The price of West Texas Intermediate crude topped $70 a barrel Monday for the first time since 2014 amid fears that renewed U.S. sanctions would require international companies to buy less Iranian oil or face stiff penalties.

Oil experts estimate that renewed sanctions could take about 350,000 to 500,000 barrels a day of Iranian crude off world markets within months, a modest but meaningful amount. And more could be at risk later, potentially adding $7 a barrel to world prices, a Goldman Sachs report to investors said. Iran exports about 2.6 million barrels a day.

Big projects could be threatened, too, especially in the oil and gas sectors that suffered from underinvestment during the sanctions years. The French oil giant Total last July signed a 20-year deal with the National Iranian Oil Co., starting with a $2 billion project that would include 30 wells, two platforms and two subsea pipelines to boost natural gas production in Iran’s South Pars field. The China National Petroleum Corp. is a 30 percent partner.

But Total, whose chief executive was one of 15 European chief executives to dine with Trump on Jan. 25 during the Davos conference, has interests in the United States as well and would not want to violate U.S. law.

Under the terms of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action reached in July 2015, Iran agreed to intrusive inspections and limitations on its nuclear program. In return, the United States and its five major partners — Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany — agreed to remove restrictions on Iranian oil sales, lift certain financial limitations and clear the way for investments by foreign countries. Iranians celebrated noisily in the streets of Tehran after the deal was signed.

Iran’s oil sales jumped. Its exports of nonagricultural products doubled and its imports of nonagricultural products soared 12-fold.

For the United States, the deal meant that the White House would waive restrictions allowing international firms to conduct business — including oil transactions — through the Central Bank of Iran.

The current waiver expires Saturday. If Trump does not issue a new one, his administration would start asking oil traders and companies around the world — including in European countries that support the nuclear deal — to cut purchases, according to Richard Nephew, a senior researcher at Columbia University’s Center on Global Energy Policy. Nephew was a key part of the U.S. team that negotiated the Iran deal.

Since new sanctions under Trump would include penalties against any company doing business in the United States, European refiners would be likely to comply. They account for about a quarter of Iranian exports. Refiners and traders in Asia, however, could end up getting bargains.

“I’ve talked to more than enough companies — they understand what the sanctions environment will look like and what will be asked of them by the U.S. government,” Nephew said. “And so they are already looking ahead to see whether they need to make reductions. And presumably those that don’t intend to comply, they’re licking their chops at what kind of discounted oil they may be able to get from Iran.”

Before reaching a deal with Iran, the Obama administration pressed oil companies into making “significant” cuts in purchases, usually about 20 percent, every 180 days. Iran’s oil sales were reduced by more than 1 million barrels a day.

The flood of U.S. shale oil that began in 2009 easily offset the loss of Iranian exports. Saudi Arabia, Iran’s rival and a leading critic of the nuclear deal, also pledged to make up any loss of Iranian production. Crude prices remained low.

Now, however, cuts in Iranian exports would have more effect. Political turmoil in Venezuela has lowered oil exports. Global oil demand is rising thanks to faster economic growth. Global inventories of petroleum are lower than they’ve been for nearly four years. And so far the Saudis, eager to drive down inventories further, have not offered to make up for Iranian crude taken off the market.

The reduction in Iranian oil exports would also hurt the Islamic republic at home. Crude oil and petroleum products make up more than 60 percent of Iranian export revenue and a large proportion of the state budget.

Iran has some room to deal with a decision by Trump to undercut the deal. Djavad Salehi-Isfahani, professor of economics at Virginia Tech, said in an email that “it will take a while for sanctions to get as bad as they were in 2013, when Iran’s oil exports hit a low.”

There is a United Nations process that would take two or three months to unfold. European leaders might challenge secondary sanctions on their companies and, he added, even 1.5 million barrels a day in oil exports would generate about $40 billion a year in revenue. And Iran has built up cash reserves.

The biggest cost of a change in U.S. policy could be political. Trump could end up weakening the hand of Iran’s moderate president, Hassan Rouhani, who supported the deal.

Salehi-Isfahani wrote recently that “if Rouhani ever held the key to the door of prosperity, as he was fond of saying in his 2013 presidential campaign, he failed to locate the keyhole in time.”

Ironically, the West is Hoping for the Antichrist

Once described as the country’s biggest threat to stability, he may now be the key to it, writes Richard Spencer

A decade ago he was Britain and America’s public enemy number one, the religious zealot leading a guerrilla insurgency to drive western troops from Iraq.

The troops are still there but, in a sign of how Iraq has changed, London and Washington are now pinning their Middle East strategies on election success on Saturday for Moqtada al-Sadr, whose name was once rarely mentioned without the epithet “fiery cleric”.

Mr Sadr, a rabble-rousing populist from a leading family of Iraqi ayatollahs, was described by the Pentagon at the height of the insurgency in 2006 as the biggest threat to stability in the country, greater even than Isis’s predecessor, Islamic State in Iraq.

He remains hostile to the Western presence in the country. However, in the last five years he has also become a figurehead of opposition to Iranian-backed politicians in the country and decried the sectarian Shia politics he was once seen as representing. That has put him on the same side as the West in parliamentary elections which may determine whether Britain and America retain influence in the country.

“He wants a coalition of people who want a civil, non-sectarian state,” Dhiaa al-Asadi, who leads the Sadrist party in parliament, said. Mr Sadr is the party’s spiritual head and does not stand for election himself.

The British and American diplomats who are monitoring the election and its effect on the fight against Isis are not open about any relationship they might have with Mr Sadr. However, no one doubts that they are keen for the prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, to be re-elected for a second term. That means also hoping that Mr Sadr, an acknowledged kingmaker with a strong support base among working class Shia, does well. His party is unlikely to win power, but has indicated it is prepared to throw its weight behind Mr Abadi.

Mr Sadr has completed a strange political journey. The son and son-in-law of prominent ayatollahs, after his anti-Western insurgency he sought retreat in Qom, the Iranian city that is one of the pre-eminent Shia seats of learning. He returned full of anti-Iranian rhetoric, and he now says he wants to see an Iraq free from Iranian domination and where the government is secular, clerics stick to religion, and the question of whether you are Sunni or Shia ceases to have any political meaning.

“His final objective is to see these labels disappear,” Mr Asadi said in an interview in Baghdad. “He would like to see election campaigns that depend on programmes and agendas.”

Mr Abadi’s re-election campaign, meanwhile, presents a paradox. On the surface, he has presided over a transformation in his country’s fortunes. When Mr Abadi came to power in 2014, Isis’s “caliphate” was at its zenith, having swept aside the weak and corrupt Iraqi army and occupied most of the country’s north, as far as the borders with the Kurdish autonomous region.

Last year, Mr Abadi was able to declare victory as his troops, re-trained by the Americans, drove Isis out.

In some areas once under Isis control, life has returned to near normal, with trade thriving in places such as east Mosul and Fallujah. In places the group did not manage to reach, like Baghdad, security is better than it has been at any time since the 2003 invasion, with a marked reduction in car bombs and kidnappings.

Mr Abadi has also presided over a popular relaxation of social controls. Under his predecessor, Nouri al-Maliki, vigilante militias smashed up bars and murdered men suspected of being gay.

But Mr Abadi also lacks the power base of Mr Maliki, who deeply resents being removed from office and whose Dawa party has, in one form or another, held power since 2005. Mr Abadi is also a member of Dawa, but has formed a breakaway faction whose success in the election is far from certain. He will have to rely on support from Mr Sadr, another new “moderate Shia” party called Hikma, also led by a cleric, and Kurdish parties.

He is also a victim of his own success. Now that security is no longer a life or death issue for most Iraqis, they have turned their attention to Iraq’s other long-term crisis — the corruption that has stolen years of oil profits from its collapsing public services. This reached a peak under Mr Maliki, by almost all accounts, but ironically it is his successor whose future is now at risk from popular disillusionment.

“I don’t believe in any parties,” said Abu Hassan, 45, a metalworker in Baghdad’s working class Shia suburb, Sadr City. The suburb is named after Mr Sadr’s family and was once packed with his supporters, but Abu Hassan, like many others, said he would not vote for anyone, so disgusted was he by the notorious venality of Iraq’s MPs.

The corruption is open: in a television interview two years ago, one MP, Mishan al-Jubouri, admitted that he had taken more than a million dollars in bribes and said he would have been stupid not to, since everyone else did. Mr Sadr has been leading anti-corruption campaigns for years, but his own MPs have been complicit.

The only group that stands to gain is the so-called “Liberation Alliance”, the party of the Shia-majority militias which joined the army in taking on Isis and were largely trained by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. New and militarily victorious, they have a measure of popularity and would almost certainly enter a pro-Iran government with Mr Maliki. That would also mean the militias remaining an independent force, leaving Iraq like Lebanon, with a politics defined by sect and a private army answerable to Tehran.

That is all the more reason the West hopes that Mr Sadr’s supporters, who once fought the British army into the ground, will come out and vote. He has vowed not to join any coalition that contains Mr Maliki and wants the militias assimilated into the army.

“He doesn’t want a relationship with America, and wants America to change its policies in the Middle East,” Mr Asadi said. But he added: “Iran wants to see Iraq reflect its foreign policies, but it should be agreed that Iraq has its own interests.”

For the West, my enemy’s enemy may well be my friend, even if he is also an enemy.

 

The Self Fulfilling Prophecy (Daniel 8)

LONDON (Reuters) – A prominent Iranian cleric said on Tuesday that Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei had predicted the nuclear deal Tehran signed with world powers would collapse, Fars news agency said.

“We were aware right from the beginning that the JCPOA (Iran’s nuclear deal) is fragile and will collapse. Now we see that the Supreme Leader had rightly predicted this,” said Kazem Sedighi, one of the clerics appointed by the leader to lead Friday prayers in the capital.

Reporting by Bozorgmehr Sharafedin

Preparing for War Against the Medo-Persian Empire (Daniel 8)

U.S. President Donald Trump arrives to announce his decision on the JCPOA Iran nuclear agreement in the Diplomatic Room of the White House on Tuesday.Trump Withdraws U.S. From ‘One-Sided’ Iran Nuclear Deal

By MARK LANDLERMay 8, 2018
Middle East
The president called the nuclear agreement a “horrible one-sided deal that should have never, ever been made.”Doug Mills/The New York Times

WASHINGTON — President Trump declared on Tuesday that he was pulling out of the Iran nuclear deal, unraveling the signature foreign policy achievement of his predecessor, Barack Obama, and isolating the United States among its Western allies.

“This was a horrible one-sided deal that should have never, ever been made,” Mr. Trump said at the White House in announcing his decision. “It didn’t bring calm, it didn’t bring peace, and it never will.”

Mr. Trump’s announcement, while long anticipated and widely telegraphed, plunges America’s relations with European allies into deep uncertainty. They have committed to staying in the deal, raising the prospect of a diplomatic and economic clash as the United States reimposes stringent sanctions on Iran.

It also raises the prospect of increasing tensions with Russia and China, which also are parties to the agreement.

In a joint statement, President Emmanuel Macron of France, Prime Minister Theresa May of Britain and Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany urged Iran to “continue to meet its own obligations under the deal,” despite the American withdrawal.

“We encourage Iran to show restraint in response to the decision by the U.S.,” the statement said. Separately, in a post on Twitter, Mr. Macron said the European allies “regret” Mr. Trump’s decision, adding, “The international regime against nuclear proliferation is at stake.”

Mr. Obama called the withdrawal “so misguided.”

One person familiar with negotiations to keep the accord in place said the talks collapsed over Mr. Trump’s insistence that sharp limits be kept on Iran’s nuclear fuel production after 2030. The deal currently lifts those limits.

As a result, the United States is now preparing to reinstate all sanctions it had waived as part of the nuclear accord — and impose additional economic penalties as well, according to another person briefed on Mr. Trump’s decision.

The withdrawal fulfills one of Mr. Trump’s oft-repeated campaign promises, and came despite intense personal lobbying by European leaders and frantic attempts to craft fixes to the deal that would satisfy him. In part, Mr. Trump was driven by the conviction that taking a tough line with Iran would help an upcoming negotiation with the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, whom he plans to meet in the next several weeks.

He also announced that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was headed to North Korea to continue discussions with Mr. Kim about the meeting. Asked if the three Americans who are detained in North Korea would return with Mr. Pompeo, the president signaled that was a real possibility.

The president’s own aides had already persuaded him three times not to dismantle the Iran deal.

But Mr. Trump made clear that his patience with the deal had worn thin, and with a new, more hawkish set of advisers — led by Mr. Pompeo and the national security adviser, John R. Bolton — the president faced less internal resistance this time.

He said the United States and its allies could not stop Iran from building a nuclear weapon “under the decaying and rotten structure of the current deal.”

“The Iran deal is defective at its core,” he said.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel promptly hailed Mr. Trump for his “historic move” and “courageous leadership” in ending an agreement that he said failed its purpose.

“The deal didn’t push war further away, it actually brought it closer,” he said. “The deal didn’t reduce Iran’s aggression, it dramatically increased it, and we see this across the entire Middle East.”

Mr. Trump’s decision capped a frantic four-day period in which American and European diplomats made a last-ditch effort to bridge their differences and preserve the agreement.

On Friday, Mr. Pompeo called his counterparts in Europe to tell them that Mr. Trump was planning to withdraw, but that he was trying to win a two-week reprieve for the United States and Europe to continue negotiating.

Mr. Pompeo, people familiar with the talks said, suggested that he favored a so-called soft withdrawal, in which Mr. Trump would pull out of the deal but hold off on reimposing some of the sanctions.

On Saturday, the State Department’s chief negotiator, Brian Hook, consulted with European diplomats to try to break a deadlock over the so-called “sunset provisions,” under which the restrictions on Iran’s ability to produce nuclear fuel for civilian use expire after 15 years.

The Europeans had already agreed to a significant compromise: to reimpose sanctions if there was a determination that the Iranians were within 12 months of producing a nuclear weapon. But officials said that still did not satisfy Mr. Trump, and the Europeans were not willing to go any farther.

By Monday, the White House began informing allies that Mr. Trump was going to withdraw from the deal and reimpose oil sanctions and secondary sanctions against the Central Bank of Iran.

Mr. Trump has also instructed the Treasury Department to develop additional sanctions against Iran, a process that could take several weeks.

Under the financial sanctions, European companies will have between 90 days and 180 days to wind down their operations in Iran, or they will run afoul of the American banking system. The oil sanctions will require European and Asian countries to reduce their imports from Iran.

For all the frenzied maneuvering, Mr. Trump seems to have made up his mind several weeks ago. When Mr. Macron visited him two weeks ago, officials said, Mr. Trump told the president that he planned to pull out of the deal on May 12, adding, “I haven’t told Melania yet.”

David E.Sanger and Nicholas Fandos contributed reporting.